Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Book II, chapter 9 appeared
in issue 132.
Chapter 10: Kannis Under Siege|
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.
It is business as usual in Kannis the Fair. The bustling city spreads by now far beyond its original boundaries, the fortified citadel Dawgs call “the old town.” Within the heavy walls of this old town we find Kannis Castle and the University of Kannis, two strongholds of power: political power as well as the more subtle power of knowledge, although through the history of the Sentient Peoples both have been deeply intertwined.
Legend and lore have it that the old town was built over the very three hills where Man first gave Dawgs (the eldest of the Sentient Peoples, according to Dawgs) the spark of sentience.
The old town withstood all the struggles of the “Genesis Wars,” which very much settled the relations of the three races of Sentient Peoples, Katts, Dawgs and Mysse, after Man’s mysterious and perhaps mythical departure.
For a long and prosperous time Kannis the Fair flourished, bigger and richer than other Dawg cities and certainly mightier than any Katt village or Mysse lair. Under the rule of the priest soldiers it saw the summit of its might, but it had very little contact with Katts and none whatsoever with Mysse.
These are the days of a gentler rule in Kannis. Folks are free to go anywhere they please, and it is not a rare view to glimpse some Katt trader bartering his goods at the local market. Katt females are rarely seen outside their homes, Katt society being very patriarchal.
Should we go, as the bird flies, to the top of the middle one of the three hills, up the towers of Kannis Castle, we would find Mayor Rover Quicknose, formerly Professor Rover and present ruler at Kannis after the demise of the High Priest.
Mayor Rover is hearing the most strange request for an audience. “Come again, Rex? Who do you say is outside my office door?”
Rover’s assistant sighs and repeats. “Yes your Lordship, you heard right. The former priest and second in command in the former Order of Man’s True Legacy, Maximatis Thickfur wishes to have a word with you.”
That is news indeed. After the execution of the last High Priest and the installation of the secular government in Kannis, the disbanded Order has kept a very low profile, and Max Thickfur has kept a very healthy distance from Rover’s police.
“Well, send him in! for Man’s sake. Send him in!”
A middle-aged Dawg comes in, followed by a younger one. Both are dressed in a very casual and common Dawg wardrobe, far from the robes the order was fond of wearing.
The younger Dawg (Rover can’t help thinking of them as “Brothers”) seems ill at ease near the Castle guard and casts nervous glances around. Not so the older one, who keeps a dignified appearance and looks only at Rover.
“Your Lordship the Mayor, May the grace of Man be with ye.”
Old habits die hard, Rover has to bite his tongue not to utter the ritual answer to the old prayer. “Be welcome, Maximatis Thickfur. What brings you here today?”
Max looks significantly around and asks. “Can we speak in privacy, your Lordship?”
Rover sighs and orders Rex. “Would you please wait outside, Rex?”
Rex sends a mistrusting glance in the visitors direction. “I’ll be right outside the door, your Lordship; with the guard,” he adds as he leaves the room.
“All right Max, we’re alone now. What is it? This is most unexpected, your coming here I mean.”
Max smiles sadly. “Yes I know, I wouldn’t be here at all — as you well suppose — if it weren’t for a most pressing matter. Let us stop pretending, Rover. We are enemies, and I doubt we can agree on how to run Kannis or in how to keep Man’s legacy alive. I also know you have your police after me and my... friends.”
“If frankness be the rule Max, I also know you are plotting against me and my regime. I am aware of your... friend’s visits to the farmers. Yes. I think we can stop pretending.”
“So be it. With that out of the way I want you to meet Soleimon Fastfeet, formerly Brother Soleimon. He has a most amazing tale to tell.”
Brother Solly comes forward and bows. He starts afterwards a complete relation of his meeting with the giant insects’ horde, leaving out of course the reason why he was there in the first place.
Shock comes closer to describe Rover’s reaction than surprise. He had just no idea of this new turn of events. “But...but that’s horrible. Our farmers are helpless against such a plague!”
“Indeed, Mayor. But that’s not the worst of it. I have every reason to believe, according to other testimonies I have, that the hordes are moving towards Kannis.”
Rover stands up, walks to the window and looks out to peaceful, unprepared Kannis spread below the castle towers. “You bring me ill tidings, Max. It is war we are talking about.”
“I very much fear so myself, Rover.”
“The time has come then to put asides our... differences and get our people ready to fight these monsters. All Dawgs living outside the city walls must be brought in.”
Max looks at Rover’s eyes and his pointy ears go up as he makes his offer of peace.
“Your Lordship, the Mayor of Kannis. I, Maximatis Thickfur, hereby put under your command whatever armed Dawgs remain from the Order of Man’s True Legacy. In this dire hour we shall need all the strength we can muster.”
“And they shall be welcome, we’ll put your Dawgs in our ranks at once.”
Some minutes afterwards, Mayor Rover sits alone, his visitors gone and audiences for the day over. He walks to the window and again looks out to Kannis. He shivers to think of what lies ahead and tries to gather strength to go out and start preparing for the impending war.
He suddenly smiles and turns to the far and darkening corner of the audience room. “All right Musstin. I know you’re there. You can come out now.”
The Katt Patriarch comes out of the shadows, smug and completely at ease. “And good day to you too, Rover.”
“I thought I had had the drain tunnels sealed and guarded.”
“In fact, you did, but we Katts have our ways around.”
Rover doesn’t even try to think of the implications of eventually having to fight such sneaky foes as Katts. Instead he asks, “You heard the priest, did you not?”
Musstin goes serious as well. “Yes I did. I am here for very much the same reasons. There is this new plague of giant bugs my people have spotted out in he country. They haven’t attacked anybody yet, but they are gathering, rank after rank.”
“And what would you have me do, Patriarch?”
All smugness leaves the old Katt’s furry face. Suddenly he is but a tired and weary old Katt.
“There is no way we can withstand the coming of that monstrous army, Rover old friend. I need you to let my people inside the Kannis walls.”
“You ask for a lot, Musstin. Many of my subjects are not very fond of Katts.”
Musstin’s pupils contract to a slit as a rash of fury crosses his face. Then it is gone and only weariness is left. “What choice do I have, Rover? Kattsville or the open field are sure death to my subjects.”
Rover comes forward and puts an arm around his friend’s shoulders. “Come now, Musstin. I haven’t said no yet, have I? I think I can handle the council, on this matter at least. Soon as they realize the threat we are facing they will welcome any and all fighting hands we can gather.”
The Patriarch stands erect and proud, he bows ceremoniously and says, “What you are doing today, Mayor, Katts will remember for as long as we exist. I shall bring my people in as soon as I can.”
Some minute later the Mayor stands alone again. The Patriarch gone as silently as he arrived. Rover shakes his head and starts for the door. “Rex! Get me the captain of the guard, right now!”
Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza