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When we followed Sliske and Duke Ceres through the gates of Kharid-et and turned our back on Icthlarin and the Menaphites we could not imagine what would become of us. We had spent only a few years among the Menaphite army, all of it on campaign, with ceaseless fighting against the Zarosian legions. Once we turned to Zaros, those of us who survived that final disastrous battle moved to the empire and were granted positions of power and authority within it by our new lord. The comfort and luxury of this new life was a world away from scratching out existence on Freneskae, and some of us were better able to cope than others.

Sliske, in particular, had always been playful, but the relative decadence of human society and near limitless power of our new positions provided an avenue for the very worst of his perversions. Senntisten had a playhouse, originally founded by Cthlonians hundreds of years ago but largely run by and for humans in our time. Sliske wrote and performed a play for the elite of Senntisten: the more urbane demons and the most powerful human merchants and bureaucrats. Before the play he took unwanted humans from the streets of the city, dressed them in brightly coloured costumes, and placed upon each a crude wooden mask. At his command the masks spoke aloud and controlled the movements of the players, compelling them to jerkily act and dance and mime his play like puppets, with the person behind the mask able only to watch his own actions.

As a grotesque gimmick, the players actually stabbed each other to death with their weapons at the play's climax. In one memorable showing, one of the players died - probably of some disease - in the middle of the performance, but the mask was able to animate his corpse as easily as his living body and the show went on. The play was a hit with most of its audience and Sliske performed it a dozen times before growing bored and moving on to something else.

Those who disliked it dared not voice their concern for fear of social disgrace or becoming victim to the inquisition of the Praetorians. For myself, I kept quiet, but I worried greatly about the way this life was changing us, and I was sure some of the others felt the same way.

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