The Forty-First Leaf

The means by which I came upon this book are extraordinary to me. More than a year has passed since I lost my most excellent and faithful servant, Sorren. In truth, I had given up hope of ever learning his whereabouts, for he disappeared without a word, without a trace. I tried to understand what could have been going through his mind, and I wondered if it could have been something I said to him that caused him to leave. But in the end, I could think of nothing, so I continued on without him. A King should never be concerned about the servants that care for his needs, it is unseemly. But I am not this way, and I feel compassion for those around me and those within my care, for the responsibility of a King is primarily the protection and patronage of his people.

Two days have passed now since I was visited by one of the Black Monks from the Benedictine Order. We spoke briefly about the state of the Church and about the rising discontent within the Continent, and his words were both enlightening as well as frightening. Then he told me the reason for his visit. He had been carrying with him a book, a book of thoughts and poetry. He told me that it was written by my servant, Sorren. He further told me that he was commissioned by his Order, to seek out the root cause of the burgeoning firestorm that was beginning to ignite. He speculated that occult magic was being used, and that is what brought him to this island. When it was learned that my servant knew how to read, and even how to write, he became the subject of investigation. This happened sometime after Sorren had left the island, so he was never questioned directly.

The Black Monk, whose name is Melanthros, then said that initially he was determined to find Sorren guilty, for his pantheism was so abhorrent to him, but that after reading the book carefully, he could no longer support his supposition, because the words of Sorren were profoundly beautiful. Then he took out of the folds of his habit, the book of which he spoke. He held the book delicately, and seemed to caress it. At last, he handed it to me and said.

“I cannot condemn this man for these words. May the Lord forgive this simple servant, and may the Lord forgive me for being moved to compassion by his simple words.”

I have read the book of Sorren, and I too am moved to pity. I now understand why he is gone, and his honor is restored. Today I dispatched two of my best men to the Continent to look for Sorren. I instructed them to ask him to come home. And someday, if my prodigal son should ever return to my door, I shall snap the neck of a chicken in his honor, and we shall feast. This book I shall continue to fill with my own thoughts, and someday if Sorren should ever return, I will give it back to him.

— Sigmus

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Seeing the written word, on the page, has given me a greater appreciation for why my brother was so taken with this task.  I will readily admit to being more than a little skeptical of the authenticity of this document.  Was it a legitimate treasure, or more likely a fanciful work of fiction?  But as I now possess this book and can see with my own eyes the wondrous age of the pages, the numerous attempts at repair and perhaps most importantly the different handwriting of those who wrote within its binding, I am now not so sure of my initial misgivings.  How likely would it be for several different authors to conspire to develop this narrative, within the same physical book?  These pages are so incredibly fragile and there is a unique aroma which compels me to think once again of the highlands, the lochs and the desolate, beautiful landscape.  These handwritings are voices from a very different past.  It would be much easier for me to list the few things that we today share in common with that time than to list the uncountable number of things which utterly separate us, from this book, from these voices, from their story.  The King has sent his men to find this man once again.  It seems as though none of us can escape the simple servant.


- D

The Forty-Second Leaf

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The Crossag Bridge


The little bridge at Rushen Abbey, known as the Crossag Bridge was very important to King Sigmus.  Often he would go there and stand upon it lost in contemplative thought.  And as I am not a thinker of King Sigmus’s rank I was naturally curious as to what thoughts could possibly come from standing alone upon a bridge across the gently meandering Silverburn River.  One day I asked him.  His answer was more than I was expecting, and I would think about his words often when I was alone. 

He said that the bridge was but a symbol, a metaphor for something else that was difficult to describe.  The bridge, he said, was a place of connection, an intersection between two opposing methods of seeing the world, and that the bridge was where the veil of separation was the weakest.  The spirit that was alive through the worship of the old pagan gods was still present on the island, he said.  And though the power of Christ had usurped the old pagan gods, they could not be destroyed completely but would continue to exist in symbols and carvings and most especially in stories.  He said that he could feel this presence most acutely after crossing over the bridge from Rushen Abbey.  And that conversely, that he felt the presence of Christ on the very top of the bridge at the point of intersection.  He said that the spirit of Christ pushed back the vestiges of the old gods and that it was a place of power for him in which to pray.  At once, the bridge is both, the safest place to stand, but it is also the most dangerous place to be for one ill prepared.  His words often confused me and I told him so. 

Yes, we must cross the bridge many times in life, he admitted.  But we must always return to the side of Christ though we be chased by demons and imaginary monsters.  We dare not hide from them by refusing to cross the bridge, he said then.  The monsters exist where the veil is thin, and the Lord would have us fight them, for to fight them is to fight ourselves.  Do not fear the power of such things Sorren, but know that the will of the Lord be stronger.

I remember that day like it was yesterday though it happened many years now past. One day I discovered this fragment, but I pretended not to see it, for I wanted Sorren to have his privacy. Sorren has crossed the bridge and is now on his own, and may the Lord be with him. But I know that there are many bridges we must pass in our short time on earth, and they all take us away from our home, so we must be vigilant, and we must be strong.


