Part 1, Section 3 - Dumon Estate, Compass Garden

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Pertuli

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Pertuli.

Outside, the ruined garden behind the abandoned Dumon manor was filled with the noise, press and stench of scores if not hundreds of people. I found it a droll bit of irony that these 'discreet contests of honor,' were so heavily attended by characters from every level of society:

There were the representatives from each party's dueling guild—witnesses and guarantors of a fair and orderly contest—who stared down rival guild members to the extent that hubris and machismo demanded.

There were the priests. Sent by the church to seek peace and humane conduct, they were countenanced by the bloodthirsty crowd because they also brought healers; mignonites whose powers with radiance magic enabled these circuses by patching together all but the most deceased combatants after the fight. If a duelist lived, defeated or not, he or she would fight another day.

And then there were the crowds. Everyone from friendly supporters and house rivals to vendors of foodstuffs, minstrels and bookmakers were in attendance, and almost twice as many since I'd left to find Riposte.

No matter how the practice was decried by the city's civil reformers and politicians, the popularity of dueling couldn't be shaken. Military leaders and fencing enthusiasts encouraged duels as a way of maintaining the martial readiness among the ranks of officers and enlisted alike. It was such a popular sport that word had a way of getting around, even when challenges were issued in private. When they were issued as publicly as Paolo's, word spread through the countryside faster than mounted heralds.

The great "Riposte" Clasicant drew even more than the usual crowd. There were the glowering previous victims hoping to witness the spilling of his blood. There were jilted lovers and ladies of soiled repute looking either for a chance to catch Rip's eyes or to gouge them out. In some cases, they didn't even care which.

The garden itself had been transformed. Although the smell of decay remained, the tangles of weeds and brambles that had covered the concentric stone terraces of the Compass Garden were all cleared away. Scores of freemen now used the walls like seating; chatting vigorously, placing bets and buying pickles on sticks from local children.

I pressed my way cringingly past their unwashed bodies until I alighted on the field of honor. The center of the garden was a flat, circular area of smooth flagstones perhaps twenty-five paces across and surrounded on all sides by crumbling redstone terraces and arches. Once, the Compass Garden had been beautiful and filled with exotic plants and flowers from all over Terrok. Now that it was dead, it was perfectly suited for dueling; the irony was not lost on me.

Engraved into the pavement in a shallow, worn design was the garden's eponymous compass rose; a multi-pointed star like those seen in the corners of sea charts. Quiet, secluded and overgrown as it was, the garden would have been the perfect setting for a private meeting of blades, were it not for the spectators. Instead, it had become an amphitheater.

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