Burden of Guilt

The Best of Times,the Worst of Times

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

Itwas the best of times, it was the worst of times Dickens -A Tale of Two Cities.1

Aragorn thought quickly, this was his wife's special day and he had no desire to let it be ruined for her. Before Arwen had become pregnant, she had easily been able to read his thoughts, and he would have been unable to hide the depth of his distress, but bearing a mortal's child had taken that ability away from her, though it would most likely return within days now that the baby was delivered.

" I was worried about you and I had an exhausting day." he replied evasively," There was some trouble in the city I had to deal with."

"Could not Faramir have dealt with it?" she enquired, "I thought he would keep an eye on you today and offer you some support"

Aragorn took a deep breath, realising it was impossible to avoid telling her at least some of what had happened." I am afraid there was a fight," he said as calmly as he could," Faramir and Eomer were both injured."

"Faramir fighting with Eomer?" Arwen sounded incredulous. "Are they badly hurt?"

Although Aragorn had hidden some things from his wife during her pregnancy, as not to distress her, it was contrary to both his principles and the thought bond they shared to ever lie to her.

He sadly nodded the affirmative, though adding in an attempt to reassure. "I am caring for them both and have treated their injuries. I have yet to learn exactly what happened to cause them to fight."

Arwen looked distressed. "This is dreadful news! Poor Eowyn, she has been so good to me today, I could never have managed without her."

"Do not distress yourself, Vanimelda," Aragorn soothed, "I am doing all I can to heal them both."

"And you will succeed." Arwen reassured him, "Apart from my father, you are the greatest healer on Arda. If only he were here today to see his grandson and to aid you but alas he is preparing to sail. I do not know even if a message to tell him of the birth will get there in time!"

"It grieves me that your family are not here with you." Aragorn said sadly. Privately, he thought that Elrond could have at least lingered until after the baby was born but the Elf Lord was in great hurry to depart now that the power of the Elven rings was no more.

" I love my father but I love you and now our son far more!" Arwen said fervently, kissing him again. "I have a new family now and my brothers and my grandfather are remaining on Arda for a while yet. Now as the hour we are allowed together is almost over, you had better return to your patients and take Eowyn to see her husband and brother. Then try and get some rest, my Love."

And you rest too, Beloved, and recover your strength. How can I ever thank you enough for our wonderful, beautiful son! I love you both so much!"

Aragorn bade a tender farewell to his wife and promised to return on the morrow; already her eyes were closing when he requested the midwives to come back into the room. "First I would thank you for all your help today." he said, " Then if you would stay with the Queen, Dame Ioreth, I should like to speak to Lady Eowyn alone."

"Your lady will sleep now, Lord Elfstone, that is until your son demands feeding. A fine boy you have there!"

Aragorn smiled at her with something approaching affection. Sharp tongued and garrulous, Ioreth might be, but she had looked after Arwen well and he had gained a new respect for her in recent weeks as despite her reputation, she had apparently not told anyone outside her immediate circle about finding Faramir, Legolas and himself clad solely in sackcloth as he had feared they would have been the laughing stock of Minas Tirith, yet no one had said a word. Now to think of that day, he could weep at the memory.

Bidding farewell to Ioreth he left the room with Eowyn

"I fear I have ill tidings." Aragorn said quietly, wondering however he was going to tell her what had happened.

Eowyn looked at him in alarm. "What is wrong? Tell me!" she demanded.

There was no easy way to put it.

" I am afraid Eomer challenged Faramir to a dual and they are both badly hurt." he said bleakly, hating himself for having to tell her this and fearing its effect on her unborn child.

Eowyn paled visibly "How badly? What happened? Take me to them!" she demanded. "Can I not leave you and Faramir for less than a day without some disaster occurring?"

"It seems not." he replied, taking Eowyn's arm to support her " You and Arwen have been greatly missed today. Come, I will take you to them and try to explain what happened on the way."

Aragorn first took Eowyn to the room where her brother lay, feeling it would lessen the shock somewhat if she saw that at least one of her loved ones was recovering. He also feared how she might react to her brother once she saw the extent of her husband's injuries.

Eomer was sleeping peacefully while Aedred maintained a vigil at his bedside.

Rising from the chair where he had been sitting the Rohirric Healer bowed to the King and Eowyn as they entered.

"How is he?" Aragorn asked, " I have brought Lady Eowyn to see her brother."

"He is recovering well," the Healer, replied, "He has a strong constitution."

Eowyn gasped at the sight of her brother, as he lay with his head swathed in bandages.

"Faramir did this?" she exclaimed in horror.

"He only caught him across the chest with his sword and I believe even that was an accident." Aragorn replied, gesturing with one hand and placing the other on her shoulder in a gesture of comfort." His worse injuries occurred when he fell down the steps, but he is healing well you should have no need to worry."

At the sound of his sister's voice, Eomer opened his eyes.

Eowyn hastened to his bedside and clasped her brother's hand. Her eyes were full of tears at the sight of her usually strong and vigorous brother lying so weak and helpless.

"Eowyn, sister, is that you?" Eomer asked weakly

"I am here beside you holding your hand." she replied.

"I cannot feel your touch!" Eomer gasped in alarm, turning his head a little so that he could see her.

Eowyn squeezed her fingers tighter. "Can you feel that?"

"I cannot feel anything!" Eomer sounded afraid for the first time in years his sister could remember.

"Maybe you are numb from lying on it? Eowyn suggested without much conviction.

