Author's Note: Greetings all! Excuses for my prolonged absence? None. Real life, to be brutally honest, has been brutally busy and isn't going to let up anytime soon. However, I have managed to work on a few things in what spare time I can find, and this is one of them.
I've seen a few other stories in other fandoms that use the idea of word prompts, and it was easy enough for me to work on sporadically that I jumped aboard. I took an online random word generator and created 25 words for every member of the Fellowship. I then made single-sentence explanations (with semi-colons and dashes allowing for the odd cheat) as to how each of those 25 words might illustrate a part of that individual's journey. The goal was to span the entire time they appeared in the books.
With that, I leave you to enjoy the first of the nine:
Rains of gold flame, streams of sparkling blue, and flurries of swirling green dance across the sky as Gandalf leans against his staff, thoroughly satisfied; Bilbo catches his eye with a knowing grin, and when the fireworks coalesce into a shimmering dragon that sends every other hobbit diving for cover, he only murmurs, "Smaug was bigger."
The word "precious" hounds Gandalf for years after Bilbo leaves the Shire, and though Saruman counsels patience in all matters concerning Rings of Power, Gandalf will have no peace until he learns how and why one particular ring so affected both Bilbo and Gollum.
Knowing firsthand the possessive nature roused in those bearing Rings, Gandalf is humbled, shocked, and horrified when Frodo asks if he will take the One; it requires all his will—and most of Narya's strength—to refuse, and he cannot help but think that were he in Frodo's place, he would never make such an offer.
Other than sporadic appearances at White Council gatherings, Radagast the Brown has avoided populated areas for several centuries, so when Gandalf finds the other wizard searching for him just outside Bree, he is so startled that he almost wonders if Sauron has managed to overcome Gondor, Rohan, Erebor, Mirkwood, Lothlórien, and all other lands east of the Misty Mountains.
Signs of Saruman's betrayal can be seen in the extra guards atop Isengard's walls, the cold greeting, and the haughty demeanor, but all these Saruman possessed before his treachery—none of this is new but rather an extension of things already present; thus when Saruman speaks of joining Mordor, Gandalf listens in dawning horror as a trait they both share—a desire for control—twists itself beyond the pale into a thirst for dominion.
Saruman, Radagast, Alatar, Pallando, Gandalf—they were five when they began their stewardship upon Middle Earth, and given the perils they faced and the powers they bore, theirs was a brotherhood they did not think would ever be broken; now Gandalf stands atop Orthanc, Saruman's prisoner thanks to Radagast's summons, and wonders what happened to Alatar and Pallando while trying not to wonder about his own fate.
The image of Frodo's cloak on the porch at Crickhollow is enough for Gandalf to nearly roast Barliman's bald head on the spot when he and Shadowfax thunder into Bree, and only with great effort does he restrain himself long enough to receive the joyful news that Frodo met Aragorn the night before and departed with him that very morning.
All that remains of the Morgul knife from Weathertop is the hilt, but fell words murmured over the haft are able to summon a shadow of the former blade, complete and whole save for the notched tip; Elrond immediately hastens back to Frodo, but Glorfindel stays, a silent comfort as Gandalf sinks into a chair, shuddering at the knife's darkness and remembering all too well the presence of that same darkness throughout Orthanc.
Gandalf is intensely relieved when the Fellowship departs Imladris because it means no longer listening to subtle yet biting comments from Glorfindel and Erestor, neither of whom fully agree with sending out such a small—and in some cases, inexperienced—company and both of whom possess considerable talent in making their disagreements known.
Aragorn forcefully insists that any path over the mountains is preferable to the one under them, but Gandalf fails to appreciate the strength of his conviction until the Ranger openly opposes Moria before the entire Fellowship, not disputing Gandalf's leadership outright but certainly swaying votes against the mines until a pack of wargs concludes the debate for them.
The times are far too dark for instructions such as "Say 'friend' and enter," and glancing at Legolas and Gimli, Gandalf spares a moment to wonder what hope exists of seeing mellon inscribed on hearts the way it is still inscribed on ancient stone.
