Very few knew the path that Nyhtwulf took to return to the Isle of Skulls. Even fewer had permission to use it. On this path, there was no need of Charon’s ferry, but it was still over the River Styx, and still very dangerous. As he entered the Realm, he flew through a long tunnel of black stone. Below him were weeping souls, wandering the underworld lost as penance for unspeakable crimes in life. Nyhtwulf stayed well above their reach, following the tunnel until he flew over water. He stayed high above the water of the River Styx as well, knowing that even more lost souls occupied the murky depths. Their loneliness knew no equal, so they would drag any being deep to drown them forever.
There were some spirits who knew Nyhtwulf and shrank away as he flew past. The lupine hero was thankful for this as he didn’t feel he had time for any extra fights.
On board Charon’s ferry, Blacktide struggled in chains.
“You waste your useless strength, mortal.” Charon said. “You cannot break the chains of the dead. They are built to hold the most ruthless of spirits and demons.”
“Yeah? I bet the next person wearing them is you.” Blacktide said with a grimace.
“I will not. Once I settle the score with that vermin, I will cast you both to the bottom of the river. You will never be seen again.”
“I’ve heard songs like this before. It never ends well. My partner is coming, but it’s not going to end like you plan. I’ll bet on it.”
“Bet your soul, perhaps?” Charon gazed at him with glowing eye sockets in a vacant dirty skull.
“No need. You know, I bet if you did a better job, your boss might actually give you a real body. The whole rotting skeleton thing is kind of last year.”
“Watch your tongue, mortal, or I will remove it.”
“And, speaking of souls, I didn’t think betting with them was your bag.” Blacktide didn’t care if he aggravated Charon. He did it on purpose.
“Ooo, you’re scary. Let me out of these chains and I’ll show you something really scary.” Blacktide yanked on the chains to accent his point.
“You are no threat to me.”
“We’ll see about that. I’m calling dibs on one good kick to your skull.”
As Charon took to ignoring his prisoner, Nyhtwulf arrived at the castle of the Four Horsemen. The doors opened and let him in without even the need to knock. He marched to the great throne room where the Four sat in solemn silence. As Nythtwulf approached the room, he was addressed immediately.
“Enter and be seen.” Death’s voice echoed and boomed in the room with high vaulted ceilings of stone.
Nyhtwulf knelt at the foot of the steps leading to Death’s magnificent throne.
“Rise, former servant. We have been expecting you.”
“Then you know why I come?”
“Yes. And I give you my permission as you seek it. You may deliver the punishment for Charon’s misdeeds as you see fit, but the final judgment will be mine.” Death opened a clawed skeletal hand and an orb of shadows fell to the steps. I landed at Nyhtwulf’s feet. “Throw that upon the mortal captive, wrongly taken by Charon. Then dispense your justice.”
“Thank you, my Lord. I will go directly.”
Once given direction by one such as Death himself, one does not delay. Nyhtwulf exited the front doors and flew for the River Styx.
“It will be interesting to see your friend come to save you.” Charon said to Blacktide.
“What do you mean?”
“No one may fly over the River Styx and we are in the middle of the river. Your friend may not even make it to save you. I will relish in seeing him pulled to the depths.”
“So you plan to let the river do your dirty work? I think there’s a problem with that plan, Charon.”
“What do you know about it?”
“How is this possible! The river should have swallowed you!” Charon shouted.
“You forget, Charon, I earned permission!” Nyhtwulf lunged and slashed with his claws at Charon’s chest section. Bits of cloak and rib were torn away, but this would not slow down Charon.
Charon spun his pole like a martial arts Grandmaster, batting Nyhtwulf back and forth between powerful strikes. Nyhtwulf’s intangibility served as no defense in this realm.
“I remember that you have been given another life!” Charon said. “It is another life that you can lose, Demon. I am already dead.”
“Come on, Buddy, you can do it!” Blacktide called. “Take him apart!”
Nyhtwulf had momentarily forgotten the orb given to him. Twilie Demons can store a number of things in their shadowy fur. So he brought out the orb and threw it past Charon. It landed on Blacktide’s chest and broke open, engulfing the chained man in strange shadows. Blacktide cried out as they latched onto him. In distraction, Nyhtwulf was hit again, and cast overboard. As he hit the water, he wondered what he had done to his friend.