Piped Croakies

Enchanting Inquiries Book 12

The Pied Piper shall lead them all astray…A captured audience helpless to its sway. The pipe’s infectious music bids them come…and come they will…two by two or one by one. 

Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any weirder, life upped the strange to a never before seen level.

When a long line of critters, dazed and seemingly oblivious, marched past Croakies, I knew we had a situation on our hands.

Actually…if you counted being unwillingly affianced to a big old pink ogre…I had more than one situation.

Le Sigh.

Then someone died. A king declared war on Enchanted. And my situation became a crisis. It would be up to me to find the perpetrator and bring him to justice while wrangling the rogue pipe artifact he used for his nefarious deeds.

Buffalo buttocks! I really need a vacation.

Uh, but not a Honeymoon. Not that kind of vacation.

"You will NOT be able to put this book down so get your tea, brownies and snacks ready before you begin, then buckle up...things are about to shift into overdrive!" Reviewed by Valerie Irwin

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Praise for Piped Croakies

Reviewed by Diana Raven

Life always feels a little better after a Croakies story. I look forward to seeing what artifact goes crazy in the next book.

Reviewed by GranJan

This is probably the best book in the entire series. Then again, I say that after reading each new episode. This book ticks all of the boxes; danger, adventure, romance, mythical creatures, and fairy tales coming to life. 

Read an Excerpt

“We need an anti-ogre ward on the front door,” Sebille growled before flinging two garment bags onto Shakespeare’s desk, where I was studying ogre law.

I frowned at the bags. “What are these?”

Rather than respond, she reached over and unzipped the one on top, pulling it open to show me something from a fashion nightmare.

I shook my head, widening my eyes at her. “A really ugly dress? Where did it come from?”

“Pay attention, Naida!” she screamed, surprising even herself if the excessive blinking was any indication. She scrubbed a hand over her face, her hand shaking. “Sorry. This stupid wedding thing has me twisted in knots.”

I could certainly understand that. I was spending ten hours a day, to the detriment of all my other work, trying to find a loophole in the contract we’d signed.

“I’m not marrying that ogre,” she told me, her tone seeming to imply that I thought she should.

I raised my hands in self-defense. “I’m with you. We’re not going to marry them. Even if we need to take a really long vacation on another dimension to avoid it.”

She nodded, appearing mollified.

I tugged the bag away from the fluffy pink, black, and white dress, grimacing at the abundance of tule puffing out through the middle and over the hips. The dress seemed custom-made for ensuring its wearer looked thirty pounds heavier than she was. I forced my lips to uncurl and held it in front of Sebille. “At least you have the figure to make the most of this,” I told her, earning a sour look in response.  

“That’s your dress, Naida.”

I was pretty sure all the color drained from my face. “What? No. It can’t be.”

She showed me the card that had been shoved into a small pocket near the hangar. My name was scrawled over the cream-colored card in heavy black ink.

Whatever blood I had left in my face fled south. My five-foot-eight-inch, slightly fluffy frame would look terrible in the dress. “I can’t wear this! I’ll look like a really big piece of ugli fruit.”

Sebille snorted. “You will. Thank goodness mine is more tasteful.”

I cast a jaundiced blue eye over her current outfit of a short-sleeved forest green dress with hot pink polka dots, which she wore over striped pink and purple socks that disappeared beneath the flounce which landed below her knees and were tucked into her usual shiny red Wicked Witch of the West shoes. At least the shoes matched her fire-engine-red hair.

As usual, her fashion choices literally hurt the eyes and were an assault on good taste. “You don’t say?” I responded.

Sebille rolled her eyes. “You’re just jealous.”

I flapped my lips, not sure what direction to go, and then gave up, shoving the nightmare in tulle toward the bag. “If I wasn’t already determined to avoid this wedding, that dress would be enough to do it.”

Sebille flopped down into Casanova’s chair, twitched unhappily as the over-sexed furniture pinched her left buttock, and then reached down to smack the velvet seat hard enough to make the chair jump and try to scurry away. The sprite flung an immobility spell at the unfortunate thing, and it screeched to a halt on the concrete. Finally, the horrid piece of perverted furniture had met its match.

The door dividing the bookstore from the artifact library where we were currently hiding opened, and a tiny face peeked through. “Miss?” Hobs, our resident hobgoblin, said. “Something’s wrong.”

I closed my eyes, striving for calm. Something was always wrong. Casanova’s chair creaked as Sebille stood up. “I’ll go,” she said crankily. “You keep looking for that loophole.”

Sighing, I shoved the garment bags aside and bent over my book again. Prestidigitation, Legalese, and Larceny in Ogrish Law: How to Maneuver around the Rocklike Obstinance of King Rhorr’s Law wasn’t exactly compelling reading. Nor was it particularly helpful. My uncle Archibald Pudsnecker, a.k.a. Pudsy, told me the ancient, hard-to-read tome was my best chance to find a way out of the contract Sebille and I had signed without reading the small print.

In our defense…and I believed it was a really good defense…the contract was written on the wide, pudgy back of the ogre king. It was a long contract, and the part that got us in trouble was located in the nether regions. And I mean that literally.

I’d closed my eyes and slashed the pen over my side of the posterior parchment without studying the last paragraph of the diabolical contract.

I’d know better next time. Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’d put holes in your posterior paper with a quill pen.

The door opened again. Sebille’s head poked through. “Um, Naida.”

I dropped my forehead onto the book, pounding it a few times against the aged pages. My long, brown hair flew around my head from the repeated blows.

She ignored my tantrum. “You’re going to want to see this.”

I lay there another beat and then sat up with a sigh. “I’m coming.”

When I came through the door, I frowned at the sight in front of me. Mr. Wicked, Fenwald, Mr. Slimy, Hobs, and our newest member of the Croakies household, Baca the brownie, were all lined up along the windowsill, staring at something on the street.

What was really strange wasn’t so much that they were lined up there. It was the way they all sat, so completely still, that seemed unnatural enough to give me pause.

Especially Hobs. He rarely sat still at all, let alone for any length of time.

I glanced at Sebille. “What’s wrong with them?”

“Huh?” She frowned at me. “Not them, Naida.” She motioned for me to follow her to the window.

Not a single one of my housemates looked up when Sebille and I joined them. But I soon forgot to notice their non-reaction.

I looked out at the scene in the street and felt my eyes go wide. “That’s…”

I fell into a kind of daze, watching the parade on the street with uncommon focus.

A long line of animals, lined up as far as I could see in both directions, moved quickly past without so much as a glance from side to side.

Cats walked in front of dogs. Dogs walked in front of ferrets. Ferrets walked in front of bunnies. Bunnies hopped in front of squirrels. Birds flew above frogs, and frogs hopped in front of ducks.

It took me a moment to yank myself out of the light trance the sight had dropped me into. I literally shook it off and stepped away from the window, feeling dread tightening my chest. “What’s that about?”

No response. I glanced at Sebille and discovered that she was enthralled as I’d been. “Sebille?”

Silence.

I reached over and poked her shoulder with a finger. She blinked and frowned. “Ouch, Naida.”

“You were in a trance.”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course I wasn’t.”

I shook my head. She had been. “Do you have any idea what’s going on out there?”

“Not a clue. I tried to go outside, but the door wouldn’t open.”

“What do you mean, the door wouldn’t open?”

“I mean, it wouldn’t open. It was like there was some kind of spell holding it closed.”

I hurried over to the door and turned the knob, pulling it open. Giving my assistant a look, I arched a brow.

“I’m not lying, Naida,” she snapped. “It wouldn’t open before.”

I stepped outside and looked around. The street was empty. “Where’d they all go?”

“Naida?”

I turned at the familiar voice of my friend Leandra. Lea was an earth witch, and she had an herbal shop next to Croakies. She was standing on the sidewalk outside Herbal Remedies with Mystical Properties, looking slightly dazed. Mr. Slimy’s littermate, Hex, was clutched tightly in her arms. “Did you see that?”

I frowned down the street. “They were just here. Did you see where they went?”

Lea looked more spooked than I’d ever seen her. And that was saying something because she and I had been in some really weird situations together. “I was tugging on the door, trying to get out here. I couldn’t open it. And then it suddenly…” She stared at her hand, her voice trailing off.

Sebille hit the sidewalk, all three cats and Slimy in her wake.

I threw a panicked look at the shop, but she shook her head. “I told Hobs and Baca they needed to stay out of sight.”

“Good. The last thing we need is for the humans on this street to see a hobgoblin and a brownie standing on the street.”

Lea walked over and placed Hex on the sidewalk next to the other cats. The three of them immediately started twining together like some kind of furry, three-looped infinity symbol.

Something bad is coming, Slimy said inside my head. I nodded, knowing he was right. Residual energy bit along my arms, and a sulfurous stench still clung to the air.

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