The inhabited part of the Galaxy has been divided among 12 Great Merchant Houses that have gathered hundreds of planets under their authority. They allow young races to evolve unimpeded until their technologies allow space travel. After that mentioned civilizations are colonized.
For the dirty job the Merchant Houses hire the Guilds. Under the veil of utmost secrecy they stop evolutionary development of young civilizations, provoking wars and ecological catastrophes, thus preparing them for colonization.
Intergalactic smuggler Renard operates on the planets on the brink of colonization, where he sells forbidden technologies. He is a shapeshifter, who can turn into a fox. This ability saved Reynar's life more than once, yet he isn't always able to control it. In critical situations, animal instincts sometimes take over reason.