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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42. Training

Sophia yawned, stretched her arms, and swung her legs off the soft bed. She stood up, rubbed the sleep from the corners of her eyes, and strolled to the room next door. On the short walk, she thought back to last evening’s dinner—a grand event, equals parts welcoming and briefing. Over the four courses of the meal, Jeremial told them all about the Shadows and the Underworld.

Stepping into Anne’s room, she said, “Your room is the same as mine.”

“I love the bed,” Anne said, bouncing up and down on the goose-down mattress. “Nice and comfy.”

“The only thing I don’t like,” Sophia said, “is there are no windows.” She slowly shook her head and made a mock pouting expression. “Feels a bit like a dungeon.”

Anne climbed off her bed. “Drawback of being underground, I guess. Would you really want an underground window?”

“Silly,” Sophia said, rolling her eyes. “We better get moving. Don’t want to keep Jeremial waiting for our first lesson.”

They exited Anne’s bedroom and proceeded down the stone corridor. Took a left, passed the entrance to Sophia’s room, and continued until they reached the room with a wooden sign with the words Training Room burnt into the surface in fancy script.

Sophia gently pushed the door half open and stood at the threshold and looked in. A bench spanned the width of the eastern wall. On the wall opposite, a high and wide weapons rack had various types of armaments. The stone floor was covered nearly wall-to-wall with a maroon rug of sturdy pile like a mat. She entered. “Nobody here yet.”

“Seems that way,” Anne said, following her in.

“Lots of weapons,” Sophia said, stepping over to the armaments rack. Medieval long swords, broad swords, two-handed swords, shields, pikes, staffs, spiked ball-and-chain, and various other weaponry hung on the rack.

“A fine selection,” Jeremial said, entering the room, “wouldn’t you agree?”

“Sure is,” Sophia said, spinning about to face him. He wielded two long wooden swords in his hands, of the same length and width as the Swords of Light.

“Sorry I’m late. Our carpenter only just finished crafting these pristine replicas,” Jeremial said. “One for you, Anne.” He passed her a sword, which she accepted with a beaming grin. “And one for you, Sophia.” He held the wooden sword by the blade, allowing Sophia to wrap her hand around the hilt. “They are the same weight as their deadlier counterparts.”

Sophia swiveled the blunted weapon in her hand. The blade seemed to be equal in weight to the hilt, making sword movements virtually effortless. Her wild swings, however, consisted of simple random slashing patterns.

“On guard,” Anne said, her right leg forward with the knee flexed as she thrust her blade towards Sophia.

With a quick flick of her sword, Sophia knocked Anne’s to the side. “Yield or ye shall die,” she said through clenched teeth.

Anne laughed. “I yield, Sir Knight, please spare me.”

“All right,” Jeremial said, sighing, “enough games. From the looks of it, we have loads to teach you in a short period of time.”

“Okay,” Sophia said, relaxing into a standing position.

Jeremial retrieved from the weapons rack an ordinary wooden staff a little taller than he was. “Okay, I want you two to stand on either side of me and then attack me with your swords.”

“Should be easy enough,” Sophia said, striding in broad, confident steps to one side of Jeremial.

Anne, in rigid strides, a little less confident, took her place on his other side.

“When you are ready, girls, feel free to attack.”

Sophia and Anne simultaneously charged towards Jeremial. They raised their swords and, when within range, both slashed out at his torso. He ducked. Anne and Sophia’s swords clashed. Jeremial retreated a step as he swept his staff in a semi arc, at ankle height. His wooden pole first swept Anne’s heels off the floor, sending her tumbling backwards. Then the staff collected Sophia’s lower shins, knocking her feet from under her. She fell forward onto her palms.

“First lesson. Moving can be a powerful way to defend yourself while opening up a counterattack. Never underestimate the power of a strategic retreat.”

Sophia pulled her legs forward to a kneeling position and cleared her throat. “Right,” she said, ego smoldering, and shoulders slumping.

“I think I bruised my bottom,” Anne said, rubbing her behind.

“There will be plenty more bruises before we are finished,” Jeremial said.

Sophia shrugged. No problem, she thought. I can heal them.

“And you will not be able to carry out any angelic healing, Sophia.”

She pouted, wondering whether he had made a lucky guess at her thoughts or had read her mind. Then it occurred to her that he knew she could heal.

“Our first lessons will be to teach you how to move. After you become proficient at those techniques, we will move on and teach basic hand-to-hand combat, for there will surely come times when you are without a weapon. Finally, we will move on to sword training.”

Anne attempted to balance her sword by its tip on the ground. “Sounds like a lot to learn.”

“A couple of years for the basics.”

“Years,” Sophia said, rubbing the back of her neck. “What about Mephis?”

“He is busy assembling an army.”

“An army?”

“Yes—an army of undead, using necromancy and Shadows. No need to worry. We have people upstairs watching him.”

“Upstairs?” Sophia said, scratching her cheek. Douglas’ tour of the facility had shown them but a single level with no sign of staircases leading to a higher floor. “Why can’t the Order of Esdras, or the people upstairs, stop him?”

