She never felt nervous before, never had a reason to.
But now she does.
Following behind Malick and Nassari, Diamond wrings the strap of her satchel. She steadies her breathing, reminding herself that she is the Harbigner. That Kodlak made her Harbinger.
Who is she to appoint while she's gone? The only remaining members are Aela and Vilkas. And how will they stop their older warriors from taking over? They reach the top of the stairs, Diamond grabbing her Glass Warhammer off the rack. Strapping it across her back, she continues to follow Malick, meeting the eyes of the warriors gathered at the table. Some have just finished their morning breakfast.
Her stomach drops as all heads turn to her; some nodding, others lifting their brows in greeting. Aela and Vilkas are in their usual seats. Only a couple – Athis and Ria – bothered to stand and bow at the waist to Princess Nassari. If the Khajiit took notice, she didn't seem to care much, but spared the warriors a dip of her chin. Diamond wanted to flog everyone else alive.
Her heart is beginning to hammer in her chest as she goes to stand at the head of the table. Malick glides past her taking position by the door behind her, Princess Nassari coming to stand a foot behind her. A show of support.
All the heads turn to her, still wringing the strap of her satchel. She didn't know how to start.
"Good morning everyone," she decides to begin. She tries not to listen to tapping of utensils hitting plates, meaning she now has everyone's full attention. "I have an announcement to make."
Deep breath, she tells herself. How would Kodlak make this announcement?
She inhales. "With the way current events are, unfolding, I've decided to go and look for Erelia." The groups shares a collective, "What?" – and Diamond holds her hand up to quiet them, like she's seen Kodlak do so many times. "Erelia is my friend, and she deserves my support and help. This is my decision; I don't expect anyone else to follow. And even if you do, I would still ask that you remain here."
"Wait, so you're deciding to go and look for Erelia, wherever she may be, and you expect us to just stay behind?" Torvar says.
"Yes. But believe me I appreciate your support. At least, I would hope that's what it is."
"Well of course we support you, Diamond." Ria chimes. "We just, hoped you would consider bringing us along. Why not?"
"Because it'll be suspicious if all of the Companions suddenly leave Whiterun; and I don't want Jarl Balgruuf to pay notice to it. And I don't want to leave the city defenseless."
Njada then asks, "But you're the Harbinger. You don't think it'll look suspicious if the Harbinger of the Companions leaves?"
"Not like its unusual for the Harbinger to go off on her own. Or I leave the city in disguise; and even if they do see me, I could be gone for days at a time and I'm sure they wouldn't pay much attention. "
"But you're –"
"You plan to go alone?" Athis asks.
"No, I'm taking few people with me for this. The less people see me leaving the better."
"Is that why he's there?" Vilkas asks, jerking his chin towards Malick.
The way he says his name prickles Diamond's skin. So, she snarls a little when she replies. "Yes. It is."
"You plan to leave without The Circle?" Aela asks.
Diamond nods. "I need someone I can trust to be here and keep everyone in line while I'm gone. Especially with Eorlund and Vignar around. Once they learn I'm gone, I don't want them to retaliate by having The Companions mutiny against me."
"Well I don't plan on just sitting around while you're wandering about." Vilkas states. "I'm going with you."
"That is my brother out there, Diamond. I need to find him, to make sure he's okay."
Diamond knew there was more to it than that; but the pure worry and sadness in his eyes at the mention of Farkas' name makes her cave. At least he was being somewhat genuine with her. They've barely spoken since Malick's arrival, and since he had overheard their conversation that night on the porch. This is the least she can do for him.
"Fine." That's all she says.
"Then I shall stay behind to watch over the Companions." Says Aela.
"Are you sure?" Diamond asks.
Aela nods. "Someone competent needs to be here in case our old warriors begin to stroke that dull flame inside their hearts. I promise to keep them in line as best I can."
"Please let me know if anything happens."
Diamond can see Ria's eyes flick to Nassari behind her. "And what about you, Your Highness?"
"I plan to stay here until a letter from my father arrives. Then I am leaving as well."
