The first time they met - well, the first time they truly met - he was kneeling, slumped over Winter frozen solid, looking up at a figure with its hands on its knees - and the only thing that rose to his fevered mind was Fucking Noldo.
Honestly, he was quite sure that the man in front of him was as Noldorin as they got; dark hair, pale skin, grey eyes, and that damned bright glance. But there was a certain finesse about him, his braids a bit too black, his features a bit too carved, and behind his eyes a glint of steel, that Glorfindel revised his judgement.
Fucking conspicuous Noldo.
Indeed, he could as well have been looking at one of Nerdanel's famed sculptures for all that the man hit the mark, much too closely for his comfort, on the traditional concept of Noldorin beauty. Even the faint light the man gave forth he could attribute to the stars above. But then the Noldo spoke, and oddly enough, his accent was distinctly Telerin.
"Do you need help?"
He spoke crisply in that military tone all the still-able-to-help men appeared to have adopted, and when Glorfindel thought to look for it, he easily found Fingolfin's sigil on the clasp at his throat. (That would later grow to signify low-ranking officer, but of course there were no ranks and officers then.)
"I'm cold," Glorfindel replied as politely as he could manage. "But aren't we all?"
The Noldo didn't raise an eyebrow, as Glorfindel might have expected from some of Turgon's friends, but rather smiled. A certain lordly air vanished, and Glorfindel could now see that his nose was red. As his cheeks were. His lips were chapped like bread crumbs, and were those actual icicles in his hair? - but the Noldo shook his head sadly and held out a gloved hand.
"I'm afraid I cannot do much about the cold, but let me help you move, nonetheless," he said.
"I think you'd better go ahead alone. I'll be fine in a moment," Glorfindel mumbled, and added belatedly. "Appreciate the offer, though."
"I'm afraid I can't do that, either. I was ordered to sweep for stragglers, and you see, you're straggling. Stay here any longer and you'll be... picked up by another of us, I suppose. Even so, it'd be better to save them trouble by taking you while you're still talking."
And with that, the Noldo easily pushed him up to his feet, as if he'd done it a thousand times by then. Standing, Glorfindel was half a hand taller and somewhat broader, but the Noldo was surprisingly strong. And Glorfindel could see (or rather, could not see, thanks to the frosted winds) Turgon's banners a good distance away. He admitted he could do with some help.
After an hour or three of trudging on the ice, the Noldo had managed to gather quite a group around him, about a dozen, and they'd successfully attached themselves to the main host. The Noldo walked with them for a while more, but stopped to bid them farewell, saying he should loop back again. A younger man asked for his name.
"Ehtele," he said, although that was no name. Not for one his age and born in Valinor, when all things had already been named, and so Glorfindel reckoned it an epesse. Fountain. He somehow found it apt. He asked before thinking:
"Will I see you again?"
That bright glance bent on him, and a smile danced in it once more.
"And what name do you bear, friend?"
"Laurefindil. I march with Turgon," he answered, and remembering, pulled his hood back. His hair tumbled out wildly. The Noldo looked mildly interested, though it was hard to read his expression.
"Lady Elenwe's kinsman, aren't you?" he asked. "I should take more care, it seems, in picking up strangers under this dark! 'Tis a joy to meet you, my lord. May you reach your folk soon, and stay among them this time."
And before he left, the Noldo passed around his waterskin once, telling them each to drink only in sips. It was no cordial, and Glorfindel decided after a cautious sniff that it really was just water, but it tasted cleaner than any he'd had chance to drink since setting foot upon the Grinding Ice. And strangely refreshing. Afterwards the Noldo bowed and took leave of them, bounding back the way they'd come. Glorfindel watched him for a minute, and then hurried up the column to his kin with a newfound strength.
He realized after some time that his fever was gone.
"Oh, Lauro, we worried!" Idril exclaimed, although by then it was rare that anyone died without warning. They had had enough experience. Now most of the casualties were due to fatigue, and that always took its time.
Still, he knew that Turgon's reports were often filled with other causes, and, well. Trust Idril, if no one else, to notice him running a fever. As soon as he sat down inside the tent, Idril pressed the heel of her hand to his brow and grinned in relief.
"So is it that you'd finally gone to see a healer?"
"No, though I suspect a healer did see me," he said, and laughed to see Idril's eyes sparkle at this riddle. Beside him Elenwe chuckled softly. The tent was one of the larger ones, as Elenwe and her husband were among the few to have brought children on the march, and while they did not risk a fire, it was still pleasant to be cut off from the winds.
"So who was this healer?" Idril asked, nestling close to his elbow. "Someone I know?"
"Well, it wasn't anyone I knew, but your father might, and so might you."
Turgon looked up at that, and quirked a brow.
"Let me think," he said. "Exceedingly beautiful, sweet voice, charms water, names himself Fountain? Yes, I might know him."
"Voice?" Glorfindel asked.
"You met Ehtele?" Idril demanded.
Turgon sighed. "He was with Father when I went to see him. Said he was about to leave, but wanted a quick word with me. I had not expected it to be about the stupidity of my kinsman."
"Stupidity?" Glorfindel asked again, louder.
"He does have a good voice," Idril mused, "although it's nothing like cousin... I mean, Kanafinwe's, and I guess you'd heard better in Valmar."
"Wait, but he called me stupid?" Glorfindel half-growled, and Turgon rolled his eyes.
"No, of course not. It's amazing someone that upright can even move his limbs, but for the record, all he said was that he'd met you at the back of the host. How did you even fall back so far?"
"Three days of slow walking?" Glorfindel guessed.
Turgon said nothing to that, presumably because he'd concluded that the cup in his hands was much less annoying. Glorfindel barged on.
"So you know him?"
"I'm surprised you don't. You did spend an unhealthy amount of time in Valmar, and he in Alqualonde, and yes, I suppose you never came to court if you could help it. He's not really a healer, though he's as good as any... Laurefindil, he's in my father's council."
"Oh," Glorfindel cocked his head. "He didn't look that old, though."
"Young he may be, among his peers, but his counsels are sound, his talents many, and his mother was high in Olwe's court. Don't ask about his father, though, he's like to be sensitive," Turgon sighed. "He's at least older than me, and risks his life beyond what duty would have of him. That's what Father sees in him. But why this interest?"
"He called me friend," Glorfindel grinned. "And I'd not make a liar of him."
Turgon winced, but Idril interrupted before he could speak.
"And he calls his real friends 'brother'," she said, "so good luck with that."
But already the world was a different place when he met the Noldo again, for Elenwe was dead.
He had not expected the aftermath to be so calm, so methodical. Of course Elenwe was not the first to die in those cold, cold waters, and Turgon - and Idril - was hardly the first to survive such an incident. Glorfindel himself had participated, a few times, in aiding the bereaved, and occasionally it had been one of his own to fall below the Ice, and yet. And yet. Elenwe.
As soon as Turgon had dragged himself and his daughter to safety, the healers had whisked them off to Fingolfin's tent, and all Glorfindel received were curt reassurances that they'd be fine. Fine! As if they had not lost wife and mother. As if he had not lost the closest thing to a sister he'd had this side of the Pelori.
He paced, just a few steps away from the opening of the tent, while the healers bustled in and out with heaps of towels in their arms. Somewhere in the tent he could sense Fingolfin's presence, as well as those of Aredhel and Finrod; Fingon, and the rest of Finarfin's children had split their duties between themselves. Glorfindel could have gone inside, he knew, but what would he have done then?
"I heard you were terrorising the healers, my friend," a voice said, that he could now recognize as actually 'sweet'. "I thought I might give them some peace of mind, and you some company."
"I need none," he said, his own voice harsh to his ears.
Ehtele said nothing in response. Glorfindel drew ragged breaths. He could barely see the stars - perhaps another storm was coming. Ehtele began to hum softly, a haunting, lilting tune that was oddly familiar. It was something he'd heard.
"What is that?"
His words fell clipped, but Ehtele did not seem to mind.
"A song. It's for the flute, really, and has a number for its title..." Then he lifted his eyes to meet Glorfindel's. "Something from Tirion."
"And Eru knows why we're here, instead of all that luxury," said Glorfindel, though he knew full well why. Ehtele hummed again, and then, despite what he'd said, put words to the song. No, not words. An imitation of them, an image.
Softly he sang, and Glorfindel listened, as the white walls and dark trees of Tirion rose around them, and golden fruits sprung, and Mindon Eldalieva shone bright, as the music of harps rang clear down the streets. He closed his eyes. Ehtele sang and wove about them a light, the Light, flowing through Kalakilya and alighting on the shores of Eldamar, the long black waves speckled golden, the jewels strewn among white sands, and then he brought the full power of his voice to a whisper and recalled the Trees themselves.
It was undeniably beautiful.
And while he wept, Ehtele put his arms around him and slowed the song, lips moving almost soundlessly, warm breath against his ear, and he could hear the Noldo's heartbeats so clearly. The tears dried and froze on his cheeks. Ehtele smelled like rain. The sky was a muddy black. There were stars in that gentle voice. He was crying.
After a while Finrod came out from the tent, and frowned.
"Ehtele, I had not known he was dear to you," he said, his manner chiding.
"He needed it," Ehtele murmured, like he was speaking of someone far away, but his hands were rubbing small circles in his back. Glorfindel heard Finrod sigh.
"Take care, Ehtele. And you too, Laurefindil. I believe Turukano will wake soon."
It would only be much later that he'd manage to think it odd, the way Ecthelion seemed to have no scruple at all with embracing a grieving almost-stranger, and could call forth tears with such ease, and only much, much later that he'd begin to fear it.
But just then, he thought nothing of it, and was simply glad when Ecthelion quietly took up a place by Turgon's side. When the Moon rose and flowers sprang beneath Fingolfin's banners he was beside them. It was only natural.