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A novice believes his sword of the utmost importance, and his shield there to show his family's colors. All scoff at such foolishness, but the older student thinking his shield a sign from the Maker that he cannot be struck down, is little wiser. A warrior coming away from battle with his shield dented and ripped may be praised for bravery. A warrior coming away with his shield merely scratched should be praised for skill.

Remember that every metal shield was beaten into shape, and may be beaten out of it. Even a blow that does not tear a hole drives impact through your arm and shoulder, where shock and pain will wear down even the strongest warrior. In a duel against a single opponent, you may seek a quick advantage in taking a blow directly to the shield in order to strike one in return; if you are protecting another, you may have no choice. In all other cases—against one opponent or many—it is better to hide the movement of your hips and shoulders behind your shield, forcing enemies to focus on it rather than on you.

This is also true when fighting an opponent so armed. Your goal is not the shield, but the man behind it. Circling or locking shields may gain you an advantageous position. Failing that, rain blows upon his defenses until he tires and his guard grows sloppy. If you are neither skilled enough to slip past him nor fit enough to wear him down, you will most likely die.

—An excerpt from A Meditation upon the Use of Blades, by Swordmaster Massache de Jean-mien, required reading at Academie des Chevaliers

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