Dueling in the Golden Age
For at least the first three centuries of the Golden Age, dueling was both legal and regulated only by the bounds of honor. Duels to the death could, and were fought, and the only actual law governing them was a prohibition against "the making of spectacle for the purposes of earning profit". Essentially, the only law was that you were not allowed to sell tickets.
Any physical contact could be interpreted as a challenge to a duel. In practice, this was generally limited to unwanted physical contact; and when laws regarding dueling first arrived in the mid 3rd century, they began with establishing that a challenge must meet the criteria for assault. Insults and strong language were not regarded as challenging in and of themselves, but as soon as the line was crossed, the individual on the receiving end was allowed to "accept the challenge".
This part was important, as the individual being challenged had choice of weapons.
Formal challenges could and were also made, usually when honor needed to be satisfied. This was where the specific points of the touch system became important:
- Any touch - a challenge to first blood.
- An aggravated touch, such as a slap or shove - first blood from the torso
- A strike to the face with a closed hand - a fight until one party yields
- A strike to the face with an open hand - fight to the death
Upon receiving or delivering a challenge, either party was free to back out on the condition that they kneel and beg their opponent's forgiveness whilst being thrashed soundly.
Rules and Etiquette
The challenger was allowed to name the time and place, while the challenged chose weapons. Longswords were the most common choice(being the most practiced-with weapon). As most duels were about drawing blood, armor was not permitted, though a shield was sometimes allowed if both parties agreed.
Each party was required to bring a second, who would fight in their stead should they be unwilling or unable. It was considered dishonorable (and later made patently illegal) to pay a second. Additionally, each party was required to bring one witness and one "bearer" (usually someone with basic medical training). It was permitted to bring a second bearer (short for stretcher bearer), but having more than 4 people with you at a duel was frowned upon.
Any observer in a duel could claim a Maldaran. Once invoked, they took the place of one of the duelists, inviting the other to kill them if they dared.
The duel would begin with an airing of grievances. The challenger was required to state, in his own words, what he had done to warrant the duel. The challenged would then share their side. Each second would check the opponent's weapons, and take turns pacing off the field of honor. The duelists were then armed, required to swear an oath on their weapon that they would adhere to the principles of the duel, and then asked to walk ten paces. With their backs turned to one another they would wait until a bell or other signal was sounded, then fight.
Most of the written records regarding dueling used exclusively male phonemes, and in practice most duels were fought over women. However, women were themselves no strangers to dueling, Pendragon Emily killed seven men with a longsword before taking up Echbalder, and two after (though she used her original sword in all duels), and even the likes of Eieber were no stranger to dueling.
Fights to the death were relatively rare, and typically reserved for a very serious slight. Though backing out of a duel was humiliating, in a broader social sense admitting you were wrong could be looked upon favorably.
The first actual law regarding dueling came about in A.Y. 191, which only established that the minimum contact for a challenge had to meet the criteria for assault. Since assault was, even then, defined as "the slightest touch" this had little impact on the culture. Changing social norms did impact dueling, as new generations rose and fewer men had practical combat experience. While it had always been seen as bad form, another law introduced around this time banned selling tickets or otherwise profiting on the duel, for fears the spectacle would give rise to a blood sport.
The gun, which had existed even during the Mage Wars, fell into favor as a dueling weapon around about the mid second century. These were typically smooth-bore, single-shot weapons, modeled on the Rune Stick (itself a common dueling choice). This did bring about one major change in practice, as once both weapons had been fired it could be agreed that "honor had been satisfied", and the dual concluded. Choosing pistols was always an interesting gamble; both parties could opt to fire wide and miss each other, having completed the requirements. However, if there was enough anger (and there often was) death was still a very real possibility.
Two major factors lead to the decline in the art of dueling. The first was the widespread introduction of multi-shot, rifled firearms. These had also been in existence since the Mage Wars, but technology was slow to come to Arindell, and the customs of dueling even slower to change. On particularly famous duel in 1312 involved two men choosing semi-automatic pistols. One duelist shot his opponent dead, then his second, then his bearer, and then shot the witness in the leg. This was the case that lead to the first laws regarding dueling. The second factor was the decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the middle-class. While by no means limited to it, dueling had been the domain of Arindell's high society. The elites, who had time to train extensively, were in fact less likely to kill each other in a duel not meant to go to the death. The middle and lower classes, however, who might not have held a sword before the day of their duel, tended to be quite savage and reckless.
The first laws introduced attempted to preserve the custom while making it less accessible. The use of borrowed weapons was outlawed, as was the use of any fire arm containing more than a single shot. Eventually three allowed weapons were named: the heavy sword, the light sword, and the smoothbore musket pistol. Any party wishing to engage in a duel was required to own a matching set of all three.
Battles to the death were outlawed in 1350, and in 1355 it was made law that at the time a challenge was issued either party could declare it was not a challenge and walk away. This second law in fact made quite a few people very angry. In 1365 dueling was brought under the auspices of formal regulation. The only "legal" duels now took place at designated dueling grounds, under the watchful eye of court officials. Anyone caught dueling without a permit was subject to be hanged (this later changed to flogging at "no less than 40 lashes").
Dueling would not be officially banned until around the 9th century, though the permits grew slowly more difficult to obtain. By the end, obtaining a permit to lawfully stage a duel was more difficult than simply suing whoever had wronged you.