Underworld

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The Underworld (Lovecraft's Dreamlands "Hollow Earth" setting, including "Vaults of Zin", "Vale of Pnath", "City of the Gugs", "Cemetery of the Gugs", etc.) first appears in H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (fiction).

In the Mythos

"Tower of Koth", by Sam Shirley

The Night-Gaunts bore Randolph Carter breathless into that cliffside cavern and through monstrous labyrinths beyond.... Soon they were plunging hideously downward through inconceivable abysses in a whirling, giddying, sickening rush of dank, tomb-like air; and Carter felt they were shooting into the ultimate vortex of shrieking and daemonic madness. He screamed again and again, but whenever he did so the black paws tickled him with greater subtlety. Then he saw a sort of grey phosphorescence about, and guessed they were coming even to that inner world of subterrene horror of which dim legends tell, and which is litten only by the pale death-fire wherewith reeks the ghoulish air and the primal mists of the pits at earth's core.
H.P. Lovecraft, Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (fiction)

"The Peaks of Thok" by Lee Moyer

The Underworld is H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands "Hollow Earth" setting, a vast cavern complex beneath the Dreamlands, including the Vale of Pnath, Vaults of Zin, City of the Gugs, Cemetery of the Gugs, and other subterranean locations, with entrances opening in multiple locations in the Dreamlands, and also into the Waking World. The Underworld is home to a variety of strange beings, most notably including the Ghouls, Ghasts, Gugs, Nightgaunts, and Bholes. The Underworld is dimly lit by a grey natural phosphorescence, the "death-fires". (Lovecraft)


Peaks of Thok

An austere and impassive granite edifice of cliffs in the Underworld twilight beneath Mount Ngranek on the Isle of Oriab. The Peaks of Thok are haunted by the Nightgaunts, who guard the Underworld in the name of Nodens, Lord of the Abyss, and carry wayward Dreamers who stray too close to Mount Ingranek into the Vale of Pnath in the Underworld below. (Lovecraft)

Crag of the Ghouls

"Crag of Ghouls" by Lee Gibbons

The Crag of the Ghouls is one of the highest of the Peaks of Thok; Caverns on the Crag open into the Tunnels of the Ghouls, and Ghouls toss refuse from the cliffs into the Vale of Pnath below; one can locate the Crag in the dark by the clattering of the well-gnawed, dry bones cast off by the Ghouls, and those conversant with ghouls might, with luck and diplomacy, call to these creatures to let down a rope ladder allowing an escape from the Vale. The climb up to the cliffs where the lowest entrance to the Tunnels of the Ghouls can be found is high over the Vale, a climb that seems to take hours in the darkness of the Underworld. (Lovecraft)

Vale of Pnath

"Vale of Pnoth" (sic) by Mark Poole

The lightless Vale of Pnath, where crawl and burrow the enormous bholes, which no man has seen and which are known only by dim rumour from the rustling they make amongst mountains of bones, and the slimy touch they have when they wriggle past one; it is fairly likely that the Vale was the spot into which all the Ghouls of the waking world and Dreamlands alike cast the refuse of their feastings. (Lovecraft)

Tunnels of the Ghouls

The Tunnels of the Ghouls honeycomb the Peaks of Thok at the Crag of the Ghouls, and are home to those creatures, who live in burrows there among the loot of the Waking World's tombs and graves, including bones, gravestones, coffins, rags, and corpses, which the Ghouls make into feasts whatever can be gnawed, or into their furniture and decorations if they can, or simply cast into the Vale of Pnath below if they have no other use for it. (Lovecraft)

Vaults of Zin

"Vaults of Zin" by David Day

The Vaults of Zin is a huge cavern complex in the Underworld. It lies near the cemetery of the Gugs and opens onto a large cave that is the mouth of vaults of Zin, and the vindictive Ghasts are always on watch there for those denizens of the upper abyss, for the Vaults of Zin border both on the surface world above, and on the Cemetery of the Gugs, where a single gigantic Gug corpse can feed a community of Ghasts for a year; the Ghasts otherwise eat Ghouls, and even each other. On the Plateau of Leng, a well in the heart of an ancient domed temple-monastery dedicated to Nyarlathotep opens onto the Vaults, and is where the temple's sacrifices are disposed of, feeding the Ghasts. (Lovecraft)

