Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Kitti’s Tale, part 1 appears
in this issue.
Fluff got up from his bunk and paced slowly about the cell. “Kannis, so jolly old Keensight has made his move.”
He stopped and looked Dokus in the eyes. “And the cargo?”
“Safely stored and hidden, my Lord.”
“Five Dawgs and three Katts, my Lord. Three more Dawgs escaped back to Kannis, and the three surviving Katts are at their quarters, tending to their wounded.”
“So our cover is blown and our maneuver has been exposed. Bad tidings do you bring, Dokus.”
Fluff stood unmoving for some time, his face expressionless. Finally he sighed and shook his head, his voice was level as ever. “It would have been better for us if all the Dawgs had perished.”
He smiled at Dokus’ shocked expression.“Yes, Dokus. Now the High Priest knows not only what we are trafficking with but also that we are employing Katts to do the traffic.”
He went on. “You know, Dokus, I got the idea to use Katts to do our dirty business from Keensight himself. Quite by accident I ran into one of his petty schemes involving Katt slaves when he was Abbot at Hillmouth and I was but a humble apprentice. I thought it was rather clever. Katts come and go, and it is hard to keep track of them.”
Fluf closed his book and stood in all his meager height. “This is the very chance Keensight has been waiting for to crush me. He will send Mongreel Strongarms as soon as he can to settle this matter. But he can’t accuse me directly, so he will search. He must find no Katts in the Abbey. None whatsoever. Am I clear Dokus?”
Dokus’ eyes were as cold and ruthless as his master’s when he answered. “Crystal clear, my Lord.”
* * *
Kit and his two surviving mates were back at the quarters that the Dawg Abbot had given them when he had hired them to do the job he didn’t want his Dawgs doing.
They were wounded and angry and in a very black mood. They just wanted to collect their pay and get out from these confounded Dawg lands, away from these fights that meant nothing to them.
Suddenly Kit turned to the others and signaled them to be quiet, pointing at the window. “There’s somebody out there!” he whispered.
Slowly and quietly Kit came close to the open window and pushing half his body out, he grabbed and pulled in a writhing figure.
All three Katts were over the intruder, daggers in hand and wounds forgotten.
“Is this the way to treat your wife, you pig-headed Katt?” The intruder cried outrageously.
“Shari! What are you doing here in the middle of the night?”
Shari burst into tears. “I’m looking for the husband who left me nearly a year ago and doesn’t even know his own daughter!”
“Daughter, I have a daughter?” Kit’s face was a study in surprise.
“Yes, daughter. And besides, the Patriarch believes you dead and he wants me to marry Filrod Whitewhiskers!”
“Filrod! that twit-head!”
“My feelings, exactly” sobbed Shari.
“And where is our daughter now, Shari? You didn’t leave her in Kattsville, did you?”
Shari shuddered. “Of course not! I brought little Kitti along, and two nice Dawg children have been kind enough to care for her while I’m out, searching for...” sob... “you, you scoundrel!”
“Kitti! her name is Kitti!”
Shari nodded between sobs.
Kit turned to his mates. “That does it lads! We’re out of here tonight. I’m going to wake up that snotty Abbot and demand our pay!”
The Katts cheered merrily.
Kit picked up Shari softly and they all started for the door.
And there they stopped at the sight of metal-clad Dawgs waiting for them, bows in hand.
Katts are brave and fast, too. Daggers were out before an eyewink and they charged, Katt war cry ripping the night.
But the arrows were already flying.
The four furry bodies shook with every arrow that pierced their brave hearts and the war cry died with the three warriors and the wife.
* * *
Abbot Fluff Fourfangs had not slept at all that night.
Dokus came to his cell as the first lights of dawn colored the new day. “My Lord, Mongreel Strongarm is at the Abbey’s door with a battalion.”
“We expected that much, did we not Dokus? Ask him in at once and take their hoofers to the stables. And Dokus, I want no weapon in sight and all at the Abbey at their usual chores. Let us not give the High Priest’s stooge any reason to be belligerent. That is what he wants.”
“Understood, my Lord”
Mongreel Strongarm stood in front of Abbot Fourfangs in full war regalia: mail armor, sword and shield.
