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The Price of Duty by Encairion

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Warnings: Please heed the warnings listed for this story, they are quite serious.  Some of the major/heavy warning include: non-con, scenes of violence, graphic character death, soldiers/captives suffering from PTSD, and sexual violence against underage children.

I hope you enjoy reading this story, as that is my motivation for posting, and if there is anything you like I always love reviews :D

The Price of Duty

Chapter 1


My hands sifted through the assembly of colors. Braids splayed out like a monochromatic rainbow of silver, each one striking in its uniqueness. I picked up one of the braids and ran my fingers through the end. It was soft as dove wings. Only Elven-hair could feel this enticing to the touch.


I squatted on the floor of my father’s study. He’d summoned me, and I knew my tutor must have made good his threat to report my ‘poor concentration’ in lessons today. But my attention had drifted as the minutes ticked by and still I waited. I wandered idly around the room. My fingers traveled over books, maps, and trinkets.


I discovered the braids by accident. My roaming hands had dislodged a box with a lid dressed in opals and swirling tongues of gold, and sent it crashing to the floor. I jumped back, glancing towards the door, but it seemed none had heard. Quickly, I sank down to amend my clumsiness, but soon became ensnared in the vision of silver.


I had never seen an Elf with silver-hair before. Dusky shades were the colors of the Noldor’s proud manes, and the same for the lowly Silvan with the occasional flaxen head. Silver was an unknown to me and I marveled at it.


I barely glanced at the other trinkets in the upturned box. A sea shell, a shinny pearl the size of my clenched fist, and a delicate dusting of the whitest sand I’d ever seen. But my eyes and fingers were for the hair alone. I sorted them, organizing them according to favorite. Now fourteen Elvish-braids lay before me sorted neatly by beauty. I loved the silver threaded with black the most and wished there were more of them, but each braid was a wonder of its own.


I did not hear the door open or my father’s near-silent entrance. I held one of the prized silvery-black braids, my fingers running through over its luster.


“What are you doing?” His voice was sharp as cracking ice. I spun, clutching the braid against my pounding heart. But his face showed no anger. It held nothing. It was a strange, emotionless void. I shivered at the detached way his eyes roved over me. I knew that look but had never thought to see it directed at me. It was the one he adopted when he danced to the jig of death, honing his sword skills in the practice fields.


“Father, I... I’m sorry!” I dropped the braid and scampered to pick up the neatly sorted treasures. His large hands trapped my trembling ones.


“Stop.”


I could not tell if he was angry, and I hated not knowing. I had made it my study to please him. I knew what would make him smile and pull a rare laugh, as much as I knew the look in those eyes that told a critical word or heavy hand was coming. But this face I did not know and could not penetrate no matter how desperately I tried. It terrified me.


“You wished to play with things that are not yours. Well now you will stay and understand. It's about time you started learning something.”


“Yes, Father.” I tucked my chin. He wanted obedience now, so I stilled my tongue and forced my fluttering, seeking hands to lie still in my lap. I wanted to please him; it was a constant ache in my chest. One praising word, one proud glance, would send my heart soaring to the clouds for hours on end (if only they were more frequent).


“You see this hair?” I nodded. “It is Elven-hair. Teleri.” He paused and I had to bite my lip to still a question. He tormented me with his silence just to see if I could control myself.


“These braids represent the price I have paid to duty: duty to my lord. One day you will be a warrior, Erestor, and you will swear your fealty over to our Lord Celegorm. When that day comes you will be bound to him, and when you stand in battle his fight will be yours. You will be his vessel. When he says charge you charge, when he says kill you kill, when he says retreat you retreat. To do otherwise would not only court your own destruction, but would bring everlasting shame upon our House. Do you understand?”


“Yes, Father. I must do as my lord says in all things.” He held my gaze, searching, before he gave a curt nod. He seemed finished then, but my treacherous tongue would not be stilled, I had too many unanswered questions. “Did you love them very much? Is that why you kept their hair, are they...dead?” I had gathered from his tone that this was a serious matter, and that usually meant the war or death.


It seemed as if he would not answer, and for a long moment he was silent while I berated myself for lack of self-control. I must master my own impulsive tendencies. “Yes, they are dead, but I held no love for them. I did not even know them.” His voice was so soft I almost missed the words.


This only confused me more. Why would he keep the hair of dead Elves unless he’d loved them? I knew he kept a lock of my mother’s hair. I’d spied him caressing it. So why keep these others? I bit my tongue until I tasted blood as the questions ran unasked in my mind.


My father was oblivious to my torment, not seeming to notice me at all. His eyes rested on the pile of silver braids, a crease in his brow. My mind told me not to ask. It told me to leave, to get out now before his indifference turned to anger or annoyance with me. I had no wish to feel the sting of his hand on my backside or unprotected face. But I could not move, could not force my feet to obey me. A shadow had settled over his face, his eyes clouding.


I had seen that clouded look before. The Aman-born Elves wore it when talk turned to dangerous matters, when Valinor or Doom dropped from whispering lips. I knew little of the fabled Blessed Realm. Not even my tutor had the courage to speak freely of it. There was some great pain laying there; some Darkness shrouded it from us, keeping it just beyond backward looking grasps. Some spoke of it with wistfulness, like the nostalgia of youth; but others in scornful tongues, blazing with unrepentance, even hate, at what dwelt within the shadows of the Noldor’s past.


As little as I knew of Valinor, more so did I know about the three Great Jewels. When the word ‘Silmaril’ was spoken it was not in a dark corner in hurried tones and clenching fists. No, the Silmarils were our pride, though I had no idea why.


I had seen many jewels. What could be so special about these three that they were as good as worshiped by our people? No ill could be spoken of them. They were the fairest things in all Arda. And most importantly of all: they were ours! Or rather our lords, the sons of FŽanor, and when we got them back all the pain, all the sadness, would be washed away.


My father’s heavy hand upon my shoulder startled me. “Duty and loyalty always have a price.” His face had cleared, and he offered me a slight smile which I eagerly returned. But his smile was only fleeting, and a stern look soon replaced it. “It's time you started learning the sword. I am not raising a scholar after all, but a warrior. Meet me at the training ground tomorrow at dawn.”


With those parting words he swept out of the study, leaving me stunned in his wake. My father was teaching me to fight! My head was stuffed with butterflies as I dashed from the room, intent on finding my friend Angadilion and exalt over my good fortune.


The door swung closed behind me, leaving a scattered pile of silver braids forgotten on the floor. If only it was that easy to leave the past behind, but curses, I have found, have a talent for survival. They suck all the life out of those bound to them, and everything and everyone they touch, until there is nothing and no one left but the curse.
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