Isle of Dogs
Nestled between a steep mountain range and an ever-dying forest, Grey Breakings is the winter Sanctuary of the Isles, led by Guardian Ruksi Aemon. It is in this place that humans lose what valuable ground they gained against beasts in the summer, as harsh snowstorms and unforgiving soil give little in way of supplies with which to hunt and fight. Citizens spend the majority of their time inside or gathering wood to stave off the cold, and as such little is done beyond the harvesting of last year’s crops, a dry, grey vegetable called poli vine which survives even the harshest of cold and blooms whole weeks before the semi-nomads arrive, preserved for months by the snow in which they are buried. Guardian Ruksi leads the people when they are at their most desperate, oftentimes unable to leave their homes for fear of winter creatures and the severity of the weather beyond, and sees men, by and large, at their worst.
For this reason, he oversees a particularly strict, socialist community, in which all that is harvested, hunted, or otherwise found or collected is distributed evenly and in the most conservative portions possible among those who would need it. Though food is scarce, none starve under his keen yet seemingly uncaring rule, though few ward off near-painful hunger for more than a few hours. Ruksi attracts a lot of hate from the people, which is largely a result of the poor circumstances in which he must lead. Any other leader in his place would likely see widespread death in the harsh winter seasons. For him, it is all he can do to scrape by. But not all citizens of the Isle fail to appreciate his strong leadership. Some who understand what he’s accomplished have a loyalty to him nearly unmatched in all the Isle.
Those who favor Guardian Ruksi’s rule, wishing to defend it and the people of the isle as best they can, make up the Crashing Fang. The Crashing Fang serve as both a police force and defending army against all manner of intruder, be they scavengers hoping to steal supplies left behind, beasts who have deviated from their hunting grounds, or supporters of other Leaders or potential usurpers who would gain from seeing the city destroyed or brought to worse hardship. To this effect, Crashing Fang are a year-round force, with the most dedicated staying behind in small stone fortifications as their families move on to the spring Sanctuary. Most families of these troops leave them behind with lingering doubts as to whether they’ll ever be united again, as the beasts which claim Grey Breakings in their hunting grounds are known to be the deadliest and most intelligent. These soldiers are well trained and well-equipped, and certainly well rewarded, as, for their time and hardship, the soldiers, their parents, and their children are given twice the food rations of the typical citizen, along with top priority in terms of receiving medicines. They are also given some leeway to work above the law, ensuring they can perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Though there have been incidences of abuse of power, the punishment for such is a powerful deterrent: a Crashing Fang, caught acting against the best interest of his people for his own, is swarmed by his own, stripped of his armor, branded where the shoulders meet with a clawless paw, led into the forest with only a knife and without a stitch of clothing, and left to die. Fang soldiers have no division of rank or titles of merit, with new Fangs and old Fangs recognized as equal. The only thing by which one might tell the difference are the nicks in a man’s blade.
Law in Grey Breakings is primarily focused on monitoring the flow of materials into and out of the Holdings, though the Crashing Fang also serve as an extremely effective deterrent to violent crime. Such misbehavior is unheard of, with a single marked exception. Violence between immediate family members is not punishable by Fang authority. This is largely a product of Fang conduct code, which prevents any Fang from entering a home against the will of any inhabitant who has not committed a witnessed crime. The majority of a Fang’s job, along with monitoring work done to administer certs, is spent enforcing laws in place to protect citizens from the natural danger of the isle. Strict curfews exist, effective to all citizens, save for those Fangs with 1 year’s experience or more. These curfews prevent anyone from leaving their home from sundown to sunup, and require everyone to spend the noon hour within their own home. Profession-specific restrictions ensure that only forest-workers (woodsmen, hunters, etc.) may travel more than a mile from the center of their village, and under ‘intrusion rule’ even these workers are absolutely forbidden from crossing the low, still rivers or approaching those parts of the forest occupied by small, clear mushrooms. While the reasons for intrusion rule have faded from memory in the last two decades, this is nothing new to Ruksi’s reign, and few have come to question it. Punishment for ignoring these protective measures has been reduction in all rations but medicine, both for the perpetrator and all who converse with them for the next week.
The flow of goods through Grey Breakings and the surrounding villages is closely monitored by the Crashing Fang, and a small group of them, called a ‘jaw’, waits at every key position to ensure that gathered game and resources are safely funneled towards the Holdings, where it is stored to be properly distributed. This distribution occurs at the beginning of each week, and citizens arrange into several lines to exchange certs for the supplies they need. Truly, this is a constant exchange process, which begins within each jaw keeping records of who has done what for the city. Typically, a jaw of 5 men watches over a group of around 40 people, their watch determined by profession or region. That is to say, a jaw positioned within a lumber operation will be tasked with recording only those working with lumber, or a jaw positioned at a village’s eastern road may be responsible for both hunters, independent miners, and scavengers that take that road into or out of the city. When a worker has done an adequate share of work, he is provided a cert detailing what he is entitled to in the Holdings. Attempts to ‘cheat’ the cert system are uncommon, as the frequently shifting nature of Isle life makes adherence to these rules completely voluntary, but Ruski has proved incredibly lenient on those who do so, stating that the drive reflects a greater need not properly taken into account in his leadership. Those not able to work outside are, if able, tasked with making thorough calculations as to what can be given with each cert, and the complexity of the task easily outweighs the lack of physical exertion. Those not able to work outside and incapable of such a complex process are left to their families to care for, but, for their troubles, often find unmarked packages containing food and liquors left somewhere inconspicuous in or near their household. The source of these packages is currently unclear. It should be noted that, even with these occasional care packages, life can be quite difficult for these families. To mitigate what each person loses in caring for someone who can not be given certs, wintertowns emphasize large families so that smaller portions can be taken from each member to supply the unable.
Religion in Crashing Fang is a very low priority, but is generally centered around Mauth, spirit of winter insects and teacher of man. Unlike most Mauth worship, Grey Breaking’s interpretation focuses less on the responsibility of the individual to care for himself, and more on the responsibility of the group to care for itself without the direct guidance of figureheads or reliance on luck or uncertain aid. This helps enforce the policy of even resource distribution, and the cruelty of winter weather in Grey Breakings gives context to the plights depicted in the Bitter Book. Rumors have long circulated of a Walking-God in the Isle, though versions vary greatly and range from a great walking wolf to a ghostly siren made of glass. Within the Sanctuary cities, these rumors amount to tooth fairy tales, but away from the protection of the seasonal kings, in those disconnected flash-towns and wild places, some Isle inhabitants will swear to their existence.