Burden of Guilt

Oft Expectation Fails

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 been or will be made from it.

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there Where most it promises.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

All 's Well that Ends Well. Act ii. Sc. 1.

Faramir was awakened early by Elestelle's howling, which could clearly be heard through the walls of his dressing room.

He sat up slowly and was delighted that the severe pain he had been experiencing had subsided to a dull ache. He was comfortably familiar with this type of pain, from his days as a ranger when his muscles were sore from constant exertion. His back still itched slightly but no longer did he feel as if a thousand hungry fleas were intent on devouring him.

Pulling on his robe over his nightshirt, he first visited his bathing chamber and then entered the main bedroom. He missed Eowyn's presence beside him and would be glad once their enforced separation was over and they could share the same bed with their baby daughter in her cradle beside them.

His wife was lifting their daughter from her cradle as he came in and trying to soothe her. With a final fretful wail, she stopped crying.

Eowyn settled on the side of the bed and unlacing her nightgown, began to suckle her child.

"See how eager she is for her breakfast! She is growing bigger and stronger every day!" she exclaimed happily, smiling at her husband.

Faramir tenderly kissed first his wife and then the top of his infant daughter's head. He stood for a moment gazing at them both. "May she grow up as strong and beautiful as her mother!" he said ardently.

"You seem as if you are getting stronger too at long last!" Eowyn replied, returning her husband's kiss, "You look much better today! Aragorn will be pleased when he examines you."

Faramir sighed. He had been both dreading and eagerly awaiting this day. It seemed too much to hope for that his hurts completely healed, especially the scar tissue in his belly. He had seen how worried Aragorn had looked when he examined that.

He supposed he would have to endure a good deal of prodding this morning, something he was not looking forward too and the thought of the scar tissue being touched again made him shudder. Not only was the experience likely to be painful but also being closely scrutinised made him feel self-conscious.

He knew though that he was very lucky as Aragorn was extremely gentle and he had come to actually greatly enjoy his healing and massage treatments. He feared though, there could be no gentle healing for the damage Agond's boot had inflicted and despite all Aragorn's efforts, the swollen tissue would have to be cut from his body.

"I had better get dressed to spare our shy Sovereign's blushes!" Eowyn announced, once convinced her daughter had taken her fill.

Faramir nodded, though secretly loath to relinquish the vision of his wife in her thin nightgown, which clung seductively to her newly accentuated curves. Her golden hair tumbled freely over her shoulders; looking far more alluring than it did when pinned back in the manner, she wore it during the day.

"Will you take Elestelle or shall I send for her nurse?"Eowyn asked.

"I should like to hold our daughter," Faramir replied eagerly.

"You'd better get in the bed then. There is no point in you taking her back to your room," Eowyn replied.

Eowyn waited while her husband shed his robe, climbed into bed and settled his back against the pillows.

He eagerly stretched out his arms to receive his little daughter.

However, Elestelle was not at all pleased at being disturbed and started to howl again much to Faramir's dismay. Eowyn hastily retired to her own boudoir and dressed quickly in a loose simple gown, which easily opened at the front. Arwen had introduced her to the Elven design and her own dressmaker had made several for her friend.

The baby was wailing so loudly that Faramir failed to hear the knock on the door and was surprised when Aragorn walked into the room.

"What is wrong with her?" Aragorn asked, trying to make himself heard over the cacophony.

"I just don't know what ails her today!" Eowyn sighed, coming back into the bedroom. "She has been changed and fed yet still she cries and refuses to settle."

"Shall I try to calm her?" Aragorn asked, his voice full of concern. He felt extremely protective towards the infant whose life he had saved.

Faramir nodded, hoping fervently his daughter would not decide to regurgitate her breakfast over the King's tunic.

Aragorn bent to take Elestelle from her increasingly dismayed father and cradled her in his arms. With one hand, he supported her against his shoulder; with the other, he gently caressed the restless head and stroked the tiny body.

Elestelle almost immediately stopped crying and nuzzled against the King, much to the amazement of her parents.

"I wish you had been here when Eomer came to see her last night," Eowyn said wryly, "She cried the entire time. It was such a shame, as he adores her, though I think he is wondering if his own children will be quite so noisy.Obviously she likes you!"

"I love this little one almost as my own." Aragorn smiled, "But I expect she is just responding to an Elven technique to calm babies that Arwen showed me."

