Burden of Guilt

The King's Despair

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 contains material which may upset sensitive readers

"I only hope Caranthir is right and ice will be the correct treatment!" Aragorn fretted, "It will take time to fetch it, so we had best bathe him thoroughly while we wait."

The Prince of Dol Amroth called for servants to fill the tub in the bathing chamber with lukewarm water.

Usually, sponging an injured man on the bed would suffice, but the grime from the jail still clung to Faramir and bits of filthy straw and worse had adhered to his hair and his wounds. Without a through cleansing, infection was bound to set in and Aragorn feared they might already be too late to prevent it.

Calling the servants in and instructing them to lay clean linens on the bed while they were gone, Aragorn and Imrahil rolled up their sleeves and carefully carried Faramir into the bathing chamber where they unwrapped him and gently lowered him into the water to which Aragorn added a little salt.

While Imrahil supported his nephew's head above the water Aragorn washed away the prison grime as gently and thoroughly as he could. The water soon turned dark with a mixture of blood and filth.

Imrahil shook his head slightly for much as he loved his nephew, it amazed him that the High King would himself bathe him himself instead of leaving such a menial task to his servants.

Noticing his expression, Aragorn commented, "Is what has already happened not humiliation enough for a man like Faramir, without servants gaping at him and gossiping? I have no idea if I can save his life, but I can at least grant him a little dignity."

Imrahil could have wept.

Apart from the occasional low moan as the water stung his raw wounds, Faramir still seemed unaware of what was happening.

Swathed in the softest towels available, Faramir was carried back to the King's bedchamber and laid on the bed again and turned on his uninjured side as not to put pressure on his raw back, which looked worse than ever, now the stripes were cleaned. In places the flesh was so badly torn that it could hardly have looked much worse if some wild beast had savaged it.

Aragorn swiftly changed his damp and grimy clothes and washed his hands before touching his injured Steward again.

The water had caused the wounds to bleed afresh and Aragorn staunched them as best he could, applying a bandage to the deep wound caused by Eomer's sword.

A servant knocked on the door and Aragorn went himself to see if the ice had arrived, while Imrahil was changed his clothes. He handed Aragorn a large chunk of ice, carefully wrapped in the straw, which was used to keep it from melting.

"The cook brought it straight from the ice house, My Lord." he said. "She'd already been in there once today to get some for the Queen!"

"The Queen?" Aragorn's heart was in his mouth. If Arwen was in need of ice, her life must be in danger. "Tell me, what news of her? When was the ice sent for?"

The man shrugged. "At dawn, I think. One of the midwives came to get it, told the cook it was a precaution when she asked why, not that she was very pleased as she wanted to be certain she had enough left for the State Banquet for the Rhun, not that she begrudges the Queen anything my Lord, she just doesn't want her scarce reserves of ice going to waste!"

Aragorn's sigh of relief was even audible to the garrulous servant.

"You can go now!" Aragorn said curtly, dismissing the man .He feared this was going to be the worse day he could remember in his long life.

As he carried the ice to Faramir's bedside, he silently prayed to the Valar that the lives of all his loved ones would be spared.

Slowly and with reluctance he unwrapped the ice. He then sharpened his knife and used it to cut the block into smaller pieces, all the while hoping Faramir would regain consciousness so he could explain to him what he was going to do.

The treatment in itself was not dangerous, but he feared it could lead to Faramir going into shock again at the sudden coldness. He also disliked having to turn him on to his raw back again in order to position it correctly against the bruised areas.

Imrahil helped him turn Faramir and he found himself grimacing in sympathy at the younger man's obvious pain.

"I fear you may find this unpleasant, Mellon Nin but it should help you," he murmured as he pulled aside the towels and slowly placed the pieces of ice across Faramir's injured belly, concentrating on the areas where he was most likely to be bleeding inside.

He pressed it with his bare hands against the bruises, gasping as it burned and froze his hands, all the while wondering how it must feel against the much more tender and damaged skin of Faramir's belly.

He still felt instinctively that he should have shunned this treatment, yet to only use salves and his healing abilities seemed to be indulging his emotions rather than following accepted wisdom.

