Polybius blinks owlishly against the sudden flood of light into his cell. “Yes? Who’s there?” His voice is cracked and reedy: a mistuned oboe.

“Shut him up, quick quick,” someone growls, and rough hands grab him, stuff a soapy rag into his mouth and an oniony bag over his head. He struggles, but he’s never been valued for the strength of his arms. They carry him out into the halls, and even through soap and onions he can smell blood and offal. He starts to heave and they slap him, pummel him until he subsides in agony.

He panics when they get outside. Where are his brothers? Where are their tender cruelties? His skin starts to burn at the unaccustomed glare of the moon and he weeps. “He’s an ugly damn worm, isn’t he?” one of his abductors says. There’s a sound he knows well: fist meeting flesh over bone. They travel again in silence.

Hours or minutes later they’re inside again and he’s forced into a chair. The bag is ripped from his head and his eyes weep uncontrollably with the light. The sisters surrounding him are slender, beardless, and short, but he recognizes the room, twin to his own. “Ours now,” says one sister, and hands him a pen. “Write!”