This fiction is the follow up to Forgive Me, the first chapter in the With Good Intentions story arc.
This story’s events were set in motion as the result of a vote by backers. Backers voted for Daniella Dietrich, the wife of Kaspar, to be the murderer of Cresconio and the thief of the Crystal Eye.

A General by Occupation

by Carmel Rechnitzer

“Dead center, if you would,”

Demanded Kaspar Dietrich. The two mercenaries obeyed, despite their hesitation. Kaspar was glad to see that even in a place as lawless as the City of Five Sails, one rule held true: Gold commanded more respect than Theus ever could. Huffing and puffing, the stout pair strode to the center of the City Forum, and dropped Kaspar’s heavy oak desk in the middle of the crowd. He set his most comfortable chair behind it, and sat down in exaggerated leisure. He tucked his hands behind his head, and slung his boots across the desk’s polished top.

All of the factions in the forum had noticed his theatrical exhibit, and had paused their dealings to stare at him in curiosity or mild annoyance. It meant each man and woman present missed the far more extravagant second part of his entrance. While the common people stared, an Eisen soldier stepped around each of the forum’s columns. Their backs to the marble, each man drew their massive great swords, and held its point to the sky.

The men cried out in unison, “Our swords are bound to Herr Dietrich!” “We hold this Forum in his name. Our steel stays drawn, until iron justice is dispensed!”

A quiet moment of shock passed over the crowd. A blink later, panic and chaos exploded outward. Merchants, administrators, scoundrels and political hangers-on each made a desperate choice to flee or draw metal of their own. When the first few escapees ran past the columns with no interference, the crowd slowed down.

“What is the meaning of this?” Came a thickly accented voice. Kaspar recognized the man by reputation. Yevgeni the Boar. An Ussuran mover and shaker within the city, if rumors were to be believed. The man’s burly physique indicated that this might not be a metaphorical description. He looked big enough to literally move mountains and shake the stars down from the firmament. Good. When Kaspar brought such a fearsome man to heel, the rest of the public would follow.

“A pleasure to finally meet, Herr Yevgeni,” Kaspar greeted the man. Casually, he motioned for Daniella to pour three tumblers of schnapps. His wife had not liked the sound of his plan, but she seemed to accept that he would change his mind on the matter. He was glad to have her tacit approval.

Yevgeni seemed hesitant to share a drink at the impromptu table without understanding why, and Kaspar could not blame him. Without slinging his feet down from his desk, he proceeded to orate to the crowd at large. His wife and her maidservants, meanwhile, dispensed alcohol to the thoroughly confused crowd.

“I want to begin by expressing I bear none of you ill will,” Kaspar spoke. He’d commanded soldiers, and knew how to throw his voice across raging battlefields. Projecting his voice throughout the Forum was child’s play.

“This morning, I awoke to find a church defiled! A pair of thieves had entered in the night, and stole personal relics that I had given to the Pastor to safekeep in good will. In greedy disagreement, the thieves did battle, and left a corpse in the basement for a choir boy to discover. A mere child come to worship, exposed to the worst the world has to offer.

I am new to the City. Pastor Haupt did me a great favor by taking me into his flock. To think that fools targeting me, personally, have stained his floor red… It would break my heart, if the War of the Cross had not already cast that withered muscle in coldest iron.

I come to you, members of the Forum, not with a request. With a demand. I seek Justice for Pastor Haupt, and for my congregation. This City has produced cowards despicable enough to rob him instead of me. This city will produce the surviving miscreant to my justice. The relic will be returned. The choirboy’s family will be paid for his distress. Penitent volunteers will replace the soiled floorboards in Pastor Haupt’s basement.

Just as the City has disrupted our worship – I disrupt the City. The Forum remains occupied until justice is paid, our Church made whole, and I am satisfied. Until Theus is satisfied.”

Kaspar hoped his tone emphasized the sincerity of his words. He wasn’t here as a matter of ego. Theus had put him on this fine earth to fight for a righteous world. He would crusade for Father Haupt, the way he had Crusaded against the falseness of the Hierophant. If anything, this rather farcical occupation of the Forum was as polite as he’d ever been to to the cheats and sinners of the world.

The crowd stared at him in abject horror, free drinks held in frozen hands.

