|Reviews for The Song in the Darkness|
| cairistiona7 chapter 8 . 10/8/2009
Wow. I'm a bit speechless. What a tremendous battle... I love the parallels of history and the levels of the city, leading up to one man, Aragorn, at the top. That's imagery that I think I will always have in my mind now, as I read about Minas Tirith. This is a chapter of epic proportions, gripping and moving and triumphant at last! Now to see about getting Aragorn some help with all those wounds...
| cairistiona7 chapter 7 . 10/8/2009
Ah, thank goodness for Arwen and what comfort she was able to give him before the horrors began anew. *shivers* This one was another hard one to get through... but I'm pressing on, because I know hope is still alive...
| cairistiona7 chapter 6 . 10/8/2009
It seems odd to say "lovely" in regards to such a painful episode, but what's lovely about this is the power both of Aragorn's will and hope (love the Argonath visual giving him strength), and the power of music. It was music, after all, that created Arda, and so music would have a vast power, I would think, over evil and over pain itself. I love that he was calling for his father, and feeling the comfort of the memory of Rivendell-or perhaps even through osanwe-kente, actually communicating in thought with Elrond on some level and tapping into his strength and love much in the same way that Arwen "watched from afar". Whichever, it works wonderfully here.
And on another note regarding the torture-normally torture fics don't hold me, because the torture is gratuitous in the hands of most writers. But that you're weaving in such symbolism and revealing so much of Aragorn's nature and abilities and strengths makes this all work.
| cairistiona7 chapter 5 . 10/8/2009
Ah, bravo, Aragorn! "If by my life or my death I can save you..."
Where to start expressing my thoughts on this chapter? I guess I have to say that I like the almost Biblical language you've used. Aragorn's suffering here is so evocative, to me at least as it's my own faith, of Christ's suffering on the cross. Those themes are present in Tolkien, though it's not allegory, and any time I find a story that touches on those themes, it goes straight to my heart. That Aragorn is not willing to let anyone else suffer his fate... that's an amazing, selfless act beyond anything most people could do.
Really liked this. A lot. Can you tell? :)
| cairistiona7 chapter 4 . 10/8/2009
Another chapter that was very hard to read... but I loved these lines: "Anger rose in him then. His eyes opened and the look in them was like the clouds of an ancient storm when Middle Earth was young and the horns of Oromë echoed in its thunders."
What an excellent image of Aragorn's power!
| cairistiona7 chapter 3 . 10/8/2009
My word, poor Aragorn! You're right-it does seem I'll need a vast storehouse of "my poor Ranger"'s and "Oh my dear Aragorn!"'s! Hard to read him being so treated but at the same time... it would be the case, were he ever captured and brought to Barad Dur. I'm so glad he has a way to disassociate from it all... I'm almost afraid to keep reading, but I have to!
| cairistiona7 chapter 2 . 10/8/2009
Oh... poor Aragorn! This is so dark, and yet you have to have darkness to show how very strong even a faint light can be. This is definitely the kind of AU I enjoy... taking canon in a different direction in a "what if..." scenario, leaving the principle characters and setting intact. This story is off to a fine start (although Aragorn might argue otherwise!)
| cairistiona7 chapter 1 . 10/8/2009
Oh what a chilling start to this story! I can all but feel the coldness of the Nazgul's miasma and before that Aragorn's fatigue from his hard labors. The bit where he had to stop and shut his eyes, at the spot where Halbarad died, was sparsely told but powerful for all that it was bare of much detail. I'm looking foward to reading the rest of this!
| Canafinwe chapter 6 . 10/5/2009
And now (drumroll please!) ANOTHER overdue review!
I love that Aragorn retreats, not into unconciousness, but into a place deep within his mind where he can shelter from the pain. The changing of the colour of the light of hope is at once very poetic and profoundly eerie. He has no hope left for himself, but the Hope that he is still shines for Middle-earth.
For some reason the words "bleary eyes" make me so profoundly sad. How low Aragorn has been brought in his suffering: his eyes, always "keen and commanding", always kindled with a light that few could endure, are now bleary, clouded with pain. Still he manages a "calm and cold look", and the Mouth of Sauron is forced to look away, quailing as he does in the book. But here, of course, he is able to wreak revenge for the humiliation, and he slams Aragorn's jaw in frustration.
He has doubts now, too. "lacking the strength to support it... or was he saving it for later?" The Mouth is beginning to realize what a formidable opponent he is facing.
Aragorn is subsisting soley in the present: he banishes any hint of speculation as to the next torment. This is sound survival techinque, by the way: often it's the imagined horrors that inflict the most damage on the psyche, not the actual pains. "he had the last moments before it began". These words speak to desperation, the frantic clinging of a beleagured mind to the last moments of the pain it knows, before the unknown pain descends.
The image of the Argonath, timeless and unshakable, is beautifully used. It's such a perfect metaphore for "secrets kept, strength like a tower"
The anguished description of the stretching of his tormented body is very nicely (horrifically!) done. "as it shifted the broken ribs" was for some reason particuarly effective. The stark, almost clinical wording leaves so much to the imagination, and as you've probably noted my imagination is a very hyperactive one.
"It hurts... Oh, Valar, it hurts so much!" The dichotomy between the vivid words that you use in the narration and this simple, almost child-like cry of suffering is very powerful: Aragorn has been reduced to the most basic thoughts. He cannot embellish the pain, because it overwhelms his faculties. So only the stark, simple words remain. "It hurts so much."
Here's another very evocative sentence: "The world erupted in a fountain of pain". Again, the simple word best serves your purpose, punctuating the statement and allowing the image to dominate. I admire your style precisely because you are not afraid to take a Spartan approach and to let the strength of your writing carry you without explicite words. Well done!
He escapes at last, but of course the Mouth of Sauron cannot allow that. The choking smoke is a horrifying and haunting tool: I can almost smell it as I read. It would be interesting if this strange wood were Lebethron... that dark, ageless wood that composes the casket in which the Winged Crown of Gondor rests. Just for the sake of a little awful irony.
In any case, the thought of coughing against broken ribs sends a shiver of empathy into the pit of my stomach. And it is only the first discomfort, as the smoke drags him back into "the centre of pain".
He cries out for his father. Oh, he cries out for his father! Again the childish words: "Ada" this time. "oh, Ada, it hurts!". And after anther hugely effective description of suffering... "Ada! please..."
"and he was young again"... the wistfulness of this line is the most evocative part of the whole chapter. In it, Aragorn seems to wish away not only the anguish of the moment, but all the long years of suffering and hardship and bitter labour. In this simple phrase all of that falls away, if only for a moment, and he is free again. How many of us do not at one time or anohter experience a moment like this? Once more you've given us a profoundly human moment, where we can glimpse deep into the heart of the grim-faced Ranger who so stoically endures discomfort and deprivation and degredation, and reminds us that under it all he is just a man. A brave and valiant and unspeakably *good* man who happens to be trapped in the Alternate Universe from Angband at the moment.
Then the pain returns and he is no longer innocent or unsullied, but he brings with him the memory of that vision, and with the memory he finds new strength to endure. He is no longer little Estel, standing at his foster-father's knee, but he is still in the Hall of Fire, and the songs sustain him. This is a moment that could be straight out of Tolkien: Aragorn, the culmination of all the long years, the scion of all the great heroes of old, singing in his torment like Maedhros in Thangorodrim.
I shudder to think, however, just how long he hangs there. The Lay of Leithian alone is a good two or three hours long.
Here you have the Elessar... hmm... I'm so evil. I love your final sentence: "Many hours passed, but to him, they were ages, and the old legends of song unfolded in their own time, while he suffered in the dark cells of Barad-dur". He is at once profoundly alone, but at the same time he is a singer in the great Song of Arda: the Song that began when Eru first bade the Ainur to create their music, and the Song that will continue on for all eternity, even after the world ends and Ea is unmade. He is a part of the grand tapestry of the universe, a thread in the vast web of Tolkien's mythos, and in his singing he defies the darkness and endures in hope and fortitude despite impossible odds.
