Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Book I, chapter 3 appeared
in issue 92.
Book I, chapter 4: The Katt Cuts It Thin|
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.
“Remember Dawggy, no eye contact with my fellow Katts. At least not until I introduce you and vouch for you before the Patriarch and the Elders Council.”
“Yes I know,” Phydo answers. “You’ve only told about me about a hundred times.” Phydo is not in a happy mood, he’s not really that used to walking. Up to now all his traveling has been on the back of a Hoofer, and they’ve been on their way most of the morning.
Thomm means to reach the hideaway he keeps on top of a tree in the Black Mist Forest, where he hopes to find his Flyer waiting after they left it behind in the mess of the Mysse versus Dawgs battle.
“Are you sure, brother Katt, that bird of yours will be there?” Phydo sees with utter dismay the possibility they may have to walk even more to reach Kattsville, where they expect to gather some gear and another Flyer to finally get to Kannis, city of Dawgs.
Thomm’s smile is smug as only a Katt’s smile can be. “You’re badly out of shape, Phydo boy; which figures, being a fat-ass city Dawg. You need to come more out in the open. And as for your question, yes, I’m pretty sure my faithful Glider will be there; that is, if he’s stayed out of trouble as he usually does.”
Katt and Dawg finally reach the outskirts of the Black Mist Forest and they approach Thomm’s hideaway, well hidden in the thick foliage up the trees. Sure enough, a huge bird can be seen on top.
It takes the Katt only a moment to climb up the tree, retractile claws having more uses than just as weapons. Thomm happily hugs his Flyer, but then realizes Phydo is still on the ground “What you waiting for Dawggy? come on up!”
“Confound it, Katt! We Dawgs don’t climb trees. Help me up!”
“You climb all right when you have a Mysse horde behind you. Here, take this rope!”
Clumsily but decidedly Phydo makes it up the tree where he sits on a thick branch, sweating and panting. Thomm’s tree hut is well concealed among the leaves. It is modest but it does the job of keeping them from being seen from below and giving them shelter.
Glider the Flyer is obviously glad to see his master, and he coos and cackles around him.
“All right Dawggy, let’s stay here for what’s left of the day. You look like you could use some rest. I have some edibles stashed in my hut so let’s get supper ready, and first thing in the morning we start for Kattsville. Flying, of course,” he adds mischievously.
“Aye, you mean Katt, but let me state that although the tree tops are no decent place for a Dawg to be, I feel so tired I would sleep tight even in a Mysse lair.”
Night falls over the Black Mist Forest. High up the tree tops a loud snoring can be heard; inside Thomm’s tree house a young Dawg sleeps tight. Outside, Thomm sits on a branch and stares at the stars. He can see a tiny dot of light which doesn’t move across the heavens as the others do, but rather stays fixed in place. He sighs, gets up and goes to sleep as well.
Kittens run around the Flyer as it lands in the middle of Kattsville, they are small fur balls, and they dance and shout, “Thomm’s back wit’ a Dawg!”
The village itself is not very large, as Katts are not fond of crowded and enclosed habitats. Grown-up Katts avoid looking directly at Phydo, but the fur on their backs is up and low growling and hissing can be heard. Definitely, Katts don’t like Dawgs too well.
Thomm gets off the Flyer, widely grinning and making a big show of how happy he is to be back. Phydo gets off, too. But he just looks like he’s trying to be invisible. Dawgs don’t like Katts much either.
Soon a couple of unfriendly-looking Katts come over and address Thomm.
“So you’re back, you scoundrel. You’ve got some nerve! And look at the company you keep!”
To Phydo this kind welcome is news. Although he doesn’t understand the Katt tongue, the animosity is clear. It never occurred to him Thomm might be a wanderer by any other reason than his own restless soul.
Thomm however, doesn’t seem in the least baffled by such unfriendliness.
“Hello to you, Puss Longtail. How is your daughter?”
The other Katt has to bodily contain Longtail from attacking Thomm.
“Don’t abuse your status as the Patriarch’s son, Thomm Sharpclaws; our patience has a limit. Go to your father now; the council awaits you.”
“Follow me, Dawggy, we’re going to visit daddy,” says Thomm in the common tongue to Phydo.
The council room is in a big wooden building (as are all in Kattsville) in the middle of the town. Phydo is intent in not staring at anybody as they make their way to it, but with the corner of his eyes he notices the sensation Thomm’s return is making among his fellow Katts. They have already a small crowd following them. Curious as Katts, you might say.
