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Characters / The Black Company

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Major characters in The Books of the North:

     The Black Company 

Tropes associated with the Black Company in the North

  • Badass Army: Right after Soulcatcher recruited them, they quickly turn the tide of the war, conquering important cities, defeating or capturing the most important members of the Circle of Eighteen and learning important rebels' secrets.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Originally and for most of it's history the company was quite literally black. The mostly-white composition at the beginning of the series is a recent development from operating and recruiting in more northern climes for the last few decades.
  • Guile Hero: The Black Company is renowned for their willingness to use whatever tools are at their disposal, and consider a conflictless victory to be far superior to the alternative. They like to use ambush, stealth, subversion, and other sneaky tactics as their methods of choice; the Company philosophy seeks to maximize effectiveness while minimizing risk. Their leaders all tend to be the most cunning of the lot.
  • I Gave My Word: They'll take pains to stick to a contract, and will back out only if they feel that staying is against the Company's long term interest. Even then, they'll try to fabricate a legal way out rather than just break ranks.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: Croaker admits that the Black Company has many of nasty sorts broken up by a few decent men and that he'll leave out some of the nastier deeds perpetrated by the members of the Black Company. They still won't stoop to the levels of the Empire regulars. Or that of some of the Rebel.
  • The Magnificent: "The last of the Free Companies of Khatovar." Though we don't really get context for what or where Khatovar is until later in the series; the Company don't know themselves until then.
  • Meaningful Rename: Most people who sign on for the Black Company get a new name, be it given or taken. Usually it's a descriptive nickname that sticks, although a few people remain known by their original name if they have significant history with the Company before joining.
  • Private Military Contractors: Being a medieval-esque equivalent, the Black Company is a military cohort for hire.


The Annalist of the Black Company, he also serves as physician. Later on he becomes the captain of the company since no one else wants it. His Annals record the time in which the company was in the service to the Lady of Charm and subsequently the White Rose.

  • Badass Bookworm: Croaker is introduced as a doctor and historian who is fluent and literate in multiple languages. He can also swing a sword well enough to keep up with the rest of the Company and is good enough with a bow that he's included on a special mission against heavy-hitters Whisper and the Limper.
  • Batman Gambit: A favourite of his, especially when it comes to Mogaba.
  • The Chessmaster: It takes until Books of the South (the second trilogy) before he is put in a position where it can be shown, but Croaker is one heck of a planner.
  • Cool Old Guy: He's well past his prime when the series begins and moves into this territory gradually in later books.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: A combination of scamming a willful victim and punching out an ageless golem; Croaker honors his promise to Shivetya by switching places with him, so that Shivetya gets his mortal and dying body while Croaker gets Shivetya's immortality and ability to re-experience the entire history of sixteen different worlds at will.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After years of wondering just what his relationship is with his wife, Croaker takes over for Shivetya and sets her up with a connection to tremendous magical power that she misses so desperately after being Named — his adopted daughters figure it is the greatest gift he could ever give her. He fails to save Booboo, and he no longer has a human body with which to enjoy Lady's love, but it's a happy ending nonetheless.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": In the French edition, Croaker is known as "Toubib". This is military slang for a medic or doctor, derived from the Arabic word طَبِيب, or ṭabīb. Considering his Near-Eastern background, this is quite appropriate.
  • Fanfic: When the company finds out they're being hired by the Empire, he becomes enthralled with the idea of the Lady and privately begins writing romantic fiction speculating about her (an effect she has on more than a few men). He quickly outgrows it, particularly when he gets more substantial information, but his Company buddies won't let him live it down when they find out.
  • In-Series Nickname: Murgen hardly ever calls Croaker anything but "the Old Man" in his Annals.
  • Knight Templar: Sets the Black Company on the road to Khatovar and then pursues his goal relentlessly.
  • The Medic: Received formal training as a surgeon before joining up. Throughout the series he tries his best to find a successor to the role, but qualified surgeons are rare and apprentices are fickle and time-demanding. The closest thing he has to a colleague is One-Eye, who oversees dental hygiene and acts as field medic. He considers his legacy to the Company to be the introduction and successful adoption of hygienic standards, a significant force multiplier in the setting.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Subverted. It's mentioned that Croaker sounds like an assassin, though Raven (who mentioned his name) quickly corrects and points out that he's the company medic.
  • Omniglot: Croaker has a self-professed affinity for languages, which comes in handy as the Company rarely stays in one place for very long. Murgen claims that Croaker speaks twenty languages in Bleak Seasons, although he admits that he idolizes the man at the time, and might not be a reliable source.
  • Together in Death: Zig-Zagged; Soulcatcher poses Lady and him together as a joke when she puts them in a stasis.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Asks this of himself a few times after he meets the Voroshk — first when he baits them into blowing up the Shadowgate to their own world, and again later when he blows up a flying pole remotely and remembers afterwards there were children within its blast radius. He also wonders about the morality of him setting up Goblin's final suicide attack.

The Captain

The Captain at the start of the series. We never learn his real name. Makes a deal with the devil which puts the Black Company under the employ of the Lady and sets up the first three books.

  • The Chessmaster: As Captain of the Black Company, this is pretty much a given.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Slams into a rock while catching up to the Company with a magic carpet.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Most people who join the Black Company take on a new name. If he did, nobody knows what it used to be before he became leader of the Company.
  • Minion Shipping: By the fourth chapter the Captain gains a rather intimate relationship with Raven. In Shadows Linger, Croaker notes that of all people it was the Captain that took it hardest when Raven faked his death to run off with Darling.
    Naturally, Raven has become the Captain’s best friend. They sit around together like a couple of rocks, talking about the same things boulders do. They are content just to share one another’s company.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Secretive and manipulative, in proudest Company tradition, but everyone looks up to him all the same.


Sergeant. Croaker's best friend and sponsor. Laconic bastard.

  • Killed Off for Real: Dies in the attack on the Dominator.
  • She Is Not My Girl Friend: Elmo was the worst when it came to bringing up Croaker's romantic fanfic and "girlfriend", Lady.
  • The Spartan Way: Prescribes his "diabolical" obstacle course which cures (or kills) what ever boredom that ales you.


One of the four initial company wizards. He has been with the Black Company for a very long time, having joined with his brother Tom-Tom when the Company passed through their homelands. He is described as a small, black man with skin wrinkled like a prune, and is missing an eye. He is particularly infamous for his hat, a shapeless, battered thing that has likely never been washed. He and Goblin have an eternal feud with each other leading to magical duels cropping up whenever they have the time, although One-Eye usually loses. Cheats horribly at Tonk leading many characters to avoid playing with him. His ability with sorcery is greater than any minor wizard outside the Company, but not by much, and he often points out that his magic is nothing compared with most wizards the Company might expect to encounter.