As I began to work my way through this leaf, I was immediately struck by the fact that the text begins as a narration, not as the words of Sigmus. As I mentally wondered about the inclusion of yet another character, it was revealed in the end that the narration was in fact from none other than Sorren. Even when he leaves, he is not yet gone.

My second surprise was the degree to which the King seeks to instruct Sorren in the ways of Christ. It is only my second leaf, but already I find myself at odds with my predecessor, and perhaps with most readers. I confess that I am less symapthetic to the act of proselytizing. I am not unfamiliar with the King's beliefs and I do understand the gravity of the subject but I find, at least in my own world, an unseemly characteristic that attaches itself to those who believe too strongly. This is most readily apparent in our current political climate but I think this particular form of energy is much more pervasive than just the arguments over the last election. I can find no fault in the King's words, and I have no intention of seeking to do so. Whereas Sorren's leaves weaved a dreamlike atmosphere of shadows and ghosts, the King's words also cast a spell, an intoxication that is pleasant, made so by his certainty and his sincerity. And as Sigmus finally reveals the leaf to be the writing of another, he remembers the day when he observed a grace we struggle to find in these days: the grace of privacy. I will not retract my former comments, but maybe the King is more to my persuasion than initially observed.

- D

The Forty-Third Leaf


When I lost my young wife so suddenly I thought that the grief was almost unbearable.  I didn't know if I could endure it.    But it was not grief that I felt at that terrible time, it was pain, for the grief would come later.  The pain that I felt then was but a fragment of what was to come, and I would gladly endure such profound pain if only it would lessen the grief that I now feel daily. 

I consider myself an expert on the ravages of grief though I try to hide its effect, so here in this book I hope to describe it, and in some small way begin the process of burying it inside my soul.  Only then will I find peace. 

When an animal is caught in a trap, that animal will chew off its own leg to save itself, I have seen it.  That wounded animal knows nothing except escape, and it would escape the trap if only to plunge headlong over the precipice.  This is what pain is like.  Grief is not like this, and while pain can be disguised, or in some way covered up, grief can only begin after pain has subsided, and in this way grief feeds upon the aching dullness that feeds our soul, and like being buried in a shallow grave, grief is always present and cannot be forgotten. 

When Kathryn died, I feared that I would also die, for such was my pain.  But as time passed and the pain subsided, I realized that I was already dead, and that my spirit only went forward in this hollow body . . .such is grief. 

And where pain is a scream, grief is more like a whisper, forlorn, weary, intimate, endless, and as time passes, the grief only becomes duller, more penetrating.  Pain is soon forgotten, but grief is part of the soul, and all of our thoughts must change as our grief, like the tepid food that we eat, seasons our very essence, our very substance.  Eventually, God willing, we are able to love again, but our grief goes with us, for it is now part of who we are.


I must be honest with you, my readers, that I have no idea what my role is here. Am I to read this heartbreaking personal confession and somehow find a point of interest in this man's pain? Can that possibly be the reason for my receiving this ancient artifact? Though I am not the poet as my brother is, even I can discern the falseness in that conjecture. There must be another reason. We will, all of us, lose the ones we love. This is not a new phenomenon and it is not an affliction. It is as it was intended to be. In my short time of reading the King's words, he leads me to believe him of high intellect and likely capable of surpassing any of my own insights. As such, he too must be aware of these truths. And yet, it has not protected him. He has stated that he will use this journal to further explore and describe his grief. Though I am hesitant to admit a connection so early in this process, I begin to wonder if perhaps I am meant to learn something. A witness to a tragedy is more than a witness. I wonder if perhaps Iona felt this also.

- D

Forty-Fourth Leaf


A King has many responsibilities of which many go completely unnoticed.  Everyone wants your attention, for the ear of the King is special and not to be taken for granted.  I listen to my deemsters, my advisors, and the myriad Manxmen that look to me for help.  But I admit that there are moments when my time is free, and that no further obligations are required of me.  These are times when I like to walk along the quay by myself and think.  On these walks however, I am not thinking about my kingdom, and I am not thinking about my subjects.  Instead, I allow my mind to empty, to drain of all relevant matters.  This is how I relax.  These meditations though, have an extraordinary effect upon me, and so it is that strange thoughts are revealed to me without my having conceived them.  They are completely spontaneous and unexpected, and often disturbing.  How can this happen?

Today I had a conversation with both my astrologer and the Bishop, separately.  I asked them both the same question because I could not banish it from my mind.  Why should anything happen at all, and more importantly, what causes change? 

That day I sat on the edge of the seawall, outside the castle, smoking my long stemmed pipe.  I gazed across the water until my vision blurred and my mind began to reel.  The salty sea-spray blew directly in my face, and I could smell the acrid scent of the sea.  The wind was mild, but it was consistent and continuous.   But then my eyes focused upon the waves and I noticed that the pulsation of the waves was different from that of the wind, and that both were fluctuating at different rates.  I was oddly perplexed.  Were they both not motivated by a single force of equal potency?  Did the apparatus that controlled the wind not also control the sea?  The waves were of equal distance, but they broke upon the seawall without consistency.  I reasoned that if the moon could strip the seas of water and smash it headlong into my tiny castle, could not this same moon not fail to blow these waves with equal vigor?

