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January 28, 2009

lsgl: the story revealed

by sven at 12:01 am

Last year I spent about 170 pages exploring the backstory of Let Sleeping Gods Lie. I feel very good about that work. Before, I was floundering because all I really had was visuals -- I didn't have my story's logic nailed down.

This year I've come to realize that LSGL is no longer an adaptation of At The Mountains of Madness. Rather, what I've done is to create an entirely new story that exists at the intersection of ATMOM and The Shadow Out of Time.

Nothing I've created contradicts Lovecraft's novellas, I believe... But I've taken great liberties in filling in gaps, extrapolating, and contributing new material to the mythos.

Here's an abridged version of the whole shebang. [Spoiler alert!]

1. The origin and tragic demise of the Elders

The Elders came to Earth before there was life here. They used their own blood to create the first species: the giant protoplasmic blobs known as Shoggoths. It is from the Shoggoths that all other species evolved.

The Elders fought several wars with extraterrestrials. During the wars they made the Shoggoths larger, stronger, and more intelligent. At the point of giving Shoggoths intelligence, the blobs were no longer merely biological machines. They became the Elders' slaves.

The Elders' society slowly decayed, and ultimately retreated into geothermally heated caves in the Antarctic. Shoggoth slaves living in the city were able to discover great numbers of runaway Shoggoths living on the ocean floor. The runaways were organized for rebellion.

In one cataclysmic day -- about 50,000 years ago -- the Elders were wiped out. The Shoggoth army combined into a tidal wave that broke through the cave walls and smashed the last underground city.

2. The origin and ultimate escape of the Yith

The Yith are a species that is able to travel through time by telepathically switching minds with other beings. They lived on Earth approximately 200 million years ago... And then, foreseeing their own demise, transferred their minds forward to a species of intelligent beetles that will come after humankind.

Abducted minds are treated as guests in Yithian society, and are able to learn a great deal -- before eventually being sent back to their own bodies with their minds wiped.

It is known that the Yith abducted the mind of at least one Elder: S'gg'ha, the oldest and greatest of the Elders' telepaths.

3. The Elder-Yith connection

Elders have 5-lobed brains. Each creature has five inter-linking, semi-autonomous personalities -- rather like a five-faced Hindu god that has conversations with itself.

When S'gg'ha was abducted, one personality was left behind and was able to mentally spy on the Yith abductor. When the greater part of the Elder's personality returned to its body, the fifth mind was able to help recover memories from 200 million years ago.

Thus it was discovered that some cataclysm awaited the Elders in the future. S'gg'ha began preparations to help save some portion of its people from the coming apocalypse.

4. The secret of the Elders' doomsday cult

Elders eschew all technology. However, S'gg'ha learned the secret to making the telepathic amplifiers that enable Yithian time travel. The Elder secretly began construction of such a machine beneath the Mountains of Madness -- the one place on Earth that its people feared.

[That's another story: about primordial forces that have existed beneath the mountains since even before the Elders' arrival, with whom S'gg'ha communed during the desperate war against Cthulhu's spawn.]

S'gg'ha kept the work secret even from itself, traveling backwards in time and telepathically seducing its best students to travel to the cave. When at long last the future self contacted the past self and it journeyed to the secret cave, it discovered several hundred followers there waiting.

Prior to the Shoggoths' final destruction of the Elders, this doomsday cult used the great telepathic amplifier to travel to another planet in the distant future. The minds that they displaced became imprisoned in their bodies back on Earth. However, the one-fifth minds that stayed behind here were able to keep these other future minds prisoners -- trapped with them inside the Elders' own hibernating bodies.

And so the cult avoided destruction; it remains in the secret cave to this day. The Elders sleep, sharing a collective dream...

Yet, the one-fifth minds telepathically heard the death cries of their society when the Shoggoths fell upon the underground city. Together they contemplate the massacre grimly, but believe themselves to be safe in this place that Shoggoths would never think to search.

5. Where LSGL begins

Enter the humans. Two explorers, Carl and Andrew, pick up strange distortion on their airplane's radio. They land, discover a cave. Wending their way into its depths, they find the doomsday cult.

They hear whispers in their minds coming from the dreamers. Hypnotically, they're drawn to the telepathic amplifier. Carl touches the machine and his mind glimpses the collective dream. In a language of symbols, he sees the creation of the first Shoggoth, the height of Elder civilization, and the final genocide.

The human mind is an intelligence not entirely dissimilar to the Elders' minds, and so it is able to engage with the machine. However, human biology is still derivative of the Shoggoths. When the machine and the dreamers recognize the Shoggoth taint, Carl is ejected from the dream and an emergency wake-up signal is sent to the Elders...

The four-fifths minds in the future are yanked back to the present and redeposited into their own bodies.

6. Where LSGL ends

Unfortunately for the sleeping gods, the human mind acts as a telepathic transducer. The wake-up call is translated into a message understandable by any being, which goes out in all directions. The great Shoggoth hunters who have sworn vengeance against their former masters till the end of time are alerted. Humans, great grandchildren of the Elders, have unwittingly betrayed their creators.

As the explorers attempt to depart the cave, they are confronted by a colossal shoggoth blocking the only exit. The Elders, just waking now, stampede in an attempt to escape -- but there's nowhere to go.

Andrew is knocked down and dies in the chaos. Carl is absorbed by the Shoggoth, and his cellular material reverts to it's original protoplasmic nature. His ruined body begins to sprout tentacle-like pseudopods.

As he loses consciousness, he reenters the dream and receives one final revelatory vision: he sees the Elders shaping Shoggoth matter into the first human form. He comes to understand our species' relationship to the horrible, gelatinous, ex-slaves... "We are brothers."

posted by sven | January 28, 2009 12:01 AM | categories: let sleeping gods lie