When Cyril Hadrian still considered truth knowable and virtue measurable, he had charge of a great fortress of learning and scholarship called the Lord Institute. Those within the fortress’s thick walls had gathered together to battle common enemies—ignorance, illness, and poverty. Hadrian, a man committed to rationality and to the notion that science in the service of humanity could accomplish at least a limited happiness on earth, did not then concern himself with philosophical questions or with those seemingly unanswerable questions regarding God, time, and purpose until his wife, Melanie, took her life.
After Melanie’s suicide, Hadrian found his old life of power repugnant, and it gave him a glimpse of the underside of nature. For the first time in his life, Hadrian allowed himself to admit the possible existence of forces, relationships, and complexities that he had never before even considered, like the utter, stark certitude of death. Forced to resign as director of the Lord Institute, betrayed by trusted and esteemed colleagues, and abandoned by the woman he thought loved him, Hadrian set out with his infant daughter, Mica Stella, on a quest to find and experience what he calls sigma—the ultimate sense of connectedness between God, himself, and the universe.
Hadrian hopes that even a pale facsimile of the symmetry glimpsed by saints and magi would in that instant of insight free him from his dread of death and that he would achieve the serenity that some men seemed to possess by nature. But the ultimate moment that Hadrian dubs the sigma experience from the mathematical sign meaning a sum or a total, this elemental flash eludes him. He wanders for years in search of sigma, ending up among a tribe of Indians called the Gigantes, where he transforms himself into their enchanter. One day Hadrian’s old enemies from the Lord Institute find themselves in the gardens of the enchanter. Hadrian, seeking revenge, puts them on trial for judgment and sentencing.