Primary Sources: the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 3, the Enchanted Wood
This first stop of Carter’s, the Enchanted Wood, holds a small nation of zoogs, nebulously-described nonhuman sapient entities small and brown and unseen that live in burrows. The Enchanted Wood touches the waking world in two places, says Lovecraft, though he refuses to identify where. Those zoog-haunted zones are full of missing persons, vandalism, all kinds of negative stuff. Mostly zoogs eat mushrooms, which grow in the woods in abundance, but sometimes they go for meat, and sometimes people who go into the woods don’t come out. So they’re sort of mischievous squirrel-folk.
Carter fears no zoog, though. He’s dreamed of this forest before, considers himself an old hand at Enchanted-Wood-walking-through, and knows the fluttering language of the zoogs. On a previous adventure of Carter’s in the Dreamlands, the zoogs helped him find the splendid city of Celephais in Ooth-Nargai beyond the Tanarian Hills. Celephais, Lovecraft tells us, is ruled six months out of the year by King Kuranes, a fellow-dreamer whom Carter knows or knew in the waking world. Also, yesterday I mentioned only one guy had been to Dreamlands outer space and came back sane? Kuranes was that guy. File that one away for future reference!
Carter wanders through the forest, fluttering as he goes, but doesn’t hear back from any zoogs. He remembers that their main village is in the center of the forest, in a big circle of mossy stone, and he picks his way there, and flutters until the zoogs come out to talk.
He sees their eyes first. There’s a big mess of them, and they swarm all around him. The young ones try to nibble at him, and the older ones pull them back and offer him their best fermented tree sap (made from a tree that was native to the moon, and served in a hollow gourd) and he asks them about the way to Kadath.
None of the zoogs know anything about how to get to Kadath. They think it’s a bad idea, what with the evil gods and so on, but can’t give him anything solid to go on, not even whether the cold waste is in our dream world or in another. One old zoog has a suggestion: Carter should travel to the city of Ulthar and consult the sole remaining copy of the unbelievably ancient Pnakotic Manuscripts. Lovecraft hints at a whole backstory for the “manuscripts” here, that they were transported from Earth to the Dreamlands when the hairy cannibal Gnophkehs overcame many-templed Olathoe and slew all the heroes of the land of Lomar.
These manuscripts supposedly have all kinds of potentially useful god-related lore in them. And anyway, even if they don’t have directions to Kadath in them, there are plenty of clever Dans in Ulthar, experts on gods and geography and astronomy and so on. One old priest, supposedly, as a young man went with a friend to climb a mountain and spy on the gods and see them dance. He came back and became a priest, while his friend died en route.
Carter makes his way out of the woods and down into the Skai river valley on the south side. Along the way some zoogs trail him, because they’re curious as to how he’ll die, but he doesn’t worry about that. He’s more concerned with giving a certain clearing in the woods a wide berth. This particular clearing contains a big stone slab with an iron ring three feet wide set in it, which presumably covers some kind of tunnel down into the earth, which Carter and the zoogs all figure to be bad juju.
When the hairy cannibal Gnophkehs overcame many-templed Olathoe and slew all the heroes of the land of Lomar?
Many Heroes of Lomar knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Gnophkeh that day, I can tell you!