Yevgeni gave a deep rumbling laugh, and hoisted the tumbler to his lips. After swallowing the sharp, Eisen liquor, he laughed again. He put his meaty hands to his hips, and surveyed the dressed up bureaucrats around him.

“Each of these men is a shameless thief,” he told Kaspar. “I’m glad you were specific in the crime they need to answer for.”

There was a moment where Kaspar hoped he’d gained an ally, but it disappeared as quick as a spark in the breeze. Yevgeni stepped to the desk, placed his palm underneath its center, and began lifting it one-handed. The two mercenaries had to dive atop each end of the desk and place their full weight on the wood to stop him.

“But your actions are not so specific,” Yevgeni said, exasperated. “”There are a few innocent people at work here, old dog. Don’t bark and bite at everyone who passes by. Fifteen wrongs won’t make a right.”

Kaspar sighed, but did not budge or place his feet back down on the ground. He would concede nothing. His two mercenaries, growing tired of lying across his table, moved to push Yevgeni away from the desk. A flurry of men – Ussuran, Eisen, Voddacen, even a few Castillians – each hurried to the two of them. It was anyone’s guess which member of which faction aimed for peace or for the first strike.

Fearlessly, Daniella moved to interfere with them all. Without flinching, she stepped in front of an offended Ussuran, and pressed a delicate finger against the sharp edge of his blade. He stopped in uncertainty, either mesmerized or frightened by the fiery look in her eyes. His comrades, and the rash soon-to-be-combatants, also gave pause. The glare of a beautiful, angered woman, Kaspar thought to himself. The dirtiest riposte in the book.

“Think carefully, before you draw blood,” Daniella warned the man she’d stopped at random. “I know, personally, the weight it can carry on one’s soul.”

Carefully, her disheartened adversary pulled away his blade. He did not draw blood. Yevgeni, in turn, pulled his arm out from underneath the desk. The dour look on his face indicated he had some choice words left to speak, but he seemed to think better of it. He turned away from Kaspar without so much as an apology.

The rest of the Forum did its awkward best to return to their daily rounds. The square was wide, the steps generous. One desk couldn’t possibly disrupt the politicking all that much, they assumed. Kaspar winked to his wife, placed thumb and finger to his lips, and gave an ear splitting whistle. It carried far past the marble columns, and into the City beyond.

The non-violent brigade of his hired help descended into the Forum. Whole platoons of butlers, handymen, serving boys and an Eisen string quartet marched in bearing the arms of their office. Twelve more tables were laid, each quickly kitted out for its own purpose. Food, accounting, the drafting of legal papers, a round table for off-duty gambling, and more. Shamelessly, a handful of his soldiers pitched their sleeping bags and tent, even made a show of starting a fire right on top of the mosaic tiles.

Yevgeni turned back to him, face red with anger with incredulity. He waved his arms at the proceeding, but seemed at a loss for words. Kaspar raised his refilled tumbler, and offered him a friendly toast. The Boar of Brovoi, however, gave him a look that promised future trouble, and stormed away.

“No business but Eisen business proceeds at my Forum, ladies and gentlemen! Not until Pastor Haupt and his church are made whole,” Kaspar said.

Reaching the height of passive-aggressive performance, Kaspar’s personal manservant shooed the City Treasurer five feet to the left, all to set up a shoe shining station. A handful of City guttersnipes, stomach full of Eisen bread, gleefully began scrubbing each of the Eisen crew’s many boots into a mirror shine.

Kaspar had retired from the battlefield, but not from the finer forms of war. He was glad to add such a stunning political victory to his belt. The showmanship allowed him a brief respite from the roiling storm of rage he’d felt this morning, once he’d heard Father Haupt’s shameful news.

“And what of you, Daniella?” He asked his wife. “This morning, I heard a new name added to your Prayer for Those Who’ve Passed On… I’m sorry for not asking earlier. There was much to prepare. But this new name… This Goncalo of yours… Did I know him? Does the City also have to answer for his death?”

The color drained from Daniella’s face, and her expression turned helplessly, hopelessly tired. She shook her head ‘no.’

“Are you sure this was the right thing to do, my love?” she asked. “The right war to start?”

You could take Old Iron Dietrich out of the battlefield, but you could not take the fire of battle from the marrow of his bones. Red, angry color rose to his face, and his expression turned humorously, hopelessly sour. He shook his head ‘yes.’