Monday, June 22, 2015

"At one o'clock, then, behind the Luxembourg."

This is Porthos’ line to d’Artagnan after the Gascon has, in his haste to catch his enemy Rochefort, run into Porthos and embarrassed him by exposing the plain back of Porthos’ gold baldric. Porthos sets both the time and place for a later encounter, in other words, for a duel.[1]

Just a few lines earlier, the Gascon had run into Athos, injuring that worthy’s wounded arm leading to this exchange between Athos and d’Artagnan.

"And where, I pray you?"
"Near the Carmes-Deschaux."
"At what hour?"
"About noon."
"About noon? That will do; I will be there."
Here too, Athos specifies both a time and a place.
Here too, Athos specifies both a time and a place.

The reason for setting a time and a place is obvious; the participants need to know where to show up and when. Such matters may be dealt with in the quick and offhand matter of the duels with Athos and Porthos or they may be arranged by the seconds of the two participants.

European duels typically had seconds who might help in negotiating the fine points of a duel such as the weapons, the time, the place, and the terms. All these are most important. In some periods the seconds were, by custom, supposed to ensure that the duel was fought fairly and often were supposed to try to persuade their principal, the person whom they were seconding, to reconcile with his opponent instead of fighting a duel. In some periods the seconds might fight each other. This is the case in at least one of the duels in the Three Musketeers which begins in 1625, as well as in several of the duels fought by protagonists in other swashbuckling novels by Dumas and others that are set in the 16th century. Duels might even involve more than two per side, though this style of melee-like duel seems to have gone out of favor later in the 17th century. But this type of duel may be a useful to use in an RPG since it gives the opportunity for a second PC (or more) to be involved in the combat.

A useful technique for running duels in an RPG is to have the NPCs in the duel played by other players. This gives the other player(s) something to do during the combat. This can be a double benefit in a system like Honor+Intrigue that includes multiple choices for fencing maneuvers, since the GM doesn’t have to play all the NPCs. Many players will enjoy the chance to use an NPC to skewer the PC of their real-life pal. Some sort of rule for morale is a big help to decide when an NPC might yield.

So where does one go to fight a duel in Paris?

Well we already have two locations from The Three Musketeers: the Carmes-Deschaux, chosen by Athos, and the Luxembourg, chosen by Porthos. Dumas tells us that “the convent of the Carmes Dechausses, or rather Deschaux, as it was called at that period, a sort of building without a window, surrounded by barren fields--an accessory to the Preaux-Clercs, and which was generally employed as the place for the duels of men who had no time to lose.”[2] Carmes-Deschaux refers to the order which is often called the Barefoot Carmelites or Shoeless Carmelites. I’m not certain exactly which location Athos meant. The Église (Church of) Saint Joseph des Carmes [D11] is a commandery for the Order of Our Lady of Carmel and Saint Lazarus. The order is often called the Barefoot Carmelites or Shoeless Carmelites. But the location does not look deserted enough and description refers to the Preaux-Clercs which is west and south of the church.

The Luxembourg refers to the gardens of the Luxembourg Palace [F14]. The Palais du Luxembourg is the home of the widowed Queen Mother, Marie de’ Medici. D’Artagnan later used the gardens as the location of a duel with Milady’s brother-in-law, Lord de Winter.[3]
Here are some other locations I’ve found from various sources.

L’Arche Marion [F8-G9]

One block west of the prison known as the For-l’Evêque[4] is the Rue l’Arche Marion, a narrow cobbled street hemmed in by tall buildings that connects the Rue St-Germain-l’Auxerrois (a main street running parallel to the Seine along which is the Louvre), via a steeply sloping arched street, with the Quai de la Mégisserie and the Seine River. Duels were wont to be fought in this narrow street in olden days and are sometimes still fought there today. The connection to the Seine also makes it a location for murder.

D7 L’Arche Marion (paris-disparu-larche-popin-larche-marion-L-1)

Here is the alley. Picturesque, no?

A Rural Windmill

Early 17th century, Paris is surrounded by windmills to grind grain for the city’s bread. Here are some locations from the map that I use nicely laid out with a d6 for random location generation.

d6        Grid        Location
1          B5           Saint Antoine de Champs
2          H2           Fauburg Mont-Marche
3          H6           Marché aux Chevaux
4          I14           Hôpital de la Charité
5          C15         Fauburg St. Jacques
6          B14         Fauburg St. Marcel

Le pré aux clercs [J13-14]

Le pré aux clercs (The Clerks' Meadow) is meadow northwest of the Abbey St. Germaine. The meadow is famous as a dueling spot and the nearby inn is a location known for romantic rendezvous as well as a meeting place for duelists. Somewhere near here may have been the location that Athos was referring to. I still haven’t tracked it down for certain though.

Jardin des Saint Germain des Pres [G13-H14]

The abbey of Saint Germain-des-Prés (St Germain of the Fields) is located to the southwest of Paris, just outside the old city walls. It is the center of the suburb (fauborg) of the same name. The abbey has several gardens suitable for dueling. It is not far from Le pré aux clercs.

Église Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie [E7]

Immediately behind the church is a paved triangle which is sometimes used for duels. The dramatic beginning Under the Red Robe, an 1894 historical novel by Stanley J. Weyman, uses this location for our introduction to Gil de Berault, the narrator and protagonist of the tale. He is an infamous duelist having been given the sobriquet The Black Death for the many men he had killed in duels.

Place Royale [C6]

The Place Royale is a quadrangle of luxury townhouses in the heart of the upscale Marais district of the city. The courtyard garden is a popular rendezvous for duelists. This might be a good location for a couple of nobles or courtiers to duel…as long as they didn’t mind the publicity.

Mont Parnasse

L13 Mont Parnasse

A low knoll located south of the city, not far from the Carthusian abbey, Chartreux de Vauvert, Mont Parnasse (from the legendary Mount Parnassus of Greece) is a favored rendezvous for students from the colleges on the Left Bank. Both poets and duelists flock to the spot, lending the little hill an air of intrigue and danger. The picture is from a later map of Paris. If you look closely you can see duelists.

If you are playing a swashbuckling style of game where duels are likely to occur, consider spending some time figuring out where in your city the locals go to fight their duels.

Do the PCs in your games fight duels, and if they do, where do they go to fight?

Tags: Culture, History, Location, Resource


[1] The Three Musketeers, Chapter 4: The Shoulder of Athos, the Baldric of Porthos and the Handkerchief of Aramis, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere.
[2] The Three Musketeers, Chapter 5: The King’s Musketeers and the Cardinal’s Guards.
[3] The Three Musketeers, Chapter 30.
[4] The For-l’Evêque is the Episcopal prison of the Archbishop of Paris. It is located at No. 19 Rue St-Germain-l’Auxerrois.

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