It was all over.

The prisoners in their hundreds were herded together as their captors led them into the Grand Cathedral. Bolak felt his heart heavy as he walked along his battered comrades, Chaos Space Marines flanking them on both sides with their bolters ready. Guilt weighted down on him. He led his men to this fate. He dragged them to this pit of shame. It was his fault that they would all die, him and his stupidity thinking they could be any match for the chosens of the Ruinous Power.

The candles from the mouth of a thousand gargoyles illuminated the room. The marble tiles were filthy with dust and timber fragments. In normal days, groups of slaves would wipe them clean with their tongue, swallowing up anything too large for their mouth to hold along the way. Paintings depicting scenes of glorious slaughter, cruel torture, lavish decadence as well as things so unsettling to speak of even for those subject to whispers of the Dark Gods lined up the walls. The Grand Cathedral was a structure of massive design, able to accommodate up to a million worshippers at the same time. It was the symbol of Chaos rule on Soriall, a reminder as to what power the people on this blasted rock belonged to. Bolak had plans for its demolition ever since the outbreak of the rebellion, but never had the time to finish them.

Bolak had seen the end coming for a long time. He cursed his fate, defying the inevitable with all his soul could muster, but that was not enough. The rebellion had failed; a fool's venture it was. Just three days ago, they were still on the ascendency, bringing deserved deaths to all those corrupted officials who had done them so much harm. At that point, Bolak had a glimpse of hope he would succeed, a tiny fraction of expectation that things were going to get better. Little did he know, hope was the first step on the road to disappointment.

Summoned by the coward servants who could not defend themselves from the rebels, a full company of Word Bearers Chaos Space Marines arrived on Soriall, undertaking a ruthless campaign of extermination. The rebels fought back. Despite being slaughtered again and again, their spirit was not deterred. Not being able to achieve victory in direct confrontations, the rebels blew up bridges, set up mines on important roads, destroyed any resource the enemy could get access to. Once, they managed to ambush and annihilated a whole squad of Astartes, a feat not to be sneezed upon.

But all those efforts were for nothing.

The Word Bearers had tougher armor, better equipment, guns and vehicles that outclassed anything the rebels possessed by a mile. They also received more efficient training and acquired much greater wealth of experience after centuries of constant combat. But most of all, they were fanatical monsters, chanting in the name of the Dark Gods everywhere they went, performing deeds of heroism that would have been so marvelous had they not been foul in content and purpose. Against such unshakable foe, the rebels stood no chance. Soon, there was nowhere left to go. The rebels made a last stand. They were beaten. Tens of thousands died, the lucky ones. Those that did not would live for one reason only, to become sacrifice for the Gods.

"The hour has come," the Dark Apostle spoke, his amplified voice booming across the great chamber. He stood next to the Altar of Sacrifice where, one every week (4 days on Soriall), a human would be picked out amongst the teeming billions that populated this world as offering to the Gods. "Let the ceremony begin."

A cacophony filled the air as the Chaos Space Marines sang in unison. Bolak recognized the desecrated song was one he was forced to learn and recite since elementary school: Glory of Primordial Truth. He despised it with a passion. To his anger, one of his men began to mutter the lyrics. Then, another tuned in, trying to keep up with the singing Astartes, followed by another couple.

Pathetic, Bolak thought. They still thought they could be spared.

"Enough," Bolak shouted back to his comrades. "No one is singing while I am here. There is no redemption for us. Would you rather we die here and now as meaningful sacrifice to the Gods, or continue to waste our lives like garbage the way we did before?"

The song reached its crescendo. The Dark Apostle stretched out his arms as though to embrace the glory bestowed upon him The Chaos marines were now singing with joyful excitement. They loved the music just as they loved their Gods. Bolak let out a grin, seeing not a single sound come from the prisoners.

The song ended. For a few seconds, deathly silence reigned.

