Burden of Guilt

A Noble Mind O'erthrown ?

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.

O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown! The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword; Shakespeare- Hamlet 3.1

The Steward took a deep breath." I am afraid that…" He swallowed hard wondering how to approach such a shameful subject.

Not for the first time, he wondered if there were any way in what really happened could be discovered but the very thought of such a humiliating examination was beyond endurance.

Then he thought of how lovingly the King had held him a few moments ago. After all the crimes he had committed, it bewildered him that he still would show him affection. But if Aragorn knew everything he would surely shrink from him in disgust, unable any longer to maintain his façade of trying to be kind such a tainted creature as he.

He would always treasure that memory now of being held for the last time by a loving father figure, as he could never allow it to happen again. He had been shamefully weak to accept the comfort he so craved.

"What are you afraid of?" Aragorn prompted gently, his eyes full of compassion.

"That if my arm should ever heal I might use it to harm someone again," Faramir replied, compelled by the King's insistence to voice at least one of his fears aloud. The other could never be spoken of for there was Eowyn to consider as well. "I am afraid that I will only hurt someone else if I ever wield a sword again!" Faramir confided, "It is better that my arm should not heal!"

"You might need to defend yourself again." Aragorn said firmly, continuing to apply the salve, "Gondor might again have need of your sword arm too!"

"I would rather be struck down than take such a risk again." Faramir replied firmly, knowing it was time to tell Aragorn of the decision he had reached. "I know I should be ready to wield a sword to defend you as your Steward, so I beg your Majesty's leave to render up my office and retire from public life. I am a liability as Eomer is crippled for life and will never forgive me and Rohan is Gondor's most valuable ally."

Aragorn put down the pot of salve and gripped Faramir's cold hands. "Faramir, my friend, I beg you to reconsider. What should I do without you, what should Gondor do? Your family have served well as Stewards for over a thousand years!"

"I, the last of the Hurins have failed as my father always said I would!" the Steward replied bleakly.

The King cupped Faramir's face and raised his head. "Faramir, my friend, look at me, do not turn away! " he said earnestly. "You have never let me down, you were the victim in all this, not the aggressor."

"There could still be war with Rohan and Eowyn is torn between Eomer and myself. I see it affecting her health." Faramir said mournfully, trying to break free. "It is my fault that Eowyn was so unhappy that she felt the need to write to her brother to complain!"

"I love Eomer as my friend, but am not blind to his faults. I am certain that deep down he knows this was mostly his fault but is too stubborn to admit it." Aragorn said firmly "Eowyn understands that too and is loyal to you. You both had problems early in your marriage but that is hardly a crime, as you never ill-treated your wife. War is most unlikely, as Eomer would have to fight me, his sworn friend!"

"I no longer wish to be your Steward. Does Your Majesty accept my resignation," Faramir persisted.

" This is not the time to make such a decision we will discuss it again when you are recovered and after your child is born. A son might make you think differently," Aragorn replied firmly." You suffered a dreadful ordeal in prison that even the lowliest of my subjects should never have had to endure and it will take time for you to heal. But I promise you, eventually the pain will fade."

Faramir looked unconvinced, and more distressed than ever at the mention of his time in prison.

"Is there anything else that troubles you? I would have you tell me." Aragorn said gently. It seemed Faramir was repressing the understandable anger he must feel against him. If only he would just strike him as Eowyn had done! It would be well worth the pain to see Faramir shed this dreadful lethargy.

"I thought I heard the Queen's voice. When did she come in?" was all Faramir could think of asking.

"Soon after you fainted. We had undressed you but you were swathed in blankets by then. She is looking after Eowyn now."

Despite the gravity of the situation, Aragorn struggled to suppress a smile that his suspicious were correct as to when Faramir came round and that he should be so troubled at the prospect of a two thousand year old Elf seeing him shirtless, though it would be considered insulting to a lady given the custom of Gondor.

"She did not touch me?" Faramir sounded agitated.

"Why would that trouble you?" Aragorn was perplexed, for Arwen was entirely innocent of any part in Faramir's ordeal unlike Eowyn and himself.

"I might still have some contagion from the prison." Faramir mumbled.

