Burden of Guilt

What Damrod Knew

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.

Warning – This chapter contains content, which although not explicit in nature, some readers may find disturbing.

With thanks to Elenhin and Lilian who gave me some good ideas for this chapter

The Guards fetched Aragorn a bowl of steaming water, the temperature of which he tested with his elbow. Once satisfied it was the right warmth, he began bathinghis Steward.

He knew it was his body that needed urgent warming, yet felt compelled to first cleanse the mud from his face. A task, which took but a moment, yet served to restore some vestiges of dignity to the unconscious man.

Nodding to Damrod to take up a cloth to assist him, he continued to bathe Faramir with the warm water, all the while working under the blanket to preserve warmth and modesty.

"You mentioned that Lord Faramir once ordered a flogging, can you tell me what you know about it?" Aragorn enquired.

Damrod looked puzzled but obediently answered the question. "It was a very unpleasantincident, which took place about a week before the fall of Osgiliath. We were in a high state of alert and everyone was on edge. Night had fallen and those not on duty were trying to rest. I remember I was wrapped in my blanket alongside Lord Faramir and wasrelieved that he was finally sleepingafter he had driven himself so hard. Suddenly, we heard screaming and rushed to see what was happening and found one of our men in the process of committing rape."

Aragorn never paused from his task but listened intently, his grey eyes glittering.

"Lord Faramir was outraged and ordered the attacker to be bound and kept under guard while he decided what to do. We returned to our bedrolls and discussed what had happened. Lord Faramir thought the man deserved death but felt unable to pronounce such a verdict without a proper trial in the City. The situation at that time made it impossible to take a prisoner back without endangering our defences. I could see he was very distressed about what had happened."

The King nodded his understanding and bade Damrod continue.

"The next morning Lord Faramir sat with two Lieutenants in judgement and pronounced a sentence of twenty-five lashes, the maximum allowed by law, followed by instant dismissal from the army.

The sentence was carried out immediately and the prisoner took it very badly, screaming and pleading for mercy but Lord Faramir was adamant telling him that he should have thought of that before carrying out his wicked crime."

"He acted correctly," Aragorn commented.

"One of the sergeants carried out the sentencewhile Lord Faramir watched to see it was done correctly, though he could have asked one of us to do it instead. I shall never forget the expression on his face! It was the first time he had ever needed to order such a punishment.None of the rangers had ever done anything worse than drink a little too much then oversleep or some other minor infringement of regulations. Usually, knowing we had let our Captain down and seeing the reproach in his eyes, was punishment enough as we all revered him so much."

Damrod paused, finding it difficult to recall such dreadful events within his own Company.

"Then what happened?" Aragorn prompted.

"When it was over," Damrod continued, taking a deep breath, "Lord Faramir walked away and I followed, for he was so pale. I supported him as he almost collapsed and was violently sick. Poor Lord Faramir, I don't think he ever dreamed such a thing could happen within his Rangers. Although he was a good soldier, he truly hated violence. We were a close-knit community but I suppose every barrel has a rotten apple somewhere."

"What was the man's name?" Aragorn asked, his tone strangely intense.

"He was called Mahrod," Damrod replied,"As he left, he vowed he would have his revenge for his punishment." He flushed, wondering if he had said too much, but Aragorn had somehow compelled him with those intense eyes of his, to recall every painful detail.

Aragorn gasped. It all fell into place now. He even now remembered Faramir mentioning the incident while they had been at the Hunting Lodge eight months previously. "What happened to the victim?" he enquired.

"They died during the War, which was maybe as well for who could live with such shame despite all Lord Faramir's kindness and sympathy?" Damrod replied sadly. "That is all I know, your majesty, maybe Lord Faramir recalls more of the incident?"

"Thank you," Aragorn said at last, "I might need your assistance at Mahrod's forthcoming trial as it was he who attacked Lord Faramir in prison."

"Gladly, sire, that man is truly evil!" Damrod looked shocked at this latest information.He was unable to resist a horrified glance at Faramir's damaged body. Anger welled within him, that the likes of Mahrod, should dare to lay a finger on his Captain.

"I need some more warm water!" Aragorn ordered, "I wish you to bathe Lord Faramir's limbs!"

When it was fetched, Aragorn applied warm compresses to Faramir's neck, chest and groin, while Damrod bathed the Steward's limbs.

"We dry him now!" Aragorn said after a few minutes, casting the damp cloths to one side and wondering how best next to proceed." You concentrate on his limbs and I will dry his body. Do it as vigorously as you can without aggravating his injuries."

Some colour started to return to Faramir's skin and his breathing deepened much to Aragorn's relief, though his lips still bore a bluish tinge. He moaned and stirred slightly when despite Aragorn's attempts to be gentle the towelling jarred his injuries.

Then much to Aragorn's relief, his Steward started to shiver violently, a good sign that he was slowly warming up.

He pressed his ear to his chest again and was glad to find that his heartbeat was a little stronger though it still resembled a trapped bird trying to escape from its cage.

He debated whether he should leave Faramir wrapped in blankets and keep him warm between the two of them or dress him and hold him on his own until he came round. He decided that, as Faramir was gradually warming up, the latter course of action would be the least distressing for him, given his recent near hysteria at the prospect of even removing his shirt.

Taking some clothes from the packs, he placed them by the fire to air .Then with Damrod's assistance dressed Faramir in the warm dry clothing.

