Burden of Guilt

Grievous Wounds

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema with the exception of Caranthir who appears by kind permission of Evendim. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain

A very big thank you to everyone who took the trouble to review.

As I had many requests for a speedy update, here it is!

Warning – This chapter (as will several others) contains gory images of wounds, so please only read if unlikely to be upset.

Several spacious rooms and a bathing chamber had been prepared for the Queen's confinement. The largest of them was furnished with comfortable low chairs and a couch and overlooked a secluded garden.

There was also a chamber furnished with a large bed and several smaller rooms for the attendants.

As the two ladies in waiting took the Queen to bathe, Ioreth and Eowyn unpacked everything they might need, a supply of clean shifts, towels and clean cloths, herbs, ice kept packed in straw to staunch bleeding if it occurred, a needle and thread and tongs, which they might need but hoped they would not, and the last resort, always there but kept hidden, a sharp knife used to cut the cord and also there as a hideous final option to try and cut a living child from the dying body of its mother.

Eowyn shuddered as Ioreth laid the blade out of sight. She was certain Arwen and the babe were healthy at the moment, but could an Elf safely give birth to a half human child? She had delivered several babies in the past, but always to sturdy Rohirric women who easily took childbirth in their stride and had usually had several children already. This confinement was unlike anything she had known before and even Ioreth, veteran of more births, than she could count, was looking apprehensive.

Arwen returned from her bath looking refreshed and started to pace round the largest of the rooms, restless as a caged animal.

"Would you like some music?" Eowyn asked, as she knew of the Eldar's devotion to sweet melodies.

Arwen nodded, hoping it would distract her from the pain, while Ioreth looked rather shocked at such a novelty in a birthing chamber.

Lady Meril produced a harp; which she had brought for the occasion and started to play while Lady Morwen sang in an attempt to soothe the Queen.

Arwen continued to pace but gradually became calmer.

Slowly the mob started to disperse moved both by Aragorn's words and his commanding presence.

Swiftly he moved back to Eomer's side, where two of his Guards hovered with a stretcher. Kneeling beside him, he weighed up the risks of moving him. From what he could determine from a swift examination, his neck and spine appeared undamaged and as he could hardly treat him where he lay, he carefully eased him on the stretcher, aided by the Guards.

The King brushed the sweat from his face with the back of his hand and took a deep breath. This was a situation he could never have imagined in his worse nightmares, one of his closest friends injured, a distinct possibility of war and being bereft of the support and guidance of his Steward and his wife when he needed them the most.

He required every ounce of composure he possessed, as he directed the bearers to carry the King of Rohan to the nearest bedchamber and lay him carefully on the bed.

Eomer was a much-loved friend, as was Faramir. However could this have happened? He pushed his feelings aside as he knew he must concentrate on trying to save the King of Rohan and avert a bloody conflict. A group of Rohirrim and Palace Guards followed close behind muttering angrily.

As he entered the room, Aragorn grabbed a mirror, and held it in front of Eomer's lips. A fine mist appeared on the glass and Aragorn could have wept with relief.

"Eomer, King of Rohan yet lives!" he announced in a loud voice. "Now everyone leave this chamber, save the Captain of the Guard and his Lieutenant, as Eomer King's wounds must be tended with all haste if he is to have any hope of surviving! I want Guards posted outside this room at all times."

The Gondorians left the obediently but the Rohirrim lingered.

"Go!" Aragorn ordered in Roherric." You endanger your King's life by remaining! I give you my word to do everything I can for my brother of Rohan."

They filed out muttering amongst themselves save one whom Aragorn recognised as Eothain, a faithful but surly companion of Eomer's since his days as Third Marshal in Theoden's court.

"I am not leaving my Lord with him whose Steward struck him down!" Eothain said angrily.

"Very well!" Aragorn bit back the rebuke he wanted to utter. "But sit over there and do not interfere or I will throw you out myself!" He gestured to a chair in the corner of the room and then turned to his two remaining Guards. "I want the swiftest of you to go and fetch the two most experienced healers from the Houses of Healing and tell them to bring everything needed to treat wounds, "he ordered. "Ask the Warden whom he recommends, but be swift!"

