top of page

READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: The Seeking by Marlena Frank

Beware the Gray People

Each Seeking, the magic that protects the town of Carra must be renewed, which means the children of the Exalted Family must go into hiding. Whether through disguise or bribe, through trusted friends or perfect hiding places, every child of the Priest family must avoid capture for the full day of The Seeking.

When things go wrong with the renewal, it’s up to seventeen-year-old Dahlia, the middle child of the Priest family, and her girlfriend, Bisa, to escape Carra and find the magical beings responsible for the protection. They must learn who would require such a cruel game every year and if the protection of the Gray People is really worth such a price.

What they will discover is far worse.

Follow Dahlia and Bisa on their journey through entrenched mysteries and fraught adventures in author Marlena Frank’s upcoming novel, THE SEEKING—out TUESDAY!

Pre-order your copy today!


Barnes & Noble


Parliament House Press

Be sure to add it to your Goodreads TBR list!




The scent of freshly baked apple pie filled the cold morning air... I hated it. It was a tradition of Carra, baked throughout the town at the end of October every year. Most thought it was a lovely treat, a warm and sweet way to step into fall, but it made my stomach clench.

It was a holiday favorite for The Seeking, and today almost every home in town had a pie.

I took a deep breath, allowing the scent to flow through me, allowing my hands to tremble before willing them to be still. It was only morning, I reminded myself. There were many hours before the clock struck midnight and The Seeking began. The hunt wasn’t on yet; besides, I still had people to see.

Wrapping my scarf tighter around my neck, I headed down the hill, away from the Exalted House. The dirt path felt solid under my feet even as my heart fluttered like a hummingbird in flight.

While the sun had only just peeked over the horizon, all of Carra was bustling. They were celebrating, of course; the Great Feast would take place tonight, where they would make sure the hunters and dogs were well fed. I felt their eyes on me as I walked down the street, faces turning toward me, eyes peering out through windows. If I wasn't careful tonight, any of them might catch me.

A blast of wind scattered a pile of leaves and I started, clutching my hat as my boots sank slightly into a muddy patch on the dirt road.

Whenever they caught me looking at them, their intense gazes would turn into cheerful smiles.

All of them were deceivers.

There was no polite, understood rivalry this year. No, this year, there was outright anger towards me and my family. I could feel it in the air but couldn't pinpoint it exactly. Was it because we had been in power for so long? Five years didn't seem that long, but I couldn't deny how the resentment had grown over time.

A young woman, who had auburn hair and looked to be a few years older than me, walked towards me on the path. She was smiling, but when she glanced up and saw me, her smile hardened, and she turned quickly down a side road. She was hardly an exception to the rule.

Every year I watched their pleasantries grow thin. As the months passed, I noticed how they stared up at the Exalted House with undeniable envy in their eyes as their bitterness grew. Many were biding their time until tonight, when they had the power to make a change.

At midnight the bell tower would toll and The Seeking would begin. Their smiles would no longer need to be masked. At midnight their true hatred would come out to play.

"Good morning, Dahlia," a frail old woman with wispy white hair and watery eyes said as she folded linens and dropped them into a basket.

I nodded, returning her smile even though I hadn’t the slightest idea who she was.

That was the problem with being part of the Exalted. Everybody knew who I was even if I didn't know them. Some I got to know if I had to work a court case or investigate a situation, but generally they were unknown faces with unknown names. At least I was used to going through the pleasantries without even thinking about it.

Another cold wind blew past me and already I could tell it would be a rough night. I picked up the pace, wanting to be away from so many prying eyes. I wanted this Seeking to be over, for the hunt and the cruelty and the hatred to be done with. But I had to follow the rules of Carra. We all had to, even if The Seeking brought out the worst in people.

"Running about causing trouble, Little Mouse?" Mr. Broskow asked, his booming voice sending a cold chill down my spine. I was hoping I was out early enough to avoid him, but he, too, was up early this morning.

I turned to see him lingering in the doorway of his shop; a bloody axe at his feet as he tied the legs of a pig carcass to a hook, the blood pouring down into a bucket below. I wondered if he had waited for me to walk by just so he could try to intimidate me by bleeding out a pig. That was the sort of tactic he liked to use - brutal viciousness to throw me off guard.

Broskow was a man who lived for The Seeking. He relished the hunt and he saw me, one of the smallest of my family, as easy prey.

I stopped and grimaced as the scent of blood momentarily overwhelmed me, but then glared as I called out, "My family has the day off to prepare, as you well know."

He leaned against the doorway, the pig's carcass swinging slowly in the wind beside him. Its eyes were closed, its mouth open, likely from delivering its final scream – I held back a wince.

"Come here a moment."

Part of me wanted to ignore him. There was no law stating that I had to talk to people who heckled me, but I knew I was still being watched. I glanced around and could see several faces peering out through their shutters. How I handled Broskow might determine how many of them would decide to chase me down when the moon was high.

So, I gathered my strength and stepped towards him. "What is it?"

The first thing I noticed was that Broskow's gloves glinted in the morning light because they were wet. When he picked up his bloodied axe, I felt my heart skip a beat; he winked before hoisting it above his head. I gasped as he brought it down on one of the pig's legs, and shuddered as he dropped its pale limb with a thump into the bucket below.

I took a shaky step back, my body trembling as a crowd formed around us. He grinned, malice clear in his eyes as he stepped forward and dropped a hand on my shoulder; it smelled like old meat and I swallowed hard. His grip was painful, but I refused to wince. I had already shown weakness and could see how much he enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t do it again.

"Say hello to your parents for me," he said with eyes like a dead fish. "Tell them that I'll be the one to return you tonight." He gave me a little shake, probably just to show how much smaller than him I was for the audience that had gathered.

My hands fisted at my sides. "Strong words for someone who hasn't been able to catch any of us in four years."

Broskow’s eyes narrowed and his fingers tightened onmy shoulder, where pain started pulsing outward. "You had best hope that you do elude me this year, Little Mouse. When Pearl and I become the new Exalted, we'll send you out to test the Boundary Line every night for the rest of your short little life." He dragged a bloody finger across my cheek. "I don't think you would last a single night."

I grimaced. My family had been part of the Exalted for five years and my brothers and I had survived four Seekings, but I knew how organized Broskow's hunting parties could be and how vile his intimidation tactics were becoming.

He made my little brother cry last year as he poured blood over him on the street, in front of the town to witness. Come midnight, he would put together at least ten men with promises of high positions after their victory and round up his trusted troop of hunting dogs. This was just the precursor to the ruthlessness of tonight.

I pulled away from his grip. "We'll see about that."

He leaned down, his maddened grin fading. "Four years is a long time to elude me, Dahlia. I won't let you make it to five." His voice lowered, "You come from a bad seed. Your father cheated so he could live in the Exalted House, and his reign will not last much longer.” He paused, our eyes locking. “None of you deserve to be our leaders."

I stepped away from him. "My father didn't cheat; he followed the rules the same as everyone else!" By now several people had stopped to watch us. The old woman with the laundry basket wore a smirk. A middle-aged man passed us on the street before he stopped to lean against the building on the opposite end of the trail, laughing in a drunken haze.

Broskow adored it; he loved having an audience. He stood up straighter, easily towering over me, and spoke to the people around us. "Bribery is for cowards who are too weak to hunt their prey on their own." He pointed at me. "Her family does not deserve to be our Exalted. Who here will help me hunt down Dahlia Priest tonight and drag her to Town Hall?"

A small cheer erupted from the onlookers.

"Together, we'll make sure the Priests have seen their final dawn as the Exalted!"

I felt the blood drain from my face. This time the cheer was more heartfelt, and some of the people cheering –some of them I knew.

My wrist was grabbed in a claw-like grip and I jerked back to see the old woman with the laundry basket, her eyes watering with anger.

"Perhaps we ought to hold onto her now, and bring her when the bell tolls," she said with a cracked voice. "That would be easier."

"No, no," Broskow chided with a wide, toothy grin. "We must follow the rules. Carra would fall without her traditions.” Again, his eyes met mine. “Don't worry, she won't escape us tonight."

In my heart, I knew he was right. Every year the hunting parties grew more and more determined and I had to push myself to be smarter and faster than every person in town.

I turned from them and ran.

I no longer cared what they thought.

"That's right, run!" Broskow’s laughter taunted me from behind. "Run, Little Mouse, back to hide in your hole! It won't save you!"

I pictured Bisa's face in my mind: her warm smile, her easy laugh, her mischievous eyes.

I wiped at my face, at the blood on my cheek. I hated the warm blood that was seeping into my leather tunic and growing colder by the second. I hated the way I smelled. I hated that I had let Broskow get to me, and I knew that word of what happened would spread quickly.

Why couldn’t I have just left him alone? Why did I always have to try and prove them wrong? If I just didn’t care, it would have been so much easier.

I took a few deep breaths as I turned down the next street. I didn't want Bisa to see how shaken I was. She would fret and want me to stay, but I had to be strong for tonight, didn't I?

Dappled morning sunlight streamed down through thepines. Leaves rustled and swirled past my feet, and in the distan