Saline County Comic Expo + Other News

…was a lot of fun for us! It was actually one of our best con showings yet. We managed to sell a handful of books and magazines and I spent less on swag than I made in sales.

Selling NFTs at a con

Our best sellers? Schuyler Hernstrom books that we didn’t actually publish.

Considering that most people go blank-faced when they realize that the books you’re selling are not comics at a comic con, we did fantastic.

I’m probably going to dump all of my old back-stock at Central AR Goodwill just to get it off of my shelves. Back issues have done especially poorly; most folks pick up the newest ones [which is hard because our newest issue has two part twos of ongoing series]. So, for the Little Rock Comic Con in September, we’ll be starting fresh with just the most recent stuff + the Tarzan book.

Open Submissions

Okay, this is a reminder, open submissions begin August 1st and will end August 7th. Get writing! If you want to get an idea of what we’re looking for, we did a post here, and, of course, please read the Submission Guidelines!

Interior Advertisements for Fall and Winter

We’re accepting advertisements for the interiors of the Fall and Winter issues! Fall will include the conclusions of both Wild Stars and Badaxe; Winter will feature a cover story by Kamen America writer Mark Pellegrini. Details about our ad specs can be found here.

Michael on The LCS Guys

As some of you may know, Michael is a regular on Critical Blast’s show, The LCS guys. In this episode, he talks some not only about his Wild Stars work with Cirsova and his plans for the future of the series but also his new Robert E. Howard project that’s on the horizon.

If you want to catch up on all of Michael’s Wild Stars adventures, the best way to do so is through The Wild Stars 35th Anniversary Omnibus, which will get you the original Book of Circles graphic novel, the Force Majeure comic/novel hybrid, plus Time Warmageddon and Wild Star Rising. We’re serializing Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm this year [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 is forthcoming]

The Paths of Cormanor

Jim Breyfogle’s The Paths of Cormanor will be launching soon on Kickstarter!

The Cosmic Courtship

We’ve finally been able to put in the full order for The Cosmic Courtship, so that will be arriving soon for us to begin fulfilling! Yay!

More news and details on all of this soon…

Advanced Review of The Cosmic Courtship + Cirsova Publishing Featured in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The Pulp Archivist recently posted a fantastic review of Julian Hawthorne’s The Cosmic Courtship. We sent out a handful of ARCs to assorted pulp scholars and historians, and Nathan’s one of the first who has his thoughts up. We also had the privilege of speaking with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about project; they did a write-up for the Sunday edition [alas, bumped back a week by the editor and so unable to run before pre-orders closed!]

I really hope that in the future we’ll see even more discussion on the younger Hawthorne and his works. Since embarking on this project, I’ve had the pleasure to read quite a handful of his writings: The Golden Fleece, Six Cent Sam’s, The Cosmic Courtship, Absolute Evil, A Goth From Boston, and Sara Was Judith, and I can’t help but feel like we’ve stumbled upon a forgotten but significant missing link in the history of early Weird Fiction. Julian bridges the gap between the high gothic era, writing throughout the gilded age, and the early golden age of pulps.

Just how influential was he on early writers of Weird Fiction? How influential were other early writers of Weird Fiction on him? In his final novel from 1920, he describes a cult of lads at Harvard who refer to themselves as “Dagons” and proceeds with a litany of old and exotic tomes kept on their shelves in what most would immediately recognize and refer to as “Lovecraftian” in manner and style. Hawthorne had a keen interest in the metaphysical and where it clashed with rapidly advancing sciences and medicines–the very core, some scholars would say, of Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic horror.

Right now, it would be very difficult to say or do more than just speculate on his significance. What we do know is that he was incredibly prolific and at one time fairly well-regarded. Indeed, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is on record stating his preference for Julian over Nathaniel. While we can’t really make any broad declarations as to his significance or lasting influences, I do believe that this project and our next one going forward will have laid the foundations to re-evaluate the significance of Julian Hawthorne’s writing and influence in our contemporary context.

