Someday I will have to get Lady to explain the whole true names thing in a way that even a dummy like me can understand. Maybe I can get her to explain the whole business of sorcery so that those of us who study these Annals will have at least a vague idea of what is going on.

Murgen, She Is the Darkness

A true name is the original birth name of an individual. In the sorcery of the Black Company series, a wizard's true name is their most closely-guarded secret, as it can be used to render their spells powerless and defeat, coerce, or even permanently disarm them. It is the most significant limitation faced by all wizards, regardless of their magnitude, and with no exception. As a result, wizards have been known to take great precautions to hide their true identity. Some of the most dangerous ones often erase all trace of their earlier life, sometimes including past acquaintances, friends, and family.

Inscribed on weaponryEdit

An arrow inscribed with the true name of a mighty sorcerer can pierce through complex protective spells to deliver genuinely dangerous wounds, whereas a normal arrow would be ineffectual. Such an arrow was used by Raven on the Limper during his ambush in the Forest of Cloud; another such arrow was used by Croaker to ward off Soulcatcher at the Tower at Charm.

On the night of the first day of the Battle of Dejagore, Croaker was stunned at how powerless Stormbringer seemed to be in the face of mortal danger. He guessed that somehow, Shapeshifter was nullifying her sorcery with the power of her true name. In Shadow Games, he wrote:

Stormbringer seemed powerless. Why? A few minutes ago she had been bringing in that monster of a storm to whip on us. Shifter was no greater power than she. Unless, somehow, he had come upon that bane of all the Taken, a True Name.

Usage in other spellsEdit

The sorcerer Longshadow was forced to use the power of his true name to patch up preexisting spells that had been damaged. He, his apprentice Shadowspinner, and several other would-be Shadowmasters accidentally damaged the homeworld's Shadowgate. Desperate to seal it, Longshadow used his own true name in the fabric of the spells during his crude repair effort. This meant the lethal shadows knew his name, and any which leaked through would hunt for him specifically. Driven nearly mad by paranoia about this eventuality, Longshadow built the towering fortress of Overlook to protect himself. But a benefit was that his apprentices and enemies would dare not kill him: his death would render his true name powerless, which would break the Shadowgate, bringing an onslaught of death from the glittering plain into the homeworld.

Rite of NamingEdit

The Rite of Naming is an apparently simple ritual through which the performer utterly strips away a wizard's innate magical capability forever. The Rite of Naming can be performed by an insignificant wizard against a sorcerer of god-like power, so long as the name used is accurate. The full ritual is not explained in the Annals, but its "closing" portion simply involves invoking the target's true name within earshot of the target. Simply speaking the name aloud is not sufficient; the preceding steps, whatever they may be, are essential.

The closing portion of the Rite of Naming can even be completed inside a "null" field, a bubble of anti-magic where no spells work. Croaker records in The White Rose: "I had been assured that the naming of a name, once suitable rituals had been observed, could not be stilled by the null". Indeed the two most famous examples of the Rite of Naming took place within Darling's null:

  1. Darling, named by the Lady
  2. The Lady, named by Silent

Lady appears, at first glance, to be an exception to the Rite of Naming. After she fell victim to the Rite's effects, she seemed to nevertheless regain her powers, albeit slowly, in the southern continent. However, it would become known that Kina was proactively funneling her own power onto Lady, and then Lady used her immense experience to parasitize her donor. When her connection to Kina was cut off, she returned to being a mere mortal. In the end, she would utilize power granted to her in a similar manner by Shivetya, a much more beneficent donor.

Eight other victims of the Rite of Naming in the Annals belonged to the new Taken:

  • Blister and Scorn were both subjected to the Rite of Naming by the Lady on the Plain of Fear for betraying and attempting to murder her
  • The six remaining new Taken (Whisper, Journey, Benefice, Blister, Creeper, and Learned) were subjected to the Rite of Naming in a cascade effect when Silent used the same rite to disarm the Lady at the Battle of the Barrowland. She had created a sorcery "dead-man's trigger" such that her Taken would suffer the same fate in the event of her naming.

Rite of TakingEdit

Main article: Rite of Taking

Knowing the true name of a wizard is a requirement of performing the Rite of Taking, which is a nightmarish ritual available only to the most skilled practitioners. In short, one sorcerer uses it to fully enslave another. Whereas a sorcerer of even the lowest magnitude can complete the Rite of Naming to permanently strip away their target's power, the Rite of Taking is an immensely complex process with a much more significant long-term payoff. Only the Dominator, the Master, and the Lady were known to have correctly executed this spell. As such historically it would be much rarer than the Rite of Naming, despite more examples in the Annals.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.