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 ran her fingernail along a scratch in the table’s smooth, wooden surface. Dagger kept his face buried in his hands. From time to time, he peered through his fingers to look at Grit. Then he’d close his eyes and move his head up and down or from side to side, as if scanning the pages of his mind. She thought he was tightly wound at their first meeting, but she had no idea how tightly wound.
At last, with a deep sigh, he turned his chair so it faced hers. His face was grave, but all traces of anxiety had vanished. “You never asked what happened to the younger of Summit Colony’s twins.”
Grit shook her head, disbelieving. “Havoc has visited us, and you speak of stories decades passed? It hardly seems important what happened to the younger twin.”
“It is of utmost importance, especially to you.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “While the older twin first traveled south to Port Colony, then east to Koradin, and then here and there, never making one place home for long, the younger twin retraced his steps north to a humble seaside village. There he earned a mostly favorable reputation, attached himself exclusively to one unlikely dameling, and sired four remarkable offspring, one of whom was not long ago banished for some sort of infantile folly surrounding her test. You’d know more about that sort of thing than I. Rumor has it the younger twin frequently wanders the forests in search of a nourishing feast and has never removed from his neck the smooth, white stone Kinsmon gave him as a seal of his promise to feast with him another day.”
Grit’s chest tightened. “My sire. But how can it be?”
She rummaged through a lifetime of memories, snatching up and replaying any in which Sire Stone existed. Could Dagger’s story be true? She couldn’t deny Sire Stone’s strange affiliation with Dame Berth and his partiality toward her above all other women, nor could she ignore the facts of her banishment, Sire Stone’s walks through the woods, or the stone she’d admired from her earliest days.
“There’s more.” Dagger drew in his breath and folded his hands in his lap. “The older twin. While in Koradin, he sired a child. Willow was the dame’s name, offspring of Sage Frost, leader of Koradin. Willow of Echo and Frost.”
“Get on with it. It can’t be that hard to tell.”
Dagger looked up from his hands and spoke with deliberation. “Upon Willow’s death, the older twin threw his newborn infant into the river Jubilee.”
Speaking slowly, Grit pieced together the stories she’d heard. “You are Strike’s offspring. Your sire, the older twin, has vowed to destroy his younger twin?”
Dagger nodded, his face solemn.
“And my sire, Sire Stone, is the younger twin?”
“Then you and I, as their offspring, should by all rights be enemies.” Grit traced the curve of her dagger’s hilt with her forefinger, her gaze fixed on Dagger’s impassive face.
“Do you consider me your enemy?” he asked.
“It depends on your purpose. What exactly do you plan to do in the Northern Forest?” Grit pursed her lips and wrapped her fingers slowly around her dagger. She could take him, if it came to that.
“I intend to dissuade my sire from destroying his twin and all his twin holds dear. I have sworn to demolish his hold on Koradin, and I will do all in my power to ensure he does no more harm to Chasmaria or to himself. By whatever means necessary, I will stop him.”
Dagger studied her face, his intense blue eyes unblinking. As he leaned back in his chair, a sardonic smile played at the corner of his lips. “Shall we proceed as enemies, Grit of Berth and Stone, or as allies?”
She shook her head. “‘By whatever means necessary,’ you say. Then why do you care whether he harms himself?”
“The creature you met downstairs, Havoc, seeks to spread fear and discord all over Chasmaria. Given the opportunity, she would destroy Kinsmon and all who call him friend. She cannot achieve any of this on her own, however.” Dagger leaned forward. “She has made a deal, Grit, with my sire.”
“What sort of deal?”
“She helps him destroy Stone and all he loves; he conquers Chasmaria village by village until he can hand the entire country over to her destructive power. There’s no telling what darkness will fill this land when that day comes.”
“So Strike and Havoc have set their sights on Sire Stone?” Grit asked. Was that why Havoc had ambushed her on the Koradin-Thresh Highway? Was that why she had appeared in Harth’s inn? Was Grit’s death the first step in destroying all Stone cherished?
“You know I speak truthfully.” Dagger seemed to struggle again with thoughts he did not wish to express.
He folded his hands between his knees and looked into Grit’s eyes. “They will pick you off, one by one—you, your dame, your younger siblings, all your sire cherishes—leaving Sire Stone to fall at last by Strike’s own hand. That is why I told you to reveal nothing of yourself to anyone. I made a grave mistake when I revealed your name.”
Grit twirled her dagger. She needed a moment to think.
Dagger continued, “Strike cannot win this game. Even if he succeeds in destroying Sire Stone, he will lose when he hands Chasmaria over to Havoc. She has no loyalty; she knows no favorites. She’ll destroy him as soon as she’s exhausted his usefulness. You understand now, I hope, why, as much as I despise my sire, a part of me pities him. You ask why I care if he harms himself. It is because he is a mere pawn of a greater power, because forces beyond his control compel him to do what sane men find reprehensible. I wish to spare him the full effect of his errors. Because he cannot keep himself from harm, I would do it for him. Perhaps you feel the same for your Golden Warrior.”
“Do not speak of my Golden Warrior.” Grit sheathed her dagger and studied the castle brat. He’d no right to bring Coil into the conversation, but he was honest, if nothing else.
Leaning forward, she spat in her hand and offered it to Dagger. “Allies?”
He looked at the spittle pooling in her palm, raised his hand to his mouth, spat, and took her hand in his.
Wiping his hand on his trousers, Dagger rose. He secured the lock on the door, extinguished the lamp, and crossed to the window, where he looked out over the darkened street. “This city has become a foul place. Take the bed. I’ll lay out a mat. I don’t wish to leave you alone tonight, not here.”
Tired as she was from their journey and the excitement of their encounter with Havoc, Grit did not argue. She crawled into the bed and pulled the covers to her chin. She needed all the rest she could get.
Dagger remained at the window. He took from his pocket the small jar Scarlett had pressed into his hand at their parting. He opened it, reached a finger in, and set the jar on the windowsill. His gaze searched the street as he massaged the cream into his hands.
“A foul place indeed,” Dagger said as he slid Scarlett’s jar of cream into his pocket. He took a mat from under Grit’s bed and pulled it to the side of the door.
As Dagger settled to sleep, Grit slipped a hand underneath her covers to assure herself of her weapon’s presence.Never approach a stranger without a ready weapon, that’s what Dame Berth always said. There were strangers aplenty in this awful city, and Grit wouldn’t be found unarmed tonight.
Sometime in the night, a commotion in the hallway awakened Grit. Throwing back the worn patchwork quilt, she drew her dagger and waited, perched on the edge of the bed, her heart pounding. Had Havoc returned for her?
Dagger stood at the door, sword ready. Urgent knocking joined the sounds of shuffling feet and muffled voices that had woken Grit.
Harth called through the door, her voice constrained. “Dagger! Open up!”
Grit rose and stood beside Dagger as he hurried to open the door. Harth bustled past them, ushering a small group of people into the room. There were eight of them, wild-eyed and smelling of earth, sweat, and blood.
Harth bent over the side table to light a lamp. “I thought you’d want to speak with them, but it’s best they be seen by no one else. Spies are everywhere these days, after all.”
Like what you read?
Read chapter 33 now
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.