PROLOGUEIn Hell... Level SevenDead Harpies, messenger demons, and human helpers lay strewn across the granite floor, victims of the Beast's wrath and involuntary black blood donations. The smell of burning, sulfur ridden flesh filled the air and the sound of agonized wails was clotted by the sizzling meat frying against the dank cavern bottom.Lilith worked feverishly to staunch the dangerous flow of blood that gushed from the heir's side while her husband continued to work triage, summarily calling forth more blood and more bodies for his progeny to consume in order to keep their prized patient hydrated.Another blast rocked the cavern and a winded Lilith looked up from the task as her patient howled in pain."Keep working!" her husband commanded and then looked up. His nostrils flared with blue-black fire and the clatter of his hooves echoed in the chamber as he paced, setting her teeth on edge. "If you lose him due to your ineptitude, you die!"Lilith cautiously continued to excavate the eerie, glowing white light out of the heir's side. The brilliance of the white light emanating from the Neteru blade bolt was blinding. There was no way to stare at it directly, and even touching inches near it could permanently injure her limbs. What she could never make her husband understand was that if she placed her mouth over it to tear it out with her fangs, both she and their progeny would die and it would have been all for naught.This was delicate surgery, but in his state of mind, she knew the Dark Lord was beyond logic. He couldn't touch the injury; she couldn't touch the injury. Only a black magic blade could be used to make an incision outside the glowing white ember that was spreading on the heir's skin like a rapid cancer. The light lesion was also imploding, damaging vital organs beneath it, which meant she had to cut wide and deep and quickly. The patient couldn't be anesthetized, for she needed his fury-will to help keep his dark life force going. However, the pain from his injuries compounded with her ministrations was sending him into shock.Tears of frustration stung her eyes. Part of the chrysalis had been damaged. The heir had been born too soon. He was fully formed on the outside, but his internal demon organs had yet to harden. His exoskeleton had only recently been absorbed and covered with his human masking capacity. Even his fangs were new, hadn't hardened, nor had his wing bones turned to steel-hardness yet. His spaded tail wasn't even retractable at this point, and it flailed about piteously, trying to push her away as the source of his agony.Their poor baby was still night-blind, his eyes had yet to adapt to complete darkness... and his lungs were not strong enough for the underground sulfur and heat. His heartbeat had yet to die. There was so much that had to be corrected before it had been time. Damn the Neterus!Vital blood supply veins in the placenta that had been connected to the roof of the birthing cave, which were needed to wash the heir's system clean of the dreaded silver and light toxin that contaminated him, had been severed. Their patient's breathing labored in the subterranean air. He needed fresh, earth-plane oxygen in his fragile, living-species lungs. The chrysalis would have given him that, too.Ruefully, Lilith looked at their gasping, struggling patient and the partial chrysalis skin that still covered his face. That was the only thing they could quickly improvise while under siege to give him what little air could be siphoned from topside during the onslaught. Beads of black sweat rolled down her face as she leaned over his body. Another blast rocked the cavern, causing stalactites to come crashing down and stalagmites to uproot from the cavern to begin a dangerous subterranean aBanks, L. A. is the author of 'The Shadows', published 2008 under ISBN 9780312368753 and ISBN 0312368755.