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The Devil's in the Details · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
Marriage Can Be Hell
The courtroom was sweltering.

It wasn’t particularly shocking, given the two-story chandelier made of flaming skulls that hung from the infinite blackness above, the blue-tinged ghost light that burned in their eyes amplified and reflected by the onyx fixtures all around the infernal court. It didn’t matter how enchanted her anti-perspirant was – she could still feel herself sweating within the confines of her white wool suit.

Perhaps a little antagonistic, given the locale, but Arianna truly hated court appointments in Hell.

“I intend to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the defendant, Arianna Lanathan, has violated not only the contract drawn up between her and Furfur...” the prosecutor, Ceridwen Cerys Ceinwen droned on with the patience that only three-hundred ninety-six years as an attorney could bestow. They were dressed in an uncharacteristically dark green suit, unadorned by the living livery that they tended to wear. Apparently they were quite serious about this case – though Arianna noted they still couldn’t bring themselves to wear the more traditional jet black or crimson.

She bit her lip, but even the little stab of pain couldn’t stop her hand from shaking. It was almost unheard for a sylvan to operate in the infernal courts. Apparently she had pushed her luck a little too hard this time.

Furfur placed her hand over Arianna’s, the feel of the mithril ring she wore like ice in the heat of the courtroom. She linked her fingers with Arianna’s and then leaned close, allowing their shoulders to touch for the briefest moments. “I can still—”

Arianna shook her head, tightening the grip that Furfur has started.

“...and, as evidence will show – in a blatant disregard for the Alignment Act of 1947 – Ms. Lanathan…”

“Mrs. Lanathan, if you would, Maester Ceinwen,” Arianna interrupted.

A ripple of laughter passed through the gathered damned. They might not have liked her, but the infernal courts always appreciated a healthy disrespect towards other authorities.

“That is rather the heart of the matter, is it not, Ms. Lanathan?” Cerodwin’s voice dripping with near palpable venom. Thankfully even the infernal courts frowned upon the killing of an opposing attorney via aural magic.

“No?” she said, smoothly sliding her hand out from under Furfur’s. “Our marriage is unquestionably legal and recognized by the Grand Empire’s Magister Council, and, per the decision of Decabria v Citizens of New Pandemonium, legally recognized by the authorities of Hell. Oh, and those of the Great Woods, if I recall correctly.” She offered a serene smile as she tapped the papers in front of her. “What you are attempting to prove has no bearing on our marital status. Even if I were to be found guilty on all charges, it would be Mrs. Lanathan being condemned to 600 years of being boiled in oil or the like.”

Another fresh round of laughter caused Cerodwin’s alabaster skin started to redden. “I object to this interruption! Duke Agares! Surely this insolence cannot—”

“Overruled,” the three-heads of the towering reptilian devil boomed in perfect accord. “These are not your courts, sylvan. Things are not fun without spirited social intercourse.” Two of the heads chuckled, while the central one continued, “I would have expected you to familiarize yourself with the nuances of our form of trial by trial.”

The swell of aether in the air was discernible – the flowers in Cerodwin’s vine-like hair blossoming in response to the presence of the energy – their expression twisting to pure rage for a moment. Then, much to Arianna’s chagrin, it was gone and the sylvan attorney was straightening their attire.

If they’d tried to kill Agares, she would have won by default.

“My apologies for that outburst, Duke Agares. You are, of course, correct. I shall strive to remember the… proud traditions of the infernal judiciary. Now, as I was saying, Mrs. Lanathan,” they practically spit the title, “in forming this blasphemous union, has violated not only the contract established with Furfur, but also the Alignment Act of 1947, wherein one who has contracted a devil may not work to intentionally push said devil into goodness, thereby disrupting the hierarchy of hell. I will establish that actions taken during this marriage represent a clear violation in an attempt to create a happy and successful between a mortal and infernal being.”

This time the sound from the onlookers was darker and far more guttral.

Cerodwin looked around themselves, nodding as they leaned on the table. “And then I will enjoy watching the both of them be sentenced to agonies that will continue long past the day my flesh feeds the worms and my bones nourish the soil.”

Arianna cringed as a cheer erupted around her. And that killed her hope that the sylvan’s centuries of experience in less spirited courts might impair his performance here. He’d recovered magnificently. Winning with devils was as much about the theatrical and the legal.

“Well said,” Agares’ heads agreed. “Your defense, Mrs. Lanathan?”

Arianna stood, but before she could say a word, Furfur’s playfully squeezed her ass – much to the amusement of the watching devils. If there was one thing to be said for the denizens of hell, it was that the base desires went over quite well with them. She had once won a case by having a client and his bound incubus fulfill their carnal contract in the witness box.

