The Walked Path
by Eilidh17

“The box is locked.  There is no way in unless you hold the key, and there are no seams to weaken it.  It is strong, resilient, and holds an item of great worth.  The box is yours, as is its content.”
Teal’c eyed the box with much trepidation, longing to touch it, draw it close, pry open the seal and be amazed at whatever gift Master Bra’tac had deposited inside it.
But it was far too easy, and if there was one thing Teal’c had learned in his time as chal’til to the great master, it was that nothing was ever as it seemed.  Of rewards for lessons learned, there were none, and if he ever expected praise for his cunning and prowess with weapons, it would be a long time in coming. Bra’tac gave no acclaim, but his admonishment for failure was legendary amongst even the most seasoned Jaffa warrior.
“Take it,” the Master urged, dipping his head in the direction of the box, his eyes never breaking from Teal’c’s.  “I can see you desire it, and I have already stated it belongs to you.  Why do you hesitate?”
“No gift is given freely.”
“You are incorrect, Teal’c.  Many gifts are given freely.  It is the manner in which we receive them that defines the act of the giving.  How do you define this gift?”
Carefully chosen words, and said with such assuredness that Teal’c instantly knew this was less a gift to be given and received, more of test of the young warrior’s convictions.
“As a challenge, master.”
“Ah.” Bra’tac’s lips twitched with a threatened smile, but he carefully schooled his face as he tapped the lid of the box.  “And what would the challenge be, my young chal’til?”
“That objectives can only be obtained if our focus is honed.  Temptation is a path that should be less ventured and avoided if at all possible.”
“All this from a box given in friendship?” Bra’tac’s throaty voice reverberated around the room as he laughed out loud.  “Perhaps I was mistaken and you are better suited to life as one of Apophis’ priests than a lowly Jaffa.”
Teal’c huffed his rebuttal at the suggestion.  “I am a warrior!”
Bra’tac waggled a finger at the box and then at Teal’c, his steely gaze hardening once more.  “You are a boy walking the path to manhood in the service of a god you owe no allegiance.  No, Teal’c, this box represents your soul; its contents are your life.  Betray either, give over to the temptation of the Goa’uld and you become no better than those you serve.  This box,” he tapped the gilded lid with one gnarled finger, “is given freely, but what you choose to do with what it holds is something only you can control.  Your time with me is at an end and your true service now begins.  Tal shak, Teal’c.”

Teal’c was called shol’va—traitor—despised by his own kind.  The day he renounced Apophis, his pride took second place to his conscience, and all that he knew, all that he loved, was scattered like dust in the wind. All that remained of Teal’c, First Prime of Apophis and feared leader of Jaffa, was a small box gifted to him by the one man whose forgiveness and respect had meant the most.
Teal’c carried that small gilded box close to his heart, where it belonged.  A reminder that there was no room for temptation in the life of a warrior.

The End


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