Why is he screaming? What’s going on?
The driver’s whip was cracking faster and faster, and not in the direction of the horses. There was a certain sound to it and it was telling. The sure and steady coach rollicked as if it were acting out in self-defense.
Michela was inspired to lean out the open window and assess the situation when a spectral being, a dark humanoid figure composed mostly of smoke and mist, sailed up into the open space before her. His hands and his fingers clutched onto the wood door as if the coach were not even moving, his body hovering and gliding, yet motionless.
– Cold Knight (Prologue)

Michela Pinto is a somewhat minor character in The Crystal Crux tale although she has an important role in the happenings.

Michela was wed at 15 to an older man, Matteo Pinto (48), in 1155. She became the Lady of Vomero Hill, Matteo’s estate. They had three children, two sons and a daughter, Isa.

In 1163, a fire consumed the Hall, killing the two sons and badly scarring Isa.

Matteo died of an illness in 1168.

Widowed at 28, and being a lady of the court, Michela spent more and more time at the palace, socializing and entertaining, hoping to attract a suitor.

In July 1169, Lady Bee, Gherardus Fabbro’s wife, suffered a devastating stroke giving birth to her second son, Talento. In her illness, an illness no one expected her to recover from, women were brought in to nurse the newborn.

Michela helped care for Talento and caught the eye of the handsome, rugged Castellan himself. By October, Michela was involved with Gherardus. Gherardus later told her he intended to wed again once Bee officially left this world. Michela’s hopes were high.

Problem was, Lady Bee didn’t die.

Michela Pinto was absolutely terrified when Bertina Fabbro summoned her to her private quarters. Everyone knew the woman was mad. Since ‘The Healing’, an unnatural, biblical-esque reanimation from a crippling stroke suffered during childbirth, Lady Bee appeared to be completely insane, deranged. She was treacherous as sin, whispering to herself, staring at people with wild and crazy eyes, fiddling her fingers as if weaving spells, conversing openly and proudly with the disembodied, reading people’s private thoughts, assaulting people, breaking mirrors and other shiny objects.
– Cold Knight (Prologue)

It was a miracle of sorts and Gherardus would not have need of a new wife anytime soon. And worse for Michela, Lady Bee knew things, supernatural things, secret things. She accused and embarrassed dozens of lords and ladies, exposing their most intimate, private affairs.

Michela wondered as the days passed why she had not been called out, why her head wasn’t on the block like the Foolish Six, the young girls who mistreated Lady Bee in her illness.

With the summons, Michela was more than sure her time had come. They had not met privately since before the stroke, before the affair.

But the meeting went far better than Michela thought it would.

Michela couldn’t guard against her hesitation, but Lady Bee was so good-naturedly sympathetic. She reached out and laid a surprisingly warm hand over hers. “I assure you, Michela, your daughter shall be cared for in your absence. Just remain anonymous until the coach reaches Sorrento. Then and only then, open this envelope and read the contents.” Bertina patted the packet already in Michela’s possession. “You will find further instructions inside.
– Cold Knight (Prologue)

Lady Bee had explained to Michela that her ladyship, Meliore Fabbro, had arranged for her to choose for herself one of the women of the court to do perform this task, to take a royal coach to Sorrento so Lady Meliore could sneak back into Parthenope and surprise her husband. It seemed harmless enough. She was going on holiday and her daughter, Isa, would be taken care of until her return. In fact, Lady Bee insisted Michela leave at once without informing anyone, including her daughter.

Michela knew she could not refuse.

Alone, in the coach, Michela opened the envelope before she should. It was a letter written by Lady Meliore, telling her the purpose of this journey. Reading the letter relaxed Michela. That was until the specters appeared.

As the thing crawled in, Michela slapped at it, trying to scratch and tear at its face. Her hand went straight through the formless head, inflicting no damage. And still it advanced.
Michela screamed as if her life depended on it.
– Cold Knight (Prologue)

The coach plummeted into the sea and Michela never returned.

Gherardus snatched a wood cup from the table and held it out towards the woman. She poured.
The woman froze. She stopped pouring, her thin arms trembling…
Lift your head so I may see.”
Shy and hesitant, scared to death, she did.
Gherardus’ mind spun. The woman was homely, her face twisted by very old scar tissue, much of it around her nose and mouth. And yet, despite the burns, there was something else in there.
You look familiar. Do I know you?

We’ve never… I don’t… I…
Gherardus gently placed his left hand over her right hand and her trembling only increased. “Everything is alright. I’m not mad, signora. What is your name?
Deep breath. Eyes shunned and looking at her toes. “My name is Isa, my Lord.
And your parents, Isa?
Morto… I am a ward of the court.
You are not a servant? You are a ward of the court? …. So your padre had title?” Gherardus asked.

You are familiar to me, Isa. Your madre? What was her name?
… “Michela.
Almost dropping the wood cup, Gherardus turned white and fell back in the chair… “First Lady of Vomero Hall. Widow of Matteo Pinto… There was a fire. You had brothers. You were all children.”
Si, my Lord. They died and I was left to live like this.” She motioned towards her face…
Your madre was a beautiful woman and younger than you are now, when she...” Gherardus stopped talking, unable to say more…
Isa nodded. “Si, my Lord. She disappeared… My madre left me. They never found the coach she left in. I’ve learned not to think on it. I have enough pain in my life.”
– Cold Knight (Chapter 8)

Isa Pinto as an adult serving Gherardus his wine

Gherardus Fabbro was whisked back in memory to the night Meliore was assassinated and the events that occurred quickly after. Paying his mad wife a conjugal visit, Gherardus was taken in a seductive, hellish nightmare of possessed silk streamers, crushed asters and ghostly specters.

Lady Bee admitted sending her in the coach to Sorrento. She told him Michela was dead.

I knew all about your relationship with her.” … Bertina lifted the gold ring and drew a moving picture in and with the fog. The swirling patter of her mad design was a misty coach speeding over a misty cliff. The coach veered and turned and tumbled off the misty cliff, splashing into a misty sea. And then the drawing was gone. “The spirits got the better of her.
Cold Knight (Chapter 12)

But learning this was not the worst of it for Gherardus. Bee kept pushing him to remember more.

You lavished Michela with a splendid burial.” … Bertina laughed. “You buried her, Har-ee. You buried Michela alongside your Pa, alongside Tancred.
Cold Knight (Chapter 12)

Grabbing his head and forcing him to think, Gherardus saw himself in the morgue, inspecting bodies, looking for replacements to serve as his mother and his brother, Avenel. For whatever reasons Gherardus could not explain, he was drawn to two bodies in particular.

“Fresh meat over here, my Lord,” A dirty, scrawny, emaciated mortician quipped, pointing to the place where two bodies had been flopped down shoulder to shoulder in a seating position against the wall. … “A man and a woman,” the mortician added. “Washed ashore just this morning. Nobles I’d say, judging by her fine dress and his blue suit.”
Cold Knight (Chapter 12)

Allen M Werner is the author of the epic fantasy series The Crystal Crux

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