Alone in an abandoned warehouse, Valia began to cry. It was unbecoming of a personnel from the Astra Militarum to do such a thing, much less a Cadian Shock Troop, but who the heck cared about that anymore.

She was a failure, a complete washout. Failed as an Imperial Guard, failed as a comrade, and worst of all, failed as a servant of the Emperor. Her selfish, shameful actions would be a stain on the proud banner of Cadia for years to come, if they ever came to light, of course. Given she was a mere Guardswoman, lowest of rank and remembered by no one, and there was the fact her superiors would save their faces at all cost, it was likely the case that it never would.

Valia remembered the battle earlier. The fighting was hard. At first, driven by the bravado of her companions, Valia thought they could win it. Unfortunately, ammunition ran out quickly and when it finally depleted, it took mere seconds for the cultists to fall upon them like ants over a juicy piece of meat. The Imperials showed no hesitation and continued to reap a heavy toll on them even in close combat. Valia couldn't help but felt awed at the sight of Randy ripping the ribcage off an opponent using his bare hand, or Leitdorf decapitating eight foes with single swing of his sword, or Gutsman pulverizing any human foolish enough to be in front of him with powerful head-butts that would leave even an Ork Warboss reeling. However, in the end, their efforts were for naught. In the most desperate, most imperative moment, everyone was left with two choices: run for his life or stay and fight.

Without thinking, Valia chose the first. Randy, Leitdorf, Alastor, Mkeller and Gutsman all went for the latter. Discarding her oversized boots to make herself more fleeting, Valia used her small body to sneak across the foe, occasionally bumping into cultists who hardly noticed her presence but otherwise without much problem. As she looked back, she saw her comrades overwhelmed by the tide of twisted humanity who had given themselves wholly to Slaanesh. Even Gutsman, big and tough as he was, met his match when a massive brute profoundly altered by defiled surgery grappled and pinned him down. The Guards were not slain on the spot. Instead, the enemy took them as prisoners. Given what kind of debased god they were devoted to, Valia knew that fate was a thousand times worse than death.

Valia would live on, but for how long? The city's parameter had been walled, inaccessible from outside and inescapable from within. The smell of sorcery and maleficarum was thick in the air, choking her throat like fish bone, yet wrongly refreshing somehow. The Chaos worshippers were obviously up to something that would tip the balance of this war and secure the planet for their Dark Prince. She didn't need to be an Inquisitor to know that.

"What do I do now?" Valia asked herself, wiping the tears from her eyes with a dirty sleeve. Pulling her head to her knees, she mumbled, "I…why am I so useless? Why…why can't I do something right for once? Randy, Leitdorf, Mkeller, Gutsman, Alastor, I am so sorry, I just…I just could not…"

"I once pity you," said Evalan, her voice like liquefied crystal. Valia looked up to see her friend, brown hair and blue eyes. She wasn't particularly beautiful, even amongst the Guards, but at least her head stayed where it should be this time. "But that is over. They are the ones who deserve sympathy. Your comrades. Without them, you would have died, and where they needed you most, you were wanting."

Sadness gave way to rage, and Valia shouted back madly, "You are dead! Why don't you just stop haunting and leave me alone, for Emperor's sake?" The more anger she poured into her words, the more desperate she became. She had no leg to stand on in this argument.

Evalan giggled. "I am dead, and I get to be with the Emperor. Tell me, what is the meaning of your life? What worth is it? Even if you survive this, how many more lives must you suck to preserve your own? Is this what the Emperor is looking for in his subject?"

"Shut up! Shut up!" Valia screamed. "If you want me to die, I can do that right now!" The girl pulled out a las pistol and pressed it against her head. At least that way she would die with some dignity, or she hoped so.

"How does dying here make you any better?" asked Evalan. "Isn't it selfish of you to die painlessly while your comrades suffer sadistic demise at the hand of the enemy? Only in death does duty end. What have you ever done in your life apart from putting others in harm's way to save your sorry ass to deserve such relief?"

