Burden of Guilt

Gathering Clouds

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 purely for pleasure and not for profit.

Eowyn sighed in frustration..

"I know, Elrond's books!" Aragorn said suddenly. "Arwen's brothers brought his healing library to Minas Tirith when they visited at the New Year."

"You have Lord Elrond's books?" Faramir was awestruck.

"I am sorry, I should have mentioned it before, and there has just been so much to do these past months." Aragorn sighed." Let us go now to my library and see what we can learn to help Arwen."

Faramir was naturally familiar with the main library of Minas Tirith, which had always been one of his favourite places, where as a boy, he would escape the grief of being motherless and the scorn in his father's eyes whenever he looked at his younger son, by immersing himself in Gondorian history and tales of the Eldar.

His vast knowledge had often proved invaluable to Aragorn, who, although well educated, paled beside his Steward when it came to the obscure details of history, law and customs of the southern part of his reunited Kingdom.

The Steward had never been in Aragorn's private library, though, as Aragorn brought any books that were needed to his study. He gasped in amazement at the sight of all the Elvish volumes lining the shelves.

"Knowing your love of learning, I should have brought you here before." Aragorn said apologetically, as he lit the lamps" You are welcome to enjoy my library any time you wish."

Faramir thanked him, as the King searched the shelves for the volumes Lord Elrond had given him.

"Here it is!" he said at last, selecting a large dusty volume and placing it before Eowyn." This tells of how best to avoid complications during childbirth."

"I fear I don't read the language." Eowyn said, a touch of regret in her voice.

Aragorn opened the book at a page illustrated with a diagram of an Elvish woman giving birth. "I can translate," he said, "That is, if you are not too tired as it is late, being with child yourself?"

Eowyn shook her head.

"The women of Rohan are strong. We are usually on horseback almost until the birth and I have been sitting for most of the day."

Aragorn placed the tome on a table and drew up three chairs.

"This chapter is about the first stage of labour. "He began." Is that what you want to know? Apparently labour is more emotionally draining for an Elf than for a human, though as a male, I would not know!" he added hastily, seeing Eowyn's expression.

Eowyn nodded and the King began to read, translating the ancient words into the common tongue.

"When the waters break it usually indicates the first stage of labour has begun. At this point contractions will be about thirty minutes apart and the midwife should ascertain by careful visual examination that there is no bleeding and that dilation is at least …" He broke off and turned to Faramir. "You can understand the language too, I know, why not translate for your wife and see one of Lord Elrond's books for yourself?"

Faramir had first blushed when Aragorn had started to read but had now turned a sickly greenish hue. "No, thank you!" he gasped. "In fact, I think I will go to bed now and leave you to discuss, um delicate matters!"

"You look tired, my friend, go and get some rest." Aragorn said sympathetically patting Faramir's arm. "Maybe this is a subject best left to women and healers .It is a tradition of the Eldar that the father be present but I am heartily thankful, Arwen has not asked me to observe it!"

I will bid you goodnight then." Faramir turned even paler at the thought of the father being present and was eager to leave before any more of the book could be read.

"Wait!" Aragorn got up and reached another volume down from the shelves." I think this, also from Elrond's library, might be more to your liking. It is a history of the First Age. Why not borrow it for a while then maybe we could discuss it together?"

Faramir's eyes lit up as Aragorn handed him the precious volume." You would let me handle this?"

"It ought to be read by someone who would appreciate it!"

Faramir impulsively embraced the King in gratitude, something he would never have dared do with his father and only recently had felt relaxed enough to openly show the affection he felt towards Aragorn.

The King warmly returned the gesture and placed his hand on the dark head in blessing. He truly did feel blessed to have a friend like Faramir, as never had he dared hope that the Valar would grant him both the wife and the brother he had always longed for. Suddenly his hands felt wet and when he hooked down he saw they were covered in blood, Faramir's blood!

He paled and swayed slightly at the horror and clarity of the vision.

"Are you unwell?" Faramir and Eowyn's concerned voices roused him from the vision, and Aragorn forced himself to smile reassuringly at his friends. The vision had to be false, as he would no more harm his friend and Steward than cut off his right arm!

"I am just a little tired after everything that happened today." Aragorn was certain that this must be the correct explanation, though he found himself glancing anxiously at his hands, which now appeared perfectly clean.

"You should be going to bed too then, I shall bid you goodnight!" Faramir chided gently.

Aragorn smiled and then exchanged a kiss on the brow with his Steward. This time the contact passed without triggering a further vision, much to Aragorn's relief. Being of high Numenorean lineage carried the advantage of long life and vitality, but also the dubious privileges of foresight of psychic sparks being kindled when two of similar bloodlines were in close proximity. "You would make a good mother hen!" Aragorn teased as Faramir departed to his bedchamber, clutching the precious volume under his arm.

Not for the first time, he wondered if he should invite Faramir to form a thought-sharing bond with him to further cement their friendship. It was always a hard choice to make as so doing made any future loss of the other person like having part of one's soul torn away, as Aragorn knew to his cost and Faramir although much younger was unlikely to have as long a lifespan. Yet he knew that one day they would participate in the thought bond, as he loved Faramir dearly as a brother

Eowyn's lesson in Elven healing continued late into the night. Her old feelings for Aragorn long since put aside, she now regarded him as another beloved elder brother, although tonight, they were simply two healers, studying an ancient text.

When she eventually left Aragorn, she found her husband asleep in bed, the history tome still open on the coverlet. Obviously he had been reading until he could keep his eyes open no longer. Taking care not to wake him, she placed the book on the table, before turning down the lamp, changing into her nightgown and settling down beside him.

Affectionately, she smoothed back his hair, which had fallen over his brow and noted how peacefully he slept, a smile hovering on his lips. He finally seemed to have escaped his old demons, which had plagued his sleep with nightmares, and Eowyn rejoiced before sinking into a dreamless slumber.

Arwen was still awake when her husband tiptoed into the chamber. It was very late for after Eowyn had left, he had gone to see how Legolas was faring. To his relief, the Elf was sound asleep, with Gimli beside him, who had obviously nodded off while watching over his friend.

Aragorn felt Legolas' forehead and pulse without waking him and noted the rash visible on his face already visibly fading. The Elf appeared to be quickly regaining his usual robust health. He had crept out again as silently as he had entered.

TBC

A/N No, Elbeth will not be the cause of the catastrophes about to befall our heroes in this story but she will remain a part of my LOTR universe if I should decide to write any more stories, which depends on the level of interest in this one.

Everything about Elves is beautiful and elegant, even their stretch marks!

I am just making up the details of Elven childbirth if the father is human, though I have researched Elven childbirth as best I can.

Eowyn is not annoyed that Faramir prefers Aragorn's ministrations as she having experienced them herself knows he has a natural healing touch which she lacks.

Legolas and Gimli's part in the story is almost over.

Appearances can be deceptive, as this story will soon become very dark and tragic. This is the calm before the storm.

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