Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Down Abbey Road
part 2 of 2
“Go back to bed, Rover.” Fluff’s voice coming from behind almost knocked Rover out of his slippers.
“But there are Katts in there! Why?”
“Keep quiet, you fool!” hissed Fluff.
“Do you want to blow everything? Do you want to be forbidden from taking the vows? Go back. We’ll talk there.”
Rover did not argue any more.
Back in their cell, Fluff made sure everything was quiet and nobody had noticed their night excursion.
“All right, Fluff, what’s this all about?”
Fluff remained silent for a while, then he looked Rover in the eyes. “Didn’t it strike you as odd the Order sent an apparently important message with us lowly apprentices?”
Rover looked back blankly. “As a matter of fact, no.”
“Well, it did to me. I took the bother to find out a couple of things about Abbot Keensight and Hillmouth Abbey.”
“First thing, don’t let the Abbot’s jolliness and bonhomie fool you. That Dawg is ruthless, and he is well on his way to becoming High Priest. He knows High Priest Muttford Thickhair’s power is dwindling, and he wants to be ready for the Struggle.”
“So he asked to be sent to Hillmouth Abbey, which is not called ‘Hillmouth’ for nothing. Most Abbots don’t like coming this far from Kannis and Order politics, but this place is located over an ancient iron mine, and Abbot Keensight, living up to his family name, is no doubt busy forging blades and other weapons for his partisans.”
“And where do the Katts come in all this?”
Fluff remained silent for an eyewink. “That much I can only suppose, but it’s not hard to figure he needs more people to mine his ores, and he can’t very well abduct the farmers without being noticed, so he’s taking Katts. They are so loosely organized they won’t be missed soon.”
“But that’s slavery! and it’s clearly forbidden in Man’s Law!”
Fluff shrugged cynically. “Say so to the Abbot. I won’t.”
Rover sat on his bunk for a long time, pondering. He finally said something altogether unrelated to the matter they were discussing. “How come you know so much, Fluff?”
Fluff stood up to all his not so great height. “There have been already three High Priests in my family and I mean to be the fourth some day. You could say politics runs in the family.”
Rover shook his head sadly. “Politics!”
Fluff let out a humorless laugh. “Don’t let harsh political realities get you so downcast, Rover. It could be much worse.”
“We could have been caught snooping where we had no business being. At the very least, the Abbot would have made sure we were expelled from the Order. At the worst... we’d be quite dead, my friend.”
“But we can’t let him get away with kidnapping and slavery!”
Fluff’s voice took and iron edge. “Yes we can! In fact, that’s precisely what we’re going to do. Now we go back to sleep and tomorrow morning we pack our gear and get our hoofers as soon as possible on the way back to Kannis. After all...”
And here Fluff’s voice took an infinite contempt: “They’re only Katts. Go back to sleep.”
The lights went out in the apprentices’ cell and soon the whole Abbey was silent.
Only the sentinels’ steps over the walls could be heard in the quiet night, but if you had looked carefully at the roof above the boys’ cell, you could have seen a darker shadow there and on that shadow; two green, vertically slit eyes which shone for an eyewink and then were gone.
* * *
The next morning, both boys got up early and went to check on their hoofers.
The abbey seemed to be in a turmoil. Dawgs ran hither and thither and nobody stopped to give them an explanation. At the stables they found Brother Meeker who seemed also very upset.
“What’s going on, Brother Meeker?”
“No time to chat now, lads. The Abbot is very angry and I am wanted somewhere else!”
Brother Meeker turned to leave, then, as if remembering something he turned around and handed the boys a package. “Here, take this. The Abbot told me to say goodbye in his stead since he won’t be able to see you off. He is otherwise engaged this morning, quite!”
Brother Meeker showed the white of his eyes. “In that packet there is a letter of commendation from the Abbot for both of you. Be gone, now!”
And without further words, Brother Meeker was gone himself.
The boys looked at each other. “What do we do now, Fluff? You’re the savvy one here”
“By all means, let’s go before they change their mind!”
Nobody paid them any attention as they left the abbey grounds. Hillmouth Abbey fell slowly behind them with every step of the hoofers.
They had been going for about an eckett when both young Dawgs suddenly halted their mounts and stopped to sniff around.
“It smells like...”
“Yes indeed! There are a whole lot of Katts about!”
They dismounted and silently approached the woods at the road side.
There, in a clearing, they found ten to fifteen Katts, silently sitting on the ground.
“But... they’re children!”
Rover came closer to the frightened cubs and asked them gently in the common tongue.
“What are you doing here, young Katts?”
They just remained silent.
Fluff contemplated them thoughtfully. “Maybe they are the cause of all that racket back at the Abbey.”
“No! They’re just cubs! The Abbot can’t be such a scoundrel!”
Fluff sneered. “Sure he can. Young Katts are more easily caught than grown ones.”
“What are we going to do with them?”
“We might take them back to the Abbey. The Abbot would appreciate that.”
