Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
|Book I, chapter 1: Katts and Dawgs|
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.
There are many ways to wake up a napping Katt, but Thomm didn’t like any of them, least of all having what sounded like several trumping Hoofers go by beneath the tree he had chosen to nap on. After midday meal, sleep is serious matter with Katts. As Katts go, Thomm was rather tall for his race, silver-furred and lean (as a Katt, we might add). Clad in green garments he was hardly visible atop the tree.
The noise was getting louder and Thomm could clearly see Dawgs riding the Hoofers. Now Dawgs are one of the Three Sentient Peoples (the other two being — as everybody knows — Katts and Mysse) and they are doubtless the clumsiest; but this racket was too much for even a Dawg. Worse yet, if the Hoofers and their riders kept their trajectory they were bound to find themselves in the middle of scores of Mysse, celebrating the ritual of Cheeze (one of the cornerstones of their beliefs) in the clearing at the center of the forest.
No doubt any Dawg is two or three times larger than a Mousse, but any of those little brats is (according to Katts) dangerously tricky, and there were plenty of them in the clearing.
The Mysse were getting to the high point of their ritual and their frenzy was climbing in a crazy dancing and chanting.
Thomm couldn’t believe the three Dawgs on their steeds were so foolish or so careless as to bump like that into the open air ceremony; deep trouble was on the way. Not that Katts particularly cared for Dawgs and/or Mysse, the former being too clumsy and the latter too devious, and none of them nice to Katts. Nothing Thomm could or cared to do about the situation, so he moved closer on the tree tops to have a good view of the slaughter.
And slaughter it was, the sheer number of them made all resistance impossible. Thomm watched two of the Dawgs go down, Hoofers and all, nearly disappearing in the writhing mess, the third one was putting on the greatest fight for his life Thomm had ever seen, standing on top of his saddle, the Hoofer already down.
Leading the attack was Jeree, chief and high priest of the sacred forest Mysse, old acquaintance and foe of Thomm’s, so without almost thinking Thomm did what he wouldn’t ever have done, get himself mixed in Other Peoples’ fights.
For the Dawg, now nearly done, help came from the most unexpected direction: up. Thomm’s rope fell down the tree to be frantically grabbed by the struggling Dawg, who showed a very undawgish ability to climb and was up the tree in a matter of seconds. Now the Mysse mob seemed to go from furious to raging and started to climb as well, after their prey.
“After me, you fool!”Thomm addressed the stranger in the Sentient Peoples’ common tongue, as he jumped from tree to tree towards the one where he had left his Flier to rest while he napped.
They made it to Thomm’s big flying mount barely on time and they were airborne just as the first Mysse got to the tree top.
* * *
“Thank you, Son of Katt,” were the first words the stranger managed to mutter when they were well away from the danger, resting the big Flier atop a cliff. “Phydo of the house of Kannis is in eternal debt with you.” For the first time could Thomm have a good look at the Dawg. He was clad in some black uniform, what was left of it anyway, and seemed quite at ease in spite of the ordeal he had been through.
“Now,” Thomm said, “What on Earth were you and your buddies doing in the middle of a Mysse ceremony? It ain’t safe for your health, you know.”
“My late companions were, as I am, warrior priests of the House of Kannis. May Man bless their souls, they have fallen doing their duty,” answered Phydo.
“We were searching for antique artifacts in a nearby site, and we made the most amazing and unbelievable find, which we were hurrying to show the High Priest of our House.”
“It sure had better been a damn good find,” said Thomm, “worth your friends’ lives.”
“It was, my helping Katt,”; was the answer. “And you are entitled to some explaining, since you saved mine.”
“Everybody knows there are three Sentient Peoples, Dawgs, Katts and Mysse, but what most everybody seems to have forgotten is that we are not natural sentient species; rather, we were enhanced from common animals, and once upon a time we weren’t able to commune as we are now.”
“To Katts ans Mysse ’tis but a vaguely remembered legend, but to Dawgs, and especially to us, the priests of the House of Kannis, it is an article of faith to keep and deliver the legacy of the Maker, of Man.”
It amused Thomm to see the intensity on Phydo’s face. That son of a Dawg really meant what he said!
He went on, “After Man created us all, He left the Earth to be ours and he withdrew from the here and now leaving His Commandments carved on the Holy Tablets, made of incorruptible material which are kept at the Castle of Kannis, only to be shown in the most important Holydays.” He stopped, looked at Thomm straight in the eyes and asked. “Would you believe that by the most unlikely chance, my mates and I found, among the artifacts we scavenged, tablets, very much like the holy ones, with similar symbols carved on them? Such a find could well rock our beliefs to their foundations. It was imperative we take them to the High Priest!”
“Sure,” Thomm didn’t sound very convinced, “right through the Mysse horde.”
“That was ignorance and not disrespect for Mysse beliefs. I deeply regret my brothers’ deaths, we would have taken a detour had we known.”
Phydo gravely contemplated the Katt’s face. He was aware he had been saved merely out of a whim, maybe even a practical joke on Mysse; but nevertheless he still needed Thomm’s assistance to get to Kannis, especially now that he could no longer ride a Hoofer and he certainly could never go through Mysse land alive on foot.
“I will expose my situation in the open for you, brother Katt. I must get to Kannis as soon as I can, and I need your Flier to do so. I beg you, will you take me there? You shall be accordingly rewarded for saving my life and my mission”
“That’s more like it,” thought Thomm. The reward part sounded all right and Kannis wasn’t that far away.
“Why not? Got nothing better to do anyway. Let’s find something to eat and we’ll be on our way after supper. We should be there by sundown.”
* * *
And so it was. By sundown they glided over Kannis’ towers and spires to descend over Kannis Castle roof. Thomm was taken to the guests’ quarters, and Phydo reported to the High Priest.
It seemed impossible to read in the old Dawg’s face what he thought of Phydo’s tale as he finished talking.
“What thinkest thou, Phydo, of thy findings?”;
“I cannot but believe these tablets are identical to the hallowed ones, your Holiness, identical in manufacturing. Their content I cannot fathom, their scripture being in the ancient script of Man only the very wise of our Order can decipher.”
“Read them I can, my son, and their meaning would rock thee, as it has shaken others who have found tablets such as these.”
Phydo’s face was sheer amazement. “Do you mean to say there have been others?... But... our dogma says there is only one set of Tablets left by Man to guide and enlighten the Sentient Peoples. How could there be others?”
Now the old Dawg seemed to loom in the big room’s twilight and his voice sounded grave and menacing.
“That is why there can be no others, young priest. These tablets will be put away, as others have been, and you shall be put to trial on the oath of secrecy you took when entering the Order, the Holy Dogma cannot and shall not be threatened by these... Discoveries!”
He seemed to somehow soften as he got closer to Phydo and spoke. “My son, ’tis the duty of our Order to keep the memory and knowledge of Man alive in clear and simple ways our less wise brothers and sisters can understand and obey without questioning. We must not accept heresy, which will only dilute and weaken Man’s message to the Sentient Peoples. Let this be an opportunity to prove thy worth to the Order. Say no more and obey, lest you jeopardize thy permanence amongst us”
“I hear and obey your Holiness, but what about the Katt? He helped me in my hour of dire need, and I offered him a reward to bring me here.”
“Concern thyself not with the Katt, he shall be rewarded in an utmost definitive way,” said the High Priest, smiling; but there was no trace of amusement in his eyes.
“I hear and obey.”
* * *
Meanwhile Thomm appreciated the quarters he had been taken to, “Not bad,” he thought. “Pretty comfy for a Dawg’s lair; nice bed and good food... But this door can’t be opened from the inside, and the windows are barred. Besides, we’re in a tower and at least five stories above the ground. It almost looks as they’re not interested in my going out unannounced, hmm.”
Something was fishy to Thomm’s acute perception and he made a point not to fall asleep that night. Hours went by and the castle seemed very quiet, not a sound in the corridors, when he heard a faint creak on the door as it swung open. Thomm was on his feet, dagger in hand, only to recognize Phydo standing in the doorway eagerly hushing him.
“Silence, son of Katt. Pick up whatever bag you brought along and follow me before the death squad shows up.”
The words “death squad”were all Thomm needed to make a quick exit, and he went after Phydo up the poorly-lit stairs.
“What’s this all about, Dawg? Where’s my reward?” he whispered.
“It is about making our way alive out of the castle. You saved my life, and I mean to pay you back. Keeping your hide whole ought to be enough of a reward.”
Phydo went on, “I’ll take you to your Flier. It’s kept on the roof, and we can be there before your absence is noticed.”
They found nobody on their way through the empty corridors and were by the big bird in a matter of minutes.
“You will have to take me on your Flier with you one more time, my friend Katt. As soon as your departing is discovered, my life will not be worth much in Kannis.”
“All right. And where do you fancy to go?”
“I wish to go to the place where we found the new tablets, I want to find the truth, not just the dogma.”
“It is bound to be dangerous; it’s Mysse territory and I’ve got the inkling neither you nor I are welcome there after our little joke on them.”
“We’ll have Mysse against us, yes, but we will also have Dawgs behind.” Saying this, Phydo produced an odd artifact out of his bag.
“This is a translating device I stole to read Man’s script, should we find more of it. My brothers in the Order will follow me to the ends of the earth to bring it back.”
The first lights of dawn were breaking, as they took to the air once more and the towers and spires of Kannis were slowly left behind.
“Oh boy, brother Dawg, when you go sinner, you go all the way. Now you’re not just heretic but a thief as well.”
“But I am no longer blind, brother Katt. I mean to follow Man’s trail, and I invite you to join me in my quest. It promises to be most interesting.”
Thomm’s crystalline laughter reverberated in the clear morning air. “Why not? I had nothing better to do today anyway!”
And they were gone.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2003 by Roberto Sanhueza