No More Worlds to Conquer — a Vignette (Fiction)

No More Worlds to Conquer

Cleaning the barrel of the age-old weapon he bore, Gossil looked out over a tattered but triumphant army and a field of the dead, some of his own men lying on that shattered ground among the rot-green remains of abhuman horrors. Seeing the young men newly blooded boast over achievements or weep over comrades fallen, he remembered the fury and confusion of his own first battle, screaming with his tribesmen as they charged a horde of clawed monsters. Looking back at those days, he shook his head in rueful wonder; then, his people had possessed (as he now saw) little more knowledge than the beasts, clad in hides and wielding stone-shod spears and copper daggers in their battles. He himself had been discontented, after hearing campfire tales of the builders of the Great Road and the Cities of olden days; ever pressed to strive for, or at least to understand, the marvels of old, for his people walked among wonders and the ruins of wonders.

The hulks of ancient cities, and the wrecks of vehicles vast as cities, lay scattered along the stretch of the mid-lowlands which was the territory of the tribe. Enormous constructions whose purpose they could not guess stretched toward the sky, or more often, lay tumbled in ruin upon the rocky ground. And above all these wonders of men, there rose the Walls of the World, colossal ice-crowned cliffs that marked the Valley’s rim. The eye was drawn up rows of lesser hills (which in any other age of Earth would have been called mountains), up past tier upon tier of plateau and terrace with the scraggling high cliff-forests growing upon them, up to the forbidding cliffs themselves without leaf or life, the colossal basalt fortress-walls of the Great Vale whose crowns rose to airless heights. To most who looked on them too long, they were things to daunt the mind, even crush the spirit, with their dead immensity. To Gossil in his youth, they had instead been a wordless challenge. These were not the work of man, true, but the Great Road stretched down them, an unfading symbol of the achievements men had once been capable of. Walking among such relics, one could either utterly despair of gaining once more the heights of old, be fired with a passion to rediscover past glories, or avoid thinking of the matter altogether – there was no other course.

Somewhat sadly, he remembered that youthful fire that had marked him out among men who did not share it; it seemed he had lost much of his inspiration over the long decades, though he had achieved so much of what he had formerly dreamed. He wept silently, tears running down his face and falling to the pale sands. The tower of the Redoubt already began to rise, made from a metal imperishable beyond the power of even his mind to fully grasp. And yet it was not enough. Humanity had, in times of old, inhabited the whole of a world so vast that the world he had conquered was only a little crease in its skin; and legends, even in these latter days, yet told of ages when the ships of men had crossed the voids between worlds and suns. Even if the fortress-home they were now building could stand for ever, as assuredly it would not – much that was lost could never be regained. Airless ice covered the elder lands of mankind, and the crimson Sun lit planets that bore the graves of colonies lost so long ago that their names were forgotten. The sun that was now burnt so low, the mined-out earth, the barren lifeless surface of the planet itself – none now held enough energy to go even over the surface of the lost upper lands, much less to the frozen corpses of the Sun’s other children or the unthinkably distant cinders and coals that once were stars.

Shaking off his reminiscences, Gossil raised the weapon that doubled as his staff-of-office and began to direct his men’s reorganization and return to the great camp outside the rising Redoubt.

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Using Night Land elements in gaming (pt. 1 – Call of Cthulhu)

Disclaimer:The Call of Cthulhu RPG is by Chaosium.  Nothing here is for profit or intended to compete in any way, and if Chaosium ever releases a Night Land supplement, I’ll take this down.

CREATURES

Bloodsucker

STR 6D6+5 (26)
DEX 3D6+2 (12)
CON 4D6+5 (19)
INT 2D6+2 (9)
POW 3D6+2 (12)
APP 1D6+3 (6)
SIZ 3D6+6 (16)

Hit points: 18
Damage bonus: +2D6
MOV: 10

Claw 70% Damage: 1D4+2D6
Bite 30% Damage: 1D4+2D6+Blood Drain

Skills: Spot Hidden 25%, Tracking 35%

Armor: 4-point tough hide.

SAN Loss: 1/1d8

NOTE: When a bloodsucker hits with its bite attack, it drains blood. This reduces the opponent’s effective STR by 1D4 for a day.

