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"Chasing Midnight: The Dark Lord as a Teen" is one of the short stories of Glen Cook's Black Company series. It was published in the 2019 anthology The Best of Glen Cook, which also reprints the preceding short stories "Shaggy Dog Bridge" and "Bone Eaters". It is the seventh short story of the On The Long Run story arc, all of which take place during the first 4 years of the 6-year gap between the novels Shadows Linger and The White Rose.

Chronologically, the entirely of "Chasing Midnight" transpires within a handful of paragraphs toward the end of "Bone Eaters"; it expands upon events that are not witnessed directly by Croaker, the narrator of "Bone Eaters". Put differently, "Chasing Midnight" begins and concludes within the final pages of "Bone Eaters".

Unlike the other publications of the series, this short story has no first-person narrator. Instead, it is written exclusively in the third-person style. The narrative continues the tale of Chasing Midnight, the young witch who was introduced in "Bone Eaters". She has just deserted the New White Rose Rebellion and has separated herself from the protection of the Black Company. In hiding from dangerous gangsters in the strange city of Rue, she and her loyal cousins desperately seek to find her missing twin brother, Chasing Moonlight. When they discover him, they find a dramatically changed person and make a new enemy.

Plot summary[]

Stakeout for Rusty at the Silent Owl[]

In the city of Rue, a foreign teenager named Chasing Midnight is staking out a tavern called the Silent Owl, waiting patiently for her target, Rusty, to emerge. She seeks revenge upon him for his humiliation of her several weeks earlier. She has two cousins helping her: at her side is Chick, and on top of the tavern is Fade, armed with a crossbow.

Midnight becomes very distracted by a bizarre, shadowy figure that seems to be moving supernaturally. Her attention is so divided that she does not heed Chick's warning, and now she is suddenly face-to-face with a deformed local gangster they spitefully refer to as "Monkey Butt" and his henchmen. The huge thug leans over her threateningly, and demands to know the whereabouts of something called the Shine. But Fade shoots a crossbow bolt down at Monkey Butt, killing him, and he sends another bolt at one of the thug's henchmen.

Chaos escalates on the street as the henchmen flee and people realize a murder has happened in broad daylight. Midnight orders Chick to run, and she uses a minor sorcery she refers to as "get small" to aid in her own escape. Right before she runs, she retrieves a bit of black gauze that seemed to come from the shadowy figure. And, disappointingly, she spots her target, Rusty, emerge from the Silent Owl, but it is too late to attack him now.

Midnight's vanished brother[]

Midnight and Fade are back at their makeshift home, and Chick arrives later. They are all recovering from the unprecedented violence of the encounter with Monkey Butt. Chick nervously reports a rumor he heard on his return trip that Songo Songaghi is dead. Songo was the lead gangster in their part of Rue, and Monkey Butt's boss. The news is shocking because Songo was the target that Midnight's brother, Chasing Moonlight, was attempting to con as a honey trap. In fact, right before they received word of Rusty's whereabouts at the Silent Owl, Moonlight had just left their company to continue working his con on Songo. If Songo is dead, Moonlight may have been caught in the middle of serious violence.

Songo's place looked like a god with iron hands had pounded it down

Midnight, Chick, and Fade check out Songo's house. It has been flattened: obviously the work of a sorcerer. At least one of the men present had been with Monkey Butt during his killing outside the Silent Owl. But Midnight and her cousins are not spotted. As they watch, Songo's mangled body is removed from the rubble. Moonlight is nowhere to be found, dead or alive. But Songo's people had seen Moonlight enter and did not see him leave.

A dangerous independence[]

Days later, Midnight's original confidence that her brother survived is mostly gone. Fade arrives with apples and he discusses with her the latest gossip. Songo's gang has not found Moonlight's body, so they wonder if perhaps the young teen was involved in the attack. Another suspect is Songo's cousin and rival Chops, who had survived a murder attempt set in motion by Songo not long ago. But Chops swears he was not involved, and is himself looking for Moonlight.

Fade recommends perhaps they return to the safety of the Black Company, which is garrisoned elsewhere in Rue and has already accepted another cousin, Haru, back to their protection. Midnight remembers her former mentor Croaker fondly, but considers it a last resort, as she wishes to control her situation and "her boys" independently.

