Beneath the Dreamlands
Screams echoed off the Peaks of Thok as a septet of figures plunged through a gate near the top of Mount Teqek, the highest point in the Dreamland Underworld. Fortunately for the six corporeal beings, their spectral seventh companion babbled out a spell to slow their descent in the nick of time. The group came to rest on a pile of loose gravel, slightly rattled but none the worse for wear.
“Where are we?” inquired Heinrich Hanssen, annoyed at the tremor in his voice. The drummer for Deadly Night prided himself on his stoic demeanor. He wasn’t particularly afraid, even after diving through a howling black void for an aoristic amount of time, but he had to admit, even if only to himself, that coming in for a nearly disastrous landing on benighted mountain range with nary a star in the sky was exceedingly unsettling.
“We is at the Peaks of Thok in the Underworld of the Dreamlands,” the spectral Ketil Nagel, former frontman for Deadly Night, replied in a barely audible whisper.
“Well, that would explain the lack of stars,” said Deadly Night’s lead guitarist Leif Madsen. “Abraham! Have you still got that bottle of wine, or did you drop it in the void?”
“Even had I not dropped it, the wine had all spilled out,” rhythm guitarist Abraham Madsen replied. “I think I fucking pissed myself in the void. Dare I ask what that horrible howling is, or will this only inspire me to shit myself?”
“It would be wise ter speak quietly, lads,” said the portly Cockney ghoul, Little John Tamboli, as he picked a piece of intestine from a corpse lying nearby. “That is the bleedin' roarin' of Gugs, and we'd not want them ter catch wind of us. Nor do we wish ter be discovered by the ghasts what hunt the Gugs. I rather fin' the bloomin' Nightgaunts will leef us Jack Jones, as this is where they often brin' their victims ter die, but I can't guarantee it.”
“I trust you’ve a plan for getting us out of here, Ketil,” said Deadly Night’s bassist Octavian Thorn. “I’d not so much mind being in the Dreamlands were I in my astral body but being here physically presents dangers I’d prefer not to spend too much time contemplating. Do you think we ought to make another gate and hope for the best? I am open to suggestions.”
“I've got a suggestion, and I fin' it's a Robin Hood wahn,” Little John said. “Bein' a ghoul and aw, I can lead us through tunnels wite ter jolly old London, or Norway or Sweden if ya prefer.”
“How are we going to get our equipment back?” Heinrich lamented. “I wish we’d never agreed to play that fucking party!”
“Nicholas, you have been very quiet,” Ketil remarked to Deadly Night’s current frontman, Nicholas Quattrochi. “I realize this is an unsettling situation, but we must keep our wits about us. Are you quite well, or have you slipped into a state or temporary insanity?”
“Ah, Ketil, I was simply lost in my thoughts,” Nicholas replied in a gleeful voice that gave his bandmates pause.
“Well, this happens at times. On what were you thinking?” Ketil inquired.
“Simply this, my friend. I have a proposition for you. You ought to take up costume design!”
“An interesting idea. Can we discuss it further once we are off this mountain of fuckery and away from ghasts, Gugs, Nightgaunts, and the like?”
“Why should we worry about such foolishness? Our genius is certifiably sensational!”
“This is not the only thing that is certifiable. Let us discuss it further when we have removed ourselves as potential Gug bait. John, I am thinking a summoning may be in order. You and I would be quite fine to take as long as necessary to amble out of this place, but this fleshy lot will require food and an obedient sort of monstrosity not likely to haul them off into space on a whim without even a draught of space mead as something such as a Byakhee would be wont to do.”
“Can’t we just make another gate?” Octavian inquired in a far more wheedling tone than he had intended. “I don’t mean to seem ungrateful, Ketil. I’m pleased to be away from those scarecrow goblins and their—what did you call them, John? Hampstead Heath, wasn’t it? But this place just doesn’t seem, well, safe.”
“Yah, it is not the destination I had intended,” Ketil remarked. “Sometimes flying off half-cocked has these consequences, I’m afraid. The fact that you fellows are in the flesh creates further complications. But let us not behave as fearful ninnies. We must hatch a sensible plan. Gather around, all, and we shall consider our options.”
“Can we take the one that involves getting out of here the fastest?” Abraham inquired. “It stinks like the bottom layer of chicken shit when cleaning out the coop and it’s humid as fuck. I feel as if I am about to toss my cookies.”
“Fair enough, it is indeed foul as fuck in this hell-hole. I am reluctant to construct another gate at this juncture as my power is somewhat depleted and we could wind up in an even worse fuckery.”
“I can make a gate to the caverns beneath the Dreamlands, Guv,” Little John suggested. “It ain't a perfect solution, but at least we'll 'ave a quiet Drum ter plan our schemes wifaht worry of bein' crept up on by ghasts or devoured by Gugs or plucked Frank Bough by Nightgaunts. From there we can 'ave a pit stop so the lads can freshen themselves up, gather supplies, and 'ave a meal. Then we can continue on ter London or Oslo or wot 'ave ya. I'm at yer service, Mateys.”