Valia lowered her gun. She was defeated, broken, not by the legions of Chaos, but by the ethereal factor that was probably of her own imagination. It would be insane, if not for the fact it was so very real, at least to her. With a deep inhalation, she relented, "I suppose you are right. What must I do now? I can't really think of anything."

Evalan smiled. "Don't think, then. Follow your heart. It knows better than you think."

Valia awoke. From the warehouse's windows, she saw the sky had turned a dark shade of pink. In fact, everything turned pinkish when she looked at, from the roof of the building to her skin. It was night, evidently, though whatever sorcery the Chaos followers were using was affecting the environment quite dramatically. The air smelled like perfume mixed with heroin.

There was little time left. Valia swore upon her soul she would not shirk this time. If she fell today, she died fighting in the name of the Emperor. There would be no more running away, no more hiding, no more being a damsel in distress. Destiny was hers to shape, whether death or eternal victory.

All will be decided. Soon.

Sighing, the girl thought about what to do next. After some twenty minutes or so, she gave up. She did not have a plan. Her head was as empty as an Ogryn's food tin. Even if the foul arcane didn't mess up with her mind, there was no new idea, no initiative, no fresh approach she could think of. She was a Guardswoman, her sole duty was to obey while others with more brain and years in academies would do all the thinking for her. Desperation soon turned to withdrawal, and Valia found herself diverting from the topic.

Her memory drifting to the past, she recalled the first time she celebrated her birthday when she was eight, the Ecclesiarches priest giving her a pair of sock for present. She wore it for four long years, every day until some boys cruelly stripped it from her. She remembered crying in the closet the whole day after that. And then Inquisitor Amelda Eisenhorn paid a visit. For someone who appeared so young, he had fought and bested enemies of the Imperium on countless occasions, from Ork Waaagh! to entire Tyranid Hive Fleet. And he was very good with kids, too. His background really inspired her, if not the second greatest motivation for her to join the Guards. Evalan was her first and best friend, well, before she used her as surrogate to save her skin from the Greenskins. When still alive, Evalan was somewhat a rebel amongst the ranks, cunning and sureptetious, always telling arduous jokes about the hard-line commissars behind their back. At one time, she even put on a show disguising as one of them, and had some guys on duty for spitting…

Wait-a-minute! Of course! Valia almost jumped up out of excitement. It may sound crazy, but she was running out of option, not to mention running out of time. Usakar Creed would approve this.

Going back to where the battle raged earlier, she found the streets surprising empty. All the cultists were gathering at the town square for something sinister, most likely the place where the big show was about to happen and the final stage of their plan would unfold. The carcasses stayed where they were, the followers of the Dark Gods lacking in discretion as always. It didn't take long for Valia to pick a costume out of so many different variations. Bullet holes and blood stain didn't matter, for no one would notice those. When she looked in the mirror, what she saw was a reflection of a hideous turkey painted yellow with satellite discs on its back. Absolutely fashionably heretical, but for the very least, the shoes fitted her little feet. Satisfied with what she got, Valia headed for the town square, praying the Emperor would be watching her.

As expected, the square was crowded. A big party was going on. The music was mind-numbingly loud. Thousands Chaos humans were there, dressed in all sorts of clothes and wearing all kinds of exotic jewelry. Some cloaked themselves in flayed skin of their foe, others the opposite and having their own skin flayed instead, exposing muscle fibers. To Valia's horror, a full squad of Chaos Space Marines including an Aspiring Champion with Power Fist from the Flawless Host had been deployed. Dealing with those guys would be a nightmare.

Valia saw the prisoners, some of them Imperial troops, many just civilians. They weren't chained or roped but under bondage from some dark magic. All her friends were there: Randy, Leitdorf, Alastor, Mkeller and Gutsman. The Ogryn was too big for regular stuff and had to be pinned down with a piano, a convertible, corpse of a Chaos Spawn and a bookshelf filled with children stories.

