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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45. The Final Battle

“Michael, Anne, are you two okay,” Sophia said, stretching her arms and legs.

“I think so,” Anne replied.

“I’m good,” Michael said. “A few bumps and bruises.”

“Where are we?” Sophia said, gazing at the torn trail of grass and dirt leading from the wicker basket across the long grass. She realized how lucky they were even to be alive and unhurt. If this open field had not been here…. She shuddered, thinking what might have been.

Michael rose and offered his hand to help Anne to her feet. “You’re bleeding,” he said.

“It’s nothing,” Anne said, wiping a streak of blood from her left temple. “Just a graze.”

“Let me look,” Sophia said. She clambered to her feet, using the sides of the basket to assist her tense muscles. With her left hand, she brushed Anne’s hair off her face for a closer look at the wound. “You’re right. It’s only a graze. The bleeding has already stopped.”

Michael gazed at the moon. “By the position of the moon and stars we need to go this way,” he said, pointing into a dark uninviting tree line to the southwest. Holding his staff upright, providing light, he led the way.

The trees reminded Sophia of the forest behind the orphanage where she and Anne used to play and built their treehouse. Those days, their only concern in the world was dreadful weather. She missed those days, longed to have them again, but doubted she—they—ever would. The last three years had shown her different sides of humanity—the two polarities. Sister Mary said the paths are shown in Galatians, the dark path consisting of adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. The light path consists of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Sophia had never understood the longsuffering and why that one would be on the light path—until now. The longsuffering came about by learning to patiently endure the wrongs and difficulties in the world. It was a reflection of love. The more she loved, the more able she exercised longsuffering. It was ironically joyful, however, for she knew in the end that the path she was walking would lead her home, to God. She wrapped her hand around her crucifix and whispered, “You fill my troubled heart with joy.” Her heart skipped a beat as a bubbling rush of tingles swept over her body causing her arms to breakout in goosebumps.

A short distance into the woods, the harsh rustling of the trees died down to a steady whisper. The light from Michael’s staff cast many dark shadows among the trees. More than once, Sophia jerked her sight in the direction of this distortion or that. Only to realize the harrowing figures were plants and trees vines combining to form human-like shapes in the darkness.

Suddenly, they all froze in response to a loud whooshing sound. Then a sudden gust of wind rushed in, swaying even the sturdiest of trees and threatening to sweep them off their feet. Through the gaps in the forest, a large red glow became visible. “It’s started,” Michael said. “Witching hour is already upon us. We are late. We must hurry.”

Michael quickened his pace to a slow jog, ducking and weaving through the branches. The girls followed closely behind.

As they stepped out of the forest, Sophia brought her hand to her forehead to wipe away dripping sweat. The sight in front of her sent a wave of cold trepidation from her neck to the base of her spine. A shimmering red oval wide enough to drive a two-horse carriage through hovered in the midst of a ring of grey rectangular stones standing three times the height of an average man on their ends in a circular formation—Stonehenge. Some stones had fallen over while others formed archways. The arches consisted of two stones wide enough apart for a person to walk through. A third stone block, half the size of the standing stones, rested across the top.

Out of the archways, jagged streams of red energy connected to the central oval. Around the outside, stood a host of warriors—at least ninety by rough count—armed with a variety of weapons. Pikes, sword-and-shield combinations, spiked balls-and-chains. Sophia was familiar with all of them. The warriors did not look quite right. On closer inspection, she noticed their skin appeared to be rotting. Some were missing eyes and had only dark sockets. Their heads tilted at angles to their body. They moved awkwardly, jutting about in fast, jerky movements. “What in God’s name?” Sophia said.

“An army of undead possessed by Shadows,” Michael replied.

“And that red glowing disc?” Sophia asked.

“A gateway to the Underworld.”

The gateway began to shimmer, and shadowy figures emerged from within the gateway. They were shaped like humans but black as shadows and two-dimensional as thin as paper. First a group of six, followed by a group of ten. “It’s started,” Michael said. As the Shadows entered Stonehenge, they scattered, fleeing into the nearby forests. Another group of twenty Shadows marched through.

“Too many undead,” Anne said, in a quaking voice.