  • Aw Look They Really Do Love Eachother: Any time it looks like things are going to get really serious, he will quietly tell somebody to make sure they find his will and get some things to Goblin.
  • Black Market: One-Eye is fond of black marketeering wherever he can manage it, much to the chagrin of his superiors — he has a tendency to get chased out of town quickly.
  • Depraved Dentist: Is the guy in charge of the spells that keep Black Company soldiers' teeth intact.
  • Dirty Coward: One-Eye never seems to run out of excuses that put him conveniently out of harm's way.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Or at least pyrite. He's loud-mouthed, obnoxious and picks fights, but he's (mostly) loyal to the Company and shows kindness at a number of occasions.
  • Killed Off for Real: Killed by Lisa Bowalk in the Land of Unknown Shadows.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Taken up to eleven. He and Goblin have a long-standing feud with each other, bickering and disagreeing with each other on principle in all but the most serious situations (much to the frustration of their commanders), and occasionally do try to murder each other. However, the one-upmanship between them is just as much for them as for the amusement of their Company brothers, with their carefully-prepared illusion battles being mostly for the benefit of on-lookers.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Somehow manages to contrive a way to imbue his hat with just the right enchantments it can sever the connection between Goblin and Kina, and then power up his spear to a degree it can actually be used to kill Kina — even though *gods* were only able to put her to sleep in ages past, and give the right dying advice to Croaker to save his friend Goblin and kill Kina once and for all.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Even among the Company, One-eye has a reputation as a particularly nasty individual. His schemes include running a black market operation as a side job, cheating at cards (even though that doesn't seem to help him), and was once remarked by Croaker as a "natural gangster."
  • Token Minority: While the Black Company attracts all sorts of misfits, he and his brother Tom Tom were the only black people in the Black Company, having come up from the far South. This is more a mark of their length of service than anything; the Company gradually shifts to match the demographics of wherever they're operating at the time, and passed through that part of the world so long ago that they're simply the only ones left.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Of a sort. He creates a magical spear so ludicrously powerful it can be used to kill gods. As a very weak mage, it does take him some twenty years to imbue it, however. His spear is described by Croaker as one of the finest magical artifacts ever created in any world, ever.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In his 140+ years of literate service to the Black Company, One-Eye has never taken the position of annalist. Everyone agrees that he would be horrible for the job; it is why Croaker trained Murgen, and Murgen trained Sleepy. In Bleak Seasons he narrates a chapter, and his writing literally stinks.
  • Weak, but Skilled: He's described as being very low on the power scale, but almost two centuries of magicking means he can get very creative with illusions; in addition, he tends to keep a few more advanced spells prepared in advance, although his lack of power means they take a long time to ready. A stronger mage will just gobble him up in a straight confrontation, however, no matter how creative he gets... unless he cheats.

Otto and Hagop

Otto and Hagop are two long-time members of the Black Company who are never seen far from each other. The pair have a tendency to get injured, with at least one of them usually sporting a fresh wound of some kind; with the sheer number of wounds suffered, it's a wonder neither of them have been killed yet. Although little more than grunts, the duo are very loyal to the Company, and stick with it through thick and thin.

  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Otto and Hagop are practically glued to each other, with one never being seen without the other.
  • Made of Iron: The two accumulate wounds at a worrying pace, many of them serious or even life-threatening, but they always somehow make a full recovery. After emerging from stasis under the Glittering Plain, they eventually die of old age.
  • Mauve Shirt: The duo gets very little screen time, but they are mentioned regularly in the Annals, and remain with the Black Company for most of the series, despite their lack of importance.


Another member of the company since the days when they were in service to the Syndic of Beryl. He is the company's pawnbroker.


One of the four initial company wizards in the Books of the North. A small and ugly man with a toad-like face, he is not well liked, although he has become a Company fixture and is usually tolerated. One-Eye and Goblin have been at each other's throats for many years, and they constantly skirmish with each other, sometimes belligerently, often not. While One-Eye is the older and usually socially dominant of the two, Goblin tends to win these bouts. He is on par with One-Eye in terms of magic, and like his friend specializes in illusions in battle, playing mind games with the enemy, although both are capable of minor magic that nevertheless makes them much more dangerous than any non-wizard.

  • That Man Is Dead: He actually does die when he sacrifices himself trying to kill Kina with the Lance. When he comes back, he is clearly not the same Goblin but claims to be — after dropping that pretense, he calls himself Khadidas. Even after his connection to Kina is severed, he is not actually Goblin — he is Goblin's ghost inhabiting his former body, and he is eager to die properly.


One of the four initial company wizards in the Books of the North. He never talks due to an oath taken in his younger years. He learns sign language in the early books and communicates in that manner. His magic is described by Croaker as being nastier than One-Eye's and Goblin's, but he is not particularly powerful.

  • Heroic Sacrifice: Goes up against Limper in The Silver Spike to buy time. It goes poorly. It's also subverted as his motives are not as heroic as they may seem — sure, he wants to stop the Limper, but he also has realized by that point that he cannot have Darling, and neither can Raven, and yet tries to pull a final heroic sacrifice to impress her.
  • Morality Pet: Despite a reputation as one of the nastier individuals in the Black Company, he almost immediately took a shine to Darling.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: There's a bit of evidence that suggests that Silent is the most powerful wizard in the Black Company, if at least in the way he uses his magic rather than raw magical power, and he picks up a few tricks from the Taken. In that sense, he's the most powerful individual in the Black Company; though he's still a lightweight compared to the other wizards they encounter.
  • The Quiet One: Silent isn't mute, but took an oath of silence before joining the Company, hence his name. He is only reasonably communicative given his circumstances, but took up Darling's sign language, at which point he can actually converse with the other characters. He does speak once, to complete the ritual that ends the Lady's power.
  • The Rival: With Raven in Silver Spike
  • Token Evil Teammate: Croaker typically tries to avoid judgments of "good" and "evil," but comments more than once that Silent is the nearest to evil of any of the Company's wizards.


A member of the company who was the first northerner to join the company. He always is working towards a goal other than that of the company leading the others to mistrust him. He finds a young girl, in a wrecked village, named Darling, who he devotes his life to often leading him to do unspeakable acts of evil.
  • The Ace: Raven is frequently acknowledged as one of the cleverest, toughest, and deadliest characters most Company men have ever met, often achieving things that seem impossible to other characters. When he initially remains distant and working towards personal ends rather than that of his comrades make others distrust him; particularly because he would make a hell of an enemy if he went rogue.
  • Arch-Enemy: Limper and by extension, the Lady as well.
  • Arranged Marriage: As a way to end generations-long feud between his wife's family and his. It didn't work out.
  • Byronic Hero: Raven is introduced as the typical ultra-cool badass loner with angsty past in the first book, and descends into a Deconstruction as time goes on. Halfway through, his flaws start to show; Raven can be coldly mercurial and secretive, highly motivated towards his own ends, and can tend towards paranoia. Croaker comes to realize that his attitude causes problems for everyone else. In the end, he fakes his death by deserting during the battle at Charm, counting on being considered MIA. During the second book, he's hiding out in a remote town called Juniper, making a living selling corpses to the Black Castle, and his actions are directly responsible for nearly awakening the Dominator, which leads to the destruction of an entire city. Then, acting completely on his own during the third book, Raven bites off more than he could chew when his lone attempt to stop the reawakening of the Dominator results in the capture of his soul. By the time of his final appearance, Raven has descended into alcoholism, as he has no cause to fight for and has alienated virtually anyone who cares about him.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The Captain and gathered officers meet him, getting a sense that they can't quite trust him, and mentioning he has a few debts to collect. In a few moments, two former colleagues and his wife show up not expecting Raven since they had conspired to leave him for dead. Raven quickly kills each of them, and promises the Captain the last will be settled soon.
  • Faking the Dead: Several times. First, he deserts during the crescendo of the Battle of Charm, knowing he'll be marked off as MIA unless the Company figures it out. (Many do.) Next, while fugitive, he pays off a hunter who looks like him to switch places, and the necklace he was wearing killed the hunter. It's not certain if Raven knew this would happen, or just got lucky with the timing. Lastly, he faked a death of slipping in a public bathhouse, smacking his head, and drowning.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: His hatred for the Limper, the Lady, and the Empire eventually drives him to become just as ruthless and in the end, takes on the Dominator's insanity when he accidentally touches the Silver Spike.
  • Honor Before Reason: Raven is unable to see past his hatred for those who had wronged him and as a result, he became obsessed with killing the Lady and overthrowing her Empire.
  • Knight Templar Parent: A major one of these for Darling.
  • Lack of Empathy: Case constantly remarks on how horrible Raven is at interpersonal relationships.
  • Not Quite Dead: Pulls it off as part of his establishing character moment as he takes his vengeance on those that left him for dead. Then he comes walking home to the pre-captured fortress Deal to hug Darling, after having a building infested with Rebels collapse on top of him. And that's all part of his establishing chapter.
  • Parental Abandonment: Had two children that he abandoned without remorse. In The Silver Spike Case and Darling force him to meet them. They actually turned out quite well without him or their mother.
  • Parental Substitute: For Darling.
  • The Worf Effect: Suffers from it big time in The White Rose and again in The Silver Spike.

     The Domination 
Once, the Ten Who Were Taken were a group of wizards that were near godlike in their powers. The Dominator defeated them and then used his magic to turn them into his servants. With his wife, the Lady, at his side the Dominator then used the Ten Who Were Taken to conquer most of the northern lands, forming the empire known as the Domination. The White Rose eventually managed to defeat the Dominator, the Lady and the Ten Who Were Taken, but could not kill them, and instead had them interred alive in magically warded barrows. After almost four hundred years the Lady and the Ten, but not the Dominator, were released from their prison, and they have since forged a new empire.

Tropes associated with all of the Taken:

  • Crazy-Prepared: Any wizard comparable to a Taken is incredibly paranoid and prepares for every eventuality with appropriate spells and enchantments, which is part of why they're so hard to kill.
  • Enemy Civil War: They end up fighting each other. During the Battle of Charm, most of the Taken are taken down by each other rather than by the Rebels.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Every one of them does what his or her name implies: Soulcatcher catches souls, Shapeshifter changes shape, Stormbringer creates storms, the Limper, well, limps, and so on.
  • Made of Iron: The more powerful a sorcerer gets, the more paranoid he or she tends to become. Those mages who attain power comparable to the Taken will have prepared for pretty much every possible contingency to the point of having spells preserve them against even decapitation — that let them carry around their own head for fifteen years. Some of them walk around despite having suffered from obviously fatal wounds at some point. The Hanged Man, for example, has a throat mangled by an actual hanging, to the point that his face is severely swollen and points in the wrong direction.
  • Magic Knight: Most of them are both skilled wizards and strong warriors, due to the setting's inversion of the Squishy Wizard trope. Bonegnasher's single appearance is especially exemplary, as he tears foes to pieces with his bare hands.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Soulcatcher, Bonegnasher... the list goes on.
  • Obviously Evil: Whether it's because of a penchant for black clothing and talking with the Voice of the Legion, monstrous size and filthiness, or just looking like they've been dead for a long time, each of the Taken fits this in some way.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Three of the original ten Taken are known to be women, but since all Taken wear masks it is difficult to determine who. Generally male pronouns are used when speaking about a Taken, which sometimes leads to a surprise.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Croaker compares the Taken to spoiled children, trying their best to win the Lady's favor even at the cost of the others and even says that there is no friendship among them.
  • True Name: The Taken are largely impervious if their true name is not known, even by wizard standards.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Their default state, as described in Teeth-Clenched Teamwork. In the Lady's time they escalate to Enemy Civil War due to their female members conspiring with the sealed Dominator against her.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Killing any of them is really, really hard. Lady's advice is to cut them to pieces, burn the pieces, then scatter every pinch of ash somewhere else.


A sorcerer who is rumoured to be able to steal the souls of his victims. Soulcatcher talks in a wide variety of voices, which are said to be the voices of those he killed. While it's noted that Catcher has a slight form and feminine curves, and occasionally will use a single female voice when discussing particularly serious matters, the Taken's habit of wearing a face-concealing black morion and tight leathers means people always use male pronouns when talking about him.

Soulcatcher is exceptionally cunning and ambitious, and frequently plots against the other Taken to advance his own status. He is the original employer of the Black Company in the North, and makes frequent use of their services.

  • Affably Evil: Possibly the nicest of the Taken, until you get in the way of his plans. Croaker even says that he is almost human.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Though usually referred too with male pronouns, Soulcatcher's actual gender is left uncertain for most of the first book (being a slimly androgynous figure who wears a mask makes it tricky even without the Voice of the Legion). She's a woman; the Lady's last surviving sister, to be exact.
  • Benevolent Boss: Treats the Black Company well for a Taken, generally being helpful and even building up a (limited) level of camaraderie with Croaker.
  • The Caligula: To Taglios in the later books. He's a classic example, since he's as capricious and unstable as he is dangerous. Catcher has a knack for picking talented administrators whose main tasks involve performing damage control for his erratic decisions.
  • Cold Reading: Ambiguously. Earlier on, he assures Croaker he can't read minds, but has no problem letting others think he can when it suits him.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In-universe, when Soulcatcher mentions off-hand that the Lady killed her twin sister when they were fourteen. It is eventually revealed that Soulcatcher was the sister.
  • Karma Houdini: Despite all of her horrible deeds throughout the series, she's never killed. She and Croaker reach a kind of understanding where Croaker will keep her around in stasis so that if Lady decides to dominate the world again, Soulcatcher can be released in the name of balance.
  • True Name: It turns out that she's one of the Lady's sisters, Syllith Senjak.
  • Voice of the Legion: He only uses one voice at a time, but he's got a lot of them, and switches every sentence or two. When particularly sensitive matters are discussed, he sticks to a single female voice.

The Limper:

Soulcatcher's worst enemy in the Taken and therefore an enemy of his tools, the Black Company. He is often at cross purposes with the Black Company, and there is great enmity between them. Limper is not very clever, and is frequently outmaneuvered by his enemies. He is named Limper because he, er, limps.
  • Arch-Enemy: For Raven, whose life he ruined in one of his plots and for Shapeshifter, whose wife he seduced. He also frequently clashes with the Black Company.
  • Rasputinian Death:
    • In Black Company, he survives being eaten by fire snakes. In Shadows Linger he ends impaled from ballista, twice, mauled by dogs, cut several times, crucified and having his chest ripped by one of Dominator's curses. He survives, only to get his head cut off by Croaker in The White Rose and having the rest of his body cut to the pieces, and it's still implied he is still alive. He finally dies with rest of the Taken, when Lady loses her power. Probably.
    • He comes back again in The Silver Spike, as just a head this time. He proceeds to acquire a newer, better body soon after. Also counts as Came Back Wrong as he is even crazier and singleminded in his hatred. In the end, he's killed off by being left in a magical pressure cooker for several days, and just to be safe has his remains cast off into another dimension by a deity whose power rivals that of the Dominator.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: Almost impossible to kill, even for a Taken.
  • The Starscream: Soulcatcher manipulated and guided his actions to seem like he was this, but it was subverted. The Lady was aware of this and while it seemed she would punish him, she instead made him stronger.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: The Limper, being as powerful as he is, never had to think through most of his decisions in life and often suffered for it. His entire life can be summed up as one headfirst charge into adversity after another.
  • Villainous Valor
  • Unwitting Pawn: Both Soulcatcher and the Company trick him several times. Luckily the Lady was already aware of this.

The Howler

A small wizard dressed in rags with an uncontrollable need to howl all the time. Best at controlling the flying carpets that the Taken ride on. Older than the Lady, he seems to have more lives than a cat.
  • Ascended Extra: Before his apparent death in The Black Company, his only known character traits are being small and covered in rags, loudly howling, and being good at flying the carpets. He goes on to be one of the most important characters in She Is the Darkness.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: This is the reason that the Company has a hard time impressing the need to be wary of him on younger members — he's kind of ridiculous, but also one of the most powerful entities running around.
  • Character Tic: His constant screaming. It's an actual tic, and is very hard for him to control.


Soulcatcher's closest ally. He frequently shapeshifts and is a skilled infiltrator and saboteur, being able to take on a large variety of shapes.
  • Arch-Enemy: Limper, which is why he sides with Soulcatcher against him. He also becomes one to One Eye after he finds out that it was Shifter that killed Tom-Tom.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: His wife cheated on him with Limper. He allegedly turned her into his staff.
  • The Dragon: For Soulcatcher.
  • I Control My Minions Through...: He is implied to genuinely care for his fellow Taken, swearing revenge on Stormbringer for letting the Hanged Man die. His apprentice and lover, Lisa Bowalk, takes on a vendetta upon One Eye for killing Shifter. Although that might not be to do with love and more to do with with Shifter putting a dead man's lock on her, forcing her to take the form of a forvalaka. After his first wife cheated on him, he was never able to fully trust a woman again.
  • Not Quite Dead: Returns in Shadow Games with an apprentice. Is killed off for good by One-Eye.
  • Shapeshifter Default Form: Described as a mass of tentacles.


A grotesquely large man, Gnasher is the physically strongest of the Taken. He is also sometimes known as Bonebreaker, as it is said he enjoys breaking the bones of his enemies.
  • The Brute: Bonegnasher is described by Croaker as being eight feet tall and 600 pounds of muscle. At one point he grabs a were-leopard — which is said to be as strong as a dozen men — and easily crushes it in a hug, then takes a bite out of it.


Also known as Moondog. A Taken of which little is told. His name is juxtaposed against a wolf and a full moon, with the former sometimes eclipsing the latter. He is seen summoning a swarm of winged serpents during a full moon at one point.

The Hanged Man

A Taken named for having very obviously been hanged at one point. Sometimes known as Crooked Neck. His head is swollen and makes it difficult to speak, and he still has the marks of the noose around his neck. Little is seen of him, but it is implied he likes to kill his enemies in the same manner that he presumably died, as he is seen using a spell that suffocates its victims.


A wizard who specializes in weather manipulation. He shows up again in later books as one of the Shadowmasters, now calling herself Stormshadow.


A sorcerer. He has a reputation of being unnerving, but little else is described about him.

The Faceless Man

A sorcerer. As with Nightcrawler, he is only mentioned briefly.
Later volumes introduce the Lady's new Taken, in some cases to replace the old ones. Unlike the old Taken, the new ones do not necessarily wear masks, and do not distance themselves from other people. These include Whisper, a rebel general, and Feather and Journey, a married couple that were Taken, formerly rebels and members of the Circle. Also mentioned are Benefice, Blister, Creeper, Learned and Scorn.


A sorceress of the Circle of Eighteen and one of the most skilled generals of her era. She was ambushed during a meeting with the rebellious Limper, and was subsequently Taken by the Lady, turning one of the Rebel's greatest assets into one of its greatest foes.
  • The Dreaded: She was seen as the most dangerous of the Circle.
  • Face–Monster Turn: After the Limper was captured, the Lady turned Whisper into a Taken and put her in Limper's place. Croaker observed her transformation and it was horrible to watch.
  • The Strategist: She was a military genius that apparently managed to outsmart Soulcatcher of all people. When she became a Taken, the East is conquered in months.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Though most of the Circle weren't pure goodness, Soulcatcher claimed that her heart was "black as night", perhaps meaning that she was not much better than the Taken.
  • Worthy Opponent: Soulcatcher had clearly a great amount of respect for her, but after learning of her secrets, it turned into admiration.


A member of the Circle of Eighteen, and married to Journey. Feather and Journey were both newly raised to the Circle when they married, and were captured by the Black Company on their honeymoon. They were then Taken by the Lady.


A member of the Circle of Eighteen, and married to Feather. Feather and Journey were both newly raised to the Circle when they married, and were captured by the Black Company on their honeymoon. They were then Taken by the Lady. Journey is not considered to be very competent among the Taken, and is typically relegated to lesser tasks.

The Lady

Master of the Taken. She betrayed her husband, the Dominator, to become leader of the Taken and establish her own Empire. She is considered an evil overlord, but it is often argued that her husband is far worse. She rules from her massive tower, Charm.
  • Depower: At the end of The White Rose. Eventually overturned; once when she begins leeching power off of Kina, and again at the end of Soldiers Live when Croaker gifts her with a connection to Shivetya's power.
  • Evil Overlord: How she is seen; while she definitely has a cruel streak, it is doubtful she is as bad as her husband or even the Rebel.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Turns out even an Evil Overlord has lines she won't cross, the release of the Dominator being one of them.
  • Hypocrite: What she fears the most is that the world will remember her as a monster, which is the sole reason she gets close with Croaker in the first place — to make sure he will write about her true self in the Annals. That said, she refuses to even consider that the Dominator might have a good side.
  • Mama Bear: Her revenge against the Deceivers after they steal her daughter becomes her life's work. She melts when she finally gets to talk to Booboo, embarrassing even Croaker with her outpouring of emotion, and is devastated when she is ultimately unable to save Booboo from the grip of Kina.
  • Missing Mom: In Soldiers Live, she finally says something about her background
  • Morality Pet: Tries to make herself one out of Croaker. After realizing that, he just tells her how it worked for Raven.
  • Necessarily Evil: She sees herself as this and takes pains in her Annals to justify her behavior.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The text uses this to distinguish between her as a supremely powerful evil sorceress and Big Bad and a mortal member of the Company.
  • True Name: One of the reasons the Lady is so powerful is because she succeeded in wiping out pretty much all records of her prior life, making it difficult to pierce her magical defenses. She even managed to deceive the Dominator when they married by assuming the identity of one of her sisters, Ardath. This helps her dodge a bullet at the end of the second book when the Dominator tries to invoke her true name and fails, and once more in the third book when the Limper attempts the same by trying the names of her other two sisters, Syllith and Credence. Silent figures out the Lady's true name in the end: Dorotea Senjak.

The Dominator

An immensely powerful sorcerer. Created an empire known as the Domination over four hundred years before the start of the series. He created the Ten Who Were Taken, or Taken for short. He was defeated by an earlier incarnation of the White Rose and buried alive in the Barrowland. The Lady neglected to free him when she escaped with the Taken. He makes several attempts to escape over the course of the series.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: According to Lady, the first Taken who betrayed her for him were all female.
  • Bigger Bad: He's a Morgoth to Lady's Sauron. He often manages to take the place of Big Bad.
  • Badass Normal: Even depowered, he manages to kill several people and a strong demon with his bare hands.
  • The Dreaded: Like you wouldn't believe. The Lady, who was the second most powerful individual in the world at that point, was absolutely terrified of him to the point that she was brought to tears at the thought of fighting him.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Croaker tries to argue he might have a good side Lady did not know about, and uses this as a possible example. Lady says he probably killed her with his bare hands.
  • Eviler Than Thou: His whole existence is this for Lady. She mentions that he was more likely to have ripped his mother's heart out and eaten it raw than caring about her.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Sealed in the Barrowland, and later in a void dimension. The Dominator and the Lady were first sealed away 500 years ago only after the original White Rose temporarily nullified their ability to use magic. Since strong sorcerers are extremely hard to kill, and the strongest ones have the will to bring themselves back to life after being killed even if their physical bodies are damaged or destroyed, containment is the only viable option for the Dominator.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: An immensely powerful Evil Sorcerer who conquered the northern continent and formed an empire called the Domination.
  • Strong, but Unskilled: Croaker's hypothesis on how the Dominator works. He's powerful enough to simply brute-force everything, compared to the Lady's tendency to be more subtle.
  • True Name: Figuring out the Dominator's true name is a major plot point in book three, The White Rose, since doing so would be the most reliable way of stopping him. It's never discovered, the Dominator covered his tracks too well before he started his original reign of terror 500 years ago. Croaker's research dead-ends with an ancient record of the Lady (then using the identity of her dead sister Ardath Senjak to protect her own true name) marrying "Erin NoFather, an unlanded priest of the god Vancer, from a town called Slinger, in the kingdom of Vye" shortly before the Dominator proclaimed himself. Not even the Lady knows anything of the Dominator's past beyond that point.

     Otherwise affiliated characters of the North 

The Circle of Eighteen

A group of wizards who lead the Rebel during the uprising.


