Burden of Guilt

Many a Good Hanging

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.

Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616), British dramatist, poet. Feste, in Twelfth Night, act 1, sc. 5, l. 18 (1623).

Warning – This chapter contains material, which may distress some readers.

Dedicated to Stoneage Woman, whose interest in Mahrod's wife inspired this chapter and to everyone who wanted to read about the execution!

The next day, Aragorn rose before dawn and after dressing made his way to the place of execution.

A scaffold had been erected in the Public Square near to the prison and already the crowds were gathering, eager to see the one who attacked their popular Steward meet with his just desserts. Usually Minas Tirith was virtually deserted at dawn but it seemed that today a sizable proportion of its citizens were willing to forgo an extra hours sleep.

The time of the execution had been chosen, so that those who wanted to be present could attend without inadvertently distressing those who had no desire for such a gruesome spectacle.

Aragorn bore no insignia apart from Anduril and the Ring of Barahir and had he not been accompanied by his guards, who remained at a discreet distance, could easily remain unrecognised. He took no pleasure in seeing a man killed, however evil he might be, yet felt as King it was his duty to witness the law being upheld.

He sentenced far fewer to die than Denethor did, reserving the penalty for the very worse criminals of which Mahrod was undoubtedly an example.

Not only was the man a brutal rapist, who had beaten Faramir half to death, but also he had also deliberately put Agond in the same cell, an act comparable to setting a savage beast on an unarmed victim.

He was glad though, that Agond was not also facing the hangman's noose this day .He too in his own way was victim. Lamrung had told him that they arrested the drunkard to prevent him harming anyone for he had little control over his actions when inebriated. Mahrod had released him after his purpose was served and the man had been unaware of what he had done until he was arrested again two months later. It was better that his fate was now in the hands of the Valar and beyond temporal law.

He suddenly noticed a woman in the crowd, who was clutching the hand of a toddler and perturbed, went across to speak to her.

"Madam, this is no place to bring a child!" he said sternly," Please take her home at once!"

"I have nowhere to leave her and I needed to be certain that he really was gone forever!" She turned to face him and he was surprised to recognise Mahrod's wife, whom he had glimpsed briefly at the trial .He had not noticed then though how pale and thin she was.

The woman looked half starved, as did the little girl clutching her hand. Her voice was surprisingly cultured for one of her kind and the threadbare cloak she wore, looked as if it had once been of good quality.

" I assure you, madam, there is no way that he could escape," Aragorn assured her, guessing that she did not recognise him without his royal regalia. "Go home now with your child!"

"That is easy for you to say! You have not been trying to escape from him for almost three years!" she replied vehemently," I also assume that you have a home to go to, which I do not!"

She turned even paler and swayed as if she were about to faint.

Aragorn grabbed her arm, trying to assist her, "Come and sit down, you are not well!" he said gently.

With a supreme effort of will, she broke away from him. "Leave me alone!" she snapped, "I have had my fill of men after him and want no other to touch me!"

The guards sensing trouble moved forward but Aragorn waved them away, "You are obviously unwell, madam and I insist you sit down!" he said firmly, leading her towards a low wall, which enclosed the square.

Either the presence of the guards or something in his tone caused her to now recognise him. When she looked at him again there was an even greater fear in her eyes. "Please, Sire, let us be!" she begged, There is nothing wrong with me, it is just I have not eaten for a while."

Aragorn looked around. The prison gates were still closed, so obviously there were still a few minutes left before the execution. "Why not tell me about it?" he said gently, taking her hand and leading her towards the wall. The child had started to cry adding to her mother's distress.

Something about the King's touch obviously calmed her for she made no further attempt to resist .He settled himself beside her still holding her hand, noting it was icy cold and the fingers were covered in chilblains. Her pulse raced beneath his fingers.

"My name is Alis," she said, unable to resist the gentle yet compelling voice and the compassion in his eyes." I used to be a maid to Lady Lothiriel of Dol Amroth until I met Mahrod."

Aragorn's eyes widened slightly, though that did at least explain her cultured manner.

"He seemed a good catch at the time, a gallant young ranger, or so I thought until were married. Then the beatings started. I bear the scars to prove it, though he was careful it was never where anyone could see and there was worse too, things too shameful to speak of. Within months of the marriage, I wanted to return to my family but he swore to kill me if I left him .I know a wife should love her husband, but I dreaded him coming home on leave. Then when I was with child, he returned home one day in a dreadful rage and told me he had been dismissed from the army and flogged. I tended his wounds, but that night while he slept, I fled.My family were all killed in the war and I had nowhere to go,but I would ratherhave starved than remain with him !I have been running ever since and I…"Her voice trailed off and then she suddenlyslumped forward and would have fallen to the ground had Aragorn not caught her. The child's sobs rose to near hysterical pitch.