Quite the opposite, the Abbot was only wearing his black robe. “Welcome to my humble abode, Mongreel.”
The Abbot deliberately omitted any title. If this bothered the High Priest’s envoy, he didn’t show it. “Thanks my Lord Abbot, but ’tis not happy tidings which bring me here.”
Fluff’s surprise could have convinced anybody. “How so?”
“Last night, one of our patrols from Kannis Castle guard was attacked and five of my soldiers were slain. On the road, not far from the Abbey grounds.”
“Really? We heard nothing!”
“Worse yet, the attackers were Katts, as reported by the survivors.”
“Katts! What in Man’s name could Katts have doing in Dawg lands, so far from Kattsville?”
Mongreel smiled a cold, humorless smile. “Apparently they were smuggling salt from the sea-shore communities. You know how valuable salt is among us.”
“Valuable indeed. But I don’t think those stray Katts would be so senseless as to stay about after such an incident. They must be well on their way to Katt lands by now.”
Here Mongreel came very close and faced Fluff squarely. “The point is: my Lord Abbot, the High Priest thinks, and I tend to agree, those Katts were not working on their own but instead were serving some one else’s interests. Namely some Dawg.”
“Preposterous! Who could be such a vermin to turn Katts against Dawgs?”
“That, my Lord Abbot, is what I’ve been sent here to find out, and I have the High Priest’s command to find those murdering Katts at all costs.”
‘And I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to find the salt as well’, thought Fluff to himself. Aloud he said: “You have my utmost support! My people will help you in your search. Furthermore, even though I don’t think anybody could be smuggling Katts inside my Abbey without my noticing it, for the sake of transparency I suggest you start your search within the Abbey premises.”
For the first time a shadow of uncertainty crossed Mongreel’s face.
“Even more, I will have my soldiers to bring here every farmer and their family who are under the Abbey’s protection and live near, so you can search in their houses and barns as well.”
Fluff took a much more agreeable Mongreel by the arm and led him inside the Abbey proper. “But first of all, you shall come with me and I will treat you to a well-deserved and much delayed breakfast while our people begin the search. Later on I will accompany you in your search myself. Do come in!”
* * *
Rover Quicknose was starting the morning lessons when farmer Bones and the soldiers came to the barn that served as a classroom.
“Scholar Rover, we have been ordered to take everybody to the Abbey, right now. There is a search going on.”
Rover knew better than to argue. “All right, children, class is dismissed for the time being. Let’s go!”
Sunny looked at Phydo. She didn’t have to say aloud what was in both children’s minds.
As they were going through the forest, Phydo whispered in her ear. “I’ll slip away from the group and go back to hide the baby Katt in our secret hideaway in the woods. If the soldiers find her, they will give my father a very bad time.”
“But they’ll notice you’re missing!”
“Not if I’m fast and rejoin the group before we reach the Abbey. I’m going now!”
“But...” started Sunny, but Phydo was already gone.
Phydo went in the barn by a loose wood board in the back as the soldiers were coming in by the door.
He grabbed the sleeping baby and she woke up and smiled at him, she meowed softly.
He hushed her and went out the same way he went in, running like crazy.
Deep in the woods, the children had a hideaway within a hollow birch tree, well hidden from the casual onlooker.
Phydo put the baby on the hole’s floor and said to her, as she giggled happy nonsense, “We’ll be back as soon as we can, or maybe your mother will. Hold on here and wait for us. All right?”
She just giggled some more.
* * *
The morning dragged on and the search continued.
Abbot Fourfangs was all cooperation and good will, as were all priest soldiers at the Abbey.
The search, however, showed no results.
By noon there was scarcely any place left to search in the Abbey proper, at least, to Mongreel’s mind.
All farmers, wives, children, hired hands and teacher sat on the Abbey’s yard under the increasingly hotter sun.
Some growling was beginning to be heard among the farmers but it died quickly as the soldiers openly showed their swords.
By early afternoon the search began in the farms.
Sunny was getting more and more nervous as the search went on and there was no sign they would be going home any time soon. She poked Phydo on the ribs. “The poor baby has been alone for hours! She must be hungry and crying!”