A deaf-mute child found by the Black Company early in the Northern campaign. She is adopted by Raven, who grows fiercely protective of her. She eventually invents a sign language and shows herself to be highly intelligent. She is eventually revealed to be the reincarnation of the White Rose and possesses the ability to nullify any magic in her immediate vicinity. Once Raven realizes this he deserts the Black Company, taking her with him and raising her to fulfill her destiny as leader of the forces of light.
  • The Beastmaster: When she takes up arms against the Lady's empire, she recruits the beasts/beings that populate the plain of fear. Many of them make use of mechanical flight, on top of being living seige engines. This allows her to have great power projection abilities and maintain air superiority.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Played straight during her teenage years, when she was described as being quite attractive; subverted by the time she is well into adulthood, as spending most of your life fighting a war does not help keep you pretty.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: As the White Rose, she'll give most of her enemies a chance to escape or surrender. Anyone who does not accept her leniency can shortly expect to be blown to bits.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Even without her power to nullify magic, Darling is still a highly skilled tactician who can command the creatures of the Plain of Fear to do her bidding.
  • The Chosen One: As she ages, she eventually develops powers which shows she was the next, or the reincarnation of, the White Rose, which meant she had a large Anti-Magic field.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After losing her parents and being raped at a young age, being on the run for most of her teenage years and fighting against the Empire for over a decade, she retires after taking down the Limper and settles down with Case.
  • Handicapped Badass: Not in the conventional sense, since she's much more a strategist than an outright fighter. Also deaf-mute.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Her very presence softens two of the most antisocial characters within the Black Company. It's also telling that she is quite possibly the only individual in the world that Old Father Tree trusts.
  • The Lad-ette: She puts some effort into avoiding this in the way she dresses and wears her hair, but pretty much every character seeing her for the first time notes that her body language is entirely masculine and that she wears weapons openly. Having been around only men since she was seven probably has something to do with it.
  • Morality Pet: For both the Black Company and Raven, though this is inverted in the case of the latter. Darling's presence may soften him a little, but it ultimately leads him to do reckless, horrible things that cause problems for everyone else.
  • Rape as Backstory: Her introduction involves her being "shared" by the men who had murdered her parents and beat her grandfather to within an inch of his life. In an Establishing Character Moment for the Black Company, she is rescued and adopted by them.
  • True Name: Tonie Fisk

Marron Shed

A tavern owner in Juniper who has fallen on lean times. He is desperate to keep the Iron Lily and provide for his family, but his meekness, vices and poor financial skills constantly keeps him on the edge. As he grows increasingly desperate, he finds that he might have to stoop to levels for which there may be no forgiving oneself.
  • The Atoner: By the end of Shadows Linger, once he realizes how he allowed himself to be manipulated into helping the Dominator.

Lisa Bowalk

A young woman who helps out Shed with his business and other, less savoury activities. She is disturbingly ruthless.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Combines with Shapeshifter Mode Lock. While Shifter teaches her how to transform, he builds a Dead Man Switch into the spell so that if he is killed she cannot turn back. Turns out he didn't trust her, either.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Starts off as a lowly waitress at Shed's tavern and goes on to murder people on the latter's behalf. She later falls in with Shapeshifter and becomes his apprentice.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Is stuck as a forvalaka after Shifter dies, and spends decades like that. She never succeeds in turning back into a human until she is finally killed by Croaker using One-Eye's magical spear.
  • The Sociopath: Almost a textbook example. She is manipulative, remorseless, domineering, and lacking in any emotional expression except anger.


A wizard who dedicated most of his life to gaining access to the Great Barrow where the Dominator and his henchmen were buried. He recognized the dangers of his work, and never intended to free anyone; rather, his plan was to coerce the lady into teaching him what she knew of magic. While the Lady has since wiped most records of what happened, it is thought that his ritual was disrupted when he was caught between two parties who wished to release and contain the Dominator, respectively. Popular myth holds that he was last seen heading towards the Great Barrow in a vain attempt to keep the Dominator from escaping. While it is unclear if he succeeded in containing the Dominator, the Lady and the Taken did escape.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Few suspect that grouchy excavator-antiquary Bomanz is actually one of the great wizards of his age.
  • Faking the Dead: Used the final battle in The White Rose as a cover for his retirement; he killed the dragon quite easily. Returns to action in The Silver Spike when his wards go off, warning him that something is wrong in the Barrowlands.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Is believed to have attempted this in-universe. It is unclear whether it succeeded. It appears he never got past the dragon guarding the central chamber. Later sacrifices himself to slay the dragon during the Dominator's escape attempt... and survives. Ultimately, he dies while fighting the resurrected Limper, overwhelmed as he tries to hold off the Limper after the latter emerges from the giant clay pot designed to cook him to death.
  • Killed Off for Real: At the end of The Silver Spike, while fighting Limper.
  • Not Quite Dead: When the Lady was released, everyone assumed he was killed fighting the dragon guarding the barrows. In truth, he was frozen in time with it, with a plume of fire coming at him.
  • True Name: As a wizard, Bomanz keeps his true name a secret. When the Lady interrogates him it is revealed his name is Seth Chalk.

Philodendron Case

A young soldier of the northern empire. Though he considers himself unimportant to the grand scheme of things, events conspire to keep him near the centre of events. His friendship with Raven allows Case the opportunity to learn how to read and write, and his diary, which he writes as an exercise, forms the main narrative of The Silver Spike.
  • Audience Surrogate: In The Silver Spike, the majority of the narrative is told through Case's diary. He is largely ignorant of the outside world, and his perspective broadly matches what the reader is likely feeling.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: He joined the army because he has had enough of growing potatoes and wanted adventures. Lets just say that multiple times over the course of Silver Spike he is advocating advantages of growing potatoes over being an adventurer.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Case's narrative voice is often quite sardonic; this feature is present in all of the The Black Company books.
  • Farm Boy: Born to a family of potato diggers, Philodendron joined the army to ostensibly get away from the sort of people who would name their son after a flower.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Points out to Darling that most of her rebellion is controlled by descendants of nobility, who want to return to the times when they were living from peasants' hard work, while peasants have pretty decent lives under imperial rule and that most of the people don't care about who is in charge as long as their lives don't get worse.
  • Odd Friendship: Case, a country boy, manages to become a close friend to Raven, a brooding black magician and former soldier twice his age.
  • Official Couple: At the end of The Silver Spike, Case hooks up with Darling. The last page of his diary implies they lived out their lives happily together.
  • Theme Naming: His parents named each of their children after a kind of flower. Much to Case's consternation, this included the men.

Old Man Fish

An old veteran hired to assist a group of thieves in a particularly daring theft. As events start spiralling out of control, Old Man Fish becomes more and more vital to the survival of the group.
  • Cool Old Guy: Old Man Fish's expertise is the only thing keeping the thieves alive at first. At one point, he assaults resident badass Raven and two other people at the same time, beat them without breaking a sweat, murders one of them and managed to do it too fast for them to see his face.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: After escaping Rebels, Empire and the Limper, he dies from cholera.

Major characters in The Books of the South:

    The Black Company 

Tropes associated with the Black Company in the South


A native of the city of Gea-Xle. Mogaba is the leader of the Nar (meaning "Black"), a soldier society formed from descendants of a splinter group of the Black Company when they spent 70 years in service to the city. The Nar favour martial prowess and honour, and their leader must be the very best to be chosen. Mogaba is the strongest, fastest, most skilled and honourable warrior the Nar have, and also the most cunning. When the Company passes through Gea-Xle Mogaba and the very best of his Nar join them, considering it their holy duty, with Mogaba quickly being elevated to third-in-command.
  • Anti-Villain: After the humiliating defeats Mogaba suffers in She Is the Darkness, Mogaba starts to question his own pride.. Ends up as Alas, Poor Villain when he realizes his extremely prideful nature caused a huge amount of grief for the Black Company and himself, and he willfully walks away from Taglios in the end to save the city from more bloodshed.
  • Arch-Enemy: To the Black Company in general, Sleepy in particular.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The Nar, a group of Black Company descendants, will only let the very best soldier in their number lead them. Mogaba is this and more. Outside the context of the Nar, Mogaba respects the chain of command, if reluctantly at times.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Mogaba is one of the deadliest fighters in the series, and leads from the front lines whenever he can.
  • The Chessmaster: Not only the strongest and most honourable warrior of the Nar but also the most cunning. He has trained as a general for all his life, and after joining the Company he gets to put his knowledge to use.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Mogaba deeply envies Croaker for his position as Captain of the Black Company, and eventually defects after his attempts to undermine the company at Dejagore come to light. After suffering a series of humiliating defeats, Mogaba eventually comes to regret being blinded by envy deeply.
  • Four-Star Badass: Mogaba prefers leading from the front when given command and is exceptionally capable from this position.
  • Genius Bruiser: Mogaba is not only the most physically impressive warrior of the Nar, he is also the most intelligent, and has trained as a general for many years.
  • Hero Killer: In the time between She Is The Darkness and Water Sleeps, Mogaba almost manages to destroy the Black Company, with Sleepy never managing to score more than a draw in any battle. In Soldiers Live, he alone is responsible for the death of about a dozen major characters, including, but not being limited to, Murgen, Sleepy and the Howler.
  • Honour Before Reason: Mogaba is fiercely proud of his martial skills and will at first always seek a "fair fight" if left to his own devices. He relaxes his rigid adherence to his code of honour as time passes.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick:
    • Whilst Croaker is out scouting out the Taglian border, Mogaba stays behind training recruits, collecting surveys of mountable animals and dealing with the Radisha (i.e: all the things a mercenary captain should be doing). The Radisha even wonders if Mogaba is secretly the real captain of the Black Company.
    • After switching sides, his attempts to exercise his talents are quashed as a result of Longshadow's mental instability and paranoia. Instead of being hyper-competent, he is shackled to one location and unable to do much of anything.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Nar, whom Mogaba leads, are a splinter cult of Kina worshippers. During the siege of Dejagore they kidnap, murder and eat the civilians as part of their rituals. After the siege ends they all apparently abandon the religion, however.
  • Killed Off for Real: Near the end of Soldiers Live. He fled Taglios not expecting to survive the wrath of Tobo's Shadows, and he was not wrong. Croaker later found out he was tortured for days before dying.
  • Redemption Equals Death: At the end of Soldiers Live, Mogaba realises that he can rally the defenders of Taglios and at the very least force a draw. He opts not to, as the process would be incredibly drawn-out and destructive, and he is the only person left of the group that usurped the throne. Instead, he goes against his code of honour, fleeing on a barge with some of his assistants, only to be caught by Tobo's monsters. Despite knowing that he will die a slow, painful death, he accepts his fate, knowing he did the right thing.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Though it's depicted as a gradual process, it's clear that once the siege of Dejagore starts he stops caring about the Black Company.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: In Soldiers Live, Mogaba attempts to reconcile his sense of honour with his sense of morality. In the end he finds a workable solution that lets him satisfy both: when he realises he is the only reason fighting is still going on in Taglios, as all his allies have been neutralized, instead of opting for a drawn-out draw, he abandons his post, sparing the city further bloodshed.


