Burden of Guilt

This Rich and Precious Gift

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.

What have I to give you back, whose worth May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?

William Shakespeare (1564–1616),

The feast was magnificent one. Not since the marriage of the King and Queen, had such a banquet been held. Never again though,would so many of the High Elves be present for a feast on Arda, as the greatest had now departed to Valinor

Tonight's banquet was still a splendid occasion , attended by the King and Queen of the Reunited Kingdoms, the Prince and Princess of Ithilien, the Prince of Dol Amroth, the King of Rohan ,and all the Nobility of Gondor, together with the ambassadors to neighbouring kingdoms.

For the first time in Gondor's long history, there were common folk present too, as Damrod, Lamrung Ioreth, Aedred and the Warden of the Houses of Healing had been invited to attend

The King and Queen both looked especially magnificent tonight, Aragorn was clad in a richly embroidered tunic of plum velvet and black breaches .The Star of Elendil adorned his brow and the Elessar gleamed on his breast. Arwen had chosen to wear a gown of deep blue embroidered with silver. She wore a mithril coronet, set with diamonds and sapphires on her head while a necklace of mithril and diamonds adorned her slender throat.

Faramir and Eowyn looked only slightly less magnificent in their most regal attire. Faramir had chosen to wear a black velvet tunic embroidered with silver and dark grey breeches. Eowyn was attired in a green gown embroidered with white and gold, which set off her golden hair to perfection.

The meal began with a beef and vegetable soup with wine and spices followed by chicken stuffed with pork and currants. The main course then followed, which consisted of roast lamb, simmered with almonds and spices and then a dessert of dates stuffed with almonds and baked in honey, especially created by the Royal cooks for this evening. There were many other dishes too and wine and mead flowed freely.

To Aragorn and Eowyn's relief, Faramir ate with obvious relish. This was the first State Banquet he had been able to truly enjoy. On previous occasions, he had been too nervous to truly enjoy the delicacies the cooks had prepared.

When everyone had eaten their fill, Aragorn, who was seated at the head of the table, rose to propose a toast. " Let us drink to my royal brother Eomer of Rohan and my Steward Faramir, Prince of Ithilien and the continued friendship between Gondor and Rohan and peace and prosperity to both our lands!" he said.

The company drank and then Faramir, instead of sitting down again, proposed a toast of his own." Let us drink to the good health and long life of his Majesty King Elessar, Queen Arwen and their son and heir Crown Prince Eldarion and the good health of my brother, King Eomer of Rohan!" he said, smiling at the assembled company.

The assembled company sat down again and nibbled at grapes with slices of melon and mint leaves, a refreshing way to end the meal.

Much to their surprise, Eomer suddenly rose to his feet and beamed at the assembled company. He had not brought any ceremonial garb to Minas Tirith and had borrowed a green tunic embroidered with silver from Aragorn. Worn over simple dark breeches, he looked magnificent in it, with his golden mane of hair flowing over his shoulders.

He beamed at the assembled company and announced: "Instead of fine words, my brother, I would seek to mend the hurts between us with a gift to my niece, Elestelle. You will have heard of the Mearas, noblest and most rare of horses, the steeds of the Kings of Rohan, brought to our lands from the west by Lord Bema himself.

A beautiful foal was born to Snowdrop, daughter of Shadowfax ,a few days before I set out on my journey here to Gondor. She is the one of the most beautiful foals I have ever seen even amongst our herds! I give her now to my niece, the latest daughter of our Royal house and will command her that she bear Elestelle on her back as long as her life does last!"

Faramir and Eowyn both gasped, as this was the greatest gift Eomer could have bestowed .The Mearas were the most prized processions of the House of Eorl and the only time one had been given as a gift before was when Theoden had presented Shadowfax to Gandalf.

That had come to pass only after the Wizard and the horse had developed a strong bond with each other ,for Gandalf had greatly angered Theoden by borrowing Shadowfax instead of a lesser horse. A Mearas was far more than an ordinary horse as it understood human speech, and would only let one of royal blood ride it .It also had an exceptional life span for a horse and could live to be about eighty years old.

"Thank you giving our daughter the greatest of gifts!" Eowyn beamed at her brother.

"I thank you too from the bottom of my heart, and only wish I had something of equal value to offer," Faramir exclaimed, overcome with joy at Eomer's generous act, which more than proved that he no longer harboured any resentment towards him. "I for my part would ask you and King Elessar to act as guardians to our daughter should any misfortune befall Eowyn and myself before she is grown to womanhood as there are none I hold in higher esteem!"