“Oh no, Fluff, we can’t do that. Besides, what if he turns against us for discovering his scheme?”
“Anyway, what I’m really thinking is that they can’t have gotten away by themselves. Somebody must have set them free from the outside.”
Rover was about to agree when he felt a big knock on his head, then he felt nothing more.
Little by little, light was returning to Rover’s eyes. He didn’t know at first where he was or what he was doing on the floor but the sound of angry voices brought him back to reality in a flinch.
Rover didn’t make a move but he looked through his half-open eyes and he saw Fluff, sword in hand, angrily confronting the same young Katt they had met on the road.
The Katt seemed cool and much at ease but Rover could see him ready to spring and strike.
“You were the one who set them free!”
“Indeed, Dawg. Who else? Not your slavering Abbot, certainly.”
“Well, you are all going back to the Abbey, right now!”
“And who’s going to make me do that, Dawg? You and what army?”
They weren’t looking in his direction. Rover got quietly up and holding his sword by the blade he came silently from behind and, using the scabbard, he aimed a head blow with all his might.
Fluff dropped without a sound.
The Katt didn’t move, he just stood there, a derisive smile on his mouth. “Does this mean what I think it means, Dawggy?”
“I don’t know what you think, but I’m saving my friend’s life here. He’s pretty good at conspiracies but bad with the sword, and you don’t look like the kind that’s easy to handle.”
“You’re right there, Dawg. And what are you going to do? Are you going to fight me yourself?”
Rover put his sword back in the sheath. “You’ve been hearing our conversation all along and I suppose you understand enough of Dawg language to know I don’t approve of slavery.”
“As a matter of fact, I speak it quite fluently,” said the Katt switching from the common tongue to Dawg-speak.
“You gather your children and take them to a safe place. You are still a long way from Kattsville. As for me, I won’t be a part of the Abbot’s power struggles.”
The Katt just stood there, unmoving and staring fixedly at Rover. “You are a noble Dawg, friend. You won’t get very far within the Order.”
Rover sighed sadly. “It doesn’t matter any more. I’ve made up my mind. I will not take the vows. When we get back to Kannis, I’ll apply to the University and become a secular scholar.”
The Katt put his arm across his chest and bowed. “I am both honored and pleased to meet you, noble Dawg. Musstin Sharpclaws, at your service.”
Rover did likewise.
“Rover Quicknose, at yours.”
“I am the son of the Patriarch at Kattsville, Rover. We Katts have a long memory at holding grudges, but we also remember well those that do good unto us.”
Rover looked at the cubs. “What are you going to do with them? They must be hungry and frightened.”
“Do not concern yourself, friend. I have my ways.”
Suddenly comprehension flashed through Rover’s mind. “The farmer! Farmer Bones is helping you hide them!”
“Do not concern yourself, Rover. The less you know the less you’ll have to lie. Now we really have to go before your friend wakes up.”
“I guess you’re right. Just one more thing, friend Katt.”
“What, your cap?”
Rover laughed. “No! You can keep it. What I mean is, you are going to have to knock me on the head again. I need to be unconscious when Fluff wakes up so he won’t suspect me. He’ll believe there were two of you.”
“Makes sense, hold still!”
Musstin swung his club in the air but Rover said, “Wait!”
Rover stood in all his height and said. “I could have beaten you. I really could have!”
Musstin laughed as the club came down. “Maybe, Dawggy. Sleep tight now!”
A couple of eyewinks later, the Katt looked at both Dawgs, lying unconscious on the forest floor. He shook his head in wonder and said to the children, “Let’s get going, kids! We have a long way yet to go.”
The leaves trembled a little when the Katts passed, then the forest was quiet again.
* * *
The children always laugh when old Phydo gets to the part where the Katt busts Rover on the head and they laugh and clap when they go away, free.
“What happened to them afterwards, Grampa?” they ask.
“Well, Fluff did get to be High Priest eventually. He was in fact the last one. Rover was the first secular ruler, the first Mayor in Kannis. I’m sad to say they were pretty much enemies by then.”
“And the Katt?”
“Musstin Sharpclaws became Patriarch in Kattsville after his father’s death, and he was also the father of my good friend Thomm. Musstin played a very important part in the defense of Kannis in the Bugs Wars, as you probably know if you have read your history texts.”
The eldest of Phydo’s grandchildren thinks a bit and then asks, “The farmer’s name was Bones, same as ours. Was he related to us?”
Phydo smiles, much pleased. “You are a very bright girl, Sunny. Yes, that was my grandfather Rexthorn Bones. His eldest child, my father Parffin Bones, moved closer to Kannis when he grew up. Now go to bed, children. You are well past your bedtime!”
The children run out the room and Mayor Phydo Bones is left alone.
So many friends and foes gone down in the well of time.
He puts out the light and goes to the window.
There, high over Kannis, high over the mountains and all their memories, the fixed star shines on.
Old Phydo sighs and goes to bed.
Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza