The Piper’s Price
(The Neverland Wars #2)
Published by: Clean Reads Publishing
Publication date: February 21st 2017
Genres: Fairy Tales, Retelling, Young Adult
Peter is plotting his retaliation against the latest bombing. Neverland needs an army, and Peter Pan is certain children will join him once they know what is at stake. The lost boys and girls are planning an invasion in suburbia to recruit, but in order to deliver their message, they will need the help of an old and dangerous associate—the infamous Pied Piper.
Hunting him down will require a spy in in the real world, and Gwen soon finds herself in charge of locating the Piper and cutting an uncertain deal with him. She isn’t sure if Peter trusts her that much, or if he’s just trying to keep her away from him in Neverland. Are they friends, or just allies? But Peter might not even matter now that she’s nearly home and meeting with Jay again.
The Piper isn’t the only one hiding from the adults’ war on magic though, and when Gwen goes back to reality, she’ll have to confront one of Peter’s oldest friends… and one of his earliest enemies.
Rosemary and Gwen were subject to the same rude awakening when they felt fairies pulling their hair early the next morning. “Owww!” Rosemary whined, only seconds before Gwen felt it too.
“Wha—stop!” Gwen shouted, slapping at the pestering fairy. She opened her eyes and saw an unsettling blue glow. Where were Foxglove and Hawkbit? She’d expected something purple or yellow. The blue fairy pinched her ear, and she attempted to bat it away again. Her eyes were too blurred with sleep to see clearly, but she rubbed them and insisted, “I’m awake! Give me a second.”
His furious trilling jogged her memory of the blue fairy. As her eyes finally focused, she saw the sharp features and angry face of a fairy she’d encountered once before.
“Oxtail?” she asked. He boxed her in the nose, his tiny fist stinging. “Owww! Oxalis?” He grumbled more amenably, and Gwen knew she at least had his name right.
Hawkbit buzzed like a wasp around Rosemary, but Foxglove paced on her wings near the ceiling. They all jittered with panicked motions, shouting over each other. It occurred to Gwen how out of place Oxalis was. Had the ill-tempered fairy ever left Neverland or sought out lost children? A horrible fear settled in her stomach as she realized just how wrong something must be for Oxalis to come to her.
“What’s the matter?”
His fury was indecipherable. She threw the covers off and stood up, trying to catch Foxglove’s attention. “What’s going on, Foxglove? Why is Oxalis here?” Her speech was just as hurried and flustered. There was no following it. Even Rosemary, much better at following fairy speak, couldn’t translate.
Oxalis buzzed into her face. Determined to make his message known, he shouted at Gwen, channeling his frustration into volume not speed.
“Hollyhock?” Gwen gathered.
He buzzed yes, and then continued. It felt like an unpleasant game of charades.
“Drones?” she repeated. Foxglove let out a pained cry, and the reality of it dawned on Gwen. “Oh no.”
The girls raced to Tiger Lily’s room, fairies fast behind. Gwen felt herself lurching back into childhood. Go get the grown-up. Grown-ups know what to do.
“Tiger Lily!” Rosemary exploded into the room, wearing a tiny nightgown borrowed from Neverland. Gwen suddenly felt absurd, rushing into Tiger Lily’s room, hiding behind the lost guise of naivety as her fear surged forward. Who was this woman to her that she could be a friend or an authority, whichever suited Gwen’s needs at the moment?
“What’s the matter?” Tiger Lily cried, bolting upright. She wore a large Washington Redskins jersey like a nightgown and had her hair pulled into two black braids. She was already out of bed before the girls could answer. Without any information, she pulled on a pair of jeans and prepared to deal with some unknown disaster. The fairies were faster to explain than the girls. By the time Gwen had sputtered, “It’s Hollyhock—she’s been taken by drones!” Tiger Lily already understood.
She put a hand to her mouth, covering her inexpressive but expansive grief. Her features stayed like stone on her face as she crossed the room to sit on her reading chair. Folding her legs up, she found a comfortable position on the plush armchair and seemed not to mind the fairies and girls orbiting around her in panic.
“Is she still alive?” Rosemary squeaked. Foxglove wailed.
“Certainly,” Tiger Lily answered. “Her pixie dust is too valuable to their purposes for them to kill her.”
“How do we rescue her?” Rosemary pleaded.
She was not so quick to respond. Her eyes stayed steady, as if she could physically see the problem in front of her. “I don’t know. She’ll be nearby. It will be easier to contain and experiment with her magic if they’re already in a magically dense environment.”
“So she’s in some kind of laboratory?” Gwen guessed. “Somewhere under the control of the Anomalous Activity Department?”
“They have a holding facility that they’ll be keeping her in.” Tiger Lily’s distress was barely visible on her face, but a look of intense concentration gave away how troubled her mind was.
“Where is it?” Rosemary demanded, as if she wanted to charge the facility that very second.
“I don’t know. I just know they have one. It’s where they put magical folks who refuse to join the grown-ups. It’s hidden, with a similar magic that hides Neverland.”
“How on earth do we find it then?” Gwen exclaimed.
Tiger Lily looked her dead in the eye, her composure regained. “The same way you find Neverland: you find someone who has been there before.”
Rosemary’s hands tightened into fists. Gwen felt a chill perch on the top of her spine as that night’s errand gathered even greater importance.
Audrey Greathouse is a lost child in a perpetual and footloose quest for her own post-adolescent Neverland. Originally from Seattle, she earned her English B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University’s online program while backpacking around the west coast and pretending to be a student at Stanford. A pianist, circus artist, fire-eater, street mime, swing dancer, and novelist, Audrey wears many hats wherever she is. She has grand hopes for the future which include publishing more books and owning a crockpot. You can find her at audreygreathouse.com.