Eleri insisted she was all right. She was a little shaky and had only been out a minute. Her magic felt like she’d been in a lightning storm and everything was standing on end. But Morgan insisted on returning to the camp and hovered at her elbow like he expected her to fall. “There was something there,” she told him over breakfast the next morning. Morgan insisted on making breakfast. That told her how scared he’d been. She’d made every meal on this trip to practice her skills. Breakfast was cornmeal mush, using some of their existing water supplies and heated on the campfire. He added a sprinkle of brown sugar, which Eleri liked better than the maple syrup. “What do you think it was?” Morgan sipped from a tin cup of tea. The time overnight had given Eleri time to think about what she had experienced. Her gut kept coming back around the to the same thing. “Magic.” Her words fell into silence. The fire popped, startling Morgon into asking, “But how does magic end up going down a stream?” All Eleri could do was shrug. There was only one way to find out. The moon hung faded in the western sky, like it wasn’t quite ready to leave them. Eleri found it a comforting presence as she and Morgan hiked back out to the creek. She found the spot easily enough. Her magic remembered it and wanted nothing to do with it. In daylight, she could see what night hadn’t let her: There was an object caught under the root of the trees. It looked to be metal, and was shaped like a ball, and about the same size as one. Morgan used a small fishing net to catch the object and bring it ashore, being careful not to touch it. Two metal bowls had been fastened together to form the ball shape. Rust covered it, and in one place, it had gone through the metal. Eleri knelt next it, trying to see inside the hole. Couldn’t see a thing. Could feel the magic. “It’s filled with something,” Morgan said. “I felt it moving around when I pulled it in.” “It’s similar to the helmet you found yesterday,” she said. “What if it’s from the war? An old weapon?” The problem was that it was still killing. They had to find it before more reached their village.
While Morgan checked on the horses, Eleri stamped out the last of the glowing embers in the campfire, kicking over the charred logs. She had to remind herself to take her time. Rushing meant carelessness. That was one of the things she had to learn cooking out on the road.
Morgan’s rifle butt banged against a birch as he returned. “Horses are good. I covered the wagon with branches to hide it. You ready?”
No, she wanted to say. This was the first chance anyone had to find the source of what was contaminating the water. No one had ever arrived as it happened. But this stream was too close to the town where she lived. What if they failed?
She’d seen what happened when anyone drank from a stream that fouled.
“Let’s go,” she said, her voice husky.
Before the fear made her change her mind.
They hiked down to the stream bed. She was glad for the full moon. This was a dangerous trip as it was with the light. The ground was uneven and twisted with roots and stones. Shrubs hid holes.
The stream sounded so normal to her. But as she drew near, the smell was wrong, off somehow.
“Do you smell anything different?” she asked.
“Just water,” Morgan said.
Her mother had the water magic on her side of the family, but it had skipped a generation. Eleri hadn’t known any of her grandparents, since they had died before she was born. Most of what she’d learned about her magic had been playing in the water, trying out things to see what she could do.
The stream was about six inches deep. Eleri did not touch the water, but she knew it would be ice cold.
“Hey.” Morgan pointed. “Did you see the water flash?”
Eleri got close to the edge. The rock wobbled under her foot as she knelt. She stared at the water for perhaps a minute.
Then she saw it.
A streak of silver, like one of those lantern flies. It lit up, then faded out a second later.
Was it alive?
She released her magic again, guiding across the surface of the water. She was aware that Morgan had stepped behind her, bracing her with his hands on her shoulders.
Her magic growled at her, wanting better water to play with. The silvery light was like dumping a bucket of waste into the stream. It mingled with the water, thinning out, spreading.
Not alive. But something else…
She stood, shaking out the ache in her knees. How long had she been kneeling there, trying to get a sense of the silvery light?
“Have you ever seen it flash like this?” she asked.
“No,” Morgan said. “But the Branch Creek up north…that was so bad it ran white, like milk.”
Branch Creek, Hunting Creek… Eleri tried to picture how they connected up. She wished she had a map of all the tributaries that connected to the Great River. The fouling appeared random, but she thought it might have a common source. But only the very wealthy could afford maps.
