Chapter 16: Grit of Berth and Stone

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


<< Chapter 15 | Chapter 17 >>

Grit felt awkward holding her hands out to receive Laurel’s babe. Reluctantly, Laurel shifted the infant from her shoulder into Grit’s arms. Deathly afraid both of touching him and of dropping him, Grit wrapped her arms tight around his body, with one hand extended up his back to prevent him from hurling himself from her arms. Laurel’s critical eye did nothing to ease her discomfort. Grit turned her attention back to the table in an effort to discourage the dame’s attention, and the child settled with his head against her shoulder. 

Harth shifted in her seat. Dagger sat forward, a hand on either side of his empty plate. “What is it, Harth?” 

“Only this, and I’m not sure it’s worth mentioning, but I thought maybe you should know. Last week, I overheard a pair of travelers in the dining hall. I didn’t mean to listen to their conversation, of course, but one told the other of a Threshan girl who’d completed her test, only to be overcome by a hag, who sold the girl to one of her hunters.” 

Grit’s muscles tensed. The babe raised his head and lowered it again onto her shoulder. 

“I’m not sure what became of the girl. But it has me wondering if Havoc might be at work again,” Harth said. 

“Havoc never stopped working.” Dagger, eyes bright with subdued anger, looked at Vell. “If you want a devil, look to Havoc. She’s maintained a steady level of fear and misery throughout Chasmaria for generations. Now Havoc’s found a new game to play and a willing pawn. Only a fool would believe Strike of the Northern Mountains is the great mastermind he pretends to be.” 

The dark-haired man seated next to Vell leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his thighs. “But why do the people align themselves with Strike? Do they not observe his cruelty? Do they expect him to be kinder to them than he is to his own flesh and blood? ” 

Dagger ran a finger along the edge of the table. “You forget your origins, Vision. Remember how little alliances once meant to you, and how much you would have given to have power such as Strike’s. Following Strike seems unthinkable to you who have seen goodness and truth. Those who follow Strike do so in blindness.” 

“What of the Golden Demon they speak of in the Northern Forest?” Oak scratched the side of his bearded face. “I don’t believe he follows in blindness.” 

Dagger was silent a moment, his gaze fixed on Oak. When he spoke, he did so in a guarded tone. “Do not use that name. Thus far, he is a whisper among the battle cries of crueler men. You assume much when you say he follows Strike, and even more when you call him a demon.” 

“Is there any doubt?” Oak asked. “He enters villages as Strike’s forces leave, his one objective to destroy the weak and the helpless left by bolder warriors. It’s foolishness to deny the extent of his brutality.” 

“It’s foolishness to suppose you know his motives.” Dagger spoke so softly Grit barely caught his words. 

Whisp shook her white-blond head. “I’m not sure you fully understand, Dagger. In one small village, he left no corner of the Inner Ring intact. He tore apart homes, slaying any who stood in his way. What madness could prompt a man to inflict such cruelty, if not the madness of a demon?” 

Dagger took a deep breath before answering. “What drives this man, I cannot say, but I will not tolerate his being called a demon, nor will I permit any to erroneously link him to Strike. He may follow in Strike’s footsteps, but we have no evidence of an alliance between the pair. In my judgment, the Golden Warrior is a separate entity, and will likely destroy himself before too long. Is it true he operates with an accomplice?” 

Whisp nodded. “The Silent Shadow, and he is just that. He doesn’t lift a finger against the people, only observes the Golden Demon’s work.” 

“Warrior, Whisp. Golden Warrior. Do we know nothing more of him?” Dagger’s blue eyes scanned the faces of his companions. 

Vell waved a hand in Grit’s direction. “Ask her. She claims to be from those parts. What do you know of this Golden Warrior?” 

“I know nothing of your Golden Warrior or Demon or whatever you wish to call him.” Grit shifted Laurel’s infant to her other arm and rubbed his back with her right hand. “And you are the one who claims I come from the Northern Forest. If you recall, I said nothing of my origin.” 

Vell pointed at Grit with a crooked smile on his face. “I tell you, Dagger, she’s a devil.” 

“You are not enemies.” Dagger’s voice was low, almost cautionary, as he looked from Grit to Vell. “And there are no devils in this room.” 

“Dagger, you have been near Koradin. What is the status of that village?” Whisp asked. 

Dagger ran his fingers through his hair and sighed, glancing once more at both Grit and Vell before addressing Whisp’s question. “Unless I am mistaken, Strike is headed toward Koradin and will take more than its youth. Koradin provides a strong fortress and a secure dungeon. Its situation must be enviable to our enemy. Sage Frost is not the warrior he once was. Koradin cannot resist Strike’s offensive, which is sure to come soon.” 

Scarlett’s hand went to her neck. Whisp, too, clutched something dangling from a gold chain around her neck. Vision, Oak, and Vell grasped their leather wrist bands. Harth twisted a pearl ring around her finger. Glancing at her own pearl, Grit wondered if Kinsmon had given these strangers promises as well. 

All of Chasmaria will be made lovely, thats what Kinsmon said. Grit barely understood what lovely meant, but she sensed it was the opposite of all of this. The opposite of fear and cruelty and a group of people meeting at midnight and speaking of demons. 

