Carter stays for a time in Baharna as the houseguest of the captain of the ship that brought him to the city, and after the captain leaves again without him he stays for a while longer in a hotel in the oldest part of town.  He goes all around Baharna, asking about Mount Ngarnek and the carved image, but no one can give him any information.  Ngranek is a hard mountain with only an accursed valley behind it, also: night-gaunts.  Not that anyone can tell him just what a night-gaunt is, either.

Eventually though he befriends the wizened innkeeper of his hotel, who turns out to be familiar with local folklore.  Carter plans out his expedition with the innkeeper’s help, though the innkeeper thinks the trip is a waste, because he has a picture of the image.  The innkeeper shows it to Carter, a recreation of the carved image made by a traveller who stayed at the inn in the time of the innkeeper’s great-great-great-great-grandfather.  Carter doesn’t think much of it, as the old sketch is crudely made and doesn’t convey much information about the pictures of the dancing gods.

Once Carter has made all the preparations he can, he rents a zebra and sets out for Mount Ngranek.  His path takes him around Lake Yath to the ruins of the old cursed city.  The ground sloping down to the lake is all little farms and chimneys and neat little stone farmhouses, very much like the Skai river valley.  It’s a full day’s ride out to the ruins, where he makes camp for the night.  Folks back in Baharna warned him against this, but does Carter care?  Nah.  He hitches up his zebra, stretches out between two blankets, and sleeps soundly.

He’s up at dawn, and it’s nice: picaresque cracked old pillars, the song of magah birds in distant resin groves, that kind of thing.  But Carter’s morning is ruined when he discovers his zebra was slain in the night.  Apparently by a chupacabra, as all its blood was drained through a neck wound.  His pack has been rooted through, and some shiny knickknacks taken away, and all round on the dusty soil’ were great webbed footprints for which he could not in any way account. Carter wonders whether a night-gaunt visited his camp, or if it was something else, but he isn’t dissuaded: he picks up his pack and starts walking.

He’s relieved once he’s out of those ruins, though.

On the other side of the lake he starts going uphill, passing through a wilder region inhabited not by farmers but by resin-gatherers and lava-gatherers (resin and pumice being the main exports of Oriab, you remember).  He spends the evening with a group of pumice collectors going the other way, coming down from the mountain.  They tell him about how one of their party had climbed to a high place to collect lava there, and not come back down again.  They looked for him, but found only his turban.

Night-gaunts.

Carter described his zebra’s death and how his pack was rooted through that morning, and asks if that’s standard night-gaunt MO, but only succeeds in freaking out the pumice-gatherers.  He ends up going to bed early.

In the morning they tell him he’s better off going with them back to Baharna, but Carter’s got his heart set on seeing that carving, so he can find Kadath, so he can petition the gods in person, so he can once again dream of his marvelous sunset-city.  Carter goes uphill, they go downhill.

On his way up he passes abandoned villages, once inhabited by the hill folk.  Three generations or so back the hill folk decided, en masse, that they weren’t welcome in the hills any longer, and went down towards Lake Yath and Baharna, and became pumice-carvers. As he walks up towards the base of the mountain itself he sees just how big and high and steep and stony and icy it is, and he does not welcome the prospect of climbing it.  It’s all broken ground and old lava falls; Ngranek has been an extinct volcano for ninety aeons, but once it smoked and spit forth fire.

Carter camps overnight at one of the pumice-gatherers’ camps, near an altar constructed either to propitiate the Great Ones or to ward off what they dreamed of in Ngranek’s high passes and labyrinthine caves.  He ties up his zebra, because apparently Lovecraft forgot that Carter’s zebra was killed the night before, and goes to sleep listening to the distant howls of the voonith (an amphibious terror that he’s been assured stays well away from the mountain).

In the morning he keeps going, on zebra-back now, through the ashy scrub forest until his resurrected zebra can’t handle the steep ascent, at which time he ties it up and abandons it.  Then he’s back on foot, and he keeps climbing up through the trees and then through the bushes and then through the grass and then just on the rocks.  When he looks down he can see all of the island stretched out under him, so he doesn’t look down.


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Primary Sources: the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 9, the Oriab Highlands — No Comments

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