We aim to have The Cosmic Courtship out the door by August at the latest. Retailers should have them before the end of the year. If you’re looking for other ways to support Cirsova publishing, look no further than Amazon, where you’ll be able to find all of our titles just by searching for “Cirsova.”

Realities of Short Fiction Economics

The economic reality of short fiction publishing that authors and editors are both afraid to admit is that supply outstrips demand on an astronomical level.  Even token markets get more subs than they can publish. Only editors who insist on fiction having value try to pay reasonable rates, even if in many cases it’s not economical for them. Even Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has expressed some frustration with the financial realities of running a pro-paying magazine.

Authors want to be paid, of course, but authors also want to be published. Some (many) authors REALLY want to be published–they care more about having their story out there than making money. And the ratio of authors/stories to editors/publications? It makes it so that stories lack value in an economic sense.

There’s no scarcity.

At all.

Even when there is quality, there is not scarcity, so there’s not a lot of economic incentive to pay “pro” rates [especially given the often decent-to-high quality of fiction/authors willing to accept less].

The scarcity of short fiction comes in name recognition, not the fiction itself. There are a gorillion amazing stories, but for instance, there is only one Sky Hernstrom–with only one Sky Hernstrom creating a limited supply of Sky Hernstrom stories, the value on those stories becomes a premium. If I can pay Sky more for a story than another guy because I want to be the pub carrying Sky Hernstrom stories, then that’s where the value comes into fiction, not through the slush pile of great undiscovered and unpublished fiction we see every year.

The addendum to this is that if we’ve published you once, there’s a much higher chance we will publish you in the future, because a) we like your stories, b) your stories become part of our “brand” so to speak and c) if our readers like your stories, they will buy us to read them.

Some have suggested that the only viable option for authors is a sort of donation/patronage system for their writing. And that, I gather, is what Clarke and other SFF pubs are doing to keep themselves afloat–small donors, subscribers, and whales subsidize the many non-paying readers like the ones Clarke is struggling to monetize. For an unknown author, building that level of patronage may be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be the only option.

Truly devoted fictioneers have the tools available so that they can really scrounge for every publication out there they could possibly submit to–Ralan, Duotrope, and Submission Grinder are a few examples of such tools.

Publishing across many outlets is a great way of increasing visibility to the point where releasing periodic anthologies is feasible.

As much as I’d like to publish everything a few of our authors put out, it would be bad for them because it would restrict the visibility of their works to our audience.

If they published 4 stories with us, they would have 4 stories that were seen by the same set of eyes more or less, but if they published 4 stories in 4 magazines, they’d have reached as many as 4 times as many readers, including those who would be interested in catching up on what they missed in a collected anthology.

If you’re interested in submitting to Cirsova Magazine, we pay semi-pro rates at approximately .0125 per word for short fiction up to 10,000 words. We will be opening in Mid-October for submissions. More details are here.

Our latest issue, the Cirsova Summer Special is available now, and our upcoming Fall issue will be out September 16th. If you’re interested in submitting fiction to us, it will be helpful to read at least one issue to get an idea of the kinds of stories that we are looking for!

Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She

As some of you know, Cirsova will be publishing a “lost” Tarzan story in our spring issue. Michael Tierney tells in his own words how this story came into being. (Originally published here on Michael’s Facebook).

Update! The original manuscript’s whereabouts has resurfaced as of Jan 17, 2019; Bill Hillman of has claimed that the original handwritten manuscript is in his possession. Corrected text is marked within the original:

It’s an old question of, if you could, who you would visit from the past? Take that question a step further and ask if you could collaborate with literary giant on their greatest creation, who and what would it be?

Here’s my answer: Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She.
Releases March 2019 from Cirsova magazine.

The fragment I worked with was first hand-written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1930. It was left unfinished, and then lay hidden in his safe for decades after his death. When it was rediscovered, many well-known writers were offered the chance to complete the story, but there were elements that they considered problematic, and they passed.