"Impressive," said the Dark Apostle, his baleful gaze fixed upon Bolak. "Such spirit. I never thought to see it from the likes of you wretched insects."

"Then perhaps you have underestimated us," Bolak replied, staring back, showing no fear.

The Dark Apostle chuckled, "Not by any great amount. Tell me, then, leader of the rebellion, why have you stood up against us? Why have you gone back against the will of the Gods?"

"The will of the Gods can suck my ass," Bolak spat. He could never forget that day, the day that changed his life forever.

After his wife was raped and murdered by Slaaneshii maniacs, the wirewolves, due to lack of maintenance, failing to activate in time to protect her, everything in the world that mattered to Bolak was his son. Going back home from a long exhausting day working in the toxin-filled, hot-as-hell manufactorum, the sight of his son, strong, handsome and devoted always put a smile on him. One day, his son was ill. The local hospital was closed after the frivolous state thought healthcare was secondary to entertainment, and the closest clinic would still be too far. Bolak came to the plague monks and asked for the cure. They prescribed the "medicine" and the rituals required, warning that the God might demand further which they could not predict. Not going to let the risk prevent him, Bolak did as he was told. For a few days, it worked and his son was lively again.

But on the fifth night, returning from work, Bolak was terrified by the sight of a spawn in his dwelling. Fearing the Plague God was trying exact payment from him by stealing his son, Bolak grabbed the old pipe and beat it to death. Only afterwards did he realize Nurgle had never sought to take his son away. The moment the ritual was finished, the right to claim changed hand, and Nurgle saw it fit to turn the young boy into a twisted spawn.

That moment, Bolak saw what kind of sorry life he and countless others were leading. They venerated the Ruinous Power, but to what end? Anything the Chaos Gods wanted, they demanded from the followers. Not even a mountain of skull, a galaxy of knowledge, a world of rotten flesh, or Fabius Bile's collection of sex toys could ever satisfy them. Life's meaning was no more than to pay off an infinite debt, to have every last drop of blood sucked away by the leeching, selfish power.

That moment, he knew he had to do something about it, even if he had to die trying.

"Strong words," the Dark Apostle remarked. Though he tried to remain indifferent, some part of him was visibly irked, and Bolak liked to see that. "For a deluded scum."

"We are only deluded because you fooled us in the first place," the rebel leader cried. "You dragged us down. The Dark Power takes everything from us, giving nothing by grieves in return."

"Silence," the Dark Apostle gritted his teeth in frustration. "You have strayed from the right path far enough. I was here when this world turn to Chaos. I exposed the lies of the Imperium to your ancestors and taught them to sing praises for the Gods. For centuries until now, Soriall was caressed and pampered, thriving amongst countless others within the Empire of Chaos, and now you dare show such ungratefulness. I shall not let my efforts be undone by such an insignificant creature you are."

The Apostle gave a hand gesture to two Chaos Space Marines who seized Bolak and half-dragged half-carried him to the altar. They placed him their without any restraint, not that the rebel leader was in need of any. Even with extra arms and legs, he would not be going anywhere with these super humans around. Besides, there was no point trying to prolong this shame. The Altar of Sacrifice was the place where, one every day, one human amongst the teeming billions that populated this world would be picked as offering to the Gods. The method was allegedly at random, or according to what the deity of the Warp told its followers to do, but later on the officials were discovered to be using it as a subtly "legal" way to dispose of anything who opposed them.

The Dark Apostle loomed over Bolak, a mighty creature clad in ceramite. His crimson armor was heavily adorned with artifacts ranging from torn pages written in dark language to images of the demented creatures and heroes of dark legends. On his left shoulder hung the decapitated head of an Imperial Cardinal, a Tau Ethereal and a Necron Praetorian, culture leaders of other races who felt the Word Bearer's wrath.

"You should be honored to be the first of the many souls that claimed by the Gods today," said the Dark Apostle as he brought forth wicked-looking sword imbued with daemonic aura. "Any last word before we proceed?"

Bolak closed his eye, clearing his mind of fear, of despair, of death.

Believe in your heart.

The voice kept ringing from within him, as though close whisper from his very soul. It began ever since the loss of his son, and had accompanied him ever since; the same thing forged him into the person he was today, a leader who failed his people but had no regret. There was no point stopping now.

He must believe in his heart, Bolak thought. And his heart wanted to….

Taking a deep breath, Bolak glared directly at his killer, bellowing at the top of his lung, "Eat shit and die, Astartes scum. Your Primarch's mother was a whore, and she loved it. Enjoy your hallow victory, for you achieve nothing with our deaths. Our bodies might be broken, but never our spirits. We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

"People of Soriall, slaves and beggars, unite!"

An upheaval cheer came from the prisoners who raised their fists in approval. The Chaos Space Marines had to use force to suppress them.

The Dark Apostle forced a grin on his ugly face. "You are all bark and no bite. Your actions are simply incompatible with your words. How about I let you find out yourself when the daemons tear your soul apart and devour it wholesomely?"

The blade went down. Bolak snap his eyes closed. Before the blow could connect, a loud noise caught whole chamber's attention.

Section of the wall came down as a Vindicator was thrown into the Cathedral, tossed as though it were a mere toy. The vehicle landed on a duo of Word Bearers who were too shocked to move out of the way. Their fate was not pretty. If being crushed within their Power Armor was not enough, getting dragged for a further twenty meters by the tank before it came to a halt and having their innards littering all over the place ensured their demise.

Before anyone could come to term what just took place, intense light, pure and blazing like a proximate sun, bathed the chamber. It was blinding. Living in the dark under a dim, dying sun for too long, the citizens of Soriall were unable to cope with it. Bolak felt his eyes melting, his skin burned by the radiation. Amongst the confusion, something was happening.

Bolak heard the cries of his pained comrades, the coarse shouts of the Chaos Space Marines who recognized some sort of threat coming their way. He heard the sound of bolter and plasma fire as they retaliated against whatever was attacking them. There were more cries in agony and death, but coming from the Astartes this time. Bolak heard the thud of Power Armors falling bodily to the floor, the clang of a helmet rolling on the ground, the puff of a plasma-weapon overheat. The ground seemed to shake as the Demolisher cannon was fired, and then again indicating the marble tiles of the Cathedral were pulverized by the blast.

As the light abated, Bolak reopened his eyes and saw the dismembered corpses of more than fifty Chaos Space Marines who lied dead in a gratifying number of pieces on the ground. They were dismembered, disemboweled, decapitated. All the cuts were clean, surgically precised; the Space Marines' ancient armor provided little protection against what was coming. The smell of ozone, charred flesh and alchemy-fused blood pervaded the air. Miraculously, none of Bolak's comrades was hurt.

A lone figure was standing amidst the carnage and facing the altar. Hatred immediately surged through Bolak, for the creature was the very thing he had been taught for as long as he could remember, to fear and abhor. His heart throbbed, his teeth clenched, Bolak resisted a curse from his mouth. The feeling was fleeting, however, for he was not his old person anymore; that one was long dead and gone, eaten away by daemons now. Against all his beliefs, against his own self-conscious of what was right and what should be spit upon, Bolak could not help but find her pretty.

No, he corrected himself, that would be a gross understatement. Magnificent should be the word.

She had long silky hair that fell a waterfall on her back, white the color of milk just as the wings that sprouted from her back. On one hand she held a great sword covered in thick oozy blood and on the other a strange-looking weapon that was flute-shaped. She was dressed in plain white dress and, apart from a pair of shoulder guards, had no visible armor, putting her in stark contrast with the Word Bearers around her. Several rings of emblazoned with fire seemed to float around her. Her whole body radiated an aura of purity. The sight of her made Bolak raged, then afraid, and then he felt ashamed of himself; compared to her the likes of him were nothing more than cockroaches to a nightingale.