“I think it’s near,” she said.
There was only one way to go. They followed the stream uphill. Neither said anything, sweating in the chill night as they picked their way up the creek’s edge. The only sound out this late was their breathing and their footsteps, layered over the flowing water.
Then suddenly, the silver was gone.
Somehow, she’d missed it.
Her magic crawled across the stream again, this time more interested. The water was not fouled. The magic was a child, checking out all the lines of the stream, everything shiny and pretty. It liked the way the water flowed over the rocks, and the bits of twigs that floated along the edges. The current swirled around a tree root jutting out, dirt washed away by storms.
Her magic flowed with that current, spinning around with a leaf curled up like a hand.
Blackness rose up in front of her magic like a wall and then her world spun away like that leaf and into nothing.
SHIVER OF SILVER, Scene 1
Under the silver of the full moon, Eleri dipped slipped a turner into the skillet heating over the campfire and flipped the thick slices of bread. The cinnamon she’d tossed it with smelled wonderful.
Something she’d never thought would happen with her cooking.
“Supper’s almost done,” she called out to her partner Morgan.
They were both on the return trip from the city of Manchester, picking up supplies for the coming winter. The season had arrived early with a chill in the air. The gold and red of the hemlocks and birches formed a path back to their town.
Their wagon was packed with sacks of potatoes and turnips, flour, salt, raisins and currants, coffee, and tea. Plus Eleri’s stash of spices to experiment with over winter.
She’d grown up the only girl in a family of six boys. The birth of her last brother had left her mother sickly and abed. Everyone expected Eleri to cook. Then they complained about how terrible it was, but never lifted a finger to even tell her how to do it right. She hadn’t known how bad it was until she tried to hire out her water magic to travelers. With some water in the area mysteriously fouled, water magic was essential to any travel—and no one would hire her because her cooking was terrible!
Eleri poked the bread with her finger and thought it was done. She scooped the slices out of the pan with the turner and put them on the tin plates. She opened a small stone jar of maple syrup and drizzled it over the bread.
Footsteps crunched through the drying leaves. Morgan propped his muzzle loader on a rock and squatted next to Eleri.
He was a scratchy looking fellow, like he was made up of winter dry twigs and grass. Every time Eleri looked at him, she had an urge to smooth down her hair, wondering if the trail was doing to her what it had done to him. She wondered if his clothes had ever seen better—patched trousers, stretched out homespun shirt, faded black wool coat. The leather boots were worn white.
Eleri offered a plate up to him for inspection. He took a fork and sliced off a corner, chewing it carefully. He’d taken her on this trip to teach her cooking, because they really did need the water magic.
His face brightened. “This is pretty good.”
Eleri sampled it. Definitely much better than when she started the trip. Then, she’d burned the bread and mixed up the cayenne and the cinnamon.
After they finished supper, Eleri grabbed their canteens to refill for the morning. They stopped the horses near a small stream that was a tributary of the Great River. She’d already checked the stream with her magic and it was safe to drink.
She adjusted her woolen cloak about her shoulders and walked faster to keep warm. Her own boots were
The wind whispered through the drying leaves in the tree tops above, like a thousand voices speaking to her. She stopped, staring up at the branches, not sure why she suddenly felt so uneasy. This was a fairly well-traveled area, because the streams here were not fouled.
She turned, scanning the line of birches for movement.
Morgan also had a special sense about knowing when someone was out there. Reassured, she started walking again.
She heard the stream before she reached it, a sound that was cool and peaceful and deep all rolled into one.
Her magic reached out for it, almost automatically, like a child running ahead to play.
So abruptly that Eleri stopped.
This stream had been fouled.
David Ignatius on the Washington Post
Sometimes people define bravery as someone an extra qualification a person has. But it’s more like something you have to do because it’s right. Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens’ story about spying during World War II rings like soldiers who receive medals for bravery: She was only a small part of what everyone else was doing. From Piper Bayard.
Greer Mcallister on Writer Unboxed
I’ve had writers disagree with me on this (and I know at one point where I disagreed with the writers giving the same advice to me). Writing for non-paying subconsciously tells you that you’re not good enough to compete with the pros, and it’s very easy to stay at that level. Though I am one of the few women veterans who writes about war experiences, I’ve stopped submitting to those anthology calls. None of them pay! They want to help vets, but they don’t want to pay vets for their writing. Think about that.
