Emily, Grey and the Duel

2 Aug

Following on from my previous post …

The Duelling League lists its duellists in a system that Emily (not being a sportswoman) finds a little silly. Basically, the top duellist is number one, with everyone else ranked in order; a challenger who wins a duel essentially swaps places with the loser. If Bob20 beats Alice10, Bob becomes Bob10 and Alice becomes Alice20. The duellists at the very top of the table – like Master Grey – aren’t that far advanced over their fellows. Master Grey was in the lead, but he didn’t have that great a lead. (And that doesn’t include magicians who don’t take part in duelling contests, who may be better.)

A senior duellist is not, by the unwritten code, supposed to issue a challenge to anyone more than ten places below him. They are meant to challenge him. However, the challenged party does get to determine the terms of the duel – they can say, for example, that the duel is fought until one duellist is dead. Most challenges amongst the Duelling League are couched in vague terms because the challenger is trying to feel out the terms of the duel before committing himself, allowing him to back off if he feels he might get killed. There is, for example, no rule against Grey1 accepting a challenge from Casper 100. But Grey1 is quite within his rights to refuse the duel if Casper100 rejects his terms – i.e. a fight to the death – and no one would think any less of him for doing so.

A senior duellist may not refuse to respond, as long as they wish to remain in the Duelling League. Someone who wants to leave can do so at any moment, which moves anyone below him up a notch. However, this will look very bad if they try to withdraw when a challenge – or even an enquiry – has been issued.

Where points of honour are concerned – unlike sporting contests – matters aren’t that much more flexible. Someone high up the social and power scale could, in theory, challenge someone below them for an ‘offence’. It would be legal. But, on the other hand, it would make them look absurd. ‘Punching down’ is not considered a virtue in the Nameless World. A magician who challenges someone so far below them would both look like a bully – in picking a fight he is almost certain to win – and also give credence to whatever the offence actually was, as if the magician was trying to silence his opponent. To paraphrase a line from The Sandman, a fool can tell a magician that he’s wearing no clothes – but the magician is still a magician.

The challenged is not allowed to hire someone else to fight the duel for him. If the challenged doesn’t have magic, for example, he may stipulate that the duel be fought with swords, rather than spells. It is considered bad form to pick a weapon that one knows one’s opponent doesn’t know how to use, but it isn’t illegal.

Under certain circumstances, the challenged may offer a grovelling apology instead of a duel – if the challenger accepts it – and then try to make recompense. Under others, a duel is technically forbidden – if someone accuses someone else of a serious crime, the accused may not seek to silence his opponent through a duel. (Although, if proved innocent, he may seek revenge on the duelling ground.)

Anyway, back to Emily.

As far as the vast majority of the outside world is concerned, it was EMILY – not Grey – who issued the challenge. Grey spent a lot of time manipulating her to the point where she would say something careless because he could NOT issue the challenge himself – the Grandmaster would have vetoed it AND probably fired Grey (out a cannon). Even if Emily and Grey had met outside Whitehall (and he wasn’t one of her teachers), society would have raised eyebrows at Grey challenging her. It would have been viewed as dishonourable.

(That said, Emily killed two necromancers. The duel didn’t raise that many eyebrows because not everyone thought it was uneven.)

Grey, by rights, should have refused the challenge (as a tutor, he had that right) or specified a non-lethal duel. On the other hand, seeing he insisted that all challengers agree to a lethal duel as the price for challenging him, most outside observers would not have been too sympathetic to Emily if she’d protested on grounds of ignorance. They would point out – rightly, from their POV – that Emily was too stupid to check before issuing her challenge and, having made her bed, would have to die in it. They would also argue that someone who killed two necromancers is clearly NOT a helpless little girl, so the element of dishonour (for Grey) is much reduced.

The Grandmaster’s only legal recourse was to order the duel delayed and hope that something came up that would allow all parties to back off with honour reasonably satisfied. This obviously didn’t work <grin>.

Emily could have grovelled or run (as Lady Barb advised). In the case of the former, Master Grey would have had no obligation to accept … and, if he did, it would have made Emily look very bad. In the case of the latter, she would have been declared an outlaw, which would have dented her reputation and (probably) resulted in her death. Magical society – and much of the mundane aristocracy – would have shunned her. Worse, it would have confirmed the suspicions of everyone – including several necromancers – who believed that Emily’s power rested on a bluff.

Void could, in theory, have stepped in and bribed or threatened Grey into abandoning the duel. However, if he had done so, it would have destroyed Emily’s future credibility as an independent power in her own right (as well as a successor to Void) in the same way that helicopter parents undermine their adult children. Outside observers would have seen it as daddy stepping in to clean up the mess after his daughter’s mouth wrote a check she couldn’t cash. No one would blame him for being appalled at the situation, as any responsible father should be, but they wouldn’t see him having many options, save for allowing the duel to go ahead and hoping for the best. (Particularly as Emily does have a reputation for taking on actual necromancers and winning.)

