Country of Origin: Montaigne
Salon: Bastonne (Small)
Description: The history of the Sices style begins in 1664, with none other than Diane Sices du Sices, the younger sister of Lady Jamais Sices du Sices. At the tender age of sixteen, Diane had already become a Journeyman of the Valroux School, and her skill with the blade (combined with her sharp, hereditary wit) ultimately earned her the enmity of Henri Rois et Reines du Rogné, a minor noble who had recently washed out of the Musketeers, despite his connections. Henri and his flunkies had failed to dispatch the young lady on several occasions due to her superior skill and incredibly good fortune, so he hatched a dishonorable plan to rid the world of his nemesis.
Henri arranged for Diane to be invited to a ball in L’Empereur’s honor: a formal affair, leaving Diane no choice but to attend in a full gown (and completely unarmed). To do otherwise, or to refuse the invitation even though she knew that Henri and his men would be in attendance, would risk offending her host or inviting scorn from the other nobles. She arrived at the ball and, as she suspected, Henri attacked at the earliest opportunity.
Unarmed and almost unable to move, Diane had to think quickly. Grabbing a sword from one of the guards, she quickly solved her most immediate problem. However, the ball gown proved more difficult to overcome. Too independent to keep up with the changing fashions of the court herself, she had borrowed the dress from an influential patron, Countess Roseline Étalon du Toille. To return it ripped and torn was unthinkable, and could lose the young prodigy a powerful ally. Lacking any other options, she improvised a new style of fencing.
Instead of grasping a main gauche in her left hand, as her Valroux training taught, she delicately grabbed her skirts to allow herself more movement, using lunges and jabs to keep the attackers at bay, and taking great care to let no one land a blow to her outfit. These steps were of little practical help, however, until she realized that the clothing she wore was designed not for swordplay, but for dancing. Relying on the steps of a formal waltz rather than a Swordsman’s footwork, she quickly dispatched her would-be assassins, none of whom were prepared for her improvised swordplay. She managed to eliminate them all without damaging her borrowed dress, all the while dancing around the ballroom like some carefree debutante.
Countess du Toille was impressed (as were the rest of the nobles at the ball). She had witnessed the entire battle, and marveled at the girl’s ability: so much so that she insisted the young lady teach this wonderful trick to her daughter. The Countess wanted her child to be able to defend herself without running about in breeches and tunics like a Musketeer. Diane was compelled to accept the offer, and began to turn her improvised style into a formal Swordsman School.
The daughter, Nicole, did well at the new School (despite the fact that Diane was making it up as she taught it), and many of her friends asked to join. Diane tired of teaching quickly and stepped down as an instructor as soon as Nicole had mastered the School, her duty to the Countess discharged. As luck would have it, Nicole enjoyed both swordplay and teaching, but had no desire to become a duelist. Many young women became students at the School, though few were dedicated enough to become Masters. The School remained a hobby for Nicole and a “play school” for noblewomen with nothing better to do. It was considered a “ladies’ fencing class,” unworthy of a dedicated fighter.
It remained untested on the field of battle until 1667, when an Eisen mercenary named Joseph von Weissburg happened to learn its ways. He realized that the School could be used to compensate not only for a skirt, but also for bulky armor. He used Sices on the battlefield to great effect, but not for long, reverting to Eisenfaust when he realized that other soldiers were laughing at the “dancing drachen,” even when he won. However, his brief usage provided Sices with a modicum of respect, and increased the number of men interested in studying the School, though it still turned out relatively few dedicated duelists. Vodacce courtesans often pay a visit to Nicole’s salon and think highly of the School, but Montaigne nobles do not want their daughters mingling with such women, and Veronica Ambrogia works very hard to make sure that her school remains the most popular in Vodacce. The Mistress of Ambrogia also continues to block the style’s acceptance as a Guild-sanctioned School. Still, it remains fashionable to allow one’s daughters to train in Sices. Perhaps one day, when the ladies of the court rather than the Musketeers repel a band of attackers at another ball, Sices will receive the respect it deserves.
The weakness of the school is that it teaches the student to move as little as possible, and to keep the opponent at a distance. Close fighting in a ball gown is very difficult under any circumstances, and minimizing movement reduces the risk of tripping on one’s skirts. An opponent who takes the fight to the Sices duelist, or keeps her moving to avoid close combat, has her at a definite disadvantage.
All credit for Sices belongs to Andrew Peregrine, who designed the original School, called Delicatesse.
Basic Curriculum: Courtier, Fencing
Knacks: Disarm (Fencing), Exploit Weakness (Sices), Flourish (Fencing), Lunge (Fencing), Sidestep
New Swordsman Knack: Flourish. When attacking an enemy, you can declare a Flourish. You roll Panache + Flourish, and must roll a number of Raises equal to your enemy’s Panache in order for your Flourish to be successful. If you are successful, he cannot avoid the attack using any Active Defense. The Raises taken on this roll add Unkept Dice to your damage roll as usual.
Apprentice: As the School relies heavily on dancing for its maneuvers, an Apprentice of Sices may use her Dancing knack in place of Footwork during any combat, and receives a Free Raise on Active Defenses using uses that Knack. Furthermore, she is trained to protect her expensive clothing from damage at all costs, and receives a bonus of five times her Mastery Level to her TN to be hit whenever an opponent attempts to use a Tagging Knack against her.
Sices is not sanctioned by the Swordsman’s Guild, and never will be, unless Veronica Ambrogia decides (or is persuaded) to end her vendetta against the School. Until then, students of Sices receive a free Rank in one of their Swordsman Knacks in lieu of Guild membership.
Journeyman: The Journeyman becomes accustomed to using her sword in either hand, depending on which side of her dress demands the most attention. Although training to use Sices in a fancy gown does not offer a spare hand for a second weapon, the Journeyman never suffers an off-hand penalty when fighting with her rapier in either hand, and will receive the benefits of the Left-Handed Advantage if using the weapon in that hand. She has also mastered the art of looking demure and hiding her attacks behind graceful pirouettes or similar maneuvers, often striking before an opponent is expecting an attack. The Sices Journeyman’s Initiative total is always increased by twice her Rank in the Dancing Knack.
Master: To maximize ease of movement, a Master of Sices learns how to change hands in the midst a duel; she momentarily drops her skirt, passes her sword from one hand to the other, and lifts her skirt again with her newly emptied hand. She can make this switch during any Phase, prior to an attack. She receives a free Raise to any Attack Roll she makes in that Phase (in addition to the benefit of the Left-Handed Advantage, if applicable), and her TN to be hit increases by 10 until the end of the next Phase (in addition to the increase to her TN to be hit against Tagging attempts) as opponents must reestablish their footing and blade position to accommodate the Swordswoman’s new posture.
When dressed in formal attire, the Master’s switch of hands occurs with a flurry of skirts that looks very stylish to any observers; the use of this technique increases any Reputation award the Master receives if she wins the duel by one point. She can never receive more than one extra point, no matter how many times she uses the maneuver, and she must be wearing a formal gown to gain the extra point of Reputation.