“This sounds splendid!” Nicholas declared enthusiastically. “Ketil, you and I can seek out some exotic cloth for our costumes! I relish this plan, John! Let us enact it with haste!”
“Yah, you is suffering a dreadful case of panzaism,” Ketil noted.
Journey Beneath the Underworld
Happy to be of service and show off his magic skills, Little John took a piece of invisible chalk from his pocket. He drew mystical sigils on the black mountain, chanted while waving his arms in an exaggerated fashion, spun about thrice, and tossed a handful of gray-green dust at the arch formed by the sigils. A neon lime glow emanated from the arc, and John ushered his companions through. The ghoul then cast another spell commanding the gate to close within twenty seconds of his entry and dove into a shrieking void the color of key lime pie.
The group emerged from the gate into a gorgeous jade cavern. The living humans murmured in awe as they beheld the beautiful enclosure bathed in mystic light from the glowing wand in the ghoul’s hand. Ketil took Little John aside.
“John, far be it from a simple spook such as me to question the methods of a grand ghoul mystic such as you with your green dust and flashy dance moves, but I has been around the Dreamlands for several decades, and this is a place that I has never seen. Where the hell are we? Are we still on Earth? Or am I to discover that we are beneath one of the moons of Neptune, and if we head for the surface, everyone who is not already dead soon will be? I am not a terribly sentimental chap and I do have an undeserved reputation of being dreadfully evil, but killing off my corporeal chums would be a vast breach of etiquette, don’t you think?”
“Let me crystal the chuffin' air, old china plate. Me reason for twistin' me magic ter brin' us ter this irresistible cavern of splendor was ter give the bloomin' lads a moment of calm. Their disappearance is garn ter make them a cause célèbre. They'll 'ave a fin' or Bo-le Of Glue ter explain, that's certain. So I thought, why not give ‘em a magic moment in the caverns beneaf the Garden Lands just west of Kiran? We're just an 'op, skip, and a jump from the enchanted Do Me Good, China Plate! From there we've only ter take them up the apples 'n' pears of slumber, and Bob's your uncle, Hammer and Tack in the wakin' world!”
“Well, what can I say, you’ve got me there,” Ketil replied with a shrug. “I’d certainly not have thought of coming to this place, seeing as I had no idea that it existed.”
“Just wait Jack & Jill ya clock the rose quartz cavern. A bleedin' manifestation of romantic beauty it is! The taller chaps will 'ave ter crouch a Bruce Lee bit chicken pen we Scapa Fla through the arch, but it ain't a tight in the buff fit ter make a fella claustrophobic or nuffin'. Shall we be on our way, then?”
“Surely. I can hardly wait to be in a romantic pink rose quartz cavern with my mates. What greater affirmation of a fellow’s masculinity and heterosexuality could there be?”
Oblivious to Ketil’s sarcasm, Little John signaled for the group to follow him.
“Just wait Jack & Jill ya clock this Drum, lads!” the affable ghoul declared. “You'll wanna duck daahhhn a bit so ya daan't bash your Crust of Bread on the bloomin' whistle and pop of the archway. 'Ere we are, wot did I tell ya? 'Ave ya ever in aw your days Pearly Queen the loike? I only wish that Robin and Yitzy and Fortune could be 'ere wif us.”
The Rose Quartz Cavern and the Enchanted Wood
The wide eyes of the awestruck men glimmered with reverence as they entered the splendid cavern. Light shimmered from the tips of countless rose quartz crystals. Nicholas Quattrochi bent to examine a pile of fallen stones.
“Can I take these with me or would doing so piss off some angry Earth deity?” he inquired.
“One of the few decent things my father taught me is that one should leave things as they find them in nature,” Ketil mused. “However, this is dust from fallen crystals, and it is unlikely that you will ever again in your lifetime find yourself in this place. I believe you can all take some crystal dust as a memento of the cavern. Then I believe we ought to make our way to the surface. I feel as if I am in the stomach of a sleeping dragon.”
The men gathered up handfuls of the sparkling pink dust, thrusting it into their pockets. When they were finished, Little John led them through a tunnel. They beheld tree roots pushing through the soil around them. The tunnel sloped upward, and after an inclining trek of perhaps 1200 feet, they emerged into the hollowed-out trunk of a massive tree.
“Might we have a brief rest?” Heinrich inquired as the group emerged into the moonlit Enchanted Wood. “While I certainly appreciated the beauty of those caverns and I thank John for taking us there, a glorious forest where I can see the sky and the stars is much more to my liking. I do know of the Enchanted Wood. I know that the Zoogs can be tricky, but would it be possible to stay here just a while before returning to the waking world? You know me, Ketil. At heart I am just a simple bastard who enjoys to play the drums. I do not wish to be part of a cause célèbre. Now I fear that nobody will ever again notice any of us for our music, but only for the fact that we disappeared from that horny fucker Anant Mantovani’s sex party. I feel as though we have only been gone a few hours, but I sense that we are gone longer than it feels. Does this make sense?”
“Yes, and I apologize for my part in making you fellows the center of the wrong sort of attention once again,” Ketil said. “Abraham and Leif were not there at the time of my suicide, of course. It was Pythios, who was later murdered by Åge Niklas Fredriksen, ostensibly for not paying a debt owed, but, in truth, I believe it was simply because Pythios was an insufferable arsehole.”
Octavian sighed, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Apologies to you, Tavi,” Ketil demurred. “I realize that Pythios had been a friend of yours.”
“No need to apologize, Ketil, you are correct,” Octavian countered, gently gripping his companion’s ghostly hand. “At the time of his death, Pythios was an insufferable arsehole. My old school chum was years gone. I do not know if he was always a heartless sociopath and only hid it better in his youth or if he changed with time, becoming such. Either way, his treatment of you was inexcusable, and I believe that had Nik Fredriksen not killed him, I may well have. I was sickened at the way he exploited your suicide to bring infamy to the band, and I was confused at my reaction to his murder. I both grieved my old friend and felt that the bastard he had become deserved what he got. I was for a long time not well and did not know if I would ever play again.”
A Newly Hatched Plan
“Friends, I've a diamond idea,” Little John interjected, a gleeful grin on his canid face. “The Dreamlands exist independent of third dimension nickel and dime. Ketil, wot would ya say ter the idea of roundin' up a few of our Zoog mates and Calvin Klein foodstuffs and we’ll ‘ave a Bruce Lee celebration? After we refresh ourselves and restore our questionable sanity, we can attempt ter summon an 'elpful friend ter reunite us wif Robin, Yitzy, and Fortune. I’m thinkin' a Mi-Go might be the Mae West choice, as Robin's golden dove Betsy seems ter 'ave been abducted by their Hoppin’ Pot. So, Mi-Gos are the most likely ter kna summit of 'er and possibly 'is whereabouts.”
“This seems a sensible enough suggestion,” Ketil agreed. “Fellows, what do you say to spending a little longer here in the Enchanted Wood? We will have to curry favor from Zoogs, an idea which I find somewhat odious, but, there again, I do not care for currying favors or for curry itself. Still, needs must as the Brits might say.”
“We might at that,” John agreed. “Let’s put it to a vote. All in favor, raise yer right ‘and. All opposed, yer left.”
“They’ve all led with their rights,” Ketil observed. “I’m not terribly surprised. While I don’t know Abraham, Leif, or Nicholas very well, I do know that they would not have remained with Deadly Night long if they did not possess a certain thirst for adventure. Very well, let us call upon the Zoogs to join our soiree.”
John pulled a whistle from his pocket and blew a note inaudible to human ears. A pair of creatures the approximate size of moles with powerful claws reminiscent of a mole’s claws scurried from the surrounding foliage. They had long gray-brown fur covering their bodies, long, sharp ears, glowing green eyes, and their mouths were hidden by wriggling tentacles.
The living humans sat back and watched the ghost and the ghoul converse with the forest denizens. Having prior knowledge of the Dreamlands, they were aware of the Zoogs but tended to give them a wide berth as the diminutive creatures had a reputation for being untrustworthy. This pair, however, seemed quite pleased to see Little John.
“Redbush and Maplelight!” the portly ghoul greeted. “It's been quite a nickel and dime. Never mind that, me chums and I are 'ere ter make a weekend of it, and we need your 'elp.”
Ten more of the cunning little creatures scurried from the shadows into the clearing. Their fur varied in color from silver to jet black and sometimes patchwork patterns. Their eyes were mixed hues of green and gold, sometimes with hints of blue or red. Despite their small stature, they were a formidable lot.
“Lads, meet Nova, Redbush, Florian, Maplelight, Frozendale, Goldenbell, Candlejacket, Sugarbell, Treecone, Jellythistle, Mossyspirit, Bramble, and Nightjar,” John announced, pointing to each of the Zoogs in turn. “They are members of the Anthurim Thunderleaf Brigade, and they’re gonna help us ‘ave fun and get the job done. Let’s get this Moriarty started!”
Earth’s Dreamlands are the creation of H.P. Lovecraft along with friends such as Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Frank Belknap Long, and Robert E. Howard, and influenced by such authors as Lord Dunsany, Ambrose Bierce, and Robert W. Chambers.
The Peaks of Thok are mentioned in Lovecraft’s posthumously published story, “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” as well as in his poem “To a Dreamer,” originally published in The Coyote, January 1921.
The Garden Lands and Kiran are mentioned in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”
The Zoogs are a sentient race of mole-like creatures created by H.P. Lovecraft, initially appearing in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”
Ghouls such as Little John Tamboli appear in Lovecraft’s story “Pickman’s Model,” first published in the October 1927 issue of Weird Tales. The titular character, Richard Pickman, appears as a ghoul himself in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”
Gugs, ghasts and Nightgaunts are creatures created by H.P. Lovecraft appearing in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”
Mount Teqek is a name generated using https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/ which I found fitting.
Irresistible Rose Quartz Chance Dive Aortistic- indefinite; indeterminate Affirmation
Design Thing Gorgeous
Top Crouch Reason
Inextricable- in a way that is unable to be separated or disentangled.
Cause célèbre- any controversy that attracts great public attention.
Clear the Air Proposition