Burden of Guilt

A Friend in Need

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.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.—Hazlitt: English Proverbs

Dame Enye blinked and opened her eyes to find that Aragorn was bending over her, a cup of water in his hand.

"Drink this!" he said gently.

"You should have told me you were the King rather than going and frightening a respectable woman like that!" Dame Enye protested in between gulps of water.

Aragorn found himself temporarily rendered speechless by the old woman's audacity.

"You should be in your palace, not gallivanting around with a heavily pregnant woman!" the old midwife scolded," Whatever were you thinking of?"

Faramir opened his mouth to speak but Aragorn answered first, not wishing his Steward's misfortunes to be the talk of half Gondor, which he feared they could easily become, if Dame Enye knew the truth as the woman could easily be Ioreth's twin sister, if garrulousness were a mark of kinship!

"We were on a hunting trip," Aragorn explained rather lamely after a moment's thought.

Dame Enye snorted, "Well I hope you have more sense in future.

"What is happening?" Eowyn called from within.

"I will go to her," Faramir, with some help from Aragorn, struggled to his feet and hobbled inside.

"We will bear your advice in mind, my good lady!" Aragorn assured her solemnly, inclining his head a little.

Dame Enye rose to her feet, her lack of inches compared to the King ,more than made up for by her imperious manner. "I have done all I can now for your Steward's wife," she said," So will you be so good as to have Master Damrod take me home? One of my neighbours is due to give birth any day and I should be with her! But tell the young man not to travel with such haste, it is not good for my nerves!"

"Yes, of course!" Aragorn said meekly, "Damrod will take you home and I will see that you are well recompensed for your trouble."

"I have a further errand for you, Damrod," Aragorn announced after beckoning the young man to his side again," I should like you to take Dame Enye back to her home at a nice steady pace and then ride with haste to Minas Tirith and ask for a covered wagon to be brought here so that Lady Eowyn and her daughter can return to the city as soon as possible. This hovel is no place for a babe."

"Certainly, Sire." Damrod repliedeagerly "It is my honour to do so."

" Once Iovas is stabled,you can then take the rest of the day off, Captain Damrod!" Aragorn said smiling, "And no you did not misunderstand me!"

"Thank you, Sire! I will endeavour to be worthy of the honour!" Damrod was grinning from ear to ear as he settled Dame Elan on Faramir's chestnut mare and rode away at a somewhat more less frenetic pace than before.

Aragorn went back inside to see how his friends were faring. The baby was now a healthy colour and crying lustily but Eowyn looked distressed.

"What troubles you?" Aragorn asked her gently.

"I have no nourishment for my babe nor can she latch on to me!" she replied, almost on the verge of tears. "I know it is because it is too early for her to be born!"

"You can soon find a wet nurse in the City." Faramir soothed, "One of my mother's maids nursed me, it meant she was able to keep her job despite having a young baby of her own."

"But the Roherrim never use wet nurses unless the mother dies giving birth!" Eowyn wailed, "Where would I find one at such short notice and my baby seems hungry now! I have failed her as a mother! And what if she is too early to know how to suckle?"

Aragorn put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Surely Dame Ioreth will know what to do." he said, trying to calm her, "The baby will not starve as we will be back in Minas Tirith soon. One of Arwen's seamstresses recently had a child, I recall her telling me, maybe she could serve as a nurse if need be? I should not have sent the midwife away so soon!"

"I doubt she could have done anything!" Eowyn sniffed.

"I thought it did take a few days for the milk to come properly? " Aragorn said, flushing slightly at the mention of such delicate feminine matters, "At least that is the impression I had from Arwen."

"I fear this little one is just too frail to suckle!" Eowyn sobbed, " I have failed her!"

"Eowyn, please, I am sure all will be well!" Faramir soothed," At least she lives !"

The baby howled all the louder

"You take her, Aragorn!" Eowyn begged, "You saved her while I almost killed her!"

"Please, Eowyn, do not think like that!" Aragorn replied, tentatively taking the infant and impulsively offering his smallest finger to the tiny girl, which she immediately started to suck.

Faramir tried to comfort his wife, all the while marvelling how Aragorn's large hands could be so tender with his tiny daughter .He almost feared to touch her, as she looked so fragile.

Aragorn rocked the baby in his arms and murmured soothingly in Elvish to her. She quickly settled and went to sleep.

"You must hold her!" he told Eowyn, "Make a napkin for her out of some of these spare bandages in my pack!"

Giving Eowyn a task to concentrate on seemed to make her less hysterical much to the relief of both men.

Aragorn was able to turn his attentions to donning a shirt, borrowed from Faramir as the scratchy embroidery on his tunic next to his skin was driving him to distraction and then checked Faramir's pulse, concerned that he should have fainted.

Much to his relief it seemed Dame Enye's dismissive attitude was quite justified for the rate was no more rapid that could be expected under the circumstances.

Wishing he did not feel quite so drained and weary, he then finished packing and they could then do nothing but await the arrival of the covered wagon.

Despite the relative comfort of the wagon, driven by a skilled coachman, the journey back to Minas Tirith was grim as Eowyn, now clad in another borrowed shirt with a blanket draped round her as a makeshift skirt, wept at her inadequacy as a mother, and seemed almost afraid to hold her child.

Faramir fretted at his own helplessness as Aragorn deemed it unwise for him to hold his restless daughter alone until his ribs were healed for she could easily do him further injury given the vigorous manner in which she was kicking

The baby cried until Aragorn tucked her under his shirt, where warm and comfortable, she settled to sleep, her tiny head cradled against his heart. He was left holding it for most of the journey, consoling himself that at least it was practise for soothing his son, which would please Arwen.

