It was business as usual in the domed city of Kuktaiqik. Dogs barked, hunters prepared to go out, fishing parties were returning from the coast, and shop keepers were getting their stalls ready for market day, easily the most important day of the week.
            At her feet, she heard a whine as a shaggy grey head lifted up from the otherwise featureless bundle of fur. Its pointed ears perked up to their highest as it looked up at the shuttered window. It listened for a moment and then uncoiled itself, walking up to the top of the mattress, nosing at the blond head it found there, licking a small patch of exposed skin.
            The blond groaned and pulled the pile of thin blankets up over her head. The dog whined again, nosing at the blankets, trying to find a way to get under them.
            “Go away, Iquiuk,” Nalai mumbled, batting at the dog’s nose with one hand.
            As if her voice had called him forth, a short, stocky man opened the door to her room. It was likely that he had been; the common area of the house was right outside her door as it was with all Naktik houses. “Get up,” he grunted. “Market day won’t wait for us, you know.”
            Nalai pulled the blankets away from her head and looked at him. Kiuktuk, the owner of the herb shop she was apprenticed to, stood in the doorway, tapping his foot impatiently. “I’ll be down shortly,” she told him.
            “See that you are. Geioq’s had breakfast ready for some time now. If you don’t hurry I’ll feed it to my dogs.” He looked at Iquiuk. “That doesn’t mean you, mongrel.” He turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.
            Nalai sat up and scratched Iquiuk on the head between her ears. “You and I both know you’re no mongrel. He just likes being mean.”
            Iquiuk had no idea what she was saying, being just a dog after all. She was smart for a dog, a common trait in the Keelai breed, but she didn’t understand everything her owner said to her. Nalai’s tone of voice was clear though: sadness. Iquiuk whined and nosed at Nalai’s hand. She smiled and pushed the blankets aside.
            “Come on then. We should get something to eat.”
            Nalai stood, shivering in the dawn cold. Quickly, she pulled on a pair of thick hide pants, a long sleeved shirt, her thick soled boots, and took her parka off its rack. It wasn’t cold enough in the house to warrant putting it on but there was a high chance she’d need it very soon. People said a great many unkind things about Kiuktuk but he was a smart man. He knew quite well that Nalai was uncomfortable with crowds and noises and tended to send her on errands during market days.
            She paused by the door, Iquiuk waiting patiently at her heels. If I’m really lucky he’ll send me out gathering today.
            With that thought warming her heart if not her skin she left her room, entering the common area of the house. The low table didn’t have much food left on it. She sat down cross-legged, took a bowl and filled it with some of Geioq’s thick fish stew. It always amazed her that something so horrendous in appearance could taste so good. So slurped it back eagerly, making the appropriate noises to show her appreciation. Done, she smacked her lips and sopped up the last remaining bit of broth with a square piece of hard bread.
Geioq nodded her approval and collected the last of the food scraps, tossing them in a dish for the dogs to squabble over. Kiuktuk’s shop was a prosperous one; they could afford to keep several dogs. Theirs were all the more common Quilak breed. Common or not, it was still a symbol of their status to have as many as they did. Only five of the eight dogs they owned—two male and three female—were inside. The other three were tied up outside the building.
Beside her, Iquiuk whined, lying down with her head between her paws. She looked mournfully over at Geioq. She didn’t dare approach the other dogs for food; she wasn’t welcome in their pack. Hearing her, Geioq turned around and tossed her a fistful of fish tails. It was the least desirable part of the fish as it had the least meat. While some would interpret it as cruel, the gesture was meant as a kind one. As long as the bowl contained scraps, none of the dogs would think twice about trying to take less desirable food from Iquiuk.
With their meals eaten, Nalai and Iquiuk went downstairs to where Kiuktuk’s herb shop was.