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"I've got a genuine kasiyarf for sale," the merchant told him quietly, while Malaamig was inspecting the olyarf's teeth. The olyarf was young, and had a tendency to try to chew on his fingers, but her grip was gentle, even with puppy-sharp teeth, and she didn't stray from the place she'd been set, except to sit, and lift her front paws alternately. Her short, reddish tail was wagging at a good clip. The rest of her litter had been more interested in playing with each other - her eagerness to meet people was a trait that Malaamig liked.Author's Notes
Malaamig gave the man a non-committal noise. His claim was unlikely to be true - the Yasiluu clans were notoriously closefisted with the kasiyarf. The dogs were bred for intelligence and speed, and any dog-handler in the Empire coveted them for their ability to learn swiftly and do complex tasks. But there was no denying that they had been bred from fighters, and in the wrong hands could be a significant threat. The Yasiluu hadn't traded them to outsiders since their first days meeting the Empire, or even allowed them to be bred with more docile stock. Malaamig had only ever seen etchings of them, though someday he rather hoped to visit the western areas of the Empire and see the Yasiluu dog trials for himself.
"How much?" he asked.
"Ah..." the merchant said, rubbing his fingers. "For a kasiyarf, I cannot go less than two thousand Imperials. It was great personal risk..."
"For this one," Malaamig interrupted. The puppy was wiggling in joy at his attention, but still staying in place, watching his every move with deep brown eyes under ears too large for her face. Two thousand Imperials was miles out of his budget, anyway. Larli would have his skin, if he came home with a kasiyarf instead of their finalized marriage license. He was tempting fate enough bringing any new dog with him, but Kreri was at the end of his long life, and Jatra was not much younger. Issar had years left, but there was much more you could do with two dogs that you couldn't with only one.
"I'll give you a deal on both of them," the merchant said, and for the first time, Malaamig noticed the note of desperation in his voice. Without prompting, he had produced the second puppy from a crate beneath his table. The new puppy was a little older than the girl Malaamig was still petting, and significantly more restrained.
It didn't look like a kasiyarf. It was too big - its paws promising more size - and rather than the sleek black coat, it had a curly brown coat that promised to be longer as it grew. That was more appealing to Malaamig, however - he often had to do cold-weather scouting. The winter prey he was often hired to find was best hunted when their coats were thickest. Everything about the puppy was appealing.
"That's not kasiyarf," he protested.
"Half-kasiyarf," the merchant amended. "Half ibiyarf. 800 Imperials, though it starves my family."
It was a believable mix, by appearance, if not by everything Malaamig knew about the legendary breeding stock of the Yasiluu and their draconian methods of keeping the breed pure. The merchant scooped up the girl-puppy so Malaamig could inspect him without distraction.
The puppy was eyeing him with curiosity, not offering to clamber on him like the olyarf, but not afraid, either. His weight was easily distributed on each paw - when Malaamig tested him by lifting each one, he was able to rebalance well, and he didn't object to his pads being played with. The puppy's head followed Malaamig's face, not his hands, and only swiveled in alarm when Malaamig confirmed that his genitals were still in place. He accepted an inspection of his teeth without chewing or licking. In all, it was a healthy, solid puppy, with all the traits Malaamig looked for at that age. Without the claim of kasiyarf, Malaamig might have taken him over the girl he'd first been drawn to.
With that claim? "The kasiyarf blood is a liability," he said, shaking his head. "I don't want to spend a lot of time and effort training it to have it snatched away by the clan late at night. 500I for both of them." He hated bargaining, and was afraid he'd started too high.
"The olyarf alone is worth that," the merchant wailed, but there was a hopeful look to his eye. "Think of the puppies you could breed from these two..."
"A pregnant dog can't work," Malaamig said practically. "I leave breeding to you. 550I."
"600I, and I neuter the dog before you leave..."
Malaamig nodded firmly. He'd have to make a draw at the bank and come back in a few days anyway - only a fool carried sums of money like that. The merchant drew out the paperwork for the agreement and began writing his receipt.
While he was wondering if he'd made the right decision, the brown boy-puppy, still with all of his attention on Malaamig, began to wag his tail, and when Malaamig put a hand on his small head, he panted in happiness and Malaamig's heart was lost. "Larli is going to skin me," he told his new dog.
The girl-puppy chose that moment to wriggle out of the merchant's unprotesting arms and collide into her new packmate. He turned to give her a headbutt and an affectionate lick, and Malaamig couldn't help laughing. It would be worth the skinning.
This came out of the June Muse Fusion, where Marina asked to see something about working dogs. These dogs aren't working yet, but they clearly will be! Now sponsored for public view!