Chapter 8 :: Tales of Greed and Industry

This is the eighth chapter of my ongoing chronicle detailing the exploits of the Momentous Dye at Roomcarnage.

  June 5th, 2014

It is the 11th of Moonstone, in the early winter of 1203.

One might expect the winters in Roomcarnage to be a particularly deadly affair, but in truth the climate never changes here. Blizzards rage across the Ice of Ghosts year-round, casting both normal snow and accursed frozen elf blood upon the vast glacial plain. Swarms of undead shamble across the bloody snowdrifts surrounding the Oily Furnace - a jagged-peaked mountain of ice and fire, rising sheer and high above the surrounding lands. It is here that the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have clung to life for nearly three years.

The surface is getting more and more inhospitable as time wears on. I'm not sure what causes it, but it seems as if the foul fog zombies have the capability to somehow "recoat" themselves with the greyish contaminant. The foul fog is then smeared across the snow as the zombie stumbles around in the blizzard.

Streaks of the stuff have appeared all across the map. The threat of undeath has now reached the point where it can no longer be easily dealt with. Early on, I might have corralled the undead into long corridors and locked the doors behind them. Now..., the contaminant has spread so broadly around the map, it cannot be easily dealt with. I have a few ideas for how to eventually reclaim the surface - but first, I require magma-safe materials.

Deep beneath the earth, amidst the magma sea, the dwarves of Roomcarnage have hollowed out the upper tip of a raw adamantine pillar. With native copper as the only other metal ore discovered in Roomcarnage, adamantine is the only material for the dwarves to use in the production of magma-safe metal objects.

Fortunately, the dwarves have already discovered two more pillars, so I can expect to garnish enough of the mythical cyan metal to satisfy all but the most lavish of demands.

The near-weightless ore is hauled up into the forge stockpiles from the depths. I order the construction of four craftsdwarf's workshops. Strand extraction goes slowly, so it's good to have multiple workshops working in tandem when processing adamantine in bulk.

As my newly appointed strand extractors get to work, the other dwarves haul up the last of the cyan ore. It is difficult for me to contain my disappointment - it's not enough. No, it's not anywhere near enough.

I order the next two layers of the already tapped vein dug out. As the miners swarm about the inside of the semi-molten rock, I designate tiles revealed by their digging to be carved out as well. Soon, my adamantine stockpiles have doubled in size.

When processing adamantine, I will often queue up orders to process the metal threads into wafers. This ensures that the threads aren't usurped by some medical dwarf to be used as sutures. Alternatively, the threads may be woven into metal cloth, which has many fascinating applications. For the time being, however, I'm more interested in having as many wafers of the stuff as I dare scoop out of the heart of the earth.

Later, I notice a few of my miners standing about in the section of the pillar they had just dug out. I've noticed this before - sometimes a miner who is finished with a job will just idle about for a little while - but these dwarves are hungry or thirsty. Something has blocked them off from the rest of the fortress.

I check the hallway immediately above them. Haulers, also just standing there. Thirsty, hungry, and helpless. I scroll south, following the tunnel as it leads to the stairwell that links the mines to the fortress.

A-ha! Magma in the mines. The source of the magma is simple enough to deduce - this stairwell leads straight downward, into the magma sea only a few z-levels below. I cannot say what drove the fiery blood of the earth up into the mines, nor can I say whether or not any dwarves perished in the event, or caused it themselves. For now, it seems, the magma has returned to its normal levels.

I take action to prevent a possible future surge. An upward staircase is built over the stairwell, effectively blocking out the passage down. The walls of the tunnels blocked by the magma are widened, allowing the dwarves in need of food and drink to escape and survive. I consider how fortunate I am to have noticed these dwarves' situation when I did - and not later, when the fortress would have been swarmed with undead.

The passage now made clear, the haulers get to work transferring the bounty of the deep up to Roomcarnage.

That's better. Much better. I have another two craftsdwarf workshops thrown up to get through the backload of raw adamantine more quickly. What lies here within this stockpile is enough to make Roomcarnage richer than most fortresses. Still... it's difficult to placate the greedy dwarf within me.

