Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
|part 1 of 3|
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.
“Pst! Marvee! Up here!”
The young She-Katt, startled, looked up the tree she was standing by.
She was slender and graceful, as most young She-Katts are, and her golden fur shone in the summer sun.
“Thomm! What are you doing up there?”
Up there, among the twigs and leaves, a young Katt’s face could be seen, a wide grin on his face.
“Mainly, two things. Waiting for you and hiding from your father. Come on up!”
Marvee smiled back. Almost in spite of herself. “Climb there? Are you out of your mind?”
But she was already on her way up, with the grace and ease Katts seem to take for granted.
“You know a single She-Katt is not supposed to be out with a bachelor Katt. Least of all one with such a reputation as yours!” she said as she got to Thomm’s hiding place.
“What your daddy don’t know won’t hurt him, Marvee, and I ain’t telling him. Are you?”
She giggled as she responded to Thomm’s embrace. “Of course not, silly Katt!”
Terms of endearment, frequent in this kind of encounters, followed one after the other and they would have probably gone on indefinitely had the lovers not been interrupted by a huge bird, who approached them, softly cooing.
“What is it Glider?” asked Marvee as she softly stroked the bird’s head.
Thomm fell instantly out of his reverie.
“Glider is warning me. There’s somebody coming here.”
Sure enough, peeking through the leaves they could glimpse an older Katt coming to the base of the tree and stopping there.
“It’s Dad!” whispered Marvee.
“It sure is, but watch: he’s not looking up. He doesn’t seem to be looking for you.”
Just at that moment, a newcomer appeared from the other end of the clearing, riding atop a hoofer.
“A Dawg!” It was Thomm’s turn to whisper.
“What’s a Dawg doing here in the middle of Katts’ land?”
Apparently the Dawg was there to converse with Marvee’s father, who didn’t seem a bit surprised when the rider got off his mount and approached.
“Good day, honorable Katt. May Man’s grace be with you.” The newcomer spoke in the Sentient Peoples’ common tongue.
“And unto yourself as well, honorable Dawg.” came the ritual and ancient answer.
“I’ve been sent here by my master, to discuss a matter that may be mutually beneficial, noble Katt.”
“And I have been expecting you.”
At that moment the Dawg stopped talking and sniffed in the air, raising his head.
Up in the tree, Thomm hurriedly whispered to Marvee, “He spotted us! let’s get out of here fast.”
On the ground, the Dawg turned to his host angrily. “You’re not alone as agreed!”
“Not alone? what do you mean?”
“There are Katts up this tree!”
“I didn’t put them there! Let me check.” Nimbly, the Katt went up the tree but the only traces of occupancy he found were leaves softly trembling; the thick foliage did not allow to see anything else. The soft flapping of wings could be heard over the tree.
The Katt shook his head and started down. “You were right, there was an eavesdropper up there. And I have a good idea of who it could have been.”
“I smelled two.”
“It makes no difference; they are gone now and we can start our conversation — without interruptions now, I hope.”
The Dawg relaxed and bowed. “So be it. Let me start by a question. Who rules over Kattsville, as of today?”
“The Patriarch, Musstin Sharpclaws.”
“Is it a hereditary title?”
“It is not so in Kannis. The High Priest is chosen among the twelve Abbots when old age calls the present one to join Man. To agree on a name can be a tortuous power struggle, and every Abbot is very conscious of who is backing whom.”
“That doesn’t happen among us. Unless the heir be declared unsuitable, the son shall succeed the father.”
“And naturally, should any... accident... happen to either one, the succession will go to another Katt family.”
“That would be the only way it could happen. But should such an accident be proved anything other than an accident, the culprit would have to face dire consequences.”
“But what, noble Katt, if the...accident... were caused by a non-Katt. Say for instance, a Dawg.”
“You’re beginning to sound very interesting. Go on.”
“Suppose, friend Katt, some illustrious Katt family desired its chance at the Patriarchy and contacted some powerful Dawg Abbot who desired the same such chance at the High Priesthood...”
“By Man’s shoes! such a scheme might just work!”
The Dawg trembled at the profanity, but he went on. “My master would like to have an interview with you, seven sunsets from today, in a place where he’s certain there’ll be no eavesdropping.”
“And I know just such a place. Tell your master to meet me at the old ruins, seven sunsets from now at dusk.”
“But... the old ruins are a hallowed place!”
“That’s why nobody goes there. It’s perfect.”
The Dawg still seemed to be doubtful, but he bowed in acquiescence. “I shall pass your proposition on to him.”
That was the end of the conversation. They both bowed at each other again and each one went back to whatever business they had to attend to.
* * *
Musstin Sharpclaws, Patriarch in Kattsville, sat on his High Chair in the middle of Kattsville’s council room. The chair itself, same as nearly anything else in Kattsville, was made of wood; Katts are not fond of stone, as Dawgs are.