In short, after the Grandmaster died, the best option as far as the Nameless World was concerned was to let the duel go ahead and hope for the best.

22 Responses to “Emily, Grey and the Duel”

  1. Ihas August 2, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    It sounds like the challenged has little option to refuse a challenge, but Emily was able to refuse several challenges from Caleb’s brother without leaving the league, losing her place, or forfeiting any property? She also did not have to forfeit property after eventually throwing the duel. What loophole did she exploit?

    • chrishanger August 18, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

      It wasn’t that public a challenge, so she didn’t have to do anything .


  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 2, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    I wonder how the Dueling League would classify somebody like Void who wanted to take up dueling as a sport.

    Of course, if somebody like Void challenged a duelist for “reasons” other than as a sport, the League likely wouldn’t have a say.

    • Pyo August 2, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

      I’d expect that if someone powerful abused the system the rest would band together to stop them, formal challenge or no.

      Frankly I’m not entirely sure I find that part of the setting convincing. It seems odd, not entirely fitting with the rest. Especially the mix of “let’s have a league!” and “let’s kill each other!”

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 2, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

        I wasn’t thinking of “abusing the system”.

        Just wondering how the League would classify him if he wanted to enter the sport.

        Mind you, I suspect that the League has “informal” classifications for non-duelists magicians.

        Void is likely classified as “extremely powerful, don’t challenge him & don’t give him reason to challenge you”. 😈

  3. MAD-ness August 2, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

    Perhaps I am incorrect but I understood the challenge to be a social or ‘honor’ challenge (sort of like pistol duels in America in the olden days).

    After the duel happened the dueling league simply accepted the results and gave Emily the ranking that Grey had previously possessed.

    Lady Barb states at some point (IIRC) that she removed herself from the league in the past but I always assumed that she would happily kill someone in a duel if they impinged upon her honor (with an attack, false accusation, etc.).

    I also got the feeling that Casper’s attempts to challenge Emily always fell just inside the limit of an official challenge so that she could deny them (as he knew she likely would) without completely humiliating him.

    • chrishanger August 18, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

      Pretty much, yes.

      It’s really designed to limit the damage from two magicians deciding to fight it out.


  4. G August 2, 2017 at 10:34 pm #

    I appreciate the explanation and love the series. But Void is known for his extreme power and ruthlessness–and he’s famous for not caring what others think…and for not playing by the rules of magical society. Also, Emily doesn’t really need to play political games–who cares if her “reputation” is damaged–she’s not running for anything. If she goes home to “Daddy” and is named an “outlaw”, what is Gray going to do–attack Void?? Emily doesn’t care what the nameless world thinks of her…and with Void’s training, in a few years, she’ll be able to kick butt herself…The above still doesn’t explain Emily fighting a duel to the death where she knows the odds are against her. Finally, if parents don’t intervene when children are threatened or hurt, then other parents can’t intervene, seek revenge or bring in prosecutors when their children are hurt…

    • Charles Isabel August 3, 2017 at 12:02 am #

      Why fight? Emily has no shortage of courage and a strong sense of justice.

    • Ann August 3, 2017 at 2:13 am #

      Emily was in a confused state. She had information from a demon that indicated at least 2 future events she would be exposed to that hadn’t yet happened. So this suggested she would survive.
      Emily was also aware of concepts that no-one else was and could employ them if no-one else could learn or develop the spells. Emily made no use of her spell for disrupting matter (used on Alassa’s window book 2). She made just a low powered use of a laser (silly bint should’ve used a high energy gamma ray and one spell killed him).and she didn’t even blind him. She did use a KE attack on him successfully and she used chemistry against him weakly (should’ve exposed him to liquid oxygen around Francium or transformed the air around him to francium).
      So there were two things that caused Emily to think she might survive – demon information and her knowledge of chemistry and physics.
      Subsequent demon information indicates she will be making history for a long time.

      • G August 3, 2017 at 5:45 am #

        The demon only told her it was a possibility–the duel was still incredibly risky with death if she lost–and no real upside. In medieval society, “credibility” came from power–not society. Think William the bastard of Normandy… Void could have finished her training, and once she reached her full power as a Lone Power, she could have crushed any enemies over the next decade or two…Emily is supposed to be high functioning autistic and anti-social–why does she risk her life for what people think??

  5. Charles Isabel August 2, 2017 at 11:55 pm #

    I didn’t think Emily would be on the list as she’s not fully trained. I always thought people should be more afraid of her, she’s legendary! How many ca claim killing one necromancer? She’s killed two necromancers AND a master duelist!

    Boys should be terrified of cheating on her. Imagine what she’d transfigure their manhood into?

  6. Charles Isabel August 2, 2017 at 11:59 pm #

    What will Emily do to that demon queen Fulvia? That magic draining field should terrify everyone. Also, isn’t it about time for Nanette to rear her treacherous head again?

