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For the first novel of the series, see: The Black Company
You know they are vicious, violent and ignorant. They are complete barbarians, living out their cruelest fantasies, their behaviour tempered only by a few decent men.

Croaker, The Black Company

 

The Black Company was the last of the Free Companies of Khatovar and a band of highly trained mercenaries. Their contracts and commissions took them all over the known world, and even beyond into new worlds. They were highly respected and feared by allies and foes alike. 

Organization Edit

Ranks and leaders Edit

The Company was always led by a single Captain, whose second-in-command was the Lieutenant. Their orders were filtered down to the soldiers through the sergeants and corporals. There were also three special ranks, each carrying unique duties: physician, Annalist, and standard-bearer.

The Captain was voted in by the senior members and typically served for life. The Captain tended to groom his or her choice for successor, though the actual selection was still a matter of a vote. Generally, the Lieutenant was the first choice for replacing the role of Captain. On one occasion, the physician and Annalist Croaker was elected Captain, but, in this extraordinary instance, the Company had been reduced to merely 10 men. Years later, another Annalist, Sleepy, was selected to assume the role.

The Company Annalist recorded the exploits of the band and kept a list of the fallen. This historian was also responsible for regular readings from the past Annals, an almost religious ceremony where the brothers of the current Company got in touch with the traditions and struggles from the past.

Military composition Edit

The Black Company was primarily an infantry force. During the forvalaka's attack on the Paper Tower in The Black Company, Croaker described it being composed of halberdier/ pikemen and crossbowmen, and supported by swordsmen.[1]

However the Company was known to use cavalry, as well as other tools at its disposal. For example in the Books of the South, the Prahbrindrah Drah's backing allowed them to complement their forces with war elephants. Siege engines were also used with several members being proficient engineers such as the Lieutenant and Patience.

In addition, the Company had multiple wizards in its ranks throughout its long history. Notably, the brothers One-Eye and Tom-Tom had been sworn brothers decades before the events in Beryl at the start of The Black Company. By the time of Soldiers Live, the Company had Tobo, Lady, Uncle Doj, several Voroshk sorcerers and even the Howler for a short time.

Recruitment Edit

The Black Company attracted recruits from all walks of life and cultures, especially outcasts and even criminals. For example, Big Bucket joined in order to escape imprisonment after being falsely accused of common theft. As a result this gave the Free Company a ragtag, eclectic composition.

For example during the Books of the South the Company bolsters its numbers with 32 members of the Nar, descendants of the Company from when the band had spent years in Gea-Xle many generations prior. By this point they also had numerous recruits from various backgrounds, such as 4 Roi nomads including Shadid and Patience; the D'loc Aloc native Wheezer; and the warrior brothers Freak and Geek from K'Hlata.

The Company's diverse makeup was particularly apparent in the Books of Glittering Stone, where the Company had members from virtually every race, religion, and caste from Taglios. This included Riverwalker and Runmust Singh. In addition, a Jaicuri, Sleepy, and a Shadowlander, Suvrin, would come to hold its highest ranks. After thousands of young men from Hsien joined the Company, Croaker in Soldiers Live states the brotherhood had never before been so diverse in its entire existence.

Entry into the company was influenced by many factors such as current troop strength, available resources, and individuals in roles of leadership. This does not include the entire armies of non-Company Taglian soldiers commanded by the Company in the Books of Glittering Stone. Nor does this include allied troops and camp followers, most prominently, the Nyueng Bao De Duang bodyguards.

Membership Edit

The earliest specified procedure for acceptance into the Company was demonstrated in The Black Company, when Raven's candidacy was evaluated at the Gardens of Opal. It was a simple verbal vote among the senior members, with the Captain having the deciding vote. In this instance, his candidacy was turned down. Later, when Raven reappeared at Elm, the Captain accepted him with a simple verbal permission.

New members would eventually be sworn in by taking an oath of loyalty. The wording of the oath is never specified, and the oath is rarely mentioned in the available Annals. In Shadow Games, when Croaker admits six Imperials into the Company at the boundary of the Lady's Empire, he decides to make a public "production" of the oath. He did not "recall doing anything particularly formal for anyone else before", as this was simply a show to assert his authority over Lady.

Having the sponsorship of a current Company brother is a helpful, but certainly not necessary, arrangement. For example, Croaker was successfully sponsored by his friend Elmo. Equally, Raven is allowed to join the company despite his violent actions in Opal. However, his subsequent friendship with the Captain mentioned by Croaker, suggests the Captain may have known of Raven's former status, and / or more significantly proficiency in minor sorcery.

Departure Edit

Death was by far the most typical way to leave the Company (whether by combat, disease, or natural causes) throughout most of the Annals. But in one atypical event, immediately after the Battle of Juniper, a significant number of newer Company brothers abandoned their oaths and became Imperial regulars. In another instance, at the end of The White Rose, Silent and the three Torque brothers (Stubby, Paddlefoot, and Brother Bear) were permitted to leave the Company by choice.

