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READ THE FIRST CHAPTER: Chosen (The Stolen Series, #3) by Marlena Frank

Can she stop what she unleashed?

How in the world did Shaleigh Mallett find herself standing on a volcanic mountain facing the fire dragon, Tanwen?

She isn't supposed to be here. She's supposed to be in high school, studying for classes and exploring abandoned buildings with her best friend. But no, she's stuck on the Peak of Gwern, hoping that the dragon will somehow show mercy and stop the Madness that plagues them.

There is still so much to do, so many wrongs to right. She can't abandon her friends after she's come so far. She won't abandon them. Not even Talek, who is all but consumed by the Madness. She must take down Keriam the Magician, she must face the Bloody Forest, and she must lead if she ever wants to see home again.

Follow Shaleigh into the Bloody Forest in CHOSEN, by Marlena Frank—out next Tuesday, March twenty-third. Pre-order your copy NOW!



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It was difficult to breathe. The sky was filled with smoke and the waves of heat made Shaleigh sweat through her clothes.

She didn’t belong on top of an active volcano near rivers of lava. She shouldn’t have come to the Peak of Gwern with her friends. She shouldn’t have pretended to be a warrior when she knew very well that she wasn’t.

And she certainly had no business trying to talk to a fire dragon.

She could have gone home when Queen Mab offered it back in the City of the Faeries, but she thought she could help. She should have accepted it and gone back to her schoolwork, to her best friend Kaeja, and to her father. Had they forgotten her completely by now? Would she live long enough to see them again?

Shaleigh licked at her parched lips as her eyes began to water from the heat. At least back home there were problems she could fix; there was no fixing a dragon.

The ground shook and she took a step back, dipping her foot into a thick mound of volcanic ash that covered her ankles. She knew what that meant: Tanwen was emerging.

Instinctively, she reached for Mawr, placing a hand on his flank even as he flattened himself to the ground and covered his eyes. She stroked his mane in a feeble attempt to calm him, despite her own heart thudding in her chest. A hand clasped hers, clad in fur, and she turned to see Colin staring at her with absolute terror. She squeezed his hand, staring into his eyes. Beads of sweat dripped off the black fur of his cheeks.

“I wish you had left!” she cried to him, tears streaking down her cheeks. “You both could have been long gone by now.”

He shook his head. “I couldn’t leave you any more than Mawr could. We’re both going to stand with you, whether you like it or not—it’s too late to leave now.” The ground quaked beneath them again, and Colin moved closer to her side; they put an arm around each other to stay steady. “I’m so sorry for all this,” he said.

“Me too.”

A loud crack tore through the air, and all three of them jumped. The ground close to where Talek stood tore apart, creating a great chasm, and ash fell into the gap that highlighted red from an inner light. He wasn’t far from where they huddled to the ground. Talek put one arm up to shield his face while his other hand gripped Teagan’s, backing away from the heat toward Shaleigh.

Teagan stared with unblinking eyes at the chasm, his skin horribly pale against the smoky sky. He had been stabbed through the heart with a ball of hot lava, thrown by a magician who was controlled by Keriam. Talek had used his magic to close his wound, but he couldn’t bring Teagan’s life back: Despite Talek’s Madness and despite the powers he had been given from his pact with Keriam, even he couldn’t overcome death.

Flames licked upward from within the giant crack, growing higher. Two wisps of flame crept forward along the ground, white in color like kindling caught ablaze. But there was nothing there to burn besides ash. There was nothing alive up here except for them.

At the base of the white flames, Shaleigh realized that it wasn’t just flame; it was a glob of volcanic rock that she knew hadn’t been there before. It was crusted black, as though cooled in places, but it was also veined with white molten lava within. The pair of rocks seemed to shift left and right, though it was hard to tell if they were really moving or if it was from the heat waves coming off of them. That was when she realized that they weren’t merely rock— they were claws.

“Mawr…” Shaleigh crouched down beside the stone lion, moving her hand from his flank to his cheek. He didn’t say anything, but she could feel him trembling under her palm, his stone body almost painfully hot to the touch. Colin took her lead and crouched down beside her. Only Talek remained standing, still holding Teagan at his side. They were close enough she could make out their faces now.

“Please,” Talek said, tears marking streaks down his soot covered face. “I merely want council with you. That’s all!”

The molten claws dug into the earth, and the ground shook again. Shaleigh heard another crack and wondered if they were all going to be sent tumbling down into a fiery abyss.

She looked up and watched as the dragon pulled herself up out of the chasm.

First came her head, surrounded with long, floating tendrils of flame, and then came her serpentine neck and body. She was black like a cooling lava flow from head to toe, and occasionally bits of her body crumbled and fell to the ground, adding to the mounds of ash all around them. The cracks exposed her true, molten essence. Much of her body was still on fire, lit from the pit from which she emerged. She snorted steam into the air and took a deep breath. As her chest expanded, Shaleigh could see the cracks of her body expand and begin to cool as well. It was as if she wasn’t used to breathing air from aboveground.

Slowly Mawr got to his feet, much to the shock of Shaleigh and Colin.

“What are you doing?” Colin asked, as though staying on the ground would somehow avoid getting her attention.

