When I decided to write about the immortal warrior Pietas, who’s been the villain in several of my books, I thought he might have issues with details. You know, the type that makes you adjust and readjust a picture, straighten a towel, or minutely focus the volume of a song. Boy was I right! And I thought I was insistent on details? In the beginning of the book, Pietas performs a ritual before entering into peace talks with a group of humans. The ritual is designed to help him focus, and he repeats it later in the book. It’s when he puts on the mask shown in the cover. Pietas has a mantra that he repeats a half dozen times in the book, to remind himself he will survive; he will overcome. His singleminded devotion to duty makes him one of the most implacable, indomitable warriors ever born.
After the ritual and its details are complete in the beginning of the book, his sister (who aids him) asks if he’s ready for the peace talks. Pietas says, “No. I’m ready for war.” Here’s a peek at the ritual.
Early on the first morning of the peace talks, Pietas entered his round bathing room. Starlight filtered through the portal overhead. Sleek silver walls reflected the cool light.
He remained at the door, content to savor its calming glow. Its beauty did not dispel the worry niggling at his mind. Not given to trusting premonitions and omens, he grounded himself with meditation. Once he centered himself and calmed his spirit, Pietas took a deep, purifying breath, and with slow deliberation, exhaled.
“Time to begin. Lights.”
The room brightened.
He shed his silk robe and let it fall at his feet. Nude, his platinum hair streaming down his back and chest, he lifted his hands, palms up as if praying.
On the planet Kaffir, warriors used this ritual to summon spirits. He used it to affirm his own superior strength and prowess.
Before a copper fire pit, he plucked one blond hair, and fed it to the fire. It singed and melted.
“As fire has victory over life, so I have victory over my enemies.”
He passed a hand through the flame, and hissed at the searing heat, relishing the pain. He cupped his hand over the flame’s source, and held it until the fire went out. The burns on his palm cooled, and as he watched, the skin healed. Of all the elements, fire alone had power to linger on an Ultra’s skin. He welcomed it as a symbol of victory.
“I am powerful, as fire is powerful.”
Pietas thrust both hands forward, clutched his fists, and yanked them back.
“I own the wind. I prevail over the breath of my enemies.”
In the bathing area, he took six steps down into a waist-deep pool.
“Water submits to my presence the way enemies submit to my will.”
He cupped water in his hands, lifted it, and let it pour down his arms.
“The blood of my enemies trickles into the pool of time, is absorbed, and forgotten.”
He pushed wet fingers through his hair, and released it.
“My mind is clear. I do not waver.”
He submersed, and rose, head thrown back, face lifted to the sparkle of stars above.
“My body submits to my will. No pain defeats me. No fear touches me.”
He swept his hands down his chest to his loins, and the tops of his thighs.
“My will is absolute.”
A scratching sound alerted him to the presence of his silver-skinned android servant. The creature entered, and Pietas fixed him with a hard glare. “Why did you interrupt me?”
“Your guest is here, my lord, in the living area.” He offered Pietas a towel.
“Leave it.” He waved the android away.
After exiting the pool, Pietas brushed off the water and wrung out his hair. He pulled out a tray holding half a dozen clasps. He chose a silver dragon studded with six turquoise stones, twisted his wet hair, and fastened it up, out of the way.
He dried his face, gathered a brush, and picked up a pot of black face paint. Leaning in close to a freestanding mirror, he outlined a bandit’s mask from beneath his eyes to over his dark eyebrows, and filled it with black.
He’d worn the mask in battle ever since defeating the First Division, a human special-ops group formed to fight Ultras. It came about because Pietas had slain an enemy, and blood splashed across his eyes. Thinking the blood belonged to Pietas, the Ultra troops had rallied to him and slaughtered the humans. The blood dried almost black.
Stories of how their “bandit king” had conquered the First Division filled the night. The name stuck. To his troops, he was First Conqueror, War Leader of the Ultras.
Pietas turned his head side to side, surveying the effect.
His body would reject foreign matter on his skin. The Ultra metabolism protected from every perceived attack, even harmless face paint. He closed his eyes and sprayed sealant over the mask to delay its disappearance by a few hours.
Satisfied with his looks, Pietas pulled on a pair of loose white lounging pants. With a deep, cleansing breath, he opened the door. Damp, shirtless, barefoot, he padded into the adjacent room.
Bringer of Chaos: the Origin of Pietas
Two enemy warriors: one human, one immortal. Different in belief, alike in spirit, marooned together on an alien world.
Imprisoned and in isolation over a year without food or water, the immortal Pietas survives. Though broken in body, his intellect and will are intact, thanks to Six, the special ops warrior who captured him, but kept him sane. The warrior had no hand in his deprivation and, like Pietas, was betrayed by his own kind. When Pietas is abandoned on an alien world with nothing but his honor–and Six–he must find and rejoin other immortal exiles. After centuries of war, Pietas detests humans and kills them on sight, but he is too damaged to continue on his own. Though he despises needing help, he allows Six to nurture and restore him to full strength, and then accompany him. As they cross the planet together on foot, the immortal begins to wonder if he has found his first human friend, or if Six is loyal only because Pietas could keep the others from tearing him to shreds. This human will either be his closest living friend, or the one whose betrayal will trigger all-out vengeance by the most powerful immortal ever born.
Immortal. Warrior. Outcasts. Traitors took everything. Except their honor.
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