Until the Day We Meet Again

Based on The Scarlett Letter

An Eriol/Tomoyo Alterfic

Chapter 1

The great, stately marble halls reverberated with the echocant of solemn monks, their world filled with Gregorian chant, politics, power and mindless corruption. The year was 1587, and the setting was the papal states, the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican City had never been more stirred. The galleries of the enormous complex housed some of the finest works of art in the world, of Bramante and Bernini and Michaelangelo and Raphael Santi, priceless artifacts and walls lined with gilt-edged folios in fine aged leather. It was the heart of a powerful faith, and the very soul of wealth and power and greed.

On any other day, the endless stretches of artful corridors would have been silent except for perhaps the tremulous tread of a nun, or the fervent walk of a priest or bishop, or of the dogmatic march of the pope and his assorted cardinals. But today it was so very different. Today it was the day that must not be uttered, the day on which a pope was to be chosen. A hum of anticipation, a veritable expectation and tenseness that could almost be touched quivered in the halls which had weathered so much, and today the walk of all inhabitants and visitors was wary, yet joyful. If all went well, then the fervent, zealous young cardinal from faraway Britain might become the pope, His Holiness, ordained by God Himself.

Outside, on the great plaza of Piazza San Pietro, a great throng of populace had lined themselves up to see if this strange, pious new pope would be ordained, chosen by the hand of God. They wondered, truly, if he would be not unlike the last pope, who had executed and schemed and exploited to his own good. Few of them knew, however, that the past pope had also commited serious treason and crimes against God, of which he had committed adultery, murder, and covetousness. The faces were some weary, some expectant, some accepting of whatever was to come. They did not know.

The sun rose above the great expanse of the square, and slowly set. There was a low murmur at two o'clock after noon, when the great doors of the St. Peter's Basilica were thrown open, and a procession of the Holy Cardinals came. Borne on a large carriage, and surrounded by his own escort of the Swiss Guard, was the pope in all his glittering, golden splendor. The pope was carried to his first moments in sunshine surrounded by the pomp and wealth of the Church.

A young novice turned away from the window, and looked to the Mistress of Novices expectantly.

"Mother, I cannot see why the pope must be carried around with such pomp and wealth, when the countryside here and in Italy starve in famine."

The novice was young, and slender. Only a glimmer of ebon black hair was visible underneath the habit, but it shimmered whenever it caught the light of the glorious apartments. Her brilliantly violet eyes caught the light of the hundred gilded candlebras, and the snow white nun's habit did not detract at all from her beauty. The Mistress of Novices turned to her.

The Mistress was not a very pure woman, as the novice had heard. She was the paramour of one of the cardinals, and as was customary then, she was given a set of better living quarters for her relationship. Few outside Vatican City knew of the impure relationships the titled holders of God's grace had. It was just as well. She was not an evil woman, being kindly though with a propensity towards corruption. Women like her were not uncommon here.

"Child, there is a need to display such wealth and pomp, because the Church must display to its people that there is no reason to fear, that the Church will stay constant forever, no matter what the external circumstances were." The novice nodded slowly.

"It does make sense, Mother." The Mistress of Novices nodded approvingly. She had chosen this novice out herself, and because of her strange intelligence, would rise high, perhaps even become the Mother Superior one day. Then that position would ensure her wealth and admiration. She would rise high.

The Mistress of Novices continued her lecture from the other day, the real inside of the politics surrounding the papacy. She had to teach the girl that it was all terribly corrupt, that nothing was as it seemed, and that anything could be done as long as they were powerful enough to do it. Really, the novice was too idealistic. She had heard that this was how the pope was, too. He might not even last long enough to see his first ten years of popehood.

"Now listen to me, Child. Some nuns here give birth to children, and multiple children at that with questionable parentage. Some of the nuns have three different children by three different men, like Sister Mary Theresa. This is the way that it is here. Everyone breaks their so-called contracts with God." The novice wore a look of blank consternation.

"But Mother, that is breaking their holy oaths with God! Have we all not pledged ourselves to him?"

The Mistress shook her head.

"No, Child. I do fear for you sometimes. Already, I see the 'holiest of holy' men turn their heads to watch you. Do you know what they want from you, Child?"

The novice shook her head slowly, then a blush crept up the pale alabaster cheeks. The girl nodded. The Mistress nodded satisfactorily.

"That's right, dear, they want it. The more we speak of it, the more accustomed you will be to it. It is the way of it here. Sometimes, they might not even ask your assent. They might be drunk like pigs, and just take what they want. Sometimes, they might not even be intoxicated at all. Beware of summons from powerful men. That is all that I can tell you. If you forget all else, just remember, beware of summons from such men."

The novice shook her head sadly, a dream disillusioned and sullied, and turned to watch the procession again.

Er, I am ashamed. The very first chapter was sort of bad, if you catch my drift. *Blushes* Don't shoot! I find that my fanfics are getting less and less cuddly. Um, that's sort of bad. If any of you have any ideas for me whatsoever, then please, do e-mail me at sorceress@usa.com Anyway, I am not functioning properly, having just written a thesis paper. It is currently 1:32 in the morning. Huh. Oh well. Good night, or should I say good morning? Adios!