Some of the prisoners snarled in disgust at the angel. Others cowered and wept. A few kneeled down praying.

The Angel - Living Saint and incarnation of the Emperor - walked towards the Altar of Sacrifice at a gentle pace. A guttural roar came from the back of the Cathedral. Out of nowhere, a Chaos Hellbrute, demented machine housing the broken body of an Astartes, now consumed by rage and bloodlust, charged from the altar directly at the angel. The Autocannon fired, but the shots kept getting eaten up by the fire circles flying around the Angel like water absorbed by a sponge. The Hellbrute closed the distance swiftly and raised its massive fist, poised to strike, when the Angel reacted, bringing the sleek weapon to bear. She shot a single superheat beam at it, vaporizing the armored casing and the once-human residing within in a blink of an eye. Oozing smoke and chemicals, the smoldering husk of the war walker fell darkly to the floor.

"Worthless insects," the Dark Apostle howled furiously, any self-control lost on him. "Chosens of the Dark Gods you are, and you have all proven wanting. This is NOT the way of Chaos. May your souls be ripped to pieces in the afterlife!"

"They did what they could," said the Angel in a melodic voice. "Now it's time to end this, me and you."

"Not quite yet." A wicked grim ran across the Dark Apostle's face as he swung his daemonic blade the human underneath him that he had almost forgotten. Before the blow could land, another sword intervened in the nick of time, resulting in a metallic clang and both stopping just above the rebel leader.

Bolak felt himself paralyzed. He could not believe what he was seeing: the Angel was protecting his life. There was no logic in this. Why would she risk herself to save a wretched heretic who had irredeemably strayed from the Emperor's light?

Even as Bolak struggled to understand, the Dark Apostle pulled out his next move.

"How predictable," he said, firing a bolt-pistol at point blank. The pistol's muzzle was embedded with an Ork skull, giving the impression of bullets spewing from the creature's mouth. The shot carried the soul-blazing essence of a daemon, or perhaps the malevolent Greenskin that once owned this skull. Although the Warp aura was stopped by the fire shield, the bolt round itself went through, exploding at Angel just beneath the abdomen.

Moaning, the Angel focused her strength as she withdrew her sword. With a backward swing, she disarmed the Chaos marine of his bolt-pistol, but lost balanced due to intense pain; a Living Saint she was, completely invulnerable she was not. Taking advantage of the opening, the Dark Apostle struck with his melee weapon. The Angel evaded it, barely, only to be whammed bodily to the blood-soaked floor by a savage shoulder smack. Both weapons were knocked from her hands. She was now defenseless.

"Noble till the very end," the Dark Apostle sneered, kicking the Angel from the altar and threw her ten meters away. The Angel tried to get up, but the slippery floor coupled with the pain prevented that. Even so, her eyes stared spitefully at the Word Bearer. "Just like the rest of those devoted to the False Emperor. Pathetic. This is why you are bound to lose, to wither, to die. And then, the power of Chaos shall consume all."

"Lies!" the Angel shouted defiantly, even as the Dark Apostle slowly approached her.

Bolak snapped his mind out of it. He could not afford to lie here and watch any longer. He needed to do something, less the Angel's life and his would be in jeopardy.

"What should I do?" he asked himself. He carried no tool specialized for warfare. He saw the bolt-pistol on the floor. Though never having fired once, Bolak knew the mechanism and prayers required to operate such weapon, assuming the Word Bearers had not modified it too dramatically, but it looked damaged beyond repair now. He saw the sword dropped by the Angel, but quickly discarded the idea. Bolak was not good with melee weapon. Besides, it was too large for him to carry, let alone use as a lethal tool. And then there was the slender melta gun.

Sprinting into action, the rebel leader pounced at the flute-like weapon. The design was completely alien, packed with purity seals and unfathomable runes that burned his eyes upon looking. The material was also strange to touch. Bolak felt as though his bare hands were caressed by an ethereal force as he lifted and aimed the melta weapon at the Dark Apostle's back.

