Burden of Guilt

The Merry Wives of Gondor

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema with the exception of Caranthir who appears by kind permission of Evendim. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

Aragorn calmly dried his hands and started to mix some herbs in a goblet of wine.

"I have been stung with it many times and I live still!" he told the Elf." It should be much better by morning and you should be able to return to Mirkwood as you planned for you have the fast healing abilities of the Eldar."

"I will never be able to sit on a horse!" Legolas moaned." Then how can I let anyone see me, my looks are ruined!"

"You can of course stay longer, if you wish." Aragorn replied handing him the goblet." Drink this; it will help you get some rest! I think though, you will find you are fully recovered by morning. I will have to go now, as the others are waiting for me to begin dinner. I will have some food sent to you later when you are rested."

"Don't leave me, I feel very ill!" Legolas pleaded.

"That is something we imperfect mortals often feel!" Aragorn said dryly." You have no cause to fear, as you will live! Be comforted."

"I will stay with him." Gimli offered, finally losing interest in the view from the window and moving to Legolas' side." Please give your Lady my apologies that I cannot come to dinner as yon wee Elf needs a nursemaid!"

Legolas opened his mouth to retort but only a yawn emerged as the sleeping draught started to take effect.

Gimli settled himself by the bedside and patted his friend's hand, the gesture belying his somewhat scathing comments.

Aragorn drew the coverlet over the unhappy Elf and left to join his wife and friends for dinner. He was going to enjoy relating the latest turn of events to his Steward!

When Aragorn entered the dining room of his private apartments, he found his wife together with Faramir and Eowyn already there and waiting for him.

Arwen was now so large, she had difficulty sitting at the table, though she was in good spirits and chattering to Eowyn in an animated fashion, while Faramir looked on uneasily.

"Eowyn and I have heard such tales from the city today!" she said. "Three naked madmen are on the loose! It is said they attacked a boy and then a woman and stole all her clothes, then helped themselves to some of the horses from the Royal stables before beating up and robbing a miller!"

"Well I heard they merely stole some sacks from the miller." Eowyn added," Then the latest rumour was they escaped wearing stolen cloaks!"

"How are you going to punish these villains when you catch them?" Arwen asked with a gleam in her eye.

"Surely the King won't let them run amok in the city?" Eowyn commented earnestly.

Aragorn opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again while Faramir blushed scarlet.

"The most interesting thing I heard was the description of the lunatics." Arwen's tone was like honey." I was told two were dark haired with grey eyes, one older and slightly taller than the other, while the third was fair to look upon with long golden locks that any maid would envy! That sounds somewhat familiar!"

" How strange that my husband should go swimming this afternoon with two that fitted that description !" Eowyn could now barely contain her mirth.

Arwen burst out laughing, not the usual musical laugher of Elves but very human guffaws, which she had obviously learned from Eowyn as the two women shook with helpless mirth.

"If only we could have seen the three of you!" Eowyn roared. "What a sight that would have been!"

"We were not naked, we were wearing our drawers, that is Aragorn and myself were." Faramir said with as much dignity as he could muster, somewhat ill at ease to be even mentioning underwear in the presence the Queen.

He was fond of Arwen and admired her greatly, but always felt slightly awestruck in the presence of one of the Eldar, even at the best of times.

"How did you find out?" Aragorn asked. He had hoped for some sympathy from his wife, but realised that to an observer, their plight must have seemed hilarious .It was good to see Arwen so cheerful as her advanced pregnancy was starting to dampen her spirits as the delivery time drew nearer.

"Ioreth came to see me and told me most of the story." Arwen explained once she could control her mirth." The rest I heard from my maid, whose brother's wife is the miller's sister. He had come to report the theft of the flour sacks to the guard and also had spoken to his neighbours. The tale seems to have been embroidered in the telling, though."

"We never attacked anyone, only asked for some clothing and were forced into stealing some flour sacks when no one would give us any." Aragorn explained. "They failed to understand our motives I think!"

"You have certainly entertained us!" Eowyn chortled.

"Though the bruise on your cheek looks painful." Arwen added." Though maybe you deserved it from what I have heard!"

"He did not!" Faramir said indignantly." None of us did anything wrong!"

"Where are Legolas and Gimli?" Arwen asked." I thought they were joining us."

"Legolas is weary after all that happened this afternoon and decided to eat in his room and Gimli wanted to stay to keep him company." Aragorn said diplomatically, to spare the Elf the ladies' teasing, though he fully intended to tell Faramir the full story, once they were alone.

"It has been quite an unusual day starting with the Council Meeting this morning." Aragorn told her, anxious to change the subject as he proceeded to tell them about Faramir's intervention in the debate over a witness to the impending royal birth.

"There are dozens of regulations on the subject." Faramir informed them as they began their meal.

"Surely not any more than those we discussed this morning?" Aragorn groaned.

"I think there are about fifty pages of regulations. "Faramir informed him." It is a month or two since I last looked at them."

"Fifty pages?" Arwen was incredulous.

"It seems that each Queen in the past or her family demanded that new ones be added." Faramir explained. "For example, the ruling that the Queen may not be disturbed during her confinement was made after one King burst into the bedroom and kept shouting at the Queen, that he would divorce her, if the baby were not a boy, that also led to the rule that the King may only spend an hour a day with the Queen for the first days after the birth. The same monarch harangued his wife after the birth of their daughter, so the poor lady had no rest. She was the Queen who added the rule that the midwifes must remain in constant attendance of the Queen for a week after the delivery. I think it was her father who insisted on adding the separate bedchambers clause too." Faramir flushed slightly.

"Whatever is that?" Aragorn demanded.

"The King may not share the Queen's bedchamber for two weeks after the delivery, nor have um, intimate relations for six weeks." Faramir mumbled uncomfortably, staring down at the tablecloth.

"What sort of monster am I supposed to be?" Aragorn said testily.

"The angry father of over a thousand years ago was only concerned about the health of his daughter." Faramir said hastily." I do think some of these ancient laws need revising though."

"They will be before we have any more children!" Aragorn said grimly.

"I think I should have some say in the matter!" Arwen interrupted.

"Of course, my love, you shall rewrite them yourself if you wish!" Aragorn soothed.

"And I shall help you!" Eowyn added. "I assume there are rules about the birth of the Steward's heirs too?"

"Forty pages of them." Faramir informed her.

Eowyn blanched.

"Well if you need a witness, I will be happy to assist." Arwen offered." I did learn some healing arts from my father, so I might be useful."

"I would be honoured to accept." Eowyn smiled, while Faramir gave a sigh of relief as he had dreaded approaching the subject given that Eowyn insisted that ladies of Rohan took giving birth for granted and were back on their horses the next day!

The conversation took a lighter tone as the servants brought dessert. Arwen was starting to yawn and as soon as she had finished excused herself and prepared to call for for her maid to help her prepare for bed.

"Shall I help you?" Eowyn asked, feeling anxious for her friend.

Arwen thanked her and the two women left the room, leaving the men to their wine.

A/N A big thank you for all your kind reviews which are very much appreciated.

Ioreth knew who Aragorn and Faramir were, and never stated the contrary but she wanted to scold them before helping them!

Arwen makes her first appearance in this chapter and plays quite a large part in the story.

Legolas' rash was caused by giant hogweed, a plant which is a problem on British riverbanks and originally came from the Himalayas .It causes a nasty rash if touched.

Aragorn is a very experienced healer, so he knows how to control what he is feeling!

There are still a few lighter chapters before the coming catastrope but the mood will gradually grow darker after this chapter.

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