Drew has posted a blog about him and his future novels, but the TLDR; from a Midnight point of view is that we have agreed on more Midnight novels… If all goes to plan then he should be starting on Doomdark’s Revenge in the first half of 2019.
Doomdark’s Revenge will be an interesting story as it should be less confined than working on Lords of Midnight. At heart it has a female protagonist on a quest with a female antagonist, but after that, what is it really about…? At this stage we already have a few ideas that link all the stories together, we had to discuss them right at the start of this process, but for the actual main narrative, I for one look forward to finding out…
One side effect of this is that I now absolutely need to get the games up and running again. I’ve been finding it really hard to find the motivation to revisit them, but Drew needs a version of Revenge that he can walk around unhindered, and hopefully this can be the push I need to jolt me back into it.
As much as my life has become entwined with The Lords of Midnight, it has also for similar reasons become linked to the solstices.
When I first started my journey through the Midnight landscape, I lived about 250 miles away from Stonehenge, the pilgrimage location for all those who follow the solstices, and the concept of spending a night there couldn’t have been further away. Now I live about 25 miles and have made both the summer and winter pilgrimage many times. Lords of Midnight uses two concepts that align with Stonehenge, the winter solstice and standing stones – the henges.
So it seems apt that today at the Summer Solstice I have hit another Lords of Midnight milestone – the release of the novel.
I must make it clear that I am not the author of the novel, that role was taken on by Drew Wagar. I still have some way to go before I manage to tick off my author goal. But, I think it’s fair to say that the novel would not exists without my involvement, and I am extremely proud to have helped to finally make this happen. The original game publishers promised a novel that never happened, and 34 years later, Drew, Fantastic Books, and I have delivered.
Firstly the novel came about because of a chance twitter conversation. The result of that conversation and after some discussions with Mike’s family, was that I was able to greenlight the novel. Let that sink in a little, I have to. 34 years ago when I originally started playing the game, I could never have imagined that my life would become so linked that I would affectively have a casting yes/no vote on anything to do with it, let alone a novel. Unfortunately that sword is double edged as this is only possible because Mike is no longer around.
Secondly I worked closely with Drew to keep the novel accurate not only with regard the original game, but also when considered as part of the complete Midnight saga. The Lords of Midnight can no longer be considered in isolation. The original game and novella were written without any consideration for the future, and after its release more games and stories became available. Therefore, when setting out to tell this tale, it was imperative that the necessary adjustments and corrections were made. Drew and I spent a good amount of time looking forward and backward over the saga’s timeline. Somethings we just needed to link up. Somethings we’ve had to fill the gaps.
Thirdly I’ve been there as a sounding board for the story, Drew had a story to tell. In part that reflects the original game story and for all of us to have played the game to death, we all know how it ends, so there are no surprises there. Drew’s job was to navigate the journey and to tell a compelling story that fits within the constraints already defined. My job was to assist Drew with that in any way I could. Part of that was reading the story and commenting on it. This just involved me often saying, yes, no, or how about. The other area would be me making suggestions based on my knowledge of the saga lore either up front of in reaction to something Drew was working through.
And lastly, the cover. Drew and I commissioned the cover from my long term Midnight collaborator Jure. We took some ideas based on work he had already produced and created a mock-up concept of something we would like. Jure then created a quick concept sketch that we discussed and then went on to produce the lovely final piece.
So today has come. Summer Solstice 2018 – The Lords of Midnight – Book One in the Chronicles of Midnight is released, I hope those who read it enjoy it. I hope that Mike would be as proud of it as I am.
The book is currently available in eBook format from Amazon or in multiple DRM free formats from Fantastic Books Publishing. Physical copies to follow at the official launch in September.
For many hours they rode in silence, Luxor lost in his thoughts, the boy watching the forest in a mixture of fear and fascination. He had heard the tales men told and couldn’t quite believe they were only tales. “Why does the Solstice trouble you, my Lord?” asked the boy.
Luxor turned his head slowly towards Morkin. For a few moments he said nothing and then, as though he had suddenly remembered, he began to speak. “Our world wasn’t always white, Morkin. You’ve heard the legends of Summer when the land was green and teeming with life. Ten thousand moons ago it was, so long that men barely believe such a time ever existed. Yet the Wise remember. They have scrolls that tell of the first snows falling and the first carpets of ice covering the land. Suddenly, all the lands of Midnight were plunged into this winter of ours. Then came famine, a great famine that ravaged our people, and with famine came war.”
When Mike Singleton originally developed The Lords of Midnight, he did so with his love of telling tales. After creating the initial Landscaping technique which made the game so revolutionary, he immediately switched to creating a map, one that he thought would be fun to explore, and then used that to help drive the narrative of the Novella, the back story included with the game. He populated the map with people, creatures, and places, assigning them names and purpose. Mike’s son Jules told me about sitting on his father’s knee watching and suggesting, while he played the god of Midnight and created new locations and terrain for his people to live in. The story and the world of Midnight is so important to the game and one cannot be without the other. In just five small chapters, Mike filled our minds in a way that we were able to fill in the blanks while playing a game on what by todays standards, was nothing more than dishwasher controller.
Mike once told me that he had hoped to to write a full novel, but game development and life just got in the way. He kept driving forward with new games and new stories, Doomdark’s Revenge, Midwinter, Ashes of Empire, to name but a few. All born out of his storytelling instinct.
As players, we all remember the competition that launched with the game. A novel prize – print out the screens as you make your way through Midnight, and the first person to complete the game would have these screens turned into a novel by a fantasy author. Alas, the game was complete too quickly, and beyond was never able to fulfil it’s promise of the prize.
Over the years and have read a few fan-fiction starts to novels, none of them every got past a few chapters, and none of them really had the potential to go all the way. I’ve also discussed the idea of a novel with one or two authors, who all showed interest, but never got off the drawing board.
It is with all that in mind, that I am happy to announce that, the novelisation of The Lords of Midnight is finally underway.
It happened like this…
On the 8th April, Drew Wagar (@drewwagar) made a tweet comment to Tom Fahy (@fifthfayh) with reference to his Doomguard Twitter avatar.
And that was it. We had an email conversation over the next few hours, and by the end of the weekend Drew’s publisher was on board, and I had an initial thumbs up from Mike’s family. I put a few ground rules in place and a few small hoops for Drew to jump through. Over the next few weeks we batted a few things back and forth to get a feel of the type of story Drew wanted to tell, and by the end of the month we met up to talk about the project, did some contract type stuff, and agreed, that this was something worth doing.
One of the interesting things that has come out of the potential Lords of Midnight novel, is having to think about some of the backstory that Mike never filled in. I have done this on and off over the last 30 years, but suddenly it seems to be much more important.
As part of the negotiation stage for the novel, it was important to get a feel for what any story might be about, and to that end I have been working with the potential author on the initial outline for the novel. For my part as ‘consultant’ I have been cross referencing all the novellas and other little bits of information, in more detail and with a new eye, to highlight pieces of story that are important and to help fill in some gaps.
When Mike originally wrote the game and novella, the whole process happened in around six months. There are things that he alluded too that he never actually gave any thought to at all.
For example, Rorthron the Wise says to Luxor when they meet at the Tower of the Moon:
“I have kept this from you too long, but with good reason. You are not simply Lord Luxor of the Free, you are the last heir of the House of the Moon. You, my Lord Luxor, are the Moonprince and this ring is yours by right, to be worn only in circumstances of gravest peril.
Corleth follows this with,
“The Fey have long suspected that the House of the Moon still survived. The Wise are not the only guardians of knowledge. I could not be sure until today when Rorthron held forth the Moon Ring, but since I have known him, I have harboured a secret hope that your father was the Moonprince.”
This is never referenced again. What happened to the House of Moon, how is Luxor the heir, and how and why was it kept secret? We never hear any more until the events of The Citadel when we are told the brief story of Rarnor the Unlucky who had the Eye of the Moon stolen from him. Was the loss of the Eye the start of the downfall for the House of Moon?
When you start to break down the Novellas there are so many areas that can be expanded upon, and for a novel, will likely need to be addressed in some way or another. Some of this work might never make it into the actual text, but it is going to be needed even if just in passing.
In all the years of asking Mike questions, he would often answer,
“I don’t know Chris, you probably have a better idea than me, I never really thought it through that far.”
It seems, we are going to have to start thinking it through that far…
Firstly, this is not an announcement, but I do want to update you on some very interesting developments that have occurred over the last few days.
I have had a number of conversations with an established author about the possibility of a Lords of Midnight novel covering the War of the Solstice. We have a tentative understanding in place, and his publisher is also keen, and in principal signed up to the idea. We’ve discussed an overview of what the story might cover, and the timescales under which this would take place. He is currently putting together a general synopsis and outline, as well as some samples chapters. I shall have further conversations with Mike’s family to rubber stamp the approval, with a view to having a fully fledged agreement and a cast iron announcement in the coming couple of months when the full issues have been dealt with. Stay tuned!
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: 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!”