Burden of Guilt

A Crisis and Divers Conversations

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.

Imrahil returned soon afterwards and persuaded Aragorn to lie down while he watched over his nephew.

Despite wishing to remain awake, Aragorn was soon overcome by exhaustion and fell deeply asleep until he was roused by Faramir crying out.

Most of his words were incomprehensible gibberish although the King could make out " Let you down," and "Please, no, forgive me!" amongst his feverish ramblings.

Aragorn quickly realised that his Steward's fever had worsened and that his whole body seemed to be burning. Aragorn and Imrahil took away the blankets, so he was covered only by a linen sheet and constantly bathed his limbs as well as his face and neck but still the fever raged and his heartbeat and breathing grew ever more erratic.

At sunrise, Aragorn checked Faramir's wounds to try and discover the source of the infection. The stripes on his back, although hideous to behold, were clean but when his arm was unwrapped, the wound looked swollen, red and angry.

Aragorn sighed as he knew the stitches would have to be removed and the wound drained and cleaned, which involved yet more pain for the hapless Faramir, who was already in constant agony from his numerous injuries .It seemed only the sheer force of the King's will kept him clinging on to life as some inner despair appeared to be making Aragorn's healing powers less effective than usual .The only hopeful sign was that it now seemed very unlikely that he was bleeding inside.

He decided that Aedred should be summoned as Imrahil looked ready to drop from exhaustion, so he sent the Prince to lie down in a neighbouring room.

He then sent a messenger to fetch Eowyn as Faramir's condition worsened.

After her outburst of the day before, she appeared calm and resolute as Aragorn told her what was happening, though a tear glinting in her eye betrayed her inner turmoil.

" Why ever did I write that letter?" she groaned.

"You could not have imagined anything like this would happen." Aragorn reassured her. "It is I who must bear the greater blame !"

She stood looking down at Faramir sadly, hardly able to endure the pitiful sight and then said as much to herself as to the King. "You never realise quite how much you love someone unless something dreadful like this happens, do you?"

"I fear that is true," Aragorn replied sadly, "I only realised yesterday just how much I love him.He is brother son and friend to me."

Eowyn suddenly grasped Faramir's hand between both of her own and said sternly, " Fight to live, Faramir, fight for your wife and your unborn child!"

After a few moments she felt a larger hand on top of her own.

"Fight Faramir, live, your King commands it!" Aragorn said, as together they willed the Steward to recover.

" I dare not risk carrying infection to the Queen and your son," she said at last, as Aedred hovered ready to drain the wound," I will return later."

Aragorn nodded agreement, "How are they both this morning?" he asked somewhat belatedly.

"Both doing well, and Arwen is being very kind," she replied, " She wants to know exactly what is going on, though .I have been careful not to upset her by telling her too much."

"Tell her I will explain everything later today." Aragorn replied, squeezing Eowyn's hand as she left. She returned the gesture all too aware that he needed comfort too.

Aragorn had taken to the Rohirric healer, as a caring and competent man of few words, with the added advantaged of not seeming at all overawed by his presence as many of the Gondorians were.

Aedred had already prepared a sharp knife by passing it through a flame, clean bandages, a basin of water with salt added, and an infection killing mixture of honey, garlic and vinegar.

He then held Faramir's arm steady, as Aragorn prepared to remove the stitches and drain the infection.

To his horror, the King found his hand was trembling and he could not bring himself to cut into the infected flesh.

"You hold him and I will do it!" Aedred said calmly.

"Why can I not do it?" Aragorn asked, " I have done this many times before!"

" You are exhausted and I can tell that Lord Faramir is as dear as a brother to you. " Aedred replied matter of factly, as they changed places.

Swiftly and expertly, he removed the stitches, and drained and cleaned the wound before coating it thickly with the salve.

Faramir flinched and cried out, but no more so than when his other wounds had been tended.

