"Bijou," commanded Odan, and the white dog streaked forward, gathered himself and hurled its muscular body through the air, as he launched himself towards the struggling pair, lowered its shoulder into Malef's knees, upended him, and knocking him off balance and to the ground. Malef landed with a grunt. The scribe held on to Malef's neck, as the giant threw himself into frenzied movements, trying to dislodge the scribe, while Odan tightened his strangle hold around Malef's massive, bulging neck.
Craven Justice ran towards the grappling pair. He brandished his knife at Odan in a threatening gesture that shocked the scribe. "Don't kill him," Craven shouted, as he watched in fear Malef's eyes close and his head slump forward.
"Let him loose, scribe, I warn you," said Craven Justice, in a commanding voice.
Odan released his grip on the giant and slowly lowered him to the ground. "He'll sleep for a while. Now put that knife away. In case you didn't notice he was trying to crush your head like an overripe melon."
"He'll be all right?" asked Craven; his commanding voice now filled with concern for his blood brother.
"His head will ache for a few hours, but he'll be all right. Strong as a bull that lad is."
"He's my blood brother --"
"Blood brother!" exclaimed an astonished Odan.
"It is all a mistake. He thinks I killed his -- his betrothed," said Craven, his voice breaking off in sorrow.
"Oh! Well, obviously you didn't. However, you'd be interested in finding the true killer, no doubt?" asked Odan, riveting the bard's attention with the obviousness of the situation and his true desperation to prove his innocence.
"Obviously, yes, of course," stammered Craven. For an instant, he disliked the scribe, who appeared to have an upper hand in a situation that was not to Craven's liking, as he felt death and danger surrounding him on all sides.
"Then we must leave immediately. There is but one place to go to."
"I go to the Red Gryphon Inn, to the sanctuary offered by Karl Strange --"
"Yes, the sanctuary of Karl Strange. I've heard of him," smiled the scribe, his eyes sparkling with delight.
"And what of Malef," asked Craven, deep concern upon his face.
"That magnificent monster is called Malef?"
"Yes, it means --"
"Little Mouse That Roared, in the ancient tongue, that is,"
"How did you know --" asked Craven, innocently brandishing his knife as he spoke.
The great white beast saw the dwarf's knife move towards Odan. He growled and inched closer to Craven Justice. The beast's movements and closeness caught the eye of Craven and he felt the hairs on his neck begin to rise.
He looked around, sizing up the situation, first towards the growling white beast, took a step back and realized that the rushing waters prevented a backward retreat.
Craven realized what a dangerous position he was in, glancing all around him, caught and trapped between the white beast, the rushing waters, and the scribe standing directly in front of him -- a fallen Malef on the ground -- he reached instinctively towards his boot for an additional knife.
"I wouldn't do that," cautioned Odan. "You have nothing to fear from the Bijou. He's just letting you know that -- that he likes you. Now we'll gather the skull and be off."
"Off? Gather that accursed object --" Craven hesitated, his mind working rapidly -- "surely a skull like that would be worth a fortune to some king's wizard."
"You're going to the inn, too?" inquired Craven with feigned astonished innocence. "You know, scribe, you're going to need some coin at the inn," added Craven, a concept forming in his mind, all the while glancing at Malef who now snored deeply aloud.
"Dressed like that will cause quite a stir at the inn," pointed Craven towards the golden-hued, flawlessly woven loincloth beaded with fine crystals, wondering at its worth.
"Is that how a scribe dresses from --"
"From Archangel Island," added Odan, extending his hand towards Craven Justice in an ancient gesture of friendship.
Craven reached forward, grasping the scribe's hand in a firm grip, he felt the softness of the scribe's skin, his own hands having been callused during his recent stint as a miner of evanesce stones.
"Quite a grip you have, bard. Perhaps, there is a bit of the warrior in you. Ah, yes, I shall record it: 'Craven Justice the Warrior Bard.' Do you like the sound of that?" questioned Odan, his smile sincere and his voice having a deep, genuine affectionate quality to it.
"Yes, fine," said Craven, dismissing the idea, not considering himself of warrior quality.
"You called yourself Odan and this white beast 'The Bijou.' I'm certain I heard you say you didn't know your name, other than the scribe."
"Oh, my head," said Odan, his hand reaching up swiftly towards his head, his eyes squinting in pain.
The Bijou snarled, walking nervously around the rock where the crystal skull rested.
Craven stared at the skull noticing that the glow within it was flickering, whereas it had flared brilliantly before.
The white beast growled, sending its thoughts towards the scribe who still held his head in pain.
The young one perishes inside the skull. The white beast growled his thoughts.
"Yes, yes, quite right, bard. The blows from your blood brother must have confused me. Come, let us go. I was thinking of an ancient ballad."
"And you speak ancient dwarven, quite a feat for one so young as you, human," said Craven, as his mind began to store and sort the facts.
"I have no name," said the scribe, as if in answer to Craven's bemused look. "I have yet to earn it. As you can see, I wear the cloth of innocence," said the scribe, his hand running down the side of the loincloth.
Yes, that was a reasonable explanation, thought Craven, somehow accepting the scribe's explanation, his own mind racing ahead, as a proposition entered his mind, "As I was saying, perhaps, we can strike a -- a partnership. I will promote your skills as a wrestler. The inn is famous for its pit matches."
The scribe's eyes widened in confusing and astonishment, as Craven Justice pressed on, seizing the opportunity of uncertainty in the scribe.
How young he had appeared before, thought the dwarf. "Surely, you can use gold coin, can you not? A 70-30 split is a usual arrangement --"
Craven stopped in mid-sentence as he saw the scribe squinting, again bringing his hands to the opposite sides of his head, as if in great pain.
"Something wrong?" Craven said.
The scribe stood up, shaking his head, a smile upon his face, suddenly beaming with confidence. "No. It is a pact. The scribe shall wrestle for you. Now, let us go. Your blood brother will not sleep forever. And I do not relish explaining your innocence to him."
"Nor I," but The Vent is far too small for either of you to travel through. How did you get here in the first place?"
"I swam," said the scribe.
"Well, I'll walk," said Craven, eyeing the turbulent waters that had vapors rising from its waters.
In a moment he found himself lifted off the ground, the scribes arms encircling him, as he plunged into the waters. "No, I can't --" shouted Craven.
"I can," whispered Odan, as he closed his hand upon the dwarf's mouth and propelled himself to the outside world, leaving behind his home of uncountable millennium.