Around the year 2000, ERB’s grandson, Danton Burroughs, offered me the chance. I found the problems to be opportunities to explain what I considered to be inconsistencies in the jungle lord’s established history.

But on the day of Danton’s greatest accomplishment, when he became President of his grandfather’s company, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., there was a fire in the offices that destroyed many of his father, John Coleman Burroughs’ paintings–some of them were lost forever without a record. Danton tragically died that night of a heart attack.

What I didn’t learn until recently was that the fire left ERB, Inc. with no record of the story. Danton took his knowledge with him, and the fire apparently took the fragment.and the fragment was essentially lost to the company his Grandfather founded.

Fortunately, I still had my digital files, and the file Danton sent.and the original fragment was discovered after the announcement of this publication.

Danton had sent it to be transcribed into digital format by Bill Hillman, webmaster of, who announced this very day that he still has it.

While I was creating the Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology, I’d asked current President Jim Sullos for an opportunity to do something with the story. What I didn’t realize until recently was that he thought this was all my creation. We didn’t both put all the pieces together until just a few weeks ago.

That’s the story behind the story of Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She.


2-1 front cover only jpg

Michael Tierney has been a regular contributor to Cirsova Magazine, whose stories Shark Fighter, The Bears of 1812, The Criteria for Admission Into the Galactic Community, and Jack’s Basement have been published in Cirsova 2, 5, 7, and 9 respectively, and his 4-volume Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 100 Year Art Chronology was published last year by Chenault & Gray. Last Summer, Cirsova published his sold-out Wild Stars Novella, Wild Stars III: Time Warmageddon.

Cirsova’s Spring issue featuring Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She will be out March 15th.

Kindle eBooks are available for pre-order now.

Print and other digital formats will be available for pre-order soon.

While you’re waiting, feel free to grab a coffee mug or T-Shirt featuring our cover artist Anton Oxenuk‘s fantastic original Tarzan art.

tarzan mug

Also, don’t forget that we have Duel Visions, a new anthology of Weird New Wave Horror from Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen, coming out in February.

Tarzan(R) is a register trademark of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.; Young TarzanTM and Young Tarzan and the Mysterious SheTM are trademarks of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.; and appear in Cirsova by permission of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

Submissions are Open!

We’re accepting Submissions now for Cirsova volume 2.

Details are here.

We’re looking to acquire ~100K words in text in total. That’s enough to fill two issues of Cirsova.

Payment is .0125 per word. That’s less on the short end than we used to pay, but more on the long-end. [mostly it keeps our expenses flat, which we need on such a tight budget, as opposed to when we paid a .01 cent bonus on the first 2500 words and costs fluctuated based on the number of stories rather than actual wordcounts.]


Cirsova is Looking for SFF Writers!

Are you a Sci-fi/Fantasy writer?  Then I may be looking for you!  Cirsova is launching a semi-pro zine focusing on Sword & Planet and Heroic Fantasy fiction.  Please share, reblog, retweet, whatever!  Get the word out!

What are you looking for?

4-6 Original short stories between 2000-7500 words.

1 or 2 short essays on the subjects of S&P, Heroic Fantasy, Pulps, Pulp Art, or any of those subjects’ effect on tabletop gaming.

Submissions should be in finished, final draft form.  Please do not send unedited works, excerpts or pitches.  Well, you can send me a pitch, and if it sounds awesome, I will tell you “That sounds awesome, now write that story, make sure it’s edited, and submit that to me”, but that’s it.

Update: Issue 1 is full up!  Submissions are closed until I’m ready to move ahead on issue 2.

What do you mean by “Sword & Planet” and “Heroic Fantasy”?

“Sword & Planet” typically refers to a style of romantic swashbuckling fiction that takes place on Earth-like non-Earth worlds.  It could be set on a Mediterranean Mars, an Amazon Basin Venus, or a Sub-Saharan Sqarnix IV.  Dashing heroes performing daring feats in exotic locales is a must, scientific accuracy is not.  If a story meets those criteria, but doesn’t have swords, then it’s more of a “Planet Romance”, which is also fine.  I want those too!  “Heroic Fantasy” is similar in that you still have heroes performing daring and/or clever feats, often in exotic locals, but it is typically more focused on the deeds of a single character(Cugel, Conan, Brak, Elric, etc.).  HF does not necessarily have a sci-fi element, but there is definitely some overlap.  You can put them together to go all out and have a sword-wielding barbarian king of a fallen space empire linked by automated shuttles go on adventures from world to world!

Can I submit something that’s not Sword & Planet or Heroic Fantasy but is still Science Fiction or Fantasy?

Good question!  The answer is yes.  While I’d like to put S&P/Planet Romance/Heroic Fantasy at the forefront priority-wise, if you’ve got a great story, there’s still a chance I might buy it.  Not really looking for “hard” science fiction, engineer tales, or modern “high fantasy”.  I’ll indulge a steampunk story if it’s set on a moon of Saturn or something.

I have serial I’d like to publish; can I submit that?

As much as I’d like to say yes, I can’t promise that there will be a 2nd issue unless the 1st one does well, so serials are out for the moment.  BUT, if you have a character about whom you’ve written stand-alone stories, feel free to submit one of those!

Can I put steamy-hot action in my story?

It really depends, but it’s not a deal-breaker.  I’m not looking for any explicitly erotic stories, and it probably shouldn’t make up more than a few lines to a paragraph or two in anything this short if you do include it. In terms of how explicit you can get without hurting your chances of being accepted, consider the upper boundary to be Andrew J. Offutt (at least what he published under his own name) or Thomas Burnett Swann.  If you have something that looks like Jean Auel wrote it for one of her Earth’s Children sequels, you’ve crossed a line and should probably reconsider more than just your submission.

What do you mean by “semi-pro zine”?

It means you’ll get paid.  You won’t get paid as much as if you sold your work to one of the big pro-zines, but I’ll try to at least make it worth your while.  Cirsova will pay $0.02 per word up to the first 2500 words and $0.01 per word up above that.  So, you’re looking at around a $50-$100 range.

When will this magazine come out?

Well, it’s a tricky thing, being an upstart zine.  The first goal will be to get enough written material for the first issue.  Once I have enough stories, if I have any money left, I’ll try to find some illustrations.  Once I have the stories and illustrations, I’ll be offering a few local businesses some free token ad space.  Then, I will probably do a Kickstarter, which will send the zine down one of two tracks.  If successful, the Kickstarter will be used as a means of soliciting limited additional adspace, (semi)bulk ordering for any stores interested in carrying the zine, and maybe getting some additional art funds.  If we can’t Kickstart, the zine will still go forward, still be available in digital and print copies, just probably in a smaller run.

So, it could be awhile.  I’m pessimistically (realistically?) thinking a year from now, but if everything comes together, I could see this coming out by spring of next year.

What is this zine going to look like?

Well, I keep calling it a zine, but it’s going to be more of an anthology book.  Think the Flashing Swords! collections, but with some advertisements.  Unless I find a decent alternative, it’ll probably be printed through a service like Lulu, so it will be a fairly nice perfect-bound book.  If there is sufficient interest, however, I might consider making a hard-bound edition available.

Do you know what you’re doing?  Do you have any idea what you’re getting yourself into?

Actually, yeah, I do.  And I’m hoping to get away with 1/5th the cost and half the headache it took to put this out on vinyl.

How do I get in touch with you?

Comment here and I’ll email you.  Or you can send an email to cirsova at yahoo dot com.

I’m an artist and would like to submit something. Can I?

My first priority is finding stories. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking for artists, though. If you are interested in doing some line-illustrations, get in touch with me and show me the sort of stuff you do. Once I get the stories wrangled, I WILL be looking for accompanying line art.

