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The third in a three part series of interviews I conducted with the animals in my book.

“Mistress?” Fingal asked. “You want me to go get the cow and the goose? I can. I can bring them.” He panted. “I will make sure they finish their interviews.”

I lowered my gaze to the black mountain cur.

But they could well both refuse to go any farther with the interview.

“It is alright, Fingal. Let us interview you next.”

I turned back toward my desk. I sat down in the chair and lifted my keys above the keyboard. I turned toward the dog.

He stared at me. Hard.

His tail lay still at his side. His muscles ripped in his forearms. "This is like before." His voice deepened into hard, cold iron. "Like when you wouldn't let me go into the backcountry with Thomas and Elizabeth. I wanted to, but you said no.” His tail thumped to life. "Why would you not let me go?"

I sighed.

I lowered my hands to my lap.

Maybe these interviews were a bad idea.

“I guess I should not complain." The dog cast a glance at the other animals behind him. “At least she didn’t kill me.”

Rounds of agreement, high-pitched squeaks mixed with low gutteral bellows, swirled among the animals. The horses – King, Trouble, Buttercup, and the mare and colt that belonged to David Cayle. Chickens from various books. Thomas Cayle’s cat.

I forced a smile to my face. My jaw was close to cracking. "Shall we continue?” I turned back to the laptop. “Now, how did you come to live with Thomas?”

The dog rolled his brown eyes upward. “The sire of my sire was a dog of Master Dougald’s," he said in a flat, bored voice. "Of course, when I found Master Thomas in that creek after the cabin with the Indians caught fire, I had to pull him out. I could not have him drowning, no sir. We curs have to take care of our people. And that is what. I. Did." He lifted his chin upward. He glanced over his shoulder.

The other animals jumped to a round of applause and praise.

Fingal's chest puffed outward. “And . . ." He lifted his right paw upward.

The crowd quieted.

"Fingal means fair, white stranger in Gaelic. And, of course, Dougald means dark stranger. So, the sire of my sire was the light to Dougald’s darkness.” He eased forward. He looked right and left as if giving way to a great secret. "You writing Douglad’s book yet? The one that comes before The Rood?"

“’Tis in my mind. It’s not on paper yet.”

"And what are you waiting on, Mistress?"

My face flushed red. "And Elizabeth? You were obviously greatly attached to her."

"Aye." He nodded. "The poor lass was wrapped in a darkness all her own.” The dog frowned. “’Twas because of the British. They thought they owned the world.”

“They sort of did.”

He stepped forward. He pressed his nose toward my face. “Are you wrapped up in a darkness?”

“What?” I pulled back.

“You cannot seem to get a book finished.”

“I have had several tragedies of my own."

“Are you British?”

Well, sort of. In a way. From long ago.

"Aye." He gave a curt nod, then pulled back. "Of course, you are. You think you own the world, too."

"They are my stories."

"And you kill some of us.” He lowered his voice and his chin. "You know, you should rewrite The Rood before you finish The Brooch.”

“Rewrite it?”

“Aye. The back part. The part where you left me at home while Thomas and Elizabeth gallivanted around the backcountry.” He stretched his neck forward. “Without me.”

“They were hardly gallivanting seeing as how they had been captured.”

“And they needed my help."

“The backcountry was no place for a dog.” I pointed at his chest. “And might I remind you what the Indians would have done to a dog like you?"

He lifted his paw and swiped my hand to the side. “You could have taken care of that. You are the writer.”

“Maybe.” I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms. “But I cannot ignore logical and natural consequences. You would not have gone along with the Indians quietly, and they would have killed you.”

His mouth soured. “And we know how you like to . . .”

“Enough.” I slashed my hand through the air. I whirled around to the laptop and pushed the lid closed. I stood to my feet. "We are officially done with the interviews." I lifted my chin upward. I pierced the rabbly crowed with a pointed gaze.

I tried hard to look as if I was in charge even though I clearly was not.

"You may all go back to doing . . ." I brushed my hand through the air. "To doing whatever it is you do when someone is not reading a book in which you need to appear."

Snarls and grumbles shifted in the air.

I brought my hands together before my waist. I forced a sweet smile to my face.

The lot of them shifted left and right. They cast quick glances at each other.

And then, Fingal whirled around and pressed them away.

I let my guard down.

"I will never try that again," I mumbled.

"What was that Mistress?"

I turned to the desk.

Another dog, part black mountain cur and part something else - wolf perhaps? - sat beside my chair. "Are we ready, Mistress?" He lifted his paw and tapped the closed laptop. "The name is Scout, Mistress. Now let's get going on The Brooch. I have me ain tale to tell."

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