Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
|part 2 of 3|
“Precisely. Do you think the Order might be plotting something against the Katt Patriarchy?”
Rover got up and paced about the room. “Now, hold it there. Do you think I’d be so foolish as to speak about Order matters with some Katt I met many years ago and I haven’t seen since? That is considered high treason and many a Dawg has been executed for much less.”
“All right! All right! calm down. I guess I haven’t been entirely honest with you. I did some research about you before coming. I talked to some farmer Dawgs I’m acquainted with, and they told me about the troubles you had with the present High Priest. I thought you’d be receptive against him.”
The scholar stopped and faced the Katt. “And did it occur to you that perhaps the High Priest in not involved in any conspiracy? Man! It might as well be a conspiracy against him. Man knows, the Abbots are a power-hungry bunch! That is, supposing any such conspiracy actually exists.”
The Katt got up as well, all exited. “Against him! You are right, friend Dawg. That might well be. Against the High Priest as much as against the Patriarch. That would be clever!”
“Hey, Katt. Do not get carried away. That is only speculation.”
Musstin started for the window. “I’ve got to get going now, friend Dawg. Same way I came in. You have given me a good idea, one worth checking.”
“I didn’t mean to give you any ideas.”
“I know, but nevertheless you did. My advice for you is to keep your eyes and ears wide open. There’s some hanky-panky going on, and it’s not going to be good for either Katts or Dawgs.”
And with that he was gone into the night.
* * *
The setting sun painted the snow-peaked mountains in a rosy hue, but the rider paid no attention to a beauty he took for granted. He was, in fact, growing increasingly nervous as his stolid hoofer approached the patch of land the Sentient Peoples called “The old ruins.”
In a low valley, between the lower ridges of the mountains and the wide and shallow river the Sentient Peoples called “Brown Waters,” there stretched an irregular terrain, full of strange mounds and little hills. Tradition held that those were the remnants of one of Man’s splendid cities of old, but no Katt or Dawg came here willingly to prove or disprove tradition. The place was strange, eerie, and spooky.
The rider was starting to feel weary, and he cursed the Katt for setting such an awkward place for a meeting. He had to agree, though: they wouldn’t find a place safer from eavesdroppers.
The rider was a middle-aged Dawg, rather pudgy around the waist, but he had the unmistakable air of command about him. His escort had stayed behind, as agreed, more than happy for not having to enter the ruins.
The hoofer stopped between two mounds and started grazing, apparently immune to whatever was bothering its rider.
A Katt appeared from behind one of the mounds, a smug smile on his furry face, but the Dawg wasn’t fooled. The Katt wasn’t any more at ease then he was.
“Greetings, my Lord Abbot,” saluted the Katt.
So much for incognito, thought the Dawg. “You know me, noble Katt?”
“Let us say I did my homework after meeting your envoy the other day. I felt I was at a disadvantage: you knew who I was when you sent your Dawg to me, but I did not know who you were.”
“So much the better, then. The cards are on the table and the game can be fruitful for both of us.”
“And what are the cards?”
The Dawg laughed out loud, uneasiness forgotten for the time being. “Straight to the point, Councilor. Well, listen up...”
* * *
The High Priest of the Order of Man’s True Legacy sat on his stone throne in Kannis Castle’s main hall. Fluff Fourfangs had held the post for four years and was beginning to show it. He had never been a big Dawg, but now his back was starting to stoop slightly, and the lines on his furry face were showing through his thin mane.
Unlike many of his predecessors, Fourfangs was not fond of fancy robes or any other trappings to exhibit of the power of his station. He dressed in the soldier priest’s customary black robe with a medallion over it to represent Man’s Legacy, the tablets of the Law.
The audiences for the day were over, and he received Mongreel Strongarms, a notorious warrior on whom, the gossip had it, heavy suspicion fell for having “aided” the transit of the former High Priest to the higher planes of existence.
Standing by the throne was Dokus, Dawg of confidence and Fourfang’s right hand.
“So, Mongreel, you suspect the abbot at Riverfork is up to something.”
“Yes, my Lord. Abbot Nappinscot Finehide seems to be gathering a garrison unusually big for his post.”
Fourfangs smiled ironically. “Yes, abbots tend to do that.”
“It would be advisable, my Lord, to pay Abbot Finehide a visit, to let him know you are not slacking.”
The High Priest stood up and paced about the room. “Yes, Mongreel. That might be a good idea. See to it my retinue is ready for two sunsets from now. We haven’t been to Riverfork for some time. Let us pay them a visit.”
Strongarms bowed and left.
“What do you make of this, Dokus?” Fourfangs asked his advisor.
“I don’t like it, my Lord. I never trusted Strongarms when he served your predecessor, and I don’t like him any more now that he serves you.”
“What do you suggest I do, then?”
“Go, my Lord, but do not take with you a small escort that can be easily overtaken by a belligerent abbot. Do not hand Finehide the High Priesthood on a platter and in his own home. After all, Strongarms does have a record of changing masters. He might be in connivance with Finehide.”
“That does sound reasonable, Dokus.”
“I shall personally choose the soldiers for your retinue, my Lord. Not one less than half a legion.”
Fourfangs laughed with little merriment. “Yes, Dokus, mistrust comes with power, I guess. See to it.”
After a while, Fluff Fourfangs stood alone in the big hall, a small Dawg in a big stone house, and in spite of its being high summer, he felt a cold breeze blow by, and he shivered.
