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 28 | Chapter 30 >>
The village of Harding was located at the base of the Southern Mountains. Grit and Dagger arrived just as its busy residents were returning to their huts for the evening meal. At the entrance to the village, an armed sireling barely old enough to have passed his test greeted Dagger with stiff formality.
“Dagger of Castle Concord.” He stuck out his chest, but his small brown eyes looked everywhere but at Dagger. “Name your traveling companion and state your destination.”
“What is this, Bard?” Dagger sat back in his saddle, his eyes stern as he glanced from the curly-haired youth to the village beyond him.
The boy relaxed, letting his spear tilt as he exhaled. “It’s Strike’s fault, really. Since they heard he was sending out raiding parties, the council has required a constant guard at the village gates. We’re supposed to check everyone who enters and find out why they’ve come. My sire and I think they might be making a bit much of it all, what with us being but a day from Castle Concord, but others think we can’t be too cautious with visitors.”
“They are not making too much of it all. Be on your guard, boy. Strike would hold all of Chasmaria in his power if he could, and he is neither your only enemy nor your worst.” Dagger nodded at a small, silver flute suspended from a silver chain around Bard’s neck. “Play it often, Bard. Sing Kinsmon’s promises boldly through the coming darkness.”
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, gazing on Bard’s downcast head. “Come now. You needn’t write dirges in your head. You must play something jolly for us this evening, in the home of your dear sire. For the sake of your report to the council, Dagger of Castle Concord and his companion, Grit of Berth and Stone, travel to Burrow’s hut in hope of a warm meal and shelter for the night.”
Bard smiled, and it seemed his entire being came alive. “If that be the case, our parting shall be short. My watch is almost at its end.”
He stepped to the side and motioned Dagger and Grit through the gates of Harding. Watching them pass, he tilted his head as though trying to hear a barely audible strain. Meeting his gaze, Grit frowned. Was he a fool? No Threshan would accept Dagger as easily as Bard had accepted her.
Outside a hut in one of the middle rings, Grit and Dagger dismounted and tethered their horses to a post. A stooped man came out of the wooden hut. Over his entire person, a haze of dust seemed to hover. Grit fingered a strand of her smooth, clean hair. Perhaps Scarlett should have sent some cream and a comb for the man. Who knew what vibrant shades hid in his scraggly locks? A broad grin spread across the man’s pocked face as he shuffled over the stony path.
“Ah, Dagger! Come in, come in. No. On second thought, stay where you are. The light’s much better out here.”
The man retreated into the hut. He rejoined them a moment later and held a closed fist out to Dagger.
“She’ll love these, she will.” His bushy eyebrows wiggled as he spoke. His fingers, the nails of which were cracked and broken, uncurled to reveal two pale, purple gemstones. “Amethyst, they’re called.”
Dagger picked up one of the stones and examined it in the light of the evening sun. A proud, tender smile crept over his features. “You’ve done exceptionally well, Burrow. Scarlett will adore these. Thank you, old friend.”
Burrow bowed his head and dug his toe into the pebbled ground. “It’s nothing. I sent a whole bag of them to Kinsmon last week when Pledge passed through.” He eyed Grit cautiously. “Who’s your friend?”
Dagger slipped the gems into his pocket. “Ah, yes. Burrow, this is Grit of Berth and Stone. Grit, meet Burrow, an old friend of mine and a seeker of Kinsmon’s promises. If you see something sparkling on a chain, it is quite possible Burrow unearthed it. His careful hands pluck these gems from the mountain behind us and deliver them to Castle Concord with the utmost devotion.”
“You have known each other long?” The beginnings of discontent played in Grit’s mind like distant, almost indiscernible music.
“Aye, I’ve know the lad since he was a babe. You’re Dagger’s friend. You shall be mine, as well. Come in now, both of you.”
Burrow placed a gnarled hand on Dagger’s shoulder. The young man walked beside the older into the dimly lit hut. Grit followed, keenly aware that their reception among her people would be quite different from Burrow’s heartfelt welcome. She would have to fight her way into Thresh, and it wouldn’t be an easy one. Even if she won, she did not count on Dagger being admitted solely on the basis of his association with her.
Inside, Dagger and Burrow dished out bowls of chicken stew and chunks of bread. Bard entered the hut just in time to eat, and the four sat to dine together, the three men discussing the more pleasant affairs of the village. Grit had nothing to contribute. She listened quietly and chewed her food slower than necessary.
