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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30. Thor's Cave

“There shouldn’t be many Bobbies around now, Michael,” Sophia said, mounting Solitaire. She desperately wanted—needed—the book The Order of Esdras. On her most recent attempts to read the book, nothing additional had appeared, but she held out hope that words would appear that would help her in some way. Help her make sense of who she was and what she was about.

“Right,” Michael agreed. “Let’s try to retrieve your haversacks.”

Using the bell tower of St Philip’s Cathedral as a landmark, they headed off. The streets were still and silent but for the occasional sound of a cat scavenging. “No sign of Bobbies,” Sophia said, a block away from the Cathedral.

“The streets are quiet,” Michael noted. “In some ways too quiet.”

Across from the church, Sophia dismounted her horse. “The haversacks should be behind these crates.” She pulled the stack of crates aside, rummaged around the hiding spot. “Hmm. I’m sure this is where I left them.” After a little more searching, she said, “Ah, here they are.” She passed Anne’s haversack to her then proceeded to check inside hers. “The book is still within mine.”

“Good,” Michael said. “Let’s not tarry. Sooner or later, the Bobbies will be on a mission to recapture the escaped convicts.”

Back on her horse, Sophia followed Michael’s lead as they trotted through the backstreets of Birmingham. “Where are we going?”

“A cave north of here, Thor’s cave, about a four-hour ride if we keep up a reasonable pace. We can rest there until mid-morning before the next leg of our journey.”

The ride through the quiet streets of Birmingham afforded Sophia time to appreciate what Father Roman had accomplished. When he realized Michael was in custody at the watchhouse, he most likely figured there would be little point in orchestrating an escape while Bobbies continued to search the streets for them. Instead, he devised a plan whereby they would be captured. Father Roman knew that once all three fugitives were in custody, the Bobby patrols would be called off. So he organized his man on the inside to facilitate an escape. A little remorse lingered over having judged Father Roman so harshly. One day, she thought, perhaps I’ll have the chance to thank him.

Approximately four hours later, after a long trek, Michael pointed into the distance. “See those mountains. They call the place White Peak. The cave we seek is in that range.”

Under the moonlight, Sophia could make out the vague outline of jagged peaks on the horizon. “Not much farther, then. How are you holding up, Anne?”

“I’m tired, but okay,” she replied.

From the base of the mountain, they trotted up a narrow path that weaved its course up the steep mountainside. A short distance from the limestone crag, the cave’s entrance, they secured their horses and continued the rest of the way on foot.

“This cave is huge,” Sophia said, stepping through he arched entrance spanning six times her height and nearly twice again that height in width. “Why is this place called ‘Thor’s Cave’?”

“No one knows. The name has been passed down through the generations. Some say the cave is linked to the Norse god Thor. But they are likely fables,” Michael said. “Find yourselves a comfortable place to rest. I’ll go hunt us some food and bring back firewood.”

Anne faced Michael. “I’ll come with you.”

“No, Anne,” he said, kindly, “from the looks of those bags under your eyes, you need to rest.”

“Come sit over here with me,” Sophia said, finding a soft spot on the limestone floor covered with stone dust.

Michael left the cave. Sophia wondered if any animals inhabited the cave deeper in, hiding in the darkness, lying in wait or seeking refuge from predators. She wished she had a lantern to supplement the white ambient glow cast by the moonlight. Anne lay down with her head in Sophia’s lap. Sophia gently stroked her hair. “I love you, Sophia,” Anne said. “You are truly like a sister to me.”

“And you are to me,” Sophia replied, smiling, knowing the truth in the statement. She considered telling Anne about her mother, but it didn’t seem the right time to do so. Anne seemed content to rest. Sophia closed her eyes and rested the back of her head against the cool, smooth limestone wall.

What seemed like moments later, Michael returned with a bundle of sticks of various sizes and a dead snake slung over his shoulders, its head and tail nearly scraping the ground.

“You were quick,” Sophia said.

“I’ve been gone about an hour. Took a while to catch us some dinner,” Michael said, dropping the sticks he carried.