How strange to say, but what a satisfying chapter! Viva la Alternate Universe. ;-)
| Canafinwe chapter 5 . 9/28/2009
Ooh, you open with some powerful metaphores this time! "Pain circling his veins instead of blood. Pain filling his lungs instead of air." Pain has become elemental for him, an integral part of his world.
Alone in the darkness... his panicked response to the thought that he might be buried alive reminded me of the dread with which he faced Moria. Can it be that he has a fear of dark, enclosed spaces? Even if it is only a product of his traumatized and fevered mind, toying with him in the bowels of the Barad-dur, it's still a terrifying prospect.
That he longs for the return of the orcs wrings at my heart: he is so desperate for water, even a little water, and for the reassurance that there is a world beyond the darkness that he awaits the pain "eagerly". There's a metaphore here, too, I think... does anything exist beyond the Shadow of Mordor?
"Why?" The question that one always asks in moments of trial and suffering. Why this? Why me? Why? There is never an answer.
The repetiotion "... and in the darkness bind them..." feels almost like the heavy tread of a drum, or the beating of a heart. It is a pulse of despair and blacckness, and it binds these anguished paragraphs together into a cohesive whole. I can feel Aragorn's terror and the disorientation and the despair.
His mind tormenting him with visions of failure... very, VERY Aragorn. It seems like he spent half the Quest brooding on the ways he might bring disaster upon everyone. It would be no different here. It's perfect that Sam is the accusing voice: Sam, whose trust he laboured so hard to earn. Of all the apparitions to give voice to his failure, it would have to be Sam.
Ack! NO! He wasn't given that gift to use like this! Ooh, to have him tempted thus by his ability to offer up his spirit willingly, at a time of his choosing... horrific. BRILLIANT.
Mixing my Inklings again, but your descriptiion of "clean air... as fresh and sweet as the morning of the first snow", and the layers of the world, and the song, reminded me of "The Last Battle", when they all pass into Aslan's Country at last. Gorgeous.
And the next paragraph is the Song of Melkor, of course, awakening him once more to knowledge of the terrible price of failure. His repentance is exquisite. It's heartbreaking to see him begging for suffering, but it is precisely what Aragorn would do. He accepts his duty before his needs, and he returns to the pain, to the torture that still awaits him. He is prepared now to endure it. He harbours no illusions about his fate: "for him, suffering until death. Or until they broke him.'
He understands his destiny: he is Estel, the Hope of all the free world. Even when he has no hope left for himself, he holds out hope for them... beautifully expressed. I can see what you mean about the darkness and the light in this story. It's filled with pain and despair, but it isn't bleak. That's a stunning accomplishment, and it's perfectly in line with J.R.R. Tolkien's philosophy and world view: even in despair, there is Hope. Even when all seems overrun with Evil, there is Good. Even in the pits of Angband, there is Eru.
*shivers in awe* Wow.
| Canafinwe chapter 4 . 9/28/2009
The moment of disorientation was more painful than the description of the blow. I hate to think of Aragorn waking lost and alone in such a horrible place. "His heart sank"... ooh, you're hard on my heart-strings and the mounting suspense is going to cause a haemorrhagic stroke.
"Our Majesty is awake"? Oh, how dare he? How DARE he mock King Elessar! I love the almost sing-song statement: "There is a little piece of jewelry. A golden ring, very dear to my Master.' I can just here him cooing those words in a horrible, saccharine voice.
Okay, I know that when it comes to torture impliments, cross-contamination with another person's bodily fluids is really, REALLY low down on a captive's list of concerns, but I just want to say that even if Aragorn isn't phased by the fresh blood on the whip, I AM! And strangely, I'm curious who it might belong to. Orcs? Unfortunate human slaves? Some unlucky Ranger of Ithilien languishing in the dungeons below? I have more ideas, but they get progressively strnager from here. Anyway, Aragorn's progressive reactions to the sound of the whip work very well. A blink, because he can't really help it. Then he jerks, because he was expecting the lash to fall upon him that time. And then...