"You plan to join the cause?" Vilkas asks, his tone cautious. "What about Elsweyr? You're father's orders?"
The princess only gives him a conspirator's smile. Diamond's heart sinks as she readies for the princess to tell The Companions her story, but instead, she says, "For too long have my people suffered at the hands of the Nords. Ulfric doesn't deserve the Hight Throne, and Elisif might be kind at heart, but naive in the mind. Skyrim needs Erelia if we're going to have a better future."
"The Jarl won't be happy to learn where you stand in this war, Your Highness." Says Athis.
Nassari's face is a cold mask of indifference. "My war is with Ulfric. But if Balgruuf insists on stopping me, then it will be his dilemma. He doesn't seem like that kind of man. All I can hope for is that my leaving will persuade him to finally chose a side in this war."
"Then it's settled. I will travel with Malick and Vilkas to find Erelia. The rest of you will stay here, under Aela's watch. Should anything happen to anyone, send a courier." Diamond finalizes.
"I assume that satchel means you're going to be leaving relatively soon?" Torvar asks.
"Yes. Tonight." She turns to Vilkas, then Malick. "So both of you gather your things."
Malick nods, pushing off the wall to jog back down to the living quarters. Diamond looks back at the Companions
"Thank you all for your support. I don't know why I assumed this would be different."
"Well we all want to help in the cause, but your reasons for going in a small party is understandable." Aela says.
"We all know Erelia is your friend, and even if that's the only reason you're going, then fine." Ria adds. "She's become our friend too. She's become a fellow Companion. We'll do what we can for her here, as well as you Princess Nassari."
"It is much appreciated." The princess nods. "I'll be taking my leave then."
She walks up to Diamond, placing a hand on her shoulder. After giving it a reaffirming squeeze, and a strong embrace, she leaves Jorrvaskr. Everyone resumes their meal, safe for Aela who goes out back to the veranda. As Diamond heads back down to the quarters to check on Malick, she's stopped at the door by another hand – and a stronger grip.
She's whirled around, her fingers managing to grab her dagger. The blade comes to a stop just at the side of Vilkas' neck. She sighs in aggravation. "Don't do that."
"I'm not happy about this."
"Last I checked, I didn't ask for your opinion." She snarls. Turning to put her hand on the knocker, Vilkas grabs her hand. Diamond is about to relent, but he speaks first.
"What reason do you have to go?"
Diamond yanks her wrist back, but Vilkas keeps a tight grip. Not enough to hurt, but to keep her in place. "What are you talking about?"
"It's as Ria said –" Diamond rolls her eyes and shoves her way through the door. Least they could do is have this conversation in the quarters. Vilkas is right on her heels. "– you don't have any good reason to leave other than the fact that she is your friend."
"Isn't that enough?"
"Not for me."
"Well this isn't about you." Diamond says, turning to walk away.
Behind her, Vilkas scoffs. "Of course. It's about Erelia."
Diamond stops. Without looking back, she asks too quietly. "Do you have a problem with that?"
Vilkas doesn't back down. "I do. The only reason you're going is because you feel obligated. I don't even think you want to go, but you have to because Erelia is your friend. When she has taken away so much from you – from us!"
Diamond whirls around, flashing her teeth. "She is my friend Vilkas; and we've all suffered from loss. Her especially. Don't mistake my decision for irrationality, Vilkas, I know what I'm getting into."
"Do you?!" he suddenly shouts. "You're going into war, Diamond! You're going to be fighting in a gods damned war, and you're too naive to see it! And the only pathetic reasoning you have is because you want to help a friend."
"Last I checked men go to war for complete strangers, so I think I'm ahead of this game. I don't even see the point you're trying to make, Vilkas. I can find fulfillment any way I choose."
"I had just hoped that after all this time, all this loss and tragedy, you would finally grow up!"
Something in her heart hardens, and when she snarls, it is not entirely human. "If I wanted to me lectured, I'd to and see Vignar. So, fuck off."
