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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40. The Horsemen

“Shouldn’t be much longer,” Sophia yelled to Michael on his way back to Gilnockie Tower. She dunked her dress into the River Esk for the sixth time and then wrung out the water. “There we go, all lovely and clean. How are you going, Anne?”

“All done,” she replied, flapping her dress in the breeze.

The River Esk passed close to the eastern side of Gilnockie Tower, making for a short stroll to and from the water. Together they headed west back to the tower. As they approached, Sophia, shielding her eyes from the fiery glow of the setting sun waved to Michael standing on the eastern parapet above the fourth story of the tower. He waved back. “Michael was quick getting up top,” Anne said.

“He sure was,” Sophia replied.

Inside the tower, they climbed the spiral staircase to the first floor, taking care to avoid slipping on the loose stone bricks.

“Is Michael coming back down,” Anne asked.

“No,” Sophia replied, hanging her dress over a rope strung between two rusty iron rods protruding from the wall. “He is keeping lookout throughout the night. Pass me your dress, Anne. I’ll hang it for you.”

Anne tossed her dress over to Sophia. “Thanks.”

“I’m looking forward to getting out of these drab clothes in the morning,” Sophia said, hanging Anne’s dress. She did not mind the feel of the long gray pants and shirt. In fact, they were comfortable and made movement a little less restricted, but the color was, well, lifeless. Reminded her of dustmen’s clothing, the men who collected the burnt waste ash from the streets of London.

“I’m beat, Anne said, lying on the ground using her haversack as a pillow.

Sophia lay beside her. “Me, too.”

“Do you think we truly saw the Brumbys, Sophia?”

“We both saw it, right, so…” She sighed. “I honestly don’t know. But I do believe they are in a happier place.”

“And Dash?”

“Yes. Dash, too. I’m sure she is.”

An hour later, Sophia whispered, “Are you asleep yet?”

“No,” Anne replied, rolling over to face Sophia. “I keep thinking about Dash, the Sisters, and Mr. Brumby.”

“Me, too.”

“Do you believe in Heaven?” Anne asked.

“Yes.”

“Why?” Anne asked.

“Because of evil.”

“Evil. Huh?”

“Well, it makes sense God has created a place for those who want to be with Him after they die. And a place for those who don’t.”

“You mean Hell?”

“Guess so.”

“Doesn’t Hell make God seem like a mean person?”

“No. God gives people a choice to be with him or not. Hell seems more of a place for those who want to do things their own way. Live by their own particular rules. The problem with that, from what I‘ve seen—in my long life of thirteen years—is that each person has his own set of rules, typically to suit their own desires, and they conflict with others. Which cause fights for power.”

“Or arguments over toys,” Anne said.

“Right. To live in harmony requires everyone to choose by free will to live by one set of laws. Jesus outlines those in the Bible. When we follow them, and the people around us follow them, the result is heavenly. Anyway, that’s my thoughts.”

Wide-eyed Anne smiled. “Makes sense.” She rolled onto her back. “I hope I go to heaven when I die.”

“Me, too,” Sophia replied. She smiled, imagining a place of harmony where everyone loved each other for who they are. A place of true peace, love, and contentment. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

“John 14:6,” Anne replied. “I know that off by heart. Jesus is more than a ticket to heaven for me. Even if there were no heaven, I would want him in my life, and try my best to obey his teachings. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“Philippians 4:13,” Sophia replied. “I know a little Bible, too.”

Anne chuckled. “Growing up with the Sisters helped.”

“Sure did,” Sophia whispered, rolling onto her side. “Time to get some sleep.”

Her mind raced with thoughts, but pleasant thoughts of her happy times in the orphanage. She felt fortunate the Sisters gave her a pretty free rein and exposed her to numerous wonderful experiences. Though the Sisters were strict, they always made her and the other children feel loved. From the dreadful stories she had heard, the kids in some of the other orphanages were not nearly as lucky. Three hours later, she drifted to sleep.

After waking to the sound of the morning birds’ chirping, Sophia changed into her dress. She wondered if Michael had managed to get any rest. Once dressed, she gave Anne a gentle nudge to waken her. No response. Must be in a deep sleep, she thought. She gave her another nudge. This time Anne’s eyes struggled open.

“Morning already?” Anne said, followed by a yawn.

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“Oh, you put your dress back on,” Anne said.

“Yep.”

“I’ll do the same.”

“All right,” Sophia said. “I’m going to check on Michael.” She climbed the steps to the top of the fourth story and stepped out onto the parapet. “Michael,” she called. No reply. She followed the parapet around all four sides. No Michael, she thought, shrugging. Quickly, she descended to the first floor. “He wasn’t up there, Anne.”

“Must be downstairs,” Anne replied.

Together they descended the staircase. On reaching the bottom, Sophia heard Michael say, “Good to see you two sleepy heads finally awake.”

“We had a late night,” Sophia replied.

“Can you hear that?” Anne asked.

Sophia listened. A low rumbling sound, growing louder quickly. “Yes,” she said, wondering what it was. The ground began to tremble.

“Sounds like a herd of galloping horses headed this way,” Michael said. He ran to the door. “Grab your stuff, we made need to make a quick exit!”

The low thumping rumble grew louder as Sophia and Anne readied their haversacks. Then the sound stopped. A deep male voice shouted: “Michael, White Monk of the Cistercians.”

“I guess they are looking for you,” Sophia said, stepping back a few paces from the door. “Do you think they are hostile?”

The voice yelled a second time, louder: “Michael, White Monk of the Cistercians!”

“Let’s go find out,” Michael said, opening the door.

No fewer than fifteen horses gathered around the tower, each mounted by a man in an armored breastplate and leather kilt. The early morning sun glinted off long silver swords sheathed on their belts and round metal shields tied to their backs. All the horses were brown except for one, the black stallion carrying the leader, who seeing Michael, asked: “Michael, White Monk of the Cistercians?”

Michael replied, “Yes. And who might you be?”

“Douglas, from the Order of Esdras. You have come seeking us, aye?”

Michael stepped out of the doorway and paced closer to Douglas. Sophia sighed, feeling great relief flowing through her body. We have found them, she thought as she followed Michael. Anne trailed close behind.

“Yes,” Michael said. “Jeremial.”

“Come. We will take you to him,” Douglas said. He turned his attention to another man. “Tavish, release your steed to Michael.”

“Aye, Douglas,” Tavish replied, dismounting his horse.

Douglas focused his attention on the girls. “Sophia, Anne, you shall ride with Ewan and Hamish.” He looked around, seemingly puzzled. “Where is your animal, Dash?”

“She is no longer with us,” Michael replied, his brow lowered.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Douglas said, nodding in a gesture of condolence.

Michael faced the girls. “It is safe to go with them.”

Ewan trotted up next to Sophia and offered his hand. Sophia grasped his palm and allowed him to swing her effortlessly onto the back of his horse. She watched Anne mount Amish’s steed in a similar fashion. Then Michael mounted Tavish’s stallion.

“How is Tavish going to travel?” Michael asked.

Douglas glanced at Michael, smiled. “Tavish is a hardy lad. He can walk.”

“Aye,” Tavish said, nodding. “A jolly brill day for a stroll, too.”

“Onwards!” Douglas shouted, jabbing his heels, bringing his stallion to a canter.

Sophia hooked her arms around Ewan’s sturdy waist as his horse accelerated. This was her first time being a passenger on a steed. Not being in control made her a wee bit nervous. She glanced at Anne on the back of Hamish’s horse. She seemed to be enjoying herself, if the broad smile was a clue. Why not? Sophia thought. This marks the end of a long journey. But … what next?

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