It's A Wonderful Life; honestly, one of the greatest movies ever made. But, clearly one that's ripe for parody, and as it's sort of seasonal, this is my parody, sort of... it does deviate from the films plot quite a bit.

Sordread, Claris, and, er, Scrotum, I suppose, are all mine. Eldoth Kron belongs to Bioware.

It's a Baneful Life

Part One

The smell of sulphur permeated the harsh, dry air. Columns of ash and smoke rose in columns up to the red, but strangely sunless sky, mushrooming out over the pits below, packed with scrawny, naked, desperately wailing mortals. This was the thirteenth circle of hell; far worse than the other circles, even though it was one few mortals had ever heard of. But then, esoteric cosmology was hardly a science.

This was a place reserved only for the most slimy, despicable, verminous mortals to languish forever. In a crater, a crowd of chattering, snapping imps had gathered in a circle to watch their Lord welcome one of the new arrivals, who had been stripped naked and made to stand in a bony cage. Quite often, they had to resort to trickery to get people all the way down here, but this one… this one had done it to himself.

"ELDOTH KRON," Lord Sordread's voice thundered and caused the whole landscape to tremble. He stood before a throne, a fourteen foot armoured figure, gnarled spikes protruding from his shoulders around a deep, faceless helm. "YOU, ARE THE MOST WRETCHED, WORMLIKE, VOMITOUS EXAMPLES OF HUMAN EXCREMENT I HAVE EVER HAD THE DISPLEASURE TO BEHOLD. AND I'VE SEEN QUITE A FEW."

"This is about Skie Silvershield again, isn't it?" Eldoth sighed, tossing back his floppy hair, his nose wrinkling in mild disgust. Nothing compared to the disgust the devils felt as they looked on his goateed face. He looked like someone who would be sweating all the time, even if it weren't for the tremendous heat. Even the slime demons thought he looked slimy and were keeping their distance.

"AMONG OTHERS."

"I don't know who you've been talking to, friend, but I treated her very well. It's much fuss about nothing, I tell you…"

"YOU MADE HER RUN AWAY FROM HER HOME…"

"I didn't make her; it was her choice. She was in love with me, the poor dear. It's hardly my fault that women can't resist me. I don't know what it is… just chemistry, I suppose."

"IT WAS IN THIS CASE; YOU DRUGGED HER. THEN, AFTER YOU'D RUN AWAY TOGETHER, YOU TRIED TO GET RANSOM FROM HER FATHER, SAYING YOU'D KIDNAPPED HER…"

"Well, I had to support us both, and he had heaps of cash. What else was I to do?"

"IF YOU'D LOVED HER, AS YOU SAID, YOU COULD PERHAPS HAVE MARRIED HER? THEN YOU WOULD HAVE INHERITED THOSE HEAPS, AS YOU SAY…"

"Well," Eldoth tried to tug at a non-existent collar, "She was so young, and I wasn't sure either of us were ready to be tied down yet…"

"THEN HER FATHER DISCOVERED THE TRUTH AND DISOWNED HER, REFUSING TO PAY ANY MORE RANSOM. REALLY, TOTALLY CUT HER OFF…"

"You can't blame me for his overreacting…"

"NO; BUT I CAN BLAME YOU FOR THE WAY YOU TREATED HER AFTERWARDS."

"What?! I provided for her, didn't I? I gave her a home, and a bed…"

"INDEED. THE SAME BED YOU SHARED WITH A DOZEN OTHER WOMEN… SOMETIMES, ALL AT ONCE…"

"So, I played around a little… What man doesn't? It's natural."

"IT IS NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOUR TO CHEAT ON YOUR GIRLFRIEND, IN HER BED, WHILE SHE'S IN IT."

"Granted, that was a bit extreme… b-but, you are overlooking one important, mitigating factor…"

"NAMELY?"

"Namely… namely, that," Eldoth's mind searched frantically, "it was all her fault."

"HOW SO?"

"We-ell…. She was always casting herself in the role of the victim, you see?"

"YES… I SEE…" the Dark Lord sounded bored, and started sharpening his axe, sparks flying as he struck a stone across it.

"A-and… she was very passive-aggressive. Her passiveness in particular was just… extremely provocative. So you can't possibly hold me responsible for everything… she brought it on herself, the little whore…"

"CAN YOU WORK OUT WHY I'M NOT LIKELY TO BUY ANY OF THESE EXCUSES?"

"Why not?"

"BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE CAT SHIT FOR BRAINS. FURTHER, WHILE YOU WERE BUSY DRIVING A YOUNG WOMAN TOWARD A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, YOU WERE ALSO BUSY SELLING THE LOCATION OF ALL YOUR OTHER COMRADES TO ONE JON IRENICUS…"

"Well, they were asking for it as well!" Eldoth suddenly spat and snarled. "They didn't say anything, but I could see it in their eyes; the way they were all judging me… how dare they! All strutting around with their smug morality… Hypocrites, the lot of 'em!"

"I'D HAVE THOUGHT A BARD, AT LEAST, WOULD KNOW WHAT THE WORD 'HYPOCRITE' REALLY MEANT, INSTEAD OF JUST USING IT TO TRY AND MENTALLY DRAG OTHERS DOWN TO HIS LOW LEVEL."

The human sneered, thrusting his hand out between the bars. "And how dare you! What power gave you the right to stand there and decide my fate, hmm?"

The long, loud, unyielding screech of stone grinding metal, then suddenly silence; even the imps chattering suddenly stopped. Lord Sordread slowly cranked his head, the little red pinpoints of light from inside his helm piercing the mortal. After a long pause, he spoke, "YOU HAVEN'T GOTTEN TO GRIPS WITH THE POLITICS OF THIS PLACE YET, HAVE YOU?"

"You think you scare me? You can't even look me in the eye properly… admittedly, that may well be because you don't really have eyes… just an abyss where your face should be, but… I'm Eldoth Kron, dammit!"

"INDEED. THE LATE ELDOTH KRON, IN FACT. NOW, I MUST PRESS ON WITH OTHER MATTERS, SO MY MINIONS HERE WILL ESCORT YOU TO THAT GUILLOTINE OVER THERE… DO YOU SEE IT? THE TINY ONE THAT'S ABOUT WAIST HIGH?"

"… oh, gods…" Eldoth Kron's eyes suddenly bulged from his head.

"AH, YES; YOU MIGHT BE NOTICING THAT YOU'VE SUDDENLY GAINED A BIT OF WEIGHT."

"My… my back is just aching… I-I can barely stand," the human panted, his eyes watery, "what's happening?"

"YOU'RE PREGNANT."

"What!? How… how is that… oh, gods," he fell over.

"I THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE EDUCATIONAL FOR YOU TO EXPERIENCE SOME OF THE PAIN YOU'VE PUT SO MANY OTHERS THROUGH. SO, YOU'RE EIGHT AND A HALF MONTHS GONE… AND YOU WILL STAY THAT WAY. FOREVER."

The human writhed and started to scream, "The pain! THE PAIN! Make it stop, p-please…"

"NOW, DON'T PANIC; THOSE ARE JUST MINOR CONTRACTIONS," Sordread gestured for a minion to come forth, "TAKE HIM AWAY. I CAN NO LONGER STAND HIS LOATHSOME PRESENCE."

A huge, bloated, baleful red creature came and roughly shook the cage as it lifted it on its shoulder, before lurching away up the side of the crater.

"RIGHT," Lord Sordread sat down in his throne, "WHAT'S NEXT ON THE AGENDA?"

"Well," a chubby imp, chubby enough that his wings seemed quite a useless accessory, peered through a scroll, "we have still to deal with Claris, oh exalted master…"

"I SUPPOSE WE DO," Sordread slumped a little, "OH, VERY WELL; SUMMON HER FORTH."

The summoning didn't consist of much more than the imp calling out her name, followed by a flash and puff of smoke which, once dissipated, revealed a lithe, pretty young woman with red, round lips and long tresses of pink hair falling over her fair skin. A lot of fair skin. She really wasn't wearing much more than a white loincloth and two little triangles further up bound together by string.

"Oh… it's you," she pouted.

"HELLO, CLARIS."

"Look, I've told you," the young woman put her hands firmly on her hips, simultaneously stamping her foot. "I am not doing any of that… that mucky stuff…"

"RIGHT…"

"I mean… I just… I'm just not ready. I'm sorry."

"NO, NO… IT'S FINE. YOUR LIFE, YOUR CHOICE. AND I RESPECT THAT, TRULY."

"Well… good."

"IT'S JUST… WELL… YOU ARE A SUCCUBUS. A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF 'MUCKY STUFF' IS KIND OF SUGGESTED IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION."

She hissed, "I never applied for that job!"