“For us three, yes,” Michael replied. He raised his staff and shouted, “Protinus!” A blinding bright white of light flashed from the top of his staff, like a mini explosion, shooting off in all directions.

From within the tree line to their left and right lights suddenly illuminated, ten on each side. Out of the darkness emerged a line of men dressed in long brown robes and holding illuminated staffs, the same as Michael’s with the crucifix on top.

Sophia’s skin tingled as she touched her parted lips. “Monks?”

“Yes, my Cistercian brothers.”

Anne’s eyes watered as a beaming smile swept across her face. “Now we have a chance.”

“Indeed,” Michael said. Once again, he held his staff in the air and shouted, “Arma!” A long thin blade extended from the base of his staff, and the word “Arma!” echoed across the open field as a chorus from the other monks.

Sophia and Anne withdrew their glowing white Swords of Light from their sheaths. Together, the three of them charged towards the army of undead. The Undead readied themselves forming a line to block the left and right flanks and frontal assault. It occurred to Sophia the duty of the undead was to ensure that nobody stopped Mephis. So they formed a wall of defense.

On her left, Sophia saw a monk fall to the ground, his light extinguishing. Then, to her right, another went down. She scanned the darkness for the source of the assault and found it to be three undead warriors armed with crossbows perched on three of the archways. Without stopping, she opened her cross locket and shook out the tiny crucifixes into the palm of her left hand. She launched three of them with a flick of her wrist. Light trails streamed behind them as they diverged, each homing in on one of the three targets. In mere seconds, they reached their targets, piercing the chests of the undead. A puff of black mist erupted from them before the undead body collapsed and tumbled off their perch to the ground below. As the crucifixes returned, Sophia slipped them back into the locket. The attack put her several strides behind Michael and Anne.

As he approached the wall of undead, Michael turned his staff upright with the cross facing down. A couple of strides out, he plunged the staff into the ground, using the now-flexible pole to vault over the heads of the undead. As he landed, he spun around, and swept his staff in an arc, at knee height, blade extended, amputating both legs of an undead with a single swipe. The creatures fell forward, at which point Michael finished it with a stab through the back. He shouted, “Expello.” The carcass shuddered, surrounded in a puff of black smoke.

Anne raised her sword, holding the hilt with both hands over her right shoulder. One sword-length away from the wall of undead she leapt into a spin. At the 180-degree mark, she extended her sword, continuing the spin. The undead appeared to have frozen in confusion or possibly from the sheer speed of Anne’s action. Her Sword of Light came around and sliced underneath the undead’s chin, releasing a slither of black mist from its neck as the carcass fell to the ground in two pieces.

Sophia dived into the enemy, feet first, slicing an undead from underneath as she passed between its legs. She scampered to her feet and continued her assault. Two undead approached her, one on either side, armed with long swords and round wooden shields. At this point, she wished she had two blades, one in each hand. She thought back to her training as the two undead charged her with swords raised and prepared to swing. As they swung, she ducked, their swords clipping the stray strands of hair on the top of her head. She retreated a step and then swept her sword around in arc, cutting them both down at the shins. They doubled over giving Sophia the perfect opportunity to run them through. In her peripheral vision, she saw one of the monks take a spiked ball in the side of the head, ending his fight. Another monk took a sword through his back, extinguishing his light. As the fight continued, more of her allies fell. At one point, she glimpsed Michael, his face contorted with grief for each of his fallen brothers. After counting twenty kills, she and Michael were the only two-left standing except for two undead.

“Where’s Anne?” Sophia said, urgent, scanning the litter of bodies strewn across the battlefield.

“I don’t know,” Michael said.

The undead approached, each wielding a long two-handed sword. Sophia, sweating, nostrils flared, shouted, “Give up already! I don’t have time for this!” She approached the attackers. They swung. She sidestepped their slow laboring swings with ease, circled around their backs, sliced the first one across the neck. Her slice clean, the head stayed in position until the carcass tumbled forward as the Shadow disintegrated within, dispelled to the Underworld. The second undead glanced towards his fallen comrade. His mistake. By the time he refocused, Sophia had pierced him through the chest. “Done.”

“I still can’t find Anne,” Michael said.