"Faithful, it has been so long," a voice boomed atop the ear-bashing music. Every eye in the square turned towards a Chaos Sorcerer in full Power Armor standing in the middle of a circle made up of six lesser psykers. Six, Valia thought, the sacred number of Slaanesh. "I feel your pain, your anger. The Imperium see you as trash, the Khornate lunatics hunt you like animals. All of that is about to change. Today, I shall ascend to daemonhood. Together, we shall carve an empire of our own where food is endless, wine flows like blood in artery and people to have sex with is readily available. Rejoice, for soon, the Dark Prince will give me power beyond measurable and all the wonders of the five sense shall be yours."

The response was uproarious. Thousands of fists pounded the sky in approval. Valia felt a rusted dagger had been stabbed into her soul. A Daemon Prince was about to be born, and she had but a couple of hours to stop it. Failure would mean her messy demise, and probably that of all other sane individual on this planet.

As she strode her way through the mass of twisted humanity, Valia found herself witness to the lowest depravity mankind was capable of. It appalled her what she saw were humans at all. Slaanesh did not claim these people if there had not been any part in them that hungered for luxuriance and thirsted for pleasure above what their sanity could withstand.

The ritual had started. The Chaos Sorcerer began to chant corrupted litanies in Warp language while his disciples lent him their power as well as life force to complete the conjuration. Although Valia did not understand what he was blabbering, the words were music to her ears, seducing her mind both vehemently and subtly. The closer she got to the Sorcerer, the stronger the dark urge inside her became. Valia saw endless banquets laid in front of her. She saw clothes beautiful beyond her wildest dreams. Inquisitor Amelda Eisenhorn, dressed in pink, asked her if she could go to bed with him. Everything would be hers, everything and so many more. Because with Slaanesh, the possibilities are limitless. All she needed was to denounce the fallen Emperor and pledge her allegiance to the Dark Prince, and then….

Nooooo! Valia snapped herself out of it. The sorcery was powerful indeed, but she had somehow managed to resist it, either through adamantium will or stubborn imbecility. Anyhow, she had to do this fast, less her soul be lost forever.

But how? What could she, a puny Guardswoman with a las pistol, could hope to archive against a Chaos Sorcerer with the Mark of Slaanesh? If anything, her best chance was trying anyway and maybe the witch might laugh himself to death in the process.

"I sense an unfaithful in our rank," the Sorcerer said. Valia felt blood drained from her face. He knew. He was going to kill her or worse. "Yes, my eye sees you now. Such disgrace. Don't you think you can get away."

The Sorcerer pointed at Valia's direction which immediately became the focal point of attention of all the cultists. Valia dropped to her knees and shut her eyes, hoping swift death which was bound not to happen. She had come all this way, all for nought. Perhaps she was simply just useless, and there was not helping to that.

"Blood for the Blood God!" came a throaty shout. The warcry completely stunned Valia.

The man next to the Guardswoman discharged a plasma grenade at the Sorcerer, only to see it stopped halfway and ended up hovering in the air, mere inches away from the intended target. His assassination attempt had failed. The Slaaneshii cultists swarmed him from all sides. Then, with hands and teeth and cannibalistic fury, they ripped him to pieces and devoured his flesh in the most unsettling manner ever.

Valia felt relieved like never before. Her cover had not been blown yet. Better yet, she saw a golden opportunity. Drawing her las pistol, she fired at the plasma grenade still floating in midair close to the Sorcerer. The first shot missed and impacted on the psychic field harmlessly. The Sorcerer was alerted, but too late. The second shot slammed home and detonated the grenade. Like a star overloaded and exploded, superheated blue sphere expanded engulfed the Sorcerer who did not have a chance to scream.

Degenerated hands were tearing into her, but Valia thought it was worth it, her life for that of the whole planet. It was a worthy sacrifice. Then, as the smoke cleared, she saw she was wrong.

