You must escape this place, Slashing Crane.
Byblos hadn't shut up since Crane had left the amphitheater. Despite being pursued by a pack (was it a pack, Crane wondered momentarily? A pride? A horde? A gaggle, even?) of jaguar-men, Crane was seriously getting annoyed with the book telling him what to do.
"Not until I find what I came for!" Crane shouted aloud as he rounded another corner, a massive stone cylinder rolling past him from one of the many traps he'd triggered in his flight.
That woman has found you, and the presence of these savages increases the danger here by magnitudes you cannot fathom. You will not have time for satiating your petty curiosities!
Crane stopped, leaning against the corridor wall slightly. Normally Byblos was faultless in his ability to be analytical, logical and dry. Crane had always assumed it would be easy for the god of a giant reference tome. But Byblos had just yelled at him.
"What are you afraid of me finding out here, old book?"
"Who was that woman, the one in the hooded robes?"
An ancient Lunar Exalted. Her name is Bhalaam, at the very least it is now.
"And what does she know that's got you scared, Byblos?"
It is of no consequence to you.
"The hell it isn't." Crane stamped a fist on the corridor wall, getting angry.
You must escape, Slashing Crane.
"Not before I get some fucking answers!"
The issue is complex.
"Did she write that journal I was reading?"
This is no time to-
"Who's Sikharam, Byblos?"
Slashing Crane, you are wasting time.
"TELL ME!" Crane demanded. The snarl of a jaguar could be heard from the end of the corridor.
You have a more important problem.
The book spirit's words had the finality of an executioner behind them.
"Attack me," Crane said in Old Realm, his hands clenching into hard fists, "and you will regret it."
"So, you speak the Tongue of the Gods." The voice was part speech, part growl. Crane recognized the vocal beastman from before as he turned, facing him. More of the jaguar-men emerged from the other end of the hallway, six surrounding him in all counting the leader. "Your mind will not save you, thief."
Crane's frown started to twitch into a snarl. "Do you even know who I am?" The scholar's caste mark flared into being, the beastmen recoiling from the light slightly, suddenly fearful. "What I am?"
The leader could manage no words as he took a step backward.
"Damn right you don't!" Crane shouted. "Everyone, EVERYONE I've run across, they call me a thief because they don't realize I could care less about money! Then, they call me a demon because they don't get what I am, and more importantly, they don't get what I'm trying to do!" The furious Solar turned to the other group of beastmen, his scorn growing as he spoke louder.
"I don't even know why I'm here because my fucking dreams decide to keep secrets from me! I try and peel back those secrets. I try to show the truth under them! I don't give a damn how ugly that truth is! Those secrets, those lies, they're what reduced the First Age to this! They're probably the whole reason we're fighting at all right now!" Crane turned back to the leader, both ends of the tunnel staring at him and unable to look away as the Lawgiver spoke his rage.
"Everything that's happened, it's all been covered by someone who's trying to hide the truth. And I'm gonna tear down those lies. I'm gonna make sure everyone, every single person from the poorest kid to the richest dynastic scumbag to the most twisted mutant reads, writes, learns, and KNOWS the truth." Crane advanced on the beastman leader slowly, less than a handspan away from the jaguar-man's muzzle, glaring into his fear-touched eyes.
"So you know what, beastman?" Crane said evenly. "I'm gonna do you a favor."
Crane had the beastman's own axe in his hand before the god-blooded had even realized it.
"I'm gonna show you exactly what I am."
Gold and blue essence flared, and the beastman's own axe dug deeply into his side. The other jaguar-men charged in as their leader's growl of pain shook them, the leader falling backwards as Crane raised the axe in a wide stance.
"My name is SLASHING CRANE!" Crane howled as he ducked the first two blows that came at him, parrying a third.
"Son of Rootless Oak and Kiraya! Student of Old Saffron!" Crane sunk the axe into a beastman's neck, leaving it as he grabbed an obsidian-edged paddle from the corpse and lopped off a second beastman's arm before it could swing its weapon at him.
"Survivor of Amber Grove! Graduate of Great Forks!" The obsidian blade crashed down in the one-armed beastman's skull, the obsidian shattering. Crane kicked up the jagged-thorned swordstick that had been in the severed arm's grasp, catching it and ripping open another beastman's gut with one swipe, spilling the jaguar-man's entrails.
"Scholar of the Arjuf Library! Archaeologist! CHOSEN OF THE UNCONQUERED SUN!!" The swordstick tore a meaty chunk from the next beastman's throat, Crane grabbing a stone knife from its loincloth-belt as it fell, and hurtling the crude implement into the final beastman's eye. Crane leveled the bloody Dragon King-made weapon at the wounded leader, his anima blazing in gold, white and blue.
"I am of the Copper Spiders, the forgers of August Twilight Splendour, and I am a builder of nations. I am also a warrior that will not stop until he is free to show the truth to everyone." Crane turned the swordstick slightly, watching the Beastman with a gaze that could split stone. "Do. You. Understand?"
The beastman, breathing heavilly with blood on his lips, snarled. "You want to know what else, stranger?" he rumbled.
"Enlighten me." Crane replied.
"You don't know our home as well as you think." The beastman's blood-matted paw smacked down on a glyph on the wall, and the entire hallway seemed to convulse, stone slabs closing off both exits.
"Five flavors of shit." Crane cursed in a resigned tone as the hallway collapsed from underneath them, the scholar and the beastman hurtling down into the darkness.