Nothing. Because the dread of pain is as powerful as any actual suffering, especially at this point where the posibilities are endless, stretching out before the prisoner's imagination. The taunt that maybe the Mouth won't even listen when Aragorn finally breaks (this story is just FULL of eternal optimists, isn't it?) was a nice touch: what a diabolical threat, that when one finally shatters and is willing to do as the torturer requests, that release will be denied. He's trying to rob Aragorn of all hope already. Poor fool doesn't know who he's dealing with.
Anger and defiance when he realizes that the Mouth is toying with him... true Aragorn. Lifting his head proudly even though he can't even keep his feet... that's our courageous Ranger. Even the stroke of the whip cannot drive the determination from his eyes. It takes *six* strokes just to elicit a gasp.
The description of the blows as "confusing" is very effective. "Eratic" or "irregular" would work just as well to describe the pattern of the strokes, but by using "confusing" you ensure that we are inside of Aragorn's muddled mind. We can feel his bewilderment and the slow loss of reason as the pain overcomes him.
Bleeding, but not screaming. This, of course, would only infuriate the Mouth of Sauron. "then you will beg, you would-be king!"... his anger and his disdain of Aragorn's claim to the throne of Gondor rings very true... for what is the Heir of Isildur but an upstart threatening the dominion of his master? Aragorn made that claim in the palantir, openly defying the Dark Lord and wresting the seeing-stone from his power... and then subsequently riding to open war against him, subourning Sauron's own ships! The audacity would infuriate the Lieutenant of the Tower, and you capture that so well with that one brief thought.
The thought of Frodo being subjected to the same treatment gives Aragorn the strength to renew his determination: here's Strider, pledging once more to protect his hobbit seems the vow he made in Bree is going to be sorely tested.
I love the use of "sore back". It's such a tiny detail, but by using that adjective you prompt the perfect "poor Aragorn!" response while at the same time reminding us that, as painful as this is, the injury is still superficial and there's a long, long way left to spiral down into horror. Not sure that I should be so pleased by the prospect, but there it is.
He seeks true unconciousness this time. I love the careful description of Aragorn's groping deep into his mind for that border that leads to oblivion. Triumph at last! I shared his thrill of victory... but it seems the Mouth of Sauron is intelligent enough to reason that people in pain often pass out, because of course he's ready.
The description of the second flogging is much more powerful than the first - as it should be, of course! The Mouth doesn't even hesitate this time, it seems, but strikes again and again. "The light in his eyes diminished, and they glazed over with pain." Oh, no! This is more distressing than the description of the flogging or the knowlege of the horrible, scarring damage that the cat is inflicting on his back.
The Mouth of Sauron very nearly went too far: Aragorn is in too much pain at first even to comprehend his question. When he does realize what his captor is saying, of course, he is enticed, for the barest of moments, by the wish to end his suffering. Yet he rejects the tantalizing posibility, and makes us all proud. I cringe to think how dearly he paid for that defiance, and how much more dearly he will pay in the coming chapters, our "pitiful bloodied figure hanging limp in the shackles", our poor valiant Ranger, our suffering King.
| Canafinwe chapter 3 . 9/27/2009
I just noticed your chapter titles: the battle of Finrod Felagund against Thu... ooh, this bodes not well, not well at all!
Nice touch with your opening similie: the tried-and-true "as if it could be the last one", when abruptly he realizes that it actually COULD be his last breath. He's eternally optimistic, isn't he? I don't harbour any such illusions: he's going to live for a long while yet. They haven't even started.
A Man in a mask! The Mouth of Sauron! Some people, it seems, are doomed to meet, whatever universe they inhabit. It's a very strong image: Aragorn curled at his feet, the Mouth looming over him. It's so different from the Morannon, where even Aragorn's gaze cowed the wretch. Valiant Elessar, in the clutches of a coward, and worse: a coward with power.