Phydo shrugged helplessly. “At least our hideaway is so deep within the woods it’s not likely the soldiers will hear her.”
“But some wild animal can find her! Where is her mother, for Man’s sake!”
Phydo didn’t answer.
* * *
Sunset was near when Mongreel called finally the search off and allowed the farmers to return home.
Fluff, calm as ever, watched as the soldiers left the Abbey grounds.
As the last one left, he called Dokus.
“So my Lord? no Katts?”
“And no salt either, Dokus. Keensight is going to be very upset.”
“What do we do next my Lord?”
“For one thing, get my cart ready. I’m on my way to Kannis. All swords have two edges and the High Priest’s move can be used against him as well. I will present my formal complaint to the Order’s council this very night. It is not fitting to treat Abbots like thieves!”
“Especially when they can’t find any stolen goods, my Lord.”
“Especially then, Dokus!”
* * *
Sunny and Phydo ran to the woods as soon as they were allowed to go home.
They searched desperately inside the hollow tree, to no avail.
“Where is that dratted baby?” hissed Phydo.
“Are you sure you left her here?”
“Of course I’m sure! There’s no other hollow tree around!”
“Maybe her mother came and took her home.”
“Or maybe some weasel found her first.”
Both sat down, very downcast.
Then they noticed for the first time Rover, standing very quiet nearby.
“Scholar Rover! You followed us!”
“Yes I did, you two have been acting very funny today, and I noticed quite well when you left the group to go back to the barn this morning, Phydo. That was a foolish and very dangerous thing to do. Those soldiers weren’t playing. Now, pray tell me what is this all about.”
So they told him.
Rover sat there, pondering.
“I think that she-Katt was somehow related to all that fuss today. But she’s most likely found her child and must be very far by now.”
“Do you think so, scholar?” Both children asked, hopefully.
“Yes I do. I must also tell you I’m proud of you. You have taken Man’s teachings of equality among the Sentient Peoples to a real purpose, even though it was dangerous for you. Now let’s go home; it’s late and your parents may be wondering where you are.”
They started back, but Rover thought to himself it was not very likely the baby Katt was alive if she was involved, even remotely, in Fluff’s schemes.
* * *
Once again Rover Quicknose walked the road, this time towards Kannis. Dusk was falling and a cold breeze was beginning to blow.
He wrapped himself deeper in his red robes and kept on walking. Sometimes a teacher’s life really wasn’t a bed of roses.
Fluff Fourfangs, Abbot at Riverfork Abbey, saw him from a distance as his retinue advanced on the road.
He felt good today and stopped his cart as they passed by. “Hop in, Rover! We are on our way to Kannis too.”
Rover didn’t have to be asked twice, he got in. “Thank you, Fluff. It’s been a long and tiring day.”
“Tell me! I thought that Mongreel would never leave.”
But Rover did not take the bait. He had learned a thing or two today and he just shook his head.
Fluff contemplated him thoughtfully. “You would have been a good member of the Order, Rover. Had you taken the vows.”
Rover laughed. “At least I would be riding to Kannis now instead of walking. But no, I don’t have what it takes to rise in the hierarchy. But you clearly do, Fluff.”
“I told you a long time ago, I plan to be the fourth High Priest in my family some day.”
They spoke no more until the group reached the walls of Kannis.
There Rover got off and started walking to the University as the moon slowly rose over the walls.
Fluff took the sloping road that led to Kannis Castle.
And to Power.
I tried not to intervene but the events of today made me change my mind.
Fluff Fourfangs is gathering strength, and he is evil. I may have to do something about him or he’ll disrupt the balance of power among the Sentient Peoples.
And the baby Katt! She was so helpless, and I don’t really know what made her different from others I have watched die through the years.
I must be getting older than I feel, but I think she’ll make a good inheritor of my knowledge and technology.
Welcome to my world, little Kitti.
I can’t bring your parents back to life, but I will show you wonders the Sentient Peoples can’t even begin to imagine.
Welcome Kitti, to what’s left of the world of Man!
Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza