Day of the Diamonds
The eve of the Fifth Triumvirate Era,
Shortly before the Ceremony of the Sword,
Reflection Room number twenty four.
I have been waiting for this day for the last three thousand-four hundred years. Since I started to walk my chosen path, every step I have taken, every regeneration I have been through, every crack my gem has had to bear; it has all been preparation… for this, the Ceremony of the Sword.
There are a rare few on the planet possess both the ability and the desire to be in the position that I am in: we are the triumviriti, and every one of us will die today; it is inevitable. We fully accept what awaits us… for without death, there can be no rebirth, and the chance to be reborn as a perfect Diamond, the epitome of our House… is a chance we would take a thousand times over.
But there can only be one: one Gem in each Shard who stands apart from the others; one who proves beyond any doubt that she is the most worthy of a place in the Triumvirate, and so should be permitted to reify her designs.
For the Yellow Shard, I shall be that Gem.
For as long as I can remember, my Shard has fulfilled its role wisely and skilfully; Homeworld’s battles have been carefully sought and decisively won, and our eternal home has remained safe.
And yet, when I consider how rich our history was: the magnitude of our conquests, the daring and inventiveness of our tactics, the fear we could inspire even among the other diamonds; the shard that emerged from the inclusion era — and those that followed — seems merely satisfactory, adequate… mediocre.
We had something stolen from us in the Third Inorganic War, something more than just the lives of noble Gems. Our ardour has been severely dampened, and we have gained a paralyzing fear of the same awesome belligerence that once defined us. It is as though the fire that burns within our gems — the same fire that gives them their essential yellow colour — has been extinguished, and without the torch to guide it our entire race has lost its way in the universe.
We could be more.
We deserve more!
We shall be more…
They say that I’m just like her: the last Yellow Diamond before the Triumvirate eras; even down to the emerald cut of my gem. They say I share her merciless spirit, her calm demeanour, and the same undying belief in the expansion of Gemkind that she had. ‘The Devourer of Worlds’ will be a difficult name to live up to, but to be likened to her shows that I am moving in the right direction, and I am more than prepared to honour such a great Gem through my actions. I shall restore my Shard to its former glory, and from there, I shall make the presence of our kind felt across the stars…
But am I afraid of what might happen today?
Not at all.
I wasn’t ready for this at the third Refacetting, so I chose to wait: a diamond will only fight in the Ceremony of the Sword once, so to rise to the challenge with anything less than complete belief in your victory is foolish.
But this is about more than my personal gain… my victory will truly represent a victory for every person on Homeworld. I have grand plans for us, and it is only by succeeding today that I can be certain they will be carried out.
How can I know fear, or fail when the world needs me?
The answer is simple,
Pavilion’s eyes flicked open when she heard the chime of the gate. The tessellated triangular seal of the Authority flashed onto the wide door, which then rushed upwards with a quiet hiss. In the mirror in front of her she could see a dark purple Gem standing at the opening: her head was bowed, and some of her copious black hair rested in front of her shoulders, threaded through two long, golden cylinders. She held a sparkling black and yellow object in her hands.
“Yellow Shard aspirant number twenty four, the Triumvirate are ready to receive you now.” the Gem said clearly.
She slowly rose from her cross-legged position on the floor and inhaled deeply. After stretching her arms out wide and exhaling, she turned around and strode the short distance across the mirrored cube. Standing in front of the still bowing Gem she said:
“And I am ready to be received.”
“Once we enter the arena do not take off your mask or speak to any of the other triumviriti. Do not summon your weapon until instructed to do so, and face the front for the duration of the preliminary speech.” said the Gem formally, at last raising her head. “Good luck.” she added quietly.
“Okay. And thank you.”
The Gem raised her hands and presented Pavilion with a mask to match her ornate bodysuit: full face, left half black, right half yellow; the black half was decorated with small yellow diamonds in lines and curves, the yellow half was covered in triangles of a slightly darker shade of yellow. She placed the mask over her face and it secured itself with a series of mechanical plinks.
The bodysuit was the strangest thing she’d ever worn, arising from the fact that it wasn’t part of her. Obviously she must’ve worn fabrics before she was taught how to regenerate, but she couldn’t remember that far back, and nothing that newly inducted Gems ever wore was this exquisitely crafted. It would impair her ability to shapeshift, but that wouldn’t be a problem today, and she did like the way it felt against her skin. She could get used to ceremonial attire…
“Please, follow me now.” said her handler. She spun round and walked quickly out of the room.
