Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
part 1 of 2
In the far future, Man has mysteriously departed, leaving Earth to three Sentient Peoples of his creation: Katts, Dawgs and Mysse. The Sentient Peoples have developed separate civilizations of their own, which flourish but have weaknesses: the Dawgs languish under theocratic militarism; the Katts’ society is patriarchal and stagnant; and the Mysse, though clever and well organized, are superstitious barbarians.
Caught between cultures, two non-conformists — a Dawg, Phydo, and a Katt, Thomm — form an alliance that is uneasy at first, but in their adventures they soon become fast friends. They discover Kitti at the gate to the Stairway to Heaven and, at the top, Adam, the last of a Sentient People older than their own. The little band of outcasts joins forces with the wise Dawg Rover Quicknose and even the unlikely Mysse to battle the warrior priests of Kannis.
Lucius, an evil simulacrum of Man left over from Man’s last days on Earth, captures the four friends, who have penetrated his mountain lair just as Lucius unleashes on all the Sentient Peoples a monstrous army of mutant insects. In the battle, Dawgs, Katts and Mysse form an alliance that is uneasy at first...
Nearing the end of his life, Adam leads his friends beyond the Andes to an ancient Archive, where one of them must, once and for all and for all the Sentient Peoples, come to terms with their creator.
“You want me to speak with my husband, the Patriarch and ask him to free you from his command to marry Filrod Whitewhiskers?”
“Yes, Caranni. You are his first wife and he listens to you much.”
“You are out your mind, Shari. For Man’s sake, I can’t ask the Patriarch to change a direct order!”
“But I can’t marry Filrod!”
Shari did not answer. She just fell to the floor and sobbed. Her soft black fur showed days without proper care.
Caranni felt a pang of revulsion but she forced herself to be gentle and took Shari’s paw between her own.
“Shari dear, you can’t expect your husband to return to Kattsville. He’s been gone for a year now, he’s surely dead, and a single she Katt cannot stay that way too long among us. You need to go to a household, and Filrod is not that bad a Katt.”
Caranni shook her head and added, “As Katts go.”
Shari looked at Caranni, eyes swollen and tears rolling down her furry face.
“You know my little Kitti won’t last long in Filrod’s house. He’ll want me carrying his seed as soon as possible, and some morning I’m bound to find my baby smothered... or simply missing and none of Filrod’s wives will admit to knowing about it.”
Caranni stood silent for a moment. She was quite aware of Katt traditions and laws. She said, “Get up, Shari. It’s not as bad as that. Go home, tonight I’ll see what I can do.” But those were just well-intentioned lies, and Shari knew it.
That night was a peaceful and uneventful one in Kattsville.
Katts are light sleepers but they are also known as stealth artists; nobody noticed a deeper shadow in the shadows, one that moved silently towards the outskirts of the town.
Shari cried no longer, and a stern resolution was portrayed on her face as she held a little bundle against her. She whispered softly to it. “Let’s go, baby Kitti. It’s time for you to meet your father. Daddy went to Dawg lands searching for a better fortune for us, but it’s long past the time he should have returned. We’ll find him, you’ll see!”
The tiny bundle just meowed softly.
Darkness engulfed the silent figure and only a faint echo lingered on the road, then all was silent again.
I try not to intervene, but sometimes it is difficult to remain neutral and not take sides.
The only thing that keeps me from breaking my neutrality is that they all can be bullies at times. Both Katts and Dawgs can be a real pain in the neck. They fight each other; they fight among themselves; they always fight.
I have seen them flourishing though. Step by step they are taking over this land where once upon a time a technological civilization dwelt.
Man is gone; my kind is gone as well, but I live on.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s worthwhile.
* * *
The road to Kannis was the best kept in the Sentient Peoples’ land. It was wide and free of holes. The Order of Man’s True Legacy, ruler in Kannis, saw to it to keep it always in good condition.
A grown-up but still young Dawg walked the road, away from Kannis and coming closer to a farming community of some ten families, placed at about fifteen mostels from Kannis which is a three ecketts walk, more or less.
The Dawg wore the red robes which signaled him as a scholar and a huge red hat, to keep him from the morning sun, which was growing ever hotter.
The Dawg walked steadily, head down, when a sudden noise made him raise his head and look back.
Around the bend four hoofers and a two hoofers pulled cart appeared. The riders wore black robes.
The Dawg moved respectfully to the side of the road and removed his hat, averting his eyes from the newcomers.
The hoofers galloped by, but then the cart stopped and the others followed suit.