The Sorcerer had barely taken any scratch.

"She is mind," he said. Energy crackled around Valia, lifting her off her feet and putting her face to face with the enemy warlord. The Sorcerer was bareheaded, both his normal eyes sewn shut but a third appeared right on the forehead, surrounded by a circle with the eight-pointed star of Chaos. The eye was horrifying beyond description, terrible to look at but even more scary to look away from, for Emperor knew what it would do to her when she didn't. "You efforts are remarkable, that I admit. But ultimately, it was futile, just as everything that is the Imperium."

"Let go of me, you bastard!" Valia cried, kicking and thrashing the air around her in vain. Although she made an attempt to sound defiant, despair was creeping into her tone. Levitating before the super human, she looked like a pig ready for slaughter. "For the Emperor, why don't you just die?"

The mention of the Emperor elicited raucous laughter from the Sorcerer. "What has the Emperor done for you and me? How naïve you are, little girl. There is no Emperor in this world, just a filthy soulless corpse on the Throne of Lies. I now give you a choice to turn a new leaf, to swear your devotion to our Prince, and I promise you won't regret it."

"The Emperor is restless," Valia retorted. "He shall protect us all. If you die, your soul will be torn apart by the daemons of the Warp."

"I see it differently," the Sorcerer chuckled, staring at her eerily.

His one eye locked on her two, and a tidal of despair flooded through Valia. The Guardswoman screamed in anguish. There was no point of denying it anymore, that much was obvious. His victory was inevitable, so was that of Chaos, and it would only be a matter of time before the forces of traitors, daemons and mutants swept from the Eye of Terror to expunge the Imperium from the stars as though it had never existed. The 14th Black Crusade was a failure, but that meant nothing. Chaos was eternal, and so the efforts of their servants would be rewarded eventually. Waxion was only the beginning - the beginning of the end. In front of Valia's very eyes, the combined armies of the Imperium and Necron shattered like glasses. Tomb Worlds were overwhelmed and eradicated. Guardsmen died in their millions, their festering cadavers becoming juicy food for the Spawns of the Warp. Even the mighty Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes would fall. Most of all, never before had Valia saw something so disgusting, so juvenile, so profane, its whole existence was a blasphemy against all things she loved in this universe: the sex scene between the Emperor and what looked to be Slaanesh. And the size of that XXX was just…outrageous.

"Valia, fight it!" the voice ranged inside her head. It didn't belong to Evalan. The tone was so alien she doubted it was even human talking.

"I…I can't…," Valia stuttered as blood dwell within her mouth. "I am…not strong enough."

"Then forget about strength. Let your heart decide. The power of your heart is more potent than you think. You just need to believe so."

As the voice faded, Valia dreamed. So many misfortunes in her short life. So many people she despised. But now, some people she loved and admire. Randy, Leitdorf, Gutsman, Alastor and Mkeller, all those faces she would never forget. The Ruinous Power offered a multitude physical and psychological sensation, but not friendship. That was their weakness, and she would use it against them.

"Liar! Feth you!" Valia shouted. Las pistol still gripped in hand, she aimed it at the Sorcerer's baleful eye. The round had a one in ten chance of penetrating the psychic field. Even if it did, such puny beam would cause a wound on one-sixth occasion. And there was the blessing of Slaanesh to consider. Valia fired point blank, and the eye busted in blood.

Howling in pain, the Sorcerer staggered back, dropping Valia on her back. He had been defeated. How was that even possible? Entire cities had fallen when he spoke a single word. Monstrous Tyranids died by a few gestures of his hands. Haughty Khornate Champions boasted they would bath in his viscera, only to die without bleeding him a drop. But this girl, barely an adult, dared to wound him?

The Sorcerer took a pained step forward, fist clenched tightly. He might not have his psychic power to help, but killing this whelp would not be too difficult with his bare hands. He was Astartes, after all. Then, as though he had just woken up and found his bed floating in the middle of the ocean, he realised the ritual was incomplete. It fact, it had gone horribly awry. The sacrifice was not enough, and there was no chance in either continuing or dismissing it now.

