Story by Ali Abbas
Illustration by Chlo’e Camonayan
Sing the words of reckoning
Rebirth and beckoning
A future to replace the past
Fires bloomed throughout the lower city. In the shadows between flames, slave-sons formed bucket chains, and tore down houses, while Warriors and Maidens led soldier-sons into battle. Ambrien watched from the walls of the citadel, itching to re-join the fray, yet needing the support of the stonework to keep herself upright.
“It almost looks pretty.” Nardine’s tall frame cast Ambrien in shadow. Lithe as a mountain tiger, her grace belied any exhaustion, although she had been fighting as long as Ambrien.
“What do you think She meant?” The God-Queen’s words of reckoning and a new future echoed in Ambrien’s mind. Although the verses were Cast to all people of Hallow, recently Ambrien had felt a change in tone, as if the words were addressed specifically to her.
Nardine shrugged. “You’re the only one who listens that closely. I think she does it just to remind us she’s watching over us.” A ribbon of flame shot in a straight line through a patch of darkness. “What was that?”
“Marlene led a regiment to set fire to Midwives’ Bridge. It looks like the Hunden won’t be getting across the river that way.” Ambrien closed her fists against a surge of worry for Marlene.
“We should be down there,” Nardine said, tapping impatient fingers on the rough stone coping.
“No. You should be resting.” A firm and familiar voice made them snap to attention. The Matron-General stamped onto the balcony.
“Do we have that much time?” Ambrien asked, weariness sapping her usual circumspection. “The Hunden have never pushed so far.”
“That’s why I need you rested, daughters. There will be battles enough for you before the Hunden retreat.”
“What of the God-Queen?” Nardine never had her companion’s diplomatic touch. “The scripture sings of her return when we are most sorely pressed.”
The Matron-General reached up to stroke Nardine’s cheek and turned it into a light pat, part reassurance, part rebuke. “If she is not here, then we are not so hard-pressed, child. Now rest, both of you. You will have new orders tomorrow.”
“Yes, Mother,” they murmured, bowing deeply.
— ♦♦♦ —
Sleep would not come to Ambrien. Closing her eyes didn’t help. The darkness lasted barely a breath before she had visions of Crone’s Hearth from the air. Hunden stalked the streets, resembling wolves with distended muscles, standing six feet tall at the shoulder. Her visions showed them finding pockets of survivors, showing no mercy.
It was better to keep her itching eyes open. She tried to recall the long verses of scripture bequeathed by the God-Queen, the living warrior deity. The words had come so easily to her in childhood, now they seeped away like water through her fingers.
She jerked half-upright, wondering who would speak among the sleeping forms. A few bunks over someone turned with a sigh. No one else was awake. She eased herself back down.
It was the God-Queen’s voice. Ambrien had only ever heard it during the Cast, either in the melody of recited scripture, or threnodies of mourning. This time it spoke plainly. She swallowed hard. Women who claimed to hear the God-Queen personally were sequestered by the Attendants and not heard from again.
The instruction was plain, tinged with impatience. Ambrien closed her eyes, the vision taking her through the night sky again. The sprawl of Crone’s Hearth breached its own walls and consumed the surrounding countryside. Those suburbs were gone now, lost to fire.
Ambrien’s vision swooped lower, controlled and directed. By the flickering light of torches and burning buildings organized gangs of Hunden were tearing down houses, dragging out the roof beams. Their numbers would be sapped by arrows as they laid new decks across the scorched pilings, but they would eventually succeed in crossing the river.
As she watched, the wavering shadows in a side street resolved into a familiar form. Her mentor, the Warrior Marlene, leapt with a twist out of the darkness, battle skirt spinning. Her strong-boned face was streaked with soot, her usually smiling lips a grotesque snarl as she buried her spear in the fore shoulder of the Hunden overseer. His howl brought the gang to attention, rising on their hind legs as the remnants of Marlene’s regiment swarmed out.
Ambrien cried out. Marlene ducked and spun, as though she had heard the guidance, evading a claw swipe. Her spear snapped as she tried to pull it free. She drew her matched kindjali and slashed twice, severing the attacking forepaw. The Hunden fell back, unbalanced on three legs and retreated into the darkness. More followed, they would soon flood the square. Ambrien spotted a pocket of inky blackness and calm in the midst of the ruined city.
Baker’s Court. There’s a cellar.