"Millennia of service, and I have never slain a Living Saint before," said the sneering Word Bearer, readying his blade for the execution. The Angel did not resist. "Today, I shall have that first taste. No Emperor is here to protect you now. Your feathers will make a good vestment, once I kill you."

Bolak tensed. He did not know how to use this particular weapon. There did not seem to be a trigger, or an activation rune, or anything protruding from its angular surface. This was definitely not something the Mechanicus would recognize.

"Come on, come on. How do I fire this thing?" Bolak asked himself desperately.

Believe in your heart.

There was that voice again, that strange, enticing, unearthly voice, ringing inside his mind. Bolak took a deep breath and calmed himself. He focused his thoughts on what was dear.

To protect the one who risked her life to save him.

To put an end to this perpetual tyranny.

To avenge all the lives of those fallen.

And open a brighter future for those who still draw breath and those that will.

"For my son and for the people of Soriall!"

A brilliant flash of light came from the weapon, as bright as a mini-sun, but Bolak's eyes were not hurt anymore. He saw the whole thing as clear as crystal. The beam impacted on the Dark Apostle's back, straight through the psychic shield generated by the Sigil of Corruption, blasting the back pack power unit, vaporizing the second heart before stopping just as the superheat substance began to seep from the breastplate. The next second lasted internal. The Word Bearer commander knelt to the floor, eyes staring in disbelief, a pool of hot blood expanding around him. The prisoners watched in speechlessness.

"Who said I was all bark and no bite?" said Bolak sarcastically.

The Angel got to her feet, albeit with some effort. She reclaimed her fallen sword and touched its tip on the shoulder plate of the Dark Apostle. The bewildered Chaos marine reached for the amulet on his neck, an artifact bestowed by the Dark Council, hoping for protection, hoping for deliverance. But the amulet was cold and dark, its essence all but drain. The heretic commander was alone in this lost battle.

It was all over.

"My Gods," the Dark Apostle whined, staring blankly at the ceiling. Black tears flooded his eyes. "Why… have you… abandoned me? I…should have… You promised…. "

"More lies," shouted the Angel contemptuously and performed the coup de grace. The Dark Apostle's head flew across the room, eyes casting a baleful but lifeless gaze on all the rebels in the chamber. There was elation amongst the prisoners at witnessing the death of the accursed one that had caused them so much suffering.

The Angel sagged. Bolak rushed to her and support her.

"I can send medics, healers," he said, though he doubted any healing technique on a Chaos-infected world would be any beneficial to a Living Saint.

"There is no need for that," the Angel assured, gesturing at her wound which was slowly regenerating. The bleeding had also stopped. "I am well-prepared. No wound can be of nuisance to me for long. But thank you for your kindness, nevertheless."

"No," Bolak refused. "It is I who must thank you. You showed us the light. You dragged us out of this darkness. You bestow us with salvation. Without you, we would all be dead or worse."

He turned to address his comrades. "People of Soriall. A new age dawns upon us. You have already seen why the Ruinous Power cannot be the future for our children. Our ancestor made a mistake following the lure of Chaos, but we shall repent for them. Cancel the demolition of this cathedral. Let us renovate it and open up a new of era of worshiping, one that puts the Holy Emperor of Men at the center."

Suddenly, Bolak felt a warm hand seizing tightly on his shoulder. "Please, stop," said the Angel. "You have disappointed me, Bolak. This is far from what I have expected. I now look upon you and see a different person as I did before."

"Why?" asked Bolak, appalled. "Is this not your purpose of coming here, to show the light of the Emperor to us, to open us a path back to the Imperium?"

"The former is true," said Angel darkly. "But not the latter."

"The Emperor and the Imperium are one and the same," Bolak persisted. That was how he was taught by his masters whose evidence was clear and convincing that despite their lies, he trusted in this one. "It was the Emperor who created the Imperium. The Imperium exists to follow the will of Him."