DESCRIPTION: The Bloodsuckers are some of the vilest human-derived monsters, tall and four-armed with vampiric mouths.  They are powerfully built, with immense strength: the strongest men cannot equal them, and they can bend the hardest metal.
Fourteen-legger

STR 3D6+5 (15)
DEX 3D6 (10)
CON 3D6+3 (13)
INT 1 (1)
POW 3D6 (10)
APP 2D6 (7)
SIZ 4D6+6 (20)

Hit points: 17
Damage bonus: +1D6
MOV: 8

Gore 25% Damage: 1D8+1D6

Skills: None

Armor: 3-point chitin.

SAN Loss: 0/1

…there came very quick, a great and ugly thing, that had an ugly way of putting down the feet, and did have seven feet to each side, which was very strange; and the back was as that it were horny, and the belly of the thing did seem to brush heavy upon the earth, and it grunted, as it went, and shook the earth with the weight of it; so that a monstrous noise came from it, upon so hasty a journey.” – Ch. 9, “The Dark Pyramid”

DESCRIPTION: The Fourteen-legger vaguely resembles an enormous, spiky woodlouse with loosely fitting plates. They are hunted by groups of Humped Men, but sometimes kill their assailants.

Giant Slug

STR 6D6+6 (27) … or more
DEX 3D6 (10)
CON 3D6+3 (13) … or more
INT 1 (1)
POW 3D6 (10)
APP 2D6 (7)
SIZ 6D6+4 (25) … or more

Hit points: 26
Damage bonus: +2D6
MOV: 6

Slam 70% Damage: 3D6+2D6

Skills: None

Armor: 7-point tough hide.

SAN Loss: 0/1d6

Giant Slugs are huge, slithering creatures that live in the gorges and slopes.

Giant Spider

STR 5D6+6 (23)
DEX 3D6+2 (12)
CON 3D6+5 (15)
INT 1 (1)
POW 3D6 (10)
APP 2D6+2 (9)
SIZ 8D6+3 (31)

Hit points: 27
Damage bonus: +2D6
MOV: 8

Claw 60% Damage:1D8+2D6
Bite 35% Damage:1D6+2D6+Poison (POT 10)

Armor: 6-point chitin.

Skills: Hide 50%

SAN Loss: 1/1d10.

And the body was bristled with the great hairs, and poison did seem to come from them, and to ooze from them strangely in great and shining drops.” – Ch.7, “The Night Land”

Yellow Spiders are monstrous creatures that dwell near fire-holes. A Yellow Spider has a body ten feet long and is over 30 feet across, including the legs. Its forward legs end in powerful pincer claws, and its body is studded with long spines.
Grey Man

STR 4D6+3 (17)
DEX 3D6+2 (12)
CON 3D6+3 (13)
INT 1D6+5 (8)
POW 3D6+4 (14)
APP 1D6+3 (6)
SIZ 3D6+5 (15)

Hit points: 16
Damage bonus: +1D3
MOV: 8

Bite 50% Damage: 1D8+1D3
Claw 30% Damage: 1D3+1D3

Skills: Dodge 50%, Spot Hidden 35%, Tracking 25%

Armor: 2-point hide.

SAN Loss: 0/1d4

“…it was great, and crept, and was noways coloured but by greyness in all its parts. And the glare from the fire-hole did seem to trouble it; so that it looked, laying its head to the ground, and spying along the earth, in a strange and Brutish fashion; that it might oversee the glare of the fire-hole.” — Ch. 7, “The Night Land”.

The Grey Men are only vaguely humanoid, going on four feet as often as two. Their heads are almost bulldog-like, with immensely powerful, protruding jaws. They are very unintelligent and very aggressive.

Humped Man

STR 3D6+5 (15)
DEX 3D6+2 (12)
CON 3D6 (10)
INT 3D6 (10)
POW 3D6 (10)
APP 2D6 (7)
SIZ 2D6+6 (13)

Hit points: 14
Damage bonus: +1D3
MOV: 8

Club 30% Damage: 1D6+1D3

Skills: Spot Hidden 10%, Tracking 20%

Armor: 2-point leather armor.

SAN Loss: none

And I saw how that the Humped Men did seem to be humpt by reason of their being so monstrous thick and mighty of the neck and the shoulder, as that they had been human bulls. And I saw that they were very strong, and by the speed of their climbing, I knew they were swift…” – Ch. 9, “The Dark Pyramid”

The Humped Men resemble primitive humans, but have enormously broad shoulders and thick necks which give them the appearance of a humped back. Their teeth are enlarged, and they can be very violent and aggressive if they perceive a creature to be prey or an intruder.