Feverish visions kept flittering through Faramir's semi conscious brain. The last thing he could remember was seeing the King. Was that at his trial?

They had come at last to fetch him for his execution. He could feel himself being carried through the streets and jostled over the rough cobblestones He wondered why the streets were so silent as he had expected the jeering mob, but maybe his crime had shocked them to silence.

They had stopped and he could feel hands removing his clothing somewhat more gently than he had expected. Maybe the executioner remembered him from when he had been forced to watch such spectacles as a child, and felt pity, though he would not dare spare him by hanging him until he was dead.

He thought he could make out Aragorn's voice and a fleeting hope stirred within him that maybe his King and friend would commute the sentence to a quick death, before dismissing it as quickly as it arose, he could hope for no special treatment nor desire it after what he had done.

Stripped naked to the gaze of the mob, he shivered with a mixture of shame and fear as he heard a vaguely familiar voice discussing cutting him open and then the ominous sound of a knife being sharpened.

Then he felt it, the cold steel against his belly, pressing into his defenceless flesh. The pain grew worse. He panicked, remembering that a skilled executioner could ensure that it took a long time for the victim to die, as they disembowelled them inch by agonising inch.

There was only one thing left to him, if he were not to die like a coward, screaming in agony. He could use the gift his people processed of giving up his life freely. He surrendered and let the darkness take him.

Faramir had twitched and moaned while Aragorn applied the ice to his bruises but now he lay still and suddenly went completely limp.

He hardly seemed to be breathing. Alarmed, Aragorn felt for a heartbeat but his hands were too numb to feel anything.

Imrahil took over and exclaimed in alarm.

"His heartbeat is weakening, I can barely detect it! I think my nephew is dying!"

Aragorn swept the ice aside and desperately tried to get his own hands warm enough to tend his Steward, while trying to control a rising sense of panic.

His healer's knowledge and intuition strongly indicated that Faramir's injuries were not now the cause of his worsening condition but rather a desire to end his own life, though that might be because his spirit knew his body was too damaged to survive.

"We need to resuscitate him!" Imrahil said urgently.

Aragorn shook his head." With his ribs broken already, it would most certainly prove fatal. He is giving back the Gift so it is his mind not his body I need to reach. I will try to call him back."

He knelt beside Faramir, fighting to keep his emotions under control and wondering if he were only prolonging his friend's agony by trying to save him. He clasped Faramir's hand in his own, the other he placed on his brow as he called.

"Faramir, come back into the light. Do not leave me, my friend!"

The Steward did not stir and his eyes remained closed. He hardly seemed to be breathing and Aragorn could only detect the faintest of heartbeats by pressing his ear close against his chest.

Aragorn continued to call him, though now he was weeping so hard that he could only choke his name brokenly as he fought desperately for his friend's life.

Imrahil steadied Aragorn as the King almost swooned.

"I cannot reach him, there is nothing but darkness," he whispered. "He has determined to die and is beyond my reach! I have failed him!"

TBC

A/N

A very big thank you to you all for your kind reviews. I am touched and overwhelmed to have now passed the 300 mark. Your support and encouragement is a great inspiration to me.

I have slightly changed the previous chapter as when I re- read it, Caranthir came across as a little too harsh, more so than I intended. I do not think more assistants would help Aragorn though as he uses treatments the other healers know nothing of.

I most certainly do not think that Aragorn is Faramir's father! He is far too honourable to have an affair with a married woman. Caranthir is Ecthelion's son and therefore Faramir's uncle in Evendim's universe.

Unfortunately abuse in prisons still takes place, charities like Amnesty International and The Medical Foundation publicise and campaign against such atrocities.

Aragorn has promised Faramir many times that he would never be beaten again, most recently in Chapter 8 of this story.

Arwen is also being attended by the very experienced Ioreth, her labour is progressing normally and I will return to her once it is established where Faramir lives or dies.

The Rohirrim are not forgotten either! I am sure if Eomer could only see Faramir now he would be very upset.

The Tudor era was probably the cruellest time in British history with regard to torture.

As most of you seem to like a lot of detail ,it is staying !

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