He did have the skills to treat Eomer himself, but wanted two assistants both to help him and to serve as witnesses that everything possible had been done, should Eomer die, as he could be seen as less than impartial as he was not one of the Rohirrim and also his Steward was involved in the attack.

The young Lieutenant sped away. Aragorn then turned to the Captain. "I need you to go to the Council Chamber and inform Prince Imrahil what has happened and ask him to lead today's session."

If the Captain replied, Aragorn did not hear, as he was already at Eomer's bedside engrossed in trying to save his friend.

At a glance Aragorn could see that Eomer was bleeding profusely from wounds in his head and chest, while his right shoulder, which he had landed heavily on, was at an odd angle.

The King staunched the bleeding as best he could, with a sheet snatched up from the bed and then took Eomer's pulse, which felt alarmingly weak and rapid.

He shouted to a passing servant to fetch some athelas from the gardens, as he feared he was going to need it.

Lifting Eomer in his arms, he started unfastening the armour he wore.

"I should be doing that!" Eothain protested as he hurried to the bedside.

"I though I told you to stay over there!" Aragorn snapped.

"How can I when my Lord requires my aid?" the Rohirrim replied. "I fastened it on him but this morning!"

"Very well." Aragorn conceded, inwardly realising the man would be more adept with the fastenings than he was, as it was long before Eothain was even born since he had last wrestled with the intricate clasps the Roherrim used, the chain mail Theoden had lent him, being of a different design.

The armour Eomer wore was more ceremonial than functional, and had been all too easy for Faramir's blade to pierce.

Together they lifted off the elaborate leather breastplate revealing the torn and blood soaked tunic beneath. Aragorn's heart sank even more, especially as Eomer showed no sign of life when they moved him.

He carefully cut the ruined tunic away with one of Eomer's own knives and sighed when the gash that Faramir had cut across his broad chest was finally revealed.

The wound was deep, bleeding heavily and had only missed his heart by mere inches. The jagged edges of the injury suggested the blade and gone awry and not hit its intended target cleanly.

Eothain was purple with rage.

"Your Steward did this to my Lord!" he snarled." He will pay, I swear it!"

"Justice will be done!" Aragorn said in a voice that brokered no argument, as he pressed a cloth against the wound, attempting to staunch the bleeding.

He bent and pressed an ear against Eomer's chest. He suspected the damage included a collapsed lung, though the colour of the blood issuing forth led him to hope it had not been pierced.

He gently prodded the bruised ribs, adorned with a tattoo of the white horse of Rohan, and found that several were broken, as he had feared.

He then examined Eomer's shoulder, which proved to be dislocated rather than broken and pressed it back in place, while Eomer was insensible, though even so it would cause discomfort. To his alarm, the painful procedure produced no reaction whatsoever as Eomer lay motionless beneath his hands. Aragorn feared more than ever for the life of his friend.

Before Eothain could think of anything else to say, the healers, clad in the black robes of their calling, arrived together with a servant, who was carrying the supplies they needed. Aragorn recognised them as Caranthir, the Warden himself, who had been Denethor's personal physician and Aedred, a younger healer, who originally hailed from Rohan.

Aragorn made a mental note to thank whoever had been responsible for this piece of diplomacy, as Eothain visibly softened on seeing another of his race enter. Aragorn was hopeful these two Healers were amongst the most skilled available, especially Caranthir, who had been a Healer for as long as Aragorn himself.

Aragorn quickly greeted them and explained the situation; even as he spoke they had moved over to the bed. Caranthir took over applying pressure to the chest wound, while Aedred, speaking softly in Roherric to Eothain, helped him to remove his King's leg armour and boots.

Aragorn turned his attention to the head injury. The King frowned as Eomer's head was starting to swell at an alarming speed. He had seen wounds like this before and very few survived them, though he had once assisted Elrond with a dangerous but effective procedure, from which the patient had made a full recovery. He hoped he could remember the exact details, as he feared he might have to try it on Eomer if the King of Rohan was to have any chance of survival.

Aedred was preparing to finish undressing Eomer and unfastened the leather breeches.

"What are you doing that for?" Eothain asked suspiciously. "Show some respect for our King!"

"We need to see if he has any more injuries." Aedred explained.

"You are one of those Gondorians now as you follow their foreign ways!" Eothain grumbled." In Rohan, you never part a man from his breeches in case he needs to get on a horse in a hurry!"

Aragorn glared, knowing the man just wanted to cause trouble, as the Rohirrim were generally totally unconcerned about nakedness. He wondered whether he should throw the man out, but instead gestured towards a folded blanket lying on the table." I do not think your King will go riding for some time yet," he said. "Fetch that blanket to cover him with as he needs keeping warm!"

Aedred uncovered a badly bruised hip and twisted knee once the clothing was removed. He set to work bathing the hurts and applying salves of arnica and marigold before taking the blanket from Eothain and covering Eomer's lower body with it. Aragorn caught his eye and transmitted a silent message, as Caranthir and Aragorn began cleaning the chest wound, which had finally stopped bleeding.

Aedred took Eothain to one side. "I have an important errand for you," he said." I wish you to go and tell the rest of your King's men what is happening as they will be as concerned as you are."

"I don't want to leave him." Eothain said stubbornly, "Not with those Gondorians!"

"I am of Rohan and will care for him, I give you my word!" Aedred said firmly, guiding him towards the doorway. "It is best that news of Eomer King should come from one of his own men!"

Aragorn and Caranthir now examined the chest wound carefully and debated how best to treat it. They decided on washing it out with an infusion of meadowsweet ,stitching it and then smearing it with honey and garlic to prevent infection from setting in.

"It looks as if the edge of the sword caught him." Caranthir remarked. "I have seen many wounds like this but usually on a battlefield!"

Aragorn sighed as he threaded a needle. "He overbalanced and fell on to the blade, most unfortunate, though I am hopeful that it is not a mortal injury. While I do this, could you shave the hair surrounding his head wound? "

Caranthir took up a razor and began to carefully shave off part the matted and bloodied blonde mane surrounding the wound.

"You are skilled with a needle, my Lord," Aedred commented admiringly, as he bandaged the damaged knee.

"Lord Elrond of Rivendell taught me." Aragorn replied without looking up. "My skills are nothing compared with those of the Elven healers, I fear. I see you are a diplomat as well as a healer, Master Aedred as you dealt well with Eothain. I did not want him to witness it when I cut open the King of Rohan's skull!"

TBC

A/N

Replies to queries

First, grateful thanks to my reviewer who pointed out the discrepancy between chapters 10 and 11.I have rewritten chapter 10 now. The oversight occurred as result of forgetting due to a week's break!

All will revealed soon what the parchment contains, though many of you have already guessed! Hanna's family are innocent.

Aragorn's troubles are only just beginning, I fear.

A friend of mine was in labour for two days and she had the benefit of modern maternity care.

Aragorn had little choice but to arrest Faramir, as he had to think quickly before there was a bloodbath. The Roherrim are honourable but they are incensed about the fate of their King and supposed ill treatment of Eowyn.

I am not suggesting that Arwen is fat, in this instance broad hipped wide pelvic bones.

Ioreth, in her unconventional way, refers in the book to Aragorn as "Lord Elfstone" which would make Arwen "Lady Elfstone" according to British tradition, as I am trying to keep Ioreth in character by making her address Arwen in an unconventional fashion.

I was delighted that one of my readers was wondering who carried the "Burden of Guilt" and hope this will provoke some debate, especially as even I am not sure of the answer as the plot unfolds!

To my critic who finds the plot unbelievable, I assure you I did give it careful thought and as Eomer is Aragorn's closest Ally, I am sure he would be allowed in the city without question. I doubt he demands Faramir's death until he finds him, and even if he did the City would not be heavily guarded in peacetime. As for Faramir not trying to reason with Eomer, if you read the story, he does!

Faramir blurts out about his friend in Eowyn's bed as he is confused, bewildered and latches on the only accusation he understands sufficiently to explain!

I used "Arathornsson" as Tolkien based the Rohirrim on the Saxons and Vikings and that was a common Viking form of address. Tolkien often refers to a character as 'son of.'

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