On a high chair in the center of a big room sits an old Katt, full of dignity and self-assurance. His fur is a silver hue, as Thomm’s is. Around him, sitting in a circle of lower chairs, there are other Katts. Some seem angered at seeing Thomm; others smile at him.
“Welcome back, Thomm Sharpclaws,” says the Patriarch in the harsh and hissing Katt tongue. “Although it is not a written law, you know we are not fond of other Sentient People visiting our habitats unannounced. Who do you bring along, and why?”
“May your claws be always as sharp as your mind, o Patriarch . I have with me Phydo of Kannis, former priest of the Dawg hierarchy and now runaway from said hierarchy. He and I have a wondrous tale to tell. A tale about Man, about the Stairways to Heavens and many other wonders. But let my friend here tell the tale himself.”
The Patriarch turns to Phydo and for the first time acknowledges his presence in the room. He speaks in the Common Tongue: “Be welcome, Phydo of Kannis. My son Thomm speaks of dire wonders, but he has always been prone to exaggerating. Let me hear from you what you have to say.”
Phydo bows deeply and speaks for the first time. “Allow me, o Patriarch, to thank you for your hospitality. What your son says is by no mean an exaggeration. If anything, he falls short of the real tale. If you have the patience and interest, I shall tell our story.”
It is mid-afternoon when Phydo and Thomm finish their tale. None of the Katts has moved from the room, and the crowd watching and hearing from some distance away seems to include now every Katt in town.
The Patriarch rises from his chair and every Katt in the room seems to understand the hearing is over, and they leave excitedly chatting among themselves. “Come with me, Phydo and Thomm,” says the Patriarch as he leaves the council hall to a smaller room behind it.
“A most interesting and hard to believe tale you tell, boys, legends of long ago come alive in your words. Would it be too much asking for any proof thereof?”
Thomm looks offended at his father’s lack of trust but Phydo only smiles and says, “Certainly my Lord Katt, I would also find my tale hard to believe had I not lived through it.” And in so saying he produces the tablets that Adam, the only remaining Ape, gave him.
“Behold, my lord, these strange tablets made neither of wood, stone or metal. Try as you might you could not break or even scrape them. And the language therein... ’tis no language of any Sentient People.”
Wonder and amazement show in the old Katt’s face. “Indeed it is not. I am acquainted with all the Sentient Peoples’ tongues, and this one is not one of them. As far as I am concerned it is proof enough of what you say.”
Thomm seems still put off, “I would have liked it better if you had taken my word for it, father. Many things I am, but a liar I am not.”
The Patriarch laughs heartily and in doing so the resemblance to his son becomes more the evident to Phydo. “Son, son, come on now, don’t give me the old hurt look in your face. Let’s talk instead of what you plan to do with this amazing piece of news you carry. I don’t believe for a moment you stopped by Kattsville just to say hello to your old father in spite of the grudges you know some of our maids’ fathers hold against you. Although to be fair I should add it is not the maids themselves who complain.”
It is Thomm’s turn to laugh as he embraces his father “You know me well, father, we are in fact on our way to Kannis, where Phydo here hopes to put some sense into those old priests’ heads and specially into the High Priest. Me, I’m in this for the adventure. No, don’t look at me that way father... I’ve got plenty of time to settle down afterwards.”
The old Katt only shakes his head and smiles. “I only hope you do settle down some time. I would hate to see the Patriarchy go outside the Sharpclaws family, should you never return. Now let me show our Dawg guest some Katt hospitality and let’s have a long overdue lunch.”
Night falls over Kattsville and we see Thomm and Phydo once more ready to travel. They have now two Flyers and whatever edibles they can carry, courtesy of the Katt maidens.
They mean to arrive in Kannis at night, the better to avoid Dawg watch. Phydo says, “If we can reach Kannis’s old drain system pipes in the north side of town unnoticed, we can sneak into town and contact professor Rover in Kannis University. He used to be a teacher of mine, and he has a more open attitude towards matters concerning Man.”
“And what if he turns us in to your buddy the High Priest, Dawggy?”
“I don’t think so, brother Katt. At least not until he has heard what we have to say and seen what we have to show; he is truly a scholar.”
“So be it then. Up, up, and away into the night we go!”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Roberto Sanhueza