“Seems a bit dead tonight.”

The Demon’s Hole bartender, a cyclopean demon who went by Ayers, looked across the polished bloodwood at Nuby. “That’ll be the zombies,” he said, gesturing to a party of four decidedly rotten patrons taking up a booth on the far side. “I know the stench can be a bit much, but you know my policy. Everyone’s welcome.”

“So long as they have money,” said Nuby with a light smile. “And as long as they don’t do more damage in a brawl than their tab allows.”

“Hey, it’s a business, not a charity,” said Ayers.

“So tell me about this succubus you’ve seen coming in here lately,” Nuby said. “The one you said needed someone of my talents and proclivities.”

Ayers nodded at the door. “Here she is now.”

The succubus turned and saw a boisterous demon sweep in, his huge gut jiggling behind his well-tailored suit. A pair of tiny bat-wings twitched in tailored holes on his back, while his hooves clapped loudly on the Demon Hole’s abysstone floor. Behind him, at a pace’s distance, followed a succubus. She was dressed in comparative rags, walked hunched-over, and wore a silver cord around her neck that was linked to the shining brass buttons on the demon’s waistcoat.

“Oh, Ayers,” Nuby said. “You were right. That poor thing is not equal to the dignity of her station or our proud sisterhood. I will have to take this on as an emergency fixer-upper at once.”

“That’s Siseneg and Hori,” said Ayers. “Have a look.”

Nuby sipped her Abyssal Snoworm Tequila Slammer demurely as she watched from her barstool. Siseneg took over a booth, filling an entire side of the thing, and immediately ordered one of everything on the drinks menu. By the time he’d finished it, the demon had engaged in three fights, killed one of the zombies–inasmuch as they were able to die–and loudly argued politics until knives were drawn.

It was boorish, but frankly, Nuby didn’t particularly care. What interested her, though, was his treatment of Hori.

Siseneg seemed to enjoy parading her around, when he wasn’t fighting or arguing, simultaneously pointing out Hori’s great beauty while nevertheless lingering–and laughing–about every flaw he could see or imagine. When she attempted to squeak out anything, he would silence her with a bellow and a jerk of the silver cord. And two out of the three fights were caused by Siseng deeming Hori to be looking too closely at distant patrons.

“Ayers,” Nuby said softly. “Slip a little Acheron bladderweed into the next round, would you?” She slid a coin across the bar.

Biting the money approvingly, Ayers shrugged. “You want to make him angry? There are better ways to do that.”

“No, just piss him off.”

After the next drinks were imbibed, Siseneg indeed tottered off, making an off-color comment about needing to “flood the Styx.” He left Hori tied to his booth like a dog waiting for her master to return, and as soon as the privy door had slammed–with enough force to bring down some plaster–Nuby was up and walking over.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” she said, locking eyes with Hori. The latter immediately looked away, shyly–missing the sight of her fellow succubus quickly and effortlessly sawing through the silver cord with one sharp nail.

“Siseng doesn’t usually bring me,” Hori said quietly. “I only get to come when he’s seen folks around our place that he ‘doesn’t trust around me.'”

“Come, I’ll introduce you around.” Nuby gestured to the other side of the bar, where three hulking demons sat, alert, and constantly nursing a never-ending supply of canned beverages supplied by the bartender. “Those are Redbullius, Monstera, and Rockstarian; they competed for the souls of sleep-deprived mortals are but three of the demons in servitude to a greater power, a being that trades souls for sleep, hushed trades made in the carbonated darkness.”

“Are you making that up?” said Hori. She either hadn’t noticed, or didn’t care, that Nuby had led her away from her table and her silver cord.

“I’ll never tell,” hissed Nuby with a wink. “What I will tell you about, my dear, is how marvelous we sisters are. How long has it been since you tasted a little seduction, slipped a wee knife between welcoming ribs, or manipulated a spider’s own web to strangle him?

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