In the Blink of an Eye

While doing an interview for Retro Gamer Issue 148, I was looking at some of the original hand written pages that Mike had written for The Eye of the Moon. The idea was to give the magazine an image of his writing to put in the article. What I actually found was a piece that hadn’t been typed up. I had mistakingly thought that the text had been included in the documents I already had. I’m not 100% sure where this piece goes before the other two, it feels like it might be the first piece, but the fact that it wasn’t typed up suggests to me that either a) Mike had disregarded it – ( I doubt that ), b) he wrote it after the other two.

The images of this text did appear in the Retro Gamer Article, however, they are too small to read, so I include the images here, the text, and I have updated the Eye of the Moon document to include it.

In the Blink of an Eye In the Blink of an Eye

In the Blink of an Eye

“How many Mantas?”

“At least 100 riders Domse, and they have spare horses too. They’ll catch us sometime tomorrow for sure.”

Domyinykas sighed and turned to gaze at the distant mountains rising from a blue haze. How would they ever reach them now?

“It’s that stone Domse?” said Mantas quietly.

“The Eye of the Moon? Yes, I fear it is. We’ve been hunted from the forests of Qadim Haraj to where we stand now by different bands of warriors every step of the way. It’s as though it calls them, it beckons them to us.”

“Domse, we can’t take a hundred of them. Can we not just cast the thing away here and now?”

Domse turned back to his friend and gazed into his eyes. Even Mantas was afraid now. It was desperate.

“No we can’t. That would be the ruin of all things. We must take it to the roof of the world, we must! Do you think that they will ride in tonight?”

“No my Lord, the footing is too harsh. They only ride by day and their horses are swift, as though they ride the wind.”

“The get some rest Mantas, and the others. I’ll stand guard tonight. I need to think.

It was early to stop, dusk was only beginning, but Domse wanted everyone fresh as could be tomorrow. Another mile tonight wouldn’t make the difference, the riders of Varangor would still catch them tomorrow regardless.”

As the other boys, weary from the long days of chase, lay down to sleep, Domse gazed at the casket which sat on a rock close to him. He wondered at what power lay within that could draw death and danger down upon them from so far away.

For a few moments, Domse eyes closed and he seemed to drift asleep. The dusk thickened around him and he thought he heard music playing far away. He opened his eyes. There was a shimmer around the casket and it seemed to dose now that the faint music was coming from inside the small wooden box.

It was a light and happy melody that swayed and danced and twisted and gently grew louder. Domse was filled now with curiosity. There was a strange air of peacefulness enfolding their small encampment. His comrades slept with smiles on their faces, the campfire blazed merrily, the dusk was full of stillness and soft with the lingering warmth of the day.

Slowly Domse reached forward and opened the box. Inside the Eye of the Moon was glaring and shimmering as though it was dancing through a bright rainbow. The brought the stone closer and peered into its crystalline depths. The feeling of warmth and homeliness filled him.

The shimmering rainbow colours faded and we replaced by a scene, another encampment but far larger than his own, bustling with men, brightly lit tents, cooking fires, lanterns and in the foreground a man. The man turned to face Domse with a look of surprise.

“By all the gods!” The man exclaimed, “who are you boy?”

The VOICE was commanding but not harsh. Domse was as surprised as the man, but nevertheless, he answered as best he could.

“I am Dominykas, Prince of Coromand. I journey with my comrades to Valahar, seeking the roof of the world.”

The man smiled.

“Well if the roof of the world is anywhere, it surely lies within Valahar. But Valahar is very far from Coromand.”

“That’s true enough sir, we have been travelling for nearly three years now.”

“Then you are close to Valahar?”

“We believe so, yes, but we are being hunted.”

“By who?”

“Riders of the Varangor this time, but they are not the first to try and catch us.

“The Varangor! They’re a long way from home! Forgive me for asking young prince, but what have you done to stir up such a hue and cry?”

Now Dominykas needed to fake nothing.

“I truly don’t know. We harmed no one save in our own defence, we have stolen nothing, we have passed as quietly as we could. And sir, now you must forgive me, but who are you?”

