A modern world where some families guard heirloom brands. Family members and select others when they turn 18 are offered the chance to have their forearm branded with a brand. The process bonds the branded to an animal companion of a certain type determined by the brand. Most common brands are birds, small animals and the occasional iguana. The art of making the brands has been lost, so brands are guarded violently. The masses are unbranded, so the societal social structure has been influenced to make the branded families the elite. In parallel with technological research in any age, research into expanding the knowledge of brand creation has been ongoing.