I am not unfamiliar with some of the ancient philosophers, and though I cannot speak the Greek language, I have spoken fluidly with persons that have read these works, and they have described to me the impetus of their thought.  And now, when I watch the breaking of the waves upon my castle, these thoughts come back to me again.  And I wonder anew. 

What determines the movements of  all the myriad objects and phenomenon?  Why doesn't everything happen at once?  Wave after wave comes and goes with a rthyrmn, a sigh, a heartbeat, a smile, old age, and perhaps the rthyrmn of these things, and all other things, is part of the music that was written before all things, and that now, though we can not notice it, all things happen at once with a beautiful simultaneity.   I soon fell asleep on the seawall and only awoke much later with the urgent sound of the surf in my ears.   

And so, when the astrologer stood before me and held aloft the horoscope he had written for me, I asked:  "If the universe is composed of nothing but atoms and void, how can anything ever come into existence, for if it were matter, it would already exist, and if it has come from nothing, it could never exist, for nothing can ever come from nothing?" 

The astrologer swallowed hard and seemed to consult his star charts that he carried with him.  He thought for a moment, and then he wrinkled his nose before saying: 

"We do not see the emptiness, Sire," he said tentatively.  "And so we do not notice things when they come into existence, and we mistakenly think that these things have always existed." 

"And the stars told you this?" I asked because I wanted to judge his honesty. 

"I only read the stars," the astrologer wisely said.  "My art is one of making relationships, but I do not understand how these relationships were formed, only that they exist." 

Later that same day I met with Bishop Jacob. He listened to me carefully, and then he smiled, for he had once again figured out a way to refute my argument. 

"Yes, Sigmus.  It would seem that if you side with the Atomists, then the world would have to be filled with the void, with nothingness.  But the Lord made everything out of nothingness, so it seems that it should pervade our world even though we do not see it.  In truth, Sigmus, the world happens all around us, and there is a connectedness of all things.  All things happen simultaneously, for it is how the Lord has made it." 

"Something cannot come from nothing,” I asserted.  "The Lord cannot be part of nothing." 

"The Lord existed before nothingness," Jacob answered.  "The Lord created nothingness out of nothing." 

I let him have the last word, but I do not believe it.  Because try as I may, I cannot see how something can ever come out, or ever be conceived, out of nothingness.


Where to begin?  This is how a sovereign King spends his idle time, philosophizing of atoms and nothingness?  And even if I grant this, what I deem to be an incredibly odd diversion, why does he then commit these musings to this personal diary, a diary begun by his servant?  When I read something like this, my initial impression is to revert back to my skepticism of this document.  Could this really be a historical document or is this simply a work of fiction perpetrated by? … well, I’m not sure who.  It was in just the last leaf, the Forty-Third, where I thought that I had gained a mental foothold.  King Sigmus had spoken of his deep grief for the loss of his young wife, and that he would be detailing that grief as a means to finding an inner peace.  That is a sentiment which seems authentic to me and one which I may have even expected given what Sorren had previously written.  But now, in yet the very next entry there is no talk of grief, but rather, that of fascination, a fascination with the ghosts of the universe.  There is much more to this book and I will not prejudge it before many more pages have been turned, but my skepticism is renewed.  And if this is not an authentic document, who could have written it, and for what reason?  I carry on, but my suspicion is that The Tree of Fragments which my brother is chasing may be more important than he knows.  For while K. believes he is simply unraveling the story of Sorren and Melanthros, it may be that he will uncover yet another author, another singer of songs, a poet yet undiscovered.

 - D

The Forty-Fifth Leaf


Today I was obliged to do something that I did not want to do, and in truth, I dreaded the moment.  I was called to a small villa outside of a small fishing village north of Port St. Mary. A small child had died, and I was sent for to confirm the cause . . .the black death.  Even the sound of the word causes me to shiver, for I have seen the aftermath of this harvest of souls, and it sickens the mind.  I rode my horse along the edge of the cliffs overlooking the sea until I came to a small, white-washed cottage with a thatched roof set in amongst the dense bracken that lined the edge of the path.  It was a cold day, the sky was overcast with dark clouds and a slight drizzle fell, but no wisp of smoke came from the chimney of the cottage. 

I was taken to a small room at the back of the cottage where the poor girl lay.  It was dark but for a few streaks of light from outside.  The parents of the child did not speak.  Instead, they only pointed to the bed where the child lay beneath a white sheet.  I gently asked them to leave me alone with the child, and after they were gone, I slowly pulled down the sheet, exposing the dead child's face.

My reaction was of horror, not because I had never seen a body up close before, but because of the emaciated condition of such a young face.  The pallor had already begun to darken, even as the skin began to tighten around the mouth.  I had to be certain however, so I pulled the sheet down further until her carefully folded hands were visible.  They were so small, so delicate, but I had to remain strong until my mind was convinced.  My eyes focused on her fingers.  They were swollen.  I breathed a sigh of relief, but even then I knew what I must do.  At last, I pulled the sheet all the way down to reveal her feet.  If she had died of the Black Death, I knew that her toes would be black . . .her toes would tell the secret.  I said a quick prayer, and then I looked.  They were clean, as if they had only just been washed, but they were not black.  By the grace of God, this girl had not been a victim of the plague. 