Of all the part-human races, the Humped Men are the most truly human. They dwell in the forests of the Land of Seas and Volcanoes in a great basin.

Humped Men are very primitive and savage, and their most complex society is a crude clan or tribe ruled by the strongest member.

Kiln Giant

STR 8D6+2 (30)
DEX 3D6 (10)
CON 5D6+4 (21)
INT 1D6+6 (9)
POW 3D6 (10)
APP 2D6+2 (9)
SIZ 10D6+5 (40)

Hit points: 35
Damage bonus: +3D6
MOV: 10

Slam 90% Damage: 2D8+3D6

Skills: Climb 95%, Dodge 25%, Spot Hidden 80%, Tracking 80%

Armor: 6-point tough lumpy hide.

“…into our hearts, even from that great distance and safety, there stole the terror of those awesome Brutes; and in the Great Spy-Glass I could behold the great joints and limbs and e’en, I thought, the foul sweat of them; and their size and brutishness was like to that of odd and monstrous animals of the olden world; yet part human.” – Ch. 4, “The Hushing of the Voice”.

Kiln Giants are enormous, rough-skinned giants about 18 feet tall, squat and covered with warts and growths.

Night Hound

STR 8D6+4 (32)
DEX 3D6 (10)
CON 5D6+4 (21)
INT 1D6+6 (9)
POW 4D6 (14)
APP 2D6+2 (9)
SIZ 7D6+6 (30)

Hit points: 31
Damage bonus: +2D6
MOV: 12

Bite 95% Damage: 3D8+2D6+knock down

Skills: Dodge 60%, Spot Hidden 95%, Tracking 100%

Armor: 7-point tough hide.

SAN Loss: 1/1d6

A Night Hound is an enormous canine, 6 feet at the shoulder, 12 feet long, and massively muscled.  Its jaws can crumple even the immensely resilient gray metal of Redoubt armor; its cry is capable of striking consternation and terror into a rank of armed men.  Its skin is very tough and highly insulating; even a diskos blow has difficulty penetrating, and will glance off unless well aimed.

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The Biology of the Night

by Affan das Hudfor, Monstruwacan

*Possibly Dangerous Data — For Distribution to Members of the Monstruwacan Order Only*

Dated the 9,235,089th year of the Great Redoubt


Paleontology

We are told that in some time, millions of years before the founding of the Redoubt, when the sun still gave light, there was a huge earthquake which split open a vast fissure in the earth.  This was followed by a vast volcanic explosion: “the earth did burst afresh with a sound that did shake all the cities of the world”, as an ancient record relates. Admittedly, since this explosion was caused by ocean water flowing into the superheated fissure, it might not be considered strictly volcanic. That’s certainly the closest analogy in ordinary geology, though.

We are told that the event caused ” a mist and confusion and rain upon the world”, and “a great mist lay upon the earth for many days, and there was a mighty rain” – but this seems like quite an understatement.  It seems unavoidable that an explosion of that size would horribly damage the Earth’s climate system and lead to a catastrophic extinction.  In fact, it is rather surprising that complex life survived.

Afterwards, the explosion left a massive valley 100 miles deep, bent in an L shape with each arm 1,000 miles long. As the sun began to die and the surface of the earth became cold and lost its air, the valley became habitable.  We are told that there were forests, and that “beasts strange and awesome” lived in it.  It is also implied that the tropical and volcanic climate caused creatures to evolve similar to those in prehistoric times.

Later, the Road Maker culture encountered “Monsters and Evil Things” that prevented them from continuing. The scientists of this culture then performed strange experiments which allowed evil and alien beings to reach the Earth and occupy it.   The sun continued to die, and there were “strange consortings” with those alien creatures, forming worse monsters.  (This is almost certainly a myth of an unscientific age; hybridization between humans and non-solid alien creatures is fundamentally impossible and biologically laughable.)

The Great Redoubt was built to shelter man from the monsters and the evil, alien forces let in by the experiments. As the sun’s dying continued, the Watchers appeared and besieged our Great Redoubt. There were apparently large flying creatures in the Night Land at one point, but as the air thinned, they either died out or moved to lower elevations in the Country of Seas and Volcanoes reported by Naani and her rescuer in a famous report.  Whatever is to be said of its value as a tale of heroism, that report is sadly lacking in scientific detail.  I suggest further exploration into the Land to retrieve biological specimens.

