The river surged up to catch me, pulling me down, down into the abyss.
My eyes were open but I was surrounded by darkness, a darkness that engulfed me and weighed me down.
I could feel hands or claws tearing at my clothes, at my skin. The whispers had grown to loud hisses and screeches, and I felt pain searing my lungs.
It took only a few moments to realize that the souls in the Styx were trying to kill me. I flailed and struggled to reach the surface, but the grip on me grew tighter.
I had held my breath for as long as I could, but eventually instinct won out over preservation, and I opened my mouth, trying to pull air in.
Instead of being rewarded with breath I felt something else swarming in, something that overpowered my senses.
YOUR HIGHNESS! YOUR HIGHNESS!
It was Bob's voice that woke me up. I realized that I was lying on the shore, and resisted the urge to vomit as I tasted the burning bitterness on my tongue.
My limbs were heavy as I pushed myself to a sitting position, and my head instantly reeled.
I felt a sudden, violent spasming in my muscles and coughed, sending black ooze showering onto the sand.
STOP COUGHING AND DO SOMETHING, RECRUIT! BOTH OUR LIVES ARE ON THE LINE!
I looked to my left, and saw Eversio lying on the bank like a marble statue.
"What...what happened to him?"
HE JUMPED INTO THE STYX TO SAVE YOUR WORTHLESS LIFE! AND NOW HE'S DEAD! THE KING WILL PUT US BOTH THROUGH HELL FOR THIS!
I moved to Eversio's side, trying not to fall over when my world tilted again.
I listened for his breathing, doing my best to remember something from the first-aid course my mom had forced me to do a year back.
"I...I think he needs CPR." I offered, on the verge of wringing my hands.
WELL, I DON'T EXACTLY HAVE LIMBS!
I interlaced my fingers and started to give him chest compressions, counting in my head.
1, 2, 3...
I noticed Charon standing in his rowboat a yard away, smiling down at me.
4, 5, 6...
"The Styx is a sacred river." the oarsman said in his grim voice.
7, 8, 9...
"It did not accept Lucifer's bastard in its holy waters." he continued.
10, 11, 12...
"You, however, have been baptized in the lifeblood of the Underworld."
17, 18, 19...
"Your survival is an omen."
23, 24, 25...
"It falls upon you to become Hell's champion. You will never know defeat - you will slay armies with one hand, while raising this realm to greatness with the other."
26, 27, 28...
"Your name will be written for eons to come."
I paused a second, looking up at the menacing face.
"Did you say something?"
He looked at me emotionlessly, before casting off the shore and disappearing into the fog over the Styx.
I shut Eversio's nose with one hand and bent down to provide artificial respiration.
RECRUIT, IS NOW REALLY THE TIME TO LIVE OUT YOUR FANTASIES?
"I'm trying to get him breathing!" I yelled back, lowering my head to blow into his mouth again.
WHATEVER YOU SAY. JUST GET US OUT OF THIS MESS.
After maybe another five compressions I finally saw his chest rising and falling again, and let out a sigh of relief.
"He's alive, Bob."
THANK LUCIFER. He replied energetically, WE'RE SAVED! I'M SO HAPPY I COULD ALMOST KEEP YOUR INFRINGEMENTS OF THE PRINCE'S BODILY RIGHTS A SECRET!
"What?" I asked incredulously, "I told you, that was to save him!"
"Bob? Please tell me you won't say anything."
YOU HAVE MY WORD, RECRUIT.
Maybe an hour later (it was kind of hard to judge time when you were in an underground cave) Eversio finally came out of his stupor, blinking his eyes open and looking around blearily.
YOUR MAJESTY! Bob said instantly, THE RECRUIT WAS MAKING OUT WITH YOU WHILE YOU WERE UNCONSCIOUS!
"Bob!" I replied, horrified, "You promised!"
I'M A DEMON, RECRUIT. I DON'T EXACTLY KEEP PROMISES.
"Jesus Christ." I muttered, getting Bob to gasp dramatically.
RECRUIT, WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE! YOU COULD GET YOURSELF KILLED TALKING LIKE THAT!
"What are you going on about, Bob?" Eversio asked, touching his head and wincing.
Thank god he hadn't heard anything.