Earth’s Last Citadel: science-fantasy megadungeon

I just finished reading Earth’s Last Citadel, a 1943 science-fantasy novel by the First Couple of Sword & Sorcery, Catherine L. Moore and Henry Kuttner.  In the dim future of a nearly-dead earth ruled by a horrific alien parasite, only a quartet of time-travelling heroes from WWII-era Earth can save the day!  The story itself was entertaining and fairly formulaic, but the setting description was fascinating — a massive, mountainous alien structure honeycombed by underground wilderness and small pockets of human (and inhuman) habitation.   I couldn’t help but think about megadungeons; I wasn’t planning to incorporate a megadungeon into the Zhontaar setting, but this novel has given me pause to reconsider.  Some brief excerpts:

P.28, as the protagonists approach the Citadel: “The great fortress had grown almost mountain-huge, now.  Moonlight did not reflect from the vast dark surfaces at all, so that the thing remained almost in silhouette, but they could see that it was composed of geometric forms which were yet strangely alien…  Only high intelligence could have reared that vast structure towering above the mists of the plain, but it grew clearer at every step that the intelligence had not been human.”

P.79, a warning to Our Hero about the dangers lurking in the Citadel: “Ye know about the Light-Wearers — how they came to be conquered. How they cleared the earth of ‘vermin’ except for the pets they kept, and the experimental races they bred and interbred. Some of ’em — pretty nasty. And some of ’em still alive, the Terasi tell me, lurking in the caverns, feeding on each other and anything they can catch. I’d never realized how alien the Aliens were until I heard about the things they made out of human flesh in their laboratories here.”

P.82, describing the dire straits of the Terasi (the last tribe of free humans living in the Citadel, resisting a slide into barbarism): “The food-caverns — mushrooms and suck-like things — are a little way from the city, and we can’t get enough now.  [The Alien] won’t let us.”


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