A rat scurried along the edge of the single room sewer home. Resso winced as her mother combed another tangle out of her wild hair.
‘Where does God live?’ Resso asked.
‘Far away on distant Terra.’
‘But where’s that?’ Resso rolled a bead between her fingers.
‘Oh,’ Larron said. ‘Somewhere far away across the galaxy.’
‘Through the Warp?’
Larron worked through another tangle, giving her daughter’s hair little tugs where the broken-toothed comb caught. ‘That’s right.’
‘Can He see us?’
‘He sees all His children, no matter where they are.’
Resso pressed the bead into the palm of her hand. ‘And hears our prayers?’ She wanted to tell her mother about what she’d seen the other day, but wasn’t sure how to bring it up.
‘What about His saints, can they hear our prayers too?’
Larron pulled the comb free and leaned over her girl’s shoulder, turning her chin towards her. ‘What’s this about?’
‘I think she heard mine.’
Resso rode at the front of Tam Hallsop’s sewer skimmer, a long electric boat that cut through the foul waters of Antiqua Resolve. She tilted her head, her keen ears listened for telltale sounds of a survivor as they passed moss-covered walls dripping with runoff. Above the boat’s midsection dangled a lantern on the end of a swaying pole, casting light into droplets running down the walls, some of them glistening red.
“Wait,” Resso whispered and lifted a hand.
Tam killed the engine and using his oar pushed backstrokes into the water, bringing the boat to a sloshing stop.
“Back a little, twenty feet or so,” Resso waved. She stood in a low crouch, holding the edge of the skiff with one hand and cupping an ear with the other.
Each day as the sun fell on the city above, the Night Lords haunted the streets. Sometimes they killed, other times they maimed, but everywhere they went pain and suffering was left in their wake.
Resso ran doubled over from the sewer drain to the man’s side.
“You’ll be okay,” she whispered. She was only twelve and wondered how she would get him to safety. Usually Tam helped her, but he was too big to fit through the drain this time. Before attempting to move the survivor, Resso said a prayer.
The man was bleeding, covered in thin cuts left by razors or barbed wire. He muttered, his voice too low to hear above the screams, gun shots, and howls that followed the Night Lord’s nightly sprees of destruction.
A wall burst. Glass flew, metal sheeting crumpled and skittered across the brick road, a door exploded in a cloud of splinters. A towering Night Lord flew through the ruined wall. Blood ran down his arm from a body impaled on his pauldron. A young man gasped, clutching at his chest where a trio of spikes held his twitching body to the Night Lord’s arm.
The Night Lord turned, his eyes passed over Resso, then, as he spotted the bloodied man, his broken lips pulled into a sneer revealing ragged teeth.
Resso tumbled backward. Sweat broke out over her skin, a scream caught in her throat. Though frozen by terror, her every instinct screamed run. Unable to move, she said a silent prayer and begged for salvation.
Twenty yards away, now standing over her. The heretic Astartes moved faster than Resso could blink. He lifted his bloodied mace and brought it down in a swing to obliterate her.
There was a flash of golden light.
When Resso looked back, the Night Lord’s mace was suspended a few feet above her head, stopped by a sword that shimmered the white-blue of new clouds. Wisps of vapor drifted from the unwavering foreign blade where the Night Lord’s mace trembled. Instantly, Resso recognized Saint Ardel from the stories.
As Ardel and the Night Lord fought, a gaggle of screaming cultists arrived to aid their champion.
The Saint parried a sweeping blow from the Night Lord, spinning her. She turned with the momentum and cut down three cultists as she swung back to face the traitor in time to deflect another blow.
Resso struggled with the survivor as the battle raged. She pulled and grit her teeth, begging God for strength. At every break in combat, Ardel helped Resso move the man closer to the sewer drain where Tam waited, awestruck.
Over and over Resso prayed, alternating from begging the God-Emperor for further protection to thanking Him for sending Ardel.
The Night Lord howled, pulled his mace back, and charged Ardel with the shoulder that wore the dead man.
Ardel stepped aside and slashed the passing traitor. The Night Lord bellowed curses as he fell, damning the saint to the four gods of Chaos. He landed a few feet from the drain where Resso was about to escape.
The Night Lord pawed his way towards Resso, laughing and spitting blood.
Larron clutched a tiny Aquila to her chest.
“How,” she shook her head, “how did you get away?”
“Ardel stopped him. I didn’t see it happen, I was helping the man get into the sewers. Before I went down I looked back and Ardel gave me this,” Resso showed her mother the Rossarias bead.
Resso smiled and leaned into her mother, rolling the bead between her fingers. “I think He heard my prayers and sent Ardel.”
“Yes,” Larron said and kissed the top of Resso’s head. “I think you’re right.”
Larron pulled her girl into a hug and ran her hand through her hair that was, at least for now, tangle-free.