My attention is temporarily diverted away from the vast wealth of the fortress by Edëm Frecklefenced, the adorably named stonecrafter.

Predictably, Edëm claims a craftsdwarves workshop.

Also predictably, he then runs directly for the adamantine stockpile. At first, I grumble something about priceless adamantine being used to craft something essentially useless, but then I realize two things. One, I have plenty of adamantine, and Roomcarnage will be a crumbling ruin before I let the dwarves run out of it. Two, most of my own applications of adamantine tend to be essentially useless as well. I let it go.

If I had an appraiser, I could tell you how much this is worth. Unfortunately, since the old broker was torn apart by undead on the surface, no migrants have come who are trained in appraisal, and no (living) caravans have come in the past year, it's impossible to determine the material wealth of Roomcarnage. I'm sure it's getting up there, now.

Aaaaaaand into the finished goods stockpile you go. Forever.

I decide I need more adamantine. After this, it'll be enough, I swear.

At this point, I persuade myself that I have enough. If something happens and I run out of adamantine for whatever reason, there are still at least three pillars down there in the magma sea. Besides, if we dig much deeper... well, let's just say I'd like to find a use for all this metal before Roomcarnage crumbles to its end.

The spring of 1204 arrives. Life for the dwarves of Roomcarnage seems, in a twisted way, to be rather blessed. There's plenty of food and drink, and plenty of good company that rarely dies. Even the children frolic in the dining hall with one another, blissfully ignorant of the icy hell that is the world above.

The smelting jobs are queued up at each of the three smelters, and both strand extractors and furnace operators are hard at work processing the incredibly light substance from raw ore into paper-thin wafers the color of microcline.

The production line is very tight. The number of adamantine strands rarely rises above a handful, as they are constantly being brought into the powerful heat of the magma smelters and beat into wafers.

I have enough wafers now to begin the next stage of my project. Production will continue, of course, but I need to begin thinking about how I will reclaim the surface, now that I can manipulate the flow of magma.

The strand extractors and furnace operators still have a lot of raw ore to get through. Enough for now, I guess.

I glance out over the surface of the Ice of Ghosts. Smears of foul fog mar a vast surface that is already thoroughly layered with freakish precipitation. I'd still rather have the surface of the map be a pure elf blood red, though, and not have to worry about all the horrible things constantly lurking around. Not to mention, they probably hog my FPS from time to time, if not all the time.

At this point, I am sure that there are ways I could deal with the entire surface - a wholesale deluge of magma from the peak of the Oily Furnace seems like a good start. Such a tactic would by a fantastic and suitably dwarven solution on any other map, but I remember the ram wool that still lurks somewhere in the magma sea, not far from the adamantine pillars. Magma, at least by itself, is no proper weapon against the undead.

I develop the barest prototype of a device in my mind, which I may use to contain and dispose of the undead menace. By pumping magma into a broad cavern immediately below a patch of surface ice, I may melt that ice without directly exposing anything below it. Whatever is atop the ice when it melts will drop into the water. Finally, by quickly draining the magma out of the subsurface reservoir, I may refreeze the water, trapping inside it any creature which I have lured to the site of the device.

Leaving the game paused, I take time to lay out the floor plan for the trap, which lay immediately to the south of the Oily Furnace itself. This is the chamber immediately below the Ice of Ghosts, which is only a mere Urist thick. The central area will contain the magma, which is pumped up from the lower level from the east, west, and south (the volcano is too close on the north side). The channels in the central area will be covered with obsidian hatches, linked to a lever that will allow them to be remotely opened and closed.

A level below: the magma reservoir. The undesignated tiles correspond with the channel designations above. I'll worry later on about how I'm going to get the magma into the trap in the first place - for now, it just needs to get dug out so I can install the pumps and hatches and everything.

A tunnel is dug from the forges towards the new trap.

While the miner digs out the access tunnel, I queue up the necessary materials with the manager. Nine adamantine corkscrews, nine adamantine pipes, nine rock hatches, and a bunch of mechanisms. I already have the magma-safe blocks needed for the pumps.

