Chapter Five: Afterlife 101
I tried to clear my mind before entering the Sage’s area again, as I didn’t want to have another helping of his surly demeanor. I held my arms out at my sides, presenting the new (clothed) me to the Sage of the Inn. “Well? What do you think?”
Without even turning his head, he glanced at me in his peripheral sight-line. He sighed disgustedly and muttered “Newdeaths,” almost inaudibly. “I think you’re gonna catch an arrow in the side unless you learn to strap your breastplate to its back plate.” He reached out and jerked my torso closer to him by the straps he’d just mentioned, which I had failed to fasten. He slid the straps into the buckles on the back plate like an expert old soldier, and then grasped the breastplate inside both arm holes and shook me vigorously. “You see that, kid?” the Sage asked, with a slap to my chest that I felt even through the rigid armor. “Solid. That kind of attention to detail – might save your life someday.”
I put my hand to my chest, just to see if he might have somehow dented my brand-new armor that I hadn’t even begun to pay for yet. Fortunately, he hadn’t. I looked him in his eyes (that I could’ve sworn were betraying a smile that his mouth was in no way revealing) and managed, “I mean no disrespect, Sage of the Inn, but do you have to call me kid? I do have a name, after all.” His eyes lost the smile. “That’s right, kid – and in all the time you spent meeting me, you very rudely neglected to mention it. I doubt you even told Sarah de Winter over there.” He motioned toward the bar, and I realized that I hadn’t even given the young lady (who first greeted me) my name… or bothered to get hers. Modern life had made me into the same assumptive jerk that it had made everyone else into in society!
The shame hit me like a brick. “I… I’m… sorry, I…”
The Sage smiled just a bit at my remorse. “It’s okay; I’ll chalk it up to shock. But before you tell me what your name was…” at this, he patted the stool next to him. “…why don’t you have a seat here so I can explain a few things to you?” I sat sheepishly down.
“Now, first of all, what you were in your past life, does not have to be who you are here. If you’re really attached to your old name, you can use it if you want, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that almost no one does that here. Hell, even when Bach died, he changed his name to Sebastian Schwertmeister. The only reason I know that, of course, is that I arrived here a few decades before he did, and he accompanied me on one of my first adventures into Terrabellum.” At this, his eyes rolled upward in recollective thought – as if he were trying to see his eyebrows. “I’m pretty sure he’s reborn now.”
His eyes landed back on my face’s look of absolute confusion. He waved his hand like he was clearing the air of the smoke of his previous discussion. “Suffice it to say – give your name some thought. You don’t have to be who you were.” I sat contentedly for a moment, thinking of the luxury of an absolutely clean slate.
“Also,” he quickly added. “Just because you’ve done a particular job your entire life doesn’t mean you have to do anything like it here.” He squinted at me in angry suspicion, “You weren’t an accountant, were you?” I answered honestly: “No… in fact, it’s one of the few things in life that I never tried.”
“Good – accountants are all cheats and liars, and I’d sooner run you through than teach you how to live in the After if you were one.” I felt like perhaps there was an interesting story behind his animosity toward bean-counters, but I decided to let it be for the moment.
“Shoot… you don’t have to tell me that! My ex-wife was an accountant when we split up, and she was a lying, cheating whore all along, too.” He grunted his approval, and I think I saw the first genuine grin cross his lips in my presence. He cast a quick glance toward the bar, before leaning toward me with a lowered voice. “Don’t let any actual whores hear you use the name of their profession disparagingly, though. It’s an honest profession here, and the After wouldn’t be near as nice if we allowed people of true Puritanical thought to corrupt society’s view of our working ladies.”
“Oh yeah,” I said with regret. “I really have nothing but respect for actual whores – I think they’re public servants performing a useful societal function. I guess I didn’t know whether bitch meant the same thing in the After as it did in the time I came from.”
“Oh, sure – it does,” he assured me.
“Well, my ex-wife was a bitch, then,” I corrected myself. He snickered and took a drink from his mug, “Ahhh, whose wasn’t? Am I right?” We laughed together and it felt like we bonded. It was comforting to have a centuries-old acquaintance right off the bat that seemed like he would make a great mentor.
He went into the basics of the After very shortly after he’d called Sarah over to order my very first drink in the afterlife – a locally brewed mead, which turned out to be the sweetest, richest alcohol I’d ever had in my life. It made me think that even the simplest of things in the After were destined to be impressive. I wasn’t entirely wrong, either.
As it turned out, people that had just passed into the After were called “newdeaths” here like new people in our old lives were called “newborns”. Though you could die from pretty much everything that could kill you on Earth (as well as some new ways that I had yet to learn), your new life in the After was put into the body that you last inhabited (to begin with, at least). There was no way that you could either work out or even gorge yourself on food and drinks in order to change your body in the After – which was good news for people that died with great bodies, but bad news for fatties like me. When the Sage saw that I was a bit distressed by that news, he quickly added that there existed practicing magic users which would agree to change your body for a price – as magic was the only way to do so.
And yes, there was magic here. Although the Sage didn’t go into it (because he never used it, apparently), he did say that magic was an option in the After before quickly getting back to the subject of newdeath and rebirth. If a newdeath was someone just arriving in the After, then when you died here, your rebirth (what some used to call “reincarnation”) was how you left to go back to Earth. When I asked if we were on some other planet (because he’d mentioned Earth like one does a foreign country), he laughed and told me that we were in a completely different galaxy… one closer to the God of the Universe’s Throne System (which sounded like a group of stars that this God would just sit on like a celestial La-Z-Boy).
It was quite clear that my head was spinning, so he focused my stray thoughts by asking, “So… have you thought of what name you might like to use here? Vladimir the Conqueror? Tristan the Mighty? …Frank?”
I knew in an instant the name I wanted. “Sage of the Inn…” I stood up, raising my voice. “Patrons and staff of this fine establishment… my new name will be…” I paused for dramatic effect.