“Please tell me you are not referring to the all-powerful magic gem of father’s bedtime stories?” Linvin asked in disbelief.
Anvar was indignant. “You said you would listen. Do you want to hear this or not?” Linvin held out the palm of his hand in a apologetic gesture and inclined his head as he waited for the story to continue.
Anvar stared angrily at his nephew for a moment before drawing on his pipe and picking up his story. “The staff told Dirk that there were other parts to the puzzle. More importantly, it told him that the Red Sapphire had chosen whom it wanted to use its power next. It chose Dirk’s son, Linvin Grithinshield.
“To have the gem would give you unimaginable power. That power was to be used to fight the spread of the evil that infests our world. The problem Dirk saw was that you were still a boy. Any education he could give you would only help you run a business, not safeguard the world.
“You needed to be prepared, trained and hardened. The best place to train you was in Valia with Sedemihcra. He alone possessed the volume of wisdom needed to one day handle the power destined for you.
“Jelena could not have been more opposed to the plan. She had her own aspirations for you, as you know. Sending you away, to the other side of the continent, seemed ludicrous to her. In spite of her acute displeasure, your father did what he thought had to be done and sent you away.
“While you were gone, he continued the search for the other parts of the puzzle. Dirk thought that he could find the Red Sapphire and then send for you to return home. After several years, he traded for this key.” Anvar took a gold chain from around his neck. Dangling at its bottom was a brilliant golden skeleton key. He handed it to Linvin and continued to speak.
“There was one final piece he said he needed before calling for your return. During his inquiries about it, Dirk came to suspect that he was not the only party looking for the pieces he had and sought. The other mysterious bidder was believed to be very powerful and possessed limitless resources. It became a great concern to your father, but even that concern was not enough to ebb his obsession with his goal. After many years, he told me that he had found what he sought in Ravensburg. It was his intention to travel there and return within six months.
“I cautioned him about setting out alone to make the trip. Your father, however, would not hear of letting anyone in on his plans. His instructions to me were to guard the key and staff while he was gone and look after your mother. Should he not return, I would be her only protection. He left on his journey and was never heard from again.
“When your mother and I determined that he was not coming back, we began to suspect foul play. There was a break-in at the store in which nothing was taken, but the office was obviously searched. Besides that, my movements and those of your mother were watched by dark figures in the shadows. Dirk’s trip looked to have been a trap. Someone wanted the staff and key.
“Jelena thought I was wrong about my conclusions and decided to bring you home to run the business. I let her know I had great concerns about doing that. If Dirk had indeed been killed for the staff and key, the murderer would next target his family. By bringing you back into the fold, I felt that the wrongdoer would be spurred to action. The close confines of all the possible targets meant the time would be ripe to strike and find what they sought. Jelena, as it turned out, was just as stubborn as Dirk. She forbade me from speaking of the topic with you. In her mind, the whole foolish quest had died with your father, and if the danger was gone, there was no reason for her son to stay away any longer.
“As you now are aware, the threat was not gone. Jelena was targeted by someone very professional and slowly given poison in some form. We only discovered that the illness was inflicted intentionally at the very end.
“Realizing her errors in judgment, she sent for me. We decided that the killer could not be allowed to gain the staff and key your mother still concealed. You and I would be their next targets. The only choice was for me to bring you these items and both of us set out in search of the Red Sapphire.