Burden of Guilt

A Child is Born

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

Dedicated to Lily with grateful thanks for her help with this chapter

Warning - This chapter contains descriptions of childbirth

Arwen, now alone with Ioreth and Eowyn positioned herself on the birthing stool, with the midwives supporting her either side.

The voluminous shift she was wearing got in the way and between contractions, she tugged it over her head much to Ioreth's horror.

"Lady Elfstone!" she gasped, "This most unseemly!"

"Elves do not suffer inhibitions!" Arwen gasped through gritted teeth, "And it is not as if you are seeing anything you have not seen before!"

"She is right." Eowyn agreed with the Queen, though secretly amused how she had seemed to move back and forth between Elf and human in her attitudes during her pregnancy.

She moved behind Arwen, supporting her with one arm and massaging her back with the other while murmuring soothing words of comfort, wishing fervently that she had Aragorn's healing skills.

Arwen gave an ear-piercing shriek at an especially fierce contraction.

"Bear down, it is time to push now. I can tell from your breathing! You are almost there!" Ioreth commanded.

Arwen screamed all the louder as she felt as if her body were being torn asunder. She grabbed Eowyn's hand in a bone-crushing grip.

"The head has emerged." Ioreth announced, "One more big push, you can do it, Lady Elfstone!"

Arwen made a final supreme effort and felt the babe slither its way into the world.

Time seemed to stand still and then the lusty cry of a newborn babe was heard.

The baby slipped into Ioreth's waiting hands. Gently she lifted it and placed it on Arwen's chest.

"A fine healthy boy!" she announced. "Congratulations, Lady Elfstone!"

Blinking back a tear, Eowyn moved round to kiss her friend on the cheek before draping a blanket round her and the baby.

Tears of joy and relief freely coursed down Arwen's face as she held her firstborn in her arms. Although still covered in the detritus of birth, he seemed to her to be the most beautiful being she had ever beheld, with his tiny chubby body and fuzz of black hair.

Eowyn expertly tied the cord before cutting it with a sharp knife, while Ioreth called for water and towels to be fetched to bathe the newborn prince.

"Have you decided on a name?" Eowyn asked while they waited for the placenta to be delivered.

"Estel and I decided on Eldarion if we had a son," Arwen replied, tenderly cradling her child. "Could you send someone to tell him he is a father if they have not done so already?" she asked.

"A good kingly name, though I hope it will be a very long time before he succeeds his father!" Eowyn remarked, as Arwen reluctantly relinquished her hold on her child and allowed Ioreth to bathe him and wrap him in a blanket while she dealt with the afterbirth.

Ancient tradition decreed that the baby could not be dressed until the King had inspected him and declared himself satisfied.

Ioreth then examined Arwen thoroughly and pronounced her healthy with no damage apart from some slight bruising caused by the birth.

"You will be able to give Lord Elfstone more children." Ioreth informed the Queen.

"Do not mention it, this is the first and last!" Arwen snapped.

"Every woman says that." Ioreth cackled, "Including a lady of my acquaintance who went on to have ten more!"

"I think not!" Arwen retorted as Eowyn led her over to the bed where she gently bathed her and applied a salve of arnica, before helping her don a finely embroidered linen nightgown.

"Aragorn has been sent for so let me help you look your best." Eowyn soothed as she brushed the Queen's long black hair. "Later you can have a bath and I will massage you and the baby after he has spent some time with you."

"I want my baby!" Arwen fretted as Eldarion cried pitifully from the far side of the room." I think he is hungry!"

Eowyn hesitated. The rules stated that the Queen was not advised to suckle her newborn child until after the King had acknowledged it, but knowing Aragorn's character, she was certain he would never disown his child.

Taking the baby from Ioreth, she handed him to his mother and helped Arwen unfasten her nightgown. It never failed to amaze her how so soon after birth, an infant knew exactly how to obtain nourishment.

Holding the babe to her breast, Arwen gazed at him with such fierce tenderness that it brought tears to Eowyn's eyes.

Despite her reassurances to Aragorn, she had been terrified that something would go wrong and she could lose her best friend to the perils of childbirth. She felt overwhelmed with joy and relief that everything had gone so well. Her guess had been correct, as Eldarion was obviously full term after the usual human term of gestation.

Lady Morwen was despatched to summon the King as soon as the midwives were satisfied that all was well.

An exhausted, Aragorn was still sitting beside Faramir when the Lady in Waiting knocked on the door.