“Knock ‘em dead,” she said, “because our little games are going to be nothing compared to what happens if we lose.”

Arianna nodded, then brought her hands down on the table. “Gathered devils, my defense is simple: Cerodwin’s claims are a load of steaming dragon shit. My contract was for companionship at the cost of my vital energies, to be taken in intercourse and offered as a tithe to the damned dukes – the same you would grant to any horny and lonely mage versed in demonology.” She lowered her voice playfully. “And I assure you, Furfur is given ample opportunities to collect that fee.

“The simple fact is that, no matter how this matter is examined, my life essence is given to Furfur, who, in turn, passes it to Duke Berith, who, in turn, uses it to further Hell’s insidious machinations.”

That got an enthusiastic response from Berith’s cohorts, though not so much any of the other legions.

Cerodwin snorted derisively. “And your point?”

“That Furfur and I could adopt and raise an orphan to be a follower of Illumitar and we would still be contributing to the net evil in the world.” She grabbed one of Furfur’s horns and playfully shook the devil’s head. “In fact, our marriage represents a commitment not only to each other, but to the evil of Hell.”

She could feel a breath being drawn for a snide comment among the gathered devils. “And I believe an examination of Furfur’s record will demonstrate that marriage has not, as some might be inclined to believe, reduced the tithe.”

To her surprise, Cerodwin clapped. “A most cunning defense, Mrs. Lanathan. I see why among the mortals you are so highly regarded when it comes to infernal law. That defense sounds so self-assured and so flawless, speaking directly to the concerns of Hell.”

One of Duke Agares’ heads nodded in agreement, while the other two gave it withering looks.

“The weakness, of course, is when you are dealing with someone who is more concerned with the precedent than showmanship.” Cerodwin lifted a sheaf of paper towards Duke Agares. “While it is indeed true that you offer a regular tithe—”

“With great enthusiasm,” Furfur supplied.

The sylvan attorney ignored her. “...the fact that you are present here, alive and well, already demonstrates an even more unnatural nature to the relationship between you and this succubus. Hell is not overly concerned with practicality. I have examined over forty-thousand ‘companionship’ contracts, and all have ended with at least one critical hospitalization. Most, in fact, have ended with death.” They lifted a thick sheaf from the table. “Exhibit A.”


“I was not finished!” Cerodwin’s voice cracked like a striking serpent. “Of the examined cases, Furfur herself accounts for at least two-hundred twenty-nine. Forty-nine deaths, one-hundred eighty hospitalizations… at least within the examined period.”

Arianna felt her stomach drop as she realized where this was going. “And what, you want to assert that me convincing her there was a more practical way that would allow us to prolong our mutual pleasures somehow represents a push towards goodness?”

The sylvan attorney didn’t smile. They were too good for that. But the slight shift in their posture told Arianna that they’d already anticipated that parry. “Interesting you should mention that. You see, there is a distinct trend with Furfur’s performance.” They lifted another piece of paper, this one showing the most feared thing in Hell – a line graph. “Exhibit B. Here you can see a clear trend in the results of her contracts. There is a linear decrease in the severity of the suffering of her contractors over time. The last death occurred here, nearly ten years ago. Coincidentally, you contracted her about this time as well as part of your demonology studies, did you not? Many years before you would draft a new contract to take her as a carnal partner, rather than just a tutor.”

His presentation was so dry and dull, but the point he was building to was sharp as a vorpal switchblade. Unfortunately, she only had one true defense to lean into. “And? That only solidifies my point that I simply showed her a better way. Many of those contractors would go on to form new contracts, ensuring a more profitable relationship for Hell.”

“Exhibit C. Royce v Moloch established that the matter of personal alignment was not an objective one, and that the nature of good and evil was more malleable in our world than expected, coming from a combination of one’s actions, one’s thoughts, and the perception thereof by society at large.”

There was an unsure murmur from the gathered devils. He might have had centuries of experience on her, but he didn’t know the infernal courts.

Arianna pounced, quoting from the decision, “‘I shall not attempt to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within the shorthand description of evil, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the action involved in this case is that.’”

“Exactly!” he agreed.


“You have focused the whole of your defense around the claim that offering the little of your vital energy that you do is an ‘evil’ act, but I contend that a casual observance of your ‘wedded bliss’ tells a different story.”

Arianna managed to conceal her cringe, even as Furfur’s quiet “Oh, fuck” expressed her feelings perfectly.

