Bron looked at the flask on his desk. An ordinary flask, but the content troubled him. He'd sniffed it, given a splash to a dog to lap up and nothing had happened. Everything spoke for it being plain water, but he just couldn't shake that feeling that it wasn't. It was different somehow.
He grabbed the flask and winced. His arm was no longer in a sling, against the surgeon's advice. It seemed he should have heeded it. He unplugged the stopper and sniffed the liquid one more time.
It still smelled the same. Odorless. Why was he so obsessed with this damned water? He sighed and put the plug back in the flask. He knew the answer to his question. The men they had found had died of dehydration with a giant lake only feet away. There had to be something wrong with it.
Bron slipped the leather thong attached to the flask onto a hook on his belt. He got up from his seat and took three quick strides to his door. He needed to get out and breathe. Sitting in there and thinking about all that wasn't doing him any good.
He closed the door behind him and stepped out into the entrance of the mine. His office was no more than a hole in the mountain. The same soldier who built the boat they used on the lake had also built him a desk and a bed. The desk wasn't much to look at, but it stood. The bed creaked and was uncomfortable. He really just needed to get outside where there was fresh air.
The men had gotten used to him and his rounds. He didn't like it when they saluted. It was better if they just kept on working, which was what they were doing now. Some of the soldiers, those that were fit enough, were training in a fighting pit they had cleared.
As Bron passed he heard the clash of metal followed by a meaty thud. Someone screamed and several men rushed to his aid. As Captain, Bron needed to stay on top of things. He had to make sure his men were alright.
A few brisk strides brought him to the wounded man. He was on the ground, legs jerking spasmodically, helmet dented into his skull. The man he had been fighting against had to be Tod. He was huge with bulking muscles. Tod sat a few feet away, shield and sword lying next to him, head in his hands, rocking back and forth, muttering.
"It was an accident. The swords... they slid past each other. The hilt... it broke. I used too much force. Oh by the Gods, what have I done!"
No one seemed to care about him. They were all surrounding their dying comrade. Bron stepped through the gathered soldiers to helplessly watch. Now he could see who it was. The man's name was Swindon and he was about to die for no reason whatsoever.
"Captain!" Rud was holding Swindon's crushed head in his lap. He looked up to Bron pleadingly. "The water. There's something I didn't tell you."
"What are you talking about? It can wait."
"No it can't." He was urgent. "The water from the spring. I drank it and it healed my wound from the battle."
Bron couldn't believe it, but his hand was already reaching for the flask. If there was a chance to save one of his men then he would take it. There was no risk involved. If it didn't work Swindon would die anyway.
Rud took the offered flask and pulled out the stopper with his teeth. He held the lip up to the dying man's mouth and slowly let the water trickle in. With his other hand he propped up the head and slowly removed the dented helmet.
Blood flowed freely over Swindon's face, but when his head was free a bald patch with pale white skin could be seen where his skull should have been caved in. It was a miracle. His legs stopped twitching and his eyes blinked, looking back and forth at all the people around him.
"What happened? Why am I on the ground?"
Nobody spoke. Bron had no words for what had just happened. Everyone continued to stare at their comrade in disbelief. The drawn out silence was slowly being broken by whispers. Bron heard his men mumble about the water and the spring. Questions were arising to which the soldiers expected answers, but he had none.
He looked at Rud who was trying to explain to Swindon what had happened. Rud had known. He had drunk the water against Bron's orders. Bron had to do something and quick. The men were becoming more uneasy by the second.
"Alright men. Back to your posts. Get Swindon to the surgeon to have him looked at." Rud helped him up. "Not you, Rud. You're coming with me."
The soldier nodded and followed as Bron turned to go back to his office. They strode through the camp and when they were inside, Bron quickly shut the door and confronted Rud.
"Tell me all you know."
"I already did, Sir. I'm sorry I disobeyed your order, but there was this uncontrollable urge. I was fascinated by the spring the moment I set foot into the cave. When I had the chance to drink from it, I didn't hesitate." Rud stood rigid, arms behind his back, chin up.
Bron paced back and forth in front of his man, sighed and took a seat at his desk. "How do you feel now? Anything unnatural? Sickness or dizziness?"
"No, Sir. I haven't felt this healthy in a long time. I think the spring is a gift from the Gods."
Bron tapped his fingers on the desk. He looked up at Rud, who was resolute and burning with vigor. There was a spark in his eyes. "You're dismissed."
"Yes, Sir." Rud turned to leave.
"And no talk of the spring or of the Gods. I don't want this to get out of control."
A curt nod and he was out. Bron hoped he would keep his mouth shut, but even if he did, twenty other men saw the miracle. He didn't know what really happened. Was it the Gods or some kind of magic. It didn't matter. Bron didn't have enough information to know how safe it was. He needed to find out more before deciding what to do.