His anger ("How did you dare... how did you dare...") is in part loyalty, I think, but also perhaps jealousy. How long has he served the Eye, longing for such an offer as the one that Aragorn so impudently refused? He would have difficutly even understanding such a refusal, and to see one cast away in disdain a prize he has coveted would be infuriating.
Even through the pain, helpless on the floor, Aragorn musters defiance. I'm cheering him on, but I shouldn't be, for I know he'll only make matters worse for himself. It's a dangerous game that he's playing, meeting the Mouth's eyes (hmm. That sounds like a physiological impossibility...). He quailed before Aragorn's eyes in the book, but here he can gain immediate and painful retribution. Aragorn must endure; he has no choice but to endure, and yet I wish he wouldn't goad his captor.
You describe the pain so well... the sharp, terrible pain of the repeated blows to his broken ribs. It seems incredible taht he is able to move at all after such treatment, and yet there seems to be a flicker of self-approabation when he is unable to stand. Small wonder he can't stand! That he can even think of escape is a testament to his undaunted spirit: he is going to fight, to resist until the last.
Ah, I see. Here, again, you're doing AU the way that AU ought to be done (what on earth was I afraid of?). He's the same valiant Strider who said "If by life or death I can save you, I will." He's still going to draw the Eye away from Frodo, just as he did in the book. He's just going to do it here, in the Barad-dur itself, instead of on the slag hills before the Black Gate. I'm guessing he had it easy with his poor army of six thousand... at least compared to what he will suffer here.
You offer a very strong visual of Aragorn being hauled away and manacled by the orcs. The laughter is especially reprehensible. I feel a little like Lucy Pevensie (sorry: mixing my Inklings) as I cry out at my screen: the cowards! The COWARDS! Of course they can't resist beating him, especially not after he groans in pain.
I was a little puzzled by the description of his cloak being snatched away, and his tunic being torn by the blows of the orcs. I would have thought the first logical thing to do would be to strip him, and ensure he hasn't got the Ring on his person, since he's the prime suspect for Bearer. Or has the "strip and plunder" order that was in effect in Cirith Ungol been lifted? I thought perhaps Sauron could tell that he didn't have the Ring... but as he couldn't sense it two miles from his seat, I suppose he can't.
After they leave him, hanging in the shackles, it's only natural for Aragorn to seek some release. I love how you accomplished it: instead of merely having him pass out in suffering, he seeks within himself for that wellspring of hope, the soothing place deep within his heart, where he can shelter for a while and prepare himself for the brutality of the coming storm.
| Canafinwe chapter 2 . 9/26/2009
The first scene was very well written! You portray their grief and Gandalf's anxiety very nicely. I especially liked the twins' mournful exclamations. The last paragraph - Anduril illuminating Gandalf's tear - is a beautiful piece of imagery.
From that, we cut to Aragorn. Chilling descriptions of his perilous flight and his entry into Mordor. Interesting that the first horror that assails Aragorn is "failure", since that is precisely the demon that haunts him throughout the Quest. And the cost of failure is higehr than ever now!
The visions are absolutely chilling. I love how Sauron makes his offer, and then Aragorn's own heart overcomes it: here is the bold heart and the iron will that defied the Enemy in the palantir!
But of course defiance has its consequences. I shudder to think of his poor broken ribs... and the suffering that is doubtless to come.
| Canafinwe chapter 1 . 9/26/2009
*Deep breath* Oh, no.
What a time to be snatched. Of course he can't fight them off: he's been labouring for more than twenty-four hours (assuming he even slept on the black ship) without respite: the desperate race to the Pelennor, the battle, then the hours of healing. "Too long had he walked in the shadows, seeking the lost and returning them to the light. Now he had no strength left for himself".
This actually makes quite a lot of sense as a place of divergence: of course Sauron would come for him. After all, as far as Sauron knows, Aragorn has the Ring, and his wondrous eleventh-hour triumph on the Pelennor would only seem to bear it out.
