Duels inside the Earthhewn clan are supposed to be used as a means of protecting one’s family from the accusations and even guilt of an individual. If a noble is accused of a crime, he will answer in a court of law and be held personally accountable but in order to protect the standing of his family or house, he may challenge the accuser. Even if the accused is later found guilty, victory in the duel means the charge can not be extended generally to relatives who may otherwise lose land titles or alliances over the matter.
That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, it’s common for nobles to use duels as a means of embarrassing their political opponents and those who annoy them. Showing up to court as “the guy who lost to Conkpaw of House Brittlecast” makes for poor marketing.
Typically, Earthhewn law only permits duels to “first blood or subdual.” Because some duels are deeply emotional affairs, some try to make their first drawing of blood also lethal so they can satisfy the formality of law and still get the satisfaction of killing an enemy. Lethal duels are permitted most in cases where the accused is found unquestionably innocent of a particularly grievous crime such as fraud, murder or treason against the clan.
Duelists are given a pistol and a waraxe and are placed in an arena where witnesses are assembled, along with a clan representative and a notary to record the identities and outcome of the event.