Note: This is Part Four of the story. Part Three can be found here.
I wasn't entirely certain where I was going, but it didn't seem to matter at the time. I merely needed to move, to seek out something...not new, but new to me. It was more difficult than you might think, however. I'd enter towns miles away that the human Joseff had never even thought to travel near, but only to remember only a few short moments later that I had been there, in fact, in my thirtieth incarnation, or my fifth, or any other of my iterations. It was quite frustrating, because, especially during the beginning period of my transformation, my full memories as Sheath were not available to me, only surfacing at times that sometimes seemed incredibly random.
Sheaf paused, reading the small sign above the door, labeling the building as 'The Last Cow'. He nodded to himself, grateful to find a tavern after days of hard marching on the road. He gripped the hilt of Veracity, just in case, and entered the pub.
The Last Cow was kept quite dim inside, with each of the windows heavily shuttered, and the only light coming from old-fashioned torches on the walls. Still, the room seemed cool, somehow, and was a welcome relief from the oppressive, smothering heat outside.
He took a seat at the bar. "An ale, please," he called to the barman, reaching into his purse for some copper and throwing it on the table. Not for the first time, he was glad that he had been able to convince the morticians to release to him all of the former Sheaf's belongings, including his considerable carrying money--had he been forced to rely fully on Joseff's personal wealth...well, it was really good that he hadn't been forced to rely fully on Joseff's personal wealth. He nodded at the barman as the tankard of ale was slid to him, and took a large drink of the cold, refreshing bevarage.
"Interesting contrast, isn't it?" he heard a female voice say, and he turned to see a small woman slide in the seat next to him. She was rather pretty, in a stern kind of way, with her brown hair pulled into a tight bun, and a pair of square spectacles perched on her pert nose.
"What's that?" he asked.
"The contrast this little tavern offers. In an age of engineering wonders, we see that The Last Cow has rebelled against the ideas of sunrods, powered lights, or any other form of technological lighting, utilizing only torches for illumination. However, by some feat of magic or technology, they are able to keep the room completely cool and comfortable on one of the hottest days of the year."
Sheaf took another long drink. "There's a flaw in your argument, ma'am."
"Oh? And what would that be?"
"You seem to think that the use of torches are the equivalent of the use of a barbarian's club, completely lacking in refinement and intelligence. On the contrary, the harnessing of fire is arguably the first technological advancement ever made by the sentient species."
She smiled, then, and Sheaf realized that he once again had the body of a very young man, and that logic and reason are oft-times no match for instinct and desire. "The scholarly type?" she asked, "I do love an intelligent man."
"Oh, I don't know how much of a scholar I am," Sheaf said, wondering if he was able to blush, and knowing that he should know.
She laughed, and the strange holy symbol she wore around her neck sparkled in the torchlight as her head tilted back. "All the same, it's an absolute pleasure to meet you. My name is Karin."
"Well met," he said, returning the smile. He glanced at the holy symbol she wore, which featured a pair of wickedly sharp -looking calipers, and felt the mental twitch that told him that he should know what that was. "I'm unfamiliar with that symbol," he said, gesturing to it.
"Oh, this?" she picked up the symbol and fingered it reverently. "I am a cleric of a god of science. It's little known, but very important."
"Oh? What's his name?"
She looked at him for a moment, as if pondering, before she shrugged. "As far as I know, it doesn't have a name. If it does, it's reserved for far more important beings than I to know about."
She didn't seem to be lying, but all the same, Sheaf felt like she was hiding something. Still, her personal religious allegiances weren't any real concern of his, and it wasn't as if her symbol sported the skull and scythe of Nerull.
"Hey, why don't you take a walk?" he heard a gruff voice say behind him. He turned to see a large, heavyset man with the muscles and callused hands of a farmer behind him, sporting a thick, wild beard and a balding head.
"I'm sorry?" Sheaf asked.
"The lady, here, is out of your league. Take a walk. I'd like to have a chat with her."
Sheaf glanced at Karin, who had her brows furrowed. "Sorry, friend, but she doesn't much seem as though she wants to chat with you."
Even as the large fist smashed into the side of his face, Sheaf thought, I really should have seen that coming. But it had happened so fast that there was no time to react, no time to prepare, just time to be thrown out of his chair and land on the peculiarly cold floor. He stood, the edges of his vision turning red. "Sybgib lufecrof!" he yelled, throwing his hand forward. A giant, shining blue hand materialized before him, speeding towards the man and lifting him off his feet, before slamming him into the wall behind him.
A group of people at a table near where the assailant was now pinned all stood. "Did you see what he did to Raph?" one of them said, and they all began approaching menacingly, each adding his own threat to a nearly indecipherable din. A few of them looked at least apprehensive, but there were still six of them.
No matter, Sheaf thought, and he threw his hand before him again. "Sygib lutecraft!"
Nothing happened. Well, nothing happened that he wanted to happen. The only real result was that the three members of the group approaching began to smile, apparently seeing no more danger, and the group as a whole picked up speed.
Thinking quickly, Sheaf drew Veracity, twirling it expertly in his hand before casually slashing the chair he stood next to. The paper-thin blade sliced through the wood like a hot knife goes through butter, and the pieces of the chair fell to the ground.
"Do we really want to do this?" Sheaf asked. "I don't know how fast the coffin-maker in this town is."
It turned out that no, they didn't really want to do this.