Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Part 1 and part 2
appear in this issue.
Still calm and cold, Fourfangs turned to Dokus. “What do you know about this, Dokus?”
“Just about all, my Lord. In fact, most of this is my idea. I chose the soldiers myself, remember?”
Fourfangs just sighed sadly. “Why, Dokus? Why did you betray me?”
Dokus’ face twisted in a fit of rage. “Because I’m sick of serving a master who does not duly appreciate how I serve him. Because Abbot Finehide has promised to make me Abbot in his stead when he becomes High Priest in yours. And lastly because I have seen Mongreel Strongarms grow into the post that was rightfully mine. You say I betray you, my Lord, but you betrayed me first. The score is settled.”
The oncoming Dawgs were now surrounding the cart as well. A pudgy old Dawg was in front of them. Fourfangs addressed him. “So you join the party, Abbot Finehide. Somehow it does not surprise me much. Still, could a Dawg about to meet Man in the higher planes ask a question?”
Finehide bowed mockingly. “Ask, my Lord.”
“What has the Katt got to do with all this?”
“Ah! But that is the touch of genius! and all credit should go to Dokus. He devised the plan and contacted Councilor Longtail. I can’t well take your puny life without raising many issues among the Abbots, so we shall present that poor bastard of a Katt as your murderer, which will in turn make a bad stain on the Patriarchy. Your body will be taken back to Kannis with Thomm’s claw marks clearly visible on your torn throat.”
The Abbot was almost dancing in his excitement. He went on. “We shall also bring in the body of the assassin, of course. So both Councilor Longtail and I have a good opportunity to accede to the Patriarchy and the High Priesthood, respectively. Brilliant, isn’t it?”
Thomm was bodily pushed in front, and Longtail slapped him twice. “Laugh now, you scoundrel! you’re going to pay for your disrespect to my family, and you’re going to make me the Patriarch too, once they find out in Kattsville that Musstin Sharpclaws is the father of a murderer.”
Dokus was intently watching the whole scene, with a frown on his face. Suddenly he turned to the archers and shouted, “Shoot him! shoot him now!”
Abbot Finehide and Councilor Longtail both looked at him, surprise on their faces. “Not yet! we are not finished here!”
“But look, my Lord! the Katt is not frightened at all! I smell a trap and...”
Dokus’ words were interrupted by a twang and a swish. He sat atop his hoofer, infinite surprise showing on his face as he looked at the arrow buried deeply in his chest. He slipped ever so slowly from the saddle and fell to the ground, dead.
For an eyewink, everybody stood still and frozen; then all hell broke loose.
Thomm jumped from his thunderstruck captors and his uncovered claws slit throats and limbs right and left.
On the cart, High Priest Fourfangs dropped aside his robe, revealing the chain mail coat he was wearing beneath. His angry blade slashed around, showing his days as a soldier were not so far behind him.
From above, the high and piercing wail of the Katt war cry could be heard as the flyers came down in a cloud of arrows.
Abbot Nappinscot Finehide decided it was a sweet time to make a quiet exit. He turned his hoofer around and headed for the Abbey, only to run into Mongreel Strongarms and his soldiers coming from the river.
Soon it all was over: ambushers turned ambushed were either dead or on the run.
Patriarch Musstin Sharpclaws descended from his flyer; he made a courtly bow in the High Priest’s general direction but turned towards Councilor Cortin Longtail, now the prisoner.
“So the tables are turned, hey, Longtail? We are going back to Kattsville, you traitor, and you will be held on trial. I expect to see you hanging soon.”
He then faced Fourfangs. “All is well that ends well, your Lordship. We have both got rid of vermin in our households.”
Fourfangs smiled sadly. “You were right, Patriarch, and your advice through Mongreel was sound. I only wish you had been wrong.”
He looked at Dokus’ fallen body and sighed. “All right Mongreel, I guess our visit to Riverfork Abbey is no longer necessary. We will also return to Kannis with our rebel Abbot along. We have a trial coming, too.”
Soon the Dawg party was on its way to Kannis and the Katts were left alone.
The Patriarch turned to his son, a wide smile on his face. “It was brave of you my son, coming here even though you knew it was a set-up.”
Thomm shrugged, as if making nothing of it, but inside he was quite proud of himself, too. “I’m only sorry for Marvee, father. She had to watch her father cheating and being cheated.”
Councilor Longtail sat on the ground, stunned as if he didn’t fully grasp how his master scheme had gone so sour. At the sound of his daughter’s name he seemed to wake up and amazingly fast for a Katt his age he sprang up and grabbed a spear out of a surprised Katt’s hand. Unintelligible sounds of fury came out of his mouth as he threw it with all his might at Thomm.
Time seemed to stand still as the weapon crossed the air towards the frozen young Katt, but a different cry was heard. Marvee jumped, fast as lightning, putting her lean, small body between Thomm and oncoming death.
The spear hit her violently and she fell, shaking and mortally wounded, into Thomm’s arms.
Three Katts jumped on Longtail, but he wasn’t fighting anymore. He let them take him down as he desperately meowed his daughter’s name.