I hesitated for a moment before leaving the room because I did not know what to say to the girl's parents.  Yes, the child could now be given a proper Christian burial, but that would offer only partial comfort, for the girl was still dead.

Finally I left the room and went into the main room to tell the parents that they could bury their child properly.  But when I saw them, something happened within me that I could not control.  The grief that I witnessed on the face of the woman struck me like lightening, and my eyes flooded with tears, anguished tears.  I looked her in the eyes for a moment, but then I had to look away.  I had no words for her, no comfort to give.  I had nothing to offer.

"She died a natural death," I told her through clenched teeth.  "She shall have a Christian burial."  Then I left the cottage and took no more notice of them than they had been ghosts, for I needed to be alone.

I write these words down now into a personal diary of a servant that I may never see again, a servant who served me well.  I now put into writing what I could never put into words, for my shame is great.  I am ashamed, for the tears I shed this day were not for the beautiful girl that lay dead before me.  No, the tears I shed were for myself, and for my beautiful wife, and to my great dishonor, I allowed the parents of that poor girl to suppose that they were for her . . .and may God forgive me, for I have stolen their grief for myself.  I pray that in my own selfish expression of pain that they may have taken at least some comfort, for they did not know what was in my heart, and the truth is but a memory.




Sigmus relates yet another emotional nightmare. One wonders at his capacity to endure so many tests.

I chose the music for this leaf from a piece my brother had written some time ago. This piece is very different for him as he is mainly a guitarist, and this particular fragment contains no guitar. It is an atmospheric study with intermittent shades of hope, indicated by reluctant major chords. He could not have known how fitting this music would be to the leaves which were just beyond his reach. As he passed this book to me, he must have known that the lives he had been studying so soberly would not terminate with his retirement. I wonder, did he know the sorrow that was to come, the pain held so tenderly in these brittle pages? And perhaps his capacity to endure was not as great as that of Sigmus. And what of mine?

- D

The Forty-Sixth Leaf


Now there are many legends about Finn McCool, and I have heard many told.  Some say that he was a giant.  Some say that he was the greatest warrior of Ireland.  Some say that he was a great wizard.  Many of these legends are very hard to believe however, and it is even claimed that he built the Giants Causeway, and is in fact responsible for creating our little island.  Of course this is all nonsense, for imagine how old he would have to be, Iona. 

These words I spoke to her one dreary night during an unpleasant storm.  She asked me to tell her a story to pass the time, for she knew I was fond of telling stories.  Since the death of my lovely wife I had not been in the mood for stories, but the young girl is so sweet to me that I could not resist, and I found myself embellishing my words more than usual, even as a growing lethargy is weakened by the sudden draft from an open window.

Finn McCool was no giant at all, but he was a very powerful wizard, I said.  This I know, for I have spoken to him.  But I have only spoken with him when he was in the form of a salmon, and to escape me from eating him, I made him promise to tell me what he was doing swimming in the  myriad lakes and streams of my island, for I am a King, Iona, and do not suffer demons and wizards to go about to and fro with impunity.

Now I knew all about the legend of Finn McCool, and I knew about his cunning and wily ways, for he is a trickster.  I drew him in slowly.  He was a fighter.  Suddenly he popped his head above water and spoke.

"What are you trying to do?" he asked. 

"Are you a fish?" I responded.

"My name is Finn McCool," he said forcefully.  "By what right have you caught me?"

"I am King Sigmus," I answered, "and I reserve the right to hunt any animal or fish in my kingdom.  You are caught now, and I suggest that you temper your words, or I shall eat you right now, just as you ate the sacred salmon caught by Finegas.  Yes, I know who you are Finn McCool."

"It is my privilege to have been caught by a great King," McCool responded with deference.  "I ask your pardon."

"And I shall grant it," I said.  "But first you must agree to answer my questions."

"Agreed," McCool quickly responded.

"If you are the wisest man in the world, as I have heard, then how is it that I have caught you?"

"When I am a fish, I sometimes forget things, because I do not have a thumb to put in my mouth."

"That is true," I answered with a nod.  "Good answer.  But now answer this: What will happen to my kingdom when I am gone?"

"Undetermined," Finn McCool answered with conviction.

"I was told that all is certain."

"All things move toward certain death, but no man shall know the time."

"Is my life predetermined?"

"Your death is predetermined, all else is flux, and all things are in motion."

"Do you know all things, McCool?"

"Nothing can be known until it happens," answered McCool.  "All wisdom is history, for all wisdom is of what was before.  All else is undetermined.  All else is folly."

"Are there no secrets for you to tell me?"

"I know many secrets," Finn McCool admitted.  "But truly I tell you, King Sigmus, that secrets will not bring you contentment or happiness, but instead frustration and restlessness.  Secrets only bring misery and discontent.  But if you demand that I reveal a secret to you, then I am obliged to do so.  It is your choice to make."

