Burden of Guilt

Mud and Stars

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.

We sit in the mud ... and reach for the stars - Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev (1818–1883)

Eomer stormed awkwardly into the bathing chamber then froze, somewhat taken aback at the strange sight that greeted him.

"Where is my sister?" he demanded. "I was told she came in here."

"Eowyn is with the Queen, Eomer. Now will you please leave my bathing chamber! It is hardly good manners come in like this!" Aragorn was as commanding as one could be when submerged up the neck in mud.

How he wished that he had locked the door but he had trusted the guards to keep out unwelcome visitors. He could hardly blame them though, as they would be too respectful of Eomer's rank to deny him access to his brother King

Eomer ignored his command.

"So this is how you spend your time, Aragorn wallowing in the mud plotting to involve my sister in orgies with her perfidious husband!" he snarled." I loved and admired you once, Aragorn, but how low you have fallen since the glorious days when we rode together in battle! You spend your nights in my sister's room and drag her off on hunting expeditions when she is about to give birth and all with the connivance of that scoundrel she married! Where have you hidden Eowyn? I will not have you use her as your plaything!"

" I happen to treating my Steward for his scars, some of which you inflicted upon him," Aragorn replied in a tone of icy calm." I shall not tell you again, your sister is with the Queen and caring for her child. You should know better than to listen to servants' gossip as we both respect Eowyn's honour and that of every other woman we encounter!"

"Eowyn was out riding because I…" Faramir began.

"No! This is neither the time nor place for explanations!" Aragorn told his Steward firmly, afraid that his obsession with telling the truth would only make matters worse.

"The way you pamper him beggars belief!" Eomer raged, "He dishonoured my sister, wounded me so badly I am stranded here, unable to mount my horse to go home to rule my Kingdom and pleasure my bride! While I suffer, you neglect me, your friend and ally long before you met this cur, whose scratches you are so concerned over!"

Aragorn wondered whether to call the Guards for while Eomer in his weakened condition hardly posed a threat, he was at a considerable psychological disadvantage being covered in thick sticky mud.

He decided to wait, knowing that he and Faramir would be the subject of barrack room jokes for weeks to come, if they were seen in such undignified circumstances.

"You have never been neglected." Aragorn said coldly. "I treated your hurts before Faramir's, who almost died because I could not reach him sooner. I then left you with the finest Healers that could be found and tended you myself as often as I could though as Faramir was so close to death I was often unable to leave him. Then later, when I tried to keep you company, you ranted at me, which I will not tolerate in my own house! Gladly I would have continued to tend your hurts but as you refused the Elvish methods I use, despite my pleas to permit me to help you, my ministrations would have been wasted. And as for your brother in law's scratches, I fear they are far more than that! I would gladly have given you the same treatments but you refused."

"Battle scars are honourable, I would not lose mine." Eomer raged, " I need no witchcraft!"

"Witchcraft?" Faramir was baffled.

I saw what Grima did to my uncle! You men of Gondor are just as bad with your libraries filled with scrolls of sorcery! I will have my revenge for you turning both Aragorn and my sister against me!"

"Peace, brother!" Faramir pleaded. "Can we not apologise to each other and be in amity?" He could hardly follow the thread of what Eomer was saying and was beginning to fear that his brother in law had lost his wits.

Eomer's handsome features were contorted with rage. " Apologise to you, never! I will teach you a lesson, though that you won't forget for a long time, which I obviously I failed to do so before! Come out of there and face me!" he roared.

"No! I will not lift my hand against you in anger again." Faramir said firmly, not at all happy at the thought of venturing out of the tub in front of Eomer, not that his weak ankle would allow him to, even if he were so minded.

"Get out or do I have to come in and get you!" Eomer demanded. "I order you as King!"

"You are not King of Gondor and I command you to leave my bathing chamber!" Aragorn rarely spoke so forcefully but when he did, he expected and usually received instant obedience. He was becoming increasingly anxious about the situation, especially with regard to Faramir's health. The Steward needed this treatment and in as calm and atmosphere as possible, especially as the unpleasant part was yet to come and Faramir was still frail in body and mind and could yet suffer a relapse.