Marlene nodded, trusting the voice that guided her. She directed her soldiers to smash the wheels of the lumber-laden wagons before leading them away to the nearby haven.
Ambrien’s flight ended abruptly. She was back in her bunk, sweat making her clothes stick to her body. She had been exhausted before, but this was a soul-sapping weariness, every bone and sinew wrung out.
— ♦♦♦ —
Ambrien woke refreshed. It was still dark outside. Slipping off her bunk she gave Nardine a gentle shake.
“Come on. There’s something we have to do.”
They’d slept in soft leather tunics and breeches. Their simple leather armor went over the top, a helmet sewn with metal plates, a stiffened hauberk, and a battle skirt, fourteen palm width strips with bronze weights sewn into the calf-high ends. They both carried a pair of daggers, the sacred kindjali, at their waists. Their spears stood on a rack outside the dormitory.
“Where are we going?” Nardine asked as they padded out of the citadel carrying their hobnailed sandals.
“Over the river, I have to check something.”
Nardine grabbed Ambrien’s shoulder and pulled her to a halt. “Are you mad?” she hissed. “The city’s lost. We need reinforcements to retake it.”
Ambrien prised her friend’s hand away with a tight smile. “We’re not launching an attack. I want to reconnoiter. The Hunden are always sluggish in the small hours.”
“On whose orders?”
“Are you coming or not?”
Nardine sighed as Ambrien strode away, making the smaller woman smile. Nardine’s more adventurous spirit usually got them into trouble. Her friend would find this role reversal difficult and Ambrien wasn’t sure how to explain that she was in fact following orders.
The soldier-sons guarding the waterfront did not dare to question two Maidens. Ambrien soon found a skiff moored near Midwives’ Bridge. Stone pilings still stood across the river, but from halfway the wooden deck was littered with gaping holes and missing sections.
The two women poled the skiff between bridge pilings, concealed by the deck’s charred remains and the pre-dawn darkness.
A sentry prowled through its patrol on the far waterfront, periodically shaking the dew from its silver-grey pelt. They let it pass, the slap of water against the pebbly shore masking the sound of their breathing.
Their attack was well-rehearsed. Ambrien leapt high and twisting, her skirt flaring out with a deep thrumming sound that caught the Hunden’s attention. The brass weights struck its snout and eye, stunning it as Nardine ran behind it to drive her spear into the joint of its head and neck. Ambrien’s own spear sunk deep into its chest. It was over in a few heartbeats, the Hunden dying with a gentle whine.
“We have to be quick before it’s missed,” Nardine said.
Ambrien nodded, a little well of excitement bubbled inside. With every step, she grew more convinced the night’s vision had been real, details she had seen from the air were tangible around her. The recovery of Marlene and the soldier-sons in her command would be a much-needed boost to morale in the beleaguered citadel.
Hugging walls they rounded a corner to find the battle scene Ambrien had witnessed. The snapped end of Marlene’s spear was wedged in the prone Hunden, and a massive forepaw lay severed among the slain. Shattered wagons leaned drunkenly; their loads of lumber spilled across the cobbled street.
“This way.” Confident now, Ambrien led Nardine to Marlene’s refuge.
The door to the bakery listed on a single hinge. There should have been a sentry. There had been no whistle of recognition from the rooftop, and Marlene would never leave herself without guards at the access points. Human and Hunden tracks littered the flour dust on the floor.
They must have left already, looking for a safe route over the river, Ambrien thought as she edged around the counter. The hatch to the basement had been ripped away, claw marks shredding the wooden frame and floorboards around it. The unmistakable smell of blood wafted up from the warmth below. A lantern still glowed down there.
Hand on the hilt of one kindjal Ambrien eased her way down the wooden steps. Against the far wall, Marlene slumped in a pool of light. Her throat had been cut.
“Holy Mother,” Nardine swore. She pushed past Ambrien to the body. She looked back; her face ashen. “This was done by a knife, not a claw. Her kindjali are gone.”
— ♦♦♦ —
You honored me with gifts I had not sought.
They waited for the Cast of the dawn verse to complete. When it was clear the God-Queen would offer no more the Matron-General cleared her throat.
“Mutiny,” she said.
Ambrien was numb. Despite the risks, they’d carried Marlene back, her body wrapped in flour sacks to hide the injury. Only the Matron-Surgeon and the Matron-General knew about the wound.