"NONE OF US APPLIED FOR OUR JOBS, YOU FOOL. WE, DEVILS AND DEMONS, WE JUST… WE ARE WHAT WE ARE…"

"Oh," Claris pinched the bridge of her nose, leaning back, "please don't break into song again…"

"WELL IT'S TRUE!" Sordread huffed. "WE HAVE NO CHOICE; NO 'FREE WILL'. FROM THE MOMENT WE EXIST WE JUST GET WITH WHAT WE'RE SUPPOSED TO. OR AT LEAST, MOST OF US DO."

"It's alright for you, though, isn't it? All you have to do is sit there and pass judgement on all the wretched souls that get dragged down here… bet you haven't seen half the things they're expecting me to do. It's all so… so messy. And unhygienic."

Lord Sordread started drumming his fingers on the arm of his throne. "CLARIS," he said after a moment, "WHAT'S THAT IN YOUR HAND?"

"What are you talking about? It's nothing, see?"

"SHOW ME YOUR OTHER HAND."

"There… see? Nothing."

"HMM… NOW SHOW ME YOUR TAIL."

"What? Why?!"

"JUST DO IT!"

Very reluctantly, and with her shoulders sagging, the succubus turned around. The end of her whip-like tail was coiled tightly around something.

"WHY DO YOU HAVE A BUNCH OF FEATHERS?"

"Well," she put a finger to her lip, "it… it is a bit dusty down here. And there were a lot of cobwebs around…"

"I KNOW. I PUT THEM THERE TO DISTURB THE MORTALS," there was an audible sigh from the lord, "AT LEAST NOW I KNOW WHY THEY KEEP DISAPPEARING… AND THAT'S IT, ISN'T IT? YOU'VE BECOME COMPLETELY OBSESSED WITH BEING CLEAN ALL THE TIME."

"Well… they do say, cleanliness is next to godliness…"

"NO! NO IT ISN'T. TRUST ME; I'VE MET GODS, AND THEY ARE A VERY UNTIDY BUNCH. THEY ALWAYS LEAVE IT TO MORTALS TO FIX ALL THE MESSES THEY CREATE," another sigh, "I DON'T KNOW; WHAT AM I TO DO WITH HER, SCROTUM?"

The chubby imp looked up, "master?"

"REALLY, I'M OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS…"

"Well, my liege… it is not the first time there have been problems like this with succubi."

"NO?"

"Indeed, your grand majesticness. See, the problem is that they are essentially part mortal… a very small part, but it means they are prone to developing these strange little quirks, like… like a conscience, or a compulsion to tidy all the time."

"BUT WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT?"

"I hate to be the one to suggest it, oh exalted one, but… obliteration may be the only recourse you have left."

Claris stood wide eyed and shivering, "o-obliteration?"

"Yes… blasting you apart into your constituent atoms, then scattering them across all of time and space."

"But… b-but you can't!" She both demanded and pleaded, "it's barbaric…"

"Oh, don't worry; we'll use a dustpan and brush."

"No! I… I-I want to live…"

"IF YOU WANT TO LIVE," Lord Sordread stood and towered over her, "THEN DO WHAT YOU WERE CREATED FOR. I WILL GIVE YOU JUST ONE LAST CHANCE," he held up a hand, seeming to grasp something invisible, at first. A second later a very large hourglass appeared. "YOU HAVE UNTIL THIS TIMER RUNS OUT TO GO FORTH, INTO THE WORLD OF MEN, SEDUCE AND DAMN ONE OF THEIR SOULS, AND RETURN IT TO ME."

"Right," Claris gulped, and straightened up, obviously trying to feign some sort of stoic resolve. "Seduce a mortal? I… I could do that. I mean, they're only mortals… how hard could it be? I'll just close my eyes and hold my nose through the messy… but, i-it might not even come to that, right? All I've got to do is convince one of them to give me his soul… it'll be easy. Easy peasy…"

"PERHAPS."

"Does… does it have to be a man?"

"NO, IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A MAN. IT JUST HAS TO BE SENTIENT AND CAPABLE OF MAKING MORAL DECISIONS."

"Right."

"BUT NOT A DOLPHIN. WE'RE NOT EQUIPPED TO HANDLE THEM… YET."

"And… if… if I fail?"

"THEN I GET THE DUSTPAN."

Sordread turned his arm around, the sands started to tumble at, what seemed to Claris at least, a quite alarming rate.

"GOOD LUCK."