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


33. River Mersey

After a long ride from Thor’s cave, Michael gazed westward up the River Mersey admiring the beautiful golden glow the setting sun cast across the water’s calm surface. He considered staying the night this side of the Queen Victoria Bridge in Warrington. Considering the Bobbies would likely be searching both sides of the river, however, he decided to proceed farther north. On the outskirts of Warrington, he knew of a small chapel where they could spend the night. The bridge seemed oddly vacant. He expected more people to be out on such a lovely evening. With a quick jab of his heels, he bought Lancelot to a slow trot. Together, in a triangular formation with Michael at point, Anne on the left, and Sophia on the right, they proceeded to traverse the bridge.

Halfway across the bridge, two men appeared from behind pillars on the far side of the crossing. One, whose navel exposed because his shirt was several sizes too small to cope with his rather flabby belly, held a wooden paling with a nail sticking out the end. The other, firm and athletic in appearance and wearing a black coat and long pants with a sheathed dagger conspicuously attached to his belt, announced: “There is a toll for crossing this bridge!” 

“And what is that?” Michael replied. The men strode towards them. Michael glanced over his shoulder to see if retreating was an option. As expected, two men approached from the rear for a possible ambush. Both were rather lean but well-muscled, about six feet tall, with short black hair, similar physical features, and white long-sleeve shirts with navy pants. One held a metal bar as long as a sledgehammer and the other a black Bobby’s baton.

The man with the dagger, whom Michael presumed to be the leader, yelled, “Your horses will do.”

“Anne, Sophia,” Michael said, as he dismounted Lancelot. “Stay on your horses.” He looked the man in the eye, said, “We don’t want any trouble, Mister.”

“Good,” the leader said, placing his hand on the hilt of his dagger. “The price of no trouble is three horses, and you three can be on your way.”

Michael strode towards the approaching men until stopping an arm’s length away. The men approaching from the rear paced around Anne and Sophia to surround Michael. “Nobody needs to get hurt,” Michael said, holding his staff vertical with its base resting on the ground. He closed his eyes.

“Funny boy,” the leader said. “Thinks he can fight us blind, boys!”

First Michael heard the whooshing sound of the spiked plank the big guy was wielding. In response, Michael twisted his staff and pushed it outward connecting with the guy’s flabby stomach and doubled him over in pain. Michael plunged his elbow into the back of the big guy’s head, sending him to the ground with a thud. Next, he heard the whirl of the metal bar looping towards him. He thrust his staff a little lower than the direction of the sound. The staff passed between the attacker’s legs and proceeded upward with a sharp flick that crushed the fellow’s nether regions. The man made a sickly groan, groped at his crotch, and collapsed.

Michael opened his eyes. Two left: the leader with his dagger drawn and the man with the Bobby’s baton whose hands were shaking. Michael dropped his staff, clenched his fists while leaving his middle finger and forefinger poking outwards. The leader swung his dagger, and Michael reacted by stabbing him rapidly with his pointed fingers, first directly on a pressure point in the upper-right shoulder that dislodged the blade from his hand. Then he prodded on each side of the man’s chest and delivered a quick blow to the base of the leader’s neck just below his Adam’s apple. The leader grabbed his throat with both hands, gasping for air as he collapsed to the ground. Michael turned to the last aggressor. The man, hand shaking, raised the baton. “Your choice,” Michael said, glaring at the man. With a clunk, the attacker’s baton fell to the ground and he turned and scurried away.

“Wow!” Anne said, her eyes bulging with admiration for the display of heroism.

Michael picked up his staff. “I know a few moves,” he replied, mounting Lancelot. “We best keep moving.”

A short while later, as the sun was half past the horizon, they came to the edge of a graveyard strewn with headstones in amongst overgrown grass and knee-high weeds. The small cemetery separated them from a boarded-up ordinary chapel, a simple rectangular box with an elongated triangular roof.

“Looks like nobody’s home,” Sophia said.

“I expected as much,” Michael replied.

After securing the horses, Michael pushed on door of the chapel, but it stubbornly refused to move. With the butt of his shoulder, he strained and shoved harder. A terrible scrawling sound echoed around the chapel as the base of the door clawed across the wooden floor.

