Foreword: This is set in a world where there are two major humanoid races – humans and kemonomimis. The latter
are human-animal hybrids, the most obvious difference being the presence of animal tails and ears. There are also
significant social differences – the most relevant being that wolf kemonomimis are even more social and hierarchical
than humans due to their wolf sides.
A few decades ago, all hybrids (in France, at least) were kicked out of human settlements. This led to a severe shortage of food, and so many have turned to piracy. Despite the best efforts of the humans, the kemonomimis remain a thorn in their sides to this day.
The Accalia was a small but fast and powerful skyship – much like the wolf that she was named after. Her sails were strong, the structure well-built and maintained. To any sky-sailor, the Accalia was all around a beautiful sight. Normally home to a crew of twenty to thirty of the pack when out, it was primarily used for raiding human ships so that the rest could get enough food to survive. Any excess or useless cargo they stole they were always able to trade at Port Skye, near the old human city of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The humans normally stayed in central France, far enough away that Port Skye was relatively safe. This led to it becoming one of the biggest ports in the region, so there was a buyer for anything they found. Like any large port, there were a lot of different kinds of human-hybrids in Port Skye. Cats, like everywhere else, were the most common, but Skye had at some point been home to nearly every type of hybrid that existed, including owls, squirrels, rabbits, foxes... And, of course, wolves. Only a small amount of these wolves were those that crewed the Accalia, and the rest of the pack only rarely visited the port, so they mixed little with the others. However, this was a sense of community beyond the pack, one shared by all species alike, so even those that were normally solitary were glad that it was there.
Scree was sat in the crows nest, his usual spot. He surveyed the port, simply watching to see what or who was there, utterly relaxed. Like most of the pack, Scree's fur was primarily a light grey, with some brown and white mixed in here and there. He had a typical bushy tail and pointed ears, with short grey hair and a generally small build. His clothing, a mix of brown and black across a waistcoat, shirt, and trousers, therefore suit his fur and hair quite well. He stood up and grabbed a small metal device – a pulley with a handle on the end – as he heard his name being called.
“SCREE! CAPTAIN WANTS YOU!”
Scree put the pulley onto one of the many ropes attached to the crows nest. Holding onto the handle, he pushed off and used the pulley to ride the rope down to another platform – one that allowed him to ride another rope onto the deck. He hung up the pulley next to one of the masts, so that anyone else going up would have access to one. Except for in times of combat, these were always kept in a communal pool.
Walking over to the captain, Scree saluted.
“Dwam-Alph- Uhh, I mean, Captain!”
Dwam frowned slightly, dismissing another wolf that he had been talking to.
“Scree. What have I told you about pack hierarchy whilst on the ship?”
“No pack ranks. Only ship ranks. Sorry, sir, it's just difficult to get used to.” he said, hanging his head.
“Exactly. Here I am not your alpha, but your captain.” Dwam emphasised the last word, and paused before continuing, “But you know that I'm not going to make you return to the rest of the pack just for that. You're too good of a lookout, and if more of our brothers and sisters were like you, we would be set.”
Scree's ears perked up a little at that, giving away his pleasure at the compliment. It was all he could do not to wag his tail as well – it was rare for Dwam-alpha to give such high praise.
“Anyway, that's not why I called you here. I've got a job for you. You've heard of the trader Ayana?”
“Umm, I think I know the name. Don't we normally get guns from her?”
“That's the one. Well, she recently came into some cannons. We'd lose so many fewer family members if we were able to bombard an enemy before boarding them, so I want those cannons – as many as you can get. About a month ago, just before you joined us on the ship, we picked up some electronics from a human trading vessel. Not sure exactly what they are, but we won't need most of them. See what you can get.”
“Yes, capt- Oh, wait. Aye aye, captain!” He smiled at the fact that he'd remembered the proper term.
“There's a good pup.” Dwam ruffled his hair and started to walk off, calling over his shoulder, “Oh, and take Gunnolf with you. He needs to get off the ship for a bit.”
Scree was so delighted at the praise that he nearly didn't catch the last command. When he registered it, his mood turned quickly. Gunnolf was a big, beefy guy that was normally one of the first into combat. He had a habit of turning aggressive at the drop of a hat, and wasn't easy to get along with. Scree tried to avoid him whenever possible.
But he had to follow the alpha's orders...
After a little searching, Scree and Gunnolf came across a bar, with a sign in the window claiming that it was an “Olde English Pub! For canines and their guests only!”. Gunnolf's ears perked up at the sight, and Scree pretended not to notice.
“Scree! It's a pub!”