Once the Steward was dressed, the King could only now wait for his friend to regain consciousness.

"Thank you, Damrod, you have been most helpful" he said, giving the young man a kind smile, "Go nowto rest and eat with your comrades. First though ,send a messenger back to the city to inform the Queen that the Lord Faramir has been found alive. I will call you again when I have need of you!"

As soon as the young man had left, he quickly shed his mud-stained clothes and donned a simple linen shirt and woollen breeches and then settled himself on the pelts by the fire, cradling Faramir in his arms to warm and comfort him

Although still unconscious, Faramir moaned and nestled his head against the King's shoulder, which somewhat heartened Aragorn .It seemed on some deep level that his Steward still trusted him and sought the comfort of his presence.

He feared though, his friend had little cause to, after all he had suffered as result of the King's thoughtless orders. Yet the words of his letter had given Aragorn hope that the Steward still felt some affection towards him despite everything.

Gradually, Faramir settled into what appeared to be a natural sleep and when Aragorn checked his temperature again, it appeared to be almost back to normal. He vigorously chafed the cold hands between his own warm ones

The King then decided to wake him.

"Faramir!" he called softly, gently shaking him, "It is I, Aragorn, wake up!"

Faramir groaned and opened his eyes. It took him a few minutes to focus, before he asked," Where am I? So cold!" His teeth chattered as he spoke.

"In a hovel near Osgiliath. You fell from your horse."

"I am still alive!" Faramir exclaimed with a look of abject misery. Already he was trying to pull away from the King.

"Yes, the Valar be praised! Whatever would I do with you, and what about Eowyn? Why ever did you go off like that?"

"To put things right! You would be better off without me. Everything would be well again, if I were not here! You have your wife and son and Eowyn has her brother. "

"We both need you too." Aragorn said as he gently laid Faramir down on the bedroll and went to the hearth where water was boiling to make tea.

He held a steaming cup to Faramir's lips. "Drink this; it is just tea to warm you! No, you are mistaken there, my friend, a good many people need you as does Gondor herself!"

Faramir drank the tea in silence, but swallowed without complaint. A little colour slowly returned to his cheeks and Aragorn now hoped his friend was no longer in immediate danger of succumbing to his physical injuries, the mental ones however were another matter. His twisted ankle was something of a relief as there was no way he could walk well enough to try and flee again.

"Why did you come after me,sire?" Faramir asked, his tone bitter.

"Because I love you too much to ever abandon you, my poor foolish friend, I could not bear to see your wife suffer and I care about the welfare of Gondor! How could I forsake you, when you are as dear to me as my own son? Did you want to break all our hearts?"

Faramir just fixed him with large sad eyes. "You do not know me!" he choked, "I am tainted and maimed, a curse to you and to Gondor!"

Aragorn poured himself a cup of tea and knelt beside his Steward looking into the dull pain filled eyes. He could weep for the shadow of a man that Faramir had become.

"Tell me, Faramir, have you ever used the gift of our race to thought share? " he asked, in an abrupt change of subject, while he slowly sipped his drink.

"I tried with Boromir but he lacked the ability as only some of our race can do it. My father had the ability but said he would never share anything so intimate with a worthless younger son. I had hoped to be able to share thoughts one day with my child but it is too late now."

Faramir's matter of fact bleakness tore Aragorn's heart.

"Why, my lord do you ask?" Faramir looked both hurt and bewildered as the flickering firelight illuminated his features. "You should not be kneeling to one as tainted as me!"

Aragorn put down his cup and gripped Faramir's hands with his own then looked directly into the haunted eyes. "Why do you feel tainted?" he asked," I desire to know!"

"I am a traitor!" Faramir mumbled trying to break free of Aragorn's grasp. Remembering Arwen's words, the King refused to let go.

"I have told you are not, more than once, and how could that taint me even if it were true? In my ninety years I have met all manner of people and none left me feeling tainted. Why then should you ?You are a good man and very dear to me. There is something else that troubles you and I want to know what it is!"

"It is nothing, my lord, I cannot speak of it. I beg of you not to touch me!"

"You can tell me!" Aragorn still held his hands tightly, though careful not to injure his Steward in any way. "What has changed so much? You let me tend your hurts many times, you enjoyed the Elven massage treatments and more than that ,you were happy to embrace me as a brother! You said in your letter that you still bore me some affection, so why must I not touch you? Tell me, I am not letting you go until you do!"

"I cannot! The shame is too great!" What little strength he had spent, Faramir slumped forward and would have collapsed had Aragorn not been holding him. The King released one of his hands and with the other supported him.

"Was it something to do with Mahrod?" It was cruel to press him in this condition but it had to be done.

"Yes," the whispered word was barely audible," I think that he…" Faramir swallowed unable to continue.

TBC

A/N

A very grateful thank you to all my readers for your kind and much appreciated comments. I am also grateful to be told of any mistakes.

Faramir's heart was initially damaged from shock and blood loss but now his frame of mind is preventing any of his injuries from healing properly.

I am pleased my readers liked the addition of Damrod. I wanted through his eyes to show what a great Captain Faramir was before he was crushed under his misfortunes.

I try to show Aragorn and Arwen not as truly good and noble but like the rest of us at times, tired, impatient and able to lose their tempers !

I do indeed mention things for a reason!

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