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(Eva post on learning the dance of the polearm inspired me to write something similar, to contrast with the Turuphant style of combat, which is... far less elegant. This takes place during the exile to Nel's island, sometime after the Cataclysm)


The boar snorted, it's weak eyes barely able to perceive her, beyond the crimson of her armor, but it could scent her. It paced aggressively, working itself up to charge at the intruder.


Izzy narrowed her eyes. The boar was unnaturally large, too big for the island's food chain to support, and dangerously aggressive. It had smashed and trampled a chicken coop, which was dangerously close to the Chocobo pens, and had put Izzy onto it's trail.


Its broad back had a few arrows sticking out of it, like spines. Mana had put a few shots into the beast as it lumbered back into the forest, and it had barely noticed. Its face was distorted, it's tusks too long and jagged, its muscles bulging. It had a darkness about it, like the beasts back home that had been bloated and enraged by the poisoned aether from Dalamud. Even here, its effects had been felt.


Even here. The miqo'te paladin though. We didn't escape it. We just moved to the periphery. Is nowhere safe from it or the Garlean's madness?


It snorted and threw it's head back to roar. It was about to charge. The smart method of taking down such a beast was to avoid it's brute force. Archers in the trees, or traps and snares, or a pit. But they only had a few archers, and not enough time to dig pits or make snares.


Izzy took a slow breath, and set her feet. Her mind slipped back to happier times... training with Nel and Eva, the few times she had gotten to fight with Everwatch. She envied Eva's grace and form, how she danced and moved... especially when she stopped focusing on what she was doing. She wondered if that was the dance her father had spoken of when he mentioned fighting alongside Uncle Dyterium. She envied Nel's easy power, movement and force and freedom. The way she moved about the battlefield, made it hers, turned momentum into ever-building power. She envied Manari's precision and focus. Everything coming down to one shot, one moment of purity.


That sort of fighting wasn't for her, though.


There's nothing elegant about being a Shield, kit. Her father used to tell her as they trained, and she noticed the artistry of the other forms. Others dance. But for you and me, our role is different. Because some enemies don't dance well, or at all. And so we put down roots, we hold fast and we MAKE them dance.


As a shield, you are the wall against all the fury and anger of your foe. You have to own that... those you fight with will hurt it, cause it pain, but you have to take that fury onto yourself, focus it all on you. And then you have to stand fast. Not a dancer, a tree. you have to put down roots, deep into the earth, and you have to weather the storm. There is no elegance in it, no artistry. No one is ever going to admire your form, Izzy. Our fight is brutish, and base, and exhausting. But without us, there would be no dance.


She envisioned her feet as taking root, as her father had taught her, extending deep into the soil and rock, spreading and growing until she was immovable, like a great oak. She drew her sword and readied her shield, and shouted in defiance to the boar. "Come and get me you ugly beast!"


The words didn't matter, of course. It didn't understand them, but it understood the challenge behind them. It snorted, pawed the earth, and charged. It dwarfed her in size and in strength, an enormous mass of muscle baring down on her, intent on smashing her back and trampling her under its hooves, as it had everything else.


The most important thing, kit, is to draw that line, just behind you. That is the line they must not cross. This far, and no further. It doesn't matter what you face... behind that line is your party, your allies, everything you are trying to protect. This far, no further.


The impact to her shield was terrific, the clang echoing through the forest. The force was enough to break tree trunks, break stones, the full mass of unnatural rage of the beast.


Isilme's back foot slipped back slightly.


"This far..." She drew back her sword and slashed the beast across the snout, causing it to rear back and pain. "... No further."


Arrows flew from the tree branches. Several of the others were in the trees, guided by Mana. One or two arrows would not hurt this thing, but enough arrows would down it. But for that, it needed to be kept in place.


It howled as the arrows pierced its back, a few getting through its hide, stinging it. The tips were coated with poison... once enough got through, it wouldn't matter what the beast did.


Izzy slashed at the creature's eye, earning another roar of pain, and a violent smash against her shield. The metal dented from the force, but she held her ground. "This far... no further..."


Dad... you don't need to go to Mor Dhona... there's room for you on the boat... you've DONE your part for the Admiralcy! No one would care if you chose now to retire. You could come with us! You and Mom!

It's not about reputation, kit. You know that... it never was. Honestly I think it would make a lot of people happier, Gods forfend I keep teaching these rookies some basic honor and decency. But I need to go, and hold the line as long as possible.


But... why?


The boar reared up on it's hind legs, forcing her to drop to one knee and raise her shield as the beast's weight came crashing down. She cried out in pain as the impact shot through her arm, threatening to crush her to the ground. She braced and shoved the weight to the side, forcing the beast off her and chopping at it's feet with her sword to make it step back.


Another arrow struck, this time right in the beast's sensitive ear, and it turned it's head and howled. If it turned its attention to the archers now, the inexperienced marksmen would never get enough arrows past its thick hide as it rampaged around, and they'd have a sick and wounded monster rampaging across the island.


Izzy stabbed the beast in the eye, earning a scream of rage and pain. Blinded, it wheeled on her again, and she braced herself. "No. Me. Take it out on me. This far, no further!"


Because it's what we do, kit. You have your own line to hold, your family, your loved ones. For a long time, protecting that was my job. I didn't do good enough. We all didn't, and now a lot of people are going to die because of it. Maybe we can make up for that in Mor Dhona.


The beast rammed and gored at her with fury, screaming in pain and rage as arrows rained down on it from the trees. She grunted with each impact, her shield arm faltering a moment, and one jagged tusk catching the side of her helmet and ripping it off. Her legs ached with the strain of holding her up, blood now stung her eyes shut, and her other senses were filled with the smell and sounds of the enraged boar, the pain of each impact, and the cry of her exhausted muscles as her shield arm faltered.


Then... I should go with you. It's not right for me to... to run...


No, kit. You're going to do this. For me. For a long time, protecting this family was my job. No matter what, I knew I had to come back home, every time, because I was all you and your mother had. That's harder than you think, kit. I've seen... so many friends walk into the darkness, time and again, and eventually not come back. I always wondered if I could have saved them. But once you mark your line, you don't move from it. It works both ways... this far, no further, and neither you or what you face may cross. Now, you're old enough and strong enough to take that burden, and as much as I'd like to shoulder it a bit longer... it's time. You've got many more battles ahead of you. You have the harder road. Win or lose, I've only got this one last fight left.


Tears mixed with the blood as she screamed back in defiance against the boar. It was weakening now, as the fire of the poison ran through its veins. Its attacks slowed as it became timed, it's unnatural strength waning. It stumbled back a bit, aware that something was wrong now, the old urge to flee stronger as poison clouded its mind, melted away it's rage.


She smashed her shield into it's face, provoking it. "No! You keep fighting! You don't get to stop now!" She endured another lunge, feeling her shoulder joint pop, but not caring. She pushed back, forcing it's head up and exposing it's neck. Her sword flashed as she cut across, laying open it's throat in a spray of blood.


The beast stumbled back, gurgling as it's mighty heart sprayed its lifesblood on the dirt. The blood loss, the poison, and the fatigue were finally too much, and the monster keeled over onto its side, shuddering, struggling for a few last gurgling breaths before it was finally still.


Covered in blood, the pig's and her own, Izzy walked towards the corpse, watching as the light slowly faded from its eyes. "Good. You fought. You held your line." She wiped the blood from the blade of her sword and sheathed it, paying silent witness to the boar's passing.


The others descended from the trees to examine the boar. With the poison in its system, its meat would be worthless, but they couldn't afford to waste the hide. A pyre would be set up to burn the rest so that scavengers wouldn't be poisoned by the tainted flesh.


She sat down at the base of a tree. Her shoulder hurt. Her back hurt. Everything hurt. Her head spun, the blood still stung her eyes, and the stench of the boar's blood suffused her nostrils. I understand what you meant, Dad. I saw you walk into the darkness, and I didn't even realize until you were gone. I wanted to follow. I don't even know how many I lost. Mom... Eva... But I held my line. I will hold my line. As long as need be. This far, no further. This far... no further.

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