The brightness that came from behind the cave did not last long. What felt like a day at most. We kept alternating shifts watching from the parapet, sleeping and eating those pouches of tough meat. I felt undernourished and hungry almost all the time, which made it much easier to eat the gross food. I found out that the commander did not sleep. He would get tired like the rest of us, but then he would produce a bag from which he took what looked like a large bean. Chewing it, then spreading it on his gums, like chewing tobacco, spitting it out after a while. It seemed to liven him back up again. He never slept. He couldn't be ambushed, and when he practiced with his sword he seemed agile and skilled. It seemed hopeless to free myself.
The brightness faded and with it I noticed they put out the fire. Instead they lit that covered lantern they used to find me. Their voices went from a conservation to hushed whispers to simply nothing. We no longer went out for watches on the parapet, we just sat and listened, ate in the dark. I didnt know whether to keep my eyes open or closed, it made no difference. Eventually it didnt really matter to me. We weren't completely alone either, which is why we sat and listened. There were scuttles and animal calls. Occasionally in the distance a shout. The sound of rock creaking, falling or moving.
A few hours later I was startled by a polyphony of blood curdling screams in the distance. I shook off my goosebumps.
Later we heard footsteps, somewhere in the structure we were in. "Quattuor" the commander whispered. That meant four. "Stabilis." That was an order to not move, not that I had any intention to.
The footsteps got closer. We quickly moved into positions to guard the room, flanking the door. I pulled out my sword. What use what it be, I couldn't see anything. I'd have to wait until they opened the lantern. The footsteps got closer and closer, one set shuffled rhymatically. Four of them, five of us. We had an advantage. I held my breath.
The commander whispered "Lux" and the lantern was opened. Instead of an enemy we were faced with more soldiers dressed as we were. One wounded commander supporting himself on a "Servus" like me. Behind them emerged two figures hooded in long dark robes. An old man and young woman. The wounded commander was let down on the ground and he spoke to mine in whispers, though I could see he was mortally wounded. He was missing large gouges of his body, and blood covered his pale body. The other soldier had minor injuries as well and was being treated. They applied a black salve to his wounds. Then they gagged him and lit his wounds on fire from the lantern. They held him down as he screeched into his gag. That smell, the purple flame, it all came back to me. It must be some primitive way of dealing with wounds, so horrific. Though admittedly it was fast and it worked. I felt sick. I couldn't resist the sick temptation to look at the injuries of that wounded commander. They looked so deep and so unreal. He was clearly dying now, his body convulsed between fits of conciousness. What had done this? The two hooded and robed figures did not speak this whole time. Finally after the wounded commander died and they decided to speak to mine. The commander nodded, then took the crystals of the dead one, adding one to his own neck.
We were ordered to pack. The corpse of the lifeless man was placed into the corner of the room. The lantern was shut again and we were in pitch black. We grabbed on to leather strips on the back of each others armor and moved behind each other. Occasionally the hushed whisper of an "down", " left", "right" in their language broke the silence. We were leaving even the relative safety of the structure we were in.
Feel free to throw some curve-balls in the comment thread ;)