Burden of Guilt

A Dangerous Procedure

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

Warning - This chapter contains material which may upset readers of a squeamish disposition,so please read with care.

Aedred blanched and even Caranthir looked alarmed as he tugged nervously at his short white beard.

"My Lord, that is very dangerous!" the elderly healer protested. "I have heard of the procedure but not of any surviving it! Would it not be better to wait and see if the swelling subsides?"

Aragorn looked troubled, but said nothing as he finished the stitching and turned his attention to the injured ribs, feeling them gently before applying a salve of comfrey and arnica. He motioned to Aedred to lift Eomer while he bandaged the chest wound and strapped the damaged ribs.

He then moved up the bed and stood for a moment looking down at Eomer

"See how his head is swollen! It has grown worse even since you came in this room! I know the procedure is dangerous but not to try it would be more so. I do not like doing it, but fear I have no choice!" Aragorn said .He gently probed the head wound with his long sensitive fingertips, as he spoke. "I will need you to hold him while I make the incisions."

The healers still looked doubtful but did not wish to contradict the King.

"Have you any better suggestions?" Aragorn asked, determined to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to save his friend.

"I fear I cannot think of any other treatment except maybe cold compresses, which I doubt would work." Caranthir sighed. " We will assist you as best we may, Sire."

Aragorn wrapped blankets round Eomer to keep him warm and try to prevent him going into shock then draped a towel round the young King's shoulders.

Carefully, he washed his hands and steeled himself for one of the most difficult tasks of his life. He knew it was unwise to carry out such a procedure on a loved one and it turned his stomach to think of what he must do. He was all too aware that Eomer's life lay in his hands, as he alone had the skill and knowledge to save Eomer and could not allow himself to give way to his natural revulsion towards hurting a dear friend.

He studied Eomer's pale face, trying to see him merely as a man in need of his help and not as his close friend and brother in arms; his first and most faithful ally in the struggle to defeat Sauron and a loyal friend who had shown him many kindnesses and always held his welfare close to his heart. Eomer lay as still, as one already dead and Aragorn knew that unless he acted quickly, his friend would soon be beyond all mortal aid.

"Hold him upright!" Aragorn instructed the healers as he took a very sharp knife they had brought from the Houses of Healing and held it in the flames of the fire to sterilize it.

Taking a deep breath to steady his hand ,he made three incisions round the wound on Eomer's head, each about three inches in length.

Caranthir, while supporting Eomer's upper body with one hand, used the other to mop away the blood oozing from the fresh cuts, to allow Aragorn a clear view of Eomer's skull as the scalp was pealed back to expose the shattered skull beneath.

Aragorn carefully picked out the fragments of bone, all the while taking care not to pierce the membrane surrounding the brain, as that would cause a most likely fatal infection.

It was deliberate and painstaking work as one slip would be fatal, as would leaving any fragments of bone inside. When he was satisfied the wound was clean, he folded back the skin flap and carefully stitched it before applying a salve of garlic and honey to fight off infection.

Aragorn finally dared to relax a little and found that he was shaking as the healers eased Eomer back on the bed.

"Rest a while, my Liege!" Caranthir counselled, "I will bandage King Eomer's head."

Aragorn nodded and permitted Aedred to assist him to a chair .The Roherric healer brought him a restorative drink anda cloth to wipe his hands, hands stained red with his close friend's blood.

"That cannot have been easy for you, my Lord, as I know you hold Eomer King in high esteem." Aedred sympathised, as Aragorn, his hand now steadier, gave him back the drained goblet.

Aragorn briefly closed his eyes and for once, allowed himself for once to be aided. He felt drained with the strain of fighting for his friend's life combined with guilt about not being able to prevent this catastrophe and worry about Arwen and the child she was labouring tobring intothe world.

Caranthir paused in his almost completed bandaging, as he felt uneasy about Eomer's condition. He felt under the blankets to check his heartbeat.

"He grows weaker!" he exclaimed in alarm, "His heart is slowing!" He pulled down the blankets and made to massage the fading heart.

His momentary weakness forgotten, Aragorn leapt to his feet.

"Leave him to me. Bring hot water, quickly!" he demanded.

The healers looked baffled but did as they were bidden and brought a bowl of steaming water to the King, into which he cast two leaves of the athelas, he had sent for earlier.

"Hold the bowl under Eomer's face!" he commanded Caranthir.

"But my Liege, we should be trying to revive him!" The elderly healer protested.

"I am trying to, do as I say!" Aragorn's tone brokered no argument. "Hold the bowl!"

The King went on his knees by his friend's bedside and laid one hand on the pale brow, the other he clasped round Eomer's cold fingers.

"Eomer, Eomer!" he called, as if in a trance.

The healers looked on in bewilderment.

"Whatever is he doing?" whispered Aedred.

"I know not, but Dame Ioreth told me he used some strange Elvish art to cure the Lord Faramir of the Black Breath, maybe this is akin to it?" Caranthir replied in a low voice, looking with some alarm at Aragorn, who had turned almost as pale as the King of Rohan.

Eomer suddenly started to breathe more deeply and some colour returned to his pale features to the amazement of the watching healers.

Aragorn swayed and would have fallen, had Aedred not steadied him. He helped the King to his feet and led him to a chair.

"His heart beats strongly now!" Caranthir, who hastened to examine Eomer, announced.

"My Lord, you are unwell, let me aid you!" Aedred fretted, as Aragorn gradually regained his composure.

"I am well, just give me a moment." Aragorn replied, gently but firmly batting the Healer's probing fingers away.

"This type of healing is very draining, I believe, though I have never seen it done before. That is, if it is not just some sort of illusion. It could be the athelas acts as a restorative." Caranthir commented, secretly impressed but not wishing to acknowledge something, which broke every rule he knew of, in front of his colleague, "Dame Ioreth told me the King's friends feared for his well being when he healed the Lord Faramir but he quickly recovered."

"Faramir!" Aragorn, all weariness forgotten, leapt to his feet, remembering that he had ordered his Steward to be taken into custody.

(The procedure Aragorn carries out on Eomer is taken from a description I read about an operation carried out in Anglo Saxon times, which the patient survived)

TBC

A/N

A big thank you for all your greatly appreciated comments which have given me plenty of food for thought and encouraged me to quickly update!

I have revised "The Hidden Days of Healing "as being my first LOTR story it was full of errors. In it, I develop the bond between Aragorn and Eomer referred to in this chapter.

The complete story does exist in rough form, but I rewrite each chapter before I post it, so I can hopefully improve it and incorporate points, which may not have occurred to me!

I do try to stick carefully to Tolkien's universe but am reluctant to say just yet if this is AU or not in case it spoils the suspense! Being set after LOTR, Tolkien tells us very little in any case and nothing in the main text of the novel.

There will be more to the story than endless surgical procedures, I promise!

I am quite interested in herbs and their uses and also information is freely available on the Internet. Honey and garlic have been used since Roman times to fight infection and honey is still used today to treat wounds. You can also buy arnica and calendula creams, though not mixed!

I agree Faramir can be his own worst enemy at times. He is sometimes too honest for his own good! His whereabouts and fate will be revealed in due course.

I too, feel sorry for Aragorn and his troubles are only just beginning!

As several of you have said, the 'burden of guilt' could rest on a variety of characters, which intrigues me as I work on this story as sometimes the characters take over!

Ioreth says in ROTK page 295 "That will be the one that walks with our Elfstone----Now he is a marvel, the Lord Elfstone: not too soft in his speech, mind you", so the passage made me think in character if called Arwen "Lady Elfstone" but that is purely my invention and belief.

The white horse tattoo idea was borrowed with permission from a story I read.

I do appreciate when readers point out genuine discrepancies that I can correct. I'm not the type of writer who deletes or ignores comments when I know I made a mistake !

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