For a start, it felt like she'd just woken up. She opened her eyes and found that she could see perfectly well in the cavernous room. Even the bits that had been shadowy corners before were now clear and bright. She heard, but also sensed, Arkel snuffling as he turned over in his sleep, and Gia muttered something about a rockfall and cried out.
Alarmed, Irena ran over and began to shake her by the shoulder, calling out her name, but she was unable to wake her, She went over to Arkel next, loose threads of her clothes catching on the rough wood of the ladder. She was about to call out his name as well, when she became aware of someone or something else down below. At first she thought that Gia had finally woken up, but the noises weren't coming from Gia's sleeping place, but from where she herself had been lying on the pile of rags. She shrank back into the alcove and nudged Arkel with her foot.
"Arkel..." she whispered, "Arkel - there's someone else here. Does anyone else know where you live?"
But Arkel remained fast asleep. Irena kept shoving him with her foot, trying to wake him up, but like Gia, she couldn't shake him out of his sleep. Meanwhile, the figure below was stumbling about in the dark. Irena realised that whoever it was couldn't see as well as she could. She sensed the figure drawing nearer, despite Arkel's curtain obscuring her view of the main cavern.
It was strange, it was almost like she could feel the other person's movements as if they were her own. She felt the texture of the wood beneath her hands, and then the weight of the curtain as it was wrenched aside.
She gasped. The imposter was back. The girl with her face reached down and felt blindly for Arkel. "Arkel, Arkel, wake up." She said, just as Irena had done earlier. "There's someone else here..."
Irena held her breath. Did that mean her? Then she heard loud noises and shouting from the entrance to the cave.
"Oy, wake up you two, there's work to be done."
As the owner of the voice got nearer, Irena saw Arkel roll over and get up on his feet. Everything around her grew darker and darker again, until it was as dark as it had been before. She crawled to the edge of the alcove, feeling for it with her hands. There was more light in the centre of the room, as a strange boy was holding up a stick, the end wrapped in some greasy rags that had been set alight. He was an older boy, taller and more heavily built than either Gia and Arkel.
"Put that light out, Toban" she heard Gia say. "Your eyes will get used to the dark eventually."
"Hey, I don't spend half my time scurrying around in the dark like you tunnel rats," he said defensively.
Gia sighed. "Just put it out, Toban." she said wearily.
"Toban's afraid of the daark, Toban's afraid of the daaaaark...!" Arkel crowed, and Irena imagined him capering around like he usually did, constantly moving.
There was a scuffle, and a sharp yelp from Arkel, and the torch light was extinguished, but not before Toban had cried out, "Hey, there's three of you here; who's this?"
"Oh she's just a girl who ran into trouble and we picked her up," Gia explained. "She's hiding from the guards cos they said they'd cut her hand off if they saw her again."
Toban chuckled nastily, and Irena shivered. "Well, she'd better hope we don't run into any guards tonight ot they'll take both hands..."
Gia and Arkel spoke at the same time.
"Yeah, tonight. Mamata's got a job for us. Your new friend can come too. We'll need the extra help."
The voices faded away and Irena hastily slid down the ladder and followed them down the dark tunnel.