Burden of Guilt

Grim Discoveries

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 purely for pleasure and not for profit.

Warning – This chapter and those following contain material of a gory and disturbing nature, so please only read if unlikely to be upset.

Imrahil sat down beside him, noting his grave expression.

"I am sorry, I should never have allowed this to happen to your nephew." Aragorn said bleakly.

"You could not have known." Imrahil replied with equal bleakness. "How could anyone guess he would be treated so brutally? Do you want me to summon some assistance from the Houses of Healing as this must be very difficult for you? "

"I would rather tend him myself, if you approve? He is my friend and I would do this from love of him." Aragorn replied, as he anxiously wiped the blood from Faramir's mouth. At least it appeared a normal colour, which was a hopeful sign. It was obvious Faramir was seriously injured, but just how badly was impossible to tell until they could properly investigate.

"Of course, you are the most skilled healer I know of and I will be happy to assist you, for as you know, I have some small knowledge which may be useful." Imrahil replied.

"Thank you, I would appreciate that. As soon as he is a little more settled, we will tend him as best we may." Aragorn settled Faramir's limp head against his shoulder, ignoring the stench of the jail, which clung to his Steward, and started gently massaging his Steward's head and neck, singing softly in Elvish, as he did so while using his healing powers at the same time.

Faramir remained semi conscious and they had no idea if he knew them or was aware of his surroundings but he relaxed a little and when Aragorn next checked his heartbeat it was stronger and his skin felt a little warmer to the touch.

"We had better begin now." Aragorn sighed, as Imrahil held on his nephew, while he rose to his feet. Together they carried him over to the bed and gently laid him down, with a pillow under his injured back, until they could turn him on his side.

Aragorn put a blanket ready to cover Faramir as soon as he was disrobed, not wanting him to become either chilled or distressed at the lack of coverings.

He unwrapped the cloak and cast it to one side and then started to carefully remove the makeshift bandages, while Imrahil pulled off his nephew's boots.

"I need to see how badly you are hurt, so we will have to undress you, I fear," he told Faramir in case he understood, "I promise to be as gentle as I can."

The remains of the tunic and undershirt had stuck to the flesh and Aragorn gently soaked them off with the warm water the servants had brought. From what he could see, Eomer's broadsword had cut deeply into Faramir's upper arm, tearing the muscle and then left a series of diagonal smaller cuts starting on his side and tapering down his chest and belly.

At the same moment that Aragorn finally loosed the remnants of the tunic and undershirt, Imrahil removed Faramir's breeches and drawers.

King and Prince both gasped in horror when the extensive bruising concentrated round Faramir's ribs, belly and groin area were revealed.

"No!" Aragorn's exclamation was almost a groan. "Who can have done this to him?"

The King gasped in horror as the full of extent of Faramir's injuries were revealed. The flogging alone was enough to cause serious or even fatal damage to the heart and kidneys of a healthy man, but combined with these other injuries how could Faramir possibly survive? He vowed to do everything within his power to save him whatever the cost.

He was already gently but thoroughly prodding the bruised areas, trying to contain his rising sense of panic as to what lay beneath. He knew from long years of experience that such injuries often meant crushed or damaged organs or severe bleeding inside, both of which were usually fatal.

He first carefully felt Faramir's damaged chest and discovered several cracked and broken ribs, frantically he bent and pressed his ear against the bruised flesh and let out a sigh of relief that at least the lungs seemed to have escaped damage, though the fluttering rapid heartbeat was worrying.

He then gently prodded the abdominal area, which was so badly swollen, it was difficult to determine the extent of the damage, though to his relief, there did not seem to be any hardness, but with so much swelling it was impossible to tell.

At the gentlest touch, Faramir flinched under his probing fingertips. He beckoned Imrahil to help turn him as he felt it was sadly necessary to investigate if the ultimate degradation had befallen his Steward.

It was a relief that Faramir was unconscious at present, as Aragorn did not know how such a modest and private man could endure the humiliation of what would seem like a further violation. His eyes met Imrahil's in mutual understanding. Such things were known to happen in prisons, especially when sadists like Mahrod were involved, and they needed to know the truth however dreadful if they were to help Faramir and bring his attackers to justice.

"I am so sorry, my friend." he murmured soothingly to Faramir as he shivered and moaned in distress although still unconscious. "I like this no better than you do. It will all be over soon, I promise."

He gently covered his Steward with first a linen sheet and then blankets, while he pondered what to do next. Usually in a case like this, he would use ice and cold compresses, but wondered if salves would be better given Faramir's weakened condition, or was he letting his love for his friend cloud his judgement as the ice could cause a painful burning sensation as well as sending a patient deeper into shock?

"Will you fetch Caranthir, if Eomer can be safely left with one Healer?" he asked Imrahil. "

Left alone with Faramir, Aragorn covered his face with his hands, fighting back the tears. He knew that whoever had inflicted his Steward's injuries; he alone was to blame for not making his instructions clearer and thereby exposing him to danger.

Feeling he should continue tending Faramir as best he could, he brought clean water to the bedside and started to bathe his Steward, trying unsuccessfully to cleanse him of the prison stench. He worked a few inches at a time, carefully trying to keep Faramir warmly covered with the blankets and all the while softly reassuring him in case he were somehow aware of his presence.

Imrahil finally returned accompanied by a reluctant Caranthir.

"I thought you told me not to leave King Eomer, my Liege!" Caranthir protested.

"I did but my Steward requires your urgent attention too!" Aragorn replied," How is King Eomer faring?"

"Much the same, though he appears to rest more easily, Sire." Caranthir approached the bed and started to pull down the blankets covering Faramir.

"I would value your opinion on how to treat the bruising." Aragorn said. "I would like to use salves but wonder if that will enough or whether ice would be better."

Caranthir stood for a moment with a look of great sorrow in his eyes before starting to examine the bruises, causing Faramir to yelp with pain. Skilled Healer though he was, he lacked the gentle touch of the Elven trained Aragorn.

"Ice is the only option that might work," he said at last." Impossible though to tell how great the damage might be, unless you cut him open and cauterised any bleeding you uncovered, save that would most likely cause him to die from shock! "

"I cannot!" Aragorn said brokenly, "He has suffered too much already!"

"How did he come by such hurts if I may be so bold as to ask?" Caranthir asked. "I cannot see how any man could survive such mistreatment!"

"In the City prison. He was beaten and flogged." Aragorn replied sadly.

"The City prison is no place for the son of our late Lord Steward! Lord Faramir is a true gentleman! Whatever was he doing there? Caranthir said angrily. "Whoever is responsible for such an outrage should be punished!"

"The blame is mine alone. The Guards misinterpreted my orders." Aragorn said wretchedly." I have done Lord Faramir a most grievous wrong!"

"Yes, you have as you have most likely killed him!" Caranthir replied acidly.

"I am sorry. My actions were unforgivable." Aragorn's usually stoic reserve was starting to crumble under the enormity of his feelings of guilt.

At least you never tried to burn him alive!" Caranthir retorted dryly, as he finished his examination of the bruises and then to Aragorn's surprise, brushed a hand against his shoulder in comfort.

Although the elderly healer had been close to the old regime, he had witnessed how Aragorn had battled to save the life of Faramir, his only possible rival the first time they met, which had given him a great deal of respect for the new King.

"Stop blaming yourself, My Lord and concentrate of the Steward or send for a healer who can!" he said briskly. "What's done cannot be undone and I very much doubt you intended anything like this to befall him! I fear he will not last the night, poor young man, as the sword wounds and the flogging combined alone are likely to prove fatal, but you can only try and see what you can for him! Maybe the powers beyond my knowledge that you are said to possess will help him! Would you like me to assist you?"

Aragorn shook his head. "Thank you but King Eomer still has need of you and Prince Imrahil assisted me before with Lord Faramir, so he knows how I work."

"Very well then, with a last sad glance at Faramir and without waiting for dismissal, he turned and left.

"He is quite a character!" Imrahil said ruefully. "He even stood up to Faramir's father! I heard rumours that that could perhaps even be half brethren! Another uncle to my poor nephew!"

"I suppose we had better send for the ice," sighed Aragorn. "Though I have an uneasy feeling about it." He called for a passing servant to do his bidding while prepared a tincture of hawthorn berries and rosehips to try to strengthen Faramir's heart and help him fight infection.

TBC

A very big thank you to all my readers who have taken the trouble to review and an especial thank you to everyone who made kind and supportive comments against the unpleasant flame (now deleted) which I received. I found some of your comments very moving

I welcome fair criticism but this was a complete misinterpretation.

I assure my readers there is no erotic subtext of any variety and any chapters which readers might find disturbing will always carry warnings.

Faramir's attackers will be punished but at the moment Aragorn has other things on his mind.

I was interested to hear from a reader about a true-life case of a sailor who died following a beating similar to Faramir's.

The drunkard's speech can be more easily understood by replacing the aitches, e.g. 'as has.

My experience of boarding Schools is limited to Enid Blyton's books, which I loved as a child.

Some of my readers like a lot of detail, others don't so it is not possible to please everyone, alas I fear. Aragorn might have been holding Faramir carefully not to drop him or get the prison grime over his clothes rather than concern over the wounds !

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