[prologue]

One candle remained lit, its feeble glow casting uncertain shadows along the earthen walls. The rest had burned out long ago, weary with the effort of bringing light into the world. Wax dripped slowly round their bases, cementing the tallow pillars in place and creating a makeshift altar to the only god that mattered here.

The bottle was heavy, the glass warped and cracked. The last candle was brought carefully to its lip, the wax forming an angry red seal atop the cork as the room plunged into darkness.

A low moan crawled from the corner, seeking both mercy and shelter.

“Hush now. You know what comes next.”

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