Primary Sources: the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 24, WAR
We’re in the home stretch now, believe it or not. Just three entries after this one. I had wanted to get all of PS: DQUK done in May, but such is life.
The black galley, crewed by ghouls and with a hold full of night-gaunts, sets out from the harbor at ruined Sarkomand. Somehow Carter knows how to get the ship from Sarkomand to the barren island which is the moonbeasts’ primary base on the early Dreamlands; they reach it in a single day and night of rowing.
They can tell they’ve gotten close, because they can hear the howling, the terrible noises that emanate from the island. All the ghouls freak out, especially the three who spent time as moonbeast prisoners. Carter and Pickman and the others settle on a dawn assault, so the ship lay to under the phosphorescent clouds to wait for the dawn of a greyish day when the light was ample and the howlings still. The ship circles around the island, looking for the hidden harbor on its south side, which the trio of ex-prisoners described.
The island seems to be all a single great rock, steep cliffs, no other features. But that’s deceptive; there are bulging walls of queer windowless dwellings, as well as likewise easily-missed low railings guarding travelled highroads. Access to the harbor involves getting around a series of upthrust rocks jutting out from the headlands about it, steering carefully through the flume-like strait and into the stagnant putrid harbour beyond.
Inside the concealed harbour, it’s plain the island is indeed a warren of moonbeast activity. We’re talking multiple ships already docked, we’re talking a hundred or more of Lengese slaves loading and unloading crates, we’re talking a small stone town hewn out of the vertical cliff above the wharves. The crowd of workers assume Carter’s ship is just the usual supply run, since it is a moonbeast black galley after all, and the ghoul crew from a distance resembles the Lengese slaves who would normally be sailing it.
Carter, Pickman, et cetera have cooked up the following plan:
1) Dock the galley.
2) Open up the hold and let loose the night-gaunts.
3) Retreat into the harbor and watch the night-gaunts kill or capture everything on the island.
4) Wave at the night-gaunts as they decide they can fly over ocean after all and they all fly back to the underdark, there to feed any surviving prisoners to Gugs or ghasts or whatever.
It’s an optimistic plan! And it pretty much works. The workers onshore rumble with confusion when the galley approaches. Intuitive as ever, Carter [sees] that the motions of the galley had begun to excite suspicion. Evidently the steersman was not making for the right dock. Plus there’s the whole ghoul crew thing, that wasn’t going to get a pass forever.
Hilarious interlude, as the moonbeast solution for dealing with the invasion is to get a great pole and try push off the invading ship, just shove it back from the wharves so it can’t land. Also hurled javelins. However Operation ENDURING POLE does not thwart the assault. The galley gets close enough to open up its hatches and loose the night-gaunts, and then it’s night-gaunt on moonbeast action!
The ghouls row the ship back out into the harbor, and wait a few hours, and then a few more. Day turns to dusk turns to night, and just before dawn a great cloud of night-gaunts rises up from the island and takes off northeast towards Sarkomand. So Carter and the ghouls land the galley again, and spend a day exploring and looting the little town.
Carter finds a temple very similar to the one housing the High-Priest, from whom he fled, complete with a mysterious bronze door which probably leads to strange dark tunnels and the underdark and Sarkomand again, but doesn’t open it or investigate. Some of the ghouls find a warehouse entirely full of rubies, but when the ghouls found they were not good to eat they lost all interest in them. They also find a hogshead of potent moon-wine, which they transfer into the galley with the intention of trading it away in the future.
As the fun of looting winds down, a new ship appears! It’s a black galley, much like the one the ghouls arrived in. It gets as far as the harbor before the moonbeasts and Lengese slaves aboard notice the island had fallen under ghoul occupation, and then the ship turns around and leaves.
At first Carter figures that’s all she wrote, but no, it turns out the black ship circled around to the other side of the island and disgorged an unexpectedly large mass of moonbeasts and Lengese slaves, who march over the top of the island and attempt to liberate the village. They coordinate with a second ship that does the same thing, so, big pile of dudes. The ghouls march up into the island’s interior, to head them off.
Lovecraft spends considerably more effort describing this battle than he does any other previous battles, but we’re winding it up so, let’s just say: long story short, the ghouls win. They have superior numbers and also manage to outmanuever the moonbeasts.
After the battle, Pickman and Carter and the ghouls regroup aboard their ship. They count noses and determine they suffered about 25% casualties. Because Pickman is a gentleman, the wounded ghouls are not killed and eaten (nothing is said about the ghouls who died of their wounds, though).
Rather than stay on the island and maybe deal with another invasion from out that mysterious bronze door, they return to Sarkomand, where they meet up with a few night-gaunts that have stuck around waiting for them.
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