We are excited to share the next installment of Grit of Berth and Stone by Lisa Dunn, the first book in the Chasmaria Chronicles. Follow along with us each week for new chapters!
If you’re new to this series, we recommend you start with chapter 1.
Banished for a foolish mistake, sixteen-year-old Grit scorns the loss of her home, her honor, and her only ally. Only the weak worry about such things.
Grit of Berth and Stone
First book of Chasmaria
Grit stood in the center of the tent Kinsmon had prepared for her, taking in every detail of her surroundings by soft candlelight. The square, white tent was clean; too clean. Grit lifted her foot off the white canvas stretched tight over the ground. She’d scuffed it. What did Kinsmon expect, sending a muddy traveler into his pristine tent?
A chair stood in one corner, and a small table beside a cot held a pitcher of water, a cup, a bowl, and a silver-handled mirror. Grit sat on the edge of the cot. Its softness surprised her, and she laid herself down, taking care to leave her boots hanging over the cot’s edge. Lying with her face pressed against the smooth, fresh sheet, she feared she might spoil the fine linen. She stood and paced. I don’t belong in the tent of a wealthy stranger. He’ll likely murder me as I sleep. She felt for her dagger at her hip, withdrew it from its sheath, and spun it around with deft fingers. I’ll kill him first, if it comes to that.
The light of the candle reflected off the silver mirror on the table. Grit leaned forward and blew the candle out with a huff. In the darkness, she removed her pack, opened it, and slid the silver mirror into the middle of Sire Stone’s blanket.
She had no personal need of a mirror, but if she found a buyer, she might sell it for a large sum. She perched on the edge of the chair and waited in the darkness for the hour when she was certain Kinsmon, in his tent across the clearing, would have succumbed to sleep.
At last, Grit rose and slung her pack over her shoulder. Drawing back the tent flap, she peered into the moonlit clearing. All was still and quiet. She stuck one leg out of the tent and then the other, keeping her gaze fixed on Kinsmon’s tent. She backed into the cover of the trees surrounding the clearing. Above, an owl hooted. Grit nearly dropped her pack. Fool birds.
She scanned the area, squinting for a better view of Kinsmon’s tent. Noticing neither motion nor noise from the campsite, she turned and scurried through the woods, her soft step barely audible even to her well-trained ears. As she emerged from the forest on the southern side of the promontory, a narrow strip of grass stretched between the tree line and the steep slope to the Western Sea.
A warm breeze, rich with salt, blew across the peninsula. Below, the waves crashed against the shore. High above, tiny points of brilliant silver pierced the infinite darkness.
“Have you ever tried to count them?”
Grit jumped, startled by Kinsmon’s voice. She clutched her dagger as she spun to face him.
He sat in the shadows, reclining with his back against the trunk of an old oak. She stared at him, waiting to discern his features more clearly.
“Well, have you?”
Grit slid her dagger into its sheath. “Have I what?”
“Ever tried to count the stars.” His voice swelled with the cadence of the waves, washing over her and soothing her aching soul.
“Why would I do that?”
“To find out if you can.”
She looked into the endless darkness, her gaze darting from one star to the next. “Utter foolishness. Of course I can’t. No one can.”
“I can.” Kinsmon sat forward and hugged his knees. “I named them, too, you know. Long ago, I named each star and every constellation. That group there…” He pointed. “No, to your left, Grit. That group is called The Hunter.”
Seven stars shone more brightly than the rest. Grit shifted her pack, dug her toe into the soft earth, and turned her gaze to the sea. She no longer cared for stargazing.
“Yes, I named your hunter, too.” There was a hardness in his voice now. Grit drew in her breath and waited for the pain in her chest to pass. “Don’t think I don’t know all about Coil of Dara.”
Grit faced Kinsmon, thankful for the darkness that hid the heat rising in her cheeks. “What do you know of Coil of Dara? And how dare you speak his name to me?”
“I know he was not named for his incessant movement, but for the strength he possesses in his stillness, for the power that grows in his soul when placed under pressures that would cause others to bend, to crack, to break.”
He waited, but Grit did not respond. She did not wish to acknowledge her memories of Coil of Dara.
“I speak his name because you need to hear it. Coil of Dara made a vow to you.”
“It means nothing.” Grit clenched her jaw to keep from speaking more. Who did Kinsmon think he was, to speak as if he knew so much? She looked over the Western Sea and focused her eyes and mind on the moonlight reflected on the waves.
Kinsmon stood beside her now, just a few feet away. She could hear his slow breaths, smell his peculiarly sweet fragrance. She stepped away, not wanting to be ensnared by his kindness. He felt like something close, like home at day’s end or the comfort of a familiar smell, but he was new and foreign, too. He was a stranger, and she would not put herself at his mercy.
“The darkness is great, Grit of Berth and Stone, but there will always be points of light. Though clouds may veil the stars so you cannot perceive their light, still they shine as brilliantly as ever. But go. Flee to the south, far from Coil and Thresh and all who have disappointed you. When you reach Port Colony, go to Fellows Inn on Market Street and ask for Harth. Tell her Kinsmon sends you. She will fill your stomach and give you a bed for the night.”
Grit refused the urge to look at him. “Why should I follow your directions? Why do you suppose I’m heading to Port Colony? I’ll go… I’ll go…” She pictured Sire Swot’s map of Chasmaria and settled on the country’s southernmost tip.
“Why should you follow my directions?” Kinsmon’s soft laugh was like music in the dark, conjuring images in Grit’s mind of glorious things yet unseen. “In this situation, dear Grit, you should follow my directions because to do otherwise would be a useless waste of a good mirror.”
He squeezed her shoulder and, without another word or a backward glance, retreated into the forest.
Grit remained on the promontory’s edge a full ten minutes, first taking steps toward the forest, and then moving to the very precipice. There, she turned and stared into the trees until all traces of Kinsmon had vanished. She hiked her pack further up on her back and began the slow climb down the promontory’s southern edge. A quarter of the way down, her dagger’s sheath caught on a protruding rock. Grit cursed softly.
“I should have killed him,” she muttered. “Killed him and filled my pack with food.”
Her heart, however, did not wholly agree.
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Book 1 in the CHASMARIA CHRONICLES by Lisa Dunn
About Lisa Dunn
As a child, Lisa Dunn fell asleep to her father’s fanciful bedtime tales and played with her own story ideas during the daylight hours. She now resides in a small southern town with her husband, four children, and a Great Dane who rarely leaves her side. Local librarians habitually thank her for their job security.