“It’s her,” Mawr whispered, clearly in awe despite still trembling. “It’s really her. I never thought I would actually get to see her. I’ve read about her for so many years, studied so many of the books. She’s beautiful. They never said she was beautiful.”

Despite the heat that was building and her own heart thundering away in her chest, Shaleigh had to agree with him. Tanwen was beautiful in the way encountering a big cat in the wild would be beautiful, but then it would also lead to death. Every fiber of her being wanted to run away as fast as she could down the mountain, but Shaleigh couldn’t look away.

Tanwen was graceful but terrible, a presence so raw and powerful that she seared onto the mind. Shaleigh knew that nothing she could photograph would ever live up to her.

The dragon craned her neck back and surveyed her guests, settling her white-hot gaze on each of them, her eyes burning with an unending flame. Shaleigh heard Talek cry out as Tanwen’s gaze fell upon him. It sounded like he was physically in pain and it made her want to bury her head down against Mawr’s side, but she couldn’t do it.

Then Tanwen turned to Mawr, and the poor lion just yelped and began shaking again. Shaleigh patted his side, trying to calm him, but she couldn’t bring herself to speak. She couldn’t even think of any words to say.

When Tanwen’s gaze fell on her next, the weight of it made her stomach drop. A bizarre chill went through her even though she was still sweating like crazy from the heat. Shaleigh couldn’t turn her head or glance aside, all she could do was stare even though it hurt. It was as though the dragon saw everything within her, knew every‐ thing she had done, and lifted up every flaw from within to examine and explore.

A sob escaped her lips. Her own thoughts dimmed and suddenly she knew with certainty that she was a trespasser. She was an intruder, a disease, a parasite that had no inkling of where it landed. Shaleigh wanted to apologize, to say something to explain, to help the dragon understand why she was here and why she wanted to help her friends, but words didn’t come.

A high-pitched hissing sound assaulted her ears, like the whistling of a teapot about to explode with steam. Absently Shaleigh put her hands up to her ears to block out the noise, but it didn’t even muffle it. The sound came full force still, and it took a moment for her to recognize that there were words in the sound.

“Yes, this must be your language. You have something that belongs to me, Shaleigh Mallett.” The ground shook, and Shaleigh fell forward, but Colin caught her before she hit the ground.

“What was that?” Colin screamed, his breath warm against her neck as he pulled her upright. “Was that her?”

“She speaks in a fury of scream and flame!” Mawr cried, clearly quoting some kind of book he had read. He was crouching down again. “All who hear her will regret their ears!”

Shaleigh blinked and shook her head, finally free of whatever the dragon had done to her.

Tanwen looked out over the chasm, staring directly at her, patient and threatening without making a move. Shaleigh wracked her mind. What did they have that belonged to a dragon? They barely had anything with them as it was.

She glanced to her friends, surely, Tanwen didn’t mean them. Even if Talek was near to losing himself to the Madness and taking them all with him, she would still never let a dragon take him—take any of them.

“I don’t know what I have,” she confessed. “If we have anything of yours, we don’t know it.”

Tanwen dipped her head and gave a slow nod, the wisps of flame behind her rippled as though from wind. Then the jar that Shaleigh still had tucked under her arm, the one she had forgotten about and had almost left at the edge of the Dark Lands, felt very cold. She reached for it, surprised that she even still had it. The sweat from her fingers left marks on the glass. Inside looked empty except for maybe a cobweb or two, but she knew for certain that it hadn’t felt that cold before.

When they had left the Dark Lands, Shaleigh had nearly tripped on it. She wasn’t sure where it came from, but she was certain they didn’t just happen to come across it. Now here Tanwen asked for it, as though she had left it there and had them fetch it for her. Shaleigh held the jar up for the dragon to see; Tanwen nodded again, her flaming white eyes never leaving Shaleigh.

She must have seen Shaleigh’s confusion. “It’s only empty if you look through your eyes,” Tanwen said simply. The steam whistle shriek of her voice made Shaleigh’s head pound. “Give it here.”

Shaleigh froze, not even sure how to do that. She couldn’t just hand it over; she was barely able to keep from backing away as it was. She thought of just lobbing it at her, but that would probably end with it breaking, and with Shaleigh in an even worse situation. Even if she could get the jar close, wouldn’t it just shatter from the heat, especially with how cold it felt?

Tanwen rose up, the length of her lava cracked, blackened body coming out farther from the ground. Two black shapes tore loose from her body, throwing ash into the air, and unfurled. Her wings were enormous, like bat wings, and ribbed with shifting lava beneath the skin. The heat they gave off was unbearable.

“Give it here!” Tanwen shrieked again, opening her jaws and revealing rows of sharp teeth and a white light inside her mouth and throat. It was blinding, and Shaleigh winced as she held up a hand to shield her eyes.

“Do as she asks!” Talek called to her, acknowledging that she existed for the first time since they landed on the Peak of Gwern. “She’ll kill us all if you refuse!” He was walking toward her with Teagan following at his side.

“How?” Shaleigh swallowed down the dryness of her throat. “I can’t get close to her, and I’m afraid it’ll shatter!”

Mawr stood up suddenly and wrapped his teeth around the jar as gently as he had when he helped her onto the sled by the lake in Aife. He picked it up then nuzzled her with his stone whiskers.

“Mawr, what are you doing?”

He muttered something unintelligible.