I give the readers of The Crystal Crux-Betrayal a pretty good look at Pero de Alava’s best friend and estate steward at Capua, Francis Whitehall.
Francis is the quintessential, God-fearing, Christian knight of legend. He swings his blade like he quotes verse, gracefully, artfully and deadly. In a fallen world populated by sinners and recalcitrance, he exemplifies true devotion to integrity and faith. And he has honed these virtues to an unexpected point of alienation and self-destruction.
“There was a time when the Whitehall family name stood for something, something honored and celebrated. It was respected and had great prestige.”
– Excerpt from The Crystal Crux-Betrayal
The Whitehall family crest is a snarling, orange crouchant griffin. Francis wears it proudly now, but it was he that restored the prestige. Francis father, William, had been a knight as well, serving notably for King Baldwin III in Jerusalem. He returned home from the wars, wed Constance, and settled down to have a domestic life of farming.
When Francis turned seven, William was struck down by a cruel fever that stole his wits. The poor man went mad, mumbling incessantly about wickedness all around them, the horrors of what he had done in the war coming back to punish him. William donned his armor one last time and murdered a dozen people in Warwick. He was subdued and taken. Constance lost everything. It was all forfeited to the crown and William was hung.
Impoverished, Constance and Francis would have been left to the streets if it had not been for the kindly considerations of Lord Geoffrey Clayton Wolfe, a devout Templar and long time friend of the family. He took them in and raised Francis. The young Griffin was instilled with a devotion for the Wolfe unlike anything he could ever explain to anyone.
When the Wolfe fell on hard times, lost more of his fortune, his castle at Warwick crumbling, around him, his knightly forces recanted and left him for more prosperous lords. Only Francis, who had recently wed Midonia, stayed loyal.
Midonia was an ogress but Francis had a misguided belief that the cruelest women hid the greatest cache of virtue and love deep in her heart. After siring Anne, Francis learned that there was no cache beneath it all and life with Midonia would forever be a test of wills.
While the descending Wolfe struggled, Francis led his family on the road, living for months on end in an enormous canvas pavilion, entering every tournament and melee on the continent.
“For Francis Whitehall, these tournaments were not games. Every waking moment had become a question of life and death.”
– Excerpt from The Crystal Crux – Betrayal
During the Grand Melee in Germany on Whitsuntide, when Emperor Barbarossa brought his sons into knighthood, Francis rode to the rescue of a Spanish caballero he had just met. Pero de Alava was battling assassins and more than grateful to the Griffin. He went to England and negotiated with the Wolfe for Francis’ service.
Spending all their time together thereafter, they became fast friends and when Pero received his Imperial commission at Capua, Francis and his family followed.
Francis Whitehall is one of the more stirring characters in the series and I believe many will who read it will feel emotionally attached to him, rooting for him at every turn.
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If you want to read about more characters in The Crystal Crux-Betrayal, check out some of the other postings on this site and my authors page – AM WERNER