“That’s impossible. Soldier-sons never disobey.” Nardine said, her voice small.
“You have seen little of war, child.” The Matron-General wrapped an arm around Nardine’s waist. “No doubt they were weak, and in their cowardice sought an escape Marlene would not allow.”
“What of the dawn verse?” Ambrien asked.
“What of it?” The Matron-Surgeon seemed surprised by the question.
“It is an odd choice for the God-Queen while we are fighting a war. And it is from the Book of Atonement. Is the God-Queen punishing us for the weakening of the faith?”
“That is a matter for the Attendants,” the Matron-General replied.
They all turned, hands on kindjali, as a figure appeared in their midst. The red-robed woman before them had entered in complete silence, without moving the air. A deep hood hid her features, but not her height. She was almost as tall as Nardine.
“Maiden Ambrien, you will come with me.”
“But I am needed on the front line.” Ambrien turned to the Matron-General.
The blood drained from the Matron-General’s face. “You must go with the Attendant, child.” Her eyes locked on Ambrien, but the Maiden could not fathom her silent message. Fear gnawed at the numbness shrouding her senses. Clenching a hand tight on a kindjal she nodded once.
“Where she goes, I go.” Nardine flexed her shoulders.
The hood turned to her but did not look up. Nardine’s jaw tightened as the silence dragged out. Finally, the hood shifted very slightly in a nod.
“Very well. You will bring the remains of Warrior Marlene. Leave your spears.”
“Wait.” The Matron-Surgeon’s voice quavered. The Attendant remained still as the heavy-set woman stepped into the corridor, returning shortly with a stretcher and blanket. “At least let them carry her with some dignity.”
Ambrien and Nardine shifted the flour-dusted body from its low cot onto the stretcher and covered it before following the Attendant from the room.
The Attendant led them through the vaulted corridors of the citadel, deep into its heart. The few startled Scholars and Keepers they encountered stepped out of the way, the occasional slave-son dropping his eyes.
“This is wrong.” Ambrien stopped, jerking Nardine to a halt ahead of her. The Attendant, several steps ahead, paused but did not turn.
Nardine scowled over her shoulder. “What?”
“The corridors. They’re wrong. We’ve taken too many left turns, all at the same level. We should either be going in circles or reaching the center of a spiral.”
“You are perceptive.” The Attendant turned abruptly to the right, into a shadowed niche which opened into an altogether different style of corridor. The walls curved, bowing out at waist height before curving up to the ceiling. There were no torches and no windows. A pale, smokeless glow emanated from the gutter where the floor met the walls, enough to light their way. The walls themselves were not the faced stone blocks of the rest of the citadel, but a smooth single surface seemingly ground and polished from rock. Ambrien resisted the urge to reach out and touch it.
A little further on she pulled Nardine to a halt again. Two murals ran along both sides of the corridor. She nudged Nardine forwards with the stretcher, taking small steps in order to examine the scenes.
“This is ‘The Redemption of Shamile’. There are tapestries of it in the library.” Her voice was muted in wonder, their grim task, momentarily forgotten. She lowered the stretcher to the floor, forcing Nardine to follow.
“The tapestries are copies. This is the original record of the God Queen’s last coming. Few written records survive, but the history has been preserved orally, and in this mural.” The Attendant’s voice echoed down the corridor, for the first time without a note of command.
In the mural, in armor much like their own, the God-Queen led a rushing troop of Warriors and Maidens, their battle skirts flared behind them, the tips of their spears glinting. The God-Queen’s helmet shone in silver, her only weapons were her kindjali, held with the blades curved back towards her wrists.
Ambrien knew the tapestries well, having spent hours in the library examining them. She noticed subtle differences. In the version she knew the God-Queen faced backward, bare-headed, a long plait of black hair whipping around, exhorting her troops onward. Here she leaned forward, eager to lead the fight herself, her body extended as if to leap into the fray.
The Hunden massed before the God-Queen, foremost snarling and snapping, grey fur bristling, canine snouts flecked with blood. That was the same as the tapestry, but further along the mural, their aspect changed. Some were cowed and cringing; others turned to flee, clawing over each other on two legs in their desperation.
“Take up your burden.” The Attendant broke Ambrien’s concentration. “We must move on.” She strode off without looking back, forcing the two Maidens to hurry to their places.