Aedred then left Aragorn to bandage Faramir's arm before saying; "Rest now, my Lord "

" Much as I would like to, I cannot, "Aragorn replied.

"You can as I am here with Lord Faramir, Master Caranthir is caring for Eomer King and most importantly what would your Lady or Lord Faramir's wife say if you collapsed?" Aedred spoke firmly but had a slight twinkle in his eye. "Also, My Lord, what if Lord Faramir needed some procedure that you alone could carry out, unlike a wound drained?"

" Very well, but wake me immediately if he gets any worse !"Reluctantly Aragorn conceded defeat and lay down on the far side of the bed .By the time, Aedred had picked up a blanket to cover him with, he was already asleep.

It was gone noon when he woke again, feeling somewhat refreshed. Aedred was patiently sitting beside Faramir bathing his face, while Eowyn sat holding his hand.

"How is he?" he asked anxiously, slowly sitting up and throwing off the blanket.

"A little better, I believe," Aedred smiled, "The fever is less than before and he is breathing more easily. I have taken the liberty of asking for some refreshments to be sent up from the kitchens for you."

Eowyn rose to her feet, " And be sure you eat it all or I shall spoon feed you!" she threatened.

"There is no need for that." Aragorn sighed, conceding defeat, though not feeling at all hungry. Yet when Aedred handed him a large bowl of broth followed by stewed fruit and strong tea, he found he cleared the dishes and felt stronger as result.

Eowyn satisfied herself that he was eating, then tenderly kissed her husband before returning to Arwen.

He then examined Faramir for himself and satisfied the Steward was a little better, went to visit Eomer to see how he was faring.

The King of Rohan was much improved in health but not so in temper.

" I want to get up!" he demanded.

"You have been badly injured and need to rest for a while yet, "Aragorn replied firmly, as he changed the bandages. To his relief, the wounds were clean and Eomer showed no sign of infection or fever.

"Curse that Steward of yours for doing this to me!" Eomer fumed, looking down at his useless arm and the livid scar across his chest.

Aragorn bit his tongue, not wishing to agitate the injured man. " He did not seek you out to fight with." he said mildly, " Faramir is badly injured too."

"And so he should be for what he did to my sister!" Eomer snapped.

." If you could see him, you would think differently! " Aragorn remonstrated, the images of Faramir's wounds still fresh in his mind.

" I never want to see that scoundrel again!" Eomer retorted.

"He never harmed your sister." Aragorn replied, " Eowyn told me last night that she wrote the letter to you when she was in a bad mood and never intended to send it."

"He must have ill treated her or she would never have written it!" Eomer insisted, "Besides he admitted it himself that he profaned her honour by making her lie with one of his friends!"

Aragorn was somewhat taken aback by this information and wondered whatever Faramir had meant. Granted when he had been seriously ill, Eowyn had slept in the same huge bed but at the far side of it, with Faramir between them and from what he could recall she had always been fully clothed.

"Your sister will tell you herself that Faramir never ill treated or dishonoured her." Aragorn said firmly, as he secured the bandage around Eomer's broad chest, "Now let me massage your arm and use my healing abilities on it! When the wound is closed I can treat you to remove the scarring."

"I told you, I want no Elvish tricks!" Eomer protested stubbornly.

" I only want to help you recover, my friend, there is plenty of time for you to change your mind." Aragorn replied, fearing that Eomer's head injury had affected his judgement as he had never known Eomer so unreasonable, ill tempered and unwilling to listen to him before. "I will return later."

" I want to get up and be able to move my arm!" Eomer told him, "When will that be? I cannot lie abed as I have a kingdom to govern!"

"I fear I do not know." Aragorn told him frankly, " But I will do all I can to help you. Now I must go to others who need me!"

" I suppose you mean my sister's worthless husband?" Eomer snarled but Aragorn had already left.

When Imrahil returned he brought tidings that the Council was in uproar and demanding immediate retaliation against Rohan

Aragorn hastened to the Chamber while they were still in session and tried to placate them making it quite clear he had no intention of starting a war which provoked a sullen response and barbed comments questioning if the King regarded the Steward as no longer of any worth in Gondor.

Angrily refuting them, Aragorn stormed out only to be met by a secretary carrying a pile of state documents, which needed his signature, the situation being made far worse by Faramir not being able to share the load.

The King decided to order the curfew to be lifted as Eomer's men were now under constant surveillance and also issued a statement saying, that both The Steward and the King of Rohan had been injured due to a disagreement and were being cared for, to try to stem the tide of rumours sweeping the city.

That evening when Aragorn visited Arwen, he faced the unpleasant task of telling her the full story of just how badly he had been injured six months previously when he had stayed at the Hunting Lodge with Faramir and Eowyn. He had always meant to enlighten her, but not a mere day after the birth of their son when she should have been basking in the joy of new motherhood.

"Why did you not tell me before?" she asked, the colour draining from her face as he told her that he had been too badly injured even to clearly remember all that had happened

" I feared for your safety and that of our unborn child." he replied. "Coming so close to death made me realise just how badly Gondor needed an heir and I needed my wife. I sought only to protect you and our baby."

She looked at him sadly," I understand but I still wish that you had told me. I wondered why ever you had such nightmares for months afterwards and thought more than an arrow wound was to blame. What else happened to make Faramir and Eowyn change so much?"

He poured out the whole complicated story of Eowyn's misdirected fury, and how Faramir's loyalty and devotion and Eowyn's contrition had inspired the bond, which had grown between them since then. He concluded the narration with a plea to her to forgive Eowyn.

"How could I not, as you obviously did sufficiently to allow her to care for me?" she replied, " Eowyn has become very dear to me and I could not have managed without her these past days. Estel, I ask you one thing only, to promise me never to keep anything like this from me again."

"I promise." he said, kissing her tenderly just as Eldarion started crying to be fed.

"But that does not explain why Eomer should attack Faramir." Arwen said in bewilderment, as she put the babe to her breast.

"She wrote it when she was angry when Faramir told her that they were going to the Hunting Lodge with me." Aragorn explained, " However, it was sent to Eomer by mistake months later."

"How I wish I had never suggested that trip!" Arwen lamented.

"If you had not, I am certain Faramir would still be terrified of me and Eowyn would still be consumed with hatred." Aragorn reassured her, "If I had not ordered Faramir to be arrested, he would not now be badly injured!"

" You should blame those who beat him, not yourself, Estel!" Arwen remonstrated, " Now go and use your healing skills on the poor man as he is a good friend to you!"

Although unconvinced by her reassurances, Aragorn tenderly kissed her and his baby son, lovingly running his fingers through the fuzz of dark curly hair, murmuring how much he loved them both.

Returning to Faramir's side, he sat mopping his brow as the fever gradually abated and his Steward fell into an uneasy sleep. His heartbeat was stronger now and the swelling disfiguring his belly had started to go down.

Aragorn finally dared to believe that he would live though his damaged body would take a long time to heal.

He struggled to stay alert until his Steward awoke as he wondered if he would see accusation and betrayal in the grey eyes which once had held only love and trust towards him.

TBC

A big thank you to my loyal reviewers for your kind comments.I have almost reached the 500 review mark much to my amazement !

Eowyn feels compelled to fulfil her duties and may also find the sight of poor injured Faramir almost more than she can bear, knowing her letter led to his injuries.

I can assure my readers that no horrendous modern medical procedures will feature in the story.

Eowyn will not be punished ,( any more than the woman with the washing ) as Aragorn understands her fury. Only Aragorn, Faramir (and now Arwen) know she once threatened Aragorn with his own sword, which was far worse.

Eomer usually is far more rational but head injuries often make people act out of character.

I am honoured to be on a favourites list !

I hope that naming the chapters helps my readers follow the story more easily.

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