Primary Sources: the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 15, the Oukianos River Valley
Carter fills the cats in on the looming zoog threat, and the cats are all, yo, let’s take them out premptively! So they do. The cats swarm into the woods, mob the zoogs, demand unconditional surrender, and get it. Lovecraft intimates it takes them all of five minutes.
I’m not sure whether we’re meant to deduce that cats should not be underestimated, or that zoogs are losers. The zoog surrender comes with terms: the zoogs must provide the cats with a steady supply of gamebirds, and the cats get to take a bunch of zoog-children hostage back to Ulthar.
Afterwards the cats escort Carter through the forest, protecting him against any possible zoog reprisals. The old cat general gives Carter some passwords of great value among the cats of Dreamland, and tells him to hook up with the boss cat of Celephais once he’s there. Carter already knows the boss cat in charge of Celephais, but the cat-general’s recommendation will surely enrich Carter in the boss-cat’s eyes.
Anyway. Carter leaves the Enchanted Wood and heads northwards, following the Oukianos River to its outlet at the northern Cerenerian Sea. While the Skai river valley is all homey, with farms and cottages, the Oukianos valley is wilder. It’s no less picaresque, but there’s golden sunlight and dappled this and that and a fey atmosphere.
After a half-day of hiking Carter comes to the jasper terraces of the town of Kiran, where the King of Ilek-Vad grew up. The king still visits annually to pay respects to the river-god Oukianos. Lovecraft explains that Oukianos and the king go way back; the former used to sing to the latter when the latter was just an infant. The temple to the god is a big complex built of jasper stone, with seven towers and a whole caste of cryptical priests, who dwell inside the forbidden sectors of the temple, and who the king only is permitted to meet.
Carter doesn’t stop in Kiran for any length of time, but keeps on hiking downriver. Past Kiran the land is studded with farms, but only on the side of the river Carter walks on; the other side is a thick dark forest. His side has all kinds of peaceful thatched cottages and the shrines of amiable gods carven from jasper or chrysoberyl.
He keeps up a good pace all day, and comes to the river-port city of Thran at dusk. We’re talking a thousand gilded spires, also alabaster walls which are lofty beyond belief with a hundred gates and two hundred turrets, which where wrought in one solid piece by what means no man knows. Impressive, is what Lovecraft is saying here.
On his way into the city, at one of the gates, a red-robed sentry stops Carter and demands that the traveler tell three dreams beyond belief and [prove] himself a dreamer worthy to walk up Thran’s steep mysterious streets. It’s not clear why Thran’s streets are steep, given the city is on a river and surrounded by farmland. Lovecraft mentions that further back from the river the land becomes hilly, but Thran sounds wide and open.
But Carter has been to Thran many times before, and takes for granted the lovely music in the air and the marble fountains and high impressive buildings and towers. He goes immediately to the docks, where he books passage to Celephais on a great green galleon, checks in with a local cat, and turns in for the night in a local hotel.
The next morning Carter boards his ship and sits back while the sailors do all the work of disembarking. The ship sails lazily down the Oukianos river towards the Cerenian Sea, across which lies the city of Celephais. The lower Oukianos valley strongly resembles the upper, with more villages and temples per square mile but no other changes.
Carter bugs the sailors as they work, asking them about the particular ethnicity that matches the graven image of Mount Ngranek: the strange men with long, narrow eyes, long-lobed ears, thin noses, and pointed chins. Carter remembers seeing such men in Celephais, and the sailors can confirm that. They come from further north in dark ships and trade onyx for jade, gold, and tame birds.
One new piece of information: the land of these people is called Inquanok, a cold and twilight land separated from its neighbor Leng by a mountain range. Getting to Leng directly from Inquanok is generally thought impossible, and the sea route involves going a tremendous distance out of your way.
Carter also asks about Kadath and his sunset-city, but the sailors can’t help him there.
Overnight the galleon keeps passing downriver, going through the perfumed jungles of Kied. Carter’d like to stretch his legs there and maybe explore one of the fabulous lost Kied ruins, but the sailors aren’t up for stopping. In the morning they arrive at the mouth of the Oukianos and the seaport Hlanith.
Primary Sources: the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 15, the Oukianos River Valley — No Comments
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