Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Chapter 8 appeared
in issue 127.
Book II, chapter 9:|
A Conspiracy and an Invasion
part 1 of 2
Solly Fastfeet, formerly known as Brother Soleimon in the Order of Man’s True Legacy, has a long way to go before he can get some rest. He’s been visiting the farm land around Kannis to talk to farmer Dawgs and together with Brother Rustingard they’ve been going at it all morning.
He misses the good old times when all Dawgs paid taxes and kept the priesthood well fed and clothed.
Not any more. With the coming of the heretics (Curse you, Phydo Bones!) Brother Solly has had to work to feed himself. All that can change, though. Disbanded though the order is, it still keeps its members secretly in touch trying to keep the true legacy of Man (and perhaps a free meal or two for the priesthood) alive.
The times are ripe for a word against the atheist authorities who have so violently brought the Order to an end. There have been mysterious deaths in the outlands, far from Kannis the Fair, and the remnants of the Order are trying to make the farmers see what they so clearly see. All this is a result of heresy and nothing else.
Man works in mysterious ways and this is the obvious fashion (for the Order) in which those dull-witted farmers are told not to stray from the path.
So Brothers Solly and Rusty walk on to the next farm under a piercing sun.
“How long still to go, Brother Solly?”
“Skip the ‘Brother’ Rusty. Old Rover Quicknose has long ears and we don’t want him to find out about our doings before it’s time.”
“All right, Solly. But how long do we still have to go?”
“Not very long. Right around the bend there’s the Farsight farm. Farmer Simon Farsight should have a sympathetic ear for our words. His cousin Nap Goodnose and his family were the first to be killed by this mysterious plague.”
“Don’t you think Bro...er... Solly, we are prone to be attacked by this plague as well, traveling in the open like this?”
Solly smiles and sends his younger companion a patronizing glance.
“What Man wills, will be, Rusty. But do not fear. There are a couple of facts in this mystery which we have uncovered. For one thing, our wiser brothers have found out those killings follow a time pattern, and we are on the safe side, time-wise.”
Brother Rusty only makes a noncommittal sound which could be taken as agreement. He doesn’t seem to be quite convinced and he continues to cast nervous glances and sniffs at the bushes around.
Both Dawgs come to the entrance of a typical Dawg farm and are greeted by the yapping and howling of the household’s pet coyotes. The little animals run hither and thither and make in the whole an infernal racket. Brother Rusty just shoos them away without much noticing or caring, but Brother Solly can’t help thinking how closely they relate to Dawgs, and he voices in his head a silent prayer to Man, who brought Dawgs to the stage of sentience (Man also brought Katts and Mysse to sentience, but Brother Solly is not so sure if that is something to be thankful for or not).
Farmer Farsight, warned by the racket the pet coyotes have made, stands at the door of his farm house. Like most Dawg farm houses it is made of timber logs. It is an old cabin which has very likely housed several generations of farmers.
The farmer holds his ax in his hands, these are rough times, but he is not altogether hostile.
“Greetings, strangers, may the grace of Man be with ye.”
The exact words Brother Solly wanted to hear. He puts on his best preaching smile and comes forward. “And good day to you, Farmer. We are just two wayfarers passing by and we thought you might have some bread and water you might care to share with us.”
The farmer sighs but moves asides and lets them in. “Come in, come in. Times are strange these days and wild things are happening in the outfields but good old Dawg hospitality remains. We are about ready to lunch and the missus can probably add a couple of plates on the table. Join us and perhaps you can tell us about the latest in Kannis.”
Brother Solly knows his business. He doesn’t rump into a philippics against the cursed atheist present ruler at Kannis Castle but rather lets the farmers talk about the killings and lets them ponder on the causes thereof. Slowly and slyly he lets the farmer family know that maybe this is all a punishment for betraying the true holders of Man’s legacy: The Order.
Brother Solly looks piously down as he speaks. “It pains me to recall the outrageous way the former High Priest was treated. Such a sinful ordeal can’t but bring consequences.”
Here Brother Solly lowers his voice and talks in his most conspiratorial voice. “People in Kannis are very frightened by these horrible deaths here in the countryside. Some are beginning to think innocents should not pay for their leaders’ sins.”
The horrified and fascinated expression on the farmer family is precisely what Solly and Rusty are aiming at. It’s another small step in the cause of the return to the true faith.
