Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Book I, chapter 5,
part 1 appeared
in issue 101.
Book I, chapter 5: Dawg on Trial|
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.
Suddenly Thomm’s face lights up and he displays a crooked smile. He gets up and starts running for the exit.
“Hey, crazy Katt, hold it! Where are you running to? Wait for me!”
But Thomm does not stop, he just turns his head and says, “I’m going to get me an army. I know just the right place for it. Come along, I’m going to need you, too.”
The sun rises over Kannis, slowly the town wakes up and daily business begins once more. The big wooden gates on the outer wall open and country Dawgs come into town to sell their farm products. This morning the crowd is bigger than usual. The word has spread there is going to be a public trial for some particularly sinful Dawg, and the crowd is expecting a good show.
Down in the Kannis Castle dungeons doors open as well, and many armed priests stand outside Phydo’s cell to take him to the square. Phydo hasn’t slept a wink all night but he just refreshes himself in his water basin and gets ready to meet his doom. There is no turning back from this point on.
The sun also rises in a very different place: in the misty darkness of the sacred forest, Mysse get ready to perform one of the holiest of their foul rites. Jeree, Headmousse of the Mysse lair stands in front of their altar, at the feet of the holy tree. He holds over his head the Sacred Cheaze and presents it to the crowd. By doing this, the Mysse community hopes to ingratiate the gods and never lack food.
Right when the crowd is kneeling down and Jeree is deep into his rite, a winged shape drops at lightning speed from above and a silver furred hand steals the Sacred Cheaze from the Headmousse’s hands. In the petrified silence which follows this sacrilege, a scornful Katt laughter can be heard.
The Mysse stand paralyzed, like they can’t quite comprehend what has happened. Some 150 feet away, the big bird touches ground and a Katt comes down from its back and holds his trophy high in the air, mocking the crowd.
The spell is violently broken, and a howling Mysse mob charges as one onto the stranger. The Katt turns away and runs for dear life with the entire lair on his track. The big bird takes to the air again, and another Katt can be seen on its back: a female. When safely above the crowd she speaks into some gadget she keeps over her face.
“All well so far, Thomm. They bought it. They’ll follow you wherever you go to get their Cheaze back. Funny to have Mysse chasing Katts; hope you can keep out of their reach.”
Main Square is bursting; it seems like all of Kannis is witnessing the trial. The judges sit, very stern-looking, high above the crowd on a stage at the entrance to Kannis Castle.
The mob gets suddenly quiet when the heretic is brought to the judges.
The High Priest stands up. He’s dressed in full regalia, as his station demands. He holds a roll of parchment in his hands and pretends to read from it, but everyone knows all charges are well known by the judges and the verdict is already adjourned.
Phydo notices professor Rover is also here. So they are playing it quick today, two heretics for the price of one.
“Phydo Bones, junior apprentice to the Holy Order of Man’s Legacy, and Rover Quicknose, Professor Emeritus of the Kannis University. You have been brought her to face the serious charges of deep heresy and treason. What have ye to say in your behalf?”
Phydo feels a dark depression grow inside, why the charade? What’s the use of talking?
Professor Rover does not seem so depressed. He stands proud and addresses the High Priest.
“Cut this farce out, Fluff Fourfangs, I’ve known you and you’ve known me for a long time; and you know very well this lad here says but the truth. Now just be done with what you must and leave us in peace!”
The high priest seems very upset by professor Rover’s words, but whatever his answer might have been remains unknown because at that moment every Dawg in the plaza is suddenly aware of a deep rumble seemingly coming from below Main square.
Then all hell breaks loose. The lid covering the water drain seems to explode outwards right in the middle of the crowd and a furious horde of seething Mysse following a very concerned-looking Katt charges against the onlookers, the guards, the judges. In short, everyone.
Thomm runs like lightning, barely keeping ahead, but he’s showing the exertion of the long run. He pushes Dawgs to left and right, and the pandemonium is unbelievable.
He has a sudden inspiration. Turning around, he shows the Mysse the Sacred Cheaze and bouncing with all his remaining strength, throws it right onto the lap of an openmouthed High Priest.
Three or four Mysse fall over the High Priest, and the soldiers, coming out of their spell, rush to his aid.
A panting and sweating Thomm slips aside from the turmoil and, hidden behind a column, he speaks into a gadget similar to the one Kitti is wearing .
“Now Kitti! Now! Bring Glider down and fetch Phydo!”
A winged shape appears over Kannis Castle spires and it falls like a stone towards the stage.
Phydo is just as bewildered as every other Dawg in the plaza by the whole mess, but when he sees Glider coming down by his side he suddenly understands all and a warm smile comes to his face.
“Kitti! Glider! You’ve come to help me! Where is Thomm?”
“I’m right here Dawggy!” shouts Thomm taxing his strength one last time and jumping up the stage next to them.
“Get on up, you fool! We can’t hang around much longer!”
“But I can’t just leave professor Rover behind! They’ll kill him!”
