“You were there,” Gherardus scolded. “You saw what I saw. The room was dark. We saw someone stirring around down here. We assumed it was Tancred. The bastard didn’t light a taper. When the moon was finally lit up the study and Pa was sitting here in his chair, in his clean black shirt, I took the shot. How the fuck was I to know it was Ma. She was supposed to be in Melfi. How the hell did she get back in the city without us knowing? Why was she in here? Why was she wearing Pa’s shirt?“
Betrayal (Chapter 2)
I published ‘Betrayal’, the first book in The Crystal Crux series back in 2016.
When I originally conceived the idea of The Crystal Crux tale some twenty-thirty years earlier, this assassination situation did not exist. It was a much more straight forward, lineal story with little thought given to the motivations of Pero’s enemies. The enemy was but one person in Parthenope with no depth or family, none that I eluded to. (The entire length was not even 100 pages, barely a short story. In fact, it included a little boy in our present time finding a crystal in a quarry, wandering into a forest, happening upon an old man and learning the tale of Pero from him. None of that exists anymore.)
I knew if I was going to make The Crystal Crux an epic tale, I had to give more thought and purpose to all the characters around Pero, including his enemies. And the first part was figuring out how to make them cruel but human.
We’ve all made bad decisions for selfish reasons and only a fool thinks otherwise.
The only thing different about bad people in tales is their devotion to their bad decisions, their cruelty, their selfishness. One bad decision leads to another and another until they can’t untie themselves from the webs, the chains. The weight of the sins either crushes them into hopelessness or hardens them into committing even greater sins.
I decided that The Crystal Crux would not begin with Pero but with those who would be his enemies. I would lay down the backstory, the foundation of lies, greed, mistakes and sins Pero finds himself existing in first.
Gherardus Fabbro is the Lord of Parthenope, Grand Duke of Campania, because the Fabbro brothers, while attempting to assassinate their father, Tancred, killed their mother, Meliore. The death of Meliore proves too much for Tancred’s old heart to bear and he dies because of it.
Avenel, the eldest, should have taken command at this point but, already troubled in his mind, having lost too much, his wife and children, Avenel decides he can’t bear the responsibility of all this bloodshed. He abandons the city and his brothers vowing to never return.
Gherardus begins his reign on a sin and a lie. The foundation of his kingdom is corrupt. And in order to preserve his loose claim to the throne, blood, sins and evils are committed. One bad decision builds upon another as the years pass by. With his weak, cowardly, but educated brother Turstin at his side, Gherardus solidifies his hold on the throne by dozens of unscrupulous means, innocent bodies left in his wake.
The first book, Betrayal, is, however, about much more than Gherardus’ betrayal of Pero. There are many betrayals littered about, many people stabbing others in the back in order to serve themselves and their own purposes.
Gherardus is well aware of what he’s doing to Pero. He knows his decision will hurt hundreds of people in Capua. He only cares to a point for he has done this before. Pero is not the first. Gherardus betrayed his own brother, Turstin, sending the old man and his family to live in exile on Eagles Pass.
Turstin to Pero: “A man can become awfully paranoid when he doubts the things he has done in his past and believes his sins are chasing him. Fear and hope war inside all men, some more than others. Gherardus is not unconvinced that there were mysterious forces working against us that night in Parthenope. Why did our mother come home early from Melfi? How did she end up sitting on Tancred’s throne wearing his night shirt just as the moonlight broke through the clouds? The idea that Meliore’s tormented ghost still exists in a state of limbo, floating through the air he inhales, cursing him from beyond the grave, truly alarms him. Although he cares very little for Christ or the Church, he believes in the possibility of absolution for violent men willing to shed blood to further God’s kingdom on earth. He is good at shedding blood. And he is willing… Gherardus not only needs the support of the Church to maintain moral control of the people, he needs a modicum of faith in the Church’s power to forgive him spiritually. His conscience is burning and that conflagration of guilt seems to be the only thing keeping my family alive.“
Betrayal (Chapter 43)
Allen M Werner is the author of the epic fantasy series The Crystal Crux.