Back in the first book of The Crystal Crux series, Betrayal, Pero de Alava was introduced in a state of distraction. He was walking the market at La Torre with his bride-to-be, Anthea Manikos. She was looking for material for her wedding dress. She asked Pero about some red material she found but he didn’t respond His eyes were wandering, his thoughts elsewhere, “…in the obscure shadows of the west where daylight had not yet gone.”
We come to find out that this is not unusual. For the past few weeks “The Lord of Capua had been disconnecting from reality…” Anthea tried her best to keep Pero focused on reality but it was getting more and more difficult.
As it turns out, Pero was struggling with his inner demons. He was losing faith. The Emperor who assigned him to the post in Capua had recently died. Pero was now surrounded by a host of people who didn’t want him stationed there. And then, at a recent banquet in Parthenope, he rose to support the election of a new Emperor that many in Parthenope didn’t share. In fact, they were outraged. The drunken Castellan of the city confronted Pero in front of everyone. He spit in Pero’s face. Pero could not excuse the offense and proceeded to break Rugerius’ jaw which turned the banquet hall against him. Pero and his escorts were dismissed and discharged immediately from the city. He was instructed to wait for word from the Court on how peace could be reestablished.
Back in Capua, Pero fretted. As he waited, he began to imagine dozens of outcomes and none of them good. He was worried for his people, for his loved ones. He knew how treacherous and dishonest his enemies in Parthenope were. He was more than sure they would seek revenge. Anthea wanted a family. He couldn’t imagine marrying her now and having children in this environment. But there seemed to be no way out of the situation. He felt betrayed and was drawn to the darkness of his imagination. And in that darkness, he began to see things. “…evil shades descending down from the sky, rappelling the battlements as thick as ivy on a trellis. I see thousands of soulless beast reaching out from dark corners, murdering people in their sleep. I see the faces of devils yawning in the masonry, their piercing eyes breathing dragon fire, torching the barracks and stables.” He was sure it was a sign that evil would befall the Keep if he stayed. Assassins were lurking in the darkness. Death was coming. He was having difficulty making decisions. His ability to lead was waning.
“I feel hunted, a hare run to ground, trembling beneath a bush, waiting for the worse to occur.”
When a messenger arrived from the Court with a foolhardy quest, making no attempt to restore the peace, Pero completely lost heart. He decided this adventure was his way out. Like a scapegoat, or a hero, he couldn’t be sure which, he would relinquish his post in Capua and ride out on Eagles Pass to fulfill the suicidal order. There was no stopping him.
Anthea begged him not to leave but he broke her heart and the engagement, storming out of her chambers, initiating a war with God. His best friend and Estate Steward, Francis Whitehall, tried to convince him to stay as well but Pero would not listen to reason. He didn’t want to risk their lives for his sin, for striking the drunken Castellan, for standing up for himself and for what he believed.
The Specters are not major characters but they are around and we get a better sense of their angry fury in the Prologue of Book 3, Cold Knight, when the coach Michela Pinto is traveling in is attacked. “… a spectral being, a dark humanoid figure composed mostly of smoke and mist, sailed up into the open space before her. His hands and fingers clutched onto the wood door as if the coach were not even moving, his body hovering and gliding, yet motionless.”
We also get a taste of the promiscuous side of the specters as Gherardus Fabbro goes to visit his mad wife to perform due benevolence. She, is turns out, is not alone. She’s been speaking with these shadowy beings, as well as having relations with them. “These shades were far worse than distortions and hallucinations. They were faceless beings that drifted, not walked, appearing solid but moving as mist. Their whispers were deep and demonic to Gherardus’ untrained ear.”
In Book 4 – Shimmer, in an alpine countryside filled with grave markers, Ven of Black Leaves explains to Pero, that “Those blackish ghouls beyond the dome come here to feed, to take advantage of them, consume their ruin, possess them. They cause them to act out, behave in all manner of lunacy and unseemliness. They cooperate in order to feel something, anything, to remember what it is like to not be alone.”
All Four Books in The Crystal Crux series are now available on Amazon.
SHIMMER is available on KindleUnlimited, so those with a Kindle account can download it at anytime for free.