    • Ann August 3, 2017 at 2:18 am #

      As Nanette is on a death list her future actions will be stealthy with escape plans and she will wait for orders from her protector. That doesn’t mean she won’t take action against Emily if she can do a two for one.

  7. Kell Harris August 3, 2017 at 4:42 am #

    What about trial by combat? How does that work in this world?

    • Simon August 3, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

      If it’s two magicians then it’s the duel, otherwise just like history although I’m not sure the rule on champions fighting but probably still the same

  8. William Ameling August 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    Emily will have the problems and opportunities involved in being a member of the magical Society, particularly the White Council. The people in the White Council can cause her problems but they also offer her the ability to influence others to DO something. If she tries to cut herself off from the problems they are trying to cause her, then she also cuts herself off from being able to get them to DO things by persuasion.

    Admittedly, a Lone Power like VOID can tell the White Council to DO something based on pure power, but that can only be done rarely, otherwise they will start to view him (or maybe Emily someday) as a MENACE that needs to be dealt with by action of a large group of strong magicians. Most of the time, he or she, will have to engage in the usual political methods, i.e. persuasion in some form, making and getting favors, etc.

  9. William Ameling August 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    Actually, there is a problem with the duel between Emily and Master Grey in my mind: The rules of the dueling Society should really only apply as long as you are a recognized member of the Dueling League, which Emily was NOT. So Master Grey can really only say in effect, “If you want to remain a member of the Dueling League and challenge me, then the challenge is to the death. Otherwise, you will have to leave the Dueling League and give up any status you have in the League.” For people outside the Dueling League such as Emily, she should have able to decline a duel to the death, since she has/had no status in the League. Similarly, Master Grey should not be obliged to accept a duel from anyone who is not a League member.

    The Dueling League should have rules (on members) and customs (for nonmembers) for challenge between members and nonmembers, but they should be less binding or severe, than those between members.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 18, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      Actually I got the message that there are “two types of duels”.

      There’s the “sport” and there’s the way to handle major disputes between magicians.

      What happened between Grey and Emily was the second.

      Duels to “settle disputes” don’t involve only members of the dueling society but can happen between any magicians.

      As was his right, Grey was public about “only dueling to the death” which meant that he wasn’t taking part in the sport but only in dueling to “settle disputes between him and other magicians”.

      He only wanted to fight duels when the person challenging him was willing to risk death.

      Remember, he had made it look like Emily was challenging him not him challenging her.

      Yes, Emily wasn’t a member of the “sporting” league but this wasn’t a “sporting” duel and she had “challenged” Grey.

      • G August 18, 2017 at 10:42 pm #

        It will be interesting to see if Emily has learned more martial magic in the summer before year 6–when sergeant miles and lady barb are tutoring her for her makeup exams. I can’t imagine they wouldn’t continue pushing her forward in combat magic secretly given how many enemies she’s amassing…and I hope other powerful magicians begin approaching her now she’s in 6th year.

  10. William Ameling August 19, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    Still, I feel that custom should protect against inadvertant challenges to a duel, i.e. Emily’s “challenge” to Master Grey as in “make me shut up”, and only allow explicit challenges like “I am tired of you telling me to shut up and I Challenge you to a Duel” in which case Master Grey can say ” OK, I accept your Challenge to a Duel, and it is to the Death”, but even then Emily should be able to say “I only wish to fight a second level duel (i.e. not to the Death”, and Master Grey could say “If you wish to fight me in a duel, it will be to the Death”, and then finally Emily’s either agrees to the Death Challenge Match, or withdraws her challenge.

    This should be particularly true, in situations where one person is at a much lower status than the other person, or when one person is not yet a fully accepted member of the magical society because she/he is still in school or is still an apprentice, i.e. is not yet a recognized Master.

    So basicly, it is only a Challenge, if Emily says “I Challenge you to a Duel…”, and magicians should know (be taught), that they should also state the level of the Challenge while making the challenge, or at least to make the level clear to/by both parties before a Duel is agreed to.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 19, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

      IMO when it comes to “duels to settle disputes” Magical Society isn’t likely to say “it’s only a challenge when you do THIS” because that would allow somebody to “keep pushing” the other guy into being the one to issue the challenge.

      IE Sort of like one guy trying to get the other guy to “throw the first punch”.

      Of course, Grey chose to consider Emily’s comment as a Challenge because he was pushing her into challenging him which means that he controls the terms of the duel and it was public knowledge that challenging him means a “duel to the death”.

      Since Jade told Emily about Grey’s custom, she couldn’t plead ignorance of what challenging Grey means.

      Of course, I think you are looking for a “perfect set of rules” and IMO where humans are concerned there’s no such critter.

      Grey wanted a lethal duel with Emily and IMO no matter what the rules were, he could have found a way to get it.

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