City of the Gugs

"City of Gugs", by Paul Prof Herbert

The gigantic, hairy Gugs once dwelt in the Enchanted Wood where they raised rings of standing stones for sacrifice to Nyarlathotep and captured and ate hapless Dreamers, until the Gugs were banished to the Underworld for some nameless offense against the gods. Now the Gugs dwell in a gigantic cavern of the Underworld, where they have built huge, windowless towers of black basalt into the frightful City of the Gugs, and feast only on the filthy and loathsome Ghasts, while dreaming of the day when the Gugs might be released from the Underworld and taste the flesh of mortal men once again. The Tower of Koth in the center of the city is the mightiest of the Gugs' towers, with a spiral staircase inside which leads all the way up to the surface of the Dreamlands in the Enchanted Wood, through a heavy stone trapdoor inset with a large iron ring. (Lovecraft)

Cemetery of the Gugs

"The Great Abyss", by Lee Moyer

A barren, empty place in open twilight between the Vaults of Zin and the looming round towers of the City of the Gugs stands the Cemetery of the Gugs: a forest of vast, lichened monoliths reaching nearly as high as the eye could see and forming the modest gravestones of the Gugs. Travelers in the Cemetery should beware, for the Ghasts lurk in the Cemetery, where they will dig up the corpses of Gugs to eat, for a single Gug can feed a Ghat community for a year, though the voracious Ghasts would not hesitate to make a snack of a careless Dreamer. (Lovecraft)

Great Abyss

The Great Abyss is a realm that lies below the ruins of Sarkomand, and is possibly a massive cavern that joins with all parts of the underworld. It connects with the upper Dreamlands by a stairway in Sarkomand. The Abyss is ruled by the god Nodens, who is served by the Nightgaunts. Nodens' influence seems limited in the underworld and does not appear to extend much beyond the Abyss itself, except perhaps to Mount Ngranek on the isle of Oriab, whose upper slopes are guarded by his Nightgaunts. (Lovecraft)

Temple to Nodens

The Temple to Nodens at the Great Abyss, a windowless one-roomed building of black masonry, whose inner light pours out of the entrance into the surrounding void of darkness like a beacon; it is the largest of several similar shrines to the Elder God which stand in the Underworld. See Nodens for more details. (Chaosium and Keith Herber?)

Plain of Ghouls

The Plain of Ghouls is an upper region of the Underworld. This is where ghouls dwell while in the Dreamlands, laying very close to the borders of the Waking World. On this Plain is built a mockery of an earthly human village of buildings in an antique New English or English style: cottages of blocks of leprous Underworld stone, grave stones, coffins, and stacked bones, with lawns of mold and lichen, fungi like trees, little garden pools and fountains watered by dripping stalactites and stocked with blind ablino cave-fish, and a hilly meadow where nameless cave-things graze. In the houses are tables built from coffin-lids, which are regularly set for ghoulish feasts and other subterranean romps. On the Plain of Ghouls stands the House of Shuggob, a curious cottage made of crumbling gray stone, surrounded by a lawn of mold and lichen with hedges of mottled fungi, and in it dwells the ghoul sage Shuggob. Richard Upton Pickman in Ghoul form has also made his home here, a cottage he has built into a sort of artist's loft, filled with unspeakable "canvases" painted with lurid and hellish things that only Ghouls could find beautiful. (Chaosium?)

Sea of Pitch

A vast ocean of a gooey tar-like substance. The sea is difficult to cross, for any vessel launched onto its surface will become mired in its sluggish waves. (Chaosium and Keith Herber?)

Sea of Bones

That portion of the Vale of Pnath which is covered by layers of bones deposited by the ghouls is known as the Sea of Bones. Here dwell many of the hideous Bholes which burrow through the bones in search of prey. (Chaosium and Keith Herber?)