They both jerked around toward the gateway on hearing a scream. “It’s Anne!” Sophia said. Together, they raced up the small incline into Stonehenge.

“That’s close enough,” Jack said, holding a glowing red knife against Anne’s neck. He held her like a hostage, her back to his front, one arm wrapped around her waist, the other holding a knife poised to slit her throat.

With a frown, Anne said, “I’m sorry. I never saw him coming.”

Sophia cut her eyes over to the right until they fixed on Mephis, who was standing several strides in front of the gateway. Jack, holding Anne across from them, was also a number of strides away. Under the shimmering red gateway, a glowing fiery crystal sphere pulsated each second. A single stream of blood-red energy tethered the orb to the base of the gateway. The good news was the Shadows appeared to have stopped coming through. For now at least. Anne’s Sword of Light lay on the ground, several strides away from her.

Mephis raised his left hand. Red streams of energy shot out of his fingertips and sparking the short distance to Sophia and Michael. Then the strands began coiling themselves around Sophia like ropes. “I can’t move,” Sophia said, staring painfully at Anne.

“Me, either,” Michael replied.

Mephis bellowed a great vomit of laughter. “My powers are too strong now for mere mortals. You are nothing more than rag dolls. A nuisance waiting to be torn apart.” He nodded toward Jack. “Kill her.”

Jack cleared his throat. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Or would you prefer that I kill you both?”

Jack’s hand started to shake as he increased the pressure of the blade against Anne’s neck. Anne closed her eyes. Sophia realized she did so to avoid having to see the anguish on the faces of her and Michael as, helpless, they were forced to watch her die.

“Don’t do this!” Sophia yelled. She gritted her teeth and screamed, her muscles bulging as she tried to break free of the bonds. No good. Her stomach felt like someone was spinning it around in tight circles at the end of a rope.

Over near Jack, a bright snowy flash lit the sky followed by a white oval shaped doorway of light appearing in its place. A man stepped from the glow.

“Diniel,” Sophia said, at the same time as Jack said, “Elidin.”

Jack shook his head. “Brother? How is this possible?”

“Ah, yes,” Mephis said, squinting. “Diniel, Elidin—one of the same. A thorn in my side for quite some time.”

Sophia quickly realized that rearranging the letters of Elidin spelt Diniel. Jack’s Brother?

Mephis raised his right hand. From his fingertips erupted a dark stream of black energy. Diniel responded raising his hand firing a white surge of energy. The blackness consumed the white like water squelching a fire. The dark energy encircled Diniel. Mephis raised his hand, lifting Diniel who was cocooned in the shadowy dark energy, off the ground. “Your powers are weak compared to mine, Diniel. Do you have any last words for your brother, Jack?”

Jack squealed, “Wait.”

“Why, Jack, he is of no use to us, or to you.”

“But,” Jack stammered. “But….”

“Time to meet your maker, Diniel,” Mephis said, closing his fist. Diniel’s face contorted as he bellowed a primal scream. The black energy tightened around him, like a hungry boa constrictor squeezing the life from its prey. Tremors wracked his body. His eyes began to bulge.

Jack released Anne. He wound up and with all his might heaved the glowing red dagger at Mephis. Handle over blade the dagger spun through the air. Mephis was concentrating so completely on Diniel that he did not see it coming. The blade sliced through the cotton of his thin coat and sank deep into the flesh of his chest until it stopped with a significant thud as the dagger’s handle prevented further penetration.

The black energy holding Diniel vanished, and he dropped like a stone to the ground. Sophia’s and Michael’s bindings released.

Mephis threw back his hood. The veins in his eyes were bright red. He grabbed the handle of the dagger with both hands and pried the blade loose. Blood spilt out of the gaping wound. He fell to his knees, yelling, “Jack! What have you done?” On his knees, he tried to stem the tide of blood flowing from his wound. Moments later, he clawed at his face with his fingertips leaving behind trails of blood—black blood. His eyelids closed. He fell onto his back as he released a final rageful scream.

Sophia turned her gaze to Jack. He stood there shaking.

“Thank you, brother,” Diniel said, rising to his feet, and swaying on wobbly legs.