There was more than one mural. The paint faded and their style became cruder as the series progressed down the corridor. Each depicted a coming of the God-Queen, stretching back into antiquity to tales which were just scraps of scripture or scattered verses from lost epics.
The corridor ended at a set of double doors fitted seamlessly into the curved walls. The Attendant gestured to the floor and they set Marlene down there with small grunts of relief.
The shadowed hood turned to Nardine as she straightened up. “Your purpose is served.” A robe-covered hand stretched out, touching Nardine on the forehead. Her body collapsed in a boneless heap.
Ambrien leapt over Marlene’s prone form with a yell, drawing her kindjali. Her arms swept forward before her feet touched the ground, parting the robe of the Attendant. It collapsed, empty. She toed it warily, but it was just a pile of cloth. She scampered over to where Nardine lay. The tall woman still breathed.
Ambrien’s kindjali fell from her hands, as she realized what she had done. She had attacked a holy Attendant of the God-Queen. Whatever magic had taken the Attendant away could bring her back. There was nothing in the scriptures or histories that suggested this crime had been committed before. Attendants were obeyed without question, even by Matrons.
She took a steadying breath. Nardine lived, she would not have to face her fate alone. She reached for the robe to make Nardine comfortable and found Marlene’s body was gone.
But for the two Maidens, the long corridor was empty. No shadows moved in the unwavering pale light reflecting off the walls. There had been no breath of movement, no hint of a sound. Marlene had disappeared as completely as the Attendant.
She could not mistake the voice. Conviction replaced uncertainty. She knew she must go through the doors, alone, just as she had known to find Marlene. But she could not leave Nardine here, vulnerable.
Her body twisted, partly committed to her friend, partly compelled to the door. With a low cry, disloyalty warring with disobedience, she rolled away from Nardine onto all fours. A deep breath and a push brought her back to her feet. She held one of her kindjali, point down, the blade parallel to her forearm. With her other hand, she pushed the door, keeping her back flat to the wall.
The room inside was grey and still. Tall windows lined the one wall she could see, shrouded in dust that left beams slanting across the room.
The corner of a table was visible, and a body slumped over it, heavy with dust. She twisted inside, her back now against the other door. Marlene’s stretcher and her covered remains were in the middle of the table, flanked by four dust and cobweb-covered bodies.
At the head of the table, another figure was slumped in a larger, throne-like chair. One desiccated hand was curled around the armrest. The other dropped limply in her lap. Like the others, she was coated in dust, but while they were bare-headed this one wore the silver helmet depicted in the murals.
The strength fled from Ambrien’s legs. She believed in the God-Queen without question. She had studied scripture as thoroughly as she had trained in the arts of war. She had listened with more care and diligence than any of her friends to the verses Cast to all the people of Hallow every dawn and dusk.
That God Queen was a withered husk held together by her armor.
From a distance, the helmet’s shadow made it impossible to discern the remnants of the God-Queen’s features. Ambrien staggered forward to catch the edge of the table. Horror and fascination warred within her. Her life had been a lie. Before her, sat the warrior-poet that guided her people, and she was long dead.
She brushed by one of the figures seated at the table. Dust fell away to reveal the faded blue robes of the Council of Crones. No Matron had been raised to the rank of Crone in living memory. She edged onwards, unsure of herself, but compelled to look into the face of her God.
Bones littered the floor by the throne. Bits of armor suggested an honor guard, but not all the pieces were ancient. Ambrien picked her way through them until she stood before the God-Queen.
The face was covered by a tight layer of skin, pulling at grey lips. Wisps of hair fell from under the helmet. Two broad holes marked where the nose had been. The eyes were closed, tightly clenched as if she had fallen asleep in pain and died that way.
The God Queen opened her eyes, startlingly moist and complete in the ruined face.
Ambrien stumbled back, giving a yelp as her retreat was halted. The God-Queen’s withered hand bound her wrist.
The God-Queen’s eyes swiveled to Ambrien. Her mind raced even as a gesture from the God-Queen eased the furious racing of the Maiden’s heart to the cadence of slumber. Ambrien’s snatched breaths grew long and slow.
Something lifted Ambrien’s free arm, making her grasp of one of the God-Queen’s kindjali. She reached, bound at one wrist, and touched the still-bright blade to the wound at Marlene’s neck. Her mind screamed against the desecration, but her body ignored her.