Classification of creatures in the Night Land

The creatures encountered by explorers in the Land can be divided into five categories.

  1. Hominids – these include all the Grey Men, Humped Men, Four-Armed Men, Brute Men, Giants, and other human-derived creatures.
  2. Non-hominid vertebrates – these include Night Hounds, snakes, the Bird-creatures, the Rat-creatures, and probably the Sea Beast met in the Country of Seas and Volcanoes.
  3. Invertebrates – These include Slugs, Scorpions, Spider-crabs, and the Yellow Thing/Giant Spider. The fourteen-legged animal of the Seas and Volcanoes is probably one as well.
  4. Vaporous – The Mist-Men. The Spirits of the Plain of Blue Fire may be of this type, or they may be Evil Forces.
  5. Watchers – There are five Watchers surrounding the Redoubt.  Other overly large monsters, such as the Thing that Nods, may belong to this group as well.
  6. Non-physical – All the Evil Forces, such as the Doorways in the Night, the Tree/Spinning Thing, the Hump of Darkness, etc.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this?

  • Hominids have diversified enormously, producing some forms which seem unlikely under conventional biology, especially the Four-Armed Man.
  • Fish and amphibians are not encountered and thus probably either rare or extinct.  Even in the Country of Seas, no fish were seen.
  • Other vertebrates have probably suffered major extinctions. Even in the biologically rich Country of Seas and Volcanoes, only one bird species is seen – there are no songbirds.  Nor are turtles noted, even in areas that seem suited for them. The only non-hominid mammals are Night Hounds and rats.
  • Invertebrates have increased dramatically in size.  The Slugs especially seem beyond the bounds of what is likely for a terrestrial invertebrate; the Yellow Thing would probably have breathing problems as well.
  • Several completely new categories exist, including the Watchers, and the probably non-biological ‘spiritual’ or ‘non-physical’ creatures.  The latter are beyond the scope of this article and will not be discussed further.

Thus, it seems clear that the mass extinction wiped out all but the toughest vertebrates.  Rats survived easily, and the Night Hounds could be descended either from the extinct dog once kept by humans or the exceptionally tough, omnivorous coyote of those times. The bird-creature is probably a giant descendant of corvids (crows and jays); these were highly adaptable birds, and the large, pointed beak seems to fit corvids better than other adaptable birds known from ancient records or fossils. Snakes could have survived in burrows and by feeding off the rats and arthropods which endured.

The niches emptied by extinction of most vertebrates allowed invertebrates to increase in size and diversity.  The scorpions seen in fire-holes and elsewhere on the Great Slope are smaller than some of prehistoric times, such as the Carboniferous Brontoscorpio; the spider-crabs are likewise a comprehensible size.  The Yellow Thing is not clearly given a size, but it is far larger than a human. While much of this may be attributed to long legs, the creature is still more massive than a human.  This seems to stretch possibility, especially in the thin atmosphere of the Night, since arthropod breathing is inefficient at large sizes; but perhaps the Yellow Thing has more efficient breathing than smaller arthropods and uses little oxygen while waiting in ambush.

Explaining the real implausibilities

The Four-armed Man: There are two implausible things about this creature.  One, it has six limbs, which is very unlikely for any terrestrial vertebrate. Two, it feeds off blood, seemingly an overly specialized diet for a creature living in such a barren environment.  However, the creature exists regardless, and must be explained.
The six limbs can be explained as a mutation – such mutations do occur – but it would normally be harmful.  Interestingly, it seems that the Four-armed Man uses the two pairs of arms differently; perhaps one pair is weaker.

It seems that something about the unusual environment made this normally detrimental mutation an advantage. Perhaps it was able to intimidate predators more easily?  Possibly another mutation occurred, allowing it to use both pairs of arms together.

Alternately, it is possible that the single Four-armed Man encountered was a freak of nature – perhaps even a detrimental condition – and that a normal, two-armed creature of that type would have been an even more terrible threat.
From fossils and old records, it seems clear that the hominids have diversified greatly in only a few million years – short, in evolutionary terms.  There must be a mutagen affecting the area; this would make the mutations involved far more likely, as well as making the evolution of such things as the Grey Man plausible in the relatively short time frame.  This mutagen could come from nuclear or chemical pollution of ancient times.  However, I think it is far more likely that the presence of the immaterial/spiritual Outer beings induces mutations, especially if, as I and many others believe, they are essentially a thin plasma – highly charged.  Thus, perhaps the Evil Forces emit electromagnetic radiation!