“And Glider can’t take four on his back, three’s already too many. Get on up!”
But by now, surprise has worn thin. Soldier Dawgs are retaliating and driving Mysse back to the hole they came out of. The Sacred Cheaze is back in Mysse hands and they seem to lose interest in the fight.
At that moment, a rope net falls over Glider.
The High Priest, clothes all disheveled but otherwise unscathed, laughs wildly at Phydo and his friends. “You thought you could escape Kannis, you fools! Now it is all of you who will face execution! And I shall follow your advice, Rover: no more trial or judges. Guards! Get me those heretics against a wall and proceed to pierce as many arrows as you can through their sinful bodies!”
Phydo and his friends fall back together as the soldier priests get ready to follow the order.
“Guess I blew it, didn’t I, brother Katt?”
“Yes, you blew it, Dawggy, but that’s all right now. I just can’t fight — or even move — any longer”
Slowly the soldiers are forcing the four of them against a wall. Thomm and Kitti have their claws out, the hair on their back straight up. Phydo and Rover growl low and they show their fangs, but there’s nothing they can do.
Then the sky seems to explode. A huge thunder rolls over Kannis and all Dawgs in Main Square fall on their backs as though blown over by a gigantic wind.
The few Dawgs who dare look up see the most wondrous sight, a bright winged carriage, shining with the light of a hundred suns is coming down in the middle of the square.
Thomm, Phydo and Kitti can’t believe their eyes. “Adam!” they whisper at the same time.
The winged wonder is down on the ground. Silence shrouds once more Kannis. No Dawg dares to speak.
A opening appears on the side of the carriage and a mighty figure comes out of it. It is dressed in a suit that shines and its head is a bright crystal bubble.
Dawgs fall on their knees all around the plaza, they whine and whimper. “Man is back! Forgive our sins, o Lord!”
Suddenly a thunderous voice is heard, it sounds everywhere in the square and it also seems to sound within every head.
“Why do you treat my envoy in so outrageous a way? Who dares defy my power?”
The stranger walks slowly through the plaza towards the prisoners. No Dawg dares to move. They lie flat on their faces and don’t look up.
But the High Priest is not buying any of this. He sees his power waning with every step the stranger takes. Howling, he jumps forward and takes one of the spears the soldiers have dropped and throws it at the stranger as he shouts.
“Begone, abomination! Thou art not Man!!”
What follows next seems to proceed in slow motion. Kitti screams. “No! Adam!” and she jumps to put herself between the stranger and the spear. But fast as Kitti may be, Thomm is even faster. He seems to fly off the ground and knocks Kitti out of the way and it is he who receives the spear in his body.
At this point Phydo decides he’s had more than enough of the High Priest. He comes to him and in a superb punch in the nose he lets it all hang out.
Everybody and everything stand still. There is a High Priest on the ground and a wounded Katt lying in a pool of blood.
Professor Rover is the first one to come back to his senses.
“Be gone, my friends, Take this wounded Katt where you can heal him. I can handle the council now that Fluff here has lost so much face and I have the endorsement of Man himself in his shiny carriage.” But a sardonic smile is on face when he says this. This Dawg isn’t buying the whole thing either.
“Guards! Take the former High Priest and throw him into the very dungeon in which he has dared keep the envoy of Man!”
By now the stranger is by Kitti and Phydo, and he speaks to them.
“He’s right: the less these Dawgs see of me the better. Let’s get the Katt in my ship and get out of here.”
People in Kannis will talk for years of the day Man came back. How He took His envoys and put them in His fantastic carriage and held by a column of fire went back to heavens followed by a big bird.
As soon as they are within Adam’s ship, Thomm is put inside a box that, Adam and Kitti have assured Phydo, will properly heal his wounds. Kitti hugs Adam as the clouds hide Kannis from sight.
“You got my message Master! I was so afraid we’d never see you again.”
“And just in time, too. Up the orbital station I had no way to know what you were up to until the solar storm was over.”
Turning to Phydo, Adam says “And you, my brave Dawg, you have pretty much accomplished what you set out to do. The High Priest will hold no power after this, and I see professor Rover as the most likely successor to him. And he is not as dogmatic, by and large.”
“I think so, too, Adam. In spite of my clumsiness and thanks to my brave Katt friends here, Kannis may see the light of reason after all. I worry about Thomm, though. Will he heal? It was very courageous of him to shield Kitti.”
Now, Katts don’t blush, but if they did, Kitti would have certainly been crimson from head to toes.
“Don’t worry about him, Phydo. We’ve put him in a medmachine, which will put him back on his feet in a very short time and as good as new. I will personally see to it.”
“Then, my friends, I can relax as well. I haven’t properly rested in a long time and I guess all’s well that ends well.”
A lone Dawg farmer who missed all the excitement at Kannis, raises his head from his hoe as he sees a falling star go by the sky. If he were close to it, he would hear laughter coming from inside. Happy, carefree laughter.
Copyright © 2004 by Roberto Sanhueza