"You! How dare you cut in line, and doing so in the presence of such a lady?" The courtier sneered ostentatiously. A light rain garnished the scene, the clouds bloated and picturesque above the Great Temple of Ulric. The aristocrats and their servants scattered as well-to-do merchants and squires moved to the edge of the street, revealing the belligerents in question. On one end stood a stately, albeit squat man, with muttonchops the envy of a fellow twice his age. He stood protectively before a golden haired lady of the court. On the other end stood a lean, stern man with a wolf pelt upon his shoulders and traveling clothes, his boots still stained with mud.
Clausewitz was a drunkard, but he was a fiend with a sword. He had reason to be arrogant, beyond his favor of Hausmeister Brugal, the Graf's tall and stately Chamberlain. The lady's honor meant little to him, it was clear. She was beautiful, but there was little in her Clausewitz saw as valuable save as an excuse. Kasimir did not even look at her, stepping away and clearing room to draw his sword. He knew he was the perfect target. He had the prestige of favor without the favor itself. The bastard's death, given in a legitimate duel, would grant Claueswitz fame without really offending anyone.
"I did not cut in line, Herr Heilwig. I was merely trying to enter the door of the esteemed temple. Let me buy you a drink after the service." Kasimir offered cooly, his calm words not quite reaching his wintry eyes.
"So not only do you call me a liar, but you do not even apologize to the lady!? What, you wish to placate me to save your own skin?" Clausewitz Heilwig laughed with an ironic wickedness. He drew his slim rapier, the freshly sharpened blade whistling through the air, its cup hilt gleaming in the soft light of the overcast sky. "Draw your sword, bastard! You will answer for this insult, and even Graf Todbringer will not be able to protect you from my blade."
The crowd gasped as Clausewitz lunged across the flagstones at Kasimir, aiming for his heart.
Thirty minutes later...
The Councilman's study was warm and comfortable, but spacious enough to play the part of a small library. The works of Detlef Sierck and Tarradasch were lined next to medical books from far araby and navigator's tales west of the Westerlands. Kasimir stared at one of the shelves, not deigning to look at the good councilmen as he aired what he felt were his more than minor grievances.
"What were you thinking!? Getting into a duel, and on the steps of the Temple, by Ulric's sake!?" Ulf Von Hammershaldt exclaimed. His mug of ale knocked to the floor and his hair disheveled. Kasimir imagined a better man than himself would feel guilt over the debacle, but he merely wanted to find a place he could rest from the road. Unfortunately he had been escorted straight to Von Hammershaldt's study as soon as the duel had ended. Apparently the good councilman was to be his 'handler' for the time being, which meant they sank or swam together. Kasimir had known the councilman as a small boy, and he remembered how kindly the man had been despite his prowess on the field. It seemed the stress of the high court of middenheim had prematurely greyed his hair and left him distraught over the smallest things. Granted, a dead courtier was not unimportant news.
"I had assumed the god of battle did not fret over such things." Kasimir remarked without passion.
"He might not, but anyone can spin this into a scandal!" Von Hammershardt warned, slamming his hands on his desk. A bottle of ink rolled off the well carved wood and fell to the floor. Luckily for the carpet, it did not spill open.
"A scandal for defending myself?" The bastard asked, finally turning to regard the man. Kasimir was not an unintimidating sight. As lean as a blade and fierce as a winter wolf.
"What matters in a scandal is how others perceive it." He reminded him, doing his best to calm down and play the part of a teacher. Kasimir was half his age, and the old soldier turned politician to realize that. He walked round the table, the firelight igniting the gold regalia cascading down his surcoat. "Whether you had cause or not will not make it less so, if everyone is already against you! I would have thought you would have learned of such things in your studies at Altdorf."
"I was not aware Middenheim was Altdorf's lesser twin."
Von Hammershardt's eyes widened in bewilderment and offense. "Careful boy! The fact of the matter is, you have been here one day and a prized courtier is dead, and witnesses are saying you attacked without warning and broke the rules of engagement! Even if it's not true, you must behave yourself. Your position is-"
Kasimir had finally had enough, cutting him off with a slice of his hand. "My position is what Graf Todbringer says it is. Nothing more, nothing less."
"Very true," The councilman temporized, but he grew notably quieter as he spoke his next words. "-but Graf Todbringer is not the one whom you should worry about. Not even he rules absolutely here."
Kasimir understood his meaning, of course. Every imperial court, no matter how strong, ruled by the consent of the nobles and wealthy merchants, just as the emperor ruled by the will of the elector counts. Boris Todbringer was an exceptionally powerful count, second only to Karl Franz many claimed, but he could not be everywhere at once. Kasimir knew the advice was sound, but he would not apologize for defending himself. "I am here to faithfully serve my count, and if anyone gets in mine or his way, I will go through them. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a few hours of rest before the grand ball tonight, and I plan on sleeping as soon as possible."
"Clothes will be brought to your quarters." The councilman said, and added as an afterthought. "And an armed guard."