Gherardus remembered a time after the Healing when he sat with Bee, a table and candlestick holder with beads of glass between them. The globes tinkled when they touched, each a prism of colorful lights. Wide-eyed and mad, she pointed to the orbs and whispered, “They are worth killing for. All shiny things are.
Cold Knight – Chapter 11

Bertina Fabbro married to Gherardus Fabbro in 1157. She was an intelligent, charming, beautiful woman, who loved to dance and was well-respected by everyone who knew her. Gherardus doted over her as they were beloved by the people, minstrels singing songs to honor and praise them, hardly an objecting word brought against them.

But that all changed in July 1169 when Lady Bee gave birth to the couple’s second son, Talento. She suffered a debilitating stroke that left her near dead, bedridden for nearly ten months. No one thought she’d survive. She wasted away as those meant to care for her began to assign the duties to children, young girls barely able to care for themselves.

Not all but some of the children were cruel. They abused and mocked her, hurt and injured her more as she remained incapacitated.

And then a much unexpected Healing occurred, a resurrection of sorts.

It was a day in May, seven months ago, when the guards bid him come. They were urgent and terrified, pale and adamant, acting as if they had seen a ghost. They could barely speak… when he swept through the door… on the other side he found Lady Bee standing in the center of the room wearing a soiled, dingy smock. No one had seen her stand or lift a finger since the stroke. And she was wretched and bent, a repellent, disgusting creature. White hair danced from atop her head as though she had been struck by lightning. She panted, eyes wild and crazed, a beast suddenly set free. And the whole room was a disaster. The servants reported she had been cussing and throwing things, breaking things, chairs and incense pots, vases and statuettes. Anything not bolted down. She stood there now with a gold cup in her hand, undecided on where to let it fly. Suddenly she turned and screamed, hurling the cup at the vanity. The mirror shattered.
Cold Knight – Chapter 10

What they did not know then was that a flock of shades had taken a shine to her madness and brought about her Healing, caring for her, loving her, giving purpose to her suffering. They were as real and tangible to her as anything in the real world.

Bertina got her revenge on the cruel girls who made her suffer. Her father-in-law, Tancred Fabbro, the Lord Commander of Parthenope, intimidated by Bee’s wildness and uncanny ability to know secrets about the Court and its members, bent to her request to have them executed.

The Foolish Six, as they were come to be known, were tortured and beheaded.

After that, Tancred was not the same man, believing a curse had fallen over his kingdom.

Bertina had no instincts for motherhood anymore, shunning her children Rugerius and Talento. She hated the people who didn’t visit her in her illness, behaving uncivilly towards them. Feral and mad, she gathered to herself gems and precious stones, jewelry and flowers, breaking shiny reflective objects, harvesting intel from her shades, and embarrassing Court members with the private information, revealing their embarrassing secrets for all to judge and laugh at. People avoided her like the plague.

But Bee was most focused on unfaithful husband, on how to make Gherardus’ life a living hell.

When Gherardus was young and a warrior, he was twice badly injured and she sat at his bedside caring for him, praying for him, helping deliver him from his misery, giving him hope.

But when she needed him, while she lay in bed and scared, he avoided her. And worst of all, he took up with a mistress, a young widow of the Court, Michela Pinto.

Now the poor devil couldn’t stand to look at his bride. He avoided her. Michela knew better the truth of this than any other woman at Court. She was having an affair with the robust, handsome, black-haired Castellan for nearly a year now. It started a few months after the stroke. Michela didn’t go in looking for an affair but no one expected the good woman to recover either, and there was gossip that Gherardus Fabbro was planning for the worst and preparing him mind to wed again.
Why not me?” Michela thought proudly. “Why not me?”
Cold Knight – Prologue

Bee was recruited by the Lord Commander’s wife, Meliore Fabbro, who was the only one who continued to visit Bertina in her illness, to help with a secret plot. Meliore wanted to return early from a holiday in Melfi without anyone knowing. She wanted to surprise her husband. Bee was just mad enough to avoided and disregarded by others to assist.

Meliore needed a woman of the Court to leave the city a day earlier in a Royal carriage so she could enter disguised as that woman. It didn’t matter what woman. Meliore even left behind a note and gold for whoever was chosen.

Bee chose Gherardus’ mistress. She sent Michela Pinto away with a smile and her blessings. But as her carriage thundered southward …

Michela felt the coach bump and suddenly buck as if something large landed on it. She heard the driver issuing desperate commands, screaming as if his life depended on it…
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 fingers clutched onto the wood door as if the coach were not even moving, his body hovering and gliding, yet motionless… It leered at Michela without revealing any eyes. She felt it seeping into her soul. As the thing crawled in, Michela slapped at it… but her hand went straight through the formless head… and still it advanced. Michela screamed as if her life depended on it. The thing sprung upon her.
Cold Knight – Prologue

Michela never returned and was forgotten about by most because that night there was an assassination. Tancred and Meliore Fabbro were killed, as was also, believed by many, Avenel Fabbro.

After Gherardus assumed command of Parthenope, visiting an old friend in Rome who got the city’s Church leader removed, Bee called her unscrupulous husband to her boudoir to perform due benevolence. Drunk, intimidated by her and her secret knowledge, he agreed to meet with her on Christman eve.

The Lord Commander of Parthenope no sooner breached the threshold in his short white toga and shut the door behind him when the disposition of the apartment froze him in his tracks.
‘Is this Bee’s room?’
It was not an icy hell as he supposed. It wasn’t nasty or foul-smelling like a pig sty… It had undergone a transformation… hundreds of silken streamers swayed thin and sinewy from the ceiling… dozens of small burning candles glowed brightly… their flames performing a danza esotica, casting eerie shadows in the corners, creating the illusion of shades, formless figures poking their noses out of those haunts, watching, silent as the dead – waiting.
Cold Knight – Chapter 11

Emboldened by the shades, Bee used the streamers to trap her husband in a web.

She noted the gold ring on his finger, the one he had received from his friend in Rome, a symbol of their alliance. She took it and cursed it, telling him about Michela and her fate. She told him how much she had loved him and how it hurt when he forsook her. But now she was over it and had new friends to help her, comfort her.

She gently placed the gold ring with Meliore’s name etched inside back on Gherardus’ right index finger. She kissed the very tip of the finger. “You can take it off anytime you want, but know that it shall forever serve as a clarion. I’d advise thee not to lust after another. The penalty for such might be more than you can bear, a burning sensation starting in your groin rather than the finger. But you will learn this truth soon enough. You are weak-willed in these matters and proud. I don’t expect you to take my word for it.”
Cold Knight – Chapter 11

We learned more about this cursed burning sensation when their son, Rugerius, ruined a marriage he had arranged for him with Anthea Manikos. In Suadela, frolicking in bear skins, Viridian, Bee’s niece, tempted him. Gherardus had to flee from her presence.

Allen M Werner in the author of the epic fantasy tale The Crystal Crux

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