The King instructed the coachman to ignore the usual rule banning horses on the first level. Faramir and Eowyn were hardly fit to walk any distance and it seemed most unwise to expose a newborn infant to the chill November air. There were unique circumstances in which it caused more harm to abide by a rule than to break it and this was certainly one of those times he was glad of his authority to be able to authorise bringing the wagon to the door.

The Queen was anxiously awaiting them, having already been told what had happened by Damrod.

"Why ever did you run away like that?" she asked Eowyn accusingly then immediately softened and embraced her lovingly on seeing her stricken face, "Never mind that now!" she said calmly," I have sent for Ioreth and she is waiting for you in my apartments. Faramir, it is good to see you looking so much better! Where is the baby?"

"Here!" Aragorn replied, pulling his shirt aside to allow Arwen to see.

"He saved her life!" Faramir choked, looking gratefully at Aragorn, total veneration still in his eyes.

"I will take her now!" Arwen bent to take the infant but not before exchanging a tender kiss with her husband.

She led Eowyn first to her dressing room where she suggested the other woman shed her unorthodox attire in favour of one of her loose robes, so as not to scandalise Ioreth, who was grimly pacing the bedchamber awaiting her runaway patient.

"You foolish girl!" Ioreth greeted her, "Of all people you should know better than go off riding like that! Lie down! I need to examine you thoroughly but I had better look at your unfortunate child first!"

Arwen handed over the baby who started to scream the moment Ioreth unwrapped her. "Well, she seems healthy enough, though she is dreadfully small!" she pronounced at last, "You are extremely lucky she was born alive!"

"I know!" Eowyn choked.

Arwen then say by Eowyn's bedside, holding her hand as Ioreth examined her, the elderly Healer at the same time all the while soundly berating Eowyn with her tongue.

"Why ever did you act so foolishly?" Ioreth scolded, "Little wonder you have no nourishment for your child! Not that there appears to anything wrong with you!" She prodded Eowyn painfully causing her to almost crush Arwen's hand.

"Peace, Dame Ioreth!" Arwen said coldly, suddenly she was every inch the Queen as she rose suddenly to her feet, towering over the old woman "I think the Lady Eowyn has suffered enough and will certainly not repeat her mistakes! Is the lady well?"

"She has been lucky, there is no damage at all and she should have no trouble giving poor Lord Faramir more children, providing that is, she doesn't go gallivanting around on horseback like that again!" Ioreth sniffed.

"You may go then." Arwen said regally.

Ioreth glared at her as two strong wills clashed. Ioreth was the first to drop her eyes. "Very well, Lady Elfstone, I shall return tomorrow then." she said in a piqued tone," Do you wish me to find an experienced wet nurse who might coax the child to feed as there seems to be nothing else I can do at present?"

"I will let you know, thank you." Arwen replied in a softer tone. Ioreth curtsied and left.

Eowyn sighed with relief to be free of the probing bony fingertips. She ached more than ever now.

"Thank you, "she said, "Though maybe I should have told her to find a nurse. If she cannot help me, it seems I have little choice!"

"Do not despair!" Arwen comforted, "She does not even approve of aristocratic ladies feeding their own children, so I doubt she is such an expert as she claims to be!"

As if on cue, the baby started to wail even more loudly.

"I do need a nurse, though, alas. I am sure she must be hungry by now!" Eowyn lamented, "We must send for one, Aragorn said your seamstress might be suitable?"

Arwen picked up the baby and smiled at Eowyn, "I am sure she would be as she is a good woman, but why not look nearer at hand? I have milk to spare if you would permit me? I know I am an Elf but it should make no difference, Eldarion is thriving and he is half human!"

"You would do this for my child? But you are the Queen! Won't Aragorn mind?"

Arwen gave a soft musical laugh as she unlaced her gown.

" I just wish to aid you as a friend. As for Aragorn, I am sure he would do the same if only he could! Ijust wish thatI could have been with you at the birth! As I could not be, let me nourish your child until you are able!"

"Thank you." Eowyn whispered tearfully as Arwen, cooing soothingly in Elvish, held the infant girl close to her breast, guiding the tiny mouth to latch on. Almost at once the infant stopped crying and started to suckle ."

Eowyn felt overwhelmed by relief mixed with a sharp pang of jealousy, which she immediately felt ashamed of. She knew how fortunate she was to have friends like the King and Queen and yet it seemed so unfair that the Queen was able to nourish her baby when she could not. Trying to push such unworthy thoughts aside she said "Aragorn performed a miracle today. My child was stillborn and somehow he gave her life .I can never thank him enough."

Arwen smiled at her, "Estel's abilities are truly amazing, I think he may surpass even my father now on occasion. He has a great gift." she said dreamily, her eyes full of love and admiration for her husband.

"He also helped deliver my babe." Eowyn added, "Though he tried very hard to avert his eyes, the poor man was dreadfully embarrassed!"

Arwen chuckled " I can just imagine it, he is so sweet when he is shy! Never tell Ioreth though, the poor woman would be scandalised! I fear she would never get over the shock!"

TBC

A very big thank you to all my readers for your kind comments and interest in this story .I am truly overwhelmed to have had a record number of comments for the last chapter and to have passed the 900 reviews mark! It was lovely to hear from old friends and to welcome new readers too.

My sincere apologies for the delay in updating as you deserved a rapid update. Unfortunately I have been unable to be at my computer for the last few days.

I am so pleased you enjoyed the last chapter so much. The tune that goes with the verse I quoted, suggests to me the rather eerie yet inspiring mood.

Tolkien does indeed only mention Elboron as succeeding his father as Steward, but there is no reason Faramir why could not have had more children, especially daughters.

Arwen still has a further part to play in the story.

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