"Again, only half of what you say is true," explained the Angel, a sad smile on her face. "The Emperor did found the Imperium, but after he perished at the hand of his traitorous son, the Imperium has strayed too far from what the Emperor originally desired. The Emperor abhorred by worshiped as a god, and yet, that did not stop the Imperial church from propagating his false divinity, partly to serve the people, but mostly for their own gain. For ten thousand years, the Imperium is ruled by delusion and paranoia."

"I was once like you, Bolak. Naïve, a bit zealous and very much alive. I believed the Imperium could grow and prosper with its mindset, I was wrong. The moment I saw my comrade sisters murder innocent lives just because they did not venerate the Emperor in a proper manner, the moment they cut me down as a heretic when I tried to prove innocents, I changed my view. The Imperial Truth has strayed too far from what the Emperor' believed to be sacred. Generations after generations, nothing but a fooled, narrow-minded, xenophobic bunch. The Imperium is a bloated corpse; no matter how much is fed into, there could be no life. What had scarred me since the Age of Apostasy will stay in my soul forever."

"You must be lying." Bolak was losing his patience. For a brief moment, he thought he might have hit her if she had not been his savior in the first place. "You are the Emperor's pet sent here to conquer us, to punish us for the sins of our ancestors. You are saying all of this to demoralize us, aren't you? What more do you want from us?"

"I do not deceive anyone," replied the Angel as she turned away from Bolak. "Believe it or not, it is up to you. But heed my words that rejoining the Imperium of Man is far from your salvation. It is not where your true freedom lies."

"Then where it is?" demanded Bolak, infuriated. "Tell me what to do."

"The more you ask what someone else would want you to do, the further you deviate from your freedom," said the Angel. "Besides, you already know the answer. Have you forgotten?"

Those words again, Bolak whispered to himself.

Believe in your heart.

Looking back at the Living Saint, he said, "I think I know it now. I will mark your word from now on. But without churches and cathedrals, what sort of recognition must we give to the Emperor, then?"

The Angel smiled to him, "Nothing. Just have faith in Him, and He will be there to guide your way.

"He is not alive, but neither is He dead. He is the stars that shine, the winds that blow, the rivers that flow. He walks amongst us, travelling through the light of the sun, the songs of birds, the kind words of friends, families and lovers. He is me, you and anyone who believes."

"Me?" asked Bolak is disbelief. "That cannot be right. I am a heretic. I am unworthy."

"But you just gave me evidence to the otherwise," said the Angel. "The weapon you are carrying," Bolak realized the melta gun which he almost forgot up to this point, "it only responds to those pure of heart. I bestow it to you as means to defend your new freedom. Use it well."

The Angel took her leap, white light glowing brilliantly around her.

"Regardless what you have done, it is what you will do that matters. Let go of the past, and open up a bright future. For yourself, and for your people."

And she disappeared.

Inside the cathedral, wild mutters came from the crowd. Prayers were heard, and some insults exchanged. The dead Chaos Space Marines continued to bleed.

Turning back to his people whose destiny lied in his hand, Bolak felt surer than ever. "Citizens of Soriall. I retract my earlier words about rejoining the Imperium. No longer will you be slaves or beggars. Today, we separate ourselves from the Empire of Chaos, and refuse our ties to the Imperium of Men. Our freedom only comes with independence where no one can tell us what to do save for the True Emperor Himself.

"Today, we carve our own future."


Author's note: I wrote this piece due to the distinct lack of stories where Chaos humans are not fanatical maniacs. One of the things that bother me when reading Warhammer 40k is that cultists are pathetic foes whose sole existence to be the punching bag of our heroes. Seriously, apart from the Blood Pact and Son of Sek, they get slaughtered like pigs all the time.

I also don't see many stories involving an Imperial Saint that often, so here it is.

Hope you enjoy.