Unfortunately for Aragorn, I think he was probably much better off with his desperate march on the Morannon. Next chapter!
| Ragnelle chapter 3 . 7/24/2009
This is the chapter where the torture beings in earnest. In one way it is very good: it is full of pain and most of the time you manage to convey that. But at once you do too much and too little.
I know that this is a torture-fic and so the main part will be the torture, but I think you start it off a little too strongly. If you use too strong words for the pain now, what will you then do in the chapters that follow? That is the problem in most of these stories and you have not quite avoided that trap. I think you would be able to create a much more powerful story if you built up the torture a bit more slowly.
I don’t think you have to change so much what they do, as the intensity and your description of it. I’ll go though the chapter from the top and comment, and perhaps in the course of the review I’ll be able to explain a bit better what I mean. I’ll maybe see it better myself that way ;-)
First paragraph: “precious air” doesn’t work very well for me. One thing is that I know that we need air, and you have used the same expression at the closing of the last chapter so it is too much of a repetition. Another thing is that in LotR the word “precious” has connotations that make it difficult to use innocently; “the Precious” of Gollum has influenced the word a little too much. That is, however, not that much of a problem. I think one reason I picked on this expression, is that is shows what you need to work on in this paragraph and in your descriptions generally: avoid the clichés or make them not feel like clichés. Also you need to vary your writing-mode so that everything is not the same. What I said about the different languages in the last review is to this point, but it is also that you would be able to write more vividly if you don’t use the same, simple mode of description all the time.
Here, in the first paragraph, I think the story would benefit if you changed the way you described the waking by making it more immediate. Perhaps use shorter and even fragmented sentences. Example:
“Air! He gulped, he coughed, he fought it into his lungs. Air! He could breathe! For one blessed moment all he knew was the air that filled his lungs again. He sucked on it, forcing it deep into his chests, and then lay panting, eyes screwed shut against the second thing he felt: pain. Quick, shallow breaths as he tried to feed air into his body past his broken ribs.
He opened his eyes. A dark shape was leaning over him. As his vision slowly returned Aragorn could see pale lips. Smiling. Cruel. A Man, no wraith, in a dark mask. Their eyes met.”
Again, just an example of one way it can be done differently. Only thing I would insist on, is calling the Mouth a Man, not human. Tolkien is consistent in talking about the race of Men when talking about human beings – he never use human. Man or Men with a capital letter shows us that we are dealing with humans and keeping to that you will be more consistent with the fandom.
The conversation and kicking:
Here you try to make the MoS as evil as possible, which he needs to be. But don’t quite make him menacing, only mean. The first is good for this type of story, the second is just typical. What I mean is that he is not evil enough; he just beats Aragorn as any bully could do if he has the advantage. That is too petty for the MoS. At the very least in his own eyes.
So: the first question and kick don’t work well with building up the image of the Mouth as a serious adversary to Aragorn. Is the question about joining them serious or just a way of mocking? It does not work either way, but how you rewrite will depend on how you meant it to be. If it is serious – in the sense that the MoS intends to make Aragorn join them – then you should rephrase it so it becomes more of a question and let the first kick come as a result of Aragorn’s reaction to it. That will make the MoS more calculating and make him appear more sinister.
This will also hold if he is just mocking. Make the MoS’s actions more rational and calculating; that is much scarier than random violence at this point. Leave the mindless cruelty to the orcs if you want it there.
I’d also advise that you leave out characterisations as “the coward”. Make his actions peak for him and let the readers make up their own mind. There is little chance that they will think him the hero anyway ;-) but if you just call him a coward without showing us that he is, we only have your word. Kicking a defenceless man is a dishonourable thing to do, but it does not follow from that that the man is a coward. If you make the MoS’s kick a fear-reaction from something Aragorn says or do (remember the book where he falls apart from Aragorn just looking at him?) then we will get the point without you resorting to name-calling. Remember that the MoS has no personal reason to hate or despite Aragorn; they have never meet. He has never been intimidated by Aragorn. If you want some of that interaction and relation between the characters – like in “You wouldn’t dare” – then you need to lay the foundation for that here in their first meeting, and you need to do it before you presume anything on the behalf of the characters’ reactions to each other.
