The Anglic Gene

An orphan girl unsure of who she is or why a man wants her dead carries a secret. She will experience humanity.

Are you ready?

Join Sophia in a heart thumping adventure across England set in the 1870’s, exploring faith, doubt, love and fear. A story, quoted by the editor as “really something special”, you’ll continue to contemplate long after the journey unfolds

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41. Hermitage Castle

The water briefly licked the tips of Sophia’s toes as Ewan drove his steed through a deeper part of The River Esk. After crossing, the small army continued in a northeasterly direction. Over three hours of riding, they had crossed a few streams, several plains, and narrow grassy trails edging their way through dense forest.

As they drew closer to the castle, Sophia took in the grand structure. Though it was not the largest castle Sophia had seen, it was a reasonable size fort. The stonework was in need of minor repair and the top of one section of the wall had crumbled. To her surprise, the cavalry changed directions and headed northward. “Where are we going?” she shouted to Ewan over the heavy hoof beat of the horses. No reply. He had either not heard her or preferred not to respond. She considered asking a second time but decided not to. Looking ahead, she spotted a tall snow-capped hill in the distance. Ewan shouted, “We are going to Greatmoor Hill.” So he did hear me, she thought.

They funneled into a small ravine requiring them to ride in rows three abreast. Her row, third from the front, consisted of Anne to her left and Michael to her right. The walls of the ravine grew higher the farther they travelled. She puzzled as to whether this was a natural chasm or a man-made trench cut into the hillside. If the channel was manufactured, it must have been some time ago as vegetation mixed with rocks happily formed the sides. The trench led to a raised iron portcullis mounted in a large stone archway. Behind the gate, two massive wooden doors opened inwards as they approached. An entry into the hollows of Greatmoor Hill.

Inside, the short torch-lit passageway ended at a large stable. Everyone dismounted. Stable hands gathered the horses and drove them into a large underground straw-covered pen where several other steeds of different colors roamed.

Anne, Sophia, and Michael congregated as Douglas approached. “You look surprised, Michael.”

“I was expecting us to go to Hermitage Castle, not an underground structure, as grand as this.”

“Aye, I expected as much,” Douglas said, turning to glance at a wooden doorway in the distance. “Follow me.”

The trio did so as he continued to speak. “We do have a few men at Hermitage Castle, but this is our main area of operation. For the time being.”

“I see,” Michael said.

Sophia gazed in awe of the sheer size of the underground chamber where they kept the horses. She was eager to find out what else awaited them. The door opened into a room with a large round table in the center draped in a pure white cloth and surrounded by twenty-four wooden chairs. On the far side of the table, opposite the door, a white marble throne was the twenty-fifth seat. A chandelier suspended from the ceiling hung above the center of the table and provided a subtle flickering light for the room. From the back of her mind, an image surfaced of the Arthurian legend Knights of the Round Table. The Sisters used to read stories to her and the other children about Excalibur, Lancelot, Guinevere, and Merlin. It first occurred to her then that Michael’s mount, Lancelot, might be named after the character of the same name in the legends. Could this be one of the places they used to meet? She dismissed the notion. Nah, those are only legends, not history.

“Ah, you’re finally here,” a man said as he entered through a side door. “Come, take a seat at the head of the table.” He seated himself in the throne chair. Michael sat to his right and the two girls to his left.

“Is there anything else you require, Jeremial?” Douglas asked.

“Yes, please bring in the wooden box we discussed earlier.”

“As you wish,” he said, before exiting through the door Jeremial had come through.

Sophia experienced a sense of disappointment in Jeremial’s appearance. She was expecting an ideal specimen of masculinity, a well-muscled king in royal garb. Jeremial, however, was approximately six feet tall, in his early thirties, with a lean body. Frankly, there was nothing kingly about him. He was dressed in long pants, the same drab gray color as those pants she and Anne wore on the gondola ride, and a bluish top. He looked ordinary, like an everyday person you would meet on the street. “So you are Jeremial?” she asked, just to be sure.

“Aye,” he said, in a rusty Scottish twang.

Sophia’s eyebrows twitched in response to the unseemly accent.

“Don’t mind my pronunciation,” he said. “I’m practicing. They say I sound more like a pirate than a Scot.”

“They’re right,” Anne said, with a little snort.

“Anyway, back to business. My real name is Nemamiah. Douglas decided to call me Jeremial. He says the name helps me fit in better with the locals in this realm. I think the real reason is because the Scots have trouble pronouncing Nemamiah properly.”

Sophia cupped her hands on the table. The movement helped settle her desire to ask the man a million questions all at once. “Where are you from?”

“Oh, a place distant from here. They don’t often let me do field trips. This is unique. But, I go where they deem my services are required.”

“Who are ‘they’?” Sophia asked.

“Higher authorities.”

Sophia glanced at Michael. He shrugged. Appeared he was none the wiser as to what Jeremial was talking about.

Douglas returned carrying a rather large polished oak box.

“Here we go,” Jeremial said. “Place the treasure trove on the table in front of me.”

“What is in the box?” Sophia asked.

“Well,” Jeremial said, with a hint of excitement in his eyes, “I suppose we are all eager to find out. Anne here should have the means to open the dastardly locking mechanism.”

“Me?” Anne asked, sheepishly.

“Yes. Those four charms on your bracelet. All but the crucifix.”

“Oh.” She held her wrist up and glanced at the bracelet.

“Take a look at the top of the box,” Jeremial said.

They all rose from their seats for a closer look. Etched across the middle of the box top were four small disc shapes, each framing a different picture: planet, star, moon, sun.

“Each of your charms should match one of the symbols,” Jeremial said, pointing to each recessed disc in turn. “Quickly now, don’t keep us in suspense. Take off each charm and place it in the corresponding spot.”

Anne placed the first charm, the planet, on the matching symbol. A second later, the disc began to glow pale green. She continued with the rest. When the fourth charm illuminated a click sounded.

“Right, I’ve been looking forward to this moment for some time,” Jeremial said.

As he lifted the lid, they all leant in to see what buried treasure lay inside. Nestled in silky white cushions were two long thin-bladed silver swords glowing with a soft white light. “One Sword of Light for each of you,” Jeremial said.

“Me?” Anne said.

“Yes, you,” Jeremial replied.

“Neither of us knows how to use a sword,” Sophia said.

“One of my jobs is to teach you.”

“Why?” Sophia asked.

“To stop Mephis at the”—he cleared his throat—“grand event. I believe the big guy should just smite him. However, freewill and all that dictates a human out of his or her freewill must stop him. Rules are rules.”

“How come they glow?” Anne asked. Sophia thought it odd her first question was not who is Mephis?

“They are one of the few weapons in this realm that can send a Shadow back to the Underworld?”

“Shadow? Underworld?” Sophia said, eyebrows bouncing with curiosity.

“Ah, yes. I do have to fill you in on a bit. We can discuss that over dinner.”

Sophia nodded. She was curious, but with so many questions running amok in her head, she did not know where to start. Her main concern was the whole business of dragging Anne into a battle with Mephis. Anne cannot fight.

Nemamiah closed the case.

“Oh,” Anne said, frowning. “Can’t we pick them up?”

“No, no,” Jeremial replied. “We don’t want you killing yourselves. We’ll start with wooden swords to begin with.”

“That sounds like fun,” Anne said.

Always eager, Sophia thought. But this was to be no game. A distant ultimatum resurfaced in her mind: Him or me. This time she did not picture Jack. She visualized Mephis.

“Douglas,” Jeremial said, “show the girls and Michael around the facility and then to their rooms.”

“Aye,” he replied.

“After they are settled in, bring them to the dining room.”

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