She shrank back obviously terrified and Tobal instinctively stood up without thinking.
"Wait a minute Ox", he said. "I've been waiting here three days and I think you're rushing things a little bit. She might prefer to go with me than go with you."
His challenge stopped the Ox in his tracks.
"You still here scarface?", he asked, "You'd better run back to Rafe before I mess you up."
"Why don't we just explain the situation to the newbie", said Tobal reasonably, "We can both talk to her and she can make her own decision about who she wants as a teacher."
The Ox didn't even wait. He spun and lurched over to where Tobal was standing, grabbed him by the tunic and threw him down on the floor. In disbelief Tobal narrowly missed being kicked in the face by a huge boot. This guy was really trying to hurt him! He rolled hastily to his feet and watched the Ox with fear in his eyes. There had been no real warning. Tobal was caught completely off guard by the viciousness of the attack and had no idea what to expect next. The Ox was obviously used to getting his own way and was coming around the end of the cot to close with him and give him a real pounding that could involve serious injury.
Instinctively Tobal's hand went to his knife and he held it in front of him protectively with the edge upward. The Ox halted, shock registering on his face. He was obviously not used to being threatened with knives and didn't know what to do about it.
Sensing an advantage Tobal took a quick step toward the Ox, waving the knife slightly.
"I said let's talk to her. Let's explain things to her and then let her decide."
The Ox stood still, not moving, a nervous tick showed on his left cheek and his eyes were bulging. Like most bullies, the Ox was a coward at heart. He was clearly unprepared for any of this and didn't know what to do. The silence built until his nerve broke, unwilling to challenge Tobal any further he spun away with a dangerous glint in his eye.
"I'll remember this", he said and stalked heavily out of the room.
Tobal turned toward the girl who was shrinking from him in fear. Then it occurred to him he was still brandishing the knife in a threatening way. He put the knife away blushing.
"Sorry about that", he said in an embarassed way. He felt a red flush creeping up his face making the muscles go tight and pulling the scar tissue making it stand out in the dim light. He was uncomfortably aware of how he must appear to this frightened girl.
"Sorry", he said again weakly and sat down on the edge of a cot.
"It's ok, don't be afraid. I'm Tobal, What's your name?", he asked trying to lighten the situation a little.
"Melanie", she whispered. "I've come to seek sanctuary but they stole all my things!"
She burst into tears not able to take any more. Despite himself Tobal chuckled at the irony of the situation. Apparently she knew as little about sanctuary as he had when he first arrived a little over two months ago. He laid back on the uncomfortable cot and looked her over with interest.