Jack saved us, Sophia thought. Not exactly what she had expected. Nor was coming to understand that Diniel was Jack’s brother. A strange pair, that was. Diniel was quite an amiable person; Jack, quite the opposite.

After grasping her sword, Anne ran over to Sophia and hugged her tightly. “Thank God, it’s over.”

“Not yet,” Michael said. “We still have to close this gateway before more Shadows cross into this realm. I suspect that enough have already made it through to influence humanity to war, the greatest of evils. We don’t need more.”

“How?” Sophia asked, gazing at the shimmering gateway.

Diniel strode over in front of the gateway. “This orb has to be destroyed.”

“That’s easy enough,” Sophia said, raising her sword.

“On the other side,” Diniel added. His voice lowered: “On the Underworld side.”

Sophia frowned, feeling a sense of defeat. She lowered her sword. “Oh.”

“Once destroyed, the gateway will close. But whoever goes through will not be able to come back.”

Sophia, Anne, and Michael positioned themselves in front of the gateway, where they stood staring into the spiraling energy.

“Well, we can’t leave the gateway open,” Anne said.

“I’ll do it,” Michael said.

“No, you can’t,” Sophia said, extending her arm in front of him.

“I have to,” he replied pushing her arm away.

“Wait,” Jack said, trudging to his brother’s side. “I’ll go. I’m destined there anyway.”

Diniel faced him. “God will forgive you if you ask.”

“I would have to forgive myself first,” he replied, his eyes dim and serious.

Sophia felt an ache of sorrow as she observed the grim twist of Jack’s mouth. He appeared to want to punish himself for his sins.

“Then,” Diniel said, nodding, “I’ll come with you.” He bent over and picked up the glowing orb in his left hand. “Come, Jack, where there is will there is hope.” He extended his right hand. Jack reached out and took his palm. Together they stepped through the gateway, vanishing in the swirling mist. A moment later, the gate began to flicker, slowly at first, and then increasing to a rapid pace. The streams of red energy shooting off to the surrounding stones snapped, one at a time. The gateway then swiftly shrunk in on itself before vanishing in a vibrant compact glimmer of light.

“They did it,” Anne said.

Sophia relaxed her shoulders. “It’s fini—” Her voice stopped mid-sentence replaced with a gasp. Pain ripped through her upper right chest. She gulped for air as if someone had knocked the wind out of her.

Anne turned to her. A stream of blood ran from the corner of Sophia’s mouth.

“It’s not finished until I say it is,” Mephis said, standing behind Sophia. In his hand, halfway up Sophia’s back, he held the handle of the glowing red dagger. He jerked upwards on the handle. Sophia gasped a second time, her eyes rolling upwards, and Mephis smirked, said, “You are not the only one who can heal.” He jerked the dagger again.

Michael raised his staff. Mephis responded by shooting a bolt of red energy from his hand that hit Michael squarely in the chest sending him tumbling backwards. Before Anne could raise her sword, Mephis shot another bolt in her direction—another direct hit that sent her spinning backwards into the side of a stone block.

Between deep gasps of breath, Sophia said, “There is one thing that separates the likes of you from the likes of people like me.”

“And what pray tell is that, my dear?” Mephis said sarcastically, twisting the knife yet again in her flesh.

“We believe.” She rotated her sword in her hand to turn the blade in on herself. “Greater love hath no man than this…” She thrust her blade slightly upward through her chest, narrowly missing her rapidly beating heart. The blade continued through her body and out of her back then into Mephis’ chest where it impaled his evil heart. “…that a man lay down his life for his friends.” She withdrew the sword.

Mephis shuddered violently. He attempted to scream but no sound emitted. Black mist flowed from his eyes, his ears, his nostrils. A second later, his body disintegrated into dust. His bodiless cloak fell to the ground.

Sophia collapsed to her knees, reached behind her back, held her breath, and withdrew the dagger. She turned pale as fresh snow.

* * *

Anne staggered to her feet and raced to Sophia. She dropped to her knees and caught Sophia in her arms as she fell. Michael shook his head and stretched his eyes as he pushed himself off the ground, then stumbled over to them.

“Heal yourself,” Anne said.

