Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Book I, chapter 4 began in issue 99.
Book I, chapter 5: The Dawg Plays Possum|
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.
Phydo, the renegade priest of Kannis, lies on his bunk, locked in one of the cells in the dungeons of Kannis Castle. It is not much as lodging quarters go, but for a dungeon it’s not so bad. The walls don’t reek nor ooze too much, the bunk is made of fairly clean straw and the bread and water are fresh. Besides, Phydo doesn’t count on staying here very long, he’s been told his trial will be held the next day and the verdict for an accusation of heresy, as upsetting as the one Phydo holds, can only be death. And a very quick one at that.
Somehow Phydo is not petrified at the thought of his impending execution, but he deeply regrets having involved professor Rover in this mess and giving the High Priest an excuse to get rid of potential enemies.
Right now he’s alone, no one in Kannis will speak for him or stand against the High Priest. His only hope is Thomm the Katt, his partner in this ill-fated adventure, who somehow had the wits to flee right when the priest’s soldiers were taking Phydo in.
They say Katts always fall on their feet, don’t they? Phydo, from the bottom of his canine heart, hopes this is the case.
Where can that Katt be? Phydo strolls through his small cell, speaking his thoughts out loud. He is almost rocked out of his boots when he hears a voice coming from the ventilation shaft, carved in the stone ceiling and barred to prevent escapes.
“I’m right here, you fool of a Dawg!”
“Thomm! Brother Katt! How in Man’s name did you get up there? We are in Kannis Castle dungeons, you know.”
A muffled feline laughter is heard from above. “Ain’t no Dawg-made prison which can keep a Katt in; or out, at that.”
“That doesn’t really matter now anyway. You’ve got to get out of Kannis fast! The whole priest militia is looking for you.”
“I kinda expected a little more gratitude from a certain idealistic but stupid Dawg friend of mine, having taken the bother to visit him in his not so comfy lodging room.”
A fleeting smile softens Phydo’s tight face but his voice is never the less urgent.
“Do not get me wrong, Thomm. Grateful I am for your loyalty as I could never express but there is nothing you can do to help me against the High Priest and his soldiers. Save yourself at least. Get out of Kannis the same way we came in.”
“You got a point there, I can’t get these iron bars out to pull you up here, and I certainly can’t blast that thick wooden door and storm through the guards to get you out of the castle either.”
“See what I mean? I’ve been told I’ll be taken to the High Court tomorrow morning. Trials are usually held in public, in the square in front of Kannis Castle main entrance, and the execution follows immediately. Nothing really you can do, brother Katt. I beg you, save yourself!”
At that point the heavy sound of soldiers’ steps are heard in the corridor, heading to Phydo’s cell, and the door bursts open. Phydo’s heart seems to skip a beat, but when he looks up to the ceiling the shaft is empty once more.
“Your supper” is all the stolid-looking soldier says. Phydo waits anxiously the moment he is left alone but the feline face does not appear again.
He lies down on his bunk and despair washes over him. Supper remains untouched.
It’s afternoon in Kannis. Atop the castle roof tiles, sitting in the shadow of one the high spires, Thomm ponders on the situation. He feels safe knowing there is no other higher place in Kannis where he could be spotted from, but he also knows he can’t go down to the ground to reach the old drain pipes they came in through.
“I’ve gotta get out of this dratted city and find Kitti. She might have among her Man-made wonders some powerful weapon to knock those dungeon walls down and free that stupid Dawg friend of mine. It better be soon too!.”
Finally Thomm decides to risk daylight and jump, the way Katts can, from roof to roof to reach his exit point. Time is pressing and waiting for night is out of the question.
Besides being very skilled in stealth (silent as a Katt you might say), Thomm is also very lucky today. If any Dawg notices a fleeting shadow over Kannis roofs this fateful afternoon, he pays no mind and continues about his canine business.
Dawgs are slow, but stupid they are not. Thomm stops his trip over the roofs and hides when he sees the soldier priests guarding the entrance to the old drain pipes.
“Damn! They are watching every possible exit from this Dawg pound!
Katts aren’t stupid either, in fact they maintain they are the smartest of the Sentient People, but there’s no agreement on that point.
“Thommy boy, put your wits to work. Mmm… I think the good old method of Dawg-chases-Katt might work here.”
He drops from the old building next to the pipes right in front of the startled soldiers and before they have the time to realize the very runaway they are looking for is before their noses, Thomm is up the roof again and the soldiers after him.
It maybe an atavism, but when they chase a Katt, Dawgs don’t keep a clear mind. They bark and bark, and it’s really not difficult for Thomm to outspeed them and go around, back to the place they’ve left unguarded in the frenzy of the chase.
It takes Thomm only seconds to dive down the pipes, and by then the guards are back and following him into the drain. They bark desperately but there’s no real way they can catch the Katt, well ahead of them by now.
The old drain system below Kannis is said to have been built in the times of Man. That may or may not be true, but it is never the less a grand maze of tunnels very few Dawgs can say they are familiar with. Certainly the guards are not, soon they stop, utterly lost, and they unconsciously howl out their misery. The High Priest is not going to like this.
Thomm is not lost, Phydo(one of the few Dawgs familiar with the maze) took the precaution to leave marks along the way as they went in and Katts’s acute night vision sure comes in handy at times like this.
Soon Thomm comes to the other end of the pipes and a high Katt whistle brings a Flyer down. “Glider boy, we gotta make it fast to the old ruins to fetch Kitti! Fly like the wind!”
Twilight is beginning to darken the world as Glider and Thomm head west. Time presses.
Phydo is very tired, but sleep won’t come tonight. Nobody will come to see him in this, his very likely last night on this world. When he went into the priesthood he gave up family and friends and he hasn’t seen his parents and sisters in a long time. Nobody, only the Order, has been his sole company all these years and now…
Phydo sighs deeply and rolls on his bunk. It’s going to be a long night.
“Open up, Kitti! Wake up girl!” Thomm is in the ruins and he’s making all the noise he can. As soon as he entered the shattered remnants of Man’s city, a dark despair fell on him; but now he knows it is not a natural feeling but an artificial one induced by the Keeper to hold strangers out. He pays no attention to it and starts his racket.
“Damn Katt girl. Where can that entrance be?” Thomm runs around but he doesn’t really know which way he and Phydo went in the first time they were here; after all, they were running from both Mysse and Dawgs at the time.
“Stop that infernal racket, you crazy Katt! Don’t you know it’s night time?” The voice seems to come from everywhere.
“Kitti! It’s me, Thomm! Let me in!”
“I know it’s you, I can see you on my screens. Where’s your buddy the Dawg?”
“He’s held prisoner in Kannis. Come on, let me in and I’ll brief you.”
“You’re standing right in front of the entrance, Katt. Come on in.”
An up to now nondescript piece of a rubbish-mound slides, and Thomm runs into the underground facilities which were once part of a vast subterranean transportation system. But Thomm pays little attention to the wonders in sight this time; he only wants to get Kitti into rescuing Phydo.
It takes Thomm only a couple of minutes to explain the situation to Kitti, but the expression he reads in her face is not very hopeful.
“Come on now, Kitti, there must be among these Man-made wonders of long ago, some sort of weapon we can use to blast those Dawgs to heavens and set my stupid Dawg friend free!”
“I’m so sorry, Thomm! We keep no attack weapons, only defensive means… and besides, Adam and I try to keep a strict no-intervention policy in the affairs of the Sentient People”
“No intervention my tail! Don’t give me that no intervention crap! Do you call giving Phydo those dratted tablets no intervention? Call Adam and ask him for a wall blaster to tear Kannis down!”
“We don’t have that kind of technology, Thomm, and right now there is something we call a “solar storm” which renders our communication gear useless for the time. I can’t reach Adam.”
“But there must be something we can do!”
“Thomm, Thomm, You would need an army to break into Kannis and set Phydo free!”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Roberto Sanhueza