Given the popularity of the historical fiction genre, it’s no surprise to see the genre make its way into webcomics. However, I must admit that even among historical fiction webcomics, Cerintha may be unique as it is set back during the Roman Empire… or more specifically, during the apparent fall of the Roman Empire. I suppose if you want to get technical about it, there was no actual singular event that resulted in the end of the Roman Empire (and even after the Western Roman Empire declined, the Byzantine Empire continued for another thousand years).
The comic focuses on a young barbarian warrior named Cerintha who has two great loves. First, she loves the Roma Empire, its culture, history, prestige and power, all aspects of it. Indeed, one of her fondest desires is to walk through the city of Roma and take in the sights (as it were). Unfortunately, having been born a barbarian, she’s denied Imperial citizenship and isn’t particularly welcome there after she bailed on the Roman Legions because of her other great love: staying alive. In short, Cerintha is a coward. She will flee from any fight she is in, even those that she is likely to win… and her cowardice has made Cerintha into a truly talented swordswoman.
To be honest, it’s not particularly fair to call her a coward; while Cerintha runs from fights (especially those in which she’s facing overwhelming odds), the main thing she’s running from is her sister-in-arms and former comrade, Hellebore. Hellebore is close to Cerintha’s equal with the blade (and several times in the comic slaughters several warriors with ease). But unlike Cerintha, she wants to die gloriously… and is hunting down Cerintha after her comrade-at-arms abandoned her on the battlefield out of her desire to live. Given how much Cerintha seems to care for Hellebore, their fights often are truly difficult for Cerintha as she struggles to stay alive… while not harming Hellebore and giving her the death she so dearly craves.
The first part of the comic focuses on Cerintha as she strives to avoid the twin threats of Hellebore (who has tracked her down once more) and the Roma sorceress Discordia, a young conflicted woman who believes she is cursed and uses her magical talents at the bequest of the rulers of Roma; her power is great enough that she easily annihilates the army Cerintha is with (though Cerintha had fled prior to that incident). Along the way, Cerintha runs into another sorceress, Hemlock, who places a magical artifact, the Sky Relic, within Cerintha. Naturally things don’t quite work out the way they’re supposed to, and Cerintha slowly starts developing magical abilities as the comic commences… abilities she cannot control and which threaten to destroy everything around her.
Naturally I’ve left out a lot in my brief summary, including political intrigue, sword fights, war between Roma and the barbarian tribes, true love (I jest!), and magical duels between sorceresses. Along the way, the cartoonist (who has managed to hide his actual name by not signing his work) has managed to mix humor with drama in the comic (with Cerintha’s cowardice often played for laughs). Unfortunately, updates have grown intermittent as the comic approaches its fourth year of production, but given the comic appears to be approaching its climactic moments, it presents readers the perfect chance to read through the archives during the comic’s downtime. And I definitely have to recommend Cerintha; while the main story seems ready to conclude and I’m doubtful there’s any sequel hooks, it’s still a most enjoyable tale and well worth reading.