“They are coming, and the planes will howl with their passage. They will drink your blood as wine and find it wanting.” Rosie the abyssal swallowtail’s voice was muffled but quite audible from within the box.

“Hush, or you’ll spoil the surprise!” Randy the incubus said. He’d done his best to wrap her up as a gift, throwing a handful of edelwood leaves into a fancy white box that had once contained Maximillian XX, his very favorite dongle. A beautifully intricate bow of lacy soulcord finished it off–recycled from a garter that Randy had worn, in his female aspect, to try and seduce his way into a noblewoman’s delightfully decadent all-service sauna.

They were both riding up a brass-framed elevator, run by brimstone and steam from below, to see Nuby, Randy’s succubus number one in the whole wide Abyss. He was dressed in what he imagined to be his best finery: black leather pants and boots, with nothing on above the waist but a luxuriant midnight bow tie and a scoop of Curl Up And Dye pomade. It was, Randy would tall anyone who asked (and many who did not) the perfect combination of dressy and casual, showing off his physique while remaining coy.

“No one agrees with your assessment of that outfit,” Rosie spoke again from within her box. “The man who can pull it off has not yet been born, and none now living will witness when that day arrives.”

“Hush and shush,” Randy whispered, bringing the box up to his face. “Save your mean little prophecies for someone who will love them, ‘kay?”

The elevator shuddered to a halt, and Randy traipsed through the sparks that showered on all sides as it opened. Nuby’s latest abode was just down the hall. He didn’t have a key, but that had never stopped him before; he withdrew a pair of forged steel pins from deep within his pants and deftly picked the lock. As the door silently opened on well-greased hinges, Randy bounded inside.

“Nubes! You’ll never guess what I found for you!” His voice echoed harshly off the magnificence that Nuby preferred to swim in. High-piled Persian rugs, fine-wrought ironwood furnishings, and of course bold red and teal and gold.

Nuby the succubus was perched on a setee, with papers fanned out in front of her. Land registration deeds written in dead languages…detailed building plans…even some scrying crystals impregnated with the last conscious thoughts of sacrificed beings. It was always plans within plans, wheels with bladed gears a-twisting in her mind. The only thing transparent about her, Randy was fond of saying, was her negligee.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“What is it now, Randy?” The succubus didn’t look up, instead intently studying a testimonial that appeared to have been written in infernal blood upon a parchment of stretched and sentient skin. “You can’t do anything for me right now. Your skills, such as they are, would be wasted on this.”

“Ah, but there’s where you’re wrong, Nubes,” Randy said with a massive, toothy grin. “This’ll give you an edge.”

Nuby turned to him, her eyes calculating. “My edge,” she said, “is that no one thinks a mere succubus focused enough to really scheme. It’s like a rabbit setting snares to catch a hunter, they think.”

“What about…a moth to a flame?” Randy said. With a flourish, he produced the wrapped satin box from behind his back.

“That idiom doesn’t really work for this particular scheme,” Nuby said, blinking. “Credit for trying, I suppose. What’s that?”

“Open it, open it, open it!” Randy squealed, thrusting the box out. It was such a wonderfully Nubian gift for his best gal, he was sure that, once the wrappings fell away, that Nubes would just die

Setting aside her papers with a grimace, Nuby delicately examined the package before suddenly sand savagely perforating the ribbon with her teeth and tearing it off. The lid flapped to the ground, and Rosie fluttered out.

“Nuuuuuuuby,” the moth squeaked, “when your girl leaves your side she starts hitting on the first available low-hanging fruit that comes her way. She’s a little home wrecker! She has learnt from the best.”

Randy squinted. “Girlfriend? You mean like some gal pal?”

“Remember, Randy, they tell scandalous-sounding lies.” Nuby said with a short, sharp laugh.

The succubus held out her arm, and the insect alighted on it. “The wheels of the planes are turning, and you will be as gristle between them for daring to set yourself above your station,” she continued. “And that negligee is absolutely fake, do you think the tailors of the Demonweb Pits would actually use a suture to stitch something so sheer?”

“I know it’s fake,” Nuby said. “Do you think I’d wear real demonwebbery for doing my homework?”

“In fooling others, you fool only yourself.” Rosie fluttered her wings a bit, and stuck out her tongue to begin feeding on a few flecks of blood on Nuby’s arm, presumably from whatever earlier, sharp action had filled the scryers.

“It’s an abyssal swallowtail, isn’t it?” Nuby said with a wan little grin. “They tell uncomfortable truths, amusing lies, and everything in between.”

“Do you love her?” Randy said eagerly. “Do you want to name her your new child and use her in your plans, or just for fun?”

“Rosie,” Nuby said delicately. “Tell me a secret about Randy here. I don’t care if it’s real or made up.”

“He loves you with a child’s love, and will die for you, and that will eventually push you across a Rubicon from which he can love and die no more,” the moth squeaked. “He also has no functional pockets in pants that tight, so you do not want to know where he is keeping his lockpicks and Stabitha the dagger.”

Nuby chuckled. “Well done, Randy,” she said. “Rosie is a fine gift.” The bug was, after all, good for a laugh, and through thorough cross-referencing, the occasional prophecy too.

Randy clapped his hands, delighted beyond all measure. “You mean it?”

Nuby reached up and gave him a brief pat on the head. “You did good.” Then, all business again, she turned back to her scheme. “If you’re going to be hanging around, there’s a chore list on the kitchen wall. Folks that need interrogating, spying on, or stealing from. If you feel up to it.”

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