In order to ensure that the hatches and mechanisms are magma-safe, I go into the stones menu and forbid the use of all rock except obsidian. From now on, all my masons and rock crafters will only use obsidian, which is great for many reasons. Obsidian is worth more than other stones, it's magma-safe, and it's just aesthetically cool.

I wait patiently as the miner continues digging the passage. I'm sort of okay with just letting the rest of the fortress idle while this happens... the fate of Roomcarnage, as with the fate of all dwarf fortresses, was determined the moment I pressed the embark button. Interestingly, this won't be true in the next version, since we'll be able to retire fortresses peacefully, which might be the closest thing to "winning" that Dwarf Fortress will ever have in the near future.

Ah, finally. As the trap site is reached, more and more miners are drawn away from the parties in the dining hall and up towards the surface.

It's satisfying to watch the few legendary miners totally outstrip the other, less skilled workers. Two of these miners are founding members of the fortress, having dug out the very first chambers during that fateful spring. Then, they dug to escape the horrors of the surface. Now, they dig to contain them.

Speaking of the horrors of the surface...

The migrants arrive very close to a few patches of foul fog on the western edge of the map.

As the undead scramble mindlessly to slay the living, the newcomers enter the map and begin running for their lives, one by one. A foul fog zombie sheep drags its rotten body through the elf blood snow, leaving a smear of contaminant as it goes.

I'm tempted to say that "chaos erupts," but I remind myself that that phrase implies a prior order that devolves violently into disorder. When the spark that will end Roomcarnage is finally flung onto the metaphorical gasoline-soaked woodpile, chaos will erupt.

But here on the surface, chaos already reigned - a seething mass of half-conscious entropy, reintroducing a mockery of order into the frozen corpses that fall into disorder within its frigid embrace. The curse of dissolution that plagues Roomcarnage cannot be overcome, for to face the evil is to allow it into the heart of the fortress. Stare not into the haunted biome, says Urist McNietzsche, for when you do, the haunted biome stares also into you. Fight not foul fog zombies, lest ye yourself become a foul fog zombie.

Work on the trap continues. I've successfully convinced myself that there is something that I can do to retake the surface - some way I can overcome the nature of the Ice of Ghosts and allow Roomcarnage to flourish. But on a long enough timeline, the population of any fortress drops to zero.

I hope that this device might offer some kind of triumph over the Ice of Ghosts. I don't want Roomcarnage to grind quietly and slowly into dust over the course of a century - I've already played that fortress. I begin planning in my mind the construction of another device - a catastrophic device. If the dwarves of the Momentous Dye survive long enough to oversee its construction, I am sure that it will live on in the annals of dwarven history long after the name Roomcarnage has been forgotten.

Ugh. The migrants managed to fend off the undead. A ranger has come with them - a dwarf trained equipped with a crossbow and the training to use it. The overseer's heart has not yet turned to stone, so I - once again - take pity upon these newcomers.

However, I've decided, Roomcarnage itself has enough in the way of dwarves. I'm not willing to risk their exposure to the surface for any reason, least of all to save a bunch of newcomers who are only a few combat reports away from becoming zombies. Luckily for the migrants, they've brought a miner with them, and a pick. I order the miner to carve out a room within the ice, so that the migrants might hide inside and wall themselves in. Then, I'll make a decision about what to do about them. Digging commences...

...but just as the miner has begun carving a passage into the glacier, a different kind of newcomer arrives at Roomcarnage.

The werezebra arrives not far from the dwarves, but very close to one of the undead. Rith Tiredoiled the Boot of Sparkling is crazed for blood and flesh... it may just have come to the right place.

It is the 24th of Slate, the mid-spring of 1204. The dwarves of the Momentous Dye turn their eyes once more to the surface, unwilling to forsake it entirely. Will they be able to cleanse the surface of undead, at least temporarily? Will this year's caravan and outpost liaison be in any position - or condition - to trade and negotiate? Is the Ice of Ghosts actually comprised entirely of elf blood, frozen and compacted into a glacier over a thousand years of snowfall? Tune in next time!