As for diet, it’s not clear that the Four-Armed Man lives off blood alone.  Its mouth is somewhat specialized, but it would likely be capable of biting off small pieces of flesh or sucking the meat and ichor out of a large invertebrate such as a scorpion as well.  When there are no hapless adventurers from the Redoubt around, it probably preys upon the smaller, weaker hominids and the abundant invertebrates as well as rats and serpents.  The Four-Armed Man probably fills a similar niche in the fire-hole ecology as lions or leopards did in Africa in the age of the Sun; preying on large animals when available but willing to eat almost anything. (The Four-Armed Man seems to be very strong; while most of the “ab-human” hominids are stronger than normal humans, the report of Naani’s rescuer describes the Four-Armed man as being as strong compared to him as a horse is to a normal man; and he was a very strong man according to tales.)

The Giant Slugs: While the meager descriptions at my disposal don’t give sizes, it is clear that these creatures are very large – they seem to weigh tons.
There is still great controversy over the means a land invertebrate uses to support its weight at such sizes.  Some claim an internally pressurized gas bag, but I subscribe to the “rigid shell” hypothesis.

The slugs are probably not true slugs, but evolved from snails; they must have developed an internal support structure from their shell.  This would be equivalent to the exoskeleton of an insect, but heavier, approaching the form of armor covered only by the shiny mantle flesh. (The “blotches” seen by certain travelers are probably spots where the slug’s motion has made its flesh thinner, and thus the shell inside can be seen.)

The respiration would be a further problem, but fairly efficient lungs of some type seem required.

Vaporous Types: From the few specimens we have obtained, these are clearly true biological organisms, but of a dramatically different type from any other — an innovation at least as great as the development of eukaryote cells, but one that occurred in the very recent geologic past — during what are informally called the “Days of the Darkening”, in the Late Wandering or Early Redoubt periods, c. 10 million years ago.

They are composed of very minute prokaryotic cells, small enough to remain suspended in air. However, they have a great innovation in the form of link-strands, long (on a microscopic scale: up to 150 microns) but exceptionally thin (less than 15 nanometers) filaments that can be used to connect these bacteria and transport certain molecules — including those which act as chemical signals. This allows the entire ‘mist-cloud’ to function in certain ways as a single organism. Even certain genetic processes are shared: full genomic DNA molecules are too large to pass through the link-strands, but methyl radicals can be passed to allow coordinated methylation of genes. Even very small (5-10 base pair) RNA units can be moved between cells.

Some of the largest of these colonies/organisms, over 100 cubic meters and 1000 kilograms wet weight (thus a density of about 1% that of a standard organism), may have a level of organization analogous to neural activity in animals, giving them the equivalent ‘intelligence’ of an insect.

The Watchers: These are clearly living organisms, but they have a lifespan of millions of years, move at the speed of slow glaciers, and are many times larger than the biggest animals in the fossil record – the sauropod dinosaurs of the Mesozoic and the whales of the Cenozoic. This seems very odd on the surface, since our own Thanatozoic has far less biological productivity than those past eras.

They are probably some sort of fungus or plant rather than true animals.  They  grow to such large sizes that the closest analogue would be “clonal colonies” like those of aspen trees or some fungi.

But essentially the closest analogue is a lichen.  Just as a lichen is a symbiosis of fungus and alga that acts as one organism, a Watcher would be a symbiosis of fungus, various small animals living on and within it, and possibly ‘spiritual’ creatures also trapped in its weave.  It may even trap humans and use them as part of its network…

This “lichen hypothesis” is often rejected, but I see no better option.  Certainty must wait until a brave adventurer returns to the Redoubt with a sample of Watcher bio-matter.

Ecology
The great question, of course, is what the energy source for the Night Land ecosystem is. If the moss-bushes are analogous to the plants of our own Great Redoubt, how do they perform photosynthesis?

Well, as for the latter, they don’t.  The moss-bushes reported in the Night Land are certainly not photosynthesizing plants.  They are fungi.

Throughout the Night Land, volcanic phenomena are quite common. Therefore, sulfurous compounds are common in the soil, and a few hundred feet below the surface, great heat will be encountered in many locations. These can form a source of energy for life, through chemosynthesis, an analogue of photosynthesis using chemical energy instead of radiant light energy.

