Primary Sources: the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 14, Enchanted Wood II: Cats of War!
Carter reflects that he’s happy to be back in familiar territory. Once again he stands in the Enchanted Forest of the zoogs, though there aren’t any zoogs around, because they’re scared of the passage down to the land of the Gugs. Carter traveled through this forest back at the start of the story. Now, here at the approximate halfway point, he once more dwells beneath its spreading branches.
First order of business: disposing of his ghoul escort. They review their options:
1) Go to the waking world, and from there to the ancient cemeteries that touch upon the ghoul kingdom in the Dreamland. The ghouls reject this because they would have to ascend the Steps of Deeper Slumber and pass through the temple of flames, as per Carter’s original entrance. Ghouls and bearded priests named Nasht and Kaman-Thah don’t mix.
2) Open the heavy trapdoor again, and descend the Tower of Koth through the Gug city. This was the ghouls’ original plan, but they reject it as too risky, now that the Gugs are all fired up. That’s why they fled into the Enchanted Wood, after all.
3) Travel to the city of Sarkomand, alluded to a couple of entries back. Sarkomand, an ancient city located below the plateau of Leng, contains a gateway to the underdark inhabited by the ghouls. The downside to this plan is that Carter has no idea where Sarkomand or Leng are, and the ghouls only know how to get there starting from their own lands, not up here on the surface.
However Carter recalls that back when he was in the city of Dylath-Leen, he questioned an old trader whom popular rumor said did business with travelers from Leng. Therefore some connection between Leng and Dylath-Leen must exist, some caravan route or trading ship. Carter tells the ghouls about this, and the ghouls immediately recognize it as their best bet. They shake Carter’s hand, bid him good luck, and make out for Dylath-Leen.
Carter is not sorry to see them go, which Lovecraft feels he needs to explain, since if we were paying attention during the last few entries we might have noticed that the ghouls were extremely helpful to Carter. They sent him a very convenient ladder, they escorted him through their land to his old friend Pickman, they escorted him again through the City of Gugs, they carried him up the Tower of Koth, they killed a ghast for him, and they hauled him out of the underdark! But on the other hand, they’re weird and naked and smelly and they eat corpses, so on balance, Carter would prefer they not be around.
Once they’re gone, Carter can finally drop his ghoul disguise, which is to say, wash himself and put clothes on. It’s night in the forest when he begins hiking to Celephais at last, but before he’s gone far, he overhears the zoogs arguing amongst themselves.
Carter had been avoiding zoog settlements, but he can’t help hearing this debate; the forest echoes with zoog flutterings. He listens in, and determines that the zoog are deciding just how to go to war with cats. All zoogs versus all cats: that’s the plan.
Screw that, thinks Carter. He came to the Dreamlands neutral on the cat-zoog conflict. After the massacre of his zoog traveling companions in Ulthar (the spark of this current conflict, though Carter thinks the zoogs deserved it) and especially after the cats all banded together to save his life on the moon, Carter has picked a side. He’s a cat person, not a zoog person.
So Carter sneaks away to the edge of the woods, where the forest gives way to the farms that fill the Skai river valley. He makes a noise like a cat, until a big ol’ farm-cat hears him and investigates. Carter warns it about the zoog intentions, and cat dashes off, Paul Revere style, to warn all the cats along the Skai, and in Nir, and on into Ulthar, about the coming zoog invasion.
Luckily, says Lovecraft, the moon isn’t out that night, because otherwise the cats would all be scampering around up there. Soon all the cats from the Skai to Ulthar have gathered at the edge of the forest, where Carter meets and greets. He’s happy to see the general-cat that led the attack on the moon, and even more so to see that cat’s grandson, the little black kitten Carter befriended in Ulthar. The kitten has grown up, which reminds us just how long the Dream-Quest has been. Lovecraft gets all twee describing the former kitten: he was a strapping and promising cat now, and purred as he shook hands with his friend. His grandfather said he was doing very well in the army, and that he might well expect a captaincy after one more campaign.
And so Carter and the cats turn and march to war, under the bowers of the Enchanted Forest.
In a way, this is a classic D&D campaign — the players have some over-arching goal they all pay lip service to, but they hare off after every little side-thing that comes along and never really make any progress.