Aragorn grasped Eomer's other hand.

"I can feel your hand, Aragorn but my sword arm is numb!" Eomer's voice rose in sheer panic.

"Let me see!" The Healer in Aragorn took over, as assisted by Aedred; Aragorn eased Eomer's arm out of his nightshirt.

It was badly bruised near the shoulder but otherwise looked undamaged. Eowyn gasped as the thick bandages covering her brother's chest were revealed.

Aragorn felt along the length of Eomer's arm, at first gently, but on getting no reaction probed and even pinched it in the hope Eomer would feel something but the arm remained completely numb.

Eowyn then pinched her brother's arm really hard, as she had often done in childhood by way of retaliation when he pulled her hair, thinking that maybe Aragorn was being too gentle.

By now Eomer was sweating with agitation and when Aragorn checked, his heart was pounding. "I can feel nothing from my shoulder down!" he exclaimed, the fear in his eyes obvious. "What did that husband of yours do to me?

Aragorn nodded a silent instruction to Aedred to mix a sedative to calm the King of Rohan.

"It is useless, I can feel nothing, you could stick a knife in my arm and I would not know! What is wrong with me?" Eomer demanded

"I cannot say for certain, "Aragorn replied, frowning with concern, "You fell on that arm and dislocated that shoulder. It could be that the nerve is damaged. Drink this, it will make you feel better."

Eowyn supported her brother's head as Aragorn gave him the valerian tea.

"Will I regain the feeling?" Eomer asked fearfully.

"I hope so. You will need time to heal. I will do everything I can for you. There are Elven massage techniques I could use which might help."

Eomer snorted, "No thank you! Elvish tricks are for Elves or maybe women and children, not men of the mark!"

"As you wish," Aragorn said resignedly, wishing Eomer were a little more open to less orthodox treatments. "You are healing well, considering the severity of your injuries and should be back on your feet within a week or two."

"What use is a one armed King, even if I can walk?" Eomer said desperately.

"Do not say that!" Eowyn chided." You have recovered from many hurts in the past and then you did not have the best Healer in Middle Earth as you do now! Why do you always get into such trouble?" Her green eyes were wide with concern.

"I thought only to protect your honour, sister." Eomer replied heatedly.

"My honour?" Eowyn sounded bewildered.

"You need to rest now." Aragorn soothed, his hand on Eomer's brow, realising he would have to use his abilities to make his friend sleep as the valerian would take too long. He cast a warning glance at Eowyn that this was not the time for questions.

He need not have troubled himself for the King of Rohan was already asleep.

"I will take you to Faramir now." he told Eowyn, as she rose from the bedside and planted a kiss on her brother's cheek "I warn you, though, he is in a far worse state that Eomer. Are you certain you wish to see him just yet, as I fear the shock could harm your unborn child!"

"The women of Rohan are strong as are our children!" Eowyn said staunchly, "Take me to my husband!"

Caranthir and Imrahil were seated either side of Faramir when they entered. Both rose to bow to Aragorn, but with a wave of his hand, he bade them be seated.

"How is he?" Aragorn asked, putting a protective arm around Eowyn's shoulders as they approached the bedside.

"There is no change, my Liege," Caranthir replied.

"Let me see how badly he is hurt!" Eowyn demanded.

"Please, Eowyn, it is best you wait a little!" Aragorn counselled, wishing at least to first examine Faramir again. The Steward had momentarily opened his eyes when they entered but now lay there as if oblivious to their presence, moaning as he feverishly shifted in the bed.

Despite the fever, his face was almost white in sharp contrast to his raven hair and his lips still bore a bluish tinge.

Ignoring the King's attempts to hold her back, Eowyn yanked the covers off her husband, determined to see for herself the full extent of his injuries.

She stared at him for a moment taking in the flayed back, the heavily bandaged arm and the heavy bruising, which covered him almost from shoulder to thigh.

Turning pale, she gave a cry and would have fallen had Aragorn not caught her. For a moment she let him hold her, but quickly recovered and demanded.

"How did this happen? My brother could not have inflicted all these hurts upon him! Nor would he, as he is a man of honour!"

Aragorn moved to cover his Steward, who even though only half conscious was recoiling was shivering and recoiling at the indignity of having so many pairs of eyes fixed on his naked and battered body.

"It is my fault," he replied, unable to meet her eyes." I gave the order for him to be taken to prison where he was beaten."

Eowyn's green eyes blazed with fury. "How could you?" she raged. "You cruel,monstrous tyrant! How could you do this to him, my gentle loving Faramir? He loves you so much, and he trusted you, as he worships the very ground you walk upon! He would gladly die for you and yet you treat him worse than a drunken beggar would treat his cur! Are you going to burn him alive next?"

Incandescent with rage, she slapped Aragorn across the face. The force was so great he staggered backwards, blood pouring from his nose.

TBC

A/N

Thank you so much for all your kind reviews. I cherish every one and am touched and overwhelmed by your support for this story.

I have updated quickly to show my sincere appreciation.

I took the idea of the ritual involving the baby from ancient Sparta where any less than perfect baby was left out for the wolves. Of course, Aragorn would never do anything so barbaric.

Those of you who guessed that there is still plenty of angst ahead are correct!

Some of you said this was one of your favourite chapters, I am curious to know which others you especially liked?

I am setting up some adversaries for Aragorn for a possible future story, so I hope that explains the nastiness of the Lords .

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