Part 1, Section 4 - Matters of Honor

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"Please, my lords, control yourselves," Bessik grimaced. "If this morning's business is truly a matter of honor, it behooves you to act as honorable gentlemen."

The prior and his acolytes were of the Order of The Heart, pledged to charity and healing, regardless of politics or stupidity. His calling made him a welcome officiant for the day's proceedings. The Order of The Heart often volunteered as mediators for feuding parties, working their influence with the seconds to affect peaceful settlements or failing that, to minimize the resultant loss of life. There were times, however, when neither party wished the other to survive, and Priests of The Hand of One were called upon instead. Priests of the Order of The Hand lacked their brethren's interests, promoting instead martial prowess, justice and righteous fervor. When they officiated duels of honor, there were rarely two survivors, and sometimes not even one.

Demis Faranado had submitted a rather insistent petition to The Hand to witness this duel. Happily, the missive never found its way to Temple Street, as the Faranado boy carrying it decided to take a rather sudden holiday to Gorum ma Dundor (some 70 leagues to the North and West) shortly after a chance encounter with a good friend of mine. A good citizen, she called his attention to two hundred crowns he might have dropped, and it seems the good fortune drove his errand entirely from mind.

As luck would have it, my messenger successfully delivered my own petition around the same time, requesting an officiant from the Order of The Heart, and Father Superior Bessik had come instead.

I wasn't familiar with many clergymen, but knew the Father Superior better than most, thanks to my friend's infamous exploits. He sought non-violent solutions when possible, officiated fairly, and was quick to work his healing arts when duels were done. Most duelists held him in very high regard.

Bessik raised his hands, calling for silence. When the excited crowd had quieted somewhat and he held everyone's attention, he asked formally, "Are the principles present, with their seconds?"

"We are, Father," the Faranados growled, almost in unison.

I watched the two enraged men without making eye contact. According to the procedures published in Ta Llan Fiero's Matters of Honor, it was a second's duty to see to the details of a duel, to make sure the opposition follows the rules, and to represent his principle's honor in all things. When acting on Rip's behalf, the responsibility was a frequent, miserable burden. It had the bright spot, however, that Rip's honor could withstand a fair amount of tarnish. A glance to my left showed him swaying as he waited to bathe his soiled hands in the blood of an innocent man, in answer to charges of rape and serial adultery, behind the estate he had let fall into ruin. I would have been hard pressed to hurt his reputation more than he already had.

Still, I faced a moral dilemma. It's not that I cared a whit for the Faranado family. Far from it. With all their pride, greed and prejudice, and the propensity to duel over silly things like fidelity, the one thing they had going for them was a somewhat dated reputation for loyalty to the crown. House Ill'Enniniess was also reputed for our long standing alliance to the ruling house, so theoretically we were partners in society and politics. Rip had single handedly done more to damage that alliance than all the Grengrims and Olempeakes of Dragoskala could collectively wish, and there I was representing him. What bothered me more, though, was that if we were to humor a system of single combat as a fair and just way to settle disputes of honor, then by all rights Rip really did deserve to be beaten.

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