They are happy together. She mashed a soft carrot against the roof of her mouth. Burrow, Bard, and Dagger, they are like the children who have not yet learned to guard against making easy alliances. Yet their freedom, the way they listened to one another and laughed together, only amplified the discontented murmurs of her heart. She stabbed her fork into a thick piece of chicken, stuffed it into her mouth, and chewed fiercely.
“Sire,” Bard said as they finished eating. “Dagger thinks the council is not making too much of Strike.”
Burrow stared hard at Dagger. “Is that so?”
“Is he working alone?” the older man asked, his gray eyes alert.
Dagger answered with a slight shake of his head. “Strike has yet to venture this far south, but it is only a matter of time. For now, watch and wait.” He paused, seeming to communicate some secret to Burrow. After a moment, Dagger slapped the table with both hands and spoke in a firm, jovial voice. “And play music! Yes, I think it is time for some of Bard’s magic.”
Within minutes, the four had cleared the dishes and sat comfortably around the hut. Bard lifted his flute to play. At times, the tune was soft and gentle as the lullabies Grit had heard the dames hum throughout Castle Concord. Other times, she closed her eyes to see warriors moving in synchronized motion across a grassy field. Then a sad strain brought the dame Laurel to mind, wrenching Grit’s heart until she thought she would collapse under the pain.
Through it all, like a chord of hope, played a melody Grit could only call Kinsmon. From time to time, Bard exchanged his flute for his voice, a rich instrument more exquisite than any Grit had heard before. Occasionally, Dagger joined him, his tone deep and soothing. Burrow hummed along now and then, nodding his head with drooping eyelids and upturned lips.
Grit alone found no solace in Bard’s song. The hum of dissatisfaction that had begun in her heart formed into a soft, rhythmic beating. As she realized her ignorance of the beautiful songs the others sang, an emotion she had not felt so strongly since the day the Threshan council had decided her fate rose in her heart, and she accurately dubbed her troubled song Injustice.
Bard’s song became anguished, yet joyful, as if his soul sank to the depths with only a thread of peace to rescue it. Grit looked at her companions. Their eyes were squeezed shut, yet hope shone through the pain etched on their faces. Dagger clutched his weathered green glass, Bard’s fingers danced over his flute, and Burrow wrapped one rough hand around a copper band on the opposite wrist. As battles threatened all Chasmaria, they held fast to Kinsmon’s promises, like grasping that single thread of hope dangling in every note of Bard’s sad song.
Grit studied the pearl hanging from her neck. Running her fingers over its smooth, delicate surface, she willed her spirit to rest in the promise of something beautiful, but it was no good. Try as she might, she couldn’t overcome her rising sense of injustice.
She took out her dagger and tossed it in an arc so that it stuck fast in a wooden timber on the opposite wall. The music stopped, and Bard lowered his flute. He, like Burrow and Dagger, stared at her.
“What?” Grit shrugged and rose from her chair. She crossed the hut to retrieve her weapon, turning in a circle so that she faced each man in turn. “Why have these songs never reached Thresh? You’ve kept them hidden here, as if they are your special prize. You’ve known each other many years, an entire lifetime even. You’ve dined at Kinsmon’s table, enjoyed his protection, and relished his friendship so much that you are at perfect ease in one another’s presence. Why has Thresh been excluded?”
She plucked her dagger from the beam and pointed it at each of them before sheathing it. “Tell me what justice you see in this.”
Dagger dropped his hand into his lap and stared at her, a blank expression on his face. Likely no one ever asked the castle brat a question he couldn’t answer.
“Grit.” He shook his head and sighed. “Do you suppose you are going to Thresh only to stop the Golden Warrior? Has it not occurred to you your return to Thresh may carry implications far beyond restraining a warrior’s madness?”
Grit sheathed her dagger. “No, it never did, and if you suppose I’m to carry this music to Thresh, you’re a greater fool than I’ve ever met. I hardly know this music myself.”
Burrow leaned back in his seat. “It’s not the music, nor the words even that are important, my girl.”
“It’s the song of the heart.” Bard spoke over his raised flute. He blew one sweet, single note and smiled, his eyes closed. “Once you learn that song, Grit of Berth and Stone, carrying it to the ends of the earth is no burden at all.”
“You speak nonsense.” Grit flopped back into her chair, one leg draped over the arm.
But, she trained her eyes on Bard’s nimble fingers and tried to anticipate each note as it proceeded from his flute.
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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.
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One thought on “Chapter 29: Grit of Berth and Stone”
WoW that’s sound good