These characters (with the exception of those of my own creation) are the property of the Tolkien Estate and New Line Cinema. This story has been written purely for pleasure and no profit has or will me made from it.

Warning –Like "Shadow and Thought" and" Burden of Guilt", this story will be very dark with angst, torture, violence and injuries, so please only read if you enjoy this genre and are not disturbed by it.

A/N I generally follow book universe but see the faces of the film actors as I write, although I picture Faramir and Boromir as having dark hair and grey eyes like Tolkien described.

This story is sequel to my other stories but especially "Burden of Guilt " also on this site. It is not essential to have read the previous stories, but they should be more enjoyable if read as a series, the latter chapters of both "Shadow and Thought" and "Burden of Guilt" being especially relevant.

The main characters are Aragorn and Faramir. Arwen,Eowyn and the babies will also take part together with brief appearances by other Tolkien characters and some of my own.

With grateful thanks to Raksha,Julia, Laerien for their unfailinghelp and support with this story. Also thank you to Anu Laire for beta-ing the early chapters.I am also grateful to all my friends at CJ and AA for their support.

The events take place a few weeks after "Burden of Guilt."

A Web of Treason

He would plunge the dagger through Aragorn's heart and then though, much as he desired to die too, endeavour to escape and return to Arwen and submit to whatever death she decreed for him, once he had ensured that Eowyn and Elestelle were safe in Rohan and Eldarion out of the clutches of these monsters.

He knew he should linger no longer, or his resolve would fail.

Yet, he could not deal the fatal blow without a farewell kiss of blessing to one he loved as father, brother, friend, mentor and lord.

Careful not to rouse Aragorn, Faramir knelt beside and murmured, "Farewell dear friend and noblest of Kings! I do this deed not out of hate but from the depths of the love that I bear you and hope beyond the circles of the world that you will know just how much I loved and admired you."

Choking back his tears of grief and horror at what he was about to do, he gently kissed the King's brow. He knew he would never see him again, not even beyond death, as surely he would be cursed to wander forever without rest like the oath breakers who betrayed Isildur.

Aragorn's brow was burning hot with fever. Faramir wavered, wondering if maybe the King was on the verge of dying swiftly and naturally from the Fever, before dismissing the thought .The blood and pus stained shirt he was wearing obviously hid many wounds, an infection from which was causing his fever, especially as his eyes and nose were not red and running, which was the main symptom of the infection ravaging Gondor. Wound fever was serious but victims often recovered and even if not, it took several days or longer to kill.

Grasping the dagger firmly and trying to stop his hand shaking, he prepared to strike.

"I am sorry!" he whispered, "so very sorry! Much rather would I pierce my own heart than yours!"

Chapter 23

A Web of Treason

January,a few weeks earlier

It was an exceptionally cold winter's night and the men milled round the door waiting for the inn to open and the chance to sip a warming mug of ale, while huddled around a blazing fire.

The door opened but instead of admitting his customers, the innkeeper came out on to the lane.

"Sorry lads, the inn's closed." he told the waiting throng.

"We'll have to go to the next one then." one of the men said grumpily, "On a night like this too!"

"You'll find all the inns closed by order of the King," the innkeeper informed them," You'd be better off going home."

"What? Why?" The wave of anger was almost palpable." He can't do that!"

"Yes, he can and he has done, "the innkeeper replied, "Because of the fever I was told. Some hare brained notion about it being more catching in crowded places!"

"What nonsense!" The speaker was obviously a casualty of the recent war as he had only one leg and walked with a crutch, "I've seen many lands while I was in the army and anyone could tell you that fevers are caused by the influence of the moon. Why, even a child knows that!"

"Things were never like this in the Steward's day!" his companion, a fat man with a red face, remarked. "He had his faults did Lord Denethor but he'd have never closed the taverns!

"Why doesn't his son do something then?" the man with the crutch demanded, "He's the Steward now, Lord Faramir, isn't he?"

"He dare not." The red-faced man said gloomily, "I've heard the King beats him and even had him put in prison!"

"I thought that was Lord Denethor?" the man with the crutch said, sounding puzzled.

"No, he was the one who tried to burn him alive!" the red-faced man replied impatiently, " He would never have sent him to prison, though! Not his own son!"

The others joined in, each eagerly voicing their own opinions on the matter.

"Now be off with you!" the innkeeper shouted above the rising murmur of voices. "I'll hear naught against his majesty. He is providing me with enough to live on while my tavern is closed and he cured my wife of the fever!"

Still muttering, the crowd slowly dispersed into the frosty night.

The mood in the Council Chamber was grim as Faramir, Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien read out a report, which reported no progress in controlling the spread of the fever. Mercifully, it was still confined to the city, and there were no reports of it having spread to the surrounding areas.

King Aragorn Elessar Telcontar rose to his feet and thanked his Steward. "I am hoping that new measures I have implemented will help to control the spread of the epidemic," he announced, "As from yesterday, I have ordered the closure of the taverns, indoor markets and all other crowded assemblies.

Fontos, Lord of Lossarnach, rose to his feet. "My Lord King, I fear that by so doing you will have a rebellion on your hands!"

"That is a lesser risk than half the populace stricken with fever," Aragorn said calmly. "I am recompensing all those who will have their livelihoods threatened as result."

"And what of us?" Lord Lamedon sprang to his feet, bristling with anger. "Many of the inns are owned by the nobility who rent them to the tavern keepers and who give us a share of their profits!"