The Dawg on top rode slowly back to the walker who still stood with his hat in his hands, looking down.
“Rover! Rover Quicknose! What are you doing here in the middle of nowhere?”
The walker looked up at the voice but he kept his respectful expression.
“I’m on my way to my students, my Lord Abbot.”
The black-clad Dawg smiled and beckoned to Rover. “Come on up, Rover, I’m still not that high and mighty I can’t give an old friend a ride.”
Rover allowed himself to smile back and got up in the cart.
“Good to see you, too, Fluff. The sun was beating hard on my back. Or should I still call you ‘My Lord Abbot’?”
“Only on formal occasions, Rover, not when riding,” Fluff burst out in laughter.
“Where did you say you were going, Rover?”
“Not far from here. I’m tutoring children in the Holy Teachings, in a farming community.”
“You were always a teacher at heart, Rover.”
“How about you, Fluff? I understand you are the youngest member of the Order ever to become Abbot.”
Fluff lowered his eyes piously but there was a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Thus are the mysterious ways of Man, my friend.”
“Mysterious indeed, Fluff! Specially for the High Priest. Jolly old Fairfan Keensight still is wondering how the high council of the Order bypassed his protégé and put you at Riverfork Abbey. All of Kannis talks about nothing else.”
“It isn’t good for people’s health to talk much about the Order’s internal matters,” said a suddenly serious Fluff.
Rover’s smile faded. “I don’t mean to be indiscreet, Fluff.”
Fluff laughed again and seemed to drop the matter. “Never you mind the Order’s internal politics, Rover. They are a bag of worms. And say... are those your students waiting for you there?”
Rover looked at the direction Fluff was pointing and sure enough, five Dawg children were standing by the road. “Indeed they are, I get off here and I thank you once again for the ride, my Lord Abbot.”
And saying this, Rover bowed, perhaps a trifle too low to be an actual show of respect.
The children ran to the cart and took Rover by his red robes as he got down, cheering and laughing.
Rover turned to Fluff and, with a smile on his face, he waved goodbye.
Fluff lay back on his seat, thoughtful, as the little caravan went on. He got up and beckoned one of his black-clad guards. A big, brutish sort of Dawg.
“Behold that Dawg in the red robe, Dokus, and remember his likeness. He’s clever and wise. Perhaps a bit too clever for his own good. Maybe we should take teaching out of the University’s hands and put it back among Order’s duties.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Dokus watched the little group of children and their red-robed teacher moving away from the road.
As they fell behind, Fluff sat back and sighed. “I fear we are going to clash some day, my friend Rover. Unless besides clever you’re wise enough to know better.”
* * *
Sunny and Phydo were running through the forest, back to their homes. Holy Teachings class was over and the teacher was on his way back to Kannis.
The class was held in an old barn the farmers gave the teacher to tell the children about the origins of the Sentient People, about Man, who created them and then left the Earth for them alone and about all the educational matters children needed to know.
For the children, it was a time to get away for a while from dull and tiring farm chores and learn about the wonderful tales of Man.
For Rover, a chance to have the children learn matters beyond mere folk tales and spread rational thinking. Although all these educational contents were thoroughly checked by the Order, Rover found his ways around them. So far.
But the children were far from these considerations. For them Holy Teachings was a happy time.
All of sudden Sunny stopped, so abruptly that Phydo almost collided with her.
“What is it, Sunny?”
She was kneeling by some thick, low bushes. “A Katt! a baby Katt here by the bushes!”
“Really? lemme see!”
Sunny had the baby already in her arms when they heard a loud hiss and a growl behind them.
They turned around to face a she-Katt, mane standing on her back and head, claws extended and very mean-looking. “Give me that baby!”
The frightened children handed her the baby.
At that point the baby Katt started crying, loudly. All aggressiveness fled from the mother’s stance, she held her baby tightly and started moaning.
“We didn’t do anything to the baby, honest!” cried Sunny.
The mother turned her tear-flooded face to her. “I know, Dawg child. She cries out of hunger. My poor Kitti is too small to eat the game I hunt. She needs milk, and that I can’t hunt for.”
The children looked at each other. They agreed almost at once. “We can give you milk for the baby, lady Katt.”
“You can? Would you do that for little Kitti?”
“Yes, come with us. Phydo’s father has these big flasks with cow milk he milked this morning. It’s still pretty good and a little bit he won’t miss.”
The children started running again and this time the she Katt and her baby went with them.
