Transcript of Sliske's memory (book)
In my time as Praefectus Praetario I took the confessions of many beings from many worlds, but none were quite so interesting as that rambling Chthonian. The beast was all slobber, tentacles and procrastination. Whether by strategy or incompetence he appeared completely incapable of addressing the matter at hand, but spent hours regaling me with tales of his homeworld. Most of his stories concerned the rivalries between his Duke and some other or the enslavement and unruliness of the Avernic, but he told me one story about Zaros, and it was of the time that the Empty Lord came to their world.
The ruler of Infernus is a great corpulent thing called Hostilius the Autocrat. Hostilius had grown immense from consuming so many Infernals - and his own kin - during the Chthonian rebellion. As ruler, he spun a great web of law and bureaucracy all across his world which made direct conflict socially unacceptable. The Chthonians were cannibals though, and the system implicitly encouraged the use of legal trickery to entrap, and then earn the right to devour, one's peers. Zaros appeared on his world apparently in need of forces for the conquest of Gielinor. Though he towers over me, Zaros was like a mouse before the great bulk of Hostilius that occupied nearly the entire open-air amphitheatre that was his court. Zaros plainly requested the use of twelve legions of demons. Hostilius, too surprised to be offended, demanded to know what the tiny purple creature offered in return, and Zaros offered the secrets of travel between the worlds, to allow the Chthonians to devour whole new races rather than be reducing[sic] to preying on each other.
Hostilius has retained his position for thousands of years because he had the accumulated cunning of everything he had ever eaten, and he sought to trick Zaros with the contract he drew up. Although twelve legions was only a fraction of his total might, and very little to pay for the knowledge Zaros was offering, Hostilius was absurdly avaricious and wished to give up nothing. By defining and redefining terms throughout the document, he specified in fine legalese that leadership of the legions would be passed, not to Zaros, but to the eldest signatory, i.e. Hostilius. Zaros saw the deception immediately, but rather than call attention to it he allowed it to remain, knowing what Hostilius did not.
The Chthonian contracts are magically binding and cannot be broken. In the centre of the court, Zaros leaked the tiniest quantity of his essence to sign the contract in lieu of blood, and Hostilius barked in triumph at his own cleverness. Zaros then told the assembled throng of demons a tale of his own origins on a distant world aeons ago, of having walked between uncountable worlds in a time long before Hostilius had even spawned, and of the consequent outcome this had on the contract. The magical contract made the truth of this claim unquestioningly clear to the audience. The humbled Hostilius pledged to Zaros his twelve mightiest Dukes and their legions, and since the same language had been used for Zaros's part of the trade, he received nothing in return.
The subsequent invasion of course is a well known story. It is not often I feel proud of my Lord, but it does happen. I must try this on one of the Dukes some day, but I worry that my reputation may precede me.