"They might starve, my lord, though you most certainly would not!" Aragorn retorted as starvation looked to be the least likely cause of death for the portly noble.

"I must protest, Sire!" Lord Lebennin said angrily, "All the legislation you have passed favours the poor! We are now forced to allow them to glean in our fields and gather firewood from our forests while they shoot our rabbits to stuff their bellies with!"

"And the tax you have levied to pay for the City reconstruction is most unfair!" the Lord of Ringlo Vale added. " Lord Denethor would never have done such a thing!"

"You must be in dire straits indeed then, my lord!" commented the Prince of Dol Amroth wryly, "It is but a small percentage of your vast revenues!"

" I will not be a King who lets my people starve while the nobles grow fat off the land." Aragorn said coldly and then sat down again. To those who knew him, he looked drawn and weary. "It is an exceptionally hard winter this year and the poor are suffering because of it."

"It was said in olden times that if plague and famine fell upon the land it was because of some fault in the king!" Lord Lamedon announced.

Aragorn's eyes flashed dangerously, " I hope you do not mean what I think you do, my lord, or you come close to speaking treason!"

" I was merely recalling the old lore, Sire. I did not say there was any truth in it, " Lord Lamedon said smoothly, looking at the King then quickly lowering his eyes, unable to meet the flint like gaze.

"Is there any other business before the Council is dismissed?" Faramir asked.

"I have news of grave import to all." Lord Lamedon swept to his feet and paused for dramatic effect. "The Steward's heir has been found!"

"I was not aware that Lady Elestelle was lost." Faramir said dryly.

"I meant Lord Boromir's heir. " Lord Lamedon announced, "As he was the elder son, his heir takes precedence. The late Lord Boromir's widow, Lady Hanna and her daughter Lady Elbeth are under my protection. They came to me in dire need and asked for my help."

Aragorn and Faramir shot started glances at each other at this unexpected turn of events.

"My nephew had an heir?" the Prince of Dol Amroth exclaimed in wonder. "But why should she appeal to you for protection and not his majesty?"

"King Elessar does not have a good record with his Stewards. Or maybe you have forgotten that Lord Denethor committed suicide on the day his majesty arrived while his successor, Lord Faramir was unjustly beaten and imprisoned but a few months past? Our Lord King did not even punish the miscreants with the full weight of the law!" Lord Lossarnach remarked acidly.

"That is most unfair, I must protest!" the Prince of Dol Amroth interjected.

Aragorn glared and looked uncomfortablewhile Faramir was about to open his mouth to protest but Lord Lamedon continued before either of them regained their composure.

"I see that these tidings disturb you, my lords" Lord Lamedon continued, "I thought they might ,as she had a most tragic story to tell me of grave injustice done to her and her daughter. Most gravely, it concerned you, my Lord Elessar! Lady Hanna claims that you took her child from her and had her locked away in the lunatic asylum!"

A collective murmur of shock echoed round the Council Chamber.

" I had the lady confined there after she tried to kill me and my Steward." Aragorn said icily, "As for her child, she appeared to be illegitimate and my Steward and I found a good woman and her husband to care for her .We have paid for her upkeep until her mother escaped from the asylum and vanished with her."

"Why was she not tried for treason if she attacked you, sire?" Lord Lebennin enquired.

"Because the poor woman had obviously lost her wits and I had no desire to see her executed." Aragorn replied.

"Or maybe there was another reason?" Lord Lamedon handed a document to Aragorn with a flourish.

Aragorn studied it before silently handing it to Faramir. It was certificate of marriage.

"I beg to differ, sire." Lord Lamedon continued, "Lady Hanna appears as sane as you or I. You wanted her silenced, as it was well known that Lord Boromir had no wish for the return of a King from the North any more than Lord Denethor did."

"Mind your words, my lord, for I may not be as lenient with you, as I was with Hanna!" Aragorn was white with fury.

"His Majesty saved Elbeth's life. That is not the action of a man who considered her a threat. As for myself, I was mindful of protecting my late brother's reputation as I suspected Elbeth might be his child born outside wedlock. Hanna was a serving maid, hardly a suitable bride for the heir to the Stewardship as my poor brother then was." Faramir looked even more furious than the King, were that possible.

" My apologies, it not my desire to offend your most esteemed majesty. I spoke only out of my desire to protect this most unfortunate widow and her child, " Lord Lamedon said contritely." The marriage certificate proves that Lady Elbeth is Lord Boromir's legitimate heir.Lady Hanna told me that Lord Boromir was a frequent guest of Lord Duilin of Morthond and they met at his Hunting Lodge and fell in love. One night after the men had been drinking, overcome with desire, Lord Boromir wished to lie with her and consummate the union, but the lady much as she loved him ,was mindful of her virtue and refused him, saying she would lie with no man out of wedlock. Lord Boromir promptly said he would marry her and did so then and there in front of witnesses."

"I could not imagine my brother acting thus." Faramir said coldly, "Both witnesses, Forlong of Lossarnach and Duilin of Morthond are conveniently dead. Therefore, there is no way of proving this marriage. Both fell in the war you well know."

"As did many good men." Devorin, Lord of Ringlo Vale commented sadly.

"I have a suggestion," the Lord of Lebennin announced. "You have a son, King Elessar, Lord Boromir left a daughter. If they were to marry, the Houses of Hurin and Telcontar would be united and Lord Boromir's daughter would then receive the honour due to her."

TBC