Inside, Michael stood his staff up against the wall, which subtly lit the interior of the building. The chapel was a rectangular hall with a row of pews on each side facing a raised pulpit. “Pick a pew for your bed,” he said. “We’ll be safe here for the night.” After wiping the thick dust off a bench, he made his own bed using his haversack as a pillow. Before long, the girls were sitting on a pew, burning off energy playing a game of Pat-a-Cake.

The game started with singing the words “pat-a-cake” as they clapped. Then as they slapped each other’s palms they sang “pat-a-cake” a second time, followed by clapping again and singing “baker’s man!” They repeated this clapping pattern sometimes crisscrossing their palm strikes while signing the rest of the rhyme, “So I will, master, as fast as I can. Pat it, and prick it, and mark it with T. Put it in the oven for Tommy and me.” Each time through the verse, they increased the tempo until one of them missed the other girl’s hands. At that point, they would stop and share a laugh and start all over again.

Michael fought back a smile, seeing the child in them. They were children, he mused, forced to grow up rapidly in a broken world. Drawn into a war not of their own making. Both had seen and done things they should never have had to see or do. He closed his eyes and drifted into a memory of a meeting with Mendel.

* * *

Michael slipped into a seat across from Mendel who was sitting behind his desk.

Mendel returned a quill he had used to scrawl on a scroll to its holder. “Michael, congratulations on your White Monk graduation.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“After careful consideration, we have chosen you as a candidate for an upcoming assignment.”


“Yes. An escort assignment.”

“Of whom?”

“Two young girls.”

“Where to?”

“From here to Hermitage Castle on the borders of Scotland.”


“We’re not quite sure. The fact is, we have received information about the assignment from a prophecy in a book.”

“In a book?” Michael asked, eyebrow raised.

“Yes,” Mendel said, in a measured tone. “The Book Of Esdras.” From his desk drawer, he retrieved the book and passed it to Michael. “Take a read when you get a chance.”

Michael accepted the book.

“Ignore the box inside, which is for one of the girls should we meet them.”


Mendel pushed the scroll he was writing on over to Michael. “Here is a map you can use as a guide for your journey. On the back you’ll see additional instructions and some codes for accessing particular passageways. Memorize the map and notes, then destroy it. We don’t want those secrets getting into the wrong hands.”

“That is some distance,” Michael replied, as he traced the route on the map. A line trailed over hundreds of miles through several marked places—Hyde Park, Stowe House, Birmingham, Thor’s Cave, Warrington—and on it went proceeding in a northerly direction until finishing at Hermitage Castle.

“It’s a suggested route. Use your intuition to choose stops at your leisure. Variations may be required depending on how your horses hold up and, well, any unforeseen events that might arise.”


“Yes, we are giving you three of our best steeds.”

“Are you sure I’m the right person for this assignment?” Michael said, shrugging.

“Not entirely,” Mendel said honestly. “But you best fit the description of the one described in the prophecy.”

“Oh,” Michael said. “Well, I’m not sure. Do I have a choice?”

“Yes, of course. Nobody will force you to take on the assignment if it shall come to pass.”

“How old are these girls?”

“The prophecy says around thirteen years of age.”

“That is very young to be trekking such a distance.”

“One is said to be no ordinary girl. Have a read, you’ll find out more.”

Michael nodded.

* * *

At first, even after reading the prophecy, Michael was skeptical about the escorting assignment Mendel had given him. On the day of his meeting with Anne and Sophia, he had wanted to ask Mendel to find someone else. Due to the events that occurred during dinner, however, his chance to withdraw passed. Now everything had changed. He was quite honored and justifiably proud that they had chosen him for the assignment.

After finishing their game of Pat-a-Cake, the girls settled on a place in the center aisle of the church and lay down on the floor to sleep side-by-side with Dash curled up at their feet. Seemed to Michael, nothing would be able to separate the two. He sensed that so strong was their love, either one would gladly risk her life for the other. As would he for either of them. He was reminded of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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