Lovecraft describes the vast trading city of Hlanith as follows. Fast Facts! Hlanith!
1) It’s at the mouth of the Oukianos river and on the Cerenian Sea.
2) It’s a dull city, all granite walls and A-frames and the wharves are made of boring ol’ oak instead of jasper or beryl or anything cool.
3) In fact, it’s so boring that the folk of the Dreamlands consider it to be a cultural desert; the people here are very similar to those in the waking world, and the only reason to go to Hlanith is to trade with their artisans.
Carter wanders Hlanith for a day. He stops in the rickety old sea-taverns, full of rickety old mariners, and asks about Inquanok. The rickety old mariners can tell him some tales of Inquanok, but nothing he doesn’t already know.
The next day, at sunset, the galleon sets out across the sea, heading east towards Celephais. Near sunset of their second day out from Hlanith, the lookout spots land in the distance, specifically the land of Ooth-Nargai and the big mountain Aran, the snowy peak and its ginko-trees swaying on the lower slope.
From there it’s a short distance to Celephais. The galleon puts into port just as dusk ends, and while Hlanith is boring-town, Celephais is full of awesome stuff.
1) Minarets, marble walls, bronze statues, a big stone bridge over the Naraxa river, asphodel gardens, and the Tanarian mountains in the distance.
2) Asphodel, I had to look this up, is a kind of lily you find in Greece and places adjacent to Greece (or that engage in sufficient international shipping). Supposedly the underworld is just one big field of asphodel lilies, and Persephone wears a garland of them in lieu of a crown.
3) The Tanarian mountains are crazy magic mountains full of secret ways from the Dreamland to the waking world and other, more exotic places also.
4) Ships come in to Celephais from all over the Dreamland, including outer space and the sky. Carter’s galleon flits into harbor past a flotilla of painted galleys from Serannian, which is apparently basically Cloud City on Bespin.
5) People don’t age in Celephais because Celephais is just that awesome. Nothing tarnishes or wears out and you never see a gray hair in Celephais, either.
Of course Carter’s main concern is finding an ancient tavern full of traders and sailors. Carter gravitates towards rickety old mariners like a moth to flame. You could plunk him down in Flagstaff or Tulsa and somehow he’d find the dimly-lit old bar full of crusty retired longshoremen.
Carter checks out all the dockside taverns, looking for new information about Inquanok. He learns that the next Inquanok freighter won’t be arriving in Celephais for a fortnight, and hears new stories, rumors and legends, because he just can’t get enough of that stuff.
He finds a Thorabonian sailor who used to work in Inquanok, at an onyx quarry. This guy can confirm there’s a way north from Inquanok towards Leng, if not up to Leng itself. High unfriendly mountains surround the horrible plateau of Leng, he says, and there’s a desert around those mountains, but if you go down from Inquanok into the desert, and then around the mountains, you can get into Leng by a back way.
He has zilch to say about the precise relationship between Leng, its desert, and the cold gray waste of unknown Kadath, but it’s still the best lead Carter has.
Since he’s got some time to kill, Carter heads to the turquoise temple on the Street of Pillars and checks in with the High-Priest of Nath-Horthath, the greatest spiritual authority in the city. Just like Atal in distant Ulthar, this priest tells Carter his quest is a poorly-conceived one. The Great Ones of the Dreamland enjoy the protection of the Other Gods from Outside, and if they’ve decided to steal away Carter’s sunset-city, they aren’t going to appreciate his busting in on them in their home.
Carter, undaunted, checks in with the boss cat of Celephais. He relays the passwords and secret signs he was given after the battle of the Enchanted Wood, and the old cat fills him in on the men of Inquanok, on whose dark ships no cat will go.
Long story short: Inquanok is a dark place. We’re talking eerie magical darkness, here, none of your lousy grade-school darkness. The darkness of space! And cats hate the darkness of space. The cats aren’t sure if that magical darkness was exuded out from Leng, or if it comes from elsewhere, but they know it’s unwholesome.
Next time, Carter checks in with a third local expert, King Kuranes of Celephais! Will he also tell Carter this whole “dream quest of unknown Kadath” thing is a bad idea? Tune in and find out, as the Season of Lovecraft reaches its approximate halfway point!