Burden of Guilt

The Force of Temporal Power

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.

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice IV. i

The next day, Aragorn, soberly yet regally attired, made his way to the Hall of Kings where the trial was due to take place. The Star of Elendil gleamed on his brow and he carried the sceptre of Annuminas in his hand. All eyes were upon him as he regally processed through the Hall and took his place upon the throne, where he would sit in judgement.

The area set aside for spectators was packed with curious citizens, not only from Minas Tirith but from he outlying villages as well. Faramir was well loved and the news of the attack upon him had aroused feelings of horror even amongst those who only knew the Steward by reputation and had never actually set eyes upon him.

The previous evening, the trial had been discussed after dinner and Faramir had tried to persuade Aragorn to let him attend after all .The King had promised to consider his request but when Faramir had again woken up in severe pain that morning, it was obvious that it would be impossible for him to be there.

Eowyn however was determined to be present for as long as she could safely leave Elestelle and was sitting in the area of the Hall reserved for the Nobles, accompanied by her brother.

Aragorn was now ready to begin the proceedings. On either side of him stood noble Lords, well versed in the laws of Gondor, carrying scrolls detailing the charges as well as the penalties for the crimes committed against Faramir

A herald blew his trumpet to announce the trial was beginning and cried, "Let the prisoner be brought forth!"

When Mahrod, surrounded by guards, was led before the King, the people jeered and Aragorn's sharp hearing could make out comments such as "How dare they hurt our Lord Faramir?" "Whatever was King Elessar thinking of sending him to prison?"

Aragorn rose to his feet and addressed the assembly "People of Gondor, we are here today to see justice done upon one accused of conspiring against the life of Lord Faramir, Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien and is thereby charged with high treason!

"Let the first witness be called!" the herald cried, " Come forth Tarung of Lossarnach!"

A rather shamefaced young man came forward and bowed deeply to the King.

"Please tell all assembled what happened on the mid day of September!" Aragorn told him.

"You ordered Lord Faramir to be taken into your custody, Sire," the young man began.

A howl of outrage erupted from the crowd, which was quickly quelled by Aragorn raising his sceptre and rebuking them sternly.

Prompted by a nod from the King, Tarung continued, "I was a member of the Citadel Guard at that time and together with my colleague, Vorogond, we arrested Lord Faramir and escorted him to the City Prison as we did not realise then, that King Elessar wanted him confined within the Royal Apartments."

"Was Lord Faramir injured when you escorted him to prison?" Aragorn asked.

"He had what appeared to be a deep wound on his arm and some cuts to his side and chest. They were bleeding but did not appear very serious. I bound them as best I could and then we left Lord Faramir locked alone in a cell and returned to our duties." Tarung continued.

"Did you consider Lord Faramir's life to be in danger when you left him?" Aragorn asked.

"Indeed not, Sire!" the young man replied, "We were satisfied that he would fare well enough until a Healer saw him!"

"Thank you, you may go now!" Aragorn told the young man.

Tarung scuttled away, thankful that he too was not on trial. However, the King had decided that dismissal from their coveted posts in the Citadel Guard was sufficient punishment for himself and his colleague.

"Come forth Lamrung of the Citadel Guard!" the herald cried.

Lamrung, resplendent in his uniform came forward and bowed deeply to the King

"Please tell all assembled what you recall happening at the City Prison on the mid day of September!" Aragorn told him.

"The prison was very quiet that day, Sire," Lamrung began, "The Head Jailor was late that morning and Mahrod was in charge of the prisoners until he arrived. I do not recall Lord Faramir being brought in but soon afterwards Agond, a violent and drunken man was arrested .I recall seeing Mahrod put him in a cell which I later was told was already occupied by Lord Faramir."

"Were there no empty cells vacant?" Aragorn asked.

"There were plenty, Sire!" Lamrung replied.

"And was Agond's violent nature well known?" Aragorn questioned.

"Very well known, Sire. When he was drunk, which was often, he would attack people on the slightest pretext, kicking and beating them and eventually the Guards would arrest him whenever he was seen drunk on the streets before he could do any harm. He was a nice enough man when sober but vicious as an Orc once he'd been drinking!"

"When did you first encounter Lord Faramir in the prison?" Aragorn enquired.

"Mahrod sent for me, Sire, as I usually carried out the floggings, being the youngest and strongest there," Lamrung said gravely, not proud to recall what he used to do for a living. "I saw a man lying crumbled on the floor and to my surprise recognised him as Lord Faramir. Mahrod was bending over him when I came in, and seemed taken aback at my presence.I thought he would send me to summon help but instead,he ordered me to give Lord Faramir one hundred lashes!"

"And what did you do?" Aragorn prompted.

" I refused, Sire" Lamrung replied," I could see that Lord Faramir was covered in blood and obviously injured. Regulations prohibit flogging an injured man and in any case, the maximum allowed by law is twenty-five strokes of the whip. Also there was no official order signed by Your Majesty to authorise the punishment. Mahrod brushed my objections aside and told me he would flog Lord Faramir himself and enjoy doing it for he claimed he had ruined his life. He then threatened me with the whip and I went to get help, which was when I found you and Prince Imrahil, Your Majesty! I escorted you and His Highness to the room where the punishment was being carried out and saw Mahrod about to administer the thirty ninth stroke when you prevented him from doing so. He then spat at Your Majesty !"

