The body Thorondor brought up from the depths of Thorn Sir did not resemble the Glorfindel they had known; it hung like a broken, blackened rag from the Eagle's claws as he set it down on the plain.
There was no time to dig a proper grave. There was no time for a funeral at all, for even though the Eagles had driven off the Orcs and the Balrog was dead, the company feared to linger too long in one place. But it did not seem right to leave Glorfindel's body as they had left those who froze to death on the path to Cirith Thoronath or fell during the ambush. So few had escaped Gondolin, and at great cost. Heroes there had been, yet memorials there were not.
A cairn was built over the body, at the very mouth of the pass where the Eagles might watch over it. Voronwë and Galdor, whose voices were the clearest and steadiest, sang a mournful dirge, then it was time to move on.
Tuor stood by the wayside with Dramborleg draped over his shoulder, herding the company along the southward road that would take them to Doriath and thence to the mouths of Sirion. As the column dwindled, he paused to look once more toward the cairn. A lone figure stood there, bent in grief over the tumbled stones. Tuor circled the column and climbed up to him.
"It is time to go," he said gruffly.
Dressed in the tatters of the house of the Golden Flower, the man wore the badge of a steward on his upper arm. He gave no sign that he heard Tuor, but continued to weep unabashedly, repeating over and again a name that sounded like Erunámo. In his hand he clutched a small object. Tuor drew close enough that he could take the steward's hand in his own and pry the fingers open.
A single gold bead shaped like a flower rested in the steward's palm. Laced through the hole, snagged by dried blood and a tiny imperfection in the gold, were several strands of golden hair.
Idril, noticing that her husband was not among the column, climbed up to see what delayed him. Still holding the steward's hand in his, Tuor showed her the bead and all that remained now of Glorfindel's golden hair; the corpse Thorondor bore up from Thorn Sir had had none.
"Speak gently now, my husband." She took the steward's hand and, moving in front of her husband, gently closed the steward's fingers around his prize. "You are a faithful servant, but it is time now to go," she murmured. "Come, the House of the Golden Flower has need of you."
The steward hesitated, then laid his head upon the lady's shoulder. "Erunámo," he sobbed into her mantle. "Pitya laurëalótënya."
He drifted, no longer aware of the numbing cold or his own lethargy. Once, he dimly remembered, he had wondered where he was, but no longer. This place simply was, and he was one with it.
Sometimes he felt the presence of others, though, like him, they had neither bodies nor voices. This he accepted, no longer wondering that it might be thought strange. Most of the time he was left to himself, save for those rare occasions when some hazy, uncertain presence approached him and asked his name and if they knew where to find this one or that. He did not answer, for though he had a vague memory of what a name was, he did not remember what his own had been, or if he had ever had one.
And then, a presence came to him that was not like the others. Dark it was, and forbidding, but it was not unkind and did not frighten him. Tendrils of gray mist wrapped around him and became a voice, calling him by many names: Erunámo and Laurëfindo and Glorfindel, and he remembered that all of these sounds had belonged to him at one time or another.
The voice asked if he was ready to leave this place, if he was healed of his hurts. But he did not remember any other place but this, or that any hurt had been done to him for which he required healing. Pain was a sensation of which he had heard (he did not know when or where) but did not recall what it felt like.
--Your sacrifice has not gone unheeded. There are those without who will have need of your courage in the dark days to come. You will be released, and your memory of this place will fade—said the voice. Ropes of mist coiled around him from every side, swathing him in darkness, and he saw and heard nothing more.
He was cold again, but the cold now felt different. It felt heavy and deep, and he shivered; it took him a moment to realize how strange it was that he could do so. He took in a deep breath, and the inrush of cool, clean air burned his lungs. Choking, he curled into himself until the coughing spasm subsided.
An archway of stone sheltered him; the rough-hewn pavement pressed against his flesh. He looked down and saw pale limbs trembling in the cold; it took his mind a moment to grasp he was naked, and another moment to feel shame.
Through the curtain of his hair he saw a pair of feet and the hem of a gray robe; the fabric rippled slightly as hands touched him. He flinched at the contact, at the new sensation of being touched. Something soft and heavy and warm spilled over him; when he put up his hand to feel what it was, he realized it was fabric, to cover his nakedness.
"You are cold," a voice said gently. An arm draped over his shoulders, urging him upright. "I will help you to stand."
Stand. His limbs flailed uselessly, unwilling to obey him; he let the other's strong arms pull him up and support him as he started to sag.
"In time you will learn to walk again, but for now I will guide you," said the voice. He lifted his head until he could see the face of the one holding him. A male's face, neither young nor old, neither Quendi nor of the race of Men, he returned Glorfindel's gaze with warm eyes.
Who are you? he thought. He wanted to say the words, to sound them in his throat, but though his lips moved he could not remember how to make speech. He shook his head in frustration, moaning and trying to force the animal sounds he made into something meaningful.
Still supporting him, the man touched his cheek, wiping away his tears, then put a finger to his lips to still his frustrated efforts. "Speech is something that will also return to you in time," he said.
Glorfindel held to him, trembling as the man guided him from the archway into the cool grass. After the dimness of the other place, the air was too bright and made his eyes water. Turning, he buried his face in the darkness of the other's robe.
"Ah, yes, you are not used to the light." A hand gently drew up a piece of fabric, a hood, to shield Glorfindel's eyes. "Mandos often forgets His charges have been too long away from the sun."
Mandos. The word struck a chill in him that he did not understand, something vague and forbidding that yet remained just out of reach. His throat constricted around the sound, trying to form it.
The man recognized his effort and answered it. "You have been released from the Halls of Awaiting, but do not dwell upon that place; your memories of it will soon fade. Mandos has granted you a new body, which you must learn to use. You will have need of it."
Bewilderment overtook Glorfindel with physical exhaustion. He slumped against his guide, suddenly too weak to stand. The arms that held him upright now eased him down onto the grass, supporting him so he could sit. More questions than he could fathom brimmed on his lips, mute for his inability to articulate them, and he gave a frustrated whimper.
Gentle fingers cupped his chin, lifting his face so he was compelled to look into the other's eyes, that belonged to neither Elf nor Man but were grave and compassionate. "You have many questions; in time I hope to answer all of them. For now, I will answer one and give you my name. I am called Olórin."
"Ol-ór--?" His lips started to shape the name, but speech failed him. He hung his head, leaning against the other for support.
"Come now with me," said the one called Olórin. "Let us leave the cold of Mandos behind, for there is much work that lies ahead." He touched Glorfindel's cheek and smiled. "For both of us."
If you missed it, Olórin is the Quenya name of Gandalf the Grey.