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It was a dark night, a prisoner of war who had intended to escape killed the guard and changed into his uniform.

Why not ‘It was a dark night. A prisoner...’?

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  • Why not? You will have to ask the author about that. – GEdgar Mar 25 at 10:29
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The sentence has two independent clauses. Using a comma between them, without a conjunction, is an example of a comma splice. Some comma splices are acceptable—either those that have commas separating very short clauses, or those that are used for intentional stylistic effect. But none of that seems to apply here.

There are several ways it could be repunctuated or rephrased. The more common (including your suggestion) follow:

It was a dark night, and a prisoner  . . .
It was a dark night; a prisoner  . . .
It was a dark night. A prisoner . . .

It could even be rephrased into a sentence with a single clause:

It was on a dark night that a prisoner . . .

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As Bulwer-Litton fans will tell you most nights are dark. It is likely a Knight that takes action either as a prisoner or hero of a drama. If the action took place at night then your modification would make sense.

Your choice of making two from one with the first sentence as "It was a dark knight." fails to describe what action the knight took. Better overall if it was "It was on a dark night, a prisoner..." As the comment suggests, it is up to the author.

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