A trial by combat is a means by which a party can prove their innocence when accused of a crime in the Seven Kingdoms. In lieu of a standard trial where a lord hears testimony from the involved parties and makes a ruling, one or all parties may choose the option of a trial by combat.
In a trial by combat the accused may represent themselves in combat or, if unable (such as if they are female, injured, crippled, a dwarf, or otherwise incapacitated), may ask for a champion to represent them. The victorious party is held to have had his or her case judged fairly by the Seven (or other faiths such as the Lord of Light) and has proven their innocence in the eyes of the gods. Hence, they are cleared of all charges.
Refusing to have his fate judged by Lord Robin Arryn, Tyrion Lannister demands trial by combat when charged with the murder of Jon Arryn. As Robin is underaged and his mother Lysa Arryn cannot fight, she names Ser Vardis Egen, the Captain of the Guards of the Eyrie, as her champion. Tyrion also demands the right to name a champion to fight and chooses his brother, Ser Jaime Lannister, but Lysa refuses because Jaime is not present; she insists that the combat must take place that day. Tyrion asks for volunteers from the court but is only jeered at. However, just as Lysa is about to condemn him, the sellsword Bronn steps forward and offers to fight for the dwarf.
Ser Vardis dons full armor and a heavy shield while Bronn eschews offers to be lent armor or a shield, preferring to maintain his maneuverability at the risk of making himself more vulnerable. The pair engage in a fierce running duel throughout the Eyrie's throne room. Ser Vardis nearly forces Bronn out the Moon Door at one point, but Bronn breaks off from the attack. Bronn uses underhanded tactics such as knocking objects onto the floor, jumping over railings, and running behind stone pillars. Ser Vardis, forced to chase after Bronn, grows increasingly tired. Bronn manages to land a quick stabbing blow to his side. The wounded Vardis fights even slower, until ultimately Bronn sidesteps him and slashes him deeply across the back. The sellsword then disarms the badly wounded knight and finishes him off by driving his sword through the knight's neck, then throwing his body out the Moon Door. Lysa Arryn shouts that Bronn didn't fight with honor, to which he matter-of-factly agrees and then points out that the dead knight had fought with honor and died for it. Tyrion is then released.
During her captivity with the Brotherhood Without Banners, Arya Stark accuses Sandor Clegane for the death of her friend Mycah. As the Hound argues he was following the orders of Prince Joffrey Baratheon and there are no other witnesses, Lord Beric Dondarrion sentences the deserter Kingsguard to trial by combat.
Lord Beric uses his own blood to ignite his sword during his duel with the Hound. Clegane is initially at disadvantage as he's disturbed by the flaming sword and the torches inside Hollow Hill. Dondarrion manages to set the Hound's shield on fire. Nevertheless, Clegane overpowers the outlaw lord and manages to kill him. Even though Thoros resurrects his fallen comrade, the Hound is found innocent before the eyes of the Lord of Light and allowed to go.
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, trials by combat are risky gambits only invoked when there is little other choice. In historical times there were more variations of the trial, such as a trial of seven when the two sides would pick seven champions who would fight until one side yielded or the plaintiff withdrew their charge. This was held to be a more holy contest, but the practical difficulties have made such trials rare. Ser Duncan the Tall first came to the attention of legend by holding a trial of seven against his accuser, Prince Aerion Targaryen, and defeating him and his seven.
- Trial by combat at A Wiki of ice and Fire (MAJOR spoilers from the books)