Phil Mawson on BBC News
When I drove from Washington State to Washington DC, I crossed over the the Mason-Dixon Line. I’d heard the name, but didn’t know a lot of history about it. The article has a map showing the lines, as well some cool bits about the science side. It’s actually not accurate because of gravity! From Piper Bayard.
Ashley Feinberg on IO9
No, this isn’t a made up story. It’s a real place. Kind of creepy. Hmm. Might make a story.
Tim Kirkpatrick on We Are The Mighty
Everything on a military uniform has a purpose.
For Labor Day, I decided to wander around Old Town, Alexandria. It’s a place where it’s like walking between two different times. We have all the historic buildings and shops like Starbucks and Banana Republic.
It was a pretty nice day for wandering. Not too hot and not too cold (we’ll have cold soon enough!). Everyone was out walking their dogs, so lots of doggy action.
Alexandria was originally part of Washington, DC. During the 1700s, it was major shipping port. Those wonderful tall ships came down the river to pick up tobacco and other goods. It was such a popular port that the city built out the waterfront from Lee Street down.
Visitor map is here if you want to follow along. That street will become very important soon.
This is the Potomac River from Waterfront Park. Maryland is that land in the distance. In the 1800s, the British burned Washington DC. Then enemy warships came down this area. Fearing the same thing would happen to the city, Alexandria waved a white flag of surrender.
This statue was also in the park. It was called “The Seafarer.” Not a specific person, but a beautiful work of art.
Then it was off to check out Point Lumley. I admit I was thinking that there might be a lighthouse (there is one somewhere in the area). Lumley was named after the skipper of a ship that moored there. So I walked down Union Street.
As I pass a hotel, I catch a passing conversation. A woman tells the concierge if he knows about the Coast Guard ship on the next block.
Wait…ship? What ship?
Needless to say I have to explore this.
I turn left on Duke street and see these masts. Holy cow!
I was expecting a Coast Guard cutter, not a tall ship. Magnificent, isn’t it?
It’s called Eagle. Across the water, I can hear a woman’s voice over the intercom. There is also a lot of activity on board, with the crew about their business.
After this, it’s time for Captain’s Row.
This is a sign in front of a two block street dating back to 1783 and preserved for us to have a look.
It’s a cobblestone street. I read about cobblestone streets in books, but this is what one actually looks like . I try to walk on it, a little bit. The stones are very uneven. Some have settled in places. Not good for my feet.
And a closeup of what it looks like.
Bizarrely, as I look at cobblestone from three hundred years ago, jets are roaring overhead. I’m on the flight path for Reagan Airport.
Next up is George Washington. I’m on Lee Street again, so I follow that to Cameron, then turn left. I know George had a townhouse here.
From the perspective of today, it seems like a long ways. But if he lived here before the waterfront was built out, then he might have been pretty close to the water.
My trip up Cameron takes me past Gatsby’s Tavern. It’s actually a museum and a restaurant. I’ll spend a whole post on that, since there’s a lot to see.
And, as you can see, this was a place that George Washington visited. Hmm. Maybe I need to check out the restaurant when I visit the museum.
And here is George’s townhouse.
It’s actually a replica of the house and privately owned. But note in the left window that George is peeping out. George would stay here when he traveled in from Mount Vernon.
It’s also amazing because I never knew this was here, and I nearly always pass by it trying to get out of Old Town.
By the time, I’ve done a lot of walking, so I’m heading back. But not without one last stop.
This is City Hall. The building is historic. The fountain and the flag is pretty cool. It’s a lot of water, and the air is filled with the scents of it.
Back down to Lee Street and my car. Parking for 90 minutes was fourteen bucks!
After this last week, I really needed a fun outing or two. So it was off to Gunston Hall. I’d seen the signs on the way to Pohick Bay Park and Mason Neck Park, but I’d never visited before. The day started out a little chilly.
Gunston Hall was the home of George Mason. That’s a familiar name around Northern Virginia, though his role in history is largely forgotten. And it was an important role!