"Gladly I accept, "Eomer replied and now I propose a toast to his majesty, my brother in arms and friend, King Elessar and his Queen, and to my brother Faramir and sister Eowyn!"

He reached across and took the hands of Aragorn and Faramir, clasping them in a gesture of friendship.

Eowyn blinked away a tear. The Mearas were very rare and highly valued. It would have cost her brother dear to part with something so precious.

The Queen, knowing that Eldarion would be hungry rose then to take her leave and Eowyn followed her, embracing her brother as she left.

The men folk lingered drinking and talking. Imrahil, now back in Minas Tirith after settling a prolonged land disputer, was delighted to see his nephew looking so much better.

At last, Aragorn left the table followed by Faramir and Eomer

After they left, the Lords of Gondor began to chatter amongst themselves.

"Strange that the Horse Lord should give our Steward a fine gift and yet King Elessar who sent him to prison has not even offered an apology!" Devorin of Ringlo Vale murmured to his neighbour.

"What can you expect from a Ranger from the North who goes hunting and leaves affairs of State to his Queen?" snorted Fosco of Lamedon who sat beside him."He has even invited a bunch of peasants to sit at his table!"

They then noticed Imrahil's eye upon them and fell silent.

Outside the Great Hall of Feasts the two kings and the Steward embraced ,then went their separate ways.

Eowyn was already asleep when Faramir reached the apartments, which were currently their home.

They were planning the next week to move into their new home at Emyn Arnen where Eowyn and Elestelle would spend most of their time in future.

Faramir would join his family whenever his duties as Steward permitted him to, and stay with Aragorn and Arwen when he was needed in Minas Tirith.

Eowyn was eager to dwell in the countryside, away from the stone city she so disliked She yearned to be able to ride out whenever she pleased and for the independence she had always craved.

As for Faramir, he would finally have a home to call his own with his family, while at the same time spending a great deal of time in Minas Tirith with Aragorn, who too was very dear to him.

He quickly changed into his nightshirt and slid into to bed next to his wife. It felt good to be beside her again after so long apart. He soon fell into a dreamless sleep.

Arwen was still awake and sitting up feeding Eldarion when Aragorn came to bed.

"How he is growing!" Aragorn exclaimed as he did almost every day, amazed at the progress his son was making.

"If he takes after his father he will be tall!" Arwen replied, "I thought the official banquet went well. It was good to see Faramir smile again."

"It truly gladdens my heart to see him recovering." Aragorn replied "I think my friend is finally restored to me. I hope he likes the surprise I have for him tomorrow."

"Did I not tell you all would be well?" Arwen said rather smugly.

"As always you were right, my Love!" Aragorn replied, happy to humour her."Could any man be more blessed to have you, my son and my best friend at my side and my Kingdom secure and at peace with her allies?"

Kissing her and Eldarion tenderly, he turned on his side and was soon snoring.

Arwen sat gazing at him tenderly. Not only was this man her beloved husband, but also a loving father, loyal friend and great King. He was well worth giving up the life of the Eldar for. These past months had been very difficult for them all. Yet they had shown her more of her husband's true worth ,for it took a great man to admit to his mistakes and not rest until they were put right.

As result, her friendship with Eowyn was now stronger than ever as was Estel's friendship with Faramir and their love for each other and their son had deepened too.

Aragorn stirred and murmured," Did I tell you how much I love you, my Evenstar?"

"I love you more each day, my husband and King." she replied, kissing the top of his head. Already he was snoring again., causing her to smile indulgently.

She rose and replaced Eldarion in his cradle before lying down to sleep, ignoring the increasingly loud snores beside her. No Elf would snore thus, but then couldeven anElf be as noble, as loving and as loyal? She would not change this wonderful and unique man for all the world. Gondor was blessed to have him, as were his family and friends.

The star of Earendil shone brightly illuminating the frosty winter night bathing Gondor in its gentle light. Tonight all were at peace beneath its beauty.

To be concluded

A/N

A grateful thank you to everyone who is still reading and reviewing this epic.

I am always equally pleased to receive comments for my old stories as for my new ones. They all arrive in my mailbox together!

I know this story has contained a lot of healing scenes but many of my readers enjoy them. Faramir is recovering faster than he would in the real world thanks to Aragorn.

Faramir will be strong in the sequel; the babies will make an appearance and watch out for the Lords!

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