Rumors of missing treasure[]

Songo Songaghi's murder continues to captivate popular interest because he was reputedly hiding a mass of treasure, none of which was found in the rubble. Midnight remains at a loss regarding her brother. She finds herself playing with the scrap of black shroud and wondering about its source, that strange figure outside the Silent Owl, from time to time.

As time passes, public interest in Songo's lost treasure – and the gangsters' bounty on Moonlight – fade to the wayside as a war between Rue and their rivals, the Dank, begins brewing.

A lead on Moonlight's whereabouts[]

Chick, arriving with apples, shares news from Haru that their target, Rusty, deserted the Black Company. Midnight now realizes that Haru has been sending foodstuffs her way. She is not as independent as she presumed. Haru in fact may have rejoined the protection of the Company just to support her. But all these thoughts fall away quickly when she learns that Haru has seen her lost brother, Chasing Moonlight. He is alive, but he seemed changed. Moonlight didn't recognize Haru and he disappeared in circumstances that suggest sorcery.

The abandoned fabric mill[]

Midnight and Chick retrace Haru's steps, searching for Moonlight. The location is nowhere near Songo Songaghi's former area of influence, but instead is less than 200 yards from the Black Company's barracks. Using her primitive, untrained sorcery, she detects Moonlight's presence... but oddly, he does not detect her. They circle the large, brick building as they fail to find an entrance, and she detects potent but old sorcery. Checking again, Chick finds a misalignment in the brickwork. He opens the hidden door; behind it are only the smells of death and darkness. Chick leaves to get a lantern, and as Midnight hides in a nearby shadow, she layers on her two best spells: get small (to distract bystanders) and keep-off-me (a rape-repellent). She is deeply frightened when the apparition-like shrouded figure passes nearby and enters the building. But it does not seem to see her.

Chasing Moonlight found[]

Chick returns with Haru and some lanterns. Haru departs after Midnight promises to return the lanterns soon. She and Chick cautiously enter the building, which turns out to be an abandoned fabric mill. Passing through two dark rooms, they enter a chamber lit by oil lamps. Inside are 12 low tables, 2 with corpses on them, and 5 with large glass tanks each containing a corpse as well. All of the bodies are preserved; the odor of death is not coming from them. Finally, Chasing Moonlight enters the room, but his mental condition seems badly deteriorated and his movements are unnatural.

Midnight added a kick to her turn, trying to drive her boot right
through this fool who thought the boy was the bigger threat.

Midnight is horrified when Black Shroud suddenly arrives. Its bizarre voice asks again about the mysterious Shine. The strange entity disables Chick with a simple touch to the shoulder. But Midnight refuses to be unmanned by fear, and she kicks with as much force as possible for their assailant's groin. Her kick strikes home, revealing that Black Shroud is not a ghost but a living man. He tumbles over in agony, vomiting, and soon removes his mask, revealing an appalling face that looks both burned and rotted. It is Black Shroud himself who is the source of the smell of death. She orders Chick to hustle Moonlight out of the place, and they flee. As they do, Black Shroud warns them that Chasing Moonlight cannot be taken away because he needs the "Shine". In reply, Midnight simply threatens to kill him if she sees him again.

In hiding with a changed person[]

Although Chasing Moonlight is now safely with his sister and cousins, he has no memory of them and his mental state is more like a baby than the teenager he used to be. And, he has an irremovable odor of death about him. Midnight struggles to keep the confidence of Chick and Fade, and they all struggle to keep Moonlight comfortable. Haru continues to deliver vegetables and table scraps to their hideout, at great risk to himself. As the time passes, Moonlight seems to putrefy further.

Someday, behind whatever mask she wore, Chasing Midnight would be one of the great powers,
almost a goddess. Mistress of mistresses, like the Lady, beloved of her Company mentor.
Only... She could not ignore the probability that she was not yet mature enough to handle
the roles she wanted. How could she become a goddess if she could not handle the turbulence
besieging her in this backwater town?

Black Shroud ambushed at home[]

To divert attention from themselves, Fade spreads a rumor around Rue that Black Shroud was the sorcerer who leveled Songo's house. They realize the rumor is almost certainly true. It produces a strong result. Haru reports that Songo's remaining thugs surrounded Black Shroud's fabric mill and broke in to try to find the fabled treasure. The ugly sorcerer was present, and defended himself with ferocious spells. The violence was so loud that the Black Company's Lieutenant summoned Rue's "seventh century" (a reserve force) and brought his wizards to investigate.

The Black Company found many bodies in the collapsed building and arrested the surviving thugs. But Black Shroud was not among the corpses. Disconcertingly, Company wizards discovered that Black Shroud was a sorcerer of significant magnitude. Financed by Songo, the sorcerer's goal was apparently to discover immortality by stealing the life and youth of Songo's discarded male "toy soldiers".

Deteriorating situation[]

Midnight considers "her boys". Her brother Moonlight is effectively an animated corpse. Chick and Fade still follow her but have nothing to show for their loyalty. And there is Haru, who already lost his own brother, Yuko, on the road to Rue (he had been killed by the hungry ghosts in "Bone Eaters"). Not wanting to lose more family, she cautions Fade to be careful before he goes out to scout. He returns with good news. First, the city fathers of Rue have put a bounty on Black Shroud, which gives them a newfound sense of safety. And second, he discovered the residence of their original target Rusty.

Yet despite the good news, Moonlight has lost consciousness and cannot not be awakened. Midnight senses she is losing control over her boys. Chick and Fade are soon likely to join Haru at the Black Company's barracks to avoid watching their friend rot away. Midnight is moved when she realizes the strong possibility that her brother originally joined Songo's evil company not to con him, but to support her.

Midnight considers tracking down Black Shroud, to force him to cure Midnight. However, her cousins have doubts this would succeed: the official reward for the sorcerer is huge. The entire city, plus the veteran wizards of the Black Company, are eager to find him and claim the bounty. So she finally decides to simply get revenge on Rusty.

Final confrontation[]

Outside the Silent Owl, the freshly-bathed Midnight waits for Rusty to emerge. On the rooftop, Fade assembles his crossbow one last time. When Rusty appears, they botch the ambush; Rusty realizes the threat and flees in fear. But Black Shroud enters the scene, preceded by his characteristic reek. As he demands yet again that she turn over the Shine, he is shot in the wrist by Fade. The stench of his yellow blood is so appalling that Midnight vomits. As the sorcerer makes one more run for Midnight, Fade fires again, and Black Shroud collapses in defeat. The teenagers escape as onlookers argue about who would claim the reward.


When Midnight returns to see her brother, Chick refuses to let her in, saying that Moonlight has literally fallen to pieces. Fade arrives as well and hears the news. Midnight admits her responsibility for everything that has befallen them.

Haru reports the educated speculation of the Black Company's wizards about everything that has happened. The Shine was a mysterious relic that Black Shroud needed to stay alive, and he was attempting to find some way to discover immortality for himself and his client, Songo Songaghi. Then the two had a falling out. Moonlight grabbed the Shine and fled Songo's house before Black Shroud collapsed the place. At some point between the sorcerer's subsequent recaptures of Moonlight, the teen hid the Shine, dooming them both as they needed it to survive.

When the boys mention they should finally all return to the Black Company's protection, Midnight interrupts. She claims that Rusty must be dealt with first. Chick and Fade stare at her, knowing that she truly just wants to find the Shine.

Continuity and trivia[]

  • Uniquely for the Black Company series, this short story is written exclusively in the third-person narrator style. While both The Silver Spike (1989) and Port of Shadows (2018) feature chapters written from an ambiguous third-person perspective, they are otherwise grounded by a narrative composed in the first-person (Case the diarist and Croaker the Annalist, respectively).
  • This short story and The Silver Spike (1989) are the only 2 publications of the Black Company series which do not have the Company itself as its central focus.
  • Toward the end of the preceding short story "Bone Eaters", the Black Company enters Rue, defeats the Dank, and then departs Rue. Since "Chasing Midnight" begins with the Black Company already in garrison in Rue, and ends with them still in the city, "Chasing Midnight" takes places entirely within some of the closing paragraphs of "Bone Eaters".