Standard bearer cum annalist of the black company. The third narrator of the series following Lady, starting in Bleak Seasons. He is haunted by the past and uncertain about the future. His narrative tone is less cerebral than Croaker's and less judgemental than Lady's, and is also the most metafictional. During the Siege of Dejagore he finds himself acting as de-facto Captain.
  • Ascended Extra: Joins the Company in The White Rose, but remains largely peripheral until Dreams of Steel, where he is finally forced to accept the leadership role Croaker has been grooming him for.
  • Dream Spying: At first does this using Smoke as a conduit. Later becomes able to do it himself, with Shivetya's help.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Killed very suddenly by the trap Mogaba sets in his quarters.
  • Doomed Home Town: During the war against the Rebellion, his home town was "liberated" so many times that all that remains of it is a desert. This is also the reason (having nothing better to do) why he was willing to stick with Croaker during his quest to find Khatovar.
  • Happily Married: To Sarie. This being a work of Dark Fantasy, their relationship does not remain static, however.
  • Heartbroken Badass: When Sarie's death is faked, he immerses himself in the Black Company to distract himself. Later, when she actually does die, he does not manage to pull it together in time to avoid his own death.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Not everyone is a fan of his and Sarie's union and some try to force them apart, going as far as to fake Sarie's death to separate them.
  • Temporal Paradox: He tries to avoid seeing himself any time he has come loose from time, possibly attempting to avoid this.


One of the 32 Nar who were chosen to join up with the Black Company, and Mogaba's younger brother. Of the three Taglian legions, it was Sindawe's that showed the least discipline.

One of the greatest cities in the world, Taglios is found far to the south of the equator. A true metropolis, it houses three major religions, hundreds of minor ones, just as many ethnicities and very little in the way of political unity. Despite being a boiling pot of cultural differences, Taglios is a largely benign power, and the region had not seen war for hundreds of years — until the arrival of the Shadowmasters. Shortly before the hostilities start flaring up again, the Black Company arrives at the city, hoping to keep going south, but the need for their services and a strange resistance from the people in the region to them continuing on their quest to Khatovar forces them to accept a contract to the city.

Cordwood "Cordy" Mather

A Northerner who migrated south from Lady's empire a few years before the Black Company arrived in Taglios. His closest friends are Swan and Blade.
  • The Bartender: Is working as one of these when the Black Company arrives in Taglios. His beer sucks, but he has no competition, as Taglios' major religions forbid alcohol.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Before the rearrival of the Black Company in Taglios, he and Swan were put in charge of the Taglian armies during the early phases of the Shadowmaster Wars. With only six-weeks of military experience between the two, barely long enough to know how to march in step, they were the most professional soldiers in a land pacified by 400 year old scars.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: When the Company finally reaches the Captured, they find that Cordy has mysteriously thawed out on his own some time earlier... and stumbled onto a poison trap that killed him.
  • The Smart Guy: Of the trio from Roses. Mostly an informed attribute as he has few opportunities to demonstrate his intelligence in the Glittering Stone books, between Murgen being a rather insular narrator and the Radisha keeping him around purely on the grounds of him being a pretty handsome foreigner.

Willow Swan

A Northerner who migrated south from Lady's Empire a few years before the Black Company arrived in Taglios. His closest friends are Cordy and Blade.
  • The Bartender: He's a partner in Cordy's tavern.
  • Brainwashed: He claims that this is why he fled with Soulcatcher after she springs the trap on Croaker and the other Black Company men on the Plain of Glittering Stone. One-Eye and Goblin help him overcome his Laser-Guided Amnesia when he returns to spring the Captured.
  • Born Unlucky: Believes himself to be this. Hard to disagree.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Suvrin mentions after the battle near the Grove in Soldiers Live that Swan was killed in action.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Only from a certain point of view. He keeps fighting the good fight as best he can, but he has to contend with Soulcatcher, the one who Brainwashed him.
  • Hair of Gold: Famed for his hair, which is unique in Taglios.
  • Replacement Sibling: Of a sort — he clearly has the hots for Lady, and Soulcatcher uses this to seduce Willow. She and Lady are twins, after all.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Works with the Black Company in Water Sleeps to try and reunite with his friend Cordy, only to find Cordy had died years before. In Soldiers Live, Sleepy comments that he died without ever finding his dream.
  • Token Good Teammate: Out of all the characters, Swan is the hardest to paint as a villain. As Lady notes in Dreams of Steel when she, Swan, Blade, Narayan Singh, and Cordwood Mather gang up to assassinate Shadowspinner:
    I [(Lady)] looked them over, Blade, Swan, Ram, Naryan, the two arm-holders. Seven of us. As Swan had observed, the obligatory number for a company on a quest. A totally mixed bag. By his own standards each was a good person. By the standards of others everyone, excepting Swan, was a villain.


A reticent man rescued by Cordy and Swan from being eaten by alligators while they were travelling to Taglios. He is a close friend to them, although he has little to say.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: He becomes a lot more talkative and humorous after returning to the Black Company.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: He's killed in the battle at the Grove with no particular weight given to his death.
  • Fake Defector: In She Is the Darkness, he has a falling-out with Croaker over Lady and defects to the Shadowmasters, where he quickly becomes an esteemed general in their service, only to turn on them in a critical battle between the Black Company and Mogaba's armies. It was all a ploy cooked up between him and Croaker.
  • Mysterious Past: Nobody is ever quite sure where Blade came from, why he was in a found in a crocodile infested swamp, or why he hates priests so much.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Or at least their mortal representatives. He hates priests with a deep and abiding passion.

The Prabrindrah Drah

The official ruler of Taglios, the Prabrindrah Drah is largely unconcerned with ruling his city, preferring instead to let people more competent than him do most of the work. When the Black Company arrive he finds his true calling to be as a soldier.
  • Puppet King: The Radisha actually runs the show. He is completely fine with this, although he still fulfils his obligations when necessary.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Lampshaded in-story. He prefers commanding armies in the field to politics.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Spends fifteen years imprisoned under the Plain of Glittering Stone, years longer in the Land of Unknown Shadows, returns to his own kingdom to relative indifference from his own people, finally returns to the seat of his power after all the fighting ends and then is killed by a stray spell while standing in the ruins of his former palace.