By mid-afternoon both Dawgs are back on the road and on to the next farm (in spite of Brother Rusty’s protests). Heat and a bellyful don’t mix well, and Brother Rusty wishes this day were over soon, but Brother Solly is adamant: they still have one more farm to go.
So on both Dawgs go, dragging their feet through the dusty country road and trying to walk beneath whatever shady tree they can find.
Suddenly Brothers Solly and Rusty stop dead in their tracks. Their furry ears go up almost in unison and a deep growl comes from their throats. Their keen Dawg senses feel something very strange further up on the road, across the bend.
“Wha... What’s that Brother Soleimon?”
Brother Solly is quite bewildered himself, and he doesn’t even remember to correct Rusty. “I don’t know, Brother Rustingard, but it smells as nothing I can identify.”
Now both Dawgs can hear a deep rumble as well. They stand petrified as they see insects, termites by the look of them, the size of sheep coming in a swarm down the hill.
They stop at nothing and go through the bushes and trees, devouring everything, leaving behind just a trail of destruction.
Brother Solly is the first to break the spell. “Run Brother Rustingard! Run!
“But... What about the next farm?”
“Mission’s over for today! We’re back to Kannis. We’ve got to tell about this new plague!”
Not a minute too late. Some of the giant insects have noticed the Dawgs and they come closer, as if trying to decide whether they are edible or not.
Certainly both Brothers don’t wait for the bugs to make up their mind. They run for dear life and soon all that can be seen of them is a dust cloud, slowly settling down on the road.
The swarm stays around for a while, munching and crunching any greenery on the place.
Suddenly they raise their antennae in unison, as if listening to some command. They come together again in such a close formation any onlooker might think they’re marching down the field.
After awhile all is silent again. The monsters have moved on.
* * *
Thomm, Phydo and Kitti have flown around the hill and now they’ve left their air carriage hidden under some bushes. They are looking for an entrance to the tunnels they know burrow the whole hill.
Kitti’s attire is a remarkable piece of clothing which seems to shift colors to match the background, and she’s almost invisible.
Thomm and Phydo are clad in much more conventional way but they are quite good at stealth too.
“Let’s keep quiet boys, there might be snoops around. Technological ones or maybe bugs, who knows” Kitti whispers.
“Sound advice Kitti,” ads Phydo in his deep basso voice.
“Quiet or loud, I don’t see any way in...” and as Thomm voices his complaint he suddenly disappears from his friends’ view.
Thomm’s voice can be heard from a hole in the floor. “Hey kids! I found an entrance!”
Sure enough. The Katt’s weight has caved in on the roof of a narrow tunnel they were walking over.
The three friends go inside a dark and irregular tunnel which looks like something burrowed in the hill rather than something artificially dug.
“It smells bad here!” whispers Kitti covering her snub of a nose.
“Yeah, bug scent, no doubt.”
“Which way do you think we should take, friends?”
“I think we should go downwards, whatever lair these bugs have, it ought to be deeper down.”
“That’s sensible, downwards it is!”
The tunnel is high enough for the friends to walk upright but its walls are jagged, and the smell gets worse as they go down. Soon, as they go far from the hole they came in, it gets also very dark and it takes the Katts all their well-known talent to see in the dark to keep going in spite of the rough terrain.
Thomm, who is walking up front, stops dead in his tracks. “Listen kids, do you hear a deep thrumming beat?”
“Yes, brother Katt! It almost sounds like a heartbeat!”
“Not only that boys, it seems to be coming from behind!”
The stench becomes stronger than ever and they can clearly hear a rhythmic thumping coming from behind them.
“Run for it kids! There’s a giant something coming our way!”
They start then a desperate run in the dark, Phydo keeping up with his friends as best as he can. The ominous sound of something like pincers or mandibles opening and closing and the foul stench behind seem to grow more intense by the minute.
“There, there! I can see a light there!”
Phydo’s mere Dawg eyesight can perceive nothing of the sort so he has only to trust what his friend says. Soon it becomes evident, though, that there actually is a light close ahead.
The three of them run to the lighted zone, which shows clearly now on the tunnel wall, only to find themselves falling through a hole onto a bigger tunnel. This one clearly artificial and profusely lighted.
Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza