The Black Company is the last of the Free Companies of Khatovar. They are a band of highly trained mercenaries. Their contracts and commissions take them all over the known world. They are highly respected and feared by allies and foes alike.
The Company is always led by a single captain who is voted in by the officers and serves for life. The Company has also had a number of Annalists over the ages, who recorded the exploits of the Company and kept a list of the fallen. The Annalists are also responsible for regular readings from the past Annals, an almost religious ceremony where the brothers of the current Company get in touch with their traditions and relive the struggles from the past.
A wise Captain consults the Annals whenever things get difficult. There is nothing new under the sun and the Black Company has seen and conquered it all in its time.
One of the Jewel Cities that ring the Sea of Torments, Beryl is a large port on the south side of the massive bay. The city is ruled by the Syndic. The Syndic has hired the Black Company as his personal guards and to maintain order in the town. His own troops are rotten to the core with greed and graft, as liable to kill him as obey him.
Rebellion is in the air, preached openly in the streets by some. The Lady's Empire to the north is crumbling and all the ancient evils are circling, looking to snatch up the crumbs and re-establish themselves as petty despots and tyrants.
About 550 years ago a powerful wizard known as Erin NoFather, sometime priest of the god Vancer, stumbled upon an unknown source of immense magical power. Elevating himself to the position of The Dominator, and his wife Ardath to the title of The Lady, he swiftly took control of the North. As his power grew, he extended his influence over other wizards, subjugating them to his will even as he used them to control his lands.
Ten wizards were taken. Each adding to the power of the Dominator and in turn sharing some of his never-ending source of magical energy. Immortal and insanely cruel, the Taken ruled with an iron fist in the name of the lord and master. Even now, hundreds of years after their destruction their names cause shudders of fear:
The Faceless Man
The Hanged Man
The White Rose
In time the people of the North rose up and threw off the yoke of the Dominator. The White Rose had the ability to nullify magic. Using this power and supported by dozens of lesser but still powerful sorcerers, she overwhelmed the Dominator, the Lady and the Taken but did not have the power to destroy them utterly.
Instead they were buried beneath the blasted Barrow lands to the far north, and ringed about with powerful containment spells for all eternity.
Hundreds of years passed, and with the passage of time, the fear and horror of the Dominator diminished in the minds of men. Indeed many became fascinated with the legends of power. Among them, Seth Chalk, a middling sorcerer who spent half his life in the Barrowlands mapping out the great mounds that imprisoned the wizards beneath. Egged on by other resurrectionists and betrayed at the last by his own son, Bomanz (the name Chalk took) released The Lady from interment, convinced he knew her True Name and could control her. He paid for his mistake by taking her place in the barrow as she stepped forth into life again
The Lady quickly freed the Taken, but not her husband. She had no desire to be dominated again and she left him imprisoned while she and the other wizards set about creating their own Empire in the North. While the petty tyrants of the Jewel Cities and the countries in the South compare the Lady's Empire to the evil days of the Domination, in fact the past fifty years has been an age of peace and prosperity in the North. Justice rules, and while it may be swift and bloody, it is fair and impartial.
To the south and in the independent Jewel Cities, small minded greedy men plot to overthrow the Lady and seize her lands for theirs. Some of them are aided, in secret, by the Taken. Like the Lady before them they resent being controlled by a greater power and would throw of her yoke, no matter how light. And some seek to free the Dominator and go back to the old days of darkness and pain.
Rebellion and sedition are rife among the Jewel Cities. Power factions view for control and those who are steeped in the ways of corruption seek ways to gain more and more of less and less.
The Syndic of Beryl is an evil man. He has ruled his city badly. He has harmed his people and destroyed what he could not possess. As the flames of war ignite the land, he fears for his life in case his people rise up and give back what he has piled on their backs for a generation. To stave off their anger, he has hired the Black Company to protect him and keep the peace in his city. The Captain has taken this commission, though the men in his command resent it. The company has marched into the city and taken up residence in the Old Bastion, the inner walled city.
They have already put down a revolt by the city troops and in doing so have lost many of their men. Now they lick their wounds as the city festers in the growing heat of approaching summer. Down in numbers, it is time to recruit fresh blood. The posters are up all over town.