Cutting through your own skin is like cutting through a mushroom.

The skin pushes back against the blade, trying to keep the blood it protects. But it doesn't take more than a tiny motion of effort to slit the skin and get the blood you need.

A Great Fairy wrinkled her nose in disgust. Such archaic practices were frowned upon now that the unicorns ruled the fae, but that would not be the case for much longer.

Five other fairies stood tall, their wings glowing against the starless night. The Gates of Nyx towered even higher above them.

How lucky were they that the Gates still remained without a guard.

How lucky were they that the past had been prepared for exactly this moment.

She'd spent many years biding her time. Grooming her pet prince to be the perfect puppet.

Although losing that perfect puppet to the fairy prince 800 years ago hadn't fit her plans at all.

And then the fool got himself eaten. The idiot. She'd taught him better than that.

There wasn't a worrying bone in her body. The Great Fairy had the resources to bring back her pet now. She held the power. Everything was now within her grasp, and with her prince at her side, she'd soon be unstoppable.

The Great Fairy had known what she wanted ever since the unicorns began their reign. Her kind would return to their former glory at all costs. She'd lingered at the Fairy Queen's side for nearly a millennium, waiting and gathering the perfect players for her cause.

She'd thought of every detail. Everything. Even the smallest chances that she would be defeated. Though she'd never counted on the Fairy Prince taking a bride so young and so quickly.

But that had only worked in her favor.

Emotion washed over the Great Fairy like a great crash of water. The Gates did that to most who came near. You could taste the despair the Gates kept locked away. Devastating ruin flooded her senses. She knew that what happened behind the Gates of Nyx was the unicorns' fault. It was because of their involvement that she'd be able to complete the ritual.

Though it should be known that it was her fault the Gates went up in the first place. In a way, they were their own defender.

And fairly new, too.

"We are ready, Dark One," one of the fairies said. Her butterfly wings flapped with anticipation.

"Shall we take our places?"

"The moon is not in her place yet," the Great Fairy was stern in her words, but understanding. She was their teacher, not their abuser. "I wish to thank you all for your sacrifice."

The fairies all bowed their heads.

Terror made its domain outside of the Gates. Bones clung to the wrought iron swirls. Skeletons lingered in eternal sleep, most of which were slowly turning to dust.

It was impossible to imagine the Gates of Nyx in any other state. Between one world and the next. Always carrying the legacy of when fairies were far less forgiving than the unicorns. The Great Fairy had a hand in the Gates' creation, but not much.

No.

Only one young man could claim ownership over the Gates. A monster the Great Fairy had made. She'd taken pride in him until he had the audacity to fight back. It was because of her that he'd become the very scum of Hell.

And now she had every intention of using him like she'd originally planned.

He would bring her to rule over the fairies once again.

The moon began to rise with abnormal speed. The stars spun around as if thrown from their axes.

Each of the thirteen fairies that stood near the Great Fairy watched in wonder. Chaos was uncommon in the fairy realm. It was seen as wild and ugly. It was enthralling.

Unknown.

It was only through Chaos that the true leaders were able to rise above it all. And the Great Fairy intended to be one of those leaders, if not the only leader.

She would take what was hers.

Take back her birthright to be a superior over the other fae.

"Take your positions, we have but one chance," the Great Fairy said. She clasped her hands together, and then pulled them apart with slow assurity. Dark blue threads of magic wove through her fingers.

The ritual had to be completed with utmost precision. Each of the thirteen fairies had been well taught about the importance of it all. As the thirteen took their places, sharp lines of white light carved themselves into the obsidian ground. Not one line was out of place. The thirteen fairies looked to their leader, who was standing just outside the circle with a crystal box in her hands.

Millions of rays of light bounced off of the crystal box, only to be swallowed up by the darkness surrounding the fairies. The Great Fairy took a step forward, disrupting the symmetrical light pattern. The rays of light were soon corrupted, leaving only a perfectly clean pentagram painted in glistening black light.

No long speeches were needed for the ritual.

Only blood and a pledge.

She set the crystal box on the ground, and held up her hands to the chaotic night sky.

The sky spun faster and faster. The box on the ground began to shimmer, a gust of wind blew away the shimmering box as it turned to dust, leaving its disturbing treasure behind.

A fist sized heart frozen in an opal's iridescent shell sat where the box had once been.

Tendrils began to writhe their way away from the towering Gates of Nyx. Dark and predatorial.

The Great Fairy smiled as she beckoned the creeping vines of magic towards her. Several tendrils branched off, and hooked around the ankles of each of the thirteen fairies.

"I gave to you once," the Great Fairy said. The tendrils began to crawl up its first victim. "I gave you a boy to corrupt and use for your dark deeds. He served your cause, and now you must return this boy to me. I promise you these thirteen fairies, I promise you the heart of royalty. "

She blocked out the wet crunches that came from the tendrils' first victim. The Great Fairy knew the process of sacrifice well. The tendril had likely burrowed its way into the fairy's head through her nose. Soon the other fairies met the same fate.

"I want," clattered a human skull.

"I want," sang one of the dead fairies, propped up like a puppet on strings.

"I want."

"Give me."

"I must have."

Over and over the voices clanged, braiding together into one firm choice.

"I want someone to take my place," the voices cried out together. "Bring me the Fairy Prince.

That is my price."

"Then it shall be done," The Great Fairy said, stepping away from the iridescent heart.

"I do not forget deals," the voices warned, fading away on one accord.

The black tendrils ceased their maulings, and rushed to the heart on the ground. Any second now. Pride mingled with the Great Fairy's excitement. The tendrils would converge on the heart. She would become the most powerful commander in the Fairy Realm with such a monstrous creature at her beck and call.

But the tendrils were stopped.

Only for a moment.

If the Great Fairy had blinked, she would have missed the spectacle.

Thousands of tiny stars leapt from their places to stop the black tendrils, essentially killing

themselves for a ritual that could not be stopped. The Great Fairy made no move to assist the vines of magic. They forced their way through the futile sprinkle of stars with no effort.

A wild laugh warmed through her body as she watched the thirteen fairies rise first. They were different from before. Inside their walking corpses hid a beast far worse than any witch or wraith.

Monstrosities of black magic, unquenchable darkness.

She could not name all of the beasts, but she knew that they were of high caliber. Perhaps higher than some of the demons hiding in their new prison. The Great Fairy recognized one. A former confidant of hers. An overthrown caretaker of Living Mirage.

None of the demons around her had turned their gaze from the heart in the middle of the ground.

The Great Fairy felt a small shadow of doubt as she thought of the falling stars, but she brushed the fear aside.

It would take too much to save the owner of that heart.

"Summon him forth," growled the fairy nearest to her.

The Great Fairy recognized the gravel-laced voice. But there was no room for regretting the past. She held out her hand, "I summon the Prince of Demons, the Bane to All Fae."

Wind began to wail. It was as if the very moon herself had begun to weep in anguish. Bones began to roll together, called to serve a still beating heart. The Great Fairy couldn't peel her eyes away as the darkest form of magic built a body of scratch. Stars continued to rain down. Many of them splashed onto the forming body, but once again, the Great Fairy didn't care to block the stars from hitting their target.

"Rise," the Great Fairy said, gesturing to the sleeping young man in the middle of the mass of tendrils.

He did not respond. The Great Fairy scowled as she approached the sleeping young man. His face was just as she remembered. Sunset skin devoid of healthy pallor. Black curls. A scar above his left eye that she'd given to him. The Great Fairy had learned that he'd managed to wreak havoc on a preserve for a few weeks, with a manipulated avatar, of course.

It reassured her to see her tainted prince for what he truly was.

A foolish acolyte with no will of his own.

"Take up your mission."

He did not stir.

"Take your revenge, Navarog."

At that, his eyelids began to flutter open.

The Great Fairy stepped back, the hatred in his dark eyes too much to acknowledge. She'd planted those seeds of bitterness in him as a child, and though she was glad to know that her hard work reaped bountiful rewards, it unnerved her to know that this beast below her had grown almost too powerful to control.

However, he was exactly like he was as a child.

Always eager to prove himself.

"You are still mine," she seethed, now angry at the centuries that had passed. But Navarog only remained lying on the ground, unapologetic. "You belong to me. You were given to me because you still have use, there is no reward waiting for you. Except-"

Navarog turned his hateful eyes on her, waiting for an answer.

"Except for revenge. Revenge on those you've loathed for so long. All you must do is listen to me, just as before."

Silence fell over the Gates of Nyx. Navarog pushed himself up into a sitting position. He frowned at the thirteen fairies around him. His words were as a knife on a stone.

"What will you have me do?"


Thank you for reading! I will do my best to update on Sundays, and will be publishing a new chapter this weekend. Special thank you to my previous readers, I promise not to abandon you again! Reviews are welcome, I adore interacting with fellow Fablehaven fans.

Have fun and be safe!