“What are we to do, then?” Vell asked, his fist on the table. 

Grit pursed her lips and patted the babe firmly on his back. She could tolerate Whisp, Scarlett, Dagger, even Laurel and her drooling babe. She might grow to tolerate Vell, provided he keep that pipe of his in his pocket. But she could never consider herself a part of “we.” 

“We watch and wait. A time is coming when the friends of Kinsmon will rise to overthrow Strike and Havoc and all the evil with which they infest our country. There will be no more cruelty or greed or foolish, arrogant pride. From royal thrones, the prophecies tell us, vast love will unfold.” Dagger looked around the table and past the young warrior from the Eastern Plains to Grit, slouching in her chair against the wall. His gaze rested on Laurel’s babe. “Chasmaria will be beautiful again. Together, when the time is right, we will usher in her beauty.” 

Grit yawned, pushed herself out of her chair, and passed the babe to his dame. Free of her burden, she sauntered across the room. She stopped at the doorway and turned to find Dagger watching her, a question in his eyes. 

She answered without hesitation. “This is all very fine talk, but I don’t care to kill myself fighting for something that won’t happen. And, you’re wrong about Strike. He’s nowhere near Koradin. I saw him four days ago, just the other side of the Tabes River. I imagine the woman with him was your Havoc. They put on quite a show of flames before entering the village.” 

“Do you jest?” Dagger asked. 

Grit snorted. She’d had enough of Dagger’s pompous speech. “Why would I jest? Ask the two boys, if you can find them.” 

Dagger stood, his chair scraping the floor. He leaned forward with his hands on the table. “What two boys? Tell me you are not so great a fool as to leave two children to fend for their meager selves. Where did they go?” 

“They aren’t my babes. What interest have I in their affairs?” 

“Every interest in the world!” Dagger bowed his head and took a deep breath. “You wear that pearl around your neck, Grit of Berth and Stone. It means something, whether you acknowledge it or not. It means many things, in fact, and one of those things is that those boys—indeed every human being you encounter—is someone in whose affairs you have an interest.” 

Grit held her pearl between her thumb and forefinger, but kept her gaze fixed on Dagger. “You must have mistaken me for someone else. I’ll be traveling on in the morning, and I must get some sleep. Try to keep the noise down.” 

Once outside the room, she drew a deep breath and leaned over, her hands on her knees. It was almost too much, these strangers plotting an impossible new Chasmaria. Her pearl dangled near her chin, accusing her of treachery. What was I to do? Feed Peril? Offer Zag protection? Whos to say we wouldnt have killed one another? Far better to walk alone than risk betrayal. 

She glanced at the open doorway, shook her head, and strode to the stairs, trying to eradicate the boys’ names, faces, and voices from her memory. She had no interest in their affairs, no interest in any of their affairs. Let Dagger, Scarlett, and the rest do what they would. Grit might die an outcast in the Southern Realm, but she wouldn’t die in a hopeless war against an unchangeable world. 

Halfway up the stairs, a strong hand wrapped around her right arm, arresting her ascent. As she whirled to face her assailant, he grabbed her other arm. Grit struggled to free herself. 

“Who’s the devil now, Vell? Let me go.” 

“Shut up. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Just tell me, what are your plans?” 

Grit laughed softly. “Do you really think I’ll tell you where I’m going?” 

He loosened his grip, but did not release her. “No, but will you tell me anyway?” 

“You must be mad.” 

Vell bowed his head. “I might be. Then again, you might be, too. Just swear to me you will keep your eyes open as you travel. Do not entrust yourself to any who do not bear the promise of Kinsmon. And for the sake of all Chasmaria, do not betray the secrets you have heard tonight.” 

Grit cocked her head. “So, you don’t want to kill me?” 

“It depends upon the moment, but overall, no. Why don’t we make a deal? I won’t raise my pipe to poison you again, and you’ll do all I’ve asked.” 

“A vow? You want to make an alliance?” 

Vell nodded, his weathered face hopeful. 

“But who will witness?” Grit asked. 

“Do you trust any in that room enough to call as a witness?” Vell nodded over his shoulder. “I didn’t think so. This is between you and me, Grit of Berth and Stone. I swear I won’t kill you, whether by my pipe or any other means. Now you swear you’ll keep your eyes open, entrust yourself wisely, and speak nothing of anything you’ve heard tonight.” 

He released her arms and held out his hand. After a moment, Grit placed her hand in his. It was a small thing to swear, after all, and would persuade him to leave her alone. 

“I swear it.” 

It was only when she had closed her door and Vell’s voice rose above the others in the room below that Grit realized how very little she had sworn to. 

Vell had sworn not to kill her, but all she’d done was swear to protect herself and not betray a party in whose affairs she had no interest. She’d never made such a worthless vow. 

Considering she’d depart Port Colony in the morning and would likely never see Vell again, it seemed a pointless vow on both sides. Yet as she stretched out on her bed, Grit strained to hear once more the voice of the ally she did not care to have. 

Like what you read? 

Check back next week to read chapter 17


Get your copy of GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE

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.

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