He was a plantation owner at the time of the Revolutionary War. He drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights, which was used as a basis for the U.S. Bill of Rights.
When everyone gathered in Philadelphia to sign the Constitution, he was one of three people who refused to sign. They were called the “non-signers” (some trends don’t die. I’ve certainly seen some labeling today). The other two were Edmond Randolph (many streets and schools named after him) and Elbridge Gerry (haven’t seen his name around).
George Washington disagreed and thought the Constitution was enough. George and George had been friends, but the disagreement effectively ended their friendship. George Washington never visited George Mason again.
Now for the pictures!
This is a map that shows where George Mason owned land. All the brown squares represent his land. He was a third generation Mason, and each family member acquired more land. He owned a lot of land! Most of is now gone. All that’s left is the area where the house is.
This is the house. It’s in the Georgian style, where everything is symmetrical, which you can see in the location of the chimneys, the windows–even the door and the window over it.
The name of the house comes from the family home in England.
Inside, I’m walking on a plank floor that George Washington, James Madison, and even Winston Churchill has walked on. The planks creak under my feet, announcing where I am to the house.
This is the parlor room. Some of the furniture in the house is original, obtained from donations, loans, or auctions.
The colors on the walls and fireplace are also what they would have been in George Mason’s time. The fireplace was carved out of black walnut. It was, indeed, painted, because paint was a luxury item. If you could afford paint, you painted everything.
This was the family room of the era. This desk was the one George Mason actually used, and perhaps he drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights here. His family would also eat in here.
It was also the room where he passed away.
The bedroom. The green paint was an expensive color for the time. You can’t see it in the photo, but there’s also a pantry in here. Mrs. Mason locked up the valuables in it: chocolate, sugar, and tea.
Mrs. Mason was also friends with Martha Washington, so maybe they talked about the two Georges in here. 🙂
This is the view of the gardens through the back door. The trees lining the path are the original Boxwoods–240 years old! The trees were struck by a disease or a blight, so they’re not in good shape.
By the time I get outside, it’s nice out. Comfortably warm, though clouds are moving in. The last of the cicadas are buzzing, hoping for a mate. They probably only have a few weeks left.
I stop by for a look at the kitchen. In George Mason’s time, it was a separate building. A later owner added a kitchen onto the end of the house. After the house was turned over to the state of Virginia, that was removed to help restore the house to its original appearance.
And another well, right across from the kitchen building. I couldn’t see the bottom of this. There were two women checking this out too and commented it was the perfect place to lose your cell phone in.
And another exterior building where the laundry was done. I was reminded of a story my grandmother told. When she moved into the family house–after having grown up during the Depression–she was horrified at the seeming extravagance of having eight table cloths. Turned out the reason for it was because it took so long to clean each one and iron it out.
The interior or the schoolhouse where the family’s children learned every day. Since the winters here can get pretty cold, can you imagine huddling here by the fire and listening to the teacher? The light might not have been too good either during those winter months.
My final part was a nice walk out in the grassy area behind the house. A pebble path wove around, though it was hard to walk on. The pebbles kept shifting under my feet with each step, and in unexpected ways. I had to be careful not to fall!
The small T about 1/3 down and 1/3 across is the Potomac River.
It was a pretty fun day. You can read more about Gunston Hall and George Mason here.
Four days after everyone had returned to Kangjun, Graul went down to Hope’s stateroom in Women’s Country. She’d been released from medical, but he knew that even with the healing bots work on the severe bruising, she would be sore for several days.
He found her pale and drawn and moving stiffly. Too quiet, for Hope.
“Another mission?” she said. She was dressed in a simple shift, which was probably the easiest piece of clothing she could get on.
“From my wife.” Graul gave her a small smile. “Mel wanted me to check up on you.”
“Mel could have come down here.”
“She says I know you better.” He rested his backside on the corner of her desk. “It’s not your fault, you know.”
He’d contacted the 49ers with the help of the translator Orson and told them if they wanted the ghost problem fixed, they should move away from the ruins. It had been the best Graul could do, and should have been obvious to the 49ers.
Red Stone had refused.