A significant and very late exception to the "feet-first" rule was the thousands of Company soldiers recruited and trained from Hsien between Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live. Croaker wrote that "many of the soldiers from Hsien had signed on for only one year in the field", indicating a major shift in the way the Company arranged its membership.

History Edit

Before the Annals Edit

The Company was founded in Khatovar, an entirely different world, independent from what is known as the homeworld. It, and the other Free Companies of Khatovar, were tasked by the followers of the cult of Kina to decide where the Year of the Skulls would take place. The Black Company was the last of several Free Companies to enter the homeworld, and, the only one to remain there. They used the Lance of Passion as a shadowgate key to exit Khatovar, safely cross the Plain of Glittering Stone (which links all 16 worlds), and enter the homeworld. Their entry was recorded by the librarians of the ancient city of Kiaulune. Over time, the Black Company forgot its original mission and became a band of sell-swords, inevitably making their way northward across the Southern Continent over a period of about 400 years.

The Black CompanyEdit

BerylEdit

The Black Company was in the service of the Red Syndic, leader of Beryl, the oldest of the Jewel Cities. The Company spent at least two summers serving as his bodyguards against political enemies called the Blues, and poorly trained but potentially mutinous local troops the Urban Cohorts. Eventually, the Syndic of Beryl was slain (presumably by the sergeant Match) during chaotic events in the Paper Tower. The Company then received safe passage and employment by Soulcatcher, the legate of her sister the Lady. Soulcatcher's troops secured the city and engineered its annexation into the Lady's Empire.

Commission in the northEdit

Black Company by Didier Graffet

Black Company by Didier Graffet.

The Company was then transported aboard Soulcatcher's flagship The Dark Wings from Beryl across the Sea of Torments to the city of Opal, on the southern edge of the Northern Continent. In the Gardens of Opal, they entertained the idea of accepting the enlistment of a mysterious man called Raven. But Raven murdered three people associated with the Limper, so they departed. From Opal, they began their march to the northernmost province of Forsberg, which was struggling with a dangerous Rebel leader named Raker. They passed Elm, and then the Tower at Charm. One day after passing the Tower, they flogged a corporal courier from the Limper's army who was disrespectful. Finally they entered Forsberg. There, they witnessed the aftermath of several atrocities perpetrated by the Limper and his forces against the local populations.
The Black Company by samshank0453

The Black Company by samshank0453.

The main force of the Company held the fortress at Deal in Forsberg, garrisoned at Elm for a week, and later occupied Meystrikt in the Salient. Meanwhile, advance teams participated in operations in Oar and in Roses. After Meystrikt, the Company retreated through the Forest of Cloud and stumbled upon Whisper's hidden base camp there, capturing priceless documents there. The main force entered Lords only to retreat after a fearsome sorcery duel between Soulcatcher and Nightcrawler against Harden and other members of the Rebel Circle of Eighteen. They then fought their way through the Windy Country, crossed the Stair of Tear, and participated in the climactic Battle of Charm.

Shadows LingerEdit

Six years after the Battle of Charm, the Black Company has been tasked to eliminate the Rebel in Tally, in the distant east. They are suddenly ordered to the Barrowland, then to the far westerly city of Juniper, to help eliminate the Black Castle.

The White RoseEdit

Charge of the Black Company

The Black Company by Didier Graffet.

After Juniper, Darling and the remnants of the Company trekked for four years across the Northern Continent until they reached the Plain of Fear. They were hounded by the new Taken the entire way, and suffered a devastating military defeat at the Battle of Queen's Bridge at the hands of the elite Imperial troops of the Nightstalker Brigade. After arriving in the Plain, they made their headquarters in a stinking cavern called the Hole, and the Taken disappeared. They had an uneventful two years until the arrival of Tracker and Toadkiller Dog at the beginning of The White Rose.

After the Battle of the Barrowland, the Black Company was now reduced to 10 men: Croaker, One-Eye, Goblin, Silent, Otto, Hagop, as well as 4 men who had enlisted after the original crew first arrived in Opal: Murgen the standard-bearer, and the three Torque brothers (Stubby, Paddlefoot, and Brother Bear). At the Blue Willy, they voted for a replacement commander. Otto voted for Croaker, and with no opposition, Croaker became the captain. His first act was to decide their next course of action would be to return the Company Annals to Khatovar, the fabled origin of their group. Silent and the three Torque brothers were released from the Company to travel south with Darling. Raven remained behind with his friend, an Eternal Guard soldier named Case. Lady, now mortal and without magic, and realizing that she cared deeply for Croaker, expressed a desire to join the Company after setting the affairs of the Empire in order.

Lists of members Edit

Article Category list
Captains list of Captains
Lieutenants list of Lieutenants
Company wizards list of wizards
Annalists list of Annalists
Physicians & medics list of physicians & medics
Sergeants list of sergeants
all members list of all members

References Edit

  1. The Black Company, chapter 1, "Legate"

Trivia Edit

  • The Black Company is largely based on the free-companies / mercenary bands that existed and operated during 14th / 16th Century Europe.
  • A real Black Company existed in Medieval Germany, though they were primarily composed of peasants and knights. They fought along-side the peasants in the 1520's revolt during the Protestant Reformation.