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 40 | Chapter 42 >>
The first step for a dameling wishing to establish a hut was to inform the council of her intentions to build. Grit set out for the meetinghouse, hoping to find a gathered council. The streets of Thresh were full of warriors eager to fight and awaiting direction. Groups clustered together, discussing what ought to be done about Strike. Their conversations quieted as Grit passed. Some bowed their heads to show their respect for the only Threshan who had dared to follow Dame Berth into a suicide attack. Others eyed her suspiciously, wary of the exiled dameling who had returned to conquer their champion. Arrow was right. Going back was difficult.
“You have brought trouble upon us, Grit of Stone!” A familiar voice bellowed from behind her. Which was worse, the accusation of treachery or the absence of her dame’s name? She couldn’t tell.
The sireling continued, his rage silencing the crowd. “You struck down our champion. How do we know you did not lead Strike into our village?”
Grit wheeled to face the young warrior who strode after her. Shaggy brown hair hung to his shoulders, and his brown eyes accused her of all the wrong in the world.
Grit retraced her steps to meet him. “Talon of March and Swot, I’m surprised your sire didn’t teach you better than to speak ignorantly. Your champion is better now than he was before my return, and I assure you I did not lead Strike into this village. I would rather die than betray my home.” Unable to suppress her indignation, she spat on Talon’s boot.
My home. I called this place my home. Thresh. And yes, I’d rather die than see it destroyed. She faced Talon with her hands on her hips, daring him to oppose her further. He pounded his fist into his palm.
“You stabbed Coil in the heart. He kept his vow to you, but still you planted your foul dagger in his heart.”
Grit dropped her hands from her hips. She wanted Talon on her side. “And it nearly killed me to do so. After all those years of calling our matches, you must know Coil and I never sparred maliciously. It was all sport. Do not accuse me of treachery, especially against the one who has always been my closest ally. Believe me when I tell you it was for his survival as much as my own that I did what I did. As for the rest of your foolishness, I intend to establish a hut on the Outer Ring and fight against Strike beside you and Coil and the rest of the warriors. Let us be allies, Talon. We cannot afford unnecessary enemies.”
Talon scrutinized Grit from head to toe. He sighed deeply and shook his hair out of his eyes again.
“You are right in saying we cannot afford unnecessary enemies, and I grant that you and Coil always seemed more like allies than adversaries. But I’ll pledge no alliance with you until I see with my own eyes our champion restored and your word fulfilled.”
“But you will speak no more foolish lies of me, either?” Grit’s hand rested on her dagger.
Talon nodded. “I won’t, but you must know others will.”
“Let them.” Grit’s gaze rested on Merit of Shore and Brakken, who stood behind Talon. “I will shame them all if it comes to that.”
She started toward the center of the village, but turned back to Talon. “I wasn’t lying. Coil is well. He’ll be with Kinsmon today. You should ask your sire what that name means. And for the record, my dame acknowledged me. You may stop calling me Grit of Stone.”
She did not wait for Talon’s response, but trotted toward the meetinghouse. She would establish herself on the Outer Ring and fight for Thresh, just as she had told Talon, but first she needed to settle a few things with the council.
The council was still in session as Grit strode through the meetinghouse door. She stopped short, confused by the sight of four empty seats at the council table. Coil sat in the chair that had belonged to Dame Berth, holding in his hands a small scroll much like those on which Talon used to record their sparring matches.
“Of the council, Sires Pierce, Hawk, Glade, and Palter.” Coil unrolled the scroll as he read. “And in the first, Varlet of Dara and Turf of Elna and Bord. These last have been in Strike’s service longest, but only now have any of them shown their true allegiance. They have left, cowards under the veil of night, and will not return to Thresh except to destroy us. Let them follow Strike to their shame, every one of them. They are vile men who shed the blood of those who do not oppose them.”
Sage Brakken cleared his throat. “If I interpret rumors correctly, the same accusation might be leveled at you, Coil of Dara.”
Lips pursed, Coil rolled up the scroll and tucked it into his pocket. He folded his hands on the table and looked at Sage Brakken.