“It's the...” Gunnolf stared at the sign, squinting slightly, “Miches- Misschew-”
“The Mischievous Fox, yes. So what?”
“Haven't you ever heard of this place? It's like, the gathering place for canines! They're bound to know where Ayana is in there!”
Scree sighed. He knew that this was just an excuse for Gunnolf to drink, but if there really were lots of canines in there, maybe he would be able to find Ayana after all? Just as he was about to agree, Gunnolf spoke again.
“Hey, wait a minute. We're on ship terms now, and on the ship I outrank you. No bossing me about while we're out here. Come on, I say we go in.”
He half-dragged Scree to the entrance, where a bear put one hand in front of them. This guy was even bigger than
Gunnolf – and Scree hadn't even realised that was possible.
“ID?” he spoke in a bored drawl. Gunnolf replied quickly, clearly knowing what to say. “Gunnolf and Scree, with the Accalia. 18 and 15, wolf, ACL23 and ACL...?” he turned to Scree.
The bear turned to a screen next to him and typed something. He jabbed at Gunnolf.
“You're fine. The kid isn't – too young.”
“Oh, what a shame...” Scree pretended to be upset, secretly pleased that he wouldn't have to look after a drunk packmate. “I guess we'll just have to look somewhere else, right Gunnolf?”
“Nah, it's cool. I'll go in, you wait out here. Won't be long!”
“Ship ranks. Stay.” He pointed to a lamp post, and Scree just knew that Gunnolf was alluding to the dogs that humans sometimes kept. He would have tied him up if they'd happened to bring a rope.
“I'm not a fucking dog, Gunnolf!”
Scree was furious as he walked away, but he knew he had to do what Gunnolf said. Stupid ship ranks. Still, at least he wouldn't have to take the blame when everything fell apart. As Gunnolf went inside, he sat down on a bench, waiting and still fuming.
After about an hour and a half, he had calmed down and was starting to get worried. A few times now he had approached the bouncer and asked to go in for a minute, just to see where Gunnolf was. Each time he had been refused. In the meantime no other canines had passed, so he couldn't even send a stranger in. Thus, Scree was over the moon when he saw a fox walking in his general direction.
“Umm, excuse me, miss?”
The fox had flowing red hair and looked to be only a little older than Gunnolf. She wore a costume that was reminiscent of the treasure hunter films of the old days, and was one of the most beautiful canines that Scree had ever come across.
“Sorry, but could you do me a favour?” He stumbled on his words slightly, unsused to talking to non-wolves (especially female ones that were so pretty!), but kept going regardless. “One of my pack members went into that pub. He was only supposed to be a few minutes, but it's been an hour now and he still hasn't come out... I think something might have happened?”
“And you want me to go and check he's not just drunk himself stupid?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“Why don't you just leave him?”
Scree looked at her, somewhat confused. “He's my packmate. I can't leave him.”
“I'll never understand why you wolves worry so much about your packs.” She sighed softly, scratching her head. “Still, it's no effort for me. What does he look like?”
Scree gave the woman a description, and she went inside. She returned a few minutes later, gently dragging along a
clearly drunk Gunnolf.
“This your friend?”
“Friend isn't the right word, but yes. Thank you so much.”
“HEYWHY'SITSOBRIGHTANDWHERE'DTHEBOOZEGO?” Gunnolf was slurring by this point, and noticing the fox he nipped at her ear. “WELL, AIN'T YOU A PRETTY ONE?”
Scree pulled him away and slapped him around the face.
“What the hell, Gunnolf?! You were supposed to be trying to find Ayana, and you just leave me out here whilst you drink yourself stupid?! Not that you weren't pretty fucking dumb to begin with. I got you out of there as part of the pack, so we're now running in pack hierarchy. That means you do what I tell you to, got it? Now sober up and get back to work.”
Immediately, Gunnolf went into full omega mode, submitting to the authority of his superior.
The fox merely looked on, curiously. Despite being social animals as well, foxes didn't have the rigid structure that wolves did – and they tended to be just fine on their own. So the interaction between pack members was a bit of a curiosity to her. But what was that name he just mentioned?
“Did you say you were looking for Ayana?”
Scree looked over, pausing from his berating Gunnolf. “Huh? Yeah, we have a trade to negotiate.”
“Hmm.” She looked him over. “I'm one of her public negotiators. I'm sure we can sort something out – come with me.”
He paused, but followed, guiding Gunnolf in the process. He wagged his tail without noticing.
As she walked, she called over her shoulder, “And I'm sure we can get him some coffee or something, see if we can't get him in a fit state before a more formal meeting.”
Things were looking up...