Is there a submission deadline?

Right now, no, there is no hard deadline. The deadline is “When I have enough materials for a first issue/When I’ve spent all the money I’ve budgeted for buying stories on buying stories.”   It’s not a hard and fast deadline, and if things take an unexpected drop-off I may extend it, but your best bet would be to get submissions in no later than the end of October.  Currently, I am be reading pieces and making offers in the order that I receive them.  I am taking a brief break on making offers to allow those who have expressed interest time to submit.  A lot of people have said they are interested and a few have even submitted stories. So, let’s say the sooner the better.

When will I be paid?

You will be paid as soon as your story has been accepted.  Payment will be made either by paypal (preferred) or by check if necessary.

Can I use a pseudonym?

Sure.  Just include the pseudonym you want to use in the by-line of your manuscript.

What rights are you buying?

Global first print and digital publication rights; you’ll be giving Cirsova the exclusive rights to publish and use the purchased material prior to and for one calendar year following the publication of those materials.  After that period, Cirsova will retain the right to publish and sell the purchased materials non-exclusively in the collected format (i.e. the anthology will remain available in print and electronic format as initially offered, however the materials will not be repackaged and resold).  Cirsova will have the right to use your name and portion or whole of the material to promote the work.  During the period of exclusivity, you agree to refrain from publishing the purchased material in whole or in part without prior consent.

What happens if you don’t end up publishing my story, even though you bought it?

I don’t anticipate this happening, but I want to say upfront that I’m not going to pull a Dangerous Visions here. If something happens that prevents me from publishing stories I have bought in a timely manner, we’ll work something out wherein I will relinquish exclusivity.  Again, I really do not see this happening because a)there is a lot of interest, and I don’t really see ending up with too few stories to publish and b) I’ve got enough money budgeted to put this thing together even without a Kickstarter.

Should I submit a bio?

Feel free to include one or two sentences as to where folks can find you.  Once submissions are closed, I may throw up more detailed “bios” page here for additional exposure for contributing authors.

How do I get in touch with you?

This is an important question, so I understand why it needs to be asked and answered multiple times.  You can email submissions to cirsova at yahoo dot com, you can comment here and I will email you.  Note that I may email you from my old retrovirusrecords account if I initiate contact based on a comment you’ve left, so keep an eye out for me!

My story is longer than 7,500 words, can I still submit it?

Sure!  While 5,000 to 7,500 is kind of the sweet spot, for really good stories, I’d consider anything up to 10,000, maybe a little more.  It’s sort of a case by case thing.  One of the reasons why I’d be hesitant to go much beyond 10,000 and want to avoid novella length works comes more from my own feeling that I can’t really pay what those stories would be worth.  By the time Issue 2 comes around, it may be a different story.

What is your editorial process?

For the most part, I’m going for a light touch.  Though submissions should be in final draft manuscript format, I’ll still give it a good once over for any glaring typos.  If you’ve got a solid enough story that just needs a little more work, however, I’ll be more than happy to work on some revisions with you if I think it would be a good fit.

Can I submit a reprint?

At this time, I will not be buying reprints.  In the future, I may consider, but I am making original first print works a priority.

Just throwing some new stuff out there

Spoiler on at least 1 bad ending for the new book.  All content subject to change.

“Hurry up, Erill!  The sun’s almost down; they’ll be burning Goash soon!”

Erill ignored Caius, the young son of village brewer, and remained reclining on the pile of straw watching the purple-grey clouds slowly drifting about the horizon, tinged majestically by the setting sun.  When that fat golden ball disappeared, the torches would be dropped and the Goash, a sacred effigy of an ox-headed harvest-god, would go up in flames.  All of the people of Altier would dance as the giant bull made from the woven straw of the year’s first wheat blazed away, celebrating another season’s end and successful harvest.

This would be Erill’s last Goash festival in Altier.  He’d determined to leave the village of his birth forever.  This year had seen his mother taken by illness and his father slain by thieves.  Erill had resolved to stay and finish the harvests with the other farm folk, but there was little left to keep the young man in town of his birth.  Kara, Caius’ older sister, had been noncommittal towards Erill in the past, and her recent attention felt more like pity for the man who’d lost both parents than genuine affection for him.

Now seemed like the best time to leave.  The last harvest was in, his parents’ affairs had been set in order, and a caravan hauling a bounty of unworked Ungoza crystal along the Long Road had stopped in the village to take part in the celebration.  Erill’s belongings were packed and ready to go.

Altier, a small agrarian community in the demesne of the Barony of Nortune, had been Erill’s home his entire life.  Now, severed from ties to family and obligation to community, Erill had the whole of the Empire in which to pursue his fortunes.  He’d already spoken with the caravan master about the possibility of joining up with them when they continued onward to the port of Syflanis.

Erill had other options, though.  Banditry along the Gatlian portion of the Long Road had been on the rise in recent years (indeed, his father’s death was testament to it), and the nobility had been trying to levy men in an effort to do something about it.  He could offer his services to one of the barons or even join the Imperial Legion in Pelliora.  The options seemed without limit.

“I’ll do you proud somewhere, Dad,” Erill swore aloud, taking to his feet and brushing the straw and strawdust from his clothes.

The young man wondered if he should at least say goodbye to Kara and her brother.  It would be the polite thing to do, at least.  Maybe even watch the lighting of the Goash.  Who knew if he’d ever see it again?  It was an impressive spectacle.  He could enjoy the night and leave with caravan in the morning.  On the other hand, he could leave tonight with no real regrets.  He was ready.

Erill took a deep breath.  Kara had been extra nice to him these last few months.  Even if her feelings for him were not what he would’ve like them to be, it would be nice, he thought, to see her one last time before he left.  And Caius deserved a goodbye, too.  Though he could be bothersome, the lad seemed to look up to Erill like a brother.  And did he really want to miss out on watching the Goash burn?

Torches were already being lit by a few of the villagers who’d been delegated to overseeing the annual festivities.  While sometimes the Goash would be erected and burned in the spacious square, with a sizeable caravan in town it was thought safer and wiser to place the 15 foot effigy on the outskirts of the community after the last harvest came in.  Erill had been among those who moved the idol from the barn that had sheltered it since mid-summer to the fallow field and could not help but feel pride when his eyes fell on the great golden ox.

“You’re here!” Caius shouted.  “This is going to be great!  This is the biggest Goash I’ve ever seen!”

True enough, this was one of the larger effigies the villagers had made, at least within Erill’s lifetime and certainly Caius’.  The year’s first wheat harvest had been a bumper crop, so the Goash had been made correspondingly grander in hopes that the successive crops would have yields as bountiful as the first.  And despite the trouble with bandits and thieves, the subsequent harvests had been plentiful.

“Yes, he is,” Erill patted Caius on the head, “and he’ll be watching over Altier all through the winter, too.”

The boy craned his neck and stood on tip-toes to get a better view of the straw idol then turned to Erill.  “You’re leaving soon, aren’t you?”

Erill sighed.  “Yeah, I suppose I am.”  Young Caius looked at Erill with sad half-understanding, a confused look of sympathy and disappointment.  Erill wished that he could put into words his reasons, explain how he’d felt these last months in his parents’ house by himself, haunted by the memories of their passing and his own failings as a son.  Instead, he could only say “I’m going to miss you, Caius.  You take care of yourself while I’m gone, alright?”

The boy nodded.

“Do you know where your sister is?”

“I think she’s still back at home getting ready.  She said something about a surprise.  What do you think it could be?”

“I couldn’t tell you,” Erill laughed as he ruffled the boy’s hair.  “Now don’t look so sad.”