“So may it be. But if a man is to hang for deeds he’d rather forget, neither warrior nor sage could spare his own neck. Cast judgment on me if you will, Sage Brakken, but there are men who know even the secrets of sages. I caution you, if the occasion arises, I will not hesitate to call them as witnesses against you, for I would hate to die alone.”
Brakken narrowed his eyes at Coil. Grit stepped forward.
“I wish to address the council,” she said. “Where are the rest of its members?”
The seven council members sitting around the table shifted their gazes from one to another.
Finally, Sire Stone spoke. “You heard Coil. They’ve left. This is the council.”
“We’re missing a third of our fighting force as well,” said a broad shouldered, middle-aged man sitting beside Sire Stone. Sire Flex’s voice, crisp and voluminous, matched his person perfectly. His body, tight, muscular, and neat, filled the chair in which he sat. “Coil’s report leaves no doubt they betrayed us to Strike and joined his force last night.”
Sire Stone watched Grit closely. “Turf of Elna and Bord, who stood guard behind Berth’s hut is, as you heard, among the missing.”
Grit clenched her jaw. Turf’s confident boasting of future glory when she and Dagger entered Thresh made perfect sense.
“Turf of Elna and Bord.” She turned her head to the side and spat on the floor. “He is a traitorous fool to barter with Strike. What actions will the council take?”
“As it stands now, our warriors, for all their fury, are fumbling babes before Strike’s massive army. The battles ahead will demand more of them than they can give. With Coil’s help, Sire Flex and I hope to build a force equal to recovering Koradin and the entire region from Strike and to ensure he is never again able to raise an army against us.” Sire Stone looked around the council table.
“It can wait a day or so.” Coil rose from his chair.
Sire Flex sat forward. “Where are you going? Whether or not you are yet fit to fight, you ought to be here.”
“I have engagements elsewhere,” Coil said, and he walked out of the meetinghouse without another word.
Together with the council, Grit watched him go. It was as useless to ask as to demand his remaining with them.
Sage Brakken pounded his fists on the table. “But where is he going?”
“Coil has gone to confer with our strongest ally.” Grit looked directly at the diminutive sire seated next to Sage Brakken. “Kinsmon has arrived in Thresh. Perhaps that means something to you, Sire Swot.”
“Kinsmon? Here in Thresh?” Sire Swot wrung his hands. “How intriguing! Surely it means something…Perhaps he…Explain… Could it really… Where is…” Sire Swot shook his head in wonderment, his lips moving rapidly but uttering only the occasional disjointed phrase.
“There he goes again. We won’t get another sensible word out of him today.” Sage Brakken squinted his cloudy eyes at Grit. “Why have you come before us, anyway?”
“I search for a site for my hut. I also wish to make it known that my dame acknowledged me before her demise.”
Sage Brakken waved his hand dismissively. “Go ahead with the hut. As for the other matter, can anyone confirm your dame’s acknowledgement?”
“Slate of Berth and Stone could, as could Strike of the Northern Mountains.” Grit heard, but could not restrain, the indignation resounding in every syllable she uttered. “If you had bothered to get out of your bed last night, Sage Brakken, you would know no one else had courage enough to leave the Outer Ring.”
Sage Brakken sat back, arms crossed. “It won’t do. You may be bolder than all of Thresh, but without a witness, you remain Grit of Stone.”
“That’s it? Will there be no discussion?” She looked from one council member to the next, but none offered support.
Sire Stone shook his head. His lips pursed together in a grim line.
“Without a witness, it’s your word against Dame Berth’s. The council rests on her last official stance. Your renunciation stands.” Sage Brakken seemed to be enjoying himself. “And allow me to remind you when a sage speaks as firmly as I have, it is not a matter for a mere dameling to debate. Do you understand, Grit of Stone?”
Grit swallowed hard. “I do. I also understand that though you deny me her name, you cannot extract her blood from my veins.”
Grit spun around and marched out of the meetinghouse. She had nothing more to say and no desire to hear any more that Sage Brakken might say to her.
Like what you read?
Check back next week to read chapter 42
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.