Welcome to the Kinrowan Hall. Mind your step now.
We’ll just go down this corridor to my office. Yes, I know it’s a little dusty. I don’t come here as often as I would like. Why? Well, it’s the cats. You see, my husband is allergic to them, so before I leave here I have to have a shower and then sneak out the back way to avoid them, and when I get home I have to wash all my clothes separately, or he’s miserable till I get rid of all the cat hair. So when I come, I stay at least a week, read all day and stay up all night listening to the Neverending Session. Might as well make it worth it.
Where was I? Oh yes, cats. I love cats. So does my husband, for that matter, which makes his affliction all the more tragic. Of course, the offices are crawling with them, and sometimes I wonder how the dogs stand it.
You didn’t know we had dogs here? Saints preserve us, of course there are dogs! Couldn’t get along without them. Get up, then, and I’ll take you to meet them.
Actually, you don’t want to meet Fergus and Fidelma. They guard the stables, they and their whelps. A fine brood they have, too. Their pups are always in high demand as guard dogs to the discerning.
You might not want to meet Colm and Connor and Ike, who patrol the grounds, either. They’re bull mastiffs. Bred to catch poachers back in the Old Country, they were. No, of course we don’t have trouble with poachers here — not with Colm and Connor and Ike on the job. Seriously, while the Building welcomes all who come with good will, there are always a few, fey or not, who don’t come with good will at all. The bull mastiffs take care of them nicely. They don’t hurt them, mind, just discourage them from hanging about.
Perhaps we’ll just have a look out the window, then, and see if we can spot them. Look, there’s Connor over there, on the other side of the moat. And the lovely little tyke drinking from it? She’s Sophie, one of the junior music editors. You’re lucky you can see her. Not everyone can — she’s half-fey.
Yes, of course we need a moat. See the hillock in it? That’s where the bandog lives. Actually, he’s a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Jamie. Came here with a piper-lass named Tiffany. She ran off with one of the best squeeze-box players ever to grace the Neverending Session, but Jamie stayed. He seems to be under a spell of some sort, and he’s vicious as all get-out. Thinks he can’t cross running water, fortunately, so we managed to get him onto the hillock when he was asleep. He has a fine doghouse there, fit for a King Charles, and traditionally the newest staff member has the joy of feeding him.
Let’s go on down to the Pub, then, but first I see you’ve meet Boomer, our hyperactive Boston terrier. Has quite the eye for the ladies, does our Boomer. They don’t have quite as much of an eye for him, but he’s ever hopeful. Some consider his leaping ability to be magical, but I’m fairly certain it’s natural. Most of the fey consider it a blessing to be licked on the forehead by him — except for the brownies, whom Boomer chases around like they were cats. They’ve taken to keeping tennis balls with them to distract him while they’re cleaning.
Oh, dear, are you all right? Sorry to yank your arm so hard, but that was Hannah. I didn’t hear her coming in time to warn you. No, of course you didn’t see her, she’s a phantom. She works with the music editors, and rackets around the hallways on a little phantom motor-scooter when they’re not looking. At least, that’s what they say is going on. None of us have ever seen Hannah, but she’s put bruises on almost all of us at some point.
Here we are, then, safely into the Pub. See those curly, cuddly dogs in the corner? That’s our pack of bouviers des Flandres. They’re a joint project of Gus the gardener and Mrs. Ware, the cook, actually. Mrs. Ware’s cousin Danny is blind, you see, and has a bouvier as a service dog. The organizations that train them are always looking for places to foster the pups, and when Danny started courting Gus’ daughter Ginevra who works in the stillroom, well, both Mrs. Ware and Gus fell in love with the dogs. Ginevra and Danny never made a match of it, but, to make a long story short, we’ve been raising bouviers des Flandres here ever since. Any dog raised in a Pub like ours will be socialized to handle anything, after all, and there’s usually at least one blind harper or shanchaí around for the pups to practise on.
There are usually at least a few guest dogs here, too, accompanying visiting authors or musicians, or perhaps here on their own like poor Jamie. Fenrir is over there by the fire. He travels with The Old Man, though I’m not sure it would be appropriate to say Fenrir belongs to him. Indeed, you might just as well (or just as safely) say that The Old Man belongs to Fenrir. At any rate, Fenrir is supposed to be an Irish wolfhound, but he’s a giant if he is. He’s nearly as tall as I am when he stands up, and he can put his front paws on the mantelpiece.
Sit down, then, and have a glass of something cheering. What’s wrong? Are you choking? Allergic, you say? Patrick be my shield and buckler, why didn’t you tell me you were allergic to dogs, then?