"I shall ask Arwen to show me then." Eowyn replied wryly.

"How do you feel today?" Aragorn asked Faramir. "Have you looked yet to see if the scars have healed?" He continued to tenderly soothe Elestelle while he spoke.

"I feel better and the pain is less .I wanted you to be here before I looked at the scars," Faramir replied. "They still itch but not like they did yesterday."

"I should like to bathe them, if I may," Aragorn said, adding before Faramir could protest at him taking on such a menial task, "Water, to which athelas has been added, should wash away all the dried salves and cure the itching."

The Steward nodded for by now he was almost accustomed to the humility of Aragorn's ways. He could never have imagined his father performing such a lowly task even for Boromir.

While Eowyn called for a servant to fetch a bowl of hot water, he looked at the King closely for the first time this morning and noted with concern the deep melancholy in his eyes.

"I have need of the athelas, as much as you do, my friend!" Aragorn confessed somewhat ruefully.

"You have witnessed Mahrod's execution then?" Faramir asked.

The King nodded. "He died as he had lived, totally unrepentant of his crimes! I am relieved it is over now. One of the duties, I least enjoy as King is watching the executions of those whom I have condemned to die however much they deserve it. The crowds were appalling today. They seemed to find the whole spectacle entertaining!"

Eowyn snorted. "I would have given them something to really entertain them after what he did to my husband! In Rohan, we would have had him trampled by wild horses!"

" I came upon Mahrod's wife this morning. It seems he treated her cruelly too," Aragorn told them," I saw her in the crowd with a child and went to speak to her. Her name is Alis. She was near to collapse and I took her to the Houses of Healing. Ioreth told me later that when she examined her, she found most of her body scarred from his ill treatment!"

"The poor woman!" Faramir exclaimed sympathetically, "Is there anything you can do to help her?"

"I shall ask Arwen to see if the Elven mud bath would help her," the King replied, "I found Alis a woman of some refinement and grace even though she is destitute and half starved. She told me she used to be your cousin Lothiriel's personal maid."

"Perhaps Eomer would take her back with him and she could serve her old mistress again?" Faramir suggested, "I doubt it would be wise for her to stay in Minas Tirith at present."

"I will need a refined woman as a nurse for Elestelle!" Eowyn exclaimed, "If this Alis is of good character, maybe she would be suitable in the future?"

"I will write to Lothiriel and see what she has to say about her," Aragorn said, "She could perhaps go to Rohan for a year or two and then return once Elestelle is old enough."

Just then, a servant brought the water they had requested. Aragorn handed the now peacefully sleeping Elestelle to her mother, who succeeded in placing her in her cradle without waking her. King, Steward and Princess all sighed with relief.

Faramir slowly and self-consciously started to unlace his nightshirt.

Aragorn had brought a pouch with him containing his healing supplies. From it, he took a leaf of athelas and crumbled it in his hands, murmuring words in Elvish as he did so.

At once, a living freshness filled the room, and a change came over the King as the shadows of care and sorrow left him.

The scent reminded Faramir of the seashore at Dol Amroth where he had spent many a happy hour during visits to his Uncle. He sat upright and without being prompted, let his nightshirt slide over his shoulders, uncovering him to the waist.

"Your arm looks so much better!" Aragorn smiled; setting the bowl down on the bedside table .The ugly scar left by Eomer's broadsword was now so faint as to be almost invisible. "Now may I see your back?"

Eowyn came to stand beside the King "You will be your handsome self again once that orange ointment is washed off!" Eowyn exclaimed. Faramir, blushing scarlet under their scrutiny, turned to display the now well-healed scars. What had been a mass of ugly scar tissue was now just a few slightly reddened patches of skin which would surely fade in time.

Aragorn had dipped a cloth in the water and laved his Steward's arms, chest and back. Faramir sighed blissfully as the last vestiges of the itching vanished with the traces of orange ointment.

It seemed his ribs were healing too, as he felt no pain as the cloth passed over them, though doubtless the prodding that was surely to come would prove more uncomfortable.

Eowyn handed him a towel and he rubbed himself dry quite vigorously, delighting in the freedom from pain and discomfort.

Aragorn took a deep breath inhaling the invigorating scent of the athelas before steeling himself to unfasten the bandage just below Faramir's waist.


A very big thank you for all your kind reviews. Each and every one is greatly appreciated.

Unless some startling new plot thread jumps into my head, I expect about three more chapters.

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