Gandalf's Tangled Web

by Elwen

They sat in companionable silence. Arwen bent over her embroidery frame, her nimble fingers threading the needle up and down through the black fabric, leaving a trail of silver in their wake. Gandalf stared thoughtfully at the tangled skein of multi-coloured silks in his lap whilst, at their feet, a tiny black kitten pounced and batted at a stray leaf.

The wizard began to tease at a bright yellow thread at the edge of the mass. It seemed to be largely unconnected with the rest but when he had worked at it for a few minutes he found that it dived into the centre of the labyrinth of strands and became lost. Voices drifted across the lawn and he looked up, his eyes taking a moment to adjust. Frodo and Sam were strolling along the edge of a flower bed, still bright with berried shrubs in late autumn. One arm about his master's waist, Sam was pointing out the different colours with his other hand. Frodo leaned in to his friend's support but his voice was light and clear and full of questions. They disappeared around a corner and Gandalf returned to the problem in his lap.

So many different types of thread. There were silks, in abundance, but also silver and gold, the gentle fuzz of wool and the soft matte of cotton. All were so different and yet, when combined they could make a thing of great beauty. They had to be put together in an ordered way, however. The result of careless action was sitting beneath his calloused fingers. His stomach grumbled in protest at not having eaten breakfast. In an hour he would be sharing lunch with the Lord of Imladris and the wizard knew that the main topic of conversation was to be the selecting of the members of the Fellowship. He looked down at a slight tug on his robe. The kitten had abandoned its leaf in favour of a loose thread on the hem of wizard's mantle. Gandalf smiled. One more loose end amongst the rest.

A long loop of royal blue silk presented itself to his fingers. Both ends were lost amongst the web of colours. He finally managed to unravel it from a group of silver threads, which fell free in a separate knot in his hands, but for one that seemed determined to twine around it and be drawn into the complex knot at the centre of his problem. Arwen's soft voice gently chided the tiny cat. "Kizzy. Don't play with that. Here." She tossed a small ball of grey wool to the tiny creature and it caught it mid-air, batting it towards the lawn and running after it, tail pointed skyward.

After half an hour of pulling, teasing and chasing ends Gandalf began to wonder why he had volunteered for the job. He had been wandering across the terrace when he had seen Arwen struggling with the knot and knew that he could not just leave her to her trouble. Was it a need to meddle in the affairs of others? He had been accused of that before but he did not think so. He had felt an overwhelming need to help. It was a part of his being, like breathing and eating. The noon bell brought him back from his reverie and his stomach growled.

Arwen looked up from her work. "My father will be waiting for you. You had better leave that problem." Her brows raised in surprise as she surveyed his work of the past hour. Nearly half the threads had been smoothed and skeined, with only the most tightly knotted ball left. "Thank you, Mithrandir. I would not have believed it possible to rescue so much from that chaos." He stood, setting the tangle on one side. "With your permission, I shall return after lunch to continue the work." Arwen smiled. "You are always welcome, you know that." The old man bent to kiss her forehead and then, taking up his staff, returned to the house.