The moss-bushes are in fact clusters of fruiting bodies of a vast subterranean fungus that lives off the geothermal heat and organic compounds in the soil formed by the decay of chemosynthetic life.  This moss-bush fungus most likely has a symbiotic relationship with chemosynthetic bacteria, just as lichens are formed by a symbiosis of fungus and alga, but we have insufficient samples.  So far, no one has volunteered to dig a hole several dozen or hundred feet deep in the Night Land.  We await those willing to take risks for the benefit of science.

The chemosynthetic bacteria themselves probably inhabit most of the Night Land’s soil, though at low densities. They almost certainly use sulfur and iron as their energy source. There is great quantity of iron in the Night Land’s soil.

Another source of energy in the Night Land is provided by the fire-holes.  These support a much thicker density of chemosynthetic bacteria than the general soil of the Night Land, since there is much more sulfur.  In the water pits at the bottom of some of these fire-holes, forms of algae adapted to photosynthesize in red and infrared light have been found.

These fire-holes are often the sources of great concentrations of life.  The algal and bacterial scum is eaten by insects and other arthropods, which are preyed on by snakes* and larger arthropods. An omnivorous rat also feeds on the scum and any animals smaller than itself.  The top predators of these fire-hole faunas seem to be a four-armed abhuman type and a gigantic yellow spider-like creature unscientifically referred to as a “Yellow Thing” in the reports given by Naani and her rescuer.

*In the absence of a physical specimen, it is impossible to determine whether these are true members of the possibly extinct order Serpentes, known from fossils as late as 6 million years pre-Redoubt.

In the reports alluded to above, a “Land of Fire and Water” was described.  With no specimens, however, I can only state that the ambient light must be sufficient to allow photosynthesis, albeit shifted toward the red and infrared end of the spectrum.

On the more extreme end of speculation, it might be noted that this Great Valley was once the bottom of a sea; in later ages a shallow one. Great amounts of biomass would have accumulated and become hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane, butane, and other alkanes and cycloalkanes, forming the unpleasant mixture referred to as ‘petroleum’, used as an energy source as late as the Fourteenth Dark Age. However, it seems that this Valley’s reserves were never tapped. Some deep-soil bacteria, archaea, or other microorganisms may have adapted to use these as an energy source. Due to the immense metabolic differences this would entail, it may be appropriate to classify such organisms as an entirely new branch of life, equal in rank to the Bacteria, Archaeans, Eukaryotes, Vapor-Life, etc.

The Evil Forces

In this all-too-brief summary of the biology of the Night Land, many may wonder that I have made little mention of the dreadful Forces of Evil that so occupy our attention.

This is because, in all honesty, I know little of these beings.  For obvious reasons, close observation is nearly impossible, to say nothing of sampling.

For what little validity it may hold, however, I give the hypothesis subscribed to by many (including myself) that the dangerous creatures that we call “evil Forces” hold no relationship to terrestrial life and are native either to another world or to space itself.  They appear to be composed of thin plasma rather than the solid and liquid components of life native to Earth.

The method by which they destroy the human spirit is best not to investigate too closely, but it is generally suggested that either they somehow absorb the electrically charged particles from a mind, or else the powerful electrical charge of the Evil Force permanently and fatally overrides the weak electrochemical signals which make up the human mind. In either case the mind is irretrievably wiped blank and even its electromagnetic pattern destroyed.

The Powers of Good

I can draw no firm conclusions concerning these beings, but it is often hypothesized that they are of similar physical nature and composition to their evil counterparts, but differing in purpose.

The popularity of this hypothesis, however, is probably due less to its validity than to the almost total lack of competing ideas.

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A Night Land Bestiary

  • This is a summary of all the monsters, creatures, and Evil Forces found in the far-future Night Land, ordered by the chapter in which they first appear.
  • Locations in the Night Land that are not clearly Evil Forces (such as the Seven Lights or the Dark Palace) are not listed.
  • Creatures with an asterisk (*) are never seen by the protagonist, but only referred to.

Chapter 2

Slayers, Evil Forces, Forces of Evil: Generic terms for powerful nonphysical creatures which can destroy human spirits.  Some act to lure people from the Redoubt.

North-West Watcher: Lit by glare from a Red Pit. Said poetically to have existed forever.  Enormous, rugged, covered in warts the size of boulders.

South-East Watcher: Lit by two Torches.