 “It is said that only a mortal carrying the Angelic Gene using a Sword of Light can defeat him.”

Anne rocked backwards on her heals, grinning. “Looks like the fate of the world is in your hands, Sophia.”

Sophia’s neck muscles tightened as if they had been shortened a few inches. She tilted her head back and forth trying to reduce the strain. No wonder he wants me dead. I’m a threat to him. “Are there any others carrying the Angelic Gene?”

“Perhaps,” he said, pulling at his chin. “But we don’t know who they are. Some who carry the gene never realize their potential, never unleash the associated abilities. In others, the gene is dormant but may be passed on to their children.”

“Oh,” Sophia replied. “So when I healed Anne … that is when you knew I carried the Angelic Gene?”

“Actually, Mephis has been tracking family tree lines and murdering those who carry the Angelic Gene, dormant or otherwise. The patterns of his murders led us to discover the link. Which ultimately led to you girls.”

Girls? He knows we are sisters? Of course he does. She gazed at Anne. No sign of a reaction to Jeremial’s words. Either she had not heard what he said or the information went over her head.

“Ah, Michael,” Jeremial said, raising his hand in a gesture of greeting. “Good to see you could join us.”

The girls turned and faced the entrance.

“Good morning,” Michael said, with a tender nod.

“Morning,” the girls replied.

“Michael, himself a well-skilled combatant, is going to be observing you girls,” Jeremial said.

Michael seated himself on the bench.

“He will also continue your training on days when I’m not available.”

Anne, with a beaming smile and rosy cheeks, tapped the tip of her sword on the rug. “I’ve seen him fight. He is pretty dang good.”

“That he is,” Jeremial said. “Sophia, do you know how to use your necklace?”

She tossed her head back and squinted. “My necklace?”

“Yes, as a weapon?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head and pursing her lips.

“Open the crucifix and retrieve the crosses inside.”

She released the clasp on the crucifix and emptied the contents into her left palm.

“What you do is concentrate on a target or targets. Once you clearly have them in your mind, you throw one or more of the little crosses. Like throwing stars, they will glide through the air, slice the target, and then return. They are also capable of dispelling Shadows from this realm.”

Jeremial glanced around the room. “Now let’s locate a few targets.” He pointed towards the ceiling. “Aim at those spiders in the webs in the crevices of the ceiling.”

Sophia placed three crosses in her right hand. Her eyes cut across the ceiling to locate the targets. With a short swing of her arm, nowhere near strong enough to propel the crosses to the heights of the ceiling, the crosses left her hand. Contrary to gravity, the spinning crucifixes accelerated towards the marks. Her posture stiffened as she took an awkward step backward. How is that possible? That’s amazing, she thought. She faced Jeremial. The crucifixes turned sharply, changing targets.

“Don’t focus on me!” Jeremial shouted.

“Um, ah,” she stuttered in an uncertain tone. Her thoughts froze, transfixed on Jeremial’s words. What?

Jeremial’s gaze darted about as he readied his staff. With three lightning quick swipes, he deflected the course of each cross so that they soared past him. The crosses turned sharply lining up for another offensive run. “Sophia, now would be a good time to stop,” he said, his voice conveyed urgency.

Her eyebrows squished together as she swallowed. “How?”

“Think of your hand or look at your palm!” Jeremial said, his eyes darting among the three spinning crosses.

She held her trembling palm out as if to receive a coin. The crucifixes curved in midflight and, less than a second later, landed on her palm. Each glowed a soft white.

“Whew,” Jeremial said, wiping sweat from his forehead. “That was close.”

Her heart was heavy. She looked down, said, “I’m so sorry.”

Anne chuckled. “That was kind of funny.”

Sophia glared at Anne, narrowing her eyes.

“I said kind of.”

“It’s okay,” Jeremial said. “Let’s try that again.”

Sophia swallowed, attempting to dislodge the lump in her throat. “Are you sure?”

“You’ll be fine. Just stay focused on the spiders.”

“Yeah, kill those spidies,” Anne said, clenching her fists. “I don’t like hairy eight-legged creatures. Think of those spiders in the Forest of Arden!”

Michael rubbed the left side of his neck where the giant spider had bitten him. “I’m not surprised, after your recent encounter. I can’t say I’m too fond of them either.”

“Okay,” Sophia said. She took a deep breath to steady her racing heart. She took aim. I must stay focused. “Here goes.”

The crucifixes left her hand, spinning towards the ceiling. This time, her focus stayed on the hairy arachnids. Near their respective targets, the crosses diverged, each pursuing a lone target. Nearly simultaneously, the crucifixes sliced their prey in two before returning to Sophia’s awaiting hand.

“Well done,” Jeremial said, clapping his hands. “Well done, indeed.”

* * *

Many further exercises ensued over the coming seasons. Jeremial conducted some of the training  programs, Michael, some others. They trained in unarmed combat, various styles of weapon combat, and worked on increasing general fitness. By diligent effort, Sophia and Anne both acquired superior battle skills at a rapid pace, preparing them for their future engagement with Mephis and his army of undead.

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