For Ages
9 to 12

The Piper's Promise is a part of the Sisters Ever After collection.

The Pied Piper’s little sister is determined to rat out the truth behind her brother’s bad behavior—and save the children of Hamelin! The third book in the Sisters Ever After series, perfect for anyone who loves fairy tale retellings about sisters and magic!

"The Piper's Promise is one of those rare books I will gladly read over and over again and love it more every time."—New York Times Bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen

Clare's brother, Tom, also known as the pied piper, has stolen away the children of Hamelin. But Clare knows that’s only half the story. Tom isn’t the easiest person to love, but she’s certain that he couldn’t be so cruel. There has to be a good reason why he stole the Fae Queen’s magic pipe and led the children to a faraway land, never to be seen again.

Together with Anna, the mayor of Hamelin’s daughter, Clare embarks on a journey into the Faerie Realms. In order to succeed, she will have to dodge faerie traps and stay out of the evil Rat Prince's claws. Only she can save the children of Hamelin and clear her brother's name.

But who will she have to betray to do it?

An Excerpt fromThe Piper's Promise

1

T

he parents were grieving, and their grief was terrible to bear. Both because of the depth and sharpness of their sadness, and because I knew that if anything horrible ever happened to me or Tom, our mother would never grieve for us that way.
I wasn’t sure she would grieve for us at all.

Love is a burden, Tom told me once, that time when I almost got eaten by a sea serpent and our mother laughed as she told the fae court about it. Tom had been the one to save me, and then to hold me tight as I coughed up water. But when I came to him sobbing over our mother’s lack of caring, he had pressed his lips together impatiently. The other side of love is pain.

I saw that pain now as I walked through the shabby gray streets of Hamelin. It leaked from every window in this small, dusty town, glared from every tear-­streaked face that watched me pass.

I understood that grief. For weeks now, I had been missing my brother—­a constant, empty ache under my heart. I knew how powerful that anguish was, because it had led me to do the unthinkable: to leave the Realms, by myself, and come to the human world to find him.

And I would find him. I would. No matter what had happened to him, no matter what he had done, I would find him and we would be together again.

But I had never imagined that I was going to find this. Not my brother, but the pain he had left behind. And the only thing that made it bearable was the determination I clung to: I can fix this.

I didn’t know for sure if that was true. But I forced myself to believe it, because there was no other way I could have made it down that eerily silent street, up the stairs of the grandest house in town, and into the mayor’s office.

The mayor’s “office” was actually the front room of his house, which says a lot about how often Hamelin’s yearly elections resulted in a change of mayor. Mayor Herman, I’d been told, had been the mayor for over twenty years. It would probably help if someone occasionally ran against him, but since no one ever did, the ballots generally had two choices: Herman Jeremson and Somebody Else, If We Can Find Someone Qualified and Willing, Which Is Unlikely. Written on the ballot, just like that—­I’d seen one stuck under a grimy well stone, left over from the last election.

Not the most democratic of places, Hamelin. Not that it would have helped much if it had been.

The mayor’s office reeked of stale tobacco, and his face shone with sweat. He sat upright in his brown leather chair, brow furrowed, as if he was in control of the situation. But I, of all people, could recognize tightly controlled fear. He had been the one who hired my brother as a ratcatcher. He had been the one who refused to pay the exorbitant fee. Any moment now, the people’s grief would turn into anger, and they would remember who was responsible for the tragedy that had overtaken their town.

They would be wrong. My brother had come for their children, and he would have found a way to take them even if Hamelin had a smart and honest mayor.

But nobody knew that except me. And I certainly wasn’t about to tell Mayor Herman.

The mayor looked up as I entered. He drew in his breath, and I wondered if he recognized something in me that reminded him of Tom. If he was remembering the last time a lanky, dark-­haired child had walked into his office and offered to solve his problems.

I hoped not. But I had to be careful, just in case.

“Mayor Herman,” I said, and curtsied. His eyes widened in astonishment, from which I gathered that it was not customary to curtsy to mayors. Human etiquette rules were so confusing. “I am here to help you get Hamelin’s children back.”

“Are you?” He sat back, regarding me with sharp blue eyes. “And what payment will you ask in return?”

I had expected either joy or disbelief. I knew then that something was wrong, but I couldn’t think fast enough to change my plan. “No payment. I only want to make sure the children are unharmed. Can you tell me which way they went?”
The mayor leaned forward as if listening. But his eyes flicked to the door behind me.

Too late, I realized what was happening.

I turned, but not fast enough. Two men burst into the room. One had a bristling black beard that stuck straight out from his chin, the other a large, furry mustache that looked like it had been glued crookedly to his face. Before I could move, the man with the mustache had my arms pinned behind my back. I tried to twist free, but the bearded man grabbed my right arm and snapped a thick iron band around my wrist.

After that, the only thing I could do was scream.

I did scream, at the top of my lungs. Of course, no one came to help me. The townspeople were not partial to mysterious strangers right now.

The bearded man stepped away from me. “Should I slap her,” he asked, “to shut her up?”

He sounded like he really wanted to. I gulped, silencing myself.

“Good girl,” the mayor said. He came out from behind his desk and stood in front of me. The mustached man still had my arms pinned behind me and the bearded one glowered at me from beside the mayor. Each was nearly twice my height, but the mayor still made sure to leave several yards between him and me.

It was nice to have a reputation.

It would have been even nicer if I deserved that reputation.

I snarled at the mayor. He flinched, then puffed his chest out. Too late; I had seen the flinch, and so had his hairy-­faced henchmen.

“You will get us our children back,” he said. “And I’ll give you nothing in return except your worthless life.”
From the way the bearded man looked at him sideways, I knew the mayor had no intention of giving me that, either.
“Tell us where they are,” the mayor said.

“I don’t know!” I gasped. The iron band on my wrist hurt—­not as much as it would have if I was fully fae, but still, it felt like hives were breaking out wherever it touched my skin. “I swear, I don’t know! That’s why I came here, so you could tell me which way they went.”

The bearded man strode forward and struck me in the face, so hard my head snapped to one side.

The mayor opened his mouth as if to object, then closed it. He looked very proper in his fine dark clothes, his trim beard a distinguished blend of gray and white. But when the man raised his hand again, Mayor Herman didn’t tell him to stop.
“Where did you take them?” he demanded.

“I didn’t take them anywhere! Do I look like the Pied Piper to you?”

Which was a foolish question. Of course I did.

I had made a mistake, coming here. I had thought I understood humans better than I did. Tom had warned me about exactly that—­Just because we were born human, doesn’t mean we know how to think like them. We’ve lived our whole lives among the fae. I should have paid more attention.

To the fae, Tom and I were nearly identical. They got us mixed up constantly. But humans could tell us apart easily—­even Anna, who had trouble telling most people apart. I had once asked her how she did it, and she had burst into laughter and said, “Are you joking? He’s several handsbreadth taller than you!”