Sophia’s eyes closed and then reopened slowly. “I can’t.”

“Why?” Anne said, her brow falling under the weight of concern.

“The dagger,” she said. “it was poisoned with the same toxin that killed my mother.”

Our mother,” Anne said, her eyes welling tears of love and impending loss. She tightened her embrace around Sophia.

“How did you know?” Sophia whispered, her voice fading.

“Jack told me. Looking at our reflections in the mirror as we stood together, seeing our identical eyes, I knew it to be truthful.”

“Why didn’t you say something?” Sophia asked.

“Why didn’t you?” Anne responded.

Sophia forced a tiny smile as her eyes battled to stay open.

“You can’t leave me, Sophia.” She shook her. “You promised you would never leave me.”

“I’m sorry,” Sophia whispered. Her eyes gave up and the fight and closed as her smile faded.

“No, no,” Anne cried, staring at Sophia’s pale face through a tear-filled blur. “Don’t go. Please don’t leave me. You can’t.” The dam burst now, sending a torrent of tears cascading down her cheeks.

In an instant, Sophia’s body turned to dust, leaving Anne holding nothing more than Sophia’s leather armor.

Sophia’s armor slipped from Anne’s lap as she rose. She charged towards Michael and landed in the pit of his chest where she thumped, first with her left fist, then with her right, hard at first, but then weaker with each subsequent blow, yelling, “No, this can’t be!” between great sobs. Michael embraced her the best he could, allowing her to pound away on his chest.

Eventually, minutes later, she stopped and rested her head in the nook at the base of Michael’s neck. The flow of her tears began to stem, each droplet taking a little longer than the last to flow down her face. The wind kicked up then, and with each gust parts of Sophia’s dusty remains took flight, carried across the pastures of Stonehenge. Anne noticed the particles, and thought, At least now she is free from this agonizing world. Through bloodshot eyes, she gazed at Michael, her stomach aching as she had not eaten for a month. A deep pit of nothingness. Every time she swallowed, she felt a lump of disbelief in her throat the size of an apple. “How am I going to go on?” she said.

“Longsuffering,” Michael replied. He paused, pulled her close, hugged her tightly. “By patiently enduring the wrongs and difficulties in the world.” He stroked the back of her head, running his hand through her long raven black hair. “It’ll be okay. You’ll get through this.” She continued to weep, long slow tears of pain. The only sister she had was gone. She was all alone—again—feeling that familiar aching she had experienced at age four when she lost her parents in the carriage crash. Only this was  worse, heavier, deeper, tearing at her soul.

Thirty minutes later, Anne broke away from Michael. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. She dropped to her knees and picked up Sophia’s cross necklace. After unhitching the new wooden latch on the necklace that the carpenter at the Order of Esdras had made to lengthen the string, she said, “Michael, can you put this on me, please?”

Michael knelt down, took the necklace, and draped the cross over her shoulders and let it dangle between her bosoms. He then proceeded to clasp the latch at the back of her neck. Next, Anne picked up Sophia’s sword and its sheath. Rising to her feet, she slung Sophia’s sheath over her left shoulder where it crisscrossed her own. She grasped both Swords of Light in her trembling hands. “These will now be called The Sisters of Light in memory of my sister, Sophia.” A fresh outburst of tears caused her to pause. With a rapid movement, she sheathed both blades simultaneously behind her back. “You’ll live in my heart forever, Sophia. From this moment forward, I will fight for you. Every Shadow I destroy will be in your name. Every evil I conquer will be in your honor. Every battle I overcome will be drawn from the strength of knowing you.” She gazed to the heavens. “I will live for God.”

She grasped Michael’s hand. “Which way are we headed?”

Michael squeezed her hand gently. “East, to Amesbury. Once there we can arrange burials for Sophia and my fallen brothers. Afterwards, we can procure steeds to take us to London. I will be returning to the Cistercians. You are welcome to join me.”

Anne forced a smile. They strode eastward together, holding hands, under the moonlight.

Before entering the tree line, Anne glanced over her shoulder, towards Stonehenge. A tear in her eye, she whispered, “Goodbye, Sophia. May the wings of angels carry you safely to Heaven.”

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