Lorenzo of Venice has received a strange glowing rock from his dead father's coffin. Is it a jewel left for him by his inheritance, a chance for him to redeem his corrupt father's soul, or another, much more sinister thing?
Chapter 1: The Inheritence
I was never terribly close to my father during any day of my life, except for the day his ended and mine began. He had been sick and quite old, and a terrible businessman. Not inexperienced, certainly that was not the matter at all, but rather merciless in his illegal dealings under the noses of the local nobles. At his loss, I realized exactly how much he meant to me, but not right away. This took time, and for that to happen I needed to, quite literally peer into his very soul.
I remember it plainly the day my father’s will was read to us. The local barrister came to help us with the legal proceedings and read it aloud. Many of my family were given shares of his estate, my brothers and sisters and mother all receiving generous shares of the property. Last mentioned was me, the eldest of my four brothers. Being the eldest, for course, I expected a significant charge. I was given one for sure, but at first I had no true idea of what it entailed, and I dreaded it even before it was read out to me.
“‘And finally to the eldest of my sons, Lorenzo, I give him my very soul. I give him authority over my company and business. Guard my soul well, for it is what makes a man a man.’” said the barrister. He then proceeded to say the closing remarks. At that moment, I felt an immediate weight on my chest; I would have to deal with the dangerous ownership of my father’s illegal entrepreneurship.
I swallowed and faced my family sadly. Everyone else seemed to have the same heavy weight on their chests. My mother came up to me and said, “Then, I suppose this means that you, Lorenzo DiLombardo, are the new head of this household. Are you prepared for this responsibility of taking up your charge?”
I sighed. My father was now dead. Nothing could change that now. But perhaps by taking up his business I would keep him alive in some way. His soul may have been in his business, or perhaps the two were at least intimately connected. It would be my job as well to keep my father remembered. It would be an extremely stressful and risky job, but I wanted to atone for not being close to my father in life. “I will take this responsibility with humility,” I said.
After the barrister left, having gotten us to sign any legal forms, I began to realize that deep down, after the thought of running his enterprise began settling in my head, I had a strong dislike for my father, nearly hate, for him staying in the business for so long. He put us all in danger on more than one occasion from difficulties that had arisen, and I found his ways frequently morally incorrect.
The following day, we went to his funeral and met with our extended family and some friends who were close to my father. As I watched him in the casket, his face seemed—perturbed; he was frowning, his mouth twisted.
It was here, where I first laid my eyes on something that would forever change my life. I saw what I assumed was a rock sitting near my father’s head. I went around and asked about why there was a rock in the casket. My mother had never arranged for a rock to be placed in it. She told me to remove it, and of course I did. But why would a rock have been placed in there? This question took many things off my mind as I tried to decide what the rock was for. As I waited in silent contemplation, I felt the presence of my sister next to me.
She had tears in her eyes. “Do you remember, Lorenzo, the day Father helped that orphanage when it ran out of money. He housed those children for months, just because he was a good man.”
At that moment I felt terribly guilty for not even knowing, and the news that my father could have been so good surprised me so I dropped my rock. He mustn’t have housed the children in his own house if I didn’t know about it, but in a place he paid rent for elsewhere in the city. I had no recollection of anything so heartfelt that he had ever done.
When I picked up the rock, I noticed something sparkle amidst the black dirtiness of it. A single star-like breach in the grayness sparkled on the face of the rocks.
Months passed. I learned how to handle my father’s business, but it was not like it was before. We were loosing money in our trade to the Turks in Outremer. I lost several boats to the Byzantine warships. Many of my friends argued I should launch a sort of offensive against them, but I would never do that. As of now, I was not sure on Venice’s standing with our Byzantine neighbors, but I didn’t want conflict against them. It was bad enough we were trading the Pope’s own enemies. My father was ruthless in such situations, but this would go against my principles.
Back at home, I sold a few things to bring in some more money. I also decided to go see someone who could tell me what the rock was. I found a man skilled in gems and diamonds, because I strongly expected my rock to be perhaps an uncut gem inside.
“This rock is merely a rock,” the man said, slamming it down on the counter. He stared me in the eye. “I am very sorry, sir, but it is worthless.”
“It can’t be worthless, my good sir!” I said, imploring him to search more carefully. “What of this shiny bit over here?” I showed him what I meant.
“You’ll see things like that on many rocks. I can’t see anything extraordinary about this rock that would set it apart from a pebble on the side of the road.”
I looked at the rock in a strange way. I knew in my heart that it was special for some reason; something seemed to draw me to it. Yet, it seemed like a completely normal, banal, mundane rock. Thanking the man for his time, I walked away, fingering the rock. As I walked over a bridge, I considered for a moment throwing it into the river, but—no. I couldn’t.
As I attempted new business strategies, my wealth started to grow slightly. I began to doubt, however, if it was all worth my time. My mother had not changed her clothes from black yet, and I was still saddened at the loss of my father, but yet why would I ever mourn a wicked man like my father? In every respect, I now realized, he was evil, except in the way I perceived him personally.
Oh, but how much thinking this was a sin! I kept on hearing good things about my father, and I felt that these deeds were in no way hypocritical. They were genuine acts of mercy done by a man a nearly hated as my own father. And now, having my job, I was evil for ever thinking my father was evil. I began thinking seriously of turning around, replacing the flags of my ships with ones friendly to the other Italian city-states and trading perhaps somewhere in Sicily.
It took a month to think seriously on it, and as I listened and did business in my study, I rarely parted ways with the rock I had discovered. During my free time, I shaved away at the stone trying to cut at it. I discovered more and more shiny parts to my stone, and, eventually, became convinced that it was, without a shadow of a doubt, a gem of some clear, glowing colour. And it did glow; it bathed my knife as I scrapped at it with pure white light.