Thomm cuddled her head in his arms, tears rolling from his eyes. “Marvee... Marvee! Why...?”
She searched for his gaze, death already clouding her amber eyes. “Thomm...Thomm. When you asked father, did you mean it?”
Thomm held her tighter and wailed, “Yes Marvee, I meant it! Don’t leave me now! Hold on please!”
But she was already dead.
Thomm turned his tear-streaked face to Longtail and spit his rage at him. “You killed her! You murdered your own daughter!”
Longtail, now subdued and no longer aggressive, answered apathetically. “Yes, I killed her, but I did not mean to. You stole her honor and mine quite deliberately.”
He got up and some of his old defiance showed as he addressed the Patriarch. “You may put me to trial and you may hang me, but I shall tell everybody what a felon your son was with my poor daughter.” Then he fell silent.
The patriarch only looked at his grieving son, still holding the dead Katt girl in his arms, and shook his head.
* * *
Seven days later, everything seemed to be business as usual, back in Kannis.
Another day was over, and Professor Rover Quicknose was watching from his window in the University tower as the sunset painted the roofs a happy crimson.
This time the Katt smell did not surprise him. He only smiled and got half his body out the window and spoke towards the roof. “All right, Patriarch. There is nobody else here. You can come in.”
The Katt fell into the room through the open window in a backwards somersault, on his feet, as Katts usually do. “And good evening to you, too, Professor.”
Rover only shook his head, laughing good-heartedly. “You know, Musstin, should I ever become ruler in Kannis, the first thing I would do would be to reinforce vigilance of the walls.”
Musstin shook his silver mane and smiled mischievously. “It wouldn’t do you any good. You can’t see or hear a Katt who doesn’t want to be seen or heard.”
“We could smell you, though, not meaning to say your odor is particularly strong, but we Dawgs have sensitive noses.”
“Probably, but I have not come here to discuss the comparative talents of Katts and Dawgs. I come to thank you for the part you took in defusing the conspiracy.”
Rover trembled at he memory. “It wasn’t easy. I didn’t even try to approach Fluff Fourfangs. We are not on the friendliest terms, you know. The description your son provided of the Dawg talking to Councilor Longtail fitted Dokus, the High Priest’s right-hand Dawg. That surprised me much, but it also told me the one to approach was Mongreel Strongarms. He is usually very paranoid, and he is willing to check on any conspiracy, however unlikely it may seem at first. This one turned out to be very real.”
Musstin looked thoughtfully at Rover. “Why did you help us, Rover? It is clear to me you don’t like Fluff Fourfangs.”
“No, I do not, but Nappinscot Finehide was no better, if not downright worse. It is no time to rock the boat, my friend.”
“What ever happened to Finehide, by the way?”
“Oh, he is enjoying the High Priest’s hospitality in Kannis Castle’s dungeons. And Councilor Longtail?”
For a fleeting moment, Musstin’s expression was pure ferocity. “We don’t believe in long imprisonment, down in Kattsville. Councilor Longtail joined his ancestors shortly after his failed attempt.”
“I think I am sorry to hear that. And your son? How is he taking the girl’s death?”
Musstin sighed, sat down on Rover’s bunk and remained silent for a while.
“I think he’s all right. On the outside at least. But I know my son and I know he’s hurt. Even more so because Longtail did speak out at his trial, and he did blame Thomm for taking Marvee’s honor. An assumption impossible to prove if the poor girl is dead, but there’s many a father in Kattsville willing to believe the accusation and willing to see my son as far as possible from their daughters.”
“So, what did you do?”
“I advised Thomm to go away from Kattsville for a while. To become a temporary outcast by his own free will and not a permanent one by the Council’s decree.”
The patriarch got up, arched his back in a very Kattish way and started for the window. There he contemplated a good part of the Sentient Peoples’ land, visible from the hills Kannis was built upon.
He half turned toward Rover and smiled at him. “You know, Rover, somebody will write some day the story of the Sentient Peoples, and that story will be made up of little confrontations such as this one we just had. I hope history understands our motivations and judges us kindly. Farewell, my friend!”
And with a swift movement he was gone. Rover Quicknose went to the window as well and looked out. The day was nearly over and shadows were growing. The University tower dropped a deep shadow over Kannis Castle and the edifice seemed to be drowning in darkness.
Rover always considered himself a secret unbeliever, but now he felt a cold hand grabbing at his insides and he made the sign of Man, deeply ingrained since his childhood.
Summer was ending and there was bad weather in the future.
In more than one way.
Life goes on for the Sentient Peoples. A young Katt is flying north, looking for something, even though he is not sure what it is.
A young Dawg is taking his vows and becoming part of the Order of Man’s True Legacy, although for him strict orthodoxy is a bitter drink to take.
They don’t know each other yet. Nor do they know yet that their destinies are entwined. They both look at the sky at night and behold the unmoving star. They both wonder about the many secrets shrouded in the Sentient Peoples’ land.
They are going to find out what those secrets are.
Copyright © 2006 by Roberto Sanhueza