Burden of Guilt

Now Cracks a Noble Heart

These Characters are the property of the Estate of J. R. R Tolkien and New Line Cinema. This story has been written for pleasure and no profit has or will be made from it.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!- Shakespeare - Hamlet.5.2

They found Faramir was tossing restlessly in his vast bed, apparently trapped in some dark nightmare. The sweat poured from his brow and ran down his pale cheeks while he struggled desperately to breathe.

His eyelids twitched rapidly as he writhed and cried out. Most of what he said was unintelligible but Aragorn could make out occasional words, which sounded like "The King, Eowyn, must pay,betrayed, Mahrod, no!"

"Faramir, wake up!" Aragorn commanded.

There was no response. The King then gently shook his Stewardbut he remained unresponsive and locked in his dark dreams.

"Is he is like this every night?" Aragorn asked, lighting several more candles to add to the one already burning.

"Yes but this is the worse yet." Eowyn's voice trembled slightly as she replied.

"I think itwould bebest if I were to send him into a healing sleep for now and then examine him thoroughly tomorrow when he is awake," Aragorn told her, "He is obviously suffering both in mind and body."

He sat on the bed beside Faramir and placed one hand on his head, grasping one of the restless hands with the other. "Be at peace, sleep now!" he intoned firmly.

Almost immediately his Steward dropped into a deep sleep. Aragorn remained where he was, gently stroking the dark head, fearing that breaking the contact would allow the nightmares to resume.

Despite Aragorn's ministrations, Faramir continued to fight for breath despite now beingin a deep anddreamless sleep. Alarmed, the King felt Faramir's pulse .He frowned when he discovered the speed at which it was racing.

"What is wrong?" Eowyn asked anxiously.

" I need to check his heartfor his pulse is rather rapid." he replied, trying not to alarm her.

"I have tried to but he will not allow me to, " she replied bleakly, nodding her consent.

Aragorn pulled back the covers and unlaced Faramir's nightshirt then pressed his ear to the bared chest. A mounting sense of alarm seized him when he realised justquickly anderraticallyhis Steward's heart was beating. He could also tell that Faramir's lungs were somewhat congested. If Eowyn had not come for him, he was doubtful her husband would have survived the night.

Swiftly, he started the massage the right side of Faramir's neck just underneath his jaw.

"What are you doing?" Eowyn gasped in concern.

"It is a technique Lord Elrond taught me to slow the heartbeat, " he explained, frowning in concentration as he worked. "This should not be happening! With the aid of the hawthorn berry infusions, his heart should have by now recovered from the beating!"

"Infusions? I thought you were giving him any he required. I did not know!"

Aragorn groaned inwardly, moving one hand to Faramir's chest to check what progress he was making. The heartbeat was gradually slowing and he held his hand above and concentrated, trying to strengthen the damaged organ but Faramir's will still resisted his healing powers.

"Have you some more pillows?" he asked Eowyn.

"Yes there are plenty," she replied handing him two, I sometimes need more when I have indigestion due to my pregnancy."

Carefully he slid the pillows under Faramir to help him breathe.

" I need to massage his chest now," he explained to Faramir's anxious wife, " I assume he has not taken his dandelion root tea either?"

"No,he has not.I swear I did not know I was supposed to give it him!" she protested vehemently.

"Peace Eowyn, I am not blaming you!" Aragorn soothed, pulling Faramir's nightshirt further open and gently yet firmly massaging his chest, hoping to loosen the congestion in his Steward's lungs and thereby ease him.

Having sent him into a deep sleep, he would not wake for hours to be given the hawthorn and dandelion mixture he badly needed. He decided to add some foxglove extract to the medicine, now Faramir's heart condition seemed to have become severe enough to warrant it.

He sighed deeply as his Steward's heart still raced and occasionally fluttered beneath his hands, though it was far better than a few moments ago and Aragorn felt Faramir was no longer in any immediate danger. He was now aware at just how thin Faramir had become as he could feel his ribs protruding just beneath his skin

Eventually he straightened and turned to Eowyn who was anxiously watching his every move.

"You should go and rest." he told her. " The worst is over now .You need to take care of yourself too. I will stay with Faramir as long as I am needed."

"I will lie down now if you will just make room for me!" she retorted, divesting herself of her cloak. Obviously some of her old spirit was returning now that she felt her husband was in good hands.

Aragorn, unable to suppress a smile, obligingly moved aside and turned his backwhile she climbed awkwardly back in her bed, somewhat humbled that since he had gained her trust a few months before, she now gave it so freely. The Lady of Rohan was a law unto herself and cared nothing for convention.

Aragorn again pressed his ear to Faramir's chest and satisfied his treatment was working, continued massaging his chest until his breathing eased. He remained bending over his Steward, watching him anxiously.

" Take your boots off and stretch out beside him!" Eowyn ordered, "Otherwise your back will ache as much as mine tomorrow!"

"Be certain not to tell Eomer!" he warned with a wan smile.

"No doubt some 'helpful' servant will enlighten him, but he will have to learn to accept our friendship is entirely innocent!" she retorted, groaning as she tried to get comfortable.

"How are you feeling, Eowyn?" he asked gently, "Is everything well with the baby?"

" I just feel a little flustered by all this and my back aches badly, "she replied, "The baby is kicking me vigorously so obviously it is well."

" I think I ought to check your pulse too," Aragorn told her, " Then I could ease your pain, if you will permit me to, though if I suspect anything is wrong, I shall send for Ioreth to examine you thoroughly."

"Very well." Eowyn held out her hand without protest. Her pulse was a little rapid yet she seemed amazingly resilient, considering all the upsets she was enduring. Aragorn then gently used his healing powers to ease her painful back through her nightgown.

"Thank you, that is much better!" Eowyn sighed. "You are so kind to us both!"

"I will see what Arwen can do to help you tomorrow, "Aragorn promised, as he turned his attention to Faramir again." I think she could ease you more than I can."

He gently re-laced the Steward's nightshirt before wearily stretching out on top of the covers.

After a few minutes elapsed, he clasped Faramir's hand to take his pulse again and to his surprise, Faramir's fingers twined around his though he remained deeply asleep.

He glanced across at Eowyn, who still awake, took her husband's hand with the same result.

"It seems when he is unconscious, he trusts us!" she said wryly. "He had learned to enjoy a lovingtouch before all this happened!"

"I know, " the King replied, remembering how once Faramir had overcome his initial fears, he had craved the Elven massage and obviously enjoyed it, as well as freely showing him affection," I promise you, whatever it takes, I will restore him to health for all our sakes!" Aragorn's voice was low and fervent.

Soothed by his words, almost immediately Eowyn fell asleep.

The King stayed by Faramir's side until dawn,only when finally convinced his Steward was sleeping peacefully and breathing without difficulty,did he creep away to snatch a few hours rest.

Aragorn told Arwen all that had happened the next morning over breakfast. She listened sympathetically, and then insisted that he rest for a few hours before he returned to the Steward's apartments just after the midday meal.

The King wore no mark of office and doffed his heavy outer tunic on arrival, wishing to appear as informal as possible. Eowyn still looking pale and agitated greeted him.

"He is working in his study as usual," she informed him, " He claims he was just having bad dreams last night and I am making a fuss about nothing!"

Aragorn knocked; only for Faramir's voice to bid him go away.

Ignoring the request, he turned the knob and on finding it unlocked, went inside.

Eowyn, determined to keep an eye on her husband, followed him into the study and settled herself on the couch, trying to find some relief from her backache, which was proving a curse of the latter stages of her pregnancy.

Faramir occupied the corner of the room, sitting on a chair in front of a table littered with paperwork.

The Steward rose to his feet as soon as the King entered.

"My Lord King, I am honoured by your presence."

Faramir bowed and Aragorn's keen senses noted the heartrendingly formal language for a private occasion, his stiff movements and that his whole demeanour was that of a sick man in considerable pain. His eyes were dull and once glossy black hair was now limp with white streaks visible at the temples.

"I have come to see how you are faring, my friend." Aragorn said gently, looking directly at Faramir.

The Steward lowered his eyes before replying "I am well, my lord. Last night was but an evil dream. Eowyn should not have troubled your majesty. "

"My eyes tell me otherwise, your wounds pain you still?" It sounded more like a statement than a question." I am troubled about your heart too, my friend."

"I am well, my lord. There is no need for concern. Now if I may be excused, I have much work to do.My lady will offer you some refreshment." Faramir turned back to the mountain of paperwork.

"I should like to see your wounds for myself and examine your heart while I am here." Aragorn persisted.

"My wife has cared for me well." Faramir said evasively, not meeting the King's eyes.

Eowyn struggled to her feet, rubbing her back as she slid from the couch.

"You have never shown me your hurts and I thought until last night that Aragorn was caring for you," she said sternly. "Enough of this foolishness; take off your clothes this instant and let us see!"

"I would rather not." Faramir replied, crossing his arms defensively. Even that simple movement made him flinch.

"Please, Faramir, I only want to look. I will not hurt you." Aragorn said, gently approaching Faramir.

"Do not touch me, I beg of you, my lord!" Faramir pleaded, backing away.

Aragorn raised his hands soothingly as if trying to calm a frightened horse. "Then let us talk, at least, my friend," he said, " You can just pull your clothing aside, there is no need to remove it. I do not want you to feel uncomfortable."

"This is absurd!" Eowyn interrupted, her hot temper rising rapidly. "You are acting like some shy maiden, not a soldier and lord of Gondor! Command him to disrobe, Aragorn, as he would not disobey a direct order from you!"

Aragorn shot her a warning look, fearful what any agitation could do to Faramir's weakened heart. He knew how much she loved him but the depth of that love, combined with anxiety and her condition was making her act in a way that was far from helpful.

Faramir was now backed into a corner. He was paler than ever and constantly wiped his brow.

Sliding to his knees and beseechingly held out his hands.

"My lord, I beg of you, let me be! I am so weary of poking and prodding and people staring at my body as if I were some freak of nature! "

Aragorn knelt too. "How can I not want to help you, my friend when it is so obvious you are suffering?" he asked, his eyes full of compassion. He reached out to grasp Faramir's hands.

"My Lord must not kneel to a dishonoured traitor!" Faramir protested, " I beg you not to defile yourself by touching me!" What little colour he had left suddenly drained from his features and he slid to the ground, lying motionless at Aragorn's feet.



A very big thank you to all my readers for your much appreciated interest and kind comments.

Some of you are very near guessing what might happen next!

In my stories Aragorn has given up pipeweed to please Arwen and the Elven healing only works on a willing recipient.

Modern studies have shown that Chicken Broth does help to fight infection !

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