Primary Sources: the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 19, Inquanok
Inquanok is a holy city, full of prayers and hymns and sacred flames from censers. Every so often you’re obliged to stop what you’re doing and pull out a viola or something, and join in a prayer-concert. All these rituals are passed down to the people of Inquanok through scrolls older than the Pnakotic Manuscripts.
Carter’s ship docks, and a pack of longshoremen start unloading it. Carter watches them for a bit, and learns that the Inquanok are a slaveholding society, but that the slaves are not natives to Inquanok (and not possessed of the Great Ones ethnicity) but rather are… okay, midsentence break to apologize for Lovecraft being racist even for the 1930s… squat, slant-eyed folk. I dunno, I suppose that isn’t as bad as the poor guys from Parg. These folk supposedly wander south from the impassible mountains/desert in the north.
Remember the old slant-eyed merchant way back in Dylath-Leen? The one who traded with awful villages in Leng and maybe knew the King in Yellow? Guess who gives Carter the stinkeye, like, first thing when he gets off the boat? Then he slips away, leaving behind only a sense of disquiet.
As per Carter’s usual modus operandi, he has already befriended the captain of the ship that brought him to Inquanok. The captain, a native of the city, gives Carter a guided tour of its streets, plazas, vistas, et cetera. All of Inquanok is a) carved from onyx and b) weird and beautiful beyond words, apparently.
The captain takes Carter to the city center and the great Temple of the Elder Ones with its sixteen carven sides, its flattened dome, and its lofty pinnacled belfry. Lovecraft explains that in the middle of Inquanok is a walled garden, and the Temple is at that garden’s center. Despite the walls, the garden is open to the public, for the seven arched gates of that garden, each having over it a carven face like those on the city’s gates, are always open. There are little shrines, little pools with glowing fish, all of onyx, because everything is made out of onyx.
Carter watches the midday procession of the priests of the Temple; they march out during the viola-laden prayer-concert mentioned above, all in black Sith Lord robes with hoods, holding golden incense bowls. Apparently they march out from the Temple to outbuildings at the edge of the garden, but no one ever sees them marching back the other way. The popular rumor, Lovecraft tells us, is that the priests have secret tunnels. The unpopular rumor, he adds, is that they are inhuman teleporting demons of some kind.
Only the Veiled King is permitted into the Temple, so Carter leaves the garden with his guide. They climb steps in alleys and wind their way up to the king of Inquanok’s palace. Which is onyx. They pass under an onyx arch and through royal onyx gardens. Carter marvels at the onyx terraces… Lovecraft does mention veined black marble statues, great bronze gates, and a basalt-bottomed artificial pool, but plainly this is Onyx Country. Onyx alley of steps. Onyx onyx onyx at this point the word onyx loses all meaning.
Unsatisfied with just seeing the onyx for himself, Carter visits with the onyx-miners in the onyx-mining district of the city, where onyx-minining gets discussed at length over drinks which I assume are ground and fermented onyx poured from onyx pitchers into onyx cups.
Lovecraft is ten thousand times the writer Malory is, but he hits the onyx button a little hard, here. That’s what I’m saying.
Oh, also, Shantak-birds got mentioned before; they are mysterious and unpleasant and probably not the same thing as nightgaunts despite being described in similar terms. Supposedly the king of Inquanok has a Shantak in an (onyx) aviary, but its handlers keep it in total darkness, so they don’t have to look at it.
At last Carter leaves Inquanok, with just a pack-yak for company. He heads northwards, towards the onyx-quarries and the desert and the mountains and Leng and presumably unknown Kadath and the abode of the gods. He figures he’s on the right track, because the peasants he encounters outside the city bear strong resemblance to the carved Elder God face on Mount Ngranek. One peasant might have sat for the carving, in fact, and to him Carter is exceedingly polite and full of good things to say about the Elder Gods. Just in case.
Well, that was onyxpected.