The cleric Karin caught my attention immediately, and when we left the town of Halfbridge, we left together. She, too, was traveling on a quest to learn more about the world, and we spent many nights staying up entirely too late into the night, debating various scientific theories whilst the campfire burned down to glowing embers.
I would not say that I was in love, exactly, but I admit to a fascination. Rarely in the life of Joseff had I met anyone with the same passion for knowledge and solving mysteries that I had, and Karin had that passion to spare. Without a doubt, though, the largest mystery that I faced during that time was that of Karin herself.
Karin laughed, a rich, pleasant sound that made the woods around them seem more alive. "I thought he was going to drop of a heart attack," she said. "The look on his face!"
Sheaf chuckled, nodding. "I told him that he'd get caught, didn't I?"
Karin lay back, peering at the stars through the clearing in the canopy of leaves overhead. "You always seem to have another trick up your sleeve, Sheaf. Sometimes, I think you surprise even yourself."
Sheaf shrugged, poking at the fire with a long stick. "Sometimes I do."
She turned on to her side, peering at him. "So what is the mystery of the great Sheaf, then? We've journeyed for months, and I still feel like I hardly know you."
The touch of a frown appeared on Sheaf's face as he murmured, almost inaudibly, "I feel the same way." Then, it was gone, replaced by a wry smile. "This from Karin, lady of secrets, cleric of a nameless God and scientist of an unspecified field of study."
It was her turn to frown, now, and the two lapsed into an ever-so-slightly-uncomfortable silence. They had seemed to wordlessly agree long ago that each of them would refrain from digging into each others past, but the topic still occasionally arose, usually in jest. Each time, Sheaf felt a pang of paranoia, a need he didn't fully understand to keep his abilities, and the very nature of his existence, private. Each time, he also felt that he desperately needed to give some of himself up, in order to learn more about this intelligent, skilled woman he traveled with. Each time, he felt as if he needed to learn more about her, for some important reason he couldn't quite figure out. And then, there was the Itch.
The Itch was a misnomer, of course. He didn't have the words to adequately define the feeling that began to originate in the back of his head whenever he was faced with some mystery, some secret, until it reverberated throughout his skull. It was a combination of a maddening itch that one couldn't scratch, and the feeling of bashing your funny bone against a stone wall, and the feeling of goosebumbs on his very brain. It was all of these, and a thousand more things, and it was none of these.
It was absolutely maddening.
When the Itch presented, there was nothing he could do about it but search down the truth of whatever was hidden from him. At the same time, however, he had no way of learning anything about Karin that she wasn't willing to disclose, and, as often as they talked, personal information of any real caliber rarely left her lips. Oh, certainly, he knew that her favorite flower was the lily, and she had an uncanny ability to cook extravagantly spicy orcish food, but such tidbits of information did nothing, less than nothing, to scratch the maddening Itch that reverberated through him.
Of course, she was hardly the only cause of the Itch. Anytime he entered a new town or city, it would inevitably come. Sometimes, the pleasant times, he'd be able to do something about it. The two of them, working together, would often track down truths, sometimes in the field, solving crimes or answering calls for adventurers, sometimes in libraries, researching the history or geography of the local area.
Figuring out whatever knowledge was hidden from him dissolved the Itch in a wave of ecstasy. Waves of pleasure radiated out from his brain to the tips of his being, bringing forth a nearly orgasmic sense of satisfaction. It was never enough, though. Often, mere hours later, the Itch would begin again as some new secret was brought to his attention, either consciously or subconsciously.
Sheaf looked up, studying the stars as well, and wondered--not for the first time--if he was going insane. Or, perhaps, if he already was. His reminiscing was interrupted by a loud yawn, and he looked over to see Karin pulling her wool blanket over herself. "I'm going to turn in," she said.
He nodded. "Wake me up in the morning if I try to oversleep."
She snorted sarcastically. "You? Oversleep? Never."
He chuckled under his breath as she turned over, her back to the fire, and began to drift to sleep, as his head returned to troubled thoughts. Most predominantly of them all, of course, was the same question, the same maddening cause of the Itch that had followed him on-and-off again for months: Who am I?