South Watcher: Largest and newest of the Watchers, the largest known monster. It appeared a million years ago and moved toward the Redoubt for twenty thousand years, before being blocked by the Glowing Dome.

South-West Watcher: One eye is lit by the Eye-Beam.

North-East Watcher: A luminous blue ring hangs over its head; also called the Crowned Watcher. Its ear has been seen to quiver.  Can signal the Night Land that men are outside of the Redoubt.

Thing That Nods: Southeast of the Great Redoubt, lit by Three Silver-fire Holes.

Giants: Enormous humanoids, covered in stiff red hair and warts, bigger than elephants. Their eyes shine red and green. They are savage and are known to kill and eat Night Hounds.  Of mixed human and monstrous ancestry. A white and blotched giant is seen in the Lesser Redoubt’s Night Land.  Another type of giant, with claws, is encountered in a fire-hole near the Great Redoubt.

Night Hounds: Dog-like creatures as large as horses. Found in the Valley of the Hounds.  They can crush armor in their teeth.

Strange Things: Peek from the Headland Where Strange Things Peer.

Silent Ones: Appear as completely cloaked figures about ten feet tall.  Said to be unaggressive unless approached, but can destroy or kill by freezing the heart.  Found on the Road Where The Silent Ones Walk and in the Place Where The Silent Ones Kill.

Ab-humans: This term appears to refer to creatures in human form that are not truly human. Found in the Place of the Ab-humans.

House of Silence: Eternally quiet, with a door that is always open.  Can send out evil influences and psychic messages, make spiritual assaults on nearby humans, and block telepathic speech. Capable of destroying human spirits.  The most feared of the Evil Forces.

 

Chapter 4:

Hump: A form taken by one of the Evil Forces; appears as a dark hill.  Capable of destroying human spirits.

 

Chapter 7:

Great Grey Man: All gray, larger than a man. Has a large head. Creeps on the ground, sniffing for prey.

Doorways in the Night: Evil Forces produce a strange humming sound, not detectable by the spirit, unlike most sounds in the Night Land. Can destroy human spirits.

Yellow Thing: A huge spider-like creature dwelling under the sand, with sharp and dangerous spines which emit poison.  Has powerful claws.

Serpents: Small but dangerous snakes; cannot penetrate armor.  Much larger snakes are also seen, said to be “as thick as a man”.

Mist Men: Human-like forms about forty feet tall, made of shining mist.

Unnamed fire-hole monster: Resembles a giant human with oversized eyes and nose.

Spirits: Strange spirits which can be heard in the Plain of Blue Fire.

Scorpion: Similar to an ordinary scorpion, but as large as a man’s head. Considered insignificant in the Night Land.

Flying brutes/Bird-creatures: Large flying creatures formerly in the Night Land; became extinct there because the air became too thin for flight, but some migrated to lower elevations with thicker air. They are ugly winged creatures with a bounding flight. They have a sharp beak and featherless wings, and are “big as the body of a young horse”.

 

Chapter 9:
Humped Men:
Primitive humans with humped-appearing shoulders and large teeth.  They are exceptionally strong, and use sharpened rocks as weapons.

Unnamed fourteen-legged creature: Large animal with fourteen legs and plates and spikes on its back. It is hunted by the Humped Men, but often kills its hunters.

Slugs: Enormous foul-smelling slugs. Most are a wet, shiny black, but one is seen which is “blotched white”. They have long tongues to capture prey, and eat large serpents.

Rat creatures: Similar but not identical to rats; eat the small serpents of the Night Land.

 

Chapter 10:
Shaggy man*:
Dangerous near-human creature.

Spider-crabs: Small crablike creatures; will wait for someone to die, but will not attack.

 

Chapter 11:
Fixed Giants:
Similar to the Watchers.  They surround the Lesser Redoubt.

Squat Man: Very strong, savage humanoid.

Wolf-men*: Very dangerous humanoids found near the volcanoes bordering the Lesser Redoubt’s Night Land.

Spinning/Tree: A form taken by a Force of Evil; a palely glowing tree-shaped thing that emits a sound of spinning. Capable of destroying human spirits.

Yellow Beast-Man/Four-Armed Man: A four-armed humanoid.  Large and powerful, with claw-like nails. It has a strange mouth with which it sucks blood.

Chapter 15:
Sea-Beast:
A large herbivorous animal in the lowlands of seas and volcanoes. It is not a monster or unnatural.