A formatting tip: you don’t have to start every direct speech with a new paragraph; you can connect it to the narrative where it fits together. Example:
You wrote: “The man didn’t give him time to recover; he grasped his blood-stained shirt and jerked him upright, looking straight into his eyes, his lips a tight line.
“You know something that my Master wants to know. And you will speak. If not this way… then another!” he hissed.”
Try: “The man didn’t give him time to recover; he grasped his blood-stained shirt and jerked him upright, looking straight into his eyes, his lips a tight line. “You know something that my Master wants to know. And you will speak. If not this way… then another!” he hissed.”
The text will not appear so fragmented this way, and the two sentences belong together.
One other problem with the fist of these sentences: it is unclear. You use ‘he’ and ‘him’ so much that in the end it is hard to understand who you are talking about; whose lips is a tight line at this point?
Now to a point that is most obvious in the first part of the chapter, but to a certain extent valid for the whole. Where are we? You give us almost no indication of where we are, no description of the environment, nothing that can give us a clue of the physical place Aragorn is in, nor, really, much on the physical state he is in. this makes the narrative confusing in a bad way. We can’t get a picture of what is happening and I, at least, struggled a bit to make Aragorn’s actions (or, rather, lack of them) fit his character. If he is too exhausted and pain-worn to move now, how in Mordor do you keep him alive and conscious though the rest of the 14 chapters? Build it up a bit slower, or at least have us see him try, and fail, at doing something other than just lying there and get kicked.
He was tired when he was taken, and he was wounded. Remember also that his sword-hand should be hurt from stabbing the first Nazgul as well as the wound on his left shoulder and the broken ribs. Merry and Eowyn was hurt from stabbing the Witch-king – subjecting them to the Black Breath; should not Aragorn feel some of the same effects? All this does make it probable that he will not be able to put up much of a fight, but I don’t see him trying. Not at the start when he would be in better shape to make an attempt than towards the end when he has suffered more abuse.
As for the lack of description of the place; we don’t need a long, detailed description. The Mordoric taste in decoration is not the main point of interest here *g*, but try to give us some feeling for the place. Is it outside or are they under a roof? You do mention a stone-floor, but the placement of the description makes it disappear, perhaps if you included it in a longer description of Aragorn’s waking-up? Or gave us a sensory description of hitting his head on it? Make us feel the floor, not just mention it, or you could as well not have mentioned it at all as I could no remember. Or you could include some sensory details when you have him shivering in pain after the kicking. That moment when he is alone is a good place to give us a little breathing-place with some description. Aragorn seem to regain some lucidity at this pint as well, so it is a natural place for him to make some observations.
The description of the orcs that come to drag him away is fine – you can work on it more, but if you want to work on it, you should be more than capable with what I have talked of before. Only thing I’d wish a bit more of, is the evil atmosphere in the cell – you loose some of what you build up with the “echoes of pained screams and evil laugh” by rushing a bit, but that is all.
I am also not certain if slumping in the chains would relieve much of his pains. In his legs and toes maybe, but his arms and torso would be stretched painfully if he slumped and make breathing difficult (those crucified died of suffocation when they could not keep their bodies upright any longer), and our legs can easier take more strain from standing than our arms from hanging. I would find it more natural that he strove to stay upright until he couldn’t. If he has to stand on his toes, I can see him falling down there, i.e.: not slumping in the whole body but sinking down by not standing so high on his toes. But this is more how I would imagining it, and I have not the experience to say what is most probable ;-) Just look at it to see if I might have a point or not.
I really like the repetition of the italicised “they laughed” and think it would be even more effective if you should use it more thought the chapter – but too much might also kill the effect, so use your judgement there (as with everything).
In spite of all this; very good chapter.