“I’ll try,” Caius patted down the cowlick Erill had stirred.  “Kara might be here soon.  Or she might take forever!  You know how sisters are.”

“I’ll see if I can go find her.”

“Okay, just hurry back before they light Goash.  It’s going to be amazing!”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Erill left the gathering crowd behind him and half-jogged, half-ran through the gloaming toward the small house where Kara and Caius lived with their parents.  On his way, Erill hurried past the few caravan guards who’d drawn the short straws and were forced to take the first night watch and remain with the carts while others joined in the opening revelries.  It was a shame that such precautions had to be taken even in a normally peaceful village such as Altier, but failing health of the Baron of Nortune and political intrigues in Syflanis were being exploited by the robbers and outlaws who hid out in the forested midlands of Gatlia.  Such trouble in the province had cost Erill’s father his life, so Erill would dedicate the rest of his to doing something about it.  And that’s what he would tell Kara.

Erill arrived at Kara and Caius’ home, a piled-stone cottage on the edge of one of the many freshly reaped fields.  The windows were faintly aglow with pumpkin-orange light.  Erill knocked on the thick-planked door.

“Just a second!” a lyrical voice answered his rapping from within the small house.  Erill shifted nervously on the uneven flagstones sunk into the ground about the house’s entrance and gazing down for the moments just before the door swung open wide.  Erill looked up and saw Kara’s silhouetted form, her hair carefully coiffed and many-ribboned dress hanging in bustles about her waist, standing against the gentle glow of a table lamp and the hearth fire.  “Erill!”

Erill saw her face light with a smile even in the post-dusk shadows.  He was suddenly at a loss for words.  Kara’s dress was new, made from velvety blue fabric and cut in the style worn by the fine ladies of Syflanis.  She looked stunning in it.  “You look…  Your new dress is lovely.”

“I wanted to surprise you,” she swished her skirt proudly.

Erill was indeed surprised.

“I bought it from the traders for the festival tonight.  What?”

“I wanted to tell you…” Erill stammered.

“Yes?  Couldn’t even wait for me a few more moments?”  Kara’s blushing laughter tied Erill’s guts in knots.

He took a deep breath.  “I wanted to let you know, I’m leaving tomorrow…  Probably with the traders; they’ve already…”

“You stupid…” Kara’s comely face became contorted with a mix of emotions, not all of which the young man could identify.  The young woman punched Erill in the shoulder with considerable force.  “And you didn’t even think to tell me before tonight?”


“And if you weren’t going to tell me till tonight, you could’ve at least let me enjoy the festival first!” Tears were streaming down her face, glistening with light from the Goash which had just gone up in flames.  “Who do you think I was wearing this dress for?  Well, come on, at least let’s go watch and maybe have a dance before you go off on your big stupid adventure.”

Kara angrily grabbed Erill’s hand and started dragging him toward where the revelry was occurring about the base of the towering inferno, not giving him even the slightest backward glance.

Not ten of Kara’s angry paces from her abode did Erill notice that the Goash was not the only pillar of flame visible against the night sky.  And the screams and shouts coming from the edge of the village were not those of celebration but of fear and panic.

“What’s happening?” Kara stopped, causing Erill to awkwardly bump into her.

“Bandits!  They must be raiding the village!”

“What are we going to do?”

“Stay close!” Erill barked, yanking Kara behind the corner of a nearby barn.  “It sounds like they’re attacking near the road, by the Goash.”

“Caius!  He’s probably in trouble!”

“The wagons are in the square,” Erill said, peering out from the cover of the wooden building.  The armed men about the wagons were shouting, pointing and scrambling about. “They probably mean to draw the guards off; they could be here any moment… I have an idea.” Erill took another glance toward the commotion. “I’m going to go first, open the gate, then you follow.  Can you do that?”

Kara nodded.


Half-crouching, Erill scuttled over to the barn door, lifted the latch and swung it open just enough to enter, hoping that since he’d yet to see any of the nighttime raiders, they would’ve yet to see him.  He motioned for Kara to follow, and the young woman quickly scrambled to join him.