“Exhibits D through H, demonstrating how our ‘evil’ couple behaves outside the bedroom.” He paused and gave the two of them a meaningful look. “And kitchen, patio, porch, bathroom at Le Cheval, and such, as I’m sure you were preparing to say, right?”

That got the needed reaction from the peanut gallery.

“Watching Mageflix. Tipping at restaurants. Shopping at a specialty grocer. Anniversary gifts. Yes, you might provide some energy to Hell, but together, the worst that could be said about the two of you is that you make the occasional janitor’s life slightly more annoying.”

Duke Agares’ heads grumbled. “Indeed. We could barely tell the two of you from a mortal couple. Hardly the corrupting force we would expect someone who has been contracted with a succubus for so long to be.”

Furfur grabbed and squeezed Arianna’s hand.

There hadn’t really been a Plan B.

“And?” she said with all the confidence of an attorney who definitely did not know their defense had just been fucked sideways. “I have forsaken human companionship to spend my life with a foul temptress who indulges my dark desires. The evil of hell does not require that corruption manifest against outside forces.”

Cerodwin snorted. “Even among my people a little sexual deviancy is no longer considered some great sin. And, of course, as consorting with demons is regularized among your people, so too fades your argument that that is some great evil either. There is a delightful irony for you – hanging yourself by your own progressivism.”


All three of Agares’ heads cut her off with a laugh. “A wonderfully well-made argument, sylvan. I have heard enough to render judgment.”

Arianna’s throat tightened, her head feeling fuzzy and her thoughts swimming as she rebelled against the frigid reality creeping through her body, numbing her against the heat. An awkward end to her marriage. And her legal career. And her life.

“For falling to good, Furfur shall be unmade within Chaos,” Agares’s heads intoned in concert, “so that her essence might be defiled and made damned again.”

The succubus clutched Arianna’s hand. “Worth it.”

“And as for Mrs. Lanathan…” Agares’ heads conferred for a moment, before they answered in turn, “In honor of your most unprecedented relationship, a hundred years of worse, a hundred years of poorer, a hundred years of sickness, and then death.”

Arianna squeezed Furfur’s hand back. “Worth it,” she agreed, the slight tremble in her voice probably impossible to notice under the deafening roar of cheers around them. Leaning down, she pressed her lips to her wife’s for the last time.

The muscular demon threw her to the frozen ground, her bare skin sticking and pulling away painfully as she rolled. “Welcome to a hundred years of worse. I figure we’ll start things out light before we get to the real fun.”

Arianna’s teeth chattered as she tried in vain to cover some part of her.

“I should say, Mrs. Lanathan, you are lucky. Very few mortals get a chance to escape their torment.”

“H-huh?” she managed around the near convulsion-sized shivers as she looked around the endless ice and nothing around her.

The devil chuckled, crossing all six of his arms. “In light of the services you have rendered for Hell, if you renounce your wedding vows, your sentence will be commuted immediately and you will be free to skip ahead to the death part.”

“G-generous as a-always.”

The devil nodded. “Trust me. That’s what everyone says. But I think you’ll change your tune given time. A century of torment tends to help you reevaluate your priorities.”

She could already feel the frostbite setting in.

“Well, should you change your mind, all you need to do is let us know. Oh, I know! A safe word, so we can be sure.” He looked around their surroundings. “How about palm tree? I believe that is unlikely to come up here.”

Arianna stared at him, teeth chattering as the burning sensation crawled up her hands and feet. “Palm tree?”

“Palm tree.”

Arianna swallowed tightly, closing her eyes as she prepared herself to be on the other side for once. “O-okay.”

By the time, Arianna opened her eyes, it had felt like she had lived a rather hellish three-hundred years. She collapsed backwards – or at least would have if Furfur had not caught her and gently guided her to her chair.

The devils all around them were still cheering, while Cerdowin stood, fists shaking with barely controlled fury.

“As you can see, I don’t think being married has cost me my edge,” Furfur asserted, tucking her hair back behind her horns.

“It appears it hasn’t,” Agares’ heads agreed. “To subject your partner to an illusion like that… magnificent.” His claps shook the room. “While the sylvan’s argument is convincing, I believe the two of you have successfully demonstrated that, while engaged in this rather unorthodox arrangement, you do not pose an actual threat to the hierarchies of hell. As Mrs. Lanathan posits, your companionship contract continues to bear fruit and will, based on the seriousness with which she regards vows, will continue to. And as you’ve shown, it seems no amount of quiet nights at home watching Mageflix can truly take the evil out of a devil.”

Mustering what little energy she still had, Arianna raised her middle finger at the sylvan attorney.

