Once upon a time in a city on the river there lived Humble Lady Ermine and the young Queen Gogira. Queen Gogira Pennyworth, Dweller in the Sinking Lands, had come to the city from the swamplands to the west, and there she learned the ways of the Goddess: of Jailbreaking and of Barstools, of Grids and Keeping Your Mouth Shut. These things she shared with Humble Lady Ermine, who was in her own lazy way a conduit for strangeness, and a protectress of the slimy things.
And so it was for many months that they lived together in the house of Lady Ermine, and Queen Gogira said unto her hostess "do you even notice the masks you wear?"
"I wear no mask," insisted Lady Ermine.
"Now come on," scolded Queen Gogira. "Don't be an idiot. Listen to yourself when you speak with Doctor Hand, and listen again when you speak with the Baron. You are not the same person. Even when you're here speaking with me, you are wearing a mask."
Lady Ermine reflected on this wisdom. "I suppose you could be right," she admitted. "But what should I do about it?"
"Fucked if I know!" Queen Gogira snorted.
It was a short conversation, and a boring one at that as no one caught fire or anything, but it weighed on Lady Ermine, and she resolved to get to the bottom of her masks and see what they were hiding.
The first mask she found was the Mask of Submission, which she wore among those monkeys that believed they were more powerful than she. It was the mask that spoke in low tones, that apologized for non-offenses, that scraped and groveled and toed the lines. She had never submitted her will to anyone else's, but she had worn the mask to get things done. She cataloged this mask, and put it away.
The second mask she found was the Mask of Authority, which she wore among those monkeys that believed she was more learned than they. It was the mask that explained, that condescended and smirked. It was a smug bastard of a thing, even though she was not. She wore the mask to make others listen to her, and to make herself feel big. She cataloged this mask, and put it away.
The third mask she found was the Mask of Amiability, which she wore among the monkeys that thought she was their friend. It was the mask that laughed and made small talk, that hosted gatherings and smiled broadly. She was often tired, and grumpy, and hungry, and bored, but the mask kept her in their good graces. She cataloged this mask, and put it away.
And so it was that she spent many months, naming and scraping away the things that separated her from the world. And she became difficult to deal with - moody and unpredictable - and so others came to shun her home. But she realized that the Mask of Brooding was another affectation, an archetype she had absorbed from the narratives of others, and so she named and shelved that one as well. She found the Mask of Immaturity, the Mask of Worldliness, the Mask of Indifference and the Mask of the Victim. These things, too, she put away, until at last one night in her house she found the final mask, the Mask of Identity.
"All this time, I have been trying to separate myself from the masks I show others," she said to no one in particular, because though she had already abandoned the Mask of the Mad Genius some habits are really hard to break. "I knew all along that these masks also affect how I see myself, but now I see that even the idea of an identity is itself a mask. The narrative of who I am cakes on my face and hides me as well as any masquerade ball prop. The world is but a masquerade."
She took off the final mask, proud of her enlightenment. She looked in the mirror to learn what she was, and nothing looked back.
They say Humble Lady Ermine lies dreaming, still.