She goes to turn and check on Malick – who undoubtably is listening – when she hears Vilkas take three strides towards her and grabs her wrist again. When she goes to slap him, he grabs her other and yanks her close. The motion takes her by surprise enough to draw out a yelp.
With her hands against Vilkas' chest, she's about to pound her first against it, then drive her knee into his groin, when she sees something reflect in his eyes.
"She doesn't deserve you, Diamond." The sentence makes her pause, takes her by enough surprise to relax in his arms. His touch feels, wrong, with Malick a couple doors down. "She has taken so much from you. Why do you persist on helping her?"
"Because I owe her."
"For what?!" he breathes with a manic laugh. He drops his arms and she steps back. "She has killed Kodlak –"
"No she didn't!"
"– she took your home from you! She betrayed you –!"
"It wasn't her choice! And who are you to start defending the Dark Brotherhood?! Astrid betrayed me!"
Gods, she hasn't said that name in years. Had tried to forget about it in the dark crevices of her mind. She would hope that she's with Sithis, but instead she hopes that Astrid is with Kynareth, if only because it wouldn't be what the bitch wanted.
"Everything Erelia did, she didn't have a choice. We both suffered great loss; and while Erelia would disagree, mine is nothing compared to hers. Her entire culture and race was wiped out. And now she has a chance to save them, redeem herself. And if you are going to dare bring Kodlak into this, then as your Harbigner, I'm giving you the order to fuck off! This is what he would've done; what he would have wanted."
"Diamond, you need to listen. You are not dealing with Libitania Desidenius anymore! You are dealing with Erelia Desidenius Glendeylin! The bringer of light, beloved of Auri-El and rightful Queen of the Snow Elves!"
"She is still my friend, Vilkas! Even if I'm not going into the war with the best intensions, it's better than what most have. She's my friend, she needs my help. I can't just sit by and do nothing."
"Why not?" Vilkas asks, his voice quiet and hitching. "This isn't your fight."
Suddenly Diamond's face relaxes into a cold mask of indifference. "Who are you to decide what I can and cannot do?" she growls quietly. "You've never believed in me since the beginning."
"That's not –"
"Since the very beginning you've doubted me." She starts to prowl towards him. Her voice growing. "You told me I wasn't going to make it; you critiqued everything that I did wrong: my form, my weapons, my attire, my opinions! You wouldn't even praise me for things I accomplished! All you did was sit there and say something that would make yourself look better. You never once gave me the praise even when I deserved it. When I was initiated into the Circle, all you did was scoff and growl!"
Vilkas is silent now, but Diamond isn't finished.
"You've never believed in me, but he did! He's not too happy about me choosing to go either, but he understands why I have to do it, and he supports me on it. all you're doing is giving me reasons to not go. Why? Because you think I'm not good enough? Because you think I lack the necessary experience to do so?!"
Vilkas is quiet for a moment, then he says, "Because I don't want to see you get hurt."
Diamond laughs manically, scoffing and shaking her head. "Now you care?"
"I've always cared," he says, advancing towards her. "It's not the same as it was back then, but I care. I've always cared!"
"When you first came into the Companions, you were a whelp. And I cared for you like a guardian would care for any child." His arms are around her again, and she can't find it to push him off. "But then over the years I've watched you grow. I watched you become a warrior in feats I've never seen. You had such a fire burning, one of vengeance and anger. Gods, you were impulsive and volatile, snappy and irritating – but even after everything you've been through, you could still laugh. Still smile and find beauty in the world. And that's when I knew that I didn't care for you like a child anymore. I care for you, because . . ."
Vilkas trails off, and Diamond can feel her heart racing. She doesn't tell him to continue and he doesn't. They both knew neither of them could stand to have those words out in the open.
After moments of silence, Diamond says, "You are horrible at explaining your feelings. Perhaps if you had been more kind, and caring, it would've been obvious to me."
Slowly she steps out of Vilkas' arms.
"Instead, you expressed your feelings like a child, through bullying and belittling me and my skills. Now you've sorted things out and you expect me to come running to you?"
Her voice is too quiet. Vilkas stands there, as vulnerable as a newborn lamb. His lip near quivering.
Diamond shakes her head. "You're too late Vilkas."
She turns around and begins walking towards the Harbinger quarters. She doesn't look back.
"Remember to separate your feelings from business. Ready your things and meet me at the city gates. And if you dare bring this matter up again, you'll be removed from the Circle."
With that, she slams the door behind her, leaving him in the hall.
Heart hammering, she slides to the floor with her back pressed to the door. Tears sting her eyes and when she inhales to calm herself, it only quivers. She presses the heels of her palms into her eyes, trying to control her breathing.
"How much did you hear?" she asks in the blackness. She knew Malick was standing at the threshold to the bedroom, arms folded.
"Enough that I want to kill him."
"Don't." she orders.
"I won't; but it won't be easy to travel with him."
Diamond wipes her eyes and sighs, raking her fingers through her hair. It's reaching past her collarbone now. She should've scheduled a haircut before they left. Looking to her right, Malick is where she expected, only this time he's changed into a form of black leather armor. She can see the reinforced padding over his vital organs, fitting to his frame to leave little to the imagination.
"I know. Let's hope he stays focused on finding his brother."
They're quiet for a moment, Diamond sighing once more, allowing a few small sobs to escape. Then Malick says, "Are you okay?"
Diamond looks up to him – his sapphire eyes softening as he looks to her. Putting his own feelings aside for her. She can't help but give a ghost of a smile. She nods, barely a dip of her chin. "I think I will be. You?"
A shrug of those broad shoulders. "I'll try to be."
Diamond pushes herself to her feet and walks over to him, wrapping her arm around his torso. His arms are immediately around her; one hand on her hip, the other resting between her shoulder blades. He inhales and exhales deeply, she mimics his breathing, resting her head against his chest.
Malick then says, "Do you mind if I ask you something, Harbinger."
Diamond gives a breath of a laugh and lifts her head. "Sure."
"Do you think Erelia even wants you there?" he asks softly.
Diamond furrows her brows in confusion. "How do you mean?"
"The last time you spoke to one another was technically when you sent her to jail. For Kodlak's murder."
Diamond swallows past the tightness in her throat. "I know." She mumbles. "And that's another reason why I'm going. I have to apologize to her."
"That didn't answer my question." Malick reminds.
Diamond ponders for a moment, relaxed in Malick's arms. "I don't think she would bring me Zusa's head if she didn't."
"I'd like to think she killed Zusa for me. That she brought me the head to show me that, I'm actually free. That I don't have to keep looking over my shoulder in fear that she will find me again." Diamond licks her lips, peering down at Malick's chest. "Freedom. It's all that Erelia ever wanted, even when she was Libby. That's all she wanted. And she gave it to me; as her final gift. Her final goodbye, because she doesn't think I'm coming for her."
"Until now." Malick winks.
Diamond smiles past the warmth rushing to her cheeks. She wriggles out of his grasp, taking a large step back. She clears her throat. "So, um, are we ready to go?"
Malick nods, giving her a smile that sends chills down her arms. "Should we wait for him?" Malick asks.
Diamond shakes her head. "I'd rather leave now and wait for him at the gates."
Nodding in agreement, Malick is the first one to leave. Diamond follows shortly after changing into her Chitin armor. She does her best to braid her hair tightly as she and Malick leave Jorrvaskr, sparing quick goodbyes to everyone.
Even with Malick by her side, she still can't shake the shame and hurt from Vilkas' words. They sit in her chest like a rock, and she doesn't know why. She tries to quell it with the excitement that she's going to be finding Erelia. Malick's words an annoying reminder, but as of now, all she can do is hope. They make their way down to the castle gates, stopping into Arcadia's Cauldron for some extra potions and healing ingredients.
As they approach the gate, Diamond tries not to imagine what could happen if things don't go the way she expects them.
But she knows her friend.
At least, she thinks she does.