It didn’t take Pavilion much effort to keep up with her; though she was a very average height for a diamond, she was tall for a Gem. ‘Maybe that’s why she’s walking so fast.’ she mused. They passed through a maze of dimly lit corridors and gates, their steps echoing on the light-brown stone of the passageways under the stadium. After a while she saw that their route widened into a circular chamber with an archway disappearing off to the left. Entering the chamber she discovered that they had come out of one of the three exits on that side of the room, all facing the larger archway that they then headed into.
There were people in the main tunnel: a single, alternating line of purple and yellow Gems. When her chaperone had reached the yellow Gem at the back of the line they stopped, waiting in silence. Very faintly, Pavilion could hear the sound of someone speaking — from the occasion, and the soothing nature of the voice she deduced that Blue Diamond was giving a speech.
Footsteps from behind made her turn to see who was coming. A tall black Gem in a white dress walked briskly towards her, leading an even taller white Gem into the line. The white diamond also wore a mask: a smooth, matte white oval, vertically separated by a ridge of white diamonds; Pavilion couldn’t see the bottom part of her, but she caught glimpses of a lacy white shirt with no sleeves and an uncomfortable looking collar.
‘What a cute little diamond.’ Corona said to herself with a chuckle. It wasn’t often she got to stare down another Gem at eye level, but the slope of the tunnel that her guide had just led her into made it possible. The yellow diamond in front had turned around as they were approaching, and even now was scrutinising her (obviously she wouldn’t be looking at some random jet when there was a white diamond just behind).
Yellow diamonds amused her beyond words: they were diamonds, but they didn’t act like it, swaggering around like combat and xenocide weren’t endeavours that any variety could pursue. They were thugs... thugs of her variety, but thugs all the same.
And they were so easy to irritate! That was the part she enjoyed most; take this one in front: all she’d have to do was give her a little taunt and she was sure to try and start a fight.
Corona couldn’t resist, and if things got too heated… she knew just how to deal with it…
As Pavilion looked on, the diamond raised a hand and slowly twirled her finger in a small circle, motioning for her to face the front. She glared at the condescending Gem from behind her mask for a few moments longer, before turning back in the correct direction.
She went back to trying to hear what Blue Diamond was saying, but the walls around them were too thick. What she did catch, was brief silence when the speech ended and the applause began. The sound almost seemed to be forcing its way into the tunnel, like hearing strong wind from inside a building. She could only wonder what it would be like in the arena…
She didn’t have long to wonder, because eventually the crowd’s noise died down: somebody said a few short words, there was silence again, and then slow, grating noise of stone sliding against stone was heard. Pavilion smiled as the strip of light leading to the arena grew higher and higher. The first in the line disappeared into the brightness of the outside world.
‘And so it begins…’
The world exploded into sound and light: the screaming and cheering of thousands of Gems hit her as soon as she stepped into the circular arena, and Homeworld’s star sat high in the sky, completely unobstructed by clouds, its rays furiously beating down on the stadium. It was loud, and it was hot; really hot… she could see a heat haze around the stadium, and she was reminded of home.
She smirked, thinking to herself: ‘even the Sun Goddess is on my side’. She was in her element; today, the stadium belonged to her.
The stadium was a tall, perfectly circular construction, with rows of seats following its curve right to its inner edge. At the centre was the arena: the expansive green circle on which the most important of Homeworld’s internal battles were fought. Emblazoned onto the green surface was the seal of the Authority, and the arena was divided into four segments according to its lengths: the top segment contained a single green triangle, the second contained the white triangle, and the third contained the blue and the yellow; the bottom segment was the space between the bottom of the seal and the edge of the arena.
Amidst the roar of the crowd, the multi-coloured procession made its way through the stone gate in the bottom segment. As they walked through the arena, Pavilion could see the three thrones of the Triumvirate opposite them, at the very edge of the seating area; the rest of the Authority was seated behind them, and behind them the lower tier diamonds were visible as swathes of blue, white and yellow. The rest of the crowd was a free-for-all of colour: Gems of every shade and variety coming together to celebrate their new leaders.
She was doing this for them, all of them.
When the first escort reached the intersection of the three coloured triangles, she led her diamond off to an angle on the left. On reaching the same point on the floor, the following pairings also made adjustments to their courses. Pavilion’s escort led her in a straight line from the intersection to the centre of the white triangle and stopped, becoming part of the horizontal line that was forming across the second segment of the arena. In her peripheral vision she saw a figure come to stand to her right: a quick glance confirmed that it was the same white diamond that had twirled her finger at her earlier — she knew because her chaperone Gem had the same body shape and hairstyle.
She had an amazing view of the Triumvirate from her position; without even having to turn her head she could see the three Diamonds watching them as they lined up. She knew it couldn’t be so — because she was just one of forty six diamonds in the line, and they were all wearing masks — but she felt like they were watching her specifically, such as her position directly opposite them was.
The last of the pairs must have joined the line, because White Diamond rose from her throne. The act was unnaturally elegant: more like flowing out of the decorative chair than merely getting out of it. As far as Pavilion could see, lace was the theme of the white Shard this Refacetting, because the form-fitting gown that White Diamond wore had the same patterned appearance as the shirt of the diamond next to her. With a speed that surprised and impressed her, the crowd fell totally silent.
White Diamond gave a genteel nod to the Gems lined up in front of her, causing the tetrahedral headdress she wore to sparkle as it caught the light: upon receiving the signal, the escort Gems took a single, uniform step forward, before spinning round to curtsey to their diamond. The diamonds curtsied in reply, and the guides turned to face the Triumvirate once again.
Starting from the two at the ends of their line, the escort Gems began their own procession: two diagonal queues took slow, even steps towards the foot of the wide green staircase that dominated the first segment, meeting in the middle. They ascended the incline in pairs, and for the first time that day Pavilion saw the orange Gems that had accompanied the blue diamonds. As thy climbed the stairs she had to laugh: even adding the number of black and orange Gems together there were still more purple Gems; they had the whole of the left line, and her particular escort was even the last Gem in the right line. But the yellow Shard always had the most aspirants… that was just how it was.
When the first pair reached the top of the stairs they bowed low before White Diamond.
“Empresses, we present to you these, the triumviriti. Their wish is to succeed you today. How will you deal with them?” asked one of the first pair, her voice amplified by some unseen device.
’They won’t, my dear. We shall ‘deal with’ each other.’ Pavilion thought to herself. She sighed internally; she was a practical Gem, and it was these parts of the ceremony that she hated: the spectacle was interesting, but there were quite a few parts that just didn’t need to be done… like asking questions that everyone already knew the answer to…
“We accept their proposal. We shall lay out for them a trial, to aid us in our selection. Thank you for your offering.” White Diamond told the Gem, returning the bow.
The pair took a final step towards White Diamond, crossing the boundary from the arena to the seating area. Their job done, they split up: one to the left, one to the right; they moved around the innermost edge of the stands, now able to take their seats for the coming events. Each subsequent pair made their way to the top of the stairs and bowed, until finally Pavilion saw her guide make the gesture and sit down.
’We are really on our own now…’ she said to herself.
White Diamond felt a twinge of sadness: this was probably the last time she would get to address the plebeians, and it was a task she revelled in. But the speech she had prepared would really energise the crowd; it was the kind of speech that they’d want to hear again and again… the kind of speech only a white diamond could give with the required panache.
It was time for one final, memorable act…
“My fellow Gems! Today, is a monumental day!
A monumental day not just for the House of Diamond, but for every single one of us; for every individual that can proudly call herself a Gem!
When the First Triumvirate decreed the Refacetting, it was not a step taken lightly: it is not a game that we diamonds play to entertain ourselves, nor is it just a spectacle to entertain you, though I hope will be entertained. No; each Refacetting is like a regeneration, for the fundamentals that make our race great remain unchanged, but the process allows for introspection and fresh ideas. At the end of every iteration a better race is reborn, and now the three of us stand before you: proud to usher in the next turn on our spiral towards perfection!
This day marks the end of our era, which you have generously titled ‘The Second Advancement Era’; on behalf of all of us I thank you, for making everything we have achieved possible. It truly is down to you, for alone we can do nothing! The Authority is but the edge of a knife, the tip of a spear, the engine of progress. What good is an edge without the rest of the blade? What good is a sharp point without a handle to wield it? What good is an engine without fuel? Equally I ask you: what good are we, the Authority, without you, the great and powerful multitude who support us?
There is only one answer, and for you to be here today as witnesses, in the numbers that you are; you must know it too...
In their infinite wisdom, the Goddesses chose not to make all Gems the same; every stone, mineral or non-mineral, faceted or unfaceted, whatever colour or shape, has its own unique combination of properties, both magical and physical. These differences between Gems are part of what make our race so formidable; for together, there is nothing we lack.”
She shifted her gaze from the crowd at large to the line of diamonds.
“To all of you aspiring to the rank of triumvir, I say this: as diamonds, one of our greatest gifts is our matchless durability; it allows us to survive challenges that other Gems physically cannot. More subtle, but no less important, is our rarity. Being so few in number makes it especially important for every diamond, no matter her station, to use what we have been given for the benefit of all Gemkind. You stand before this crowd today because you have taken these messages into your gems, and understand that it is our duty to serve our race.
Like the way we are formed, your journey here has been both lengthy and intense, but not without good reason. It is an honour to lead a people such as ours, and we must choose the best of our best to hold a position in the Triumvirate. If any of you were unworthy of admission, you would not be where you are; this is not a test of your suitability to lead, but a test to decide which of you will lead.
This is the final chapter in the formation of a Diamond, and those of you that are shattered in the process are no less important than the three that emerge, for you are the essential heat and pressure needed to prepare them for what is to come. All of you are a credit to the House of Diamond, and more importantly to Gemkind. The sacrifices you will make today will not be in vain, nor will they ever be forgotten; you will be immortalized, as those who have come before you have been immortalized. Though there may only be three that remain, I wish you all the best of luck.”
As White Diamond focused on the multitude again, Pavilion was reminded why she was her favourite member of the Triumvirate: she shared her ideal of a strong people in complete harmony with their leaders, and she was far more humble than the majority of her Shard (‘as far as humility can go with white diamonds anyway’, she laughed to herself).
“I will give no hint as to what I think the next era will bring, because it is for the next generation alone to shape. The actions of the three that are chosen today must be guided by their vision of the future, address the needs of the present, and build on the works of the past; discarding those ideas suited only to antiquity. I have every reason to believe that this era will be even more successful than the last, so high is the quality of the triumviriti present today.
I thank once again every Gem that has contributed to the brilliance of the last thousand years, and conclude at last, to make way for the next thousand.
Let the Ceremony of the Sword begin!”
With that, White Diamond gave a final curtsey, and the crowd burst into applause at their leader’s words. For a good minute or two they clapped and cheered, and the empress simply stood there; basking in the glory and waiting until they inevitably grew restless, so that she could continue. She turned round in either direction to wink at Blue Diamond, and blow a kiss at Yellow Diamond: she would never normally do something like this at such an event, but this really was it; it didn’t matter what anybody thought of some last minute one-upmanship.
As she’d expected, the crowd hushed. They were ready to see the main event.
“On this occasion the aspirants from the white Shard shall fight first. I therefore invite those of the yellow and blue Shards to take a seat with us.” White Diamond said.
In the same way as the guides had, the diamonds that weren’t white made the journey up the staircase, bowed to the Triumvirate, and sat down. After the last had taken her seat the railing in front of the Triumvirate snapped into place, and the green staircase folder in on itself with a whispery chattering sound.
When the arena was flat, the twelve white diamonds arranged themselves in wide circle within it; the Authority’s seal disappeared beneath their feet, replaced by a white ring on a grey background.
“When the first arrow explodes above you, you will fight until only one of you remains. Make no attempt the leave the arena before the second arrow explodes, signalling the emergence of a victor. For this fight, your Shard does not permit the use of shapeshifting, but does permit the use of any additional magic you may possess.”
A straight line appeared in the white ring, which began to stretch upwards from that mark, taking the diamonds standing on it with it. A translucent, cylindrical coil wide enough to stand on wound its way out of the arena floor; eventually separating from the arena to float in mid-air. The grey disc of the arena floor made a deep rumbling noise and descended into the blackness below, and out of the blackness rose a different disc: this one consisted of two levels of radial lines, covered in thousands of wedge shaped protrusions.
Pavilion grinned; as usual the white diamonds had to battle in an arena where even the environment was working against them.
A pale white Gem with very short pink hair stood up from her position in the Authority’s seating area: she wore a black, sleeved version of the shirts that the white Shard aspirants wore, with a cut-out section in the chest exposing a circular white stone, buttoned with what Pavilion assumed to be diamonds from the way they glittered. Instead of the tight black trousers that the white diamonds were wearing, she was dressed in a white skirt into which the shirt was neatly tucked. In her hands she carried a long, black case which she set down next to White Diamond’s throne. She disappeared behind the edge of the stands for a moment and reappeared with a transparent, crystalline bow in her hand.
The Gem nodded to White Diamond.
“Aspirants, you may summon your weapons!”
White Diamond nodded back.
The Gem drew the bow, and let fly an arrow made of light. In the quiet of the stadium, Pavilion could hear it whistle as it sailed high above the white diamonds. At its highest point it exploded with a noise like thunder, scattering white sparks everywhere.
The first battle commenced…