Nyarlathotep's Turbaned Merchants (H.P. Lovecraft's Nyarlahotep)


Not favored by the Master of American Horror himself, who said of it; “it isn't much good; but forms useful practice for later and more authentic attempts in the novel form.”, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is still considered one of his most divisive stories. S.T. Joshi said some HPL enthusiasts finding it almost unreadable and others...comparing it to the Alice books and the fantasies of George MacDonald.” Regardless of individual opinion on it, the story is critical in many regards: It gives further hints on the nature of the mythos, it elaborates on the fate of many of Lovecraft’s former protagonists and villains, and it elaborates on the character of the Black Pharaoh, Nyarlathotep.

The story has (possibly; see my later entry on The Whisperer in Darkness ) the only meaningful conversation directly between Nyarlathotep and another character, that character being Randolph Carter. In their encounter, Nyarlathotep reveals for the first time his role as a servant of Azathoth. To this end, he attempts to send Randolph Carter to the Court of Azathoth, where he may sign his name away in the Book of Azathoth and be doomed.

Much earlier in the story, we are introduced to a unique faction; a group of malformed merchants from beyond the stars that serve Nyarlathotep, whom at one point attempt to deliver Randolph Carter to Nyarlathotep’s base on the moon. Indeed, they are only stopped by the timely intervention of an army of earth’s cats.

This is interesting, as it introduces Nyarlathotep as not only a master, but a servant as well. For all his power, he is insignificant to his master, Azathoth. And, very unusually for Lovecraft’s work, he can be defeated. He does not take losing kindly, and when he loses track of Randolph Carter, he becomes petulant, stealing the Gods of the Earth from their vacation home at Randolph Carter’s dream-city, and brooding over his loss.

This story sheds much light on the nature of Nyarlathotep. Here he is a trickster, one with untenable goals and shady, violent motives. In many ways, he could be compared to a kind of career criminal, complete with his merchant servant’s monopoly selling diamonds that people continue to buy, even knowing the danger they bring. He has servants and organizations serving him all across the universe, and he has no compunctions about putting them off their normal course to bring him what he desires. When he wins, he is proud, and when he loses, he is shamed and bitter.

I’ve decided to extrapolate a little less on Nyarlathotep and focus on a new faction: I wanted to elaborate on the merchants of Nyarlathotep, once more.


The Merchants of Dylath-Leen (Fair)

Aspects: Unnerving, Wealthy

Skills: Resources (+2 Fair), Fight, Intimidate (+1 Average)

Stress: Physical x3, Mental x2

These are a dangerous breed of alien slavers, who drive black ships through the sea, rowed by unseen and abused servants bought from the shores of Dylath-Leen with shining rubies. They are bullying thugs, who take whatever they cannot bargain for, and attempt to talk