Eomer's only reply was to tear off his clothing with his good arm. Unlike Aragorn, Faramir, and indeed most of the Gondorians, he was completely devoid of any inhibitions about baring his body.

Although shorter than either Aragorn or Faramir, he was well favoured in all senses of the term and still handsome and well muscled despite his many battle scars. He had something of a leonine air about him and the Steward felt somewhat puny by comparison to such magnificence.

Faramir fixed his eyes on the still livid mark on his brother in law's chest, inflicted by his own hand.

"Why do you stare?" Eomer demanded "Haven't you seen a real man before in Gondor? Maybe not as my wife wishes me to wear a nightgown like some blushing maid! Get out so I can see what you are made of!"

"Get dressed and we will talk later." Aragorn ordered sternly, gazing fixedly at Eomer's face framed by the mane of golden hair, so like his sister's " You are not yourself!"

"I am not your subject to be ordered. It is time you were both taught a lesson!"

Eomer strode towards the steps and Faramir tried to get up.

"Stay there, Faramir!" Aragorn ordered. "You need to remain here until the mud is about to congeal otherwise the treatment will not work. It takes too long to prepare just to waste! Eomer, get out of my bath!"

Eomer was by now standing on the last step leading into the tub; leaning forwards and tried to grab hold of Faramir's hair to drag him towards him.

Lunging forward, Aragorn grabbed the King of Rohan's ankles, which was all he could reach. Eomer lost his balance and slid down into the mud.

He thrashed helplessly, letting out a cry as the salts permeated his still healing wounds.

"I warned you to get out of my bath!" Aragorn raged, "But now you are here, you had better remain and have your own wounds treated!"

"I carry my scars with pride!" Eomer huffed, now the shock was abating, "Unlike that coward you married my sister!" He started to slide across the bath.

"Keep still or I will call my guards to restrain you if I have to!" Aragorn roared.

"Peace, brother!" Faramir pleaded, "I would rather we were in amity for your sister's sake if nothing else. She is saddened you have not yet been to see our child. She is your own niece after all!"

"How you I even know whose brat it is?" Eomer snarled, "The way you treat my sister, it is most likely his!" He gestured towards Aragorn.

"How dare you insult both my wife and my King!" Faramir was incensed.

Aragorn's simmering fury finally boiled over and he struck Eomer a glancing blow across the face. "No man speaks thus of me!" he roared.

"I am King of Rohan, you do not strike me like a naughty child!" Eomer retorted, scrambling out of the bath. " I know what you get up to with my sister when you go to her room in the middle of the night to take your pleasure!"

Too furious to even remember, he was clad in nothing but mud, Aragorn followed him.

Hampered by his frailty and injured ankle, Faramir could only sit helplessly and watch as his King and his brother in law grappled furiously with each other, each unable to land a proper blow and slipping from each other's grasp because of the mud.

He felt he ought to avert his eyes, though the mud was so thick, it provided a modest enough covering for the combatants, but found himself forced to watch in horrified fascination.

Had the situation not been so fraught, it would appear hilarious to a casual bystander.

Aragorn had the advantage of knowing the properties of the mud and managed to wipe one hand on the heap of discarded clothing, while fending Eomer off with the other. He caught Eomer a glancing blow on the jaw, which sent the King of Rohan flying .As he fell, he struck his head a glancing blow on the tiles.

"Eomer!" Aragorn gasped in horror his anger quickly forgotten as he hastened to his side. "Are you hurt?"

Eomer did not reply as he was dazzled by stars.

TBC

A/N

As a thank you for your wonderful level of interest and support, I have decided to update early .I am thrilled to have passed the 1,000 reviews mark, something which when I first posted this story I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Because I had to delete some comments due to my mistake yesterday, it is hard to say who my 1000th reviewer was but every comment is greatly appreciated.

My sincere apologies for the mix up last night when by mistake I posted a draft copy of the sequel to this story. I did appreciate the comments but deleted them as they gave some of the plot away, which I wish to remain a surprise.

Eomer is indeed out of character due to his head injury.

We don't have mud wrestling in the UK as far as I know but I have heard about it, though never seen any.

For those of you who enjoy stories featuring Eomer and Lothiriel romance I have discovered a gem called "The Healer and the Warrior"

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