Slaanesh was not sated. But She would find a way to be so. If the Champions could not feed her, She would feed on them.

"NOOOOOOOOO!" In a clasp of thunder, the Sorcerer was gone. To the dismay of all the cultists and Chaos Space Marines present, it was not what they had expected.

Rather than elevating to a Daemon Prince, the Sorcerer had devolved into a mindless Spawn!

The psychic backlash killed the lesser witches outright, but the aftershock effect was more than that. Those whose minds touched by the Warp were now in a position where their souls were pulled from their body, but by a force so weak it was only halfway. Many died anyway; others were terrified and fled. Cultists ran all over the place, seeking shelter that didn't exist or hiding from invisible menaces. The Chaos Marines were less affected, yet not even they were able to push through the mass of fleeing humans.

Despite the agony, Valia could not help but grin. The party was over.

Freed from their magical bondages, the captured Imperial Guardsmen ran amok. Chaos Space Marines held their ground, their desecrated bolters killing a few of the Guards and a bunch of their panicking followers. Disheartened by the loss of their leaders, they too were on the verge of breaking.

The sorcery that protected the city was now all but gone. The black sky tore itself open and a massive meteor impacted the earth, crushing a dozen unlucky cultists who were fleeing for their lives. A crimson Dreadnought bearing the insignia of the Blood Ravens emerged from the Drop Pod, opening fire with its Assault Cannon the moment it exited the ramp. The Emperor's Finest had joined the struggle at last.

Three Chaos Marines were gunned down instantly, their twitching bodies riddled with bullets. The Aspiring Champion, out of desperation, engaged the Dreadnought with his Power Fist and smashed aside its frontal hull plate. In response, the Dreadnought brought its own Power Fist to bear, seizing the Flawless Host Marine, swirling a couple of rounds before grounding it. The Aspiring Champion was reduced to bloodied mesh.

Valia saw all around her, the tide was turning. Victory was assured. The Dreadnought was only the tip of the Imeprial assault. Soon, thousand infantry would pour in. The Chaos force did not stand a chance now. Gritting her teeth tightly, she got herself up. The pain was still visible. Suddenly a massive iron clad hand grabbed her shoulder and threw her bodily to the ground. Valia felt the pressure applied on her chest as the Chaos Marine put his foot on her, squeezing as though she were a cockroach.

"You ruined it!" he spat. "Victory should have been ours, had not been for you. Now Slaanesh is not pleased. She will have bad things waiting for us. We might have lost, but at least I will have the pleasure of killing you myself."

Valia vomited blood as her organs were crush mercilessly. But she would smile at him. He was pathetic, just like her before. He tried to easiest way out from his perspective, no matter how futile and meaningless it was. Had he not been a heretic, she would surely have pitied him.

At the edge of her vision, right before she passed out, Valia saw the shapes of the men of the Imperial Guards. Randy was the first. Then, it was Leitdorf. Then Alastor, Mkeller, Gutsman, and others who Valia didn't recognise. An Astartes was as tough as ten men, but there were more than thirty of them, Ogryn included.

With fists and clubs and righteous vengeance, they clobbered the Chaos Marine to death.

Valia opened her eyes. She was in bed, covered in a white blanket, in a hospital. A real hospital! Something was not right here, Imperial Guards generally went to filthy makeshift medical centers to have their wounds tended half the time and festering the other half. Valia was still confused when she saw Randy the Catachan sitting on a chair next to her. He looked much cleaner than she last saw him, but still retained the savage traits of a death world's fighter.

"Oh, you are awake at last," he said, pulling out from his pocket and gave her a half-eaten chocolate bar. "Here, to show my gratitude. It's not much, but…we Devils aren't used to giving presents, so don't blame me. And don't expect to get fresh food from a Catachan."