Strange Watchers*: Believed to dwell in the Towers.

 

Chapter 16:
Brute-men:
Savage humanoids with tusked, piglike faces.

Black Mounds: Forms taken by Evil Forces; appear as swaying dark lumps.  Capable of destroying human spirits.

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Earth-Current: Electricity and Life

What does Earth-Current do? Quotes from The Night Land:

The Earth-current is used to provide light and feeds plants:

“And all of that Underground Land was lit, where needed, by the Earth-Current, and that same life-stream fructified the soil, and gave life and blood to the plants and to the trees, and to every bush and natural thing.”

A lack of Earth-current weakened the people of the Lesser Redoubt:

“… and the Earth-Current was weak and powerless to put the joy of life into them; so that they went listlessly; but deemed it not strange, because of so many aeons of usage.

It attracts compass needles:

“But, as ever in that age, it [the compass] did spin if we but stirred the needle, and would stop nowheres with surety; for the flow of the Earth-Current from the “Crack” beneath the Pyramid had a power to affect it away from the North, and to set it wandering.”

Large quantities can kill creatures:

“And lo! even as I lookt that last time unto the Pyramid, there brake out a monstrous bursting flame, that did rush downward from the Sealed lower part of the Mighty Pyramid. … And the Flame made a blast in the Night, and a hotness that did seem to wither me, even where I did be from it. And I perceived that the Humans had truly turned loose the Earth-Current upon the Hounds, that I be saved.

It powers all the Pyramid’s machinery:

“And lo! as I drew nigh unto the Great Gateway, the lights of the Pyramid to begin to glow again more strong, and the machinery of the Lifts and the Air Pumps to work, because that now the Earth-Current did grow once more to natural strength. And they to have power now to open the Great Gate, which did be done by great machines.”

So, what is it?

It is clearly at least partially electromagnetic: it certainly produces a magnetic force when tapped, just as electricity moving through wires produces a magnetic field.  It is used to power machinery and lights, just as we use electricity.  It can destroy and kill when intense.

However, there is more to the Earth-current.  Simple electricity does not produce strength and vigor in living things in the way Hodgson describes.

The solution to the mystery of the Earth-current is to be found in nineteenth-century ideas about electricity.  From the early days of electricity, it was known that animals’ muscles were affected by electricity: Galvani’s experiments with frogs proved this.

This was taken by many to show that electricity was closely connected with, or in fact was, some sort of life-force.  In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the monster is brought to life by a bolt of lightning.

Even into the first years of the twentieth century, electricity was used as a medical treatment – not only in those specific cases where modern medicine recognizes its usefulness, but to cure fatigue or malaise by recharging the body, and for a wide variety of ailments.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Los Amigos Fiasco” is about the first execution by electric chair actually strengthening the victim (because electricity is life).

The Earth and the Current
Unlike ordinary electricity, the Earth-Current is drawn from an opening in the ground.  While the symbolic value is clear (nurturing mother earth), what is the scientific justification for this?

Perhaps it is related to the Earth’s magnetic field, which could theoretically be tapped via induction.  The Earth does have a magnetic field generated by the internal layers (sometimes referred to as a “geodynamo”).  The continual reference to the Earth-Current affecting compass needles might hint that Hodgson was thinking this; however, any electromagnetic force of sufficient strength will affect compasses.
It also does not seem that the Earth’s magnetic field would be powerful enough to run all the pumps, elevators, and other machinery of a habitat the size of the Great Redoubt (and also maintain the Electric Circle and Air-Clog as well, but since we don’t have such technology, there’s no way to know how much power it would consume).  The Redoubt may have amazing energy saving devices (it theoretically can draw on millions of years of technology), but there are still limits.

Possibly the Redoubt does draw energy from the magnetic field, but since it’s not enough, there must be another energy source.  It’s probably geothermal.

The Redoubt sits in a valley 100 miles deep, and is surrounded by various geothermal and volcanic features (the Vale of Red Fire, the fire-holes, and probably the Giants’ Kilns as well).  Farther off, there is an entire Country of Seas and Volcanoes.  Geothermal energy should be very abundant.

The Redoubt’s power plants probably convert this heat to electricity, and the people of the Redoubt just don’t distinguish between the sources of electricity — they’re both from the Earth, after all.

Therefore, this is one of the many seemingly mystical or fantastic elements of The Night Land that actually makes some scientific sense, especially given the science of the time.

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