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Withered Tree
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A penny for the Old Guy...

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma or a hideous dream:
The genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

Julius Caesar, II, i


History has many cunning passages, and we must choose our way with caution.

The summer after I completed my first major work of fiction, I found myself lost, with no clear path ahead. A conversation with an old friend restored to me some sense of purpose. A great-uncle of his, who had recently died, had left to him his papers, in great disarray, and my friend required someone to bring order to them. So I went to the old mans study, hid myself away from the sun, and wandered the ways of his library. I found much of interest, and had a great deal to do, but there, beneath a complete set of Wisden, I discovered an old manuscript, of indeterminate but certainly great age; yellowing, but not crumbling. The weight of all those centuries had preserved the papers well.

Translating the text was not an easy task. The language was ancient, and one with which I had only a passing familiarity. But this was not the chief source of my difficulties. When I began work, I was certain I knew the tale already knew the players, the scenery, the path the story took. But in this I was mistaken: consequently, I was waylaid and kept off track for a long time. For the story the manuscript contained was in fact very different from the one I already knew so well. I do not know whether the other, better craftsman had these sources at his disposal and chose to tell instead the version we all know so well. It cannot be doubted it suits his epic best. In this translation, I aim not to dispute that better telling, only to suggest another tradition, to adumbrate the lines of another branch of the tree.

In all of these endeavours, I have been the fortunate recipient of much help. My thanks and gratitude go to Alawa, Isabeau of Greenlea, and Dwimordene, without whose assistance the manuscript would have been neither deciphered nor interpreted. Tanaqui assisted greatly in the ordering of the sources, the fruit of which labour can be seen in Appendix A. Thank you also to Denise, who remained steadfast in her belief that this tale would eventually be told, when the editor herself despaired.

June 2003 September 2010


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