After ascertaining that she had merely swooned, Aragorn called a guard over to escort her to the Houses of Healing at the same time, worried how Alis would react when she came round.

The prison gates were opening, so he needed her and her child removed from the scene quickly .To his relief, he spotted a woman, he recognised as one of Arwen's dressmakers. He beckoned her over.

"I should like you to escort that lady and her child to The Houses of Healing," he said, " See she is placed in the care of old Ioreth and tell her that I will see she is found suitable employment." He vowed inwardly that Mahrod was not going to be allowed to destroy any more lives.

The woman looked surprised but did as she was bidden taking the child by the hand while the guard carried Alis up to the Sixth Level.

A sombre procession emerged from the prison gates led by a drummer beating a solemn rhythm, which echoed ominously throughout the square. The crowd immediately fell silent.

Mahrod, his hands bound behind his back, was led to the gallows, preceded by the Chief Warder and flanked by his assistants. Behind him walked the executioner, masked as custom dictated and a Healer required by law to attend.

The crowd parted to allow the procession through. Mahrod was still smirking and making obscene gestures until he reached the foot of the gallows.

"Mahrod son of Bergrod, you have been found guilty of high treason by conspiring against the life of Lord Faramir, Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien! Have you anything you wish to say before you pay for your crimes?"

"You can't hang me, you can't!" Mahrod protested indignantly, "I was only having a bit of fun with him! He deserved what he got and I'm glad I gave it him, though not nearly enough!"

The crowded jeered and booed wildly.

Aragorn nodded to the warders to proceed. It had maybe been too much to hope for some sign of contrition but that he should still boast of his evil acts was too much!

The executioner placed the rope around the struggling Mahrod's neck and as was the custom asked the prisoner's pardon.

"Are you joking? Never! Who do you think you are? I curse you Elessar, you and your good for nothing Steward, I curse you!"Mahrod shouted, followed by a string of spat out obscenities.

Aragorn drew Anduril and pointed the blade at the prisoner, the signal for the executioner to do his work.

Whether it was due to lack of skill or deliberation was unclear ,but Mahrod's death was far from swift as he withed and twisted his features turned blue and his eyes bulged in their sockets as he struggled for air.

The crowd cheered with delight at the spectacle.

Finally, it was over and the Healer came forward and pronounced that Mahrod was dead.

Feeling nauseated, Aragorn turned and walked away, the crowd's merriment still ringing in his ears. He was a seasoned warrior but killing in cold blood was something different and he found himself half wishing that Eomer had cut Mahrod down in righteous anger the day before. He did not envy the executioner his task, however necessary it was to rid Society of evildoers.

He had meant to immediately go and see if Faramir's treatment had worked. However, he felt he needed some time to compose himself and instead made a detour to the Houses of Healing. Faramir deserved his undivided attention today and he was still deciding how best to thoroughly examine him as painlessly as possible.It was doubtful too that he would be awake yet.

On entering the Houses, he asked a messenger to fetch Ioreth.

He had expected a long wait as Ioreth was no respecter of rank but to his surprise, she arrived quickly, bustling along in a state of high indignation.

"I hope, Lord Elfstone, you have not come to tell me that your wife or Lady Eowyn is unwell as I told your Lady Elfstone that she should not be sleeping with the window open, whatever Elves might like to do! And as for Lady Eowyn, she should not be eating venison so soon after giving birth as it heats the blood! And as for that woman you have just sent to me, it is a disgrace I have never seen the like!"

Taking his chance to get a word in, Aragorn hastily said, " I have indeed come to ask how Mistress Alis fares?"

"Very ill, Lord Elfstone, very ill though with food and rest she will recover but never in all the years I've lived have I seen a woman so ill used. There's scarce an inch on her body has is unscarred or a rib that hasn't been broken. The poor woman is half starved too, as is the child! Whatever murdering devil that could treat a woman like that should be hung! So sweet and gentle a lady too !"

"He has been this very morning, Dame Ioreth," Aragorn informed her.

For the first time he could remember in their acquaintance, Ioreth could think of nothing to say.

TBC

A big thank you to my readers for all your kind reviews. It a pleasure to hear from you all, and I am honoured by your continuing interest.

This chapter was meant to be about Faramir but Alis jumped into my head and demanded that her story be told !

Nowadays, we would deem Mahrod a psychopath.

Through history, ill treated women have run away from violent husbands. They might take shelter in a convent or in mediaeval Italy a malmaritate, a hospice for the unhappily married.

Eomer's oath was inspired by Wagner's opera Götterdämmerung.

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