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1209 RE-- The von Kruyer Duel

Date: 21 January, 1209
Outcome: Exoneration of Count Gustaf von Düren
Parties: Lord Horazo von Kruyer, Count Gustaf von Düren, Prince-Bishop Tewdar von Brezha, Brother Viktor of Düren,
von Kruyer's Champion: Wolfram Deschu
von Düren's Champion: A hitherto unknown warrior4

In the autumn of 1208, Count Gustaf von Düren of Brezha came under close scrutiny from his liege lord, Prince-Bishop Tewdar von Brezha. Another of the Prince-Bishop’s vassals, the Lord Horazo von Kruyer, had accused von Düren of harboring Ehrenites and vile cultists, possibly even joining in their rites. Von Kruyer had arrested a woman named Sabina Luchen passing through his lands, and she confessed to being a Spider Lord cultist receiving material support from Ehrenites in the area of Düren. She repeated these accusations in lurid detail before the Prince-Bishop, who put her under the guard of the Left Hand.

Such an accusation scandalized the court of New Aulesburg, as von Düren had until that time been highly placed in the Prince-Bishop’s confidence. Father Viktor, the hot-tempered senior priest of Düren, vouched for the Count’s devotion and orthodoxy, but this only brought the priest under a similar pall of suspicion. Enraged by the whispers against him, Father Viktor secretly went on the offensive, hiring a few individuals1, 2 to go to von Kruyer’s lands and investigate Horazo and his family, looking for some sort of counterclaim.

The whole affair took an unexpected turn when the Left Hand refused the Prince-Bishop’s orders to investigate further, claiming that manpower shortages would cause them to fail in other key duties. The Prince-Bishop was forced to use his own soldiers to carry out a thorough search of Morastig Castle, the home of the von Dürens for generations. One of these soldiers3 found a shelf of banned books, but they found none of the ritual chambers that Sabina described. These banned books would have been sufficient to charge the Count with a few minor infractions, but by the time the Prince-Bishop’s men returned to New Aulesburg, the situation had radically shifted.

Father Viktor’s agents, speaking before an Accuser of the Left Hand, produced extensive evidence that the whole affair was a plot on the part of von Kruyer to destroy one of the Prince-Bishop’s most powerful supporters, with the suggestion that outright treason against the Prince-Bishop was to follow. Von Kruyer challenged the authenticity of this evidence, but the Prince-Bishop clearly saw that the whole affair was descending into a morass of confusion. Becoming desperate, von Kruyer demanded a Trial by Combat.

Von Düren was slow to accept these terms, even though success in the Duello Court in Luzerne City would clear him of all accusations; von Kruyer had engaged the services of one of the most feared duelists in the Principalities, Wolfram Deschu, despite the Prince-Bishop’s objections. Once a hero of Eisenmark’s border skirmishes, Deschu later earned an unsavory reputation working for the guilds in the Hulder. Even so, the Count could find almost no one who would fight for him. The day before the Count would have been forced to fight for himself (impossible given his advanced age) or forfeit, a volunteer, Kazimir Ordina, stepped forward. Ordina was a near-unknown at the time, but that was about to change. He received his arms, armor, and spurs from the Count two nights before the duel, and kept his vigil that same night.

On 21 January, 1209, the day of the duel, Deschu fought with the lightning-fast sword and short axe that had made him feared throughout the Hulder, and wore a hauberk of black chain. Ordina wielded two longswords and wore a hauberk of fine steel links. A armored gauntlet of good steel guarded his left hand. In plain view of all, both warriors received a brew from a recognized member of the Imperial Society of Alchemists, Master de Graff and his apprentice5.

When the two warriors came together, it seemed that the duel might be over quickly, as Deschu struck his opponent’s right-hand blade from his grip. Only the deft use of his steel gauntlet bought Ordina enough time to recover his weapon, just in time to turn aside a lethal strike. Deschu repeated these cunning maneuvers, with the same outcome; some observers began to wonder if he was toying with his opponent, but it became apparent that Deschu was enraged by this upstart’s tenacity.

Time and again his axe bit into his Ordina’s armor and flesh, but he endured this punishment and returned it in kind. All were amazed at the fortitude he displayed. The younger duelist withdrew all the way around the fighting ring, scoring strikes that breached Deschu’s stout armor and left him panting.

The duel would have been the talk of the Imperial Court for a month if it had ended there; this newcomer had already shown that he would not be easy pickings. But Deschu was starting to slow, and it seemed that old wounds troubled and slowed him. There was a gasp from the observers, even His Imperial Majesty, as Deschu went on the defensive and Ordina pressed the attack.

It seemed, however, that Ordina's luck had run out when Deschu’s axe bit between the overlapping plates of his gauntlet. He could neither release the gauntlet nor get his blades around to attack. Deschu’s raw strength was enough to throw his opponent off-balance while his blade struck at Ordina's legs. Ordina fell onto the grass of the fighting ring, and Deschu stepped away to catch his breath before finishing his worthy opponent.

Crippled and broken, Ordina still gripped his swords in both hands and waited unflinching. Deschu approached and swatted at the left-hand sword with his blade to move in for the kill, but his opponent dipped the tip of his blade suddenly, causing Deschu’s sword to miss and his flank to be exposed. Ordina swiftly thrust his second blade back up and across Deschu’s belly, exploiting a hole he had previously cut into Deschu’s armor. The famed Wolfram Deschu fell, and Master de Graff did not reach him in time to save his life.

Von Duren was thus exonerated in the Duello Court, while von Kruyer gained notoriety, but any scheme to discredit von Düren had failed utterly. Kasimir Ordina was the talk of Luzerne City and the Free City of the Hulder alike for the six months following; it is all but certain that he did not pay for an ounce of his own beer in that time. But the Court is fickle, and the strange matter of the death of Zannick Berger turned their attentions again.