"I would like to know a great secret," I admitted.  "Tell me something great if you are truly Finn McCool."

"Alright," McCool relented.  "I will tell you a great secret.  I will allow you to hear the sound of the world.  The world is speaking all the time, but most of the words are lost inside the sound of the myriad creatures that inhabit the lakes and streams and forests and holes in the ground, for the creatures are part of the sound of the world.  I will allow you a chance to hear this sound so that you will know what the world is thinking, but I warn you, it may be upsetting to you."

"I am a King," I announced, “and I am not afraid.”

"Then you must first take the hook out of my mouth, for I will have to whisper the magic word into you mouth and I cannot do it unless this hook is removed."

I took the hook out of his mouth just as instructed, and waited to see what he would say.  He looked relieved, and finally said:

"Now hold my mouth close to your ear, but you must remain very still or the magic will not work."

I carefully brought his mouth next to my ear and waited to hear the magic word, but suddenly I felt a sharp pain as McCool bit my ear, and with one powerful flip of his tail, launched himself back into the pond from which I had caught him.  In a moment he was sunken beneath the spreading ripples and disappeared.  I brought my hand to my ear, but it was not bleeding, for McCool had been careful not to injure me.  A moment later I saw his head pop up from the water.

"I am sorry to have bitten you, King Sigmus.  But I could not reveal to you this secret, for this secret is not ready for the world of men, and you would have caused much mischief wilth such a secret.  Farewell, my friend, and do not be angry with me for what I have done."

Iona laughed and her laughter brought a tear to my eye, for I was truly happy again after such a long period of mourning.  The storm had stopped, the storm within me was expired, and I asked her if she would make us both a cup of steaming hot tea.




This leaf is a revelation to me.  The changes and surprises are remarkable.  Firstly, the tone dramatically shifts from the somberness and sadness of the prior leaves to one of pure whimsy.  This writing is clearly a story or fable rather than a retelling of actual experience.  But the story is filled with humor and hopefulness.  Upon reading this for the first time I asked myself, how was Sigmus able to make this change, so abruptly?  Was it simply the infatuation he felt for the young servant girl?  But what makes this leaf so remarkable to me is not the story that Sigmus tells to Iona, but rather the fragment of writing which was attached to this leaf, written in another hand, undoubtedly by Sorren.  How did it come to be attached to this leaf?  Was it placed there by Sigmus, and could this have been the impetus for his moving away from the darkness, his journey back to living?  The fragment was the brief poem which I include below.

A house that stands apart

a sharing with the wild

Cold kettle, cold bed

A house without a child

The wound that never heals

a sharing with the same

Cold kettle, cold bed

a loss without a name

But the house is not your home

and your heart is not the wild

The house is strong

Thine beating strong

The child lives

Within the sounding of the world

Is a beating of the wild

And yea,

the house was made strong

the heart yet beats while day is long

The child lives

Melanthros was right - Sorren knew for whom the third tolling of the bell was.  But why would he say differently?  Was he merely telling stories?  To himself?  Why would a man write stories that only he will ever read, or sing songs that only he will ever hear?  And now I know why it was my turn to receive this book.  To answer that question.

- D

The Forty-Seventh Leaf


This castle is cold and always damp from the salty air blown in from the sea and from the fetid air blowing in from the filthy streets polluted with oily fish scales and refuse.  It is a challenge to keep it warm.  Thick tapestries adorn the walls and bring in a brighter atmosphere, but without fire it would be far too miserable to bear.  The smoke from the kitchen is black and acrid, but most of it is directed away from the castle, and though I have become used to it, I prefer to spend my time in my chamber with the fresh air from an open window and the pleasant aroma from my pipe and the warmth of the fire to brighten my mood.  Yes, the myriad odors from inside a castle can be noxious as well as sickening.

I was just thinking about the quantity of firewood that it takes to support my castle, and my mind was suddenly diverted by a strange image in my mind of the amount of work it should take to supply my needs.  Cartloads and cartloads are delivered frequently to this castle, but what of the woodchopper?  Such a difficult life it would seem to me, but no . . .I have a vision of a very powerful, very wise woodchopper.  I can almost see him in my mind, and though he be ugly, rather stupid, blunt and careless with his words, I imagine him to be wise in the way of life, and the way of trees.  Indeed, I suppose that he even talks to trees, for the trees are his only friend.  He must have a name, it must be a name made for a woodchopper, so I will call him Hagen, I shall call him Hagen the Woodchopper.

And yet all day I drill my men to fight battles that will never be fought, deeds that will never be done, when in truth, all I need is a small garrison to guard my castle.  My men are stout and they are brave, but they must be kept busy even though I have nothing for them to do, for the skills of a fighter dim from misuse.  No, there are no battles to be fought on my tranquil, little island.  I do sometimes wonder the wisdom of preparing for events that are certain to happen, while at the same time failing to prepare for events that only might happen, for which is the greater danger?  . . . this woodchopper would have to be very wise it seems to me, for that he should know the trees.  And he does know the trees, of that I am certain.

Sometimes I wish it were for me to face an adversary of comparable power to test the mettle of my soul.  But then a moment later I realize the folly of my wish, for a king should seek nothing but peace for his people.  There is no glory in death, there be no dragons, and there be no demons with which to do battle.  Only in my dreams do these things exist, for in truth the world is built from stories, and when the world begins to grow cold, cynical, and wars flare up like wildfire, it is only stories that can temper the pain, and that it not eclipse our fragile world.

And Hagen would know the language of the trees, for how else could be communicate with them?  The trees give Hagen their most precious wood, and in return, Hagen gives them . . . Blood!


And now it is Sigmus that speaks of stories, as if they too have a power or some mechanism is this world. I know well enough that my brother shares this view although when pressed he cannot fully explain the practicality of it. I am not mistaken, I know the joy, the power, the enormous financial investment that we all place on storytelling. But to ascribe to it an actual effect is an altogether different matter. Then, a further reading of Sigmus' words tempers my critique for it appears to me as though maybe he too is skeptical of an actual effect but instead believes it to be a balm, an intoxicant or a true medicine. Of this, I have great sympathy for while the body is a living organism in need of sustenance and repair, the mind is also a living thing, in need of sustenance and repair. And if this book is to be believed, a reader can see that the immediate pain that was experienced after the death of his wife has begun to subside, the wounds under repair. What comes next must be grief.

- D

The Forty-Eighth Leaf


The Easter season has renewed within me the power of grief, for this is the first Easter since the death of my son who died tragically the moment after he was born into this world, but unlike the savior, he was not resurrected again in this life.  I pray that he be resurrected again, and that he should walk with the Lord through the gardens and beautiful places of heaven.  I visited his grave this day.  He rests beside Kathryn in a simple plot.  I have found it difficult to break my fast during this difficult Lenten season, for a part of me would prefer to suffer even though the feast be in celebration of the risen Christ, and though as King I am not obligated to follow the customs of Lent, I consider it an important obligation that I will continue to respect.

I have spoken with Bishop Jacob about the meaning of the Easter season and the Holy Triduum, for they make up the end of the Passion and the renewal of the spirit.  In truth, Christ was not the only person to claim to be the savior, Jacob assures me.  There were many who claimed to be the savior.  Simon of Peraea was such a man until he was tracked down by a Roman General and beheaded.  The messiah was supposed to save the Jews from persecution from Rome, and when the Lord was crucified, the people wondered if he could possibly be the messiah because the messiah was not supposed to die.  Jacob has helped me to understand that the work of the Lord was beyond the understanding of the people, for in fact, with the resurrection, the Lord had defeated death itself.  This is the meaning of Easter, and that we should live again with the Lord, and all the Beltane fires ablaze on the dark hills of my kingdom can never resurrect the spirit of my son who rests in a cold grave, but only by the resurrection of the Lord.

These were powerful words for me to hear, for I am not the most saintly of men and I have fallen short many more times then I care to admit.  I know that I have committed many sins, some of which I no longer remember, but Jacob assures me that Easter represents the resurrection of the spirit in all men and women.  For that I am grateful, but I had no idea how powerfully this revelation would strike me.  I was so moved by the words of Bishop Jacob when he spoke of the redemption of the human spirit that I, later that day, did two things, and I pray that I do not live to regret it.

The first thing I did was done with very little thought, but was instead a compulsion, a reaction that I felt compelled to do by the grace of God.  I did this in full awareness as if moved by an inner spirit newly awoken. I released a terrible and vicious prisoner from the Bishop's Prison.

His name was Nevyn, and I incarcerated him in the dreaded Bishop's Prison for murdering his best friend over an uncontrollable fit of passion for a woman.  He followed his friend home one night through the empty lanes of Peel, and with a large knife, he stabbed the poor man to death in a dark alley on Queen's Street in the suffocating silence of the night.  When he was caught, he had not even taken the time to wash the blood from his knife.

I remember walking up those dark, cold stairs that wound up through the Bishop's Prison like the diseased organs of an evil beast.  My heart was alive with the sweet reverberations of the words of Jacob.  Christ had gone into hell to release to souls of the dammed, and as by the grace of the Lord, I intended to do the same thing.  I unlocked the iron door and stood there in the pale light of my torch.  He remained in the shadow and made not a sound.

"Stand up, Nevyn!" I shouted, "for I am your King."

Slowly I saw him rise to his feet because he was weak and found it hard to move. He looked up into my face until he recognized me. His face was drawn and hollow, for he had suffered greatly.

"Do you know what day this is?" I asked, but he did not respond.  "I know you by your name, Nevyn, and I know what your name means, as does the Lord."  And then I said in a soft voice as my throat began to tighten, "By the grace of Christ, I release you.  Go away in peace, Nevyn.  The Keeper will feed you, and then the boatman waits to take you back across the water."