" That is impossible but I understand how your ordeal must haunt you.I am truly sorry you had to endure all these distressing experiences, my friend." Aragorn said with great sincerity as he grasped his Steward's hands again. "Your Uncle and I were glad to tend you and would do so again, yet it was one of the hardest tasks I ever faced. Can you ever forgive me for my thoughtlessness?"

"You did what you must as King. It is I who must crave pardon." Faramir replied, tensing as if he wanted to pull away.

His eyes held such great depths of pain and Aragorn feared unless he could think of some remedy his Steward's mind would give way completely.

"No one here holds anything against you, Faramir. There is nothing for me to forgive." Aragorn said firmly. "I know Eowyn understands too as she has made her own mistakes in the past. You shall put all this behind you eventually, when you are in less pain. I shall come daily to ease your hurts and you can have the Elven remedy for your scars. Even Eomer will come to his senses soon, I am certain, stubborn though he is and you will become closer than you were before this happened."

"He will never forgive me and the Elven remedy would be wasted!" Faramir said totally unconvinced by Aragorn's kind words. "You healed all my scars but it seems I cannot go for long without being flogged again!"

"And the man who did it will pay as dearly at his trial as if I had felt the lash myself!" Aragorn promised." I shall do all I can to make things right, you have my word as your friend and as your King!"

"I know you mean well but I am so weary!" Faramir whispered. "I cannot serve you as I ought as I am not the man you believed me to be. My father was right after all!"

"Stop speaking like this!" Aragorn said firmly, "What would your brother say to see you, thus? He died, believing it was to help create a better world, one in which you could live in peace and happiness!"

"I wish I had died with him." was Faramir's only reply, leaving even Aragorn at a loss for words in the face of such despair.

The King was filled with both pity and a growing sense of alarm. Faramir's family seemed to have a predisposition towards madness as Boromir was driven mad by the ring while Denethor had succumbed to the palantir.

Was Faramir about to suffer the same fate from the burden of his own conscience? The situation was made worse by the fact that everyone close to him, was also close to Eomer in some way too.

He looked again at the skeletal frame and blue tinged complexion of his Steward and feared he might not even live long enough for his mental stability to cause concern.

Aragorn suspected that years of being told he was unworthy and second best, were finally taking their toll .He felt exasperated both at Faramir's despair and Eomer's stubbornness, but the young King of Rohan was obdurate and probably felt that to forgive his brother in law and accept Elven remedies would seem like weakness.

"Can you walk if I aid you to bed?" Aragorn said, finally at a loss for anything else to suggest. He could only hope that Faramir would think over what he said once left alone "I will tend you again tomorrow."

Faramir nodded and managed to struggle to his feet. Slowly and painfully, he pulled his shirt over his head, refusing Aragorn's offer of help.

Aragorn escorted to his bedchamber and mixed up the medicinal herbs he needed while Faramir prepared for bed, undressing under his nightshirt.

"Drink this!" he told him, handing him the cup once he was settled in bed.

"No, thank you," Faramir said firmly but politely.

Aragorn finally lost patience with him. "As your King, I order you to drink it! It should not taste too bad!" he said in a stern tone, which Faramir dared not disobey.

Obediently, Faramir drained the cup, gazing reproachfully at the King. Aragorn sighed; hating himself and concerned he was abusing his authority over a totally broken man. Yet he despaired for his life if nothing were done to strengthen his heart and even with the help of the hawthorn and foxglove, he could still die.

Aragorn brushed his Steward's eyelids with his fingertips, sending him into a light healing sleep.

The lines of strain eased from his face in sleep but he still looked very frail and vulnerable.

Aragorn stood looking at him sadly remembering all the times they had shared both good and bad over the last two and a half years, He yearned to see Faramir contented and happy, eagerly awaiting the birth of his first child, using his formidable diplomatic and debating skills and most of all to see him healthy and relaxed, not shying away from his loved ones.

Then selfishly, he supposed, he wanted to enjoy Faramir's friendship again, though he supposed that was too much to hope for; given the way Faramir shrunk away from his touch and addressed him with such cold formality.

He so missed enjoying their shared interests together, all the lively discussions and just enjoying the loving brotherly companionship of one so intelligent and sweet natured. He needed Faramir as someone who would put rank aside, call him to task when needed and engage him in mock fights and teasing which eased the burden of kingship.

An anxious frown disfiguring his noble features, Aragorn went in search of his wife and Eowyn. There was much to discuss if Faramir were to be saved and he was determined that he would be.

He was certain that his Steward had not yet told him everything that troubled him nor did he believe the reassurances he had given him. Only once both these obstacles were overcome would he have any hope of recovery.

An idea was forming in his mind but first he must discuss it with Arwen and Eowyn. Then there was also the problem of getting Faramir to agree to the 'gift' he had in mind. If only he would though, they could both maybe find peace.

Arwen was enjoying far greater success in getting Eowyn to accept her help, than her husband was enjoying with Faramir.

As soon as they reached her apartments, she instructed her servants to fill the sunken bath with warm water ,to which she added a selection of herbs, left over from her own pregnancy and known to the Elves to be beneficial to mothers to be.

"That should begin to ease your aching back, " she told Eowyn. "Then when you have bathed you can experience Elven massage from the hands of an Elf! I know you prefer the remedies of your own people, but let me use mine on you today!"

"That sounds very tempting." Eowyn smiled wanly. "But should I not be with Faramir?"

"You had hardly any sleep last night and both Estel and I are concerned about you as we can see you are in pain. Let Estel try to help your husband!" Arwen told her firmly. "You are too near your time not to take care of yourself! Now can you get in the bath by yourself or would you like me to help you?"

"I usually can manage but not while my back aches so!" Eowyn replied, readily accepting the Queen's assistance, much to her surprise. Eowyn was fiercely independent and rarely accepted any offer of help.

Arwen could have summoned her maids it seemed better to give her personal attention to a friend in need.

Eldarion was safely in the nursery with his nursemaid so she could give her attention to Eowyn with a clear conscience.

Eowyn had already shed all her clothing, somewhat to Arwen's amusement. Unlike the ladies of Gondor, some of whom even bathed in their shifts if others were present, Eowyn had no inhibitions at all and was perfectly content for Arwen to aid her into the bath and then lave her back and shoulders.

To the Queen's relief, Eowyn's haggardness seemed confined to her face, as her body appeared healthy and well nourished. It seemed she was sensible enough not to let her fears for husband endanger her or the unborn child.

Once the water cooled, Eowyn reluctantly left the bath and clad in a towel, went with Arwen to the adjoining bedchamber, where the Queen covered the bed with towels and assorted jars of remedies for tight skin, soreness and stretch marks.

A cheerful fire blazed in the grate and the entire room radiated an air of warmth and comfort much like the Queen herself.

Eowyn was eager to experience them all after having used them on her friend, though she had stuck to Rohirric treatments until today.

"I understand that the oil of primroses can ease the skin, but cactus juice?" She marvelled anew at the depth of Elven knowledge while Arwen sat beside her and applied the mixtures. The tightness across her belly was already easing.

"The Elves have had thousands of years to experiment with plants and learn their properties." Arwen explained. "I hope you will remember our lore and tell your children. Our time here has ended and we must try to pass on our knowledge.

"I will." Eowyn promised, rolling on to her side so Arwen could ease her aching back.

She felt an almost indescribable sensation peace, tenderness and warmth as the pain ebbed away.

"Whatever is that?" she asked, puzzled.

"Elven massage. You are familiar with it, I believe." There was suppressed laugher in the Queen's voice.

"Aragorn did tell me you were the expert. I thought he was skilled but compared with you he…I did not know you were a healer…"Eowyn's voice drifted off as she fell into a deep state of relaxation.

"The more skilled you are, the more uses the massage has." Arwen explained, "It can be used for bonding, healing, relaxation, a diagnostic technique for skilled healers or even as a beauty treatment! I have had over two thousand years to perfect the techniques." The Queen grinned, continuing until Eowyn was sound asleep.

TBC

A very big thank you for all your very kind and much appreciated reviews. I love reading your comments and some of you are very perceptive indeed .I am thrilled that I am able to make you feel for the characters. I am updating quickly to show my appreciation.

Faramir does indeed feel he is too worthless to bother healing; such is his state of depression.

I expect many of you want to throw something at Faramir (and at me) after this chapter but I hope as the plot progresses you will understand why I am writing it this way. One of my reasons is a desire to involve Arwen and Eowyn more.

I doubt anyone in Middle Earth would know about the dangers of alcohol to mothers to be. Fortunately, Aragorn only gave Eowyn a small amount of miruvor.

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