* * *
Thomm Sharpclaws, son and heir to the Katt Patriarch, lay atop a big tree in a little tree house he kept as a hideaway. Well concealed among the thickly leaved branches, it was almost invisible from the ground.
Thomm was in a pensive mood that afternoon and he talked to his faithful steed, the flyer Glider. Not that he expected an answer, but Glider was a good listener, interjecting an occasional “Coo?” now and then.
“You know, Glider, my father would like to have me more involved in Patriarchy matters, but I can’t see what’s the big hurry. He’s healthy as a rock, and I don’t see me succeeding him any time soon.
“No, no, Glider. I know I eventually have to do my duty, but not just now when the whole world stretches before me and wanderlust is devouring me. I want to see other lands, Glider. I want to go beyond the Sentient Peoples’ land, where they say there is a stairway that goes all the way to heaven...”
Thomm’s monologue was interrupted by a pigeon, coming down on his shoulder.
“A note! a note from Marvee, Glider!”
He spread the tiny piece of parchment open and read its content with anticipation.
“She wants me to meet her again, Glider. Meet her at... What’s this? this is odd. She says to meet her at Riverfork ford. But that’s in Dawg land. Not that it matters much, but it is odd. Tomorrow evening, near dusk. Come on Glider! We have to get ready first!”
He hopped on the big bird’s back and they took to the air. Thomm was whistling a tune.
* * *
The next day, a large number of soldier-priests made their exit from Kannis through the main gate. In the middle of the group, the High Priest rode in his hoofer-pulled cart. Kannis dwellers were used to this kind of power display, and nobody was really surprised to see the heavily armed retinue.
From his tower in the University, Professor Rover saw them, too, as did many others. He sighed and thought, The dice are rolling. Let’s see what comes out of this.
Later in the day, Thomm Sharpclaws started for his secret romantic meeting. Atop his flyer he flew over the Sentient Peoples’ land, quite at ease and happy. He descended at Riverfork ford, looking for Marvee.
He saw her by the river, looking at the waters, sitting on a rock.
Thomm smiled and started tiptoeing toward her, meaning to surprise her, when an arrow swooshed by his whiskers and hit the tree by him.
“Don’t move, Katt,” a voice shouted. Marvee didn’t flinch.
Quick as lightning Thomm was on his feet, retractile claws out. But then he saw a group coming towards him, bows and arrows ready and aiming at him. In front, Cortin Longtail was laughing mockingly at Thomm.
Then Marvee turned around, tears in her eyes. “He made me do it, Thomm. I never meant to...”
“Quiet, daughter! Don’t make your fault any heavier than it already is!”
Thomm relaxed and faced Longtail. “All right, Councilor, don’t take it out on her. It’s my fault and I mean to make up for it.” He bowed and recited the old formula. “I hereby ask from you permission to make a formal liaison with your daughter.”
A glitter of hope shone among Marvee’s tears.
But Longtail only sneered with contempt. “It’s too late for that now, you disrespectful Katt. You are here for other reasons than my daughter.”
“And what reasons are those, Councilor?”
Longtail’s eyes shone with pure hatred. “You are here to kill a Dawg, scum. That is what you’re here for.”
“To kill a Dawg...?”
But Longtail did not answer Thomm. He turned to his companions and ordered, “Tie him and gag him, lads. The Dawg will be here any time now.”
Six Katts fell upon Thomm carried him behind the bushes despite his struggles.
A bit farther down the road, The High Priest of the Order of Man’s True Legacy approached the ford. He rode his cart surrounded by his escorts. Dokus rode a hoofer by his side.
Fluff Fourfangs was in a pensive mood. He hadn’t spoken much during the trip.
Suddenly the cart halted to a stop. He looked up and asked, “What is it, Dokus?”
“There is a group of Katts on the road, my Lord. They are approaching.”
“Katts? That is strange.”
The soldiers all took their post around the cart, blades all out of their sheaths. But there was no real need for it; the Katts were few, and they did not seem threatening.
The Katt seemingly in charge came by the cart, bowed and addressed the High Priest in the Sentient Peoples’ common tongue. “Man’s grace be with ye, Lord High Priest.”
“Thou knowest me, Katt. I know thee not. Who art thou?”
The Katt flinched at the use of the singular pronoun, used in the common tongue to address inferiors in rank. He shrugged and answered, “I am Cortin Longtail, your Lordship. Presently councilor in the Katt Grand Council. Soon to be Patriarch, Man willing.”
“Patriarch? Art thou in the Sharpclaws family?”
Longtail’s pupils became a vertical slit and he smiled dangerously. “No, your Lordship, not really. But my purpose here is to introduce you to a Katt who is.”
The Katt turned around and ordered his people in the Katt tongue. “Bring that scumbag over here, lads!”
He turned back to the Dawg. “Your Lordship, I want you to meet Thomm Sharpclaws, the Katt who is going to kill you.”
Fluff Fourfangs was not frightened at all; if anything, he was rather amused at the Katt’s impudence. “Thou art out of thy mind, Katt. Hast thou not noticed I am in the middle of a heavily armed division of my soldiers?”
Longtail laughed out loud. “Oh! But those are not actually your soldiers, your Lordship. They are Abbot Finehide’s. In fact, here he comes himself. He will tell you so.”
The High Priest looked around. The arrows and swords of his retinue were now pointing at him, and he saw a new legion of priest-soldiers coming at him from behind the surrounding trees and bushes.
Copyright © 2006 by Roberto Sanhueza