The Steward was still very seriously ill but Aragorn was daring to hope that as he had survived so far, maybe he would live though his fever was now causing him grave concern.

When he heard the summons, he roused Imrahil, who was still dozing on the couch and then opened the door.

Lady Morwen beamed at him, her news obvious even before she opened her mouth.

"My Lord Elessar!" she said, "Your are summoned to the Queen's chambers if your Majesty pleases. Her Majesty has been delivered of a healthy child."

"And the Queen?" Aragorn asked anxiously.

" She is well, my Lord."

Aragorn gave a deep sigh of relief and would have wept had Lady Morwen not been present.. At last something had not gone awry on this dreadful day. Arwen and their baby lived and were well! He offered a silent prayer of thanks to the Valar.

After hurriedly washing his hands and changing his shirt Aragorn summoned Caranthir to stay with Faramir together with Imrahil and told them to call him at once if there were any change.

His heart pounding with anticipation and relief,he made his way to the other side of the Royal Apartments. He wanted to rush inside and see his Queen but first there were ancient customs to observe.

As tradition dictated, twenty nobles and members of the Council were waiting in the anteroom outside the Queen's chamber.

On being informed of his arrival, Lady Meril brought the baby wrapped only in a blanket and unwrapped the bundle so that the King could inspect his child.

Aragorn saw a fuzz of black hair, sleepy blue grey eyes, perfectly formed limbs and ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes.

He felt an overwhelming sense of love towards this baby, so small yet so perfect. This at long last was his son, the child he had waited for so long.

" My Lord Elessar?" Lady Meril's enquiry jolted him back to the need of the ritual words he had to speak now, part of an obscure and ancient tradition where the King was required to publicly acknowledge his heir or the babe at best would be raised in obscurity, or at worse exposed on the mountainside. Aragorn shuddered, now he saw his child the very thought made him recoil in horror.

"This is my son. The King has an heir!" Aragorn said in a loud voice for the assembled nobles to hear.

He wanted to scoop up his son and hold him securely in his arms but first Lady Meril had to parade the infant for the assembled Council Members to inspect.

The Lord of Lebennin prodded the infant curiously as if expecting the offspring of an Elf and a human to have four legs or some similar oddity. Indignant at such treatment, the baby started to howl.

The strain of this dreadful day was taking its toll and Aragorn suddenly found the whole procedure barbaric. This was his son, a living, breathing child, not some piece of prize horseflesh! No future child of his was going to suffer such indignities, tradition or not!

He strode over to the assembled nobles and took his son from the lady in waiting, wrapping him securely in the blanket and cradling him in his arms.

"You have seen the babe is healthy, now be gone!" he roared in a voice, which brokered no argument.

"But Sire!" Lord Devorin of Ringlo Vale protested.

"You have seen my son, now he needs the comfort of his mother and warm clothing on his skin. The demands of the law are fulfilled, you have seen the child and I tell you now to depart. I, King Elessar have spoken!"

Dumbfounded, the Nobles filed out. Lord Lossarnach alone remained as Aragorn made his way towards Arwen's chamber.

"Congratulations, Sire!" he said, "Shall I order the bells to be rung now as custom demands?"

Aragorn nodded and managed to smile at the young man. "Yes, the citizens deserve to know they have a Prince though whether they will welcome being awoken at nearly midnight is another matter. Thank you, my Lord, I fear today has been somewhat trying."

Still carrying his infant son Aragorn followed Lady Meril into the large bedchamber where his Queen lay resting.

Aragorn hastened to his wife's side, handing the baby to the hovering Eowyn, who quickly dressed him he took Arwen's hand. "My love, he is so beautiful, thank you!" he whispered. "Was the pain very bad?"

"It was worth it. Already the memory is fading. Estel, I am not made of glass!" She pulled him towards her and he took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly.

When they pulled apart, Eowyn handed the baby back to his mother and discreetly retired to the next room.

For a few moments, Arwen contentedly cuddled her son before looking up and studying her husband's face.

"Whatever is wrong, Estel?" she asked, "You look as if you were the one who had given birth. I have never seen you look so exhausted!"

A/N A very grateful thank you to everyone for your kind reviews. Every one is much appreciated.

I am glad my readers appreciate what I am trying to do with this story.

Aragorn's angst is emotional rather than physical in this story, but I believe that is just as hard to endure.

The Rohirrim caught everyone off guard as they rushed past the few guards, knocking them out.

A birthing stool is a low stool shaped like a horseshoe, which looks rather like a lavatory.

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