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The Black School

Popular with: Oresund, Akathia, Western Trempa, Tharici, Tarsikka
Unpopular with: Redwood Throne, Principalities
Less known by: Gaunt
Archtypes, if any: Wise Man
Variations, if any: The Redwood Throne (and really, everywhere but Western Trempa in the Principalities) either omits the penultimate line, or does not allow the wizards to escape, as a form of moral tale.

Once upon a time there existed somewhere in the world, nobody knows where, a school which was called the Black School. There the pupils learned Ritualism and all sorts of ancient arts. The school was build below ground, and was held in a strong room which, as it had no windows, was eternally dark and changeless. There was no teacher either, but everything was learnt from books with fiery letters, which could be read quite easily in the dark. Never were the pupils allowed to go out into the open air or see the daylight during the whole time they stayed there, which was from five to seven years. By then the end of their studies, they had gained a thorough and perfect knowledge of the sciences to be learnt. A shaggy gray hand came through the wall every day with the pupils' meals, and when they had finished eating and drinking took back the horns and platters. But one of the rules of the school was that, when the students graduated at the end of their term, the last youth remaining would have to stay in the school forever, to feed the horrible beast whose slumbering dreams kept the school alive. So every year, the graduating students all but fought each other, so as not to be the one left behind.

It happened once that three youths-- one of the City Scholars, one of the Caliph's Children, and one of the Western Empire-- went to this school, by the names of Gaius Calderis Isiqis, PC2 and PC3; and as they all arrived at the same time, they were all supposed to leave at the same time. Gaius declared himself willing to be the last of them, at which the others were much lightened in mind. So he threw over himself a large mantle, leaving the sleeves loose and the fastenings free. A staircase led from the school to the upper world, and when Gaius was about to mount this a horrible and shadowy black hand grasped at his cloak. But Gaius slipped out of this mantle and made off with all speed, leaving the Shadow holding the empty cloak. The Shadow pursued him up the stair, and when Gaius came into the doorway, the sun shone upon him and threw his shadow onto the opposite wall. And as the Shadow stretched out its claws to grapple with him, Gaius said, "I am not the last. Do you not see who follows me?" So the creature seized the shadow, mistaking it for a person, and Gaius escaped with a blow on his heels from the iron door. Thus did Gaius Calderis Isiqis win freedom for himself and his companions, all of which went on to be great and powerful wizards.

But from that hour he was always shadowless, for there must always be a price for knowledge.