“I am Morkin, Prince of Midnight. We also travel to Valahar, seeking a treasure that is rightfully my fathers. Some fate rides upon it my boy.”

“Some fate perhaps, but not as grave as the fate that rest on our quest.”

“Which is?”

“We take a jewel to the roof of the world, to cast it there into a bottomless chasm and rid the world of its evil forever. So the prophet commanded and so shall it be!”

“What jewel is this Dominykas?”

“Men call it the Eye of the Moon. Don’t ask me why, I haven’t a clue.
Morkin laughed softly.

“No wonder you were being hunted young prince. The dark forces of the world have been seeking this stone for many a long year and now it has revealed itself again. You are at the eye of a storm I fear Dominykas.

“That’s the truth for sure Morkin. We have a hundred or more riders hunting us, and we are five.”

“Five hardened warriors?

“Not really, although we have done our fair share of killing the last few weeks. We are just boys Morkin. I am sixteen and the others are the same, give or take a month or two.”

Morkin turned, perhaps to hide his reaction. When he turned back though, he was smiling. “Courage lad! That was my age when I set out the destroy the Ice Crown”, he said with a smile.

“The Ice Crown! Exclaimed Dominykas. You destroyed the Ice Crown?You loosened the grip of the long winter on the world?”

“I played my part. It was for others though to defeat the armies of Doomdark,” said Morkin.

The Marches of Valahar

The Lords of Midnight
by Mike Singleton

Book IV:
The Eye of the Moon

Comrades of the Prince:
The Marches of Valahar

Time itself was sleeping. There was utter stillness even in the air. The drops of rain hanging from the leaves gleamed but did not sparkle for not even the light trembled. The silence was so deep it made him feel deaf but when he breathed out it seemed like a roar. The storm had passed.

Dominykas turned his eyes to the horizon. Over the forest, misted by distance, the far peaks of Valahar floated in a milky blue haze, sharp white shards cutting at the sky. Then the light subtly changed and one of them, the tallest, suddenly suncaught, began to glow at the very tip, brighter and brighter until it glowed with golden fire.

The Wilderhorn, he thought, it must be. That’s where I must go, to the roof of the world, to the gate of the heavens. The boy couldn’t imagine the road that led there. It was impossible. How could he ever reach it? For a moment, black despair rose, seeping into him, but then he wrenched away from it. I’m not a boy any more. I can do it if I must and I must, so I will! He gazed at the mountain with its golden crown of fire.

It was simple after all. Bright as a beacon, there was the torch that would light his path. However long and twisted the journey, a peak that soared so high would be with him like the sun or the moon, sometimes hidden, sometimes in darkness, but always reappearing as he turned a corner and found the open sky again or as the world turned and darkness fled.

His heart filled with joy. Nearly forty moons had passed since they left Coromand and now their journey’s end was at last in sight, blazing with fire. Smiling, he turned to his friends. He flung his arm out to point wildly at the mountains.

‘There! The roof of the world! The gate of the heavens! The Horns of Valahar! Look! The Wilderhorn!’ he shouted and the fire that touched the far off crest blazed within him. His young comrades looked. They gawped. They gasped. They looked at one another. One by one they grinned. Then at last they cheered.

Comrades of the Prince

The Lords of Midnight
by Mike Singleton

Book IV:
The Eye of the Moon

Comrades of the Prince: Chapter One:
The Shadows of the Forest

There was something strange whispering and skittering around it tonight, something dark but unseen. It was only a vague sense, nothing truly heard or felt, just an inquietude seeping and slipping through him. Dominykas closed his eyes and tried to ignore it. They were safe. It was safe. Mantas was guarding tonight so all would be well. The heaviness of sleep drifted down on him like soft thick snow.

The casket was nothing special, just a simple wooden box that would fit in your hand, with a brass keyhole where it locked but Asulgar sensed something of power pulsing within the plain casket, something that would surely please his master. There’s just five callow boys, he thought, and a dozen of us Hajeen, warriors of Qadim Haraj, the Shadows of the Forest. Four of the boys were sleeping. This would be over swiftly.

He stood slowly. We will honour them, he thought, they have respected the trees, but no one crosses Qasim Haraj unnoticed, no one crosses without rights of passage and still lives, even in times of peace and the times of peace were slipping away swiftly. Already there were rumours of war in the far north in the lands of fire and ice.

As Asulgar rose into the thin moonlight, so did eleven other shadows, the rest of his troop. They waited for Asulgar’s hand to drop. There would be no voice commands tonight, not until the first screams at least. But Asulgar froze as he felt a sliver of cold steel pressed lightly against his neck.

“Drop your hand old man and you will be dead before you can blink,” came a whisper, and that was all, no other touch or hold, no glimpse of his opponent, no clue as to which way to turn to meet him or escape him.

Asulgar noticed the boy guarding the camp was still standing there at the edge of the clearing, perfectly still, much too perfectly still. He smiled in admiration. A clever trick from one so young, setting a lifeless dummy as camp guard while he watched from an unexpected place.

“You cannot take all of us like this boy,” whispered Asulgar.

“You think not? Look at your men again old man,” whispered the boy.

With astonishment, Asulgar glimpsed at he Shadows of the Forest and saw that only seven of the eleven others were still standing, waiting for his signal. The edge of the knife gently caressed his neck. There was no tremble in the hand that held it.

“Save us some time and yourselves some blood. We would not harm you unless pressed to it,” said the boy.

There was such quiet assurance in the boy’s voice. In a soft calm voice Asulgar spoke aloud.

“Hold, men of Qadim Haraj, we strike not tonight. Lay down your weapons.”

A hesitation and then movement in the clearing and the sound of knives and heavier things dropping to the ground. Mantas knew that now was the time of greatest danger. All of these men would have at least one hidden weapon and be preparing himself mentally to use it. There would be a sign first, a voice change most likely.

“Now tell them to move slowly to the centre of the clearing, to gather at the fire,” whispered Mantas.

The knife edge no longer gently stroked Asulgar’s neck. Asulgar readied himself, then spoke slowly.

“Men of Qadim Haraj, slowly, we move to the centre, to the fire…”

The first cautious movements began and Asulgar stepped forward too.

“Now!” Asulgar added. The Shadows of the Forest heard the subtle change in tone, the shift from calmness to something more ruffled. No one would have called the tone urgent but the utter placidity was lost. It was their sign. But all of the boys heard it too and knew its meaning and each knew his part.

Asulgar turned as swiftly as death but his knife sliced through empty air. Mantas was already five paces away closing on another shadow and the boy’s hunting spear was already in flight, a flicker of gold in the glimmer of the campfire, straight to the heart of the shadows. Asulgar dropped like a cloak suddenly cut loose from the shoulders.

The campfire flared up, blazing like sunlight, and in the harsh white light the shadows became men whirling to face their enemies and slashing, stabbing as they span. Four of them slew their own comrades, bound, blindfolded and gagged and pushed stumbling towards them by the boys who had captured them but a minute or so earlier. The others, like Asulgar, struck at void.

Save for Mantas, none of the boys was visible but their throwing knives flashed through the air. Four more Hajeen twisted in death agony and fell writhing to the ground; Mantas took his man, killing him cleanly with a single thrust of his knife. The last two Hajeen tried to flee but were caught in a second volley of throwing knives.

It had taken perhaps twenty heartbeats. Mantas smiled to himself. Not bad. We’ll be swifter next time.

He walked over to where he had noticed Dominykas sprawl on the ground just before the mayhem began. He was pretending to sleep. Mantas nudged him gently with the toe of his boot.

“My Lord! Dominykas! Prince Dominykas!”

The other boys gathered round. Dominykas rubbed his eyes sleepily, then opened them.

“Is it morning already Mantas?” he said

“Stop pulling my leg Domse! You captured one and killed two. That wasn’t sleep-walking!”

Domse grinned up at his friend.

“Well, you pulled my leg first! I thought my toe was being severed!” he said with a gentle laugh. Mantas laughed with him

“But it worked didn’t it? And it was you idea in the first place Domse!”

“The fishing twine round our toes for silent alarm, yes, but not the amputation! That was just your idea Mantas!”