He crawls through tunnels again to get to the land of the Gugs, in the company of three ghouls and a headstone (Col. Nepemiah Derby, obit 1719, from the Charter Street Burying Ground in Salem) in case they need to bash something with a headstone, or lever the slab with it.  They emerge in the Gug graveyard, full of huge Gug tombs thirty feet high.  Ghouls visit the Gug tombs regularly, as a dead Gug will feed a whole pack of ghouls for months and months.  Carter now understood the occasional titan bones he had felt beneath him in the vale of Pnath.

Carter and the ghouls sneak past the entrance to Zin, where the Gugs go to hunt ghasts, hoping not to encounter any.  Sometimes the ghasts raid the Gugs, and while Gugs avoid ghouls, ghasts will attack them.  Unluckily for Carter, more than a dozen ghasts choose just that moment to break into the land of the Gugs.  Carter turned sick at the aspect of that scabrous and unwholesome beast, whose face is so curiously human despite the absence of a nose, a forehead, and other important particulars, Lovecraft tells us, neatly avoiding the question of how something without a nose or a forehead or “other important particulars” can look “so” human.

The ghasts rouse a Gug who had been supposed to be guarding the way to Zin, and if you want a description of a Gug I suggest a Google image search for “umber hulk,” that gets you 95% of the way there.  The fifteen ugly hopping monsters and the one really big buggy/hairy monster fight.  They make no sound, as the ghasts are trying to be stealthy and Gugs are naturally mute, but the rumble of their rumble worries Carter nonetheless.

He and the ghouls don’t stick around to see who wins the fight; they press on through the city of the Gugs .  The towering grave-monuments are replaced by towering residences, and the ground is black and hard, not unlike asphalt.  It’s hours of hiking, even if the ghouls insist on setting a fast pace, because the city of the Gugs is just so big.

Finally they come to a truly vast tower, with a mysterious symbol carved over its doorway.  The ghouls identify this as the Tower of Koth, so it’s time to start climbing.  The stairs within were meant for Gugs, and are over three feet high, so it’s an arduous climb.  Carter loses count of how many steps he’s climbed sometime before he collapses and the ghouls have to carry him.

They have to be absolutely silent while climbing. While the Gugs are afraid to open the trapdoor at the top of the tower, lest they be smited by the Other Gods, but there’s nothing sacred about the tower itself.  In fact it’s often used as a sort of trap for ghasts that invade the city; they start climbing and it’s essentially a dead end (the ghasts being too puny to lift the stone slab) so the Gugs can capture and eat them at leisure.  If a a Gug hears them climbing, it will assume they are ghasts, and come to eat them, and then the jig will probably be up.  Even the superstitious fear the Gugs have for ghouls has its limits.

Then they hear the coughing call of a ghast high above them, which is a whole new kind of peril.  The ghouls confer among themselves, and set an ambush with the tombstone.  A ghast comes loping down the steps, the ghouls bash its brains in with the headstone, and they climb the rest of the way to the stone slab without incident.

Then Carter, heroic load, watches as the ghouls pry the stone slab open.  It takes all three of them and it’s not easy, but they manage it, and slowly jack the slab up with the headstone.

The ghouls’ labor is interrupted by the ghast they slew, specifically by the sound of its corpse rolling down the long, long steps of the Tower.  What prompts it to start falling at this point Lovecraft doesn’t say.  But it inspires the ghouls to work ever more quickly, and they manage to make a space big enough for Carter to slide through.  They even haul Carter up and through to the surface, letting him climb up to their rubbery shoulders and later guiding his feet as he clutched at the blessed soil of the upper Dreamland outside.

The ghouls’ original plan was to drop Carter off and then go back they way they came, but the rumbling below suggests that’s a bad plan, so they scramble up into the Enchanted Wood themselves, and soon all four of them, Carter and his escort, sprawl out on the moldy ground.


Primary Sources: the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 13, the City of the Gugs — No Comments

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