Burden of Guilt

A Vision Beyond All Nightmares

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.

Warning - This chapter contains gory images and some violence

"Where is my Steward?" Aragorn demanded again with rising fury, as he tried to conceal his fears for Faramir's welfare. He instinctively disliked the Jailor and noted with disgust how his breath stank of liquor.

"He must be in the cells!" the Head Jailor insisted. "He can't have escaped and the only other room is the Punishment Room and no punishments have been authorised as I have been indisposed all morning."

Lamrung appeared from the opposite direction, somewhat out of breath, as if he had been hurrying. He addressed the Head Jailor, seemingly oblivious to the presence of the King and his Escort. "Sir, there is an unauthorised flogging taking place, I thought you should know!"

"It happens, lad, don't you go worrying about it," the Head Jailor replied without much interest. "Can't you see I have important visitors?"

Lamrung suddenly noticed the King was there and fell to his knees. "My Lord, I am sorry!" he gasped. "I did not realise it was your Majesty!"

Ignoring the man's apology Aragorn snapped, "Take me the punishment room and quickly!"

Dumbfounded, Lamrung just stared at the King.

Aragorn impatiently dragged him to his feet. "I fear my Steward is there!" he explained. "Now show me where it is!

Lamrung gulped "Yes, Sire!" and led the way down the gloomy stone corridor and flung open the door at the end.

A dreadful sight greeted Aragorn. There, suspended from the wall in chains was his closest and dearest friend.

Faramir's shirt and tunic had been torn open to expose his back, which looked virtually flayed and resembled a chunk of raw meat in appearance.

A man with a whip stood over him "Thirty nine!" he cried and raised it to strike the helpless Steward, but before the cruel throngs could bite into his torn and bloodied flesh again, Aragorn grabbed the whip from his hand and struck him with it.

Mahrod screamed in pain as Aragorn caught Faramir is his arms, supporting his weight. The Steward was unconscious, cold, wet and covered in blood.

"How dare you strike my Steward?" the King roared in a tone, which made all the listeners shudder to hear it. "You deserve a stronger taste of your own medicine but I have better things to do at present! I swear you will pay for this atrocity!"

Imrahil had thought he knew the King well, but he had never seen him so angry before and it was chilling to behold.

Mahrod's reaction was to spit in Aragorn's direction without looking him in the eye. "He deserved more of it, the likes of him!" he mumbled, seeming to care more about being interrupted than getting caught

Aragorn beckoned the head jailor and Lamrung towards him. "Free the Lord Steward and lock his assailant in the cells. I will deal with him later!"

Lamrung produced the keys from his belt and unlocked the chains securing Faramir's arms to the wall.

The manacles removed, Faramir would have fallen to the floor, had not Aragorn's strong arms caught him.

The Steward's complexion was bluish tinged and his features were contorted with agony. Gently Aragorn removed the piece of wood from his bloodied mouth, slightly easing his laboured breathing. Imrahil rushed to his side to assist.

Faramir's eyes flickered open and saw the King bending over him. His eyes briefly lit up, for despite the enormity of his crimes, he was glad to see his beloved King for one last time as he knew now he would die of his injuries before he could be brought to trial.

"So sorry, my Lord. Thank you, kept your promise, be thou blessed!" he murmured before much to his shame finally losing his breakfast. The retching and coughing sent such waves of agony through his tortured frame that almost immediately he lost consciousness again

Aragorn's healer's eye quickly realised that Faramir was very badly hurt.

"Hold him!" he told Imrahil, as he unfastened his own cloak to wrap round the shivering Steward. "I need something to staunch the bleeding!" He started to pull off his tunic.

"I'll fetch some towels to staunch the bleeding and mop up." Lamrung offered.

"Quickly!" Aragorn ordered. "He is losing a lot of blood!" He placed his hands over Faramir's arm and side in an attempt to staunch the worst bleeding .A chill of recognition swept over him as he realised his vision was true, he now had Faramir's blood on his hands both literally and figuratively.

Lamrung returned quickly with the towels, which were at least fairly clean, and handed them to Aragorn, who swiftly fashioned them into makeshift bandages as best he could over Faramir's torn clothing.

"Can I do anything else to help?" Lamrung enquired, "I am sorry I wasn't able to stop Mahrod beating him, but he refused to listen to reason."

Aragorn managed to smile faintly at the young Jailor, who seemed a pleasant contrast to the others who worked in this grim place. "Could you find us something to carry him on, please?" he asked, expecting the request to be too difficult to fulfil.

"Of course, Sire, we still have the stretcher we used in Lord Denethor's day to carry those who had been tortured to execution!"

Aragorn shuddered, yet it seemed the perfect solution. He would gladly carry Faramir but it would be much quicker and less likely to cause him further injury, if the Guards carried him on a stretcher.

"Bring it please and then I require your assistance to help carry the Lord Steward to the Citadel!" Aragorn decided that he had no wish to leave Lamrung here, as he hoped that away from the prison, the young man might be able to tell him exactly what had happened to Faramir.

While Lamrung was gone, Aragorn took Faramir from Imrahil and tried to determine how badly his Steward was injured. The bleeding seemed to have slowed but his pulse was weak and rapid and his skin felt clammy to the touch.

Ominously, blood still trickled from the corner of his mouth, though whether from having the piece of wood roughly forced in or from some injury inside, it was hard to tell.His clothes were torn and filthy and he was soaked to the skin with some odious smelling liquid.

Most distressing to Aragorn, was the damage caused to Faramir's back by the flogging, as he had sworn such cruelty would never befall him again. Now his back was so covered with bleeding stripes, that no unmarked flesh was visible. The cat o' nine tails was a horrific method of punishment and only used to punish the very worse offences committed by hardened criminals.

Had he not been in a public place and needing to maintain the dignity of his office, Aragorn would have wept both for the obvious agony Faramir was in and his own folly in letting this happen to him.

Imrahil said nothing but watched grim faced as Lamrung brought the stretcher and together they gently laid Faramir on it.

Imrahil added his cloak to Aragorn's to attempt to keep his nephew warm and the melancholy procession set off through the streets of Minas Tirith, deserted because of the curfew Aragorn had imposed earlier that day.

The soldiers carried the stretcher while Aragorn and Imrahil steadied Faramir and held him on the stretcher, as the path grew steeper.

At the same time, Aragorn tried to learn from Lamrung what had happened to his Steward, but all the young man knew was that the Guards had taken Faramir to a cell earlier that day, but the first time he set eyes on him, was when Mahrod had told him to administer a hundred lashes.

Aragorn and Imrahil gasped in horror.

"The maximum penalty is twenty five lashes, have you ever been asked to administer so many before?" Aragorn enquired.

Lamrung shook his head. "No my Lord," he replied, "But Mahrod told me that the Steward dismissed him from being in the army and he held a grudge against him."

"He will pay dearly." Aragorn's voice was grim as they finally reached the Citadel.

He gently lifted Faramir from the stretcher and dismissed the soldiers, while telling Lamrung to wait in the kitchens. He had already decided to offer the young man alternative employment if he wished it.

While Imrahil went on ahead to tell the Servants to make up the fire and bring hot water, fresh bedding and bandages, he carefully carried Faramir into his own private apartments, rooms which he kept for when he needed to be alone, for much as he loved Arwen, after spending so much of his life alone in the wilds, there were times when he needed solitude. Here seemed the best place as he kept his healing supplies there as well as wanting Faramir to be treated in the most comfortable surroundings that Minas Tirith afforded.

He first ordered guards to be kept outside the door until further notice, in case any angry Rohirrim thought of seeking revenge on the helpless Steward.

He did not immediately place Faramir on the huge bed, but instead sat on the couch near the now blazing fire, with Faramir in his arms, carefully positioned as not to aggravate his injuries.

The Steward's wounds needed tending and his wet and filthy clothes removing, but he was in such a state of deep shock, Aragorn feared doing anything that could cause any more stress to his damaged body until he was in a more stable condition.

Feeling under the cloak for a heartbeat, only confirmed his fears as Faramir's heart fluttered feebly, like that of a trapped bird in its final death throes.

TBC

A/N A big thank you to my readers for your much appreciated reviews. As I have had so many requests to do so, I have updated quickly as a thank you for your interest and support.

I would like to point with regard to a comment some of you may have read but has since been removed that my stories are about friendship not slash, as close affectionate friendships were usual in olden days, from Biblical times to the Victorian era and still are in many places. My characters love their friends but are in love with their wives.

As for violence, I only use it if essential to the plot and give warnings so that no one need read if offended. I have several LOTR Stories on this site rated K+ with no violence at all in them.

Mahrod has had the opportunity to do 'other equally nasty things to the Steward', whether he succeeded or not, only time will tell.

I am aware that Tolkien never specified what the death penalty entailed, so am drawing my ideas from British history .I try to be as true to Tolkien as possible but also use my imagination.

I believe somewhere in my stories, I use "little brother" as a term of endearment for Faramir so am in no way troubled if any of my readers see him like that too!

Writing of Faramir's ordeal was especially hard, as he had been so happy before it happened.

I was delighted that one of my readers had spotted that Faramir has reverted to seeing Aragorn as a feared (albeit loved) authority figure again as this forms an important plot thread.

The windowless room is supposed to be used for authorised floggings for offences such as rape and violence against children. I do not think Aragorn would allow torture. Torture has never been legal in Britain but was unfortunately widespread in past eras.

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