"Thank you, Lamrung, you may go," Aragorn told him. He shut his eyes for a brief instant recalling the dreadful moment when he had discovered Faramir being virtually flayed alive.

Murmurs of outrage echoed around the Hall. Aragorn opened his eyes again and met the smirking gaze of Mahrod, who had sat listening to Lamrung's story licking his lips with obvious enjoyment until the witness had come to the part where Aragorn interrupted the flogging..

Eowyn whispered something in her brother's ear and rose to her feet. As she passed Mahrod on her way out, Aragorn could see she looked pale and drawn, yet she glared fiercely at the prisoner, who leered back at her unpleasantly. Eowyn stood her ground and Mahrod was the first to lower his gaze, leaving all present to wonder if she had glared in the same manner at the Witch King.

"I call upon the Warden of the Houses of Healing to come forth and bear witness!" the herald cried.

"Tell us what you observed when you examined Lord Faramir in my presence and that of Prince Imrahil on the mid day of September!" Aragorn ordered, feeling relieved that now neither Faramir nor Eowyn were present.

" I found the Lord Faramir prone on a bed in the King's private apartments," the Warden began, "He was lying on his side covered by a blanket. I removed it to examine him and was shocked by the extent of his injuries. He was bleeding from wounds in his arm, chest and side and from his severely lacerated back, which looked virtually flayed. He was also severely bruised from shoulder to thigh, my examination uncovered cracked, and broken ribs and very severe bruising, some of which was inside and most likely causing further bleeding. He was scarcely consciousness but obviously in a great deal of pain, for my examination was obviously agonising for him, though I conducted it with great care. His heartbeat was weak and rapid and I did not expect him to survive, neither did my assistant, Master Aedred, who examined him later.

"Which of the injuries did you deem the most likely to prove fatal, Master Warden?" Aragorn enquired, his eyes like flint. "And what in your opinion had could have caused such hurts?"

"The cuts were obviously caused by a sword or dagger and if properly tended, were unlikely to be life threatening though the rough treatment he had obviously received afterwards had aggravated them" the Warden explained, "The life threatening injuries were the bruises which could have caused much damage inside and crushed vital organs or caused the ribs to pierce the lungs. In addition, the flogging could easily have proved fatal from blood loss, infection and damage to the heart and kidneys. I have known a man die from as little as thirty-six lashes if his heart were not strong. I am amazed that Lord Faramir still lives though I doubt that he could ever fully recover from such an ordeal."

"Thank you, Master Warden, you may go." Aragorn's visage was exceptionally stern to mask the emotion he felt at the brutal treatment metered out to his gentle and sweet natured Steward." He glanced at Mahrod who had listened to the Warden's description with ill concealed pleasure.

Eomer, who had remained behind after his sister left was ashen faced and clutching his sword, his expression strongly suggesting that only supreme self discipline was preventing him from running Mahrod through on the spot.

The crowd now stunned to silence looked appalled at the Warden's description of Faramir's injuries.

"Let Captain Damrod come forth and bear witness!" the herald cried.

As Damrod passed the prisoner on his way to stand before the throne, he glared at him almost as fiercely as Eowyn had done. Mahrod's response was a rude gesture, which earned a stern rebuke from his guards.

"You knew the accused when you served together under Captain Faramir in Ithilien did you not? " Aragorn enquired of Damrod.

"I did, Sire and he was the only one of our company ever to be dismissed in disgrace, Sire!"Damrod replied, disgust in his voice evident even though almost four years had elapsed since the events had taken place. "We never liked the man much but he was a fierce fighter. Then one night about a week before the Fall of Osgiliath, I was awakened from sleep by loud screams and ran to investigate with Lord Faramir close at my heels. We discovered Mahrod in the act of committing rape. Lord Faramir ordered his immediate arrest and with two lieutenants tried him the next day. By rights he should have been taken to the City after committing such a grave crime, as Lord Faramir was loath to sentence him to death, though he could have done. As war was raging all around us, no escort could be spared to take a prisoner to Minas Tirith so Lord Faramir sentenced him to twenty-five lashes and instant dismissal from the army. Instead of being grateful for a punishment, we all considered very lenient, he took it very badly and vowed revenge on Lord Faramir in the hearing of us all!"

The crowd gasped at Damrod's revelation.

Aragorn thanked him and he returned to his seat, the last of the witnesses to be called. He could have summoned many others, such as the former Chief Warder, now languishing in his own prison for neglecting his duty, Damrod's surviving colleagues or Aedred to name but a few but he felt enough had been said to establish Mahrod's guilt.

He turned his stern gaze towards the prisoner saying, "Let the accused now speak!"

TBC

A/N

A very big thank you to all my kind reviewers. I am truly blessed to have such loyal and supportive readers.

I originally only devoted 600 words to the trial but felt it deserved more detail. I have tried to base it on the trial of Beregond as much as possible and avoid the modern conventions of lawyers, juries and cross-examinations.

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