The Radisha

The ruler of Taglios in all but name due to the patriarchic nature of the society. What the Prabrindrah Drah lacks in enthusiasm for ruling she more than makes up for, and she is a competent and fair leader.
  • Regent for Life: Is actually the ruler of Taglios, but cannot be named as such due to tradition. At the end of Soldiers Live, she is formally named ruler of Taglios in a break from tradition.


Taglios' Lord Protector of Public Safety (in other words, the fire marshal), and a close advisor to the Radisha and the Prabrindrah Drah — at least to public eyes. In private, he is actually the court mage of Taglios.
  • Dirty Coward: Spends most of his screen time panicking about the Black Company. Eventually they figure out that he is particularly affected by Kina's magical interference, but by then it's too late.
  • Dream Spying: After being attacked by a demon, he's left comatose and somehow becomes a conduit through which people can spy on dreams. His Dirty Coward tendencies still apply here — there are some people he won't look at.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Killed by Soulcatcher, in the guise of Sleepy, when she figures out he is the only person who could see through her disguise.
  • Hidden Depths: He is the court mage of Taglios. His strength is never really described, but he is at least competent at his job.

    The Shadowmasters 
A group of powerful wizards who are the enemies of Taglios. Share a lot in common with their Northern counterparts, the Taken.


A Shadowmaster so called for his long, thin body. Longshadow is a neurotic, obsessive and extremely powerful sorcerer, and is usually the dominant Shadowmaster. He is always seen wearing a mask, rendering his identity a mystery.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Thanks to Shivatya's influence, he self-sabotages himself severely. He could have crushed the Black Company even at the height of their power in Taglios but could not hold himself together long enough to actually do so.
  • Never My Fault: Like all wizards he is a genius in his own mind. Unfortunately, views of his self-described intellect are not shared with other people. Not even the best general in the world would be able to save this micro-managing boss of defeat. Subverted in one instance, much to every one's surprise. After hearing that he sent his army of shadow-weavers to thier firery deaths from an army of men wielding fireball-shooting sticks of bamboo, Longshadow swallows his fit of rage and admits that he made a tactical error.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Nobody knows where he comes from. The Black Company speculates that he might be a rogue Taken. In-universe he is this to the Taglians. He is actually from one of the other sixteen worlds connected to the Plain of Glittering Stone.
  • Thinking Out Loud: Has a habbit of doing so when seemingly no one is around, as learned through Murgen's dreamspying.


Out of all the shadow masters, it was Spinner who had led the loneliest existence. Formerly Longshadow's apprentice, Shadowspinner lacked both the friendship that Storm and Moonshadow held between them and the rogues gallery that Longshadow would obtain in the Glittering Stone books. There was also the matter that his former master was a backstabbing lunatic.


  • Ascended Extra: If the reader doesn't realize that she's one of the Ten Who Were Taken from Croaker's description of her, it's probably because she had so little screentime in The Black Company and wasn't seen since.
  • Not Quite Dead: Stormshadow is none other than Stormbringer, a Taken assumed dead at the Battle of Charm.


    The Deceivers 

Tropes associated with the Cult of the Deceivers

Narayan Singh

A small, skinny fruit-peddler who joined the newly formed army of Taglios when the call went out for war. After the rout at Dejagore, he finds Lady and, along with Ram, helps her survive and rally the remnants of the army. It soon turns out that he is quite a bit more than the poor merchant he makes himself out to be: he is the Living Saint of the Deceivers, a death cult devoted to serving the dark goddess Kina by bringing on the Year of the Skulls — and while Lady does not agree with his motivations, she finds him and the cult he leads to be convenient pawns...
  • Karma Houdini: In-universe; Narayan Singh manages to escape every time he is captured, evading direct punishment over a period of about twenty years. In the end he is killed by the brainwashed Goblin when it becomes clear he won't be able to escape again, and thus avoids the wrath of Lady and Croaker. The years spent as a fugitive were far from easy, however, and he has been forced to watch his beloved cult be destroyed time and again.
  • Living Legend: Singh is widely reviled — and revered, by the Stranglers — for being one of the most successful Stranglers in memory, having killed hundreds of people personally and without arm-holders.
  • Kick the Dog: Steals Lady and Croaker's child after preparing her as the Daughter of the Night.
  • Red Right Hand: Along with many other Deceivers present at a critical ceremony, Singh is marked permanently with a red spot on one of his hands.


A large, silent man who joined the Taglian army when the war broke out. Along with Narayan Singh he stumbles on Lady after the rout at Dejagore, and quickly latches on to her as a bodyguard and aide. As with Singh, he is a member of the Cult of the Deceivers, although a much lower-ranking one.
  • Bodyguard Crush: As with most males who spend time around Lady, Ram is thought to develop unrequited feelings towards her.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Ram slain by his Deceiver brethren when he betrays them to protect Lady after the birth of her child.

Major characters in The Books of the Glittering Stone:

    The Black Company 

Tropes associated with the Black Company during the Glittering Stone arc

  • Badass Army: There is no doubt the Black Company would have been able to conquer the Land of Unknown Shadows, but they choose not to.


A young Black Company recruit from Dejagore. Named for a scar which causes his brow to droop over one of his eyes, giving him a permanent sleepy expression. Small, silent and fairly nondescript, he still manages to catch the attention of the Old Guard for his loyalty to the Company.
  • Ascended Extra: A very minor character until She Is the Darkness, where he becomes a minor character instead. Becomes a major character in Water Sleeps.
  • Asexuality: While he has impulses occasionally in his Annals, he quickly stifles them. By the time of Soldiers Live, Croaker comments that he seems completely non-sexual. However, when Suvrin informs her of Swan's death, she seems so emotional the Annalist wonders if they did not sneak away with each other once or twice.
  • Rape as Backstory: All but spelled out. Big Bucket, the Company brother who found him, proceeded to throw his two uncles off the walls of Dejagore.


A hapless rotund member of a minor noble house who has command at the Shadowgate when the Black Company returns. Much to his surprise he finds himself thriving in the Black Company, and quickly earns the trust of the officers.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Suvrin starts as the officer of a watch post in the middle of nowhere, and moves on to command armies in just a few years.
  • You Are in Command Now: Against his protestations, he is made Captain when Sleepy dies, this being the culmination of a long string of unwanted promotions. As Croaker points out, he is the only officer left at this point who can still command.


Aridatha Singh

Youngest son of Narayan Singh, he grew up without ever knowing his father except by reputation. Everyone who meets him comments on how handsome he is, and he catches women's eyes the same way Lady catches men's.
  • The Chessmaster: In Soldiers Live, he's smart enough to win Mogaba's respect, bring peace to Taglios, and avoid an assassination attempt by the most powerful sorcerer left in his part of the world.
  • The Good Guys Always Win: In the end, he inherits Mogaba's title of Great General just by being a good, competent man who steadily worked his way up the ranks by being nothing but a good, competent man.
  • The Paragon: Everyone who meets him comments on how great a guy he is. This gets him drawn into various schemes as parties try to rope in him to lend credibility to their agenda. Croaker even calls him a paragon in-story.

Master Surendranath Santaraksita

By day the head librarian of Taglios. By night a member of a member of a secret society dedicated to the removal of the Protector from power. Said society consists entirely of ineffectual old men complaining about how life used to be so much better in the "good old days" under the Prahbrindrah Drah.

    The Nyueng Bao 

Tropes associated with the Nyueng Bao

A secretive and insular people, the Nyueng Bao make their homes in the swampy delta of the river flowing west of Taglios. Once per generation, fully a third of their people will perform a years-long pilgrimage to the Shadowlands for purposes unknown. When hostilities erupted between the Shadowmasters and the Black Company the wandering clan found itself trapped in Dejagore, where it was caught between the factions of the war. Though seemingly an off-shoot of the Taglian culture, it is clear that there is much more to them than is immediately obvious. They are actually the descendants of one of the Free Companies of Khatovar, and have forgotten their original purpose to an even greater degree than the Black Company. During the time of the final books, possibly the only person left alive who still remembers this is Uncle Doj.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: After the Siege of Dejagore most of the fighting men who were there attach themselves to a Company brother as bodyguards. The Annalists never manage to get a straight answer as to why.

