Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Book I, chapter 4,
part 1 appeared
in issue 99.
Book I, chapter 4: The Katt Cuts It Thin|
Part 2 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.
Kannis sleeps, not a sound can be heard in the deserted streets. Amid the shadows, two silhouettes emerge from the old drain system to the cobblestone streets. Two cloaked figures they are, and silently sticking to the walls they disappear into the night.
Kannis University is an old place of lore and craft. There Dawgs have kept, in their way, Man’s legacy alive. The campus is placed in the middle of a wide and beautiful park. Old stone towers rise from it in keeping with Dawgs’ spiritual need to rise and follow Man, wherever He may wander.
Professor Rover, old bachelor that he is, keeps a small flat in the faculty building. Tonight, in spite of its being so late, he is still up and consulting old manuscripts by candlelight. Suddenly his ears go up; he straightens up and sniffs in the air. A strange smell has assaulted his sensitive nose. Could it be?… No, impossible, what could a Katt be doing in Kannis in the middle of the night? He goes to the window and is almost knocked out of his slippers when he sees there two cloaked strangers.
“Do not panic, professor Rover, it is I, Phydo.”
“Phydo? But my boy… you are a runaway, and accused of heresy at that. What are you doing here? And is that… a Katt?”
“Yes to all that, professor, but can we come in, please? I have a most important matter to discuss with you, and here it is cold and the guards are due to go by any minute now.”
“Why, yes, indeed. Do come in, please!”
Professor Rover’s face is a study in incredulity and curiosity as they go in. He has heard, as has the whole faculty, rumors about serious doctrinaire discrepancy between Phydo and the High Priest which ended, as this kind of thing usually does in theocracies, with Phydo an outcast and fleeing for his life.
Now, the professor is not particularly fond of the High Priest and his methods, but by housing Phydo he is in danger as well.
Phydo knows this all too well and hurries to talk to him before he has second thoughts about letting them in.
It is Thomm’s turn to stay behind quietly this time while Phydo goes once more over their adventures and produces the new tablets for the professor to see.
“But… dear boy… this is incredible, such a leap from orthodoxy! No wonder the High Priest banned you.”
Phydo only looks quietly at the old Dawg. “Incredible, yes, but that doesn’t make it any the less real. I have the strong feeling orthodoxy is in need of a severe jolt.”
A sad smile crosses the professor’s old face. “A jolt the powers that be need as they need the plague. There is much more at stake here than the mere revision of orthodoxy, Phydo. For my old classmate, the High Priest, admitting to this would mean a loss of power, and that is much more serious than just rewriting the story of Man, who wouldn’t complain one way or the other anyway.”
“Sad, but all too true, professor. That is why we’ve come to you first and we haven’t just stood in the middle of main square in downtown Kannis on top of a wooden box, shouting these truths out loud.”
“And what would you have me do, my boy?”
“I dare hope your love for the Legacy of Man will overcome low struggles for power and you will take us to the academic council of Kannis University to expose my case.”
Phydo can see doubt and resolution fighting on the old Dawg’s face; he knows he’s asking a lot.
Finally professor Rover seems to make a decision. “All right then, first thing tomorrow morning we will quietly seek my colleagues and gather them to present them with these astonishing facts you have produced. But for now it’s been enough, we will all get some hours of sleep, a much needed rest.”
The new day comes without further trouble and the three of them leave quietly Professor’s Rover quarters with the first lights of a gray morning. They walk rapidly through the campus, Thomm’s and Phydo’s faces deeply buried in their cloaks.
One by one the members of the academic council show up in Rover’s office, answering to his summoning. In the back of the room Thomm and Phydo play keeping a low profile, but all professors can’t help staring at the strangers. The smell of Katt, so rare within Kannis, cannot be hidden to Dawgs.
When all of them are inside, Rover takes a deep breath and speaks over the intense whispering. “Fellow Council members, I have dared summon you here to expose to you the direst occurrence I have encountered in my life. I believe what you are going to hear is bound to rock orthodoxy as we know it and maybe change the way we see the legacy of Man forever. My fellow scholars, I present to you Phydo, the runaway priest and his friend, Thomm the Katt.”
The whispering becomes louder than ever but then it slowly dies as Phydo drops his cloak and comes forward holding the tablets in his hands.
Thomm isn’t all at ease; he doesn’t trust Dawgs, so he looks throughout the room searching for escape routes, just in case. Phydo is going over his story once again to the amazed astonishment of the professors, but Thomm is hardly aware of it; something is definitely fishy to his acute perception.
So when the soldier priests ram the door down and the shouting and cursing starts, Thomm is the one who makes an unnoticed exit from the window to the roof. Lying squat on the tiles he sees the soldiers taking everybody with them, Phydo the first, he seems downcast but never the less defiant.
“I knew it, I knew it,” curses Thomm silently. “I have to make a quick exit before they realize there’s a Katt missing in this turmoil.”
Moving across the tiled roofs of the stone buildings, in the way Katts can, Thomm follows the group from the campus to a big building in the middle of town, Kannis Castle.
As the group enters the big wooden doors to the castle, Thomm climbs the tower, swift and silently and sits on the roof, leaning under the needle’s shadow. “What am I going to do now? I’ve got to find a way to know what’s going to happen to Dawggy.”
Right then, Dawggy is in one of the dark and damp dungeons inside the castle, thrown in none too gently by the priests. Phydo sits on a stool in the middle of the cell and rubs his aching arms and legs. The tablets have been taken from him. Despair comes over him like a heavy shroud, although he can’t say what has happened has been all that unexpected. Obviously, one or maybe more of the professors must have checked with the priesthood before attending to Rover’s summon.
“Do not panic, Phydo old chap”, he says to himself, “all is not yet lost, Thomm is seemingly still at large, and that is a very resourceful Katt”
At that point the door opens and Phydo sees a robed figure coming in, surrounded by many soldier priests.
“My, my, my. Aren’t I honored. The high Priest himself comes to pay me a visit.”
A sad smile comes to the old Dawg’s face. “Do not play the brave and reckless with me, my young apprentice; I had hoped we might meet again in a different manner.”
Phydo shrugs. “Destiny is but what we make it, High Priest. I had also hoped to see you in a different way.”
The old Dawg turns and addresses the soldiers. “Stay outside and do not come in unless I call for you.” When alone, the High Priest sits on the bunk and stares at Phydo, but he says nothing yet.
“Aren’t you afraid I might become violent, your Highness? I am after all an outcast.”
“Whatever I might fear from thee, Phydo, ’tis not violence. Violence I know perfectly well how to cope with. It is thy heresy I fear. Thy words can bring down all I have so long labored to bring about.”
“I can no more be quiet, Your Highness, than you can allow me to speak. Fate has it that way.”
“But thou hast just said it, destiny is but what we make it. I shall ask thee once and not again. Willst thou stay true to the oath taken when thou entered the Order? Willst thou publicly renounce your heresy?”
Only silence answers the High Priest. He sighs and starts for the door.
“Be it then, Thou shalt be brought to trial before the Order by tomorrow, together with professor Rover as an accomplice.”
“But he has nothing to do with this; he only listened to me!”
A hard smile crosses the old Dawg’s face. “Thou wouldst not expect me to let the opportunity pass to get rid of stones in my path, wouldst thou?”
And almost as an afterthought, when leaving the cell. The priest turns to Phydo once more and says. “And do not count on receiving any help from that Katt friend of thine, as of this moment he is thoroughly searched in all Kannis. If he is any the wise, he’ll be out by now by whatever illicit entrance he came in.”
Phydo sits on his bunk, face buried in his hands, the future does not seem very bright. His quest to bring the truth about Man to Kannis has not been very long-lived indeed.
One question storms his mind: “Where is Thomm, and what is that confounded Katt up to?”
The stone walls remain mockingly quiet.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Roberto Sanhueza