Burden of Guilt

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema . This story was written purely for pleasure and not for profit.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23.4

Choking back his own grief, Imrahil tried to comfort his distraught Liege Lord. "Were it not for you, my Lord, he would have died three years ago, never having known what fatherly love was like, never been given his rightful status, never having married, never having had the chance to father an heir. You have given him all these things and more!"

Unheeding, Aragorn stumbled to his feet, aided by the Prince of Dol Amroth. He stood for a moment looking down at the still figure on the bed.

Suddenly reaching a decision, he pulled off his heavy brocaded over tunic, so he was left clad in a thin undershirt and breeches.

Opening the chest where he kept his clean linens, Aragorn, pulled out one of his nightshirts, noticing as he did so the blue shirt that Faramir had borrowed but a month ago, folded beside it. They had been so happy that day!

The King started to ease the garment over Faramir's head. Imrahil assisted him though unsure why his Sovereign was doing this.

"He would wish to be clothed for his last journey." Aragorn murmured, more to himself than his companion, as he smoothed the linen garment down to his Steward's ankles and preceded to wrap a blanket round Faramir and lift him from the bed.

"I want to hold him in his last moments. It is the least I can do for him!" Aragorn said brokenly, gazing down at the still form in his arms.

He could hardly bear to contemplate life without this man at his side. Faramir was everything he had ever wished for in a friend, loving, loyal and intelligent.

Faramir held a very large part of his heart, as they were kindred souls, often even able to sense what each other was thinking

His self-effacing manner and shyness had only served to make him all the more endearing. His friendship and trust had taken Aragorn a long time to win, which made him prize it all the more, as like most of their race friendships were not made lightly, as a bond once formed was rarely broken.

There was so much he had hoped to share with his Steward. He had planned to one day to show him the Northern Kingdom and take him on camping trips so they could relive the days when they were Rangers.

He had hoped that over the years they would continue their lively discussions on their shared Numenorean heritage and enjoy seeing their children grow up and play together. Now all those simple pleasures would be denied to them.

Now that Faramir was dying, the King was overwhelmed by the realisation how much he loved him and how much he had always owed to him. Without his support, he could never have become King, married his beloved Arwen or managed to rule Gondor.

Without Faramir's devoted care during their sojourn at the Hunting Lodge, it was doubtful he would even be alive now. Faramir had been a mixture of brother, son, friend and advisor to the King.

It was a bitter irony that the son of the man who had always been a thorn in Aragorn's side should have become so dear to him and yet it seemed that Aragorn had succeeded in causing his death when Denethor had failed.

Engrossed in his thoughts, he carried Faramir to the spacious seat by the window and sat there, clutching the unconscious man in his arms. Faramir was beyond even feeling pain now.

He tenderly cradled the dark head against his heart as one might soothe a babe.

Imrahil knelt beside them taking his nephew's cold hands; even they were bruised from where he had obviously tried to vainly protect himself. He tried vainly to chafe some life into the limp fingers.

His heart close to breaking, Aragorn absently massaged Faramir's head and shoulders, using the Elven technique, which had so often soothed him before.

"I cannot even fetch Eowyn to him!" he lamented. "He should at least be with someone he loves. "

Still chafing the icy hands, Imrahil bent to bestow the farewell kiss of blessing on his nephew's brow. "Faramir loves you too, my Lord," he pointed out gently, "Differently than Eowyn, naturally, but no less so and he was so proud that the Queen chose Eowyn to attend her in her confinement."

Aragorn was weeping bitterly now. "I shall kiss you farewell as I did Boromir." he choked, pressing a kiss on Faramir's pale brow." But unlike your valiant brother, you are not dying as a hero in battle but because in my folly! "

He turned away from Faramir and looked directly at Imrahil.

"I have killed him as surely as if I ran my sword through him! I broke the vow I made to him to protect him from ever being beaten again! A death in battle or through disease, though hard, is the will of the Valar to be accepted, but how could I have killed him through my own thoughtlessness! How can I ever tell Eowyn or even my Queen? How I can look you, his kinsman in the eye again? I have robbed Gondor of her noblest son!"

Imrahil briefly loosed one of Faramir's hands to place a hand on the King's shoulder. "You sought only to protect him and never meant to break your vow." he soothed. " I beg you, do not reproach yourself as I, his close kinsman hold you guiltless of blame. You must not give way to despair! "

Aragorn in his grief clutched Faramir closer and hot tears fell on the Steward's brow.

"Faramir, my Faramir, I love you, do not leave me! You are so very dear to me! Come back into the light, my friend, my little brother!" he sobbed in anguish.

Stirring ever so slightly, Faramir nuzzled his head against the King's heart as if seeking some last comfort as he faded from the circles of the world.

The trusting gesture, however feeble, restored Aragorn's resolve.

Gently easing Faramir's limp body down to rest on the couch, he slid to the ground and knelt beside his Steward.

"Bring me some athelas and hot water, and the jewel casket from the table. I shall try again to reach him!" he instructed Imrahil." I was wrong to lose hope while he yet breathes."

He unlocked the casket and took out the Elfstone and pinned it on his breast, where it glowed with a mysterious green light.

Imrahil went and called to the servant waiting outside and a few moments later returned with a bowl of steaming water, which he held under Faramir's face, as Aragorn breathed on the athelas leaves, crushed them and cast them into the water.

"Be careful, My Lord!" Imrahil warned, torn between love for his nephew and his duty to protect the King "It could kill you too trying to reach one as far gone as he is!"

Ignoring the warning, Aragorn clasped Faramir's hand with one hand, while laying the other on his cold brow. Urgently, he called his name.

He immediately felt as if he were falling into a strange, clouded realm filled with an overwhelming sense of pain and despair. This place was even darker than where he had sought Faramir when he was in the grip of the Black Breath.

He searched until he could see a chink of light, little more than a weak candle flame spluttering in the darkness, which engulfed Faramir. He followed the flickering flame until he came to a precipice where his Steward was standing, mere inches from the abyss.

"Come home, Faramir, I beg of you!" he said, " I will heal you! Remember the time you promised not to leave me? I hold you now to that vow!"

"There is too much pain and guilt." Faramir replied, "How can I? Leave me or you will fall with me, brother of my soul!"

"I cannot let you go, I love you too much!"

Aragorn grasped Faramir's arms, knowing that if the other leapt, he would be pulled into the darkness with him.

Faramir staggered back and Aragorn held him tightly as they both fell into the abyss.

They seemed to be travelling at vast speed through a tunnel at the end of which a bright light and a sense of overwhelming peace and joy awaited.

"You cannot go, it is not yet your time!" A voice commanded, Aragorn knew not whether he had spoken or some higher power. Suddenly he was floating rather than falling and Faramir was still in his arms.

"My Lord!" Imrahil exclaimed in alarm, as the colour drained from Aragorn's face, while Faramir appeared to grow stronger. It seemed as if he pouring all his life energy into Faramir and growing weaker by the minute until he slid senseless to the floor.

Imrahil ran to the door and shouted desperately for a healer to come.

TBC

A/N

It has long been my wish to write an emotional scene, in which Aragorn attempts to heal Faramir, as in "First Meeting" they were strangers, rather than friends. Whether I have succeeded or not only my readers can decide.

A very big thank you to everyone who has reviewed. I am so touched and overwhelmed by all your much appreciated comments.

I assure everyone that no plot thread will be swept under the carpet and everything will eventually be resolved.

Faramir is indeed his own worse enemy at times due to his low self-esteem.

A wise midwife would want ice available for if Arwen wished to suck some and also to use in an emergency if she started bleeding.

Faramir was drifting in and out of consciousness, so would be only vaguely aware of isolated words and actions. Sharpening a knife is an especially grating sound.

Watching executions was considered a pleasant day out for all ages in olden days!

Imrahil is very mindful of protocol but I think he is touched by the King's concern for Faramir.

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