“We’re eating snake?” Sophia said, realizing she must have dozed off earlier.

“Yep, they taste quite pleasant cooked,” he said. He laid the snake out across the floor.

Anne, still sleeping with her head on Sophia’s lap, stirred a little. Sophia resumed stroking her hair to calm her. Sister Mary used to do that to both of them to help them get off to sleep on nights when thundering storms were about.

Michael built a fire with the wood, and within a few minutes the campfire was aglow with warmth. Using his knife, he slit down the center of the snake. With his fingers, he dug into the cut and pulled out the snake’s guts and then began drawing off the snake’s skin, like rolling a long sock off a person’s leg. The snake stripped, Michael laid a stick across the top of the fire, propped up on either side by two sticks lashed together in a Y formation. He wound the snake’s body around the makeshift rotisserie, occasionally rotating the stick to ensure even cooking.

“Smells good,” Sophia said.

“Not long now and the snake will be cooked,” Michael replied, stoking the fire with a branch.

“Thanks for everything you’re doing, Michael, risking your life and everything. We were beside ourselves with fear after you were washed away.”

He smiled, glanced towards Sophia. “You girls are family now.”

Sophia experienced a warm tingling sensation flurrying throughout her body. She believed Michael’s words. Since starting their journey, she had gained a sister and a brother, Michael. She smiled: Family. At the same time, she also carried great pangs of grief over the loss of the Sisters and her orphanage family. She knew once things settled down, if they ever did, she would have to face that devastating loss.

“Here you go,” Michael said, passing her a strip of roasted snake meat. She gave Anne a nudge and waited for her to lift off her lap before accepting Michael’s offer.

Sophia took a small bite of the snake as Anne received her own piece from Michael. To her surprise, the meat tasted good, a bit like chicken. Dash wolfed down her portion and seemed quite fond of the dish, fond enough to beg a second helping.

Anne chewed on the snake meat. “This is yummy,” she said, the words just barely intelligible from behind the mouthful of food. Sophia thought about telling her not to talk with her mouth full but let the idea go. She smiled thinking back on how Sister Margaret used to say, “You’ll catch a fly talking and eating at the same time. Keep your mouth closed.” In hindsight, Sophia wondered if there was any truth to the statement. The saying did work, though. The girls always responded by closing their mouths. The fear of swallowing a fly was one powerful motivator.

“We’ll leave around lunch time tomorrow,” Michael said, finding a position to make his bed for the night. “That will give us and our faithful horses a much-needed rest.”

“They are holding up well,” Sophia said.

“Indeed. Better than I thought they would. I suspect your powers are helping them along.”

“How so?”

“Hard to explain. Have you noticed the faint white light surrounding them?”

“Now and then,” she replied. “But I’ve seen that faint white aurora around a few things in my life, so I didn’t think much of it.” Until now, she had never considered that the white glow around the horses might be in someway an effect of her powers. She also wondered if the aura surrounding Eclipse meant that Anne, too, had abilities.

“It is odd,” Michael replied. “Your horse and Anne’s horse both glow a faint white while you are riding them at certain times. The glow around my horse Lancelot only appears when I am riding in close proximity to you or Anne. When I do, Lancelot seems to become refreshed.”

“Oh,” Sophia said. She wondered whether Michael was becoming suspicious about Anne. Maybe he knows that we are sisters, but isn’t telling me for the same reason I don’t want to tell him. She did consider it possible, if not likely, that Jack has or will tell Mephis at some point, which rendered her motive for not sharing it meaningless.

“Are you doing something to my horse, Sophia?” Anne asked.

“Not consciously,” Sophia said.

“Well, whatever, or whoever, is doing it,” Michael interrupted, “it is helping us.” He placed his haversack under his head as a pillow and closed his eyes. “Time to get some sleep.”

Anne laid her head back in Sophia’s lap. “This is comfy.”

Sophia stroked her hair, allowing a sense of contentment to curl her lips into a tender smile. “Sleep well.” She closed her eyes and rested her head against the limestone wall. Even sitting upright, all things considered, she was comfy and relaxed enough to drift off to sleep.

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