When cosplaying Pietas, Nik Nitsvetov revealed aspects of the character's transformation I had never considered. Here are before, during, and after shots as Nik transformed Pietas into the Bringer of Chaos.
Watching Nik cosplay Pietas opened my eyes to how the character himself might have envisioned the change from "normal" to "superhero." To be clear, the ritual changes nothing but mindset, but it is effective. It's a clear way for Pietas to accept the mantle of leadership in the face of battle. Watch the video to see the full transformation with music and a voiceover by voice actor Zack Black.
Step 1: Before the Ritual
The Ritual of Strength tranforms Pietas into the War Leader of the Ultras -- a fighting machine known as the Bringer of Chaos. He earned the title because his strongest Sempervian gift is Chaos, the ability to create chaotic feelings with no outside source. In battle, it mind-dazes an enemy. But with a lover, his gift renders a partner helpless, inundating them with overwhelming pleasure.
He has worn a mask in battle ever since defeating the First Division, a human special-ops group formed to fight Ultras. It came about because Pietas slew an enemy, and blood splashed across his eyes. Thinking the blood belonged to Pietas, the Ultra troops rallied to him and slaughtered the humans. By the end of the battle, the blood had dried almost black. Stories of how their "bandit king" had conquered the First Division filled the night. To his troops, he was now the conqueror of the First Division, and they gave him a new title to celebrate: First Conqueror, War Leader of the Ultras.
Look at the facial expressions as Pietas lifts the mask into place, hiding his true self and preparing to morph into the Bringer of Chaos.
Step 2: Ritual
The expression of utter confidence while Pietas is wearing the mask reveals how much performing the ritual affects him. In the left image, he's removing a small knife used in the ritual. The story behind this knife -- I bought it at OutlantaCon a few years ago. It was made from hand-forged metal, a handle of hand-carved wood, and sheathed in hand-tooled leather. One of a kind. In the story (a Bringer of Chaos book not out yet), Six makes this knife and gives it to Pietas. He has used it for thousands of years and it's so fragile he now keeps it in a glass case. He never parts with a gift from a friend if there is any way possible to keep it.
In the second photo, Nik performs the scene where Pietas makes a small cut in his skin, symbolically shedding blood for his people. He heals instantly, but the point is he is ready to die for his people. Look at those eyes. Nik transformed as much as Pietas.
Step 3: After the Ritual
When the ritual is complete, Pietas removes his mask. In Origin of Pietas, he paints on the mask with soot from a fire, and right after, he and Six are caught in a downpour. When Six sees Pietas's face, he bursts into laughter and says Pietas looks like a "weapon of mascara destruction."
On the first photo, notice the focus in those eyes as Pietas begins the transformation back to his usual self. The next picture shows him with the mask off and a partial smile. I love that photo. It's the backdrop for my email program. My interpretation of this image is that Pietas is happy to return to his (somewhat) normal life and be who he really is.
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