“Now what?”

“There are pitchforks, hoes, and spades in here,” Erill pointed out a rack of implements hanging on the far wall of the barn.  “Might be able to make some use of them.”

Erill went to the rack and grabbed a pitchfork.  Its wrought-iron tines could pierce a man as easily as a bale of hay.  He’d seen it before another time a couple of thieves had been caught slaughtering a calf by a neighbor.  It hadn’t been a pretty sight.

“You’re seriously going to try to go out there and fight them?”

“Will you be safe here?”

“How should I know if I’ll be safe here when raiders are out killing everyone?” Kara cried.

“Well, I have to do something! We should stay here and wait,” Erill admitted.  If the raiders had bows, he wouldn’t stand a chance against them.  Neither did any of the other villagers, for that matter.  Erill swore under his breath.

“But what about Caius?” Kara pleaded.  “Mom?  And Dad?  They’re out there!”

“They may already be dead, Kara,” Erill bitterly retorted, frustrated by the feeling of helplessness that gripped him.  It was the same feeling he had felt when he had heard his own father had been mortally wounded defending his village.  “But I’ll make sure that nothing happens to you.”

Kara hid herself in a corner behind a stack of loosely baled hay while Erill placed as many objects as he could lay his hands on in pile behind the barn door.  It would not keep the door, which swung outward, from being opened, but would at least prove difficult to clamber over or thru and might give Erill the opportunity he needed for a well-placed thrust of a pitchfork.  When he felt the door was sufficiently barricaded, Erill stood between Kara’s hiding spot and the door, his pitchfork held at the ready.  The sounds of the chaos that had once been distant were steadily growing closer.  The shouts of the men-at-arms and the clashing of steel were audible through the dry and cracked wooden boards of the old barn.  The sounds of hooves bearing down, arrows flying, and cries of anguish filled the night and rung in Erill’s ears.  This was no mere raid; Altier was being massacred.

Over the cacophony of fighting, Erill could hear Kara pleading to the gods to protect them.  There was a crackling thump on the thatched roof of the barn, following a harsh male voice urging a steed forth.  The dry thatching quickly burst into dazzling flames.

“They’re torching the village!  We have to get out of here!”  Erill tossed aside the pitchfork and began moving aside enough of the junk he had placed by the threshold that they might climb over.  Kara rushed to his side, but the embers from the roof were falling all about them, and runners of flame had begun to engulf the walls.  Smoke filled the air, and neither Kara nor Erill could stop coughing.  The barn was turning into a death trap.

Reaching deep within himself, Erill knocked the door open and pulled both Kara and himself out of the flaming structure.  They fell flat on the ground and managed to belly crawl away from the certain fiery death they had just escaped.

All of Altier was alight.  Horsemen, all wearing masks, galloped to and fro, some empty-handed, others with their torches still held aloft.  No building was spared.  By the road on the north edge of town, the Goash mockingly blazed away, towering over the smaller fires that consumed the homes of the slaughtered villagers.

Erill and Kara scrambled to their feet.  Their hope was that the raiders would be so pre-occupied with the destruction they wrought that they would not notice the pair racing across the fields, southward away from the village.  Alas, such hopes were in vain.

The illumination from the several fires reached far, and the movement of two caught the attention of one of the riders.  The rider spurred his mount on, triumphantly holding aloft his torch, and ran the pair down.

The last things Erill heard were Kara’s screams and the beating of the hooves that were swiftly upon him.

The End


This represents about 5 nodes out of the dozen or so I’ve got mapped already.  I’m half a dozen to another dozen nodes away from finishing the first true ending/path (not a “you screwed up and died”, but a “your choice led you to this final outcome”).  Whatever this ends up being, it promises to be bulky.  Not all, but a few nodes will have more than two choices, which will certainly up the page count.

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