The knife blade came back and touched the God-Queen’s lips. They quivered.
Watch her. Learn.
This time there was no flight, Ambrien saw through another’s eyes.
— ♦♦♦ —
It was night in the lower city. Smoke filled the air. Some from the destruction wrought by the Hunden, some from the immense fire on the bridge she had burned. Marlene’s mission complete, all that remained was to slow the Hunden from repairing the bridge, until the inevitable. Behind her the remnants of her regiment crouched, bloodied and exhausted. She had lost too many in firing the bridge. These soldier-sons had little left to give.
Hunden stalked into the square. She waited, and waited, and attacked.
Her spear snapped in the first Hunden. She felt a premonition of danger to her left and drew her kindjali ducking and swinging as her soldier-sons swarmed into the fray. When the pack was dead or driven off, they smashed the wagon wheels.
It was not yet time to die and her men needed to rest. Instinct guided her to Baker’s Square. The door to the bakery was still shut; the fighting had not reached here yet. She kicked it open and led the way inside. A soldier-son spotted a trap door and they retreated to a basement. She posted a man on the door and another on an opposite roof. They would rest until the darkness just before dawn.
“Warrior, we should swim for the citadel tonight, while the smoke and darkness obscure the river.” One of her soldier-sons spoke up. He leaned heavily against the wall; a hand pressed to a wound on his thigh. His suggestion was ill-thought. He would not survive the crossing. That course also conflicted with Marlene’s revised plans. But leaders did not highlight inability. Better to let him think it was a matter of duty alone. Her explanation turned his pained face grim.
His voice rose. “You’ve lost all three Maidens assigned to us and most of the regiment. There aren’t enough of us left to make a difference. We’ll die here for nothing!”
She commanded him to be still and ordered another to tend his wound.
“You can’t make us do this.”
Watching through the mind of Marlene, Ambrien tried to make sense of what happened next. The soldier-son was sweating, his face pasty in the lamplight. He hunched over, losing his grip on his wound, fingers clawing out. He leapt at Marlene, halfway across the length of the cellar, a feat impossible for a man.
Kindjali were the sole province of women, but he had a dagger. Cruder, but sharp enough. Ambrien, distant in both time and space, clutched her throat as the blade slid across Marlene’s neck. Blood spurted across the soldier-son’s face. The scene began to fade at the edges of Ambrien’s vision as Marlene’s life ended. Through a blurring haze, she saw the man’s face begin to elongate, his shoulders growing broader. The shouts of the other soldier-sons around him turned to growls and howls. As darkness descended, she saw Hunden launch themselves back through the trap door, leaving Marlene to die alone.
— ♦♦♦ —
Ambrien’s face was wet with tears. They left dirty tracks down the God-Queen’s throne, made craters on the dusty floor. Her gaze turned to Marlene’s body. They didn’t even have her kindjali to return to her family.
I don’t have much time.
Ambrien swallowed hard. Marlene was dead by treachery, by soldier-sons turned by some dark magic into Hunden.
You must know.
“I don’t understand.”
It is in them. In men. The beast emerges when they exercise power over others. This is the purpose of our faith, our society. We keep the men docile, tamed, and channel their urges. But I am too weak. It is time for a renaissance of faith. It is time for new scripture.
The grip on her wrist tightened.
You have the gift to command the helmet. You must take it and my kindjali and purge this infestation. Restore faith in the God-Queen before the rage of men becomes a plague that kills us all.
She heard the words, but the meaning washed by her. She clung to the question which plagued her: “What happened to Marlene’s kindjali?”
A jolt of pain through her wrist brought her focus back to the God-Queen. A sharp talon was buried in her skin, blood seeping out to join the fallen tears.
Take the helmet and my kindjali and fight, or we are lost.
This time the meaning snapped into her consciousness. She would take up the relics, assume the role. Her presence would rally the remaining soldier-sons and prevent any more turning into Hunden. She could restore order.
The God-Queen’s withered hand relaxed its grip.
She eased the God-Queen’s other kindjali out of its scabbard, placing both on the table. As she reached for the helmet, the God-Queen slowly raised her hand from Ambrien’s pierced wrist and put a drop of blood to her lips.
“Can you complete the verse of the Book of Atonement from this morning?” Her voice was a rasp, desiccated and raw.
A shudder ran through Ambrien. The sound was different from the melodious tone she heard in her head but retained a cadence and authority that was unmistakable. She nodded.
