“Stay in your place, girl. You will continue to serve my wishes for as long as I need you… Unless I decide to give you to another, you will never wed… And if you have a problem with this arrangement, Viridian, you best end your life… If you attempt to speak to me of this again, I will kill you.“
Rugerius Fabbro. The Castellan of Parthenope that everyone loves to hate.
Eldest son of Gherardus and Bertina Fabbro, heir to the throne of Parthenope, Rugerius is a vile, violent, selfish cretin who acts on his impulses with impunity, hardly ever giving any thought to the consequences for his actions.
Disagreeable and headstrong, Rugerius was sent as a boy to Bavaria to squire for Lord Hensting. He continued to be obstinate, refusing to obey and getting into fights with his peers. He was friendless, pouting and miserable. And to make matters worse, a brewery thrall named Dugaro, a beast of man, began to molest him. Rugerius was nearly suicidal, almost wishing someone would best him and kill him.
That’s when another boy, one a year older than him, Bergus of Brindisi, accidently witnessing one of the molestations, came to Rugerius’ aid.
Despite his temper and uncooperativeness, Rugerius’ strength and skills were undeniable. One day, if he stayed alive, he was going to be a formidable knight.
Bergus was a runaway and lucky to be where he was. He needed a helping hand in the world. If he could befriend the lonely Italian (Bergus was an Italian as well), he might be able to stand in Rugerius’ shadow and follow him on his adventures.
Bergus knew Dugaro’s routine and arranged one night for Rugerius to follow him to a farmhouse where Dugaro would be vulnerable. With knives Bergus had stolen and secreted, the boys went to the farmhouse and murdered the pedophile and his mistress.
From that day forward, they were inseparable, blood brothers. After they were knighted, they went on crusade together. When it was time for Rugerius to return home and assume the Castellan duties, Bergus stayed at his side, living in the shadow of his mighty friend.
Rugerius knew he was the heir to the throne but he was having difficulty processing the possibility that one day he’d have to put his sword down and fight the battle of paper and pen, spending his days and nights at court, dealing with city planning and feuding guilds.
And while he couldn’t imagine himself doing it, he also couldn’t see himself serving anyone but his father, Gherardus, on that throne. Surely not his younger brother, Talento.
Rugerius didn’t think on these things too often because he didn’t think on things too deeply most of the time.
In 1196, in exchange for interest in silver mines, Gherardus arranges for a young woman from Greece to come to Italy and wed Rugerius. When Anthea Manikos arrives in Parthenope in the summer of 1197, Rugerius is preoccupied with other consorts, one being his young cousin Viridian, with whom he’s been having an affair. Rugerius ruins his father’s arrangement when he assaults Anthea and her father.
Rugerius is rather uncaring when the Spaniard, Pero de Alava, decides to take Anthea off his hands, and she leaves the city for Capua.
The next spring, however, there is an altercation at a banquet and Pero breaks Rugerius’ jaw. Rugerius can think of little else but revenge.
The Fabbro family, the Court, and the Church, plot to remove the troublesome Spaniard holed up in Capua. Pero is a supporter of the Hohenstaufen prince who wants to be the next Emperor. Rugerius wants to kill Pero himself but it is decided Pero will be sent on a foolish quest on Eagles Pass to be slain by possessed bears and wolves instead.
With its defenses down, Rugerius will ride his mercenaries, Mors Cohortem, into Capua, where they will rape and pillage.
Bigger stakes are at play. The Empire itself. Because of Pero’s presence, Capua is considered a hive of traitors. The Court and Church decide a message must be sent and Rugerius is just the guy to send that message.
Rugerius, however, is not satisfied with their decision and makes other plans. He secretly negotiates a deal with the giant magician Sinibaldus who is an adviser to the Court and wields a Bellerophon Crystal. It is said Sinibaldus can reach inside the minds of his prisoners with his Crystal and manipulate their memories and behaviors.
Rugerius hates magic, especially since his mother, Lady Bee, is the maddest person in Parthenope and always talking to the disembodied. She doesn’t even call him by his name, referring to Rugerius as Darkling.
But Rugerius still wants some higher form of revenge on Pero. He starts to believe that if he takes Anthea, the bride Pero took from him, and coerces her into loving him, lusting after him, serving him as Viridian does, Pero will be further hurt on a supernatural plane, if they exist.
Sinibaldus assures the Castellan that this is doable.
When Capua is seized, Anthea is not killed like the others. She is taken prisoner and Rugerius secrets her off to a grotto beneath Capri where Sinibaldus will perform his magic.
But things don’t go as planned. Sinibaldus, despite his promises, fails. He says Anthea is too strong right now, that there is another spirit protecting her.
When Rugerius pushes him for clarity, Sinibaldus admits what no one else knows and what he’d been remised to admit. Pero escaped. The possessed wolves and bears let Pero reach a sanctuary prison on Eagles Pass.
Few know about the sanctuary prison. It’s a remote place on Eagles Pass where Rugerius’ father exiled his brother, Turstin, and his family.
Sinibaldus lies to Rugerius and says that it is Pero’s spirit protecting Anthea. If they could prove to Anthea that Pero is dead, she would lose her strength to resist.
Frustrated, angry to learn that Pero de Alava still lives, Rugerius sets out on a quest of his own. He rounds up his mercenary band and rides for Eagles Pass. For the first time in nearly a decade, he will pay a visit to his aunt and uncle who live there. And Rugerius Fabbro will finally get to do what he wanted to do in the first place – kill Pero de Alava and take his head.
Allen M Werner is the author of the epic fantasy series The Crystal Crux