"Thanks." Valia accepted it cheerfully. The sun of the window bathed her with brilliant light. Everything was fine now. The battle had been won and she being still alive. Except for the fact she would be shipped into another combat zone and repeat the whole experience all over again. Such was the way of the Guards. Only in death does duty ends.

But for now, there was a reason to celebrate, and she would not let it come to pass.

"It's not part of my regiment's tradition to sit here, in a hospital, waiting for someone to wake up," Randy continued. "But since I am not one of them anymore, I might as well get off the beaten track once in a while."

"What do you mean you are not one of them anymore?" Valia asked, baffled.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you. Leitdorf's superiors were so pleased with our performance that they are putting us in the same squad. Our profiles are being revamped, if you have someone in the old regiment that you like, it's time to say goodbye to them, course you're unlikely to see them again."

"Same squad?" Valia frowned. "Are we joining the Silver Swan?"

"No," Randy answered. "You, me, Mkeller, Alastor and the Ogryn will be assigned to a special strike force. They say we possess the skills for that. Leitdorf stays with his regiment, too bad. We will have better uniforms, more food, access to more girls… I mean, goodies, a more competent commander, bigger sleeping places, a closer spot to campfire…"

"Who exactly is our commander, anyway?" Valia interrupted.

As Randy was about to say something, a man dressed in black came into the room. His face was hidden behind an expressionless mask. He wore a large coat and a hat which bore the Rosette of the Inquisition. At the center of the Rosette was the symbol of a heart entangled in, or perhaps protected by, thorned vines. Valia's heart skipped a beat. It was no other than Inquisitor Amelda Eisenhorn himself.

"You are up, Miss Valia," he said courteously. "I have heard the reports. Your actions were nothing short of impressive. You should be proud of yourself."

Valia blushed. Being commented by an Inquisitor was not something she had hoped, not for this lifetime. "Well, I was just…"

"Following your heart?" a second man came in and interrupted her. His voice was as soft as a pillow and had excellent vibrant effect. "And it worked, did it not? Love and friendship are the anathema of all things Chaos represents. If their power can be harnessed properly, we will no doubt conquer the darkness of heresy."

Valia didn't recognise who that was, but definitely not a Mordian even though the man was dressed in garish Iron Guard officer uniform. He had long blond hair which didn't seem right in the Guards. He looked impossibly handsome with pale skin, long cheeks and large purple eyes. Valia might have fallen in love with him at first sight if not for one disturbing feature that she could not simply ignore.

"Your…ears…," Valia stammered. "They are…"

"Pointy?" the man chuckled. "I get that a lot. And for some reasons, not many people would question commissar Dramak when he ran around in the corridor of Command Centre naked but for his undergarment. Humans are so…strange."

Valia gapped like a fish. She had been dreaming a lot lately, so she would not be surprised if this were on of them. Pinching her cheek several times, much to the confusion of everyone else, she realised she was not dreaming this time. It was all real. That means…

"I am known as Valentine Windsong. And you are under my command now."

Valia sighed deeply and forced a smile on her face.

She could not wait for her next mission.

Author's note: This is the end of this story. The epic finale is longer than the other two. There might be a sequel to this, who knows. Here are some fun facts:

Chaos Champions can receive blessings of their gods after slaying an enemy's character in combat, ranging from turning to a Daemon Prince to becoming a Spawn.

Dreadnought's Power Fist strike before marine's Power Fist because the former is not unwieldy.

You may already realise, some of the names are taken from Warhammer Fantasy, including Leitdorf and Gutsman.

Amelda Eisenhorn has no relation with Gregor Eisenhorn except he adopted the name to honour the latter. He is actually an artificial human created to house the spirit of a dying hero. His quote can be found in Dire Strait, chapter 1.

Valentine Windsong is a hybrid between human and Eldar, similar to Lofn and that Librarian guy. His quote can be found in The Melancholy of Shizuka Miyamoto, chapter 5.