Uncle Doj

A secretive warrior-priest of the Nyueng Bao. Although revered amongst his people (Uncle being a term of respect), his reticence and position of leadership makes it hard for the Black Company to trust the Nyueng Bao.
  • The Captain: His position in Nyueng Bao society is roughly equivalent with the Captaincy of the Black Company, with the role of Annalist thrown in but following a more oral tradition.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Becomes more talkative when Sleepy takes charge of the Black Company and finally figures out the right questions to ask about the Nyueng Bao.
  • Magic Knight: A minor wizard, but a master of the sword.
  • The Mentor: Advertises himself as a mentor to a number of characters, particularly Sleepy, with limited success—nobody is willing to trust someone so secretive, and he is too laconic to be of much use.
  • The Quiet One: Doesn't talk much. Part of why he's so distrusted.

Ky Sahra (Sarie)

Daughter of Gota, Sarie is an exceptionally beautiful woman who wins Murgen's affections.
  • Doting Parent: She dotes on Tobo after he is born and never stops.
  • Happily Married: To Murgen. It's not a perfect marriage, but it's enough to make them unhappy when they're separated.
  • Never Found the Body: She disappears in the middle of the battle of the Grove and is never seen again.
  • Punny Name: Her name, in conjunction with her prophetic abilities, is suspiciously similar to the name of a French song, Que Sera, Sera (Whatever will be, will be).

Thai Dei

Sahra's extremely laconic brother. Attaches himself as a bodyguard to Murgen during the siege of Dejagore, and stays there.
  • Badass Normal: As an adherent of Uncle Doj's philosophy, he is quite skilled with the sword.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Stays with Murgen simply because he has nothing else left in his life after his six-year old son is killed.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Murgen. The two rarely speak, but Murgen comes to trust him completely, with Thai Dei almost never leaves his side, and then not for long.
  • The Quiet One: Even for a Nyueng Bao he is sparse with words.
  • The Stoic: Never seems to lose his calm.

Ky Gota

The old, mean-spirited mother of Sarie. Her poor back and aching joints put her in a perpetually poor mood, and she spends most of her waking time haranguing other people as a result, earning her the nickname "the Troll" (but not to her face). She is ill-liked, even by her close family, and is for the most part avoided, something which compounds her foul demeanour. Her bite is as bad as her bark, however, so she is equal parts feared and loathed.
  • The Alcoholic: Although the Nyueng Bao forbid drinking, she's in enough pain that she takes to the bottle the moment One-Eye introduces the concept to her. When she finally expires, she is rip roaring drunk on her and One-Eye's homebrewed spirits.
  • Crack Pairing: In-universe. Much to everyone's complete bafflement she and One-Eye enter a steady relationship, if mostly centered around his brewing skills (or lack thereof).
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: May be even better than Uncle Doj at sword-fighting.
  • In-Series Nickname: Is known as "the Troll" for her small stature, bent back, waddling walk and terrible temper. Just don't let her hear you call her that.
  • Lethal Chef: Everyone hates her cooking, but she's usually the only one who can be bothered to do it.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: One-Eye seems to be the only one who can stand Ky Gota for any length of time. Sleepy even gets suspicious of her when she goes for a stretch without complaining.


A young boy born in the Black Company. His birth was foretold by a prophecy of Hong Tray. He grows up in the ranks of the Black Company, and proves to be a highly versatile ally.
  • The Ace: Takes quickly to most any skill he is required to learn.
  • The Chosen One: His coming was apparently foretold by Hong Tray.
  • Fatal Flaw: While he appears to be an upstanding guy at first, the untimely deaths of both his parents remove any tethers he has to moral behavior and he very rapidly slips into the same Ax-Crazy behaviors demonstrated by the Taken.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Gathers quite an entourage of creepy creatures during the Company's years on the far side of the Shadowgate.
  • In the Blood: Croaker comments that everything Tobo does comes to him with ridiculous ease, be it magic or a mundane trade skill.
  • Morality Chain: Has his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to try and keep him on the straight and narrow, and the affections of Shukrat as well.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Before he hits puberty he dresses up often as an attractive young girl, with great success.

    The Deceivers 

The Daughter of Night

The Dark Messiah of the Deceiver cult, the Daughter of Night was marked while still in the womb. She is completely and utterly dedicated to bringing on the Year of Skulls, and has no doubts about her role in life. She was stolen at birth by Narayan Singh from her biological parents, Croaker and Lady.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: She really does wonder if her birth parents loved her, but she never knew anything but Kina. In the end, when it looks like she and her mother might actually be able to reconcile with each other, the last vestige of Kina takes over her body and tries to kill Lady. Croaker is forced to kill her in order to save his wife.
  • Creepy Child: Being the mortal vessel of a dark god will do that.
  • Dark Action Girl: She reaches adulthood between She Is the Darkness and Water Sleeps, and is theoretically a holy terror from that time on. In practice, she spends most of her time captured, mired in doubt, and/or hiding behind her "love me" spell.
  • Embarrassing Nick Name: Her biological parents take to calling her Booboo when discussing her in order to stay emotionally detached.
  • Evil Is Sexy: invokedHer great but unnerving beauty is frequently remarked upon.

Kina, the Deceiver

A death goddess shared by many of the Taglian religions. Though normally mostly ignored, the coming of the Black Company has stirred up old fears about her, as she is somehow connected to the Free Companies of Khatovar. Her followers, the Cult of the Deceiver, believe that a Dark Messiah will one day be born to usher in the Year of the Skulls, when Kina will return to the world and bring forth untold slaughter to elevate mankind to Paradise.
  • Big Bad: It is clear from the moment her name is mentioned that her connection with the Glittering Stone will pit her against the Black Company.
  • The Chessmaster: Subverted. Kina has spun schemes for millenia, to the point that she has trouble with keeping up with the present.
  • Dysfunction Junction: One of her ways of interfering with the world is by messing with people's minds, most notably accomplished with Smoke and Longshadow but done to a more limited degree with the entire population of Taglios.
  • God of Evil: Although different cults will ascribe different attributes to her, and some consider her a neutral or even good force, the reality is that she is just as malevolent as she appears.
  • I Have Many Names: The result of figuring into so many different religions and creation myths across a number of different worlds.
  • The Omniscient: It is possible to "run away" from Kina's presence though, and in doing so prevent her from knowing what you are up to.
  • Physical God: She is revered as a goddess for a reason.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Kept in a magical sleep far beneath the Citadel at the Glittering Stone.
  • Stupid Evil: It is speculated that the reason she is so frequently Out-Gambitted is because she is not all that clever.

    The Glittering Stone 


An immortal golem who is tasked with overseeing the Plain of Glittering Stone.
  • The Omniscient: Can see more than Kina, and is much more astute as well.
  • Physical God: Has god-like levels of power.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Why else would his plan result in his own death?
  • Workaholic: His helpers resented his dedication so much they nailed him to the throne with daggers just so they could leave.

The Voroshk

A family of immensely arrogant sorcerers who have taken over the world containing Khatovar. They almost immediately earn Croaker's enmity, and in doing so essentially destroy their own world by blowing up their Shadowgate and filling their world with killer shadows.
  • Break the Haughty: It works on Arkana and Shukrat, but never really takes with any of the others. Arkana gets it especially bad — when Gromovol tries his ill-fated breakout, she is raped several times before order is re-asserted.
  • Happily Adopted: While Croaker, Arkana and Shukrat are just joking at first in the end they admit they really do like Croaker and see him as a father figure. He certainly sees them as the daughters he never had.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Shukrat does this right away; Arkana recommends putting on an appearance of this to win the Black Company's trust so they can escape later. The two elder Voroshk do end up serving with the Company but die almost immediately.
  • Smug Super: All of the Voroshk are like this, at first. Most of them have only just enough talent to actually be magicians, and rely on their enchanted robes and flying poles for most of their tricks.

Alternative Title(s): Black Company


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