Cavern of Columns

Between the Seas of Bones and Pitch is a region of the Underworld where the ceiling has come low enough to be visible. In this great cavern are many stone columns formed by the union of stalactites and stalagmites, and between these columns are deep pools of black water. (Chaosium?)

Fungus Forest

A vast stretch of obscene fungoid growth which lies north of the Vale of Pnath. Delicate pale filaments stretch everywhere, bulbous fruiting bodies and ragged huge toadstool caps dot the putrid soil, and some of the fungus growths are gigantic phosphorescent cylinders, as tall and thick as the Waking World’s sequoia trees, and are often infested with shelves of parasitic fungus and burrowing insect-maggots. (Chaosium and Keith Herber?)

City of the Whisperers

Eastward across the empty plains of the Vale of Pnath stands the City of the Whisperers. The city, like the sur- rounding landscape, stands in darkness, but not in silence, for any who approach the city might hear whispering voices speaking incomprehensible but sanity-shaking words; who the whisperers are is unknown, for they stay out of sight, avoiding any light carried by explorers of the Underworld. The city itself is a labyrinthine jumble of broken statuary cemented together like bricks ina wall, with various human anatomical features like heads, hands, feet, knees, and elbows projecting from the walls; the buildings have to doors or windows aside from round openings near the tops which are just big enough for an ill-advised explorer to try to crawl into. (Chaosium?)

Pit of Unknown Things

Even deeper than the Vale of Pnath lies the Pit of Unknown Things. Here resides the foulness that is Abhoth. On this nethermost region of the Underworld, the putrescent Outer God spews forth his children — the so-called "unknown things", creatures which are constantly at war with the Bholes, as each side feeds upon the flesh of the other. The Pit of Unknown Tings may border on Y'Quaa in the waking world. (Clark Ashton Smith?)

Caves of Life

At the furthest southern tip of the Land of Zar can be found a hidden tunnel from the sea; the mouth of the tunnel is large enough to admit a medium sized ship. The tunnel leads deep under the island and eventually opens upon a vast cavern, the fabled Caves of Life, which contains a phosphorescent blue sea extending as far as human eyes can see, and out of this sea rise countless obsidian pillars which tower up into the darkness and support the roof. Ruins lie on the edge of the sea, and beyond those ruins are tunnels that run deep below the surface into the Underworld, where they are rumored to contain items allowing one to see into the future, and pass into forbidden regions of dream. (Chaosium?)


Heresies and Controversies

  • The Tunnels of the Ghouls open onto Midian, a paradise city of the Ghouls. (YSDC, borrowed from Clive Barker)
  • Sterile Lake, a stagnant lake lay deep in the Underworld, and is said to be the home of Ghadamon. (Chaosium?)
  • Ruins of Lost Karoth, in the desolate Plain of Boulders which lay strewn upon the shores of the Sea of Pitch at the Peaks of Thok, at the base of which are carved the strange and grotesque ruins of lost Karoth, resembling nothing so much as a series of titanic mausoleums infested with slumbering Vampires; it is said that a long spiral staircase climbs up to Zura. (Brian Lumley?)
  • Luz, Downs of D'Haz are a network of filthy caverns said to lie beneath near the Vale of Pnath, infested by the Lords of Luz, Halflings of D'haz, the Tick-Men, the Dhole Ant-Lions, and Url Worms, which are locked together in a bizarre and unspeakable reproductive cycle dependent on the corpses of Bholes and on human captives. (Brian Lumley's "Augeren (fiction)")
  • Other Denizens of the Underworld: Other denizens of this region include strange creatures known as Pitch Spiders which live on the sluggish Sea of Pitch which any who would cross the sea should beware; there is little life in the desolate Plain of Boulders, but occasionally the Running Thing passes through; Goblins infest the Fungus Forest; in the pools of the Cavern of Columns lurk Tentacle Monsters; the Vale of Pnath is haunted by the fearsome Dhole Ant-Lions. (various, mostly Chaosium?)


Associated Mythos Elements


References