In this scene from Bringer of Chaos: the Origin of Pietas, the immortal king has completed a ritual for strength and prowess. He had told Six, who is human, not to watch and to keep his distance. But when Pietas’s injuries make it impossible to complete the ritual on his own, Six helps by cutting off the king’s long blond hair. The part below takes place immediately after the ritual ends. (A ghost is a special ops soldier who has died and been reanimated to fight immortal Ultras.)
“Six, I want to see how you sharpen knives.”
Though it was full daylight, they were in shade, and the firelight cast flickering shadows on Six’s face. “Oh?”
“That blade is impressive.”
“Thanks.” Six folded the knife and holstered it. “It does the job.”
“However, you disobeyed a direct order.”
Six fastened the safety on the holster, securing the knife. “See, I’m not one of your soldiers.” Using a thumb, he wiped away a smear of blood from Pietas’s cheek. “Which means you can’t give me an order. Therefore, I did no such thing.”
He met the man’s unwavering gaze. “How you frustrate me, ghost.”
“To quote you, ‘Good.’ Now, what’s next?”
“The ritual is complete.”
Six gestured to his own eyes. “So that mask is part of your ritual.”
“I never wear the mask until I’ve made myself worthy. And I’m ready for war.”
“That means the day we met, you’d done the ritual.”
Six cursed under his breath. “So, uh, what else do you need?”
“I’ll settle for you helping me up.”
“The great Pietas, War Leader of the Ultras, wants help from a mortal? How the mighty have fallen.”
Pietas narrowed his eyes. “Ghost, don’t make me eat you.”
“Yeah? I got two words for you, Ultra. Bring. Salt.” He stood and offered his hand. “Come on, amigo. I’ll douse the fire while you get dressed.”
Pietas gripped it and forced himself to stand. His legs hurt, and it took a full minute for him to catch his breath. Did mortals put up with this kind of pain on a daily basis? They must be stronger than he ever imagined.
Six had the courtesy to remain silent about how badly Pietas limped, and instead, worked on putting out the campfire.
Once he’d brushed off the dirt on his legs, Pietas dressed, and then helped Six clean up. Though it was still morning, the day darkened while they were finishing. By the time they reached camp, the sun was gone.
At first, Pietas thought it might be another massive flock of birds, but then he spied what had sent the birds fleeing.
Black clouds roiled. Thunder boomed. The sky went white with lightning.
In the north, the mother of all thunderstorms rolled over the horizon.
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