His son, Thomm Sharpclaws, was at his side. For Thomm, one of the few advantages to being the Patriarch’s son was to be received without previous appointment. Thomm was a free spirit even among Katts, who are not very fond of formalities, and he rarely, if ever, visited his father at the Council House.
“So son, you saw Cortin Longtail talking to a Dawg. It’s no sin, my son, to speak to other Sentient People.”
Thomm made an impatient face. “I know, father. Still it gave me the impression they were trying to hide. You know Longtail makes no mystery of his craving for the Patriarchy, and whatever it is he may be plotting, it would be safe to check.”
Musstin smiled affectionately at his son. “You have a sharp mind, son, and you make me proud of you. Please don’t think I’m dismissing your advice. It is just that sometimes it’s wise not to jump immediately at somebody’s bait. I will certainly check, fear not.”
Thomm saw he would get no further with his father, so he bowed and started out.
He had not quite reached the door when the Patriarch spoke again. “Son...”
The Patriarch walked to his son and put an arm around his shoulders. “Son, give not my enemies weapons against me. Leave Longtail’s daughter alone.”
It is, of course, impossible to tell if a Katt is blushing beneath his fur, but Thomm was most likely blushing.
Thomm let out a sigh. “It’s supposed to be a secret.”
“That will show you how long a secret can remain such among us. Son, do you mean to make a formal liaison with the Longtail girl?”
“Ah... I believe I’m a trifle young for formal liaisons.”
“So you are. Then leave her alone. Or at least...”
“At least father?”
The Patriarch let out a mischievous smile, so much like Thomm’s. “Don’t get caught! Be gone now.”
The Patriarch remained seated, immersed in his thoughts a long time after Thomm’s departure. He finally got up and shook his head, smiling. “Youth, such a bright spark!”
* * *
Scholar Rover Quicknose declared his school day ended and started for his personal quarters in Kannis University proper. Old bachelor that he was, he didn’t need any more accommodations than a single room in the old University tower.
Now he came in his room and closed the door behind him, leaving behind as well the petty troubles that went with his post. He sat on his bed and relaxed. Outside his window he had a good view, and he could see on the opposite hill Kannis Castle, looming over the entire stone city.
Suddenly he tensed. His keen olfactory sense, so common among Dawgs, felt the distinct odor of a stranger in his room. The smell of a...Katt?
“All right! you caught me. No point in hiding anymore.”
The voice came from the window, and following the voice, a Katt came in.
Professor Rover was too stunned to see a Katt inside Kannis to fear he might be up to some wrongdoing.
The Katt, entirely nonplused, came to him as though he were walking through Kattsville on a Moonday afternoon. “Good evening, Rover Quicknose. I hope your memory is as keen as your nose and that you remember Musstin Sharpclaws.”
“Musstin Sharpclaws! How did you get inside Kannis after curfew? What are you doing here?”
The Katt let out a hearty laugh. “First question first. I slipped through the lowest part of the wall when the guard was looking elsewhere. Not too quick, those guards of yours.
“About the second question. I’m here to talk to you.”
“Me? Why me? What about?”
“You, because you’re the only Dawg I know inside Kannis, and what about... may I sit down first? Sleazing my way into your stone city was a tiring job.”
Rover seemed all of a sudden to remember his manners. “Oh! by all means, please do sit down!” and he brought a couple of stools about.
“That’s better” said the visitor as he sat and evenly watched Rover’s reaction to his intrusion.
Rover just kept quiet and waited for the Katt to start explaining.
Finally Musstin spoke. “Since we first and last met, so many years ago on the road to Hillmouth Abbey, much water has run below our bridges and many things have happened.
“Then I was the heir to the Kattsville Patriarchy, whereas now I am the Patriarch himself. I see you no longer wear the black robes.”
Rover smiled sadly. “Shortly after our brief encounter I decided not to take the vows and leave the Order of Man’s True Legacy. I am a secular scholar now.”
Musstin nodded. “How close are you to the High Priest, Rover?”
Now Rover laughed, bitterly. “Not much. You might remember the lad you knocked down on the road, that time. Well, he is the High Priest these days: Fluff Fourfangs.”
“Him, and I stay out of his way if I can. Why do you ask?”
Musstin sighed. “It’s hard to explain. I’ll try to make some sense starting from the beginning. A couple of days ago, my son overheard one of my fiercest foes within the Kattsville council talking to a Dawg where they thought nobody would see them.”
“That’s not so odd. Katts and Dawgs have been at peace for years now. Many Dawg farmers regularly do business with Katt traders.”
“Right, but this Katt was no trader, and this Dawg was no farmer. In fact, my son believes the Dawg belongs to the Order, even though he wasn’t wearing the black robes. You know they always have that ‘holier than thou’ attitude.”
“That’s somehow odder. Priests do not usually mingle with the ‘unclean’, as they call nearly everybody outside the Order.”
Copyright © 2006 by Roberto Sanhueza