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Willow Swan was a long-haired blond man and army deserter from Roses in the northern continent who first crossed paths with the Black Company in Shadow Games. He and his two close friends Cordy Mather and Blade were hired by the rulers of Taglios – the royal siblings known as the Prahbrindrah Drah and the Radisha Drah – to organize the first armed resistance against the initial invasion attempts of the Shadowmasters. After the resolution of the Shadowmaster wars, Swan would be seduced by Soulcatcher, and he helped her entrap the Captured beneath the glittering plain. He became the sorceress's lover during the period referred to by the Black Company as the Captivity, and he commanded her new urban police force, the Greys, while she consolidated a sprawling empire called the Protectorate.

Before Shadow Games[]

In Roses, Swan deserted from the military after less than six months in service, then drifted through the southern continent with his travel companion Cordy Mather. Along the way they saved Blade, a mysterious black man who had been thrown to the crocodiles by priests he had insulted. Blade became fast friends with his rescuers and a valuable military ally. The three reached Taglios and settled down to open a brewery, where their exotic racial backgrounds made them popular with local women.

Shadow Games[]

Taglios had been pacifist for generations, so the Taglian royal siblings approached Swan, Cordy, and Blade to organize the protection of the city against the first invasion from the armies of the Shadowmasters. Using tricks that Cordy and Swan had learned from the Black Company's campaign near Roses more than 15 years prior, they trapped the invading Shadowlanders into small prepared towns which were then burned around them. They destroyed the 5,000 man force sent against them, north of the Main. These events became known as "Willow's war", which turned out to be the opening skirmishes of the larger Shadowmaster wars. About a year later, the three accompanied Smoke and the Radisha Drah to welcome the Black Company and attempt to enlist them into service.

She Is the Darkness[]

In their roles as Royal Guards, Willow and Cordy accompanied the captive Prahbrindrah Drah when Croaker, Lady, and Murgen brought him across the Shadowgate using the Lance of Passion in search of Khatovar. Among them was Soulcatcher, another Company prisoner. Throughout that hazardous journey across the glittering plain, Willow was seduced by Soulcatcher with the aid of her immense sorcery, unknown to the others. Inside the fortress with no name, he removed her bonds, and she was able to spring the sorcery trap that disabled everyone except her. With Willow's help, she imprisoned most of her former captors in magic stasis in the cave of the ancients. These people would become known as the Captured. Then Catcher and Willow sped back across the Plain on the backs of the tireless black stallions from Charm, stolen from Croaker and Lady.

Catcher rewarded Willow, and they became lovers in the 15 year gap between She Is the Darkness and Water Sleeps (the period referred to as the Captivity by the Black Company). However, despite being in the favor of a gorgeous woman who was the most powerful person in the homeworld, Willow would regard these as unhappy years.

Water Sleeps[]

Soulcatcher would go on to win the Kiaulune wars against the remnants of the Company and its allies, and took over Taglios. She established her own tyrannical government called the Protectorate, which included the former Shadowlands, and appointed Willow to be the leader of the Greys, the city's new police force. This appointment ended his former place in the Royal Guards but gave him a seat in the Privy Council. Willow's Greys were comprised entirely of men from the Shadar religion, alienating the majority Gunni population. But Swan's Greys were very effective at cracking down on genuine crime and corruption of all kinds. The last major stronghold of criminal activity within the city which the Greys had to confront was Chor Bagan, a sprawling slum.

By Water Sleeps, Willow's "once-marvelous golden hair had gone grey and stringy" and began balding. Willow was kidnapped in an operation orchestrated by Sleepy, the ranking member of the Black Company. She committed a large number of the Company's remaining fireball projectors to the abduction. Although the operation was a success, she underestimated the destructive power of the weapons. Sleepy was herself almost killed in the fiery carnage as fireballs melted through at least six feet of the stonework of the Palace of Taglios. Soulcatcher appeared personally but could only duck out of the way of the discharge from those lethal weapons. Willow was smuggled to the Company's secret headquarters, a warehouse owned by their collaborator Banh Do Trang. Willow played tonk with three of his captors, Slink and the Gupta brothers, until Sleepy arrived in person to join the game and interrogate him. When Swan learned that the Captured were still alive, he swore aloud. But Slink, a devout Vehdna monotheist, snapped at him not to take God's name in vain. It was later revealed that Soulcatcher had altered Swan's memory of his betrayal of the Company and his invaluable assistance in imprisoning the Captured. He had not known that Croaker, Lady, the Prahbrindrah, and the others were still alive.

Swan would accompany Sleepy's group south, and finally across the shadowgate, guiding them as best as his faulty memory served. During their trek across the glittering plain, he explained to Sleepy that a slogan among the supporters of the Lady's Empire had been "Surrender to the Will of the Night". And, at least according to his assessment, her Empire satisfactorily minimized crime, war, plague, pestilence, and famine in its interior regions:

Surrender to the Will of the Night. [...] In my great grandfather’s time it was the slogan of the Lady’s supporters. They believed that peace, prosperity and security would result inevitably if all power could be concentrated in the hands of the right strong-willed person. And it did turn out that way, more or less. In principalities that did ‘Surrender to the Will of the Night,’ particularly near the core of the empire, there were generations of peace and prosperity. Plague, pestilence and famine were uncommon. Warfare was a curiosity going on far, far away. Criminals were hunted down with a ferocity that overawed all but the completely crazy ones. But there was always bad trouble along the frontiers. The Lady’s minions, the Ten Who Were Taken, all wanted to build sub-empires of their own, which never lacked for external enemies. And they all had their own ancient feuds with one another. Hell, even peace and prosperity create enemies. If you’re doing all right, there’s always somebody who wants to take it away from you.

Arriving at the fortress with no name, he helped Sleepy incinerate the Books of the Dead and free the first batch of the Captured. He accompanied them all to the strange world of Hsien, where they established a new headquarters, the fortified town called the Abode of Ravens.

Soldiers Live[]

Blade, Willow Swan and Cordy Mather by Виталий Стрелец

Blade, Willow Swan and Cordy Mather by Виталий Стрелец

Willow Swan was part of Croaker's eclectic group of Company members and allies permitted by Sleepy (who was now officially the Captain) to enter the Voroshk world to get revenge upon Lisa Daele Bowalk. Shortly after their arrival in the strange new world, Spiff and JoJo were killed by shadows under the command of the Voroshk. With conventional weapons, specially-prepared magic fetishes, and fireball projectors, they all subdued Bowalk despite her ferocious forvalaka shape. They also defeated 3 Voroshk wizards, one of whom, Shukrat, was brought by Swan on a stretcher for capture. (Like everyone else present, Swan was awestruck at the young Voroshk woman's beauty.) The group soon decapitated Bowalk and then incinerated her in a huge pyre. Others who were present during this operation were Lady, Murgen, Thai Dei, Uncle Doj, Cratch, Slobo, a group of Unknown Shadows called the Black Hounds, Goblin (possessed by the Khadidas) and the two Chu Ming brothers.

Swan participated in the grueling combat against Mogaba's well-trained center force, the Second Territorial, during the costly Battle at the Shadowlander cemetery. He and his longtime friend Blade were killed there along with many other highly valued and trustworthy Company soldiers and allies, including: Iqbal Singh, Riverwalker, Li Wan, Pham Huu Clee, the two Chun brothers, Cletus, and Loftus. Sleepy, the Captain, mourned his death after the battle. After his body was recovered, he and Blade were buried in the old Shadowlander cemetery which both men had helped fill more than 2 decades prior.