When Legolas confirms their silent shadow is indeed Gollum, Gandalf's heart sinks, for his many interviews with the creature warn him that if they do not act soon, they risk Gollum setting every orc in Moria against them in an effort to salvage the Ring.
Confounded by a crossroads he does not recognize, tailed by a footpad who would gut them all if given the chance, and pressured by both a Ranger and his own sense of foresight, Gandalf's composure is utterly shattered when Pippin drops a stone down a well and manages to do what Gandalf feared Gollum would do—alert the enemy to their presence.
They fall together, the enemy a constant blaze, and plunge into an icy lake far beneath Moria's mines—cold, cold, cold save for the flame of battle—but from beneath the earth, they ascend again, grappling and clawing and hewing; atop Celebdil, the Balrog receives new flame and new strength while Gandalf finds himself weakening, and still they fight a battle whose roots began when Arda was young, burning brighter and brighter until finally the flames are spent, the Balrog falls silent, and Gandalf the Gray looks his last upon the mists of the world.
He is Gandalf the White, reborn and returned, but as Gimli and Legolas press for details of his battle, a deep ache wraps itself about his heart, intensifying when Gimli asks after the Balrog by name and fading long after his story draws to a close.
When King Théoden sets forth to ride against Saruman, Gandalf reaches far and wide, willing his foresight to find meaning in all the pieces he has gathered—the heaviness of the air—a shadow in the Wizard's Vale—Théodred's fall—Saruman's alliance with Dunland—Erkenbrand's retreat—the waking Ents—too many changes, too much still veiled from sight, and Gandalf knows he must somehow cull order from the chaos.
Gandalf's staff split asunder when he broke the bridge beneath the Balrog, and he remembers well the devastating sense of loss that assaulted him at that time; he cannot find it in himself to pity Saruman, though, when he exercises the will of the Valar and shatters the other wizard's staff, for no recompense can fully atone for the terrible cost of Saruman's betrayal.
He has seen Pippin's curiosity at work before and that alone should be warning enough, but there is simply too much happening for Gandalf to discern the significance of Pippin's sidelong looks or the fact that the young Took had his hands on the palantír first, longest, and deepest.
Gandalf bows as he returns the Seeing Stone to its rightful owner, for he knows well that Aragorn is perhaps the only one who can wander the palantír's corrupted paths without losing his way.
Filled with dread and thinking of the sunless dawn, Gandalf demands to know when Frodo and Sam parted company with Faramir in Ithilien; Faramir's answer alleviates some of his fear, but Gandalf cannot help feeling the danger has grown even greater, especially when he catches a glimmer of desire in Denethor's cunning eyes.
Gandalf thinks Faramir's fall might rally something in Denethor, but true to form, Denethor refuses to be fathomable, skipping over fear and faith in favor of grief and despair; with the Steward now mourning two sons—one gone but the other still breathing—Gandalf reluctantly orders the defenses of Minas Tirith, knowing he cannot grant victory but hoping he can hold the line until the King arrives.
By the time Ioreth stops prattling on about how kingsfoil grows in the Lossarnach woods above her sisters' home, Gandalf reverses his opinion on the "wise woman of Gondor" and decides he much prefers old wives to midwives.
Gandalf looks into the faces of those who gather to debate their next and last stratagem—Aragorn, Éomer, Imrahil, Elladan, Elrohir—and asks them for everything they have to give, reserving no strength unto themselves, for there will be no escape if Frodo fails and possibly no escape even if Frodo succeeds.
So light are the hobbits they carry that Landroval and Meneldor keep looking to their talons as though fearful they have dropped them, and astride Gwaihir as the eagles soar upward on Orodruin's thermals, Gandalf holds fast to the fading hope that Aragorn will be able to call Frodo and Sam back from the threshold of death.
There is a large, smooth stone half a league from Tom Bombadil's house, and after seeing the hobbits safely as far as Bree, Gandalf spends most of the day seated upon that stone, doing and thinking absolutely nothing for the first time in millennia.