Sunny and Phydo didn’t ask the Katt what she was doing there in Dawg lands. Talk would come later. Now they cared to ease a baby’s hunger, nothing more.
* * *
At the time, Kannis the fair was a wondrous sight. Years later, under the rule of the Mayors, it would spread and flourish in the arts and sciences, but it was with the priest soldiers that it reached its highest might and most impressive architecture.
Its main feature was, no doubt, Kannis Castle. Placed over the topmost of the three hills on which the city had begun to grow, nearly a thousand years before.
In the highest tower of the highest Dawg-made building, sat the High Priest of the Order of Man’s True Legacy.
His high position reflected faithfully his high station in Dawg society.
Ruler of the city and master of its army; his power wasn’t, however, absolute.
Power in Kannis was in fact a perpetual struggle for leverage where every Abbot pushed and pulled to become the next High Priest and this one pushed and pulled to keep his subjects at bay.
The High Priest of the hour was Fairfan Keensight, former master at Hillmouth Abbey and as every one of his predecessors, he kept close watch on his Abbots and their whereabouts.
“I am quite curious, Mongreel,” said the High Priest to his loyal assistant. “Where is Fluff Fourfangs getting the currency to buy the council and bribe his way to Riverfork Abbey?”
Mongreel knew better than answering rhetorical questions.
“Furthermore, the actual issue is what is he using for currency rather than where he’s getting it. We keep good count of the gold and there is positively no leak of it. Is there, Mongreel?”
Mongreel did not even wink. “None whatsoever, my Lord”
The High Priest contemplated thoughtfully the city spread beneath his window, then he turned to his assistant.
“I want you to keep an eye on Fourfangs, Mongreel. The Dawg is young but cunning, and his ambition knows no bounds. Keep a really close eye on him, Mongreel. He is moving way too fast and he is bound to slip, and when he does...”
The palest hint of a smile crossed Mongreel’s face. “Those who slip usually fall, my Lord.”
“So be it the will of Man.”
“For now and ever.”
* * *
The group of riders moved through the night on the road that came from the sea.
There were five of them riding swiftly on hoofers with their hooves padded, so not to be heard from the neighboring farms, on their way to Riverfork Abbey.
A closer look would have shown the hoofers were heavily loaded with bags hanging from both sides of the saddles.
Suddenly, without any warning, new riders appeared from the bushes besides the road and beckoned them to stop.
“Halt in the name of the High Priest!” summoned one of the newly arrived.
The five hoofers halted to a nervous stop, the newcomers approached, swords in hand.
As they got closer a moon beam broke through the clouds and the rider’s faces were clearly seen.
“They are Katts! By the shoes of Man, they’re Katts!”
The one of the newcomers who appeared to command the patrol came closer and lit a little lamp, he smiled coldly. “Katts indeed! And let’s find out what is it they carry in those bags in the middle of the night in such secrecy.”
The Dawg punctured one of the bags with the tip of his sword, a fine white powder trickled from it. The Dawg laughed in surprise. “My lord Mongreel is going to love to hear this!”
These words were still ringing in the cold night air when a huge winged shadow seemed to drop from the clouds and the heart-piercing Katt war cry wailed.
“Get’em m’lads! it’s only eight scum Dawgs against the five of you!”
The Katts seemed to spring out of their stupor at these words and produced swords and spears from their robes.
A big bird landed by the road and a Katt got off from it and threw himself into the battle.
Skilled though the Dawgs were in the use of swords, the Katts were by far quicker and nimbler, which more than compensated for the Dawgs’ larger size. The combat proceeded at first in utter silence but soon cries and wails filled the night.
When the Dawgs were down to three still-standing fighters and the surviving Katts were also three, the Dawgs gave up and, mounting their hoofers, they escaped toward Kannis.
“Get ’em Kit! get on your flyer and get those bastids! They killed Neddy, Morvy and Garty!”
But the Katt who rode the big bird just shook his head. “No way, lads, it’s too dark and I would miss ’em in the forest. Let’s just finish our job and get out of these Man-forsaken Dawg lands. After we get paid, of course!”
* * *
Abbot Fluff Fourfangs sat in his cell in Riverfork abbey. As he read his Holy Book with the words of Man, a hurried knock on his door interrupted his reveries.
He frowned but said, “Come in.”
Dokus opened the door and bowed deeply. “My Lord Abbot, I am really sorry to intrude but you must know the Katts were intercepted on their way back from the coast.”
“Intercepted! And by whom, in Man’s name?”
Dokus bowed even lower. “Apparently by soldiers from Kannis, my Lord.”
Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza