It looked as tall as a house and half as wide. It wore scarlet bleached by time, moth-eaten and tattered. It came up the street in a short of shamble, now fast, now slow. Wild, stringy hair tangled around its head. Its bramble patch of beard was so thick and matted with filth that its face was all but invisible.

Croaker, The Black Company

Shapeshifter, or simply Shifter, was one of the immensely powerful sorcerers known as the Ten Who Were Taken. He was an extraordinarily huge man with grey hair and a filthy, thick beard which covered most of his face. His clothes were scarlet-colored and heavily tattered, and he carried a staff in the form of an elongated, beautiful female body. There was a rumor that the staff was once a real woman who had been imprisoned by his magic for infidelity.

Before the Annals Edit

The Domination Edit

Prior to or during the era known as the Domination, Shapeshifter was initially an independent wizard-king. Then he was enslaved by the infamous sorcerer known only as the Dominator, becoming the first of the Ten Who Were Taken. As such, Shifter was forced to become one of the Dominator's enforcers and generals, but presumably was also one of his subordinate lords with control over much territory. At some point, he was in an intimate relationship with a beautiful woman, but she was unfaithful to him and had an affair with the Limper. Shifter was reputed to have transformed this woman into his staff. The unmitigated hatred between Shifter and the Limper would become well-known throughout the Domination. He was also known to wear a suit of armor during the era, which was eventually recovered by the wizard Bomanz.

After a dark period of rule, they were all defeated (but not killed) by the original White Rose and her armies. Shifter, alongside the Dominator, the Dominator's wife The Lady, the other nine Taken, were all imprisoned in the Barrowland alongside a considerable number of horrendous beasts. The imprisonment was meant to last for eternity.

Liberation Edit

Several decades before The Black Company (and 370 years after being interred in the Barrowland), Shapeshifter, the other nine Taken, and the Lady were freed from their prison by a group known as the Resurrectionists. To keep power to herself, the Lady orchestrated this event such that the Dominator and his "pet" monsters remained imprisoned. Shifter and the other Taken helped the Lady establish her own empire.

The Black Company Edit

Shapeshifter by Ebuin

Shapeshifter by Ebuin

The Black Company encountered Shapeshifter for the first time in Oar, where, despite his terrifying appearance, his first action was to immediately heal Raven with a simple touch of his staff. Croaker, the Company surgeon, summoned the courage to request that he heal some other men as well, and he did so, earning Croaker's respect. The Company then helped him to organize a trap for his enemy, the Limper, another one of the Taken. Shapeshifter used a glamour to make several Company men and himself look like Rebel leaders. They infiltrated a torture room where Limper's infamous colonel, Zouad, was being interrogated for information. Right when the Limper entered the chamber to rescue Zouad, Shapeshifter suddenly stunned the Limper with magic and buried him alive under the collapsing building with help from Croaker. He then joined the Black Company in street combat that resulted in many Rebel deaths. During this melee, Croaker noticed that Shapeshifter had some kind of protective spell that "turned" enemy swords and arrows, so he protected himself by staying very close to Shifter. After the fight, Shapeshifter abruptly disappeared from Oar. (The Black Company was called away as well, to garrison at Elm, and Oar was rapidly recaptured by the Rebel general Raker who easily overcame Limper's leaderless forces.)

The Stair of Tear: Harden and aftermath Edit

Across the Windy Country and then at the Stair of Tear, Shapeshifter secretly crossed into Rebel lines on several occasions to spread terror and death. While a major Rebel force was flanking the Black Company on the Stair, Shifter assassinated Moth and Linger, and grievously wounded Sidle, who were members of the Rebel Circle of Eighteen.

Shapeshifter was next a critical participant in the successful ambush and killing of the Rebel's most senior general Harden. Again behind enemy lines, he transformed himself into Harden's large black horse, and waited until the right moment to strike. This moment came when Harden was distracted by a diversion of enemies consisting of three of the other taken: Soulcatcher, Stormbringer, and the Hanged Man; as well as Croaker and Raven from the Black Company, and at least 4 veteran Imperial soldiers. Harden quickly slew two of the soldiers and then immobilized the three approaching Taken with a very powerful spell. But he was soon trapped by Shifter, who transformed into a nightmarish creature and kept Harden defenseless while Stormbringer's two soldiers hacked the Rebel leader to death. Shifter laughed victoriously and kicked Harden's corpse, but immediately his mood changed. When Shifter realized that the Hanged Man was fatally impaled by Harden's thrown sword, he was deeply disturbed and attempted to help his fellow Taken. But Soulcatcher and Stormbringer made it clear that the Hanged Man should be left to die, causing Shifter to feel betrayed.

In a discussion with One-Eye and the Captain, Croaker would later surmise a conspiracy among some of the Taken to explain the Hanged Man's death and Shapeshifter's reaction. Croaker proposed that Soulcatcher and Stormbringer, both women, were secretly loyal to their former lover, the Dominator, and that they allowed the Hanged Man to die because he was a genuine supporter of the Lady, who was keeping the Dominator trapped in the Barrowland. Dramatic infighting among the Taken at the Battle of Charm would soon support this theory.

At the Battle of Charm Edit

At the Battle of Charm, when the Tower was besieged by a quarter of a million Rebels, Shapeshifter was given command of 1,000 soldiers, all sourced from the western and southern portions of the empire. His men were situated on the right side of the third (and topmost) wall in front of the Tower. He would not get a chance to personally command these men however. On the first night of actual battle, he penetrated enemy lines on one of his usual sneak attacks to target members of the Circle. In the form of a forvalaka, he single-handedly assassinated the Circle members known as Whiskers, Roper, and Tamarask, as well as "several score" other senior Rebel functionaries. Croaker and One-Eye soon surmised that it was Shapeshifter who murdered One-Eye's brother, Tom-Tom, back in Beryl (before the Company was hired by the Empire), and not an actual forvalaka. But that same night, Shifter was also rumored to have been killed, so One-Eye was absolutely furious that he could not avenge his brother. Shifter's force on the third wall then fell under the command of Lord Jalena.

Shapeshifter would be the first of eight Taken to be reportedly killed during the epic battle. The circumstances of his death were "questionable" and the Black Company was ordered to remain alert. Croaker would later clarify in the fourth chronicle that Stormbringer was responsible for the harm that befell Shapeshifter. She was one of the three female Taken who would all betray the Lady during the battle. However (like Stormbringer, the Howler, and Soulcatcher, other Taken thought to be killed) Shifter survived, and was never seen in the Empire again.

Shadow Games Edit

Shapeshifter had actually survived the Battle of Charm, and was "salvaged" by the Lady. She sent him south for unspecified reasons, and Shifter readily followed the order, because he knew something even the Lady did not: the traitor Stormbringer, thought to be dead, had fled to the south. Near the place where the Nar called home, Shapeshifter took on the persona of a local wizard called Eldon/Eldron the Seer. He emerged once again when the Black Company itself passed through the region with Lady. He helped them on a few occasions, most prominently at the Battle of Ghoja Ford, where he created some fog to conceal a trap prepared by Croaker.

At the Battle of Dejagore he took the form of a forvalaka and dispelled both Shadowspinner's and Moonshadow's magic's leaving them defenceless against conventional weaponry. Spinner was gravely injured as a result. After the Company breached the city he tracked down and attacked the female Shadowmaster known as Stormshadow, who turned out to be Stormbringer under a new name. No one other than Shifter, not even Lady, knew that Stormshadow was one of the Taken until he unmasked her. Shifter and the tiny but powerful woman fought ferociously until they were both immobilized. As the two fought, One-Eye suddenly recalled the idea that Shapeshifter, disguised as a forvalaka, had actually killed his brother, the wizard Tom-Tom, in Beryl years ago. Although Croaker was uncertain if this was true, he did not stop One-Eye from taking revenge. Since both Shifter and Stormbringer were now defenseless, One-Eye took the opportunity to knock them unconscious and suture their mouths and orifices shut. Taking Lady's advice, One-Eye and Goblin ultimately burned them both to ashes, removing "two great wickednesses" from the world. However, Croaker and the others spared the life of Shapeshifter's apprentice, Lisa Daele Bowalk, herself now trapped in the shape of a forvalaka. Years later this would be One-Eye's undoing, as she would eventually kill the wizard to avenge her mentor Shapeshifter.

Ten Who Were Taken
Hanged ManBonegnasherNightcrawlerMoonbiterFaceless Man