“In a 2-head to 1-head decision, we rule that the current state of affairs is acceptable to the Dukes of Hell. Court is adjourned.”

Arianna hung heavily on her wife’s shoulders as the elevator finally finished its ascent, delivering them to the first floor of the Superior Court of the City of Lost Angels.

“We cut that a bit close,” Furfur said, sneaking another kiss – this one on her cheek, and without the life theft or three hundred years worth of agonizing illusions.

“You really went with our safe word,” was all Arianna could muster the energy to say.

“Well it isn’t like I had a lot of time to come up with a better plan! You laid the groundwork, but I had to do something dramatic to show the court the I could still look bad without, you know...”

Despite being soaked through with sweat, the crisp autumn air was little relief with the memories of the frozen plain still fresh in her memory. It would be a few days before she could think of anything as being too hot.

“You are going to get it when I feel like I can move again, love.”

The succubus smiled, and it was like a little sun rising over the horizon. “I hope so, dear.”
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#1 · 1
You know your audience well. You know we like cute fantasy settings. You know we like cute fantasy lesbians. You're playing me like a fiddle, and I'm enjoying every bit of it.

This piece is a lotta fun. To my untrained eye, the legalese was very entertaining to read without being distractingly difficult to parse. In fact, I kind of wanted to see a bit more of Cerodwin's citations and monologues every time her dialogue trailed off. Which, of course, is a perfect sign that you're giving us just enough of it. And of course, I had a great time with the cute little touches like "two heads to one" and "City of Lost Angels" that were sprinkled throughout.

If I had to lodge a complaint, I think the conflict resolution might have felt a little weak to me. If all it took to win the case was a demonstration of Furfur's continued evilness, it kind of makes the previous posturing about what exactly constitutes as evil feel a little pointless. I mean, it gets the job done, but it wasn't quite the Ace Attorney slam dunk that I was hoping for, when I was excitedly pouring over the minutia of what the lawyers were saying.

My nitpicks with the climax aside, this was still a very entertaining piece for me, and I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for writing it!
#2 ·
I just have to say that I appreciate this take, and although it was one of the most obvious responses to the prompt, it still brought a lot to the table.

I have to admit that I got very confused with the four main characters. We’re immediately put into the middle of an intense court room scene with no opening scene for us to get familiar with at least two of them, giving them personalities and warmth, making us want to root for them the whole time.

I don’t know if it’s my bias against ‘bury your gays’, but I did in fact root for them and cared, which is very impressive for a fic where I couldn’t tell who was who.

I also got very bored on some of the legal jargon or talk or whatever. I know I’m not the sharpest lightbulb in the shed, but I didn’t like the back and forth monotony. It felt like they were getting nowhere (which they kind of were intentionally?) but.... I don’t know. I might abstain if nobody else brings up the issue that I’m (attempting) to portray in words. I think courthouse scenes, even if done well, are just not my cup of tea, that’s all.

On the gayness level I’d give this a 10/10 succubi.

Might come back to this review later... who knows. I think I still have a lot left to say.
#3 · 1
I also:

Got a little confused with the various species and characters right at the start--especially the way a character with three heads is "he" while a character with one head is "they"--but once the courtroom proceedings kicked in, the good ol' adversarial justice system pointed me at straight at the good guys and the bad guys, and I was along for the ride. Just thed tiniest bit more set-up, and this one'll be firing on all cylinders as it were.

#4 ·
A very enjoyable and comedic story. I did have some trouble reading through the first time, just because of a few points where the speakers weren't quite clear, but it was never from the legalese. Given that I'm a layperson when it comes to legal matters, that's a good bit of praise. Also, the ending does make me think a bit: was the entire court case just a lead-up to Furfur's defense, or was it a spur of the moment kind of thing? Not to say that it's bad in any way, but it does make me think, and I think that's a good plus.
#5 ·
Ooh, shipping. I am gonna preface this by saying that I am a stone cold emotionless monster (AKA asexual), and out of personal taste romance is a tricky subject for me to read.

First, I found myself pretty immersed in the story, and it was relatively easy for me to picture where it was and what was going on. I will agree with others though in that the voice change is a little confusing at times. I also found getting accustomed to Hell's court a tiny bit difficult, given obviously there's a couple important differences between it and an actual one. Overall though, as Bachi and Flashgen mentioned I don't know much legalese but this was quite easy to understand, so good job with that.

I also agree with Bachi that the conflict resolution was a little weak. I was kind of left with "Wait, it was that easy?" Arianna's reaction after their court victory I think could also have used a little more expansion, but it's not a major detail.

Thanks for the entry anon :)