The next message Graul received—two days later–was that White Crystal was evacuating everyone. Then filed a complaint with GALCOM against Hope specifically for not fixing their problem.
The complaint was scathing.
He also knew she’d seen it.
“I’m the ghost expert,” she said, and she was trembling. “I’m supposed to be able to help with ghosts.”
“But you can’t help people—or ghosts—who don’t want to be helped. And you’re doing what they did to yourself.”
That got her attention. “What do you mean?”
“You’re focusing on what’s wrong.” Graul shrugged. “It’s easy to do. I’ve been used for target practice by senior officers who only looked at what was wrong, and not what went right.”
“You risked your own life to save fourteen people. Fourteen!”
Her voice was sharp. “What else was I supposed to do? Just leave them there?’
Graul waggled his forefinger at her. “That’s what you would do. We all have a tendency to think everyone thinks like us. And you know better than anyone else that’s not always true.”
His words cut deep into her heart. Not in a bad way, just in a remembering way. All those people who had been cruel to her, and how she had vowed to never be like that.
“C’mon,” Graul said. “Mel’s waiting for us in the mess. It’s ice cream sundae day. I hear the fudge is pretty good.”
“Ice cream?” Hope’s stomach growled at the thought of ice cream and fudge and sprinkles. She’d struggled to eat since she’d gotten back.
As they exited Women’s Country, she was surprised to see one of Mel’s Marines waiting in the passageway. He weren’t dressed in a CTU, but in his spiffy dress uniform with a midnight blue coat. She could have stared at him all day. He looked that good in the uniform.
The Marine stepped forward, offering her a perfectly crooked arm.
“That’s your escort, Ms. Delgado,” Graul said.
She glanced back at him. She wanted to say, Who me?
Graul answered the unvoiced question with a grin. “Two of the Marines were seriously hurt enough that if you hadn’t helped, they might have died. So you have an escort until we meet up with the passenger transport.”
Hope was chuffed. The first smile she’d had in many days stretched across her face. She slipped her hand through the Marine’s muscular arm. It was time for some serious ice cream.
It’s been an unbelievably crazy week. Even though I’m nowhere near Hurricane Harvey in Texas, I’ve had to help people at work who are there. Everything is very chaotic, because the situation is so chaotic.
Erin Kelly and Kevin Green
The Navy is building a new aircraft carrier. Enterprise, of course, has special meaning, because of Star Trek. I remember when NASA renamed the space shuttle Enterprise after a write-in campaign. It was pretty cool. This will be the ninth Navy ship named Enterprise. The first one was in 1775. Ships named Enterprise have a long history!
**Note if you watch the video and you start getting music halfway through, scroll down and turn off the second video. It’s set to autoplay. Most annoying!
Lakshmi Gandi on NPR
I had to look this up for my GALCOM story. Pretty interesting site on the history of snake oil salesman. Most of my knowledge came, unfortunately, from old Westerns like The Big Valley, where the snake oil salesman was conning people into buying fake medicine. I had no idea the origins were with the Chinese and that it really did work. Very interesting that the oil had the Omega 3 acids that we need for healing inflammation.
Geert Weggen on Bored Panda
Virginia has a love-hate relationship with squirrels (mostly hate, actually). But this is silly and fun. Who thought a squirrel could ride a dragon?
Christopher Luu on Refinery 29
I’m all for getting better roles for women in film–not just “girlfriend of the hero” that’s pretty common. But gender-swapping like this is ridiculous. It speaks volumes about the risk adverse problems in Hollywood. It’s apparently easier to remake a film and swap out the genders then it is to create new material that uses men and women better.
Word Motivates Change. Your World Be Motivated
Very powerful video on hope, habits, and how to change the world. From Roberta Viler.
It’s off to Leesylvania State Park for another round of checking out the local history of the area
Leesylvania State Park is south of Washington, DC, about twenty miles or so. It’s probably better known for boating because it’s on the Potomac River. But the park also has a pocket of history–I only found it because I checked out the park.