Ambrien knew the words as well as she knew all the scripture. She settled her breathing, finding calm in the recollection of the Book and in the rhythm of the words as she read forward in her mind to the verse.
“You honored me with gifts I had not sought,
And yet I fought to keep them
When you asked, I pass them on.”
“Good. I am just, and I am the guide. I give fair warning, and I give instruction.” The God-Queen’s hands gripped Ambrien’s face with fierce intent. “Although we are less susceptible than men, we are not immune. At least we can turn back.” The shadow of lips twitched against yellowed teeth. “Are you stronger than these others, child?” Her gaze flicked to the bones around the throne. “Or will I have to serve again?”
The sharp nails dug into Ambrien. She whimpered as the God-Queen rose from the throne, shedding dust, lifting Ambrien. The nose less face extended; expanding shoulders burst through the tattered hauberk.
She hurled Ambrien across the room. The Maiden hit the doors, forcing the air from her lungs, falling powerless to the floor. The transformed God-Queen stalked around the table. Fur bristled from the few remaining patches of her skin. She slowed after a few steps and dropped to all fours.
Your blood will sustain me. I will retake my human form and lead our people to a glorious victory. No more soldier-sons, only slaves, to be kept for work and breeding.
Her Hunden snout would not form words, but her thoughts were clear.
Ambrien tried to suck in air, to bring some life into her helpless body and scramble away. The God-Queen prowled closer, her claws on Ambrien’s shins drawing pricks of blood, finding the gaps in her battle skirt and piercing her breeches underneath.
Beside them, the door burst open. Nardine’s kindjali scissored, taking the God-Queen turned Hunden in the neck, finding little resistance in the ancient bones and dried flesh. The head fell away, the helmet rolled, tracking a circle in the dust and coming to a rest by Ambrien’s hand.
“What was that?” Nardine asked.
“Long story, help me up.”
Nardine gripped Ambrien under the armpits and raised her to her feet. The smaller woman brought the helmet with her. A gift she had not sought. An honor that she did not want, and which, at the last, the previous owner had not been able to relinquish.
“Do you trust me?”
“Do you love me?”
“Will you follow me?”
It was all the reassurance she needed. Ambrien put the helmet on. Her perspective changed. She was flying above the city of Crone’s Hearth, and she knew she could be anywhere in all of Hallow in an instant. Below her, the Hunden had run enough planks over Midwives Bridge to begin edging across the river. Soldier-sons on the citadel side peppered them with arrows, but she could see their resolve beginning to break in the coursing of blood through their veins. If the soldier-sons turned, the war was lost.
In a heartbeat, her mind re-joined her body. She strode to the table and picked up the kindjali.
Power flowed through her, and knowledge with it. She could blow through the Hunden like the scouring desert wind, freeing all of Hallow. She would cow the soldier-sons into subservience and find those of her sisters who had grown drunk on power.
The kindjali. A worry, a memory surfaced through her sense of power. What had happened to Marlene’s kindjali? The Hunden had no use for them, they had no human hands. A moment of concentration on the weapons threw her mind into the air, then spiraling down into the city. Behind the bakery lay the dead body of a Hunden, the kindjali embedded in its back. A few feet away were the hacked remains of a naked soldier-son. She knew his face; he had been in the cellar where Marlene had died.
The implications reined in the burgeoning sense of her power, her mind crashing back to the citadel. He had turned into a Hunden, the clothes torn from him as his body grew, and had then turned back. A man had turned back. Marlene’s kindjali in a Hunden’s back and his naked body attested to his redemption.
She would fight, but only those who would fight back. She let her mind reach into the helmet. Through it, she could feel them all. Every child, every Maiden, Warrior, and Matron, every soldier-son and slave-son. At the edges of her awareness, she could feel the rage-filled minds of the Hunden. She willed her words to them.
Though you rage in shadow
And hunger in the night
I am your succor in the darkness
Return to me for light.
First, she would let them listen, let them believe.
— ♦♦♦ —
“Dr Wrenworth, you used to joke that that was your occupation: urban planning. In fact, of course, your expertise is in Psychology, Parapsychology, sub-field Cryptozoology, ever since the threat became so real…”
“Slowly. From the beginning. I have amnesia. So leave out the allusions and explain to me in plain words what you know. Then tell me how I can help with the aforementioned threat.”