The second thing I did I only now have just come back from, and I tremble as I write these words.  Within the sacred grounds of Rushen Abbey is a small cemetery where I have buried my precious wife, Kathryn.  In an isolated corner of the cemetery, densely wooded and lined with a row of Hazel trees, and sacred Ash trees to ward off evil from the penetration of the Otherworld, I have laid her to rest beneath the strength of an old Oak tree. Next to her is an unmarked grave where my precious son is buried without a proper Christian name, for it was too painful for my wife to endure in the short time she lived after giving birth, and I am grateful that she never knew that her son had died.  I have never had a name engraved upon this stone, for the memory is unbearable to me, but I come here often to pray for his soul and to beg the Lord for forgiveness for not giving him a name to take with him to heaven.  On the right side of the headstone was a pot of wilted flowers which I had neglected, for flowers do not thrive well in captivity. I fell to my knees and kissed the headstone.

Then I stood up and disappeared into the woods behind the cemetery that surround the Abbey. I had been careful to lead Sorren to this spot by a very circuitous route, entering the woods from farther up along the Silverburn, and I believe that he truly became lost before we came to the secluded spot I had chosen. I knew right where it was, at the foot of a large Hazel tree. I looked for the spot, and then I drew, from the satchel I carried with me, a shovel, and I slammed it into the earth where the hole had been dug.  In a few moments I had torn open the earth that I had so carefully guarded.  And then I knelt down near the hole and dug with my hands until I had recovered the book I had buried so long ago with Sorren at my side.  I held the book in my hands and felt the warm tears on my face, for I had been brought back to life again, resurrected by having once again in my hands, the most important thing that I had left in my life.



The loss that Sigmus experienced must be a pain without comparison. His writing up until this point had been mostly about his departed wife. But, here we can see in detail that his tears are also for his nameless son. The leaf is not clear on this point, but it appears as though he seeks out the Bishop in response to this sorrow. And in further response to the Bishop's catechism on the Easter season, Sigmus impulsively releases a prisoner accused of a heinous act. Should we view this as an act of state mercy or as a selfish grab for absolution? I suspect we shall never know the answer to that and that this portion of the tale, Nevyn's future, may be lost to time.

And finally, the book which Sorren bore witness to is recovered. I confess that my first impulse was to question the King's change of heart. I found the Twenty-Ninth Leaf to be quite compelling and his act an honest reaction. But why then does Sigmus now desire this book for himself, rather than as a sacrifice to his beloved? Has his sacrifice now ended? Perhaps he has accepted his own weakness and cannot deny his heart's desire. And what could be in such a book?

Two gifts, two acts of fidelity, two acts of consequence. What are we to make of this? Grief does indeed follow. But sometimes grief is a poet. And I would be less than honest with my readers if I did not also say that sometimes, poetry gets it wrong.

- D

The Forty-Ninth Leaf


Beltane fires burn throughout my kingdom this night.  The far hills are ablaze with flames and the scented fumes of sacred wood.  Sorren, if you were here this night I know you would be out leaping over fires and joining in on the revelry of this feast.  Your pagan roots were never scorned by me though you thought that I did not approve of your ritual magic.  The Easter season has only just passed, and now we come to the pagan holiday of witches and druids and distant and archaic heathen magic of the people before the coming of Christ.  Yes, I know that  the feast of Beltane is older than the Cross, and I am tolerant of these vestiges though I do not practice them, and even a good King should not bludgeon his subjects with the truth.

 I am not ignorant of the symbolism of this holiday.  It is a time of renewal, a time of rebirth, a time of joy for the sunreturn, and a time of love.  Beltane fires are lit to symbolize the power of the sun and the power of the ancient god Bel.  Cattle are passed beside the fire to bring strength and healing, and protection from evil spirits as the people leap into the air and over the fires in ecstatic orgies.  The fires inside of the peoples houses is extinguished, only to be rekindled by burning brands that they take from the Beltane fire, and even as these new fires are rekindled from the sacred fire, the Lord has risen and become rekindled in our heart.  It is a time of birth and celebration of fertility.  These things do not disturb me.  What disturbs me is that these things and this celebration does not celebrate the Lord, and that many of these good people of my kingdom do not even know the Lord.

I rule over a country of ancient gods and ancient ways, and I must respect the traditions of my people, but in truth my heart breaks for them that they may never know the ways of the Lord.  So I will stay inside of my castle this night while my people celebrate and rekindle their past.  I opened a new cask today, and I raise a glass to my people, and that they be happy in the celebration of their traditions, for our traditions help us to live and we are born to pass along our traditions to our children, just as I was taught by my father.


When my brother curated these pages he could not resist the temptation of comparing Sorren's world to that of our own. I too am moved by this same attraction. While the distance between us seems large, that is just one more illusion to my mind. How refreshing to me are the words of this King. While himself a seriously devout follower of his faith, he nevertheless shows a great respect for the beliefs of others. I have no doubt that in our world of today, I should have no problem in finding many similarly devout followers who would chastise this man for his complicity. I find myself frequently returning to this clash of certainty v. respect. And while I struggle with this mightily, I am convinced that the truth will never be revealed. Perhaps my mind can be changed, but if so, only by a vigilant wakefulness. I sense a kindred spirit in Sigmus. He lies awake at night and writes of his struggles. All these centuries later, I too am moved by this same attraction.