Leesylvania means “Lee’s Woods.” In this case, it was General Lee’s father who owned a plantation on the land, along with a family named Fairfax. Both of those are common names around Virginia: Leesburg (city), Leesburg Pike, Lee Street, Lee Highway, Fairfax county, Fairfax (city), Fairfax Street. I like looking at street names because they often tell a lot about the story of a place.
Map of the park is here if you want to check it out and see where I’m going.
First stop is Free Stone Point Beach.
It looks like a bunch of trees, but it’s actually a bluff. It’s more obvious during winter after the leaves have fallen. This bluff was a landmark for ships navigating on the Potomac River during George Washington’s time.
This was Confederate territory during the Civil War. It’s strange to feel that between the last place I visited and this one, I crossed the battle lines. But time has a way of smoothing those lines out and blending them together.
The Confederates had an artillery battery here. It was actually used as a decoy by General Lee while he built batteries at Possom Point, Cockpit Point, and Evansport.
But that didn’t stop a skirmish from happening at Free Stone Point. On September 25, 1861, a Union gunship fired on the Confederate battery. They exchanged artillery. Didn’t do much to either side.
War is strange, isn’t it?
It was a nice walk out here. I waded into the water–it was surprisingly warm. The currents were quite strong–a constant slushing sound coming to shore.
I decided to walk on the fishing pier. Note the Maryland sign. This was about 30 feet in, so I crossed the state line into Maryland on the river. When I was growing up, I thought crossing a state line would be more dramatic. If I hadn’t noticed the sign…
This border was pretty important in 1957, because Virginia did not allow gambling or drinking. But Maryland did. So an enterprising person moored a “recreation resort” boat named the S.S. Freestone on the Maryland border.
Off to the Lee Wood’s Path. That’s about two miles round trip, and I spent most of my time repelling all borders from bugs and cobwebs.
Ah ha! Ruins. These are from the Fairfax family’s house. The chimney’s all that’s left, with warning signs all over that the bricks are unstable. This was the Fairfax Plantation house, one of the places George Washington stopped by to stay when he was coming into DC. Even though Mount Vernon was 14 miles away, they were neighbors.
This is the path I took through Lee’s Woods. It was steep in some places and had me sweating. Much better to take it in winter. It made me wonder what this place looked like when the plantations were here. How did people get around? How big were the plantations?
The sign marks where the Lee House stood, but time didn’t leave much behind. If the sign hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have know the house had been here. There used to be a foundation, but a road building project (now gone) destroyed the foundation.
But the Lees had a garden nearby. One of the interesting bits here that I like for stories are what they did with the trees. The nuts from the American birches were ground up for flour, pressed for oil, or roasted for coffee. And, of course, eaten whole.
White oak trees were used to make barrels for wine, and the dogwoods were used for tool handles.
You can’t tell with this photo, but that’s a steep drop off. And it’s where a railroad was built, going from Neabsco to Powells’ Creek. It was completed in 1872. Doesn’t look like a place for a railroad, does it?
The railroad company had a lot of problems with the location. They had to do a lot of work to maintain the grade so it was more level. Because of the terrain, there were landslides and derailments. One train had to be hauled back up the side with tree!
This was at the end of the path. I knew I was getting close to the end because I could hear the buzz of boat motors coming from the river.
The chimney is what remains of the Freestone Point Hunt Club. It was established in 1926 by businessmen from New York. They hunted ducks on the Potomac and hunted so many that the population declined. The club closed in 1957, and this is all that’s left.
More information on the park is here.
The Passive Voice
This is a quote from a Raymond Chandler story. Wow. Just wow.
Susan Elia MacNeal on Signature
When I was in school, history that was taught wasn’t particularly interesting. It was dates and events, not about the people. Finding things like this on the internet gives history a very different perspective that’s often lost. And well…spies. Shared from Gail Reid in the Desert Storm Combat Women Facebook group.
Number two is awesome!
This is a ship graveyard in Maryland. I would check it out, but it’s only accessible via the water. But the story about it is pretty cool.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Kris was was in the starting place for the eclipse, so it’s got a lot of good details. But it also talks about how hyped it was and people planned for big business in the totality areas–and didn’t get enough business. Which slides right into what publishers do with books, like assuming everyone will buy a book because it’s like another book. Very interesting post on marketing.