As members of the clergy file in the chapel they start to pull their uniforms closer to their bodies and huddle together, hands gripping the walls to guide them. Candles surround a circle drawn on the floor made up of varying symbols. The circle, on closer inspection, seems to be composed of the alchemic symbols for the basic elements along with a large one in the middle to signify Quintessence. Papa Emeritus II stands at the head of the audience, he looks over the crowd and scans the faces of those in the room as the large doors close. The light projected on the walls flickers as Papa Nihil walks to the opposite side of the younger Papa, back towards the crowd. Three tall ghoulettes stand just behind Papa Emeritus II, one holding a tray of strange items while the other two stand behind. A large ghoul stands to the left of the Papas, his uniform is different from a normal ghoul’s. The entire cloak is decorated with gold accents and is a deep purple along with displaying his alchemic symbol. He stands with his chest puffed out and his arms held behind his back, he is completely still as he awaits instruction from Papa Emeritus II. A Cardinal stands to the right, holding a ghoul uniform in his arms and watching the Papas discuss the ritual with vigor. His shoulders drop as the two turn to the large ghoul who makes a gesture for the Cardinal to step back.
The two finish their discussion and the room becomes deathly silent. Papa Emeritus II turns and grabs a knife from the tray and slices it across the palm of his hand. He holds his hand over the Quintessence symbol and lets the blood drip onto the ground. The knife is then presented to Omega who takes it and does the same. Papa Nihil takes the knife from the ghoul and quickly cuts his hand, completing the ritual and handing the knife to a ghoulette for her to put back on the tray. As the knife is put back in its place the younger Papa grabs a vial containing an unknown liquid. As he pours a small amount on the symbol it shines in a dark purple and almost seems to glow even with the little light in the room. He puts the cap on and immediately hands it back to the ghoulettes. The Cardinal jumps as the Papas start mumbling under their breath and black smoke comes from the purple liquid on the ground. The Quintessence symbol in the middle glows slightly and it looks as though the white eye of Papa Emeritus II has changed to a light purple. Omega moves to his knees and presses his cut hand to the ground and the black smoke forms into a single body, no longer moving through the air freely. The ghoul starts to mumble a few words as the papas cease theirs. The smoke moves as though it’s struggling to free itself, the body of a ghoul slowly emerges from the smoke; black skin slowly shifting to grey. The ghoul looks around the room frantically, eyes finally catching on the Cardinal who holds a welcome hand out to him. He slowly grabs the hand and is pulled to stand, wobbling on his feet a bit. The Cardinal gives him a fond look and guides him to the back of the chapel to dress. Papa Nihil turns to face the clergy members and dismisses them, urging them to leave the chapel with haste. Two of the ghoulettes stand with Papa Emeritus and Omega, bandaging their hands while another stands to the side of Papa Nihil, waiting for him to realize his hand is still bleeding.
The ghoul makes his way back into the light fully clothed, followed by the Cardinal. Papa Emeritus II turns to look at him and acknowledges the other Quintessence ghoul in the room. Papa Nihil watches the two as his hand is being bandaged and focuses on Omega.
“What should we call him, Omega?” Emeritus keeps his eyes on the new ghoul as the older joins him at his side. Omega spends little time contemplating as he sizes up the ghoul.
“Aether. Are you okay with that ghoul?” The ghoul, now Aether, nods. The younger papa nods and moves to leave the chapel with his father. He calls out for two of the ghoulettes to follow him, the other staying behind with Omega. The ghoul is ushered over to Omega and he gulps. The older ghoul smiles at him and puts a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m glad you’re here Aether. I hope you warm up to the church and the clergy well.” Aether grins and nods.
“I’m very happy to be here, just a little nervous.” The young ghoul seems to shift his eyes around the room a lot, taking in his surroundings.
“I’m glad, but there’s no need to be nervous. I will be working with you starting tomorrow, please make sure you’re up and ready on time. Brin here will most likely be the one to bring you to my office around 6 AM.” Aether’s eyes widen and he nods rapidly. Omega chuckles and nods to Brin, the signal to leave. The Cardinal taps the ghoul on the shoulder and he jumps.
“Sorry, but I just wanted to know if you’re ready to go to your room?” The ghoul turns to the Cardinal and quickly looks him over. He’s short and seems to be around Papa Emeritus II’s age. He also has the one white eye just like the him.
“Uh, yes please.” The Cardinal smiles and starts to walk toward the large doors.
“I’m Copia by the way, nice to meet you.” Aether smiles and quickly joins him at the doors.
“It’s nice to meet you, too.” Copia opens one of the doors with ease and motions for him to exit. The ghoul bows his head slightly as he passes into the gardens. His eyes fill with wonder and he seems frozen on the stairs. The Cardinal laughs and starts to walk down the stairs and towards a building larger than the chapel, but just as beautiful.
“C’mon Aether, you can explore tomorrow.” Aether shakes his head and bounds down the stairs to be in step with Copia. He seems to still have a chuckle held back once the ghoul has caught up with him. A ghoul or two seem to be wandering around the gardens. Their skin is covered in dirt: earth ghouls. Copia catches the door to the building as a ghoulette rushes out. Aether follows the Cardinal inside and gapes at the interior of the large building. He immediately looks towards the large ceilings and intricate designs carved into the stone walls.
“Wow,” Copia smiles at the ghoul. He looks up at the ceilings with Aether, observing the walls he had become used to.
“The church is beautiful, but I think you’re the first ghoul I’ve seen truly become awed by it.” The ghoul looks at the man in shock.
“Are you serious? This place is incredible, I don’t know why they wouldn’t!” The Cardinal shrugs.
“I don’t know. I guess they have a lot more on their mind, with just being summoned and all. They probably just think about their upcoming duties and role within the clergy.” Aether nods. The two fall silent as they pass a group of Sisters of Sin chatting away. Some look at the ghoul in curiosity, but their gaze doesn’t stay long. They then passed by a large open room with all kinds of ghouls and ghoulettes. Two young ghouls and two ghoulettes seemed to be talking with one of the ghoulettes from the ritual who perked up when she saw the two of them and tried to discreetly point towards them. All three turned and gasped at the large ghoul and tried to run to him, but the ghoulette caught them and mouthed a sorry to the two. “I guess word of your summoning has spread quickly.” Copia looks to Aether as he smiles and waves at the little group, chuckling as their eyes widen and they look down at the floor. As they entered a darker hallway the Cardinal handed the ghoul a key.
“That’s for your room, we’ll be there soon.” Aether puts the key in his pocket and thanks Copia. They start to descend a dark set of stairs, but the ghoul’s eyes adjust quickly. The Cardinal seems to be having trouble as he puts a hand on the wall to guide himself down. Once they reach the bottom Copia takes a sharp left to a quiet hallway “Your room is among other ghouls of your status, so not many are around.” Aether gives him a questioning look.
“What do you mean, ‘of my status’?” The Cardinal smiles.
“You don’t know? Due to you being a Quintessence ghoul, in general, makes you of a higher status along with the fact that you are training with Omega directly.” Copia stops in front of one of the rooms and turns to Aether, “Wait, do you not know why you were summoned?” The ghoul shakes his head.
“No, should I?” The Cardinal’s eyes widen as the ghoul reaches in his pocket for the key.
“Yeah. You were summoned to take Omega’s place, once our dark lord calls him back.” Aether fumbles and drops the key in shock. Copia picks it up, unlocking the door for him.
“Oh wow.” The man nods and walks into the room. Aether follows and closes the door behind him.
“I know that may be a lot to process, sorry.” The ghoul nods and the Cardinal continues, “Anyway this is your room. You should have everything you need, but if not you can let me or Omega know and we can ask a Brother or Sister to get it for you.” He nods again and scans the room. It’s not small, but it’s not huge either and it’s quite dark. His bed is situated to the right and a bookshelf to his left, filled with many books he’ll most likely have to read eventually. He walks further into the room and notices a desk is placed next to the bookshelf with a letter on it. He goes to pick it up and sees Copia going to leave.
“Copia,” the man turns to the ghoul, “thank you. I hope to see you around.” The Cardinal smiles.
“It’s no problem Aether and I’m fairly certain we’ll see each other around, don’t worry.” The ghoul smiles and watches him leave the room. He faces the bed and contemplates showering then or in the morning. He feels the fatigue set in and decides to do it the morning. He looks at the letter on the desk and picks it up. He looks at the swirling writing on the front, addressing him by “Ghoul.” Eager to read what’s inside, he opens it. As soon as he does so he notices the intricate signature on the bottom and realizes the letter is from Papa Emeritus II. The letter welcomes him to the church and outlines his schedule with Omega along with duties he’ll be doing for the church as a whole. He finishes reading and folds the letter carefully, setting it back down onto the desk. The ghoul looks at the bed and starts to take off his uniform, carefully folding it and placing it in the dresser next to his bed. He gets in the bed and sighs, wondering what clergy life will be like and whether he truly will be happy to live in the church. He thinks back to Copia and wonders if they will be able to talk again rather than just see each other around. A smile crosses his face as he thinks about the young group of ghouls and how excited they were to see him. He pulls his comforter higher over his shoulders and snuggles into the pillow, feeling sleep take over.