- D

The Fiftieth Leaf


Inside this Book of Sorren is the only place I feel safe in what I have to say, for I fear that my speculations, should they be known, would bring apprehension and distrust to those of whom I hold such authority. I have no desire to cause such fear and distrust. A King must be strong, but in truth, from the moment I have come in contact with this book my life has changed, and I cannot say that I like this change.  But in truth, it may also be that this book is the only place that I should never speak, and it may be that this is a cursed book.  I am in doubt, for my nightmares have returned once again.  I have always had an active dream life, and I have even come to suspect that my dreams are preordained, or in some way, glimpses of the future.  When I opened up this Book of Sorren, everything changed.  Sometimes, early on when I first received the book, I felt like I was being watched, even when I was alone.  This feeling often would be so vivid and powerful that I would wake up and have no chance of returning to sleep again.  And then I started to notice that Sorren also spoke about this very same thing, as if the book itself was directly affecting his connection to the present world and that some form of connection existed into another world, another time.  Sorren named this experience.  The Watchers he called them, and he was convinced that it was more than one entity.  My fear is that this strange phenomenon may be intrinsic to this book, and that the book itself is some form of sympathetic magic.  This book may be the source of the nightmares which haunt my nights.  And now I know that I must reexamine the conditions under which Sorren received this book.  He has written about it at the beginning, and I thought he was merely trying to sound clever, but now I suspect something else, something very peculiar was happening from the very beginning of his exposure of this book.  Somehow I feel partially responsible, for it was I that taught Sorren how to read, and I am very proud of him, but I never could have anticipated this strange condition to which he would be subjected, and that he was chosen to have this book for reasons that were not his own.  I fear too that this book may be causing my dreams to become manifest, but if this is true, I fear for my kingdom even more.  I must not let this book out of my sight . . . or I must destroy it.


And the theme returns once again: that this book has a power not described by anything that we can understand. It speaks to the owner through dreams and intimation. While this is a very literary and interesting idea, I am pressed to ask why this power has not affected me. How is it that I am removed from this influence? And so now I feel like an agnostic in a roomful of believers and I begin to entertain the idea that I will likely never understand the central mysteries submerged within this endeavor. I have had great difficulty in developing this response to the Fiftieth Leaf and have left the words of Sigmus uncurated for some time now. Normally, I receive a bit of feedback from my brother about either the leaf, or my commentary, or some new excitement or insight he has had. But I have received no word from him in several weeks now. His additions to The Tree of Fragments have also abruptly stopped. While I remain unaffected by this book, I fear that my brother may still be under its power, and that while I struggle to continue this story, that he may be caught within the currents of time.

- D

Curator's Note


I have been wrong, perhaps about many things, but most importantly about myself. I had thought that I was beyond the influence of this book, as if I were too intelligent to be drawn into a childish fairytale. I know little of what intelligence derives from but it is undeniable now that I am just as all the others before me have been. Sigmus had ended his writing in The Fiftieth Leaf with a very stark suggestion, that he now feared the book and was considering its destruction. I know, as well as you do, that this never happened as I hold the very book which Sigmus held within my own shaking hands. All is quiet now in my home. I am deep into the night with no chance of sleeping. In a way, The Fiftieth Leaf is the end. There is much more to this book, page upon page, inserts, drawings in the unread sections. But it seems different to me now. Several hours ago I lifted this book, actually quite eager to learn the fate of the unlucky King. Even then I knew that there was so much more, and that the King seemed to be in the midst of decisive action. I use a bookmark in this project so that I will not become accidentally absorbed in sections not yet discovered, for I hold these new discoveries as special. This bookmark is something so innocuous and silly that you might question my seriousness, but I ask you not to consider me so. I have treated this responsibility with a care I reserve for few things in this busy life. I grasped this trifle, smiling at its playfulness and remembering how it had been given to me as a gift by my son, but when I turned the page it was instantly clear to me that something significant had changed and my mood was quickly darkened. The steady, flowing penmanship of the King was gone and, in its place, replaced by strange symbols and drawings, burnings and cuttings in the paper, or whatever material made up this leaf. What had happened? Could this be the work of the King? It seemed highly unlikely. And though I've told you that it was my decision not to look forward in the book, I did so at this time to see if this page were merely an accident, or some unpleasant interruption of my quiet studies. It was not. The next several pages were likewise illustrated and as I turned page after page my heart fell, for the King, and maybe for myself. I eventually did find that these symbols and drawings came to an end and were replaced by writing once again, but the writing was not from Sigmus and I understood none of it. I could not understand what had happened. Had the King so quickly followed through with his plan to destroy the book? But why was it not destroyed, and into whose hands had it fallen? And though it sounds strange to say it, even to my ears, a sadness came upon me and I now thought of my brother once again, how he had been so distraught that night when he came to my house. He too had lost an agent. He had followed Sorren for many months. He had read his words and, perhaps more importantly, had thought deeply about them. I now was beginning to understand what I could not understand then, that this lonely study had meant so much to him, and so much to me. But this is not all that I have to say, for what happened next is even more inexplicable to me. I lay the book down, slowly, carefully walking away from it. I sat down in a corner chair, intending to unravel the mystery before me, but sleep came quickly, and with it came the dreams. What I write next is what came to me then, alone, in the dark, when I was dreaming of Sorren.

- D