1. Tides of Time
A lone figure walked the empty streets of a city once bursting with life. Now fallen in ruin, its walls offered shelter to the creatures of the forest. Feral eyes watched his every move from the shadows and the careless chirping of the birds ceased as he walked by. Still, the traveler continued his path uphill and the memory of his grey cloak did not linger long in the minds of the birds and the beasts; soon after his passing they resumed their daily struggle for survival.
Under the hood of a light cloak – once white, but now grey from the dust of the road – the traveler grieved for the ruined city. In his eyes, every corner, every doorway, and every turn of the street held memories of life, death, and honor. Every broken beam and fallen boulder whispered the names of those who once walked there and lived and loved and died. People he knew, people he had shared a drink or a puff of pipeweed with, people he had loved, all now reduced to ash and dust. These walls would soon follow and nothing would remain to remind of the White City where the black tides of Mordor were stopped.
Where the Dark Lord had failed, omnipotent Time succeeded. But such is the way of the world.
Still, inside the House of Kings on Rath Dínen, the Silent Street, something of the old glory had not yet perished. Amidst the dried bones and the dust and the lament of the wind, the body of a King lay untouched by time, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men. Upon his chest rested Anduril, the sword that had led the battle against darkness, the blade that restored the faith of the living and the honor of the dead. It almost felt a sacrilege when his hands touched the sword and carefully uncurled the dead grip from the hilt. The cry of a wolf echoed in the distance as he wrapped Anduril in white linen, lamenting the end of a world.
Clutching the blade close to his chest, the cloaked figure took the path to the sea where a white sail awaited his return.
When the wheels of Fate would weave another cycle, the sword would return from the West.
A sword sheathed in stone and a land in turmoil.
The words written upon it spread like fire over the land, waking long forgotten hopes and dreams in the hearts of the people. He who plucks it out of the stone, they said, would be the rightful king. Many souls had gathered in these woods that day, nobles and knights and peasants, to try their luck.
The wizard stood in silence at the back, stroking his white beard. They had hardly noticed his presence; all eyes were turned to those struggling over the sword, testing their strength against Fate. He had heard the tales already woven around the blade; most of them speaking of the Lady of the Lake and the veiled island at the west of the world. Avalon, Valinor, little had the name changed. A sad smile dawned on his ageless face as his eyes followed the dancing sunlight on the tall trees around him. Ah, Galadriel, he though, the mellyrn have long perished, but the birch and oak still remember your name, and their leaves whisper it to the night breeze, so the mortals might one day know it. The Lady of Light became the Lady of the Lake in their minds, but names and titles matter little in the Tides of Time.
In the clearing before him, despair had replaced faith in the hearts of the crowd. No man had unsheathed the sword from its stone scabbard, no king had come forth. Hope was almost lost.
The Tides of Time turned, giving birth to another cycle.
A boy walked to the stone, ignoring the mocking laughter and the insults of the crowd. They laughed at his ragged clothes and his humble origin, unaware of the noble blood that ran in his veins. This blood drove his path to the stone and his fingers around the hilt in a moment that seemed to linger on. Then there was no lightning or thunder, no heavenly trumpets and angels singing hymns; only silence and a land in awe.
The crownless again shall be king.
The boy had pulled the sword out of the stone.
The King had returned.
Too many sources were used to mention them in detail here. Among them were the Appendices of LotR, regarding Aragorn's death, and the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth who likens Avalon to the Fortunate Isles of classical myth but over western waters.
There is no mention in canon that Gandalf ever returned from the West. However, I assumed that as a Maia, he would have fewer limitations if he ever chose to travel back to Middle earth. It is still probably AU.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.