Chapter 9 :: The Worshipers of Zon

This is the ninth chapter in my ongoing fortress diary, detailing the rise and fall of Roomcarnage.

  June 8th, 2014

It is the 24th of Slate, the mid-spring of 1204.

Roomcarnage grinds forward, enduring in spite of threats on all sides - foremost among them, a growing population that threatens to implode upon itself at any moment. At the moment, however, my attention has been drawn to the surface.

The first visitor to Roomcarnage besides kobolds and dwarves (or their animated corpses) has arrived. A werezebra named Rith Tiredoiled the Boot of Sparkling.

The ravenous beast has arrived quite close to one of the undead inhabitants of Roomcarnage - a poor migrant child who carelessly exposed skin to the foul fog that plagues the surface of the Ice of Ghosts, and was thus transformed into an unholy monster opposed to all life.

The werezebra, starved for flesh and blood, relentlessly attacks the foul fog child. With a swipe, the werezebra knocks out the zombie's teeth. The two monsters scramble across the ice in unceasing melee, apparently oblivious to the crowd of living dwarves that huddle, cold and unhappy, directly to the north.

At one point, the werezebra seizes the foul fog zombie child's pig tail fiber cap...

...and spends most of the rest of the fight thwapping the undead all over with the flimsy garment.

As the monstrous continue their duel atop the ice, metal bolts whiz through the air before burying themselves in the bloody snow. The missiles were fired by a pair of migrants, skilled with the crossbow, who desperately defend their fellow travelers against the horrors of Roomcarnage. After a few more exchanged blows, the werezebra reverts to dwarven form and immediately flees.

I suppose having a vast swarm of undead horrors plaguing the surface of the map has one advantage - they will be hostile to any living newcomers. I bid farewell to Rith Tiredoiled - perhaps she may someday return to do battle with the vile undead.

I reassess the situation. The migrants have gathered on the west edge of the map, but the undead threat is immediate and insurmountable. There is no open route to any of the entrances to the fortress, nor do I have any time to dig another passage.

Even if I could, I doubt I'd want to. Roomcarnage, I sense, is already beginning to sag under its own weight. It's only a matter of time before I overlook a dwindling food supply, or don't notice a dwarf dying of old age, or accidentally leave an open route to the surface. One mistake could spell total ruin for the fortress.

I let the migrant miner continue excavating what I hope might be a temporary refuge for the other newcomers still on the surface. I would have gladly gathered a .gif of this brave soul digging out the chamber, but - as you might expect - more interesting things were happening on the surface.

I notice two foul fog zombies - a horse and a llama - engaged in perpetual combat nearby. The teeth of both monsters have been knocked out, scattered about the surrounding glacier. Since both are immune to pain and cannot be easily destroyed, they battle ceaselessly.

While it may seem as if this is just a mere annoyance, in truth it is a major hindrance to my ability to manage Roomcarnage. Their constant combat reports preclude any reasonable indication of a new battle starting - for example, a dwarven corpse reanimating in the middle of the dining hall. Until I deal with these two feuding undead, I must maintain constant vigilance.

The migrants do everything they can to defend their starting position, but it is a losing battle. For every one of their number that is struck down, the forces of evil grow larger and draw nearer, and the defeat of any foe is a hollow victory, as they rise again moments later, fueled by the life-hating forces of the Ice of Ghosts.

A lone marksdwarf stands bravely against the unstoppable menace, but it is not enough. Even as bolt after bolt finds its home in a cold embrace of frozen flesh, the migrants she seeks to defend run about in abject terror.

Soon, their strength is broken. I am not present to bear witness to the marksdwarf's death, but I find her body, broken and lifeless, amidst the drifts of frozen elf blood. With no more resistance holding them back, the undead march freely across the glacier, hunting down the last few migrants that have evaded the frigid embrace of undeath.

Nobody will survive on the surface - despite my attempts to corral the migrants into the icy chamber I ordered dug out of the glacier, none of them heeded the call. With a heavy heart, I order the fortunate migrant with a pick to construct a wall of ice, blocking the entrance to the surface and sealing her alone inside the rough-hewn room.

This lucky dwarf is Rith Craftportent, whose primary talent is engraving. Despite the fortress' burgeoning population, I reason that Roomcarnage could always use a skilled miner and engraver.

I designate a passage to be dug from the glacial chamber to the fortress proper, and Rith jumps right to work. I can only hope she'll enjoy her time here in Roomcarnage - before she dies, of course.

I look back to the surface. Migrants run about in obvious emotional distress, or watch helplessly as their comrades are violently slaughtered. Nobody is spared, and the scene of carnage spreads unbroken across the map. I turn my attention away from the surface, and back into the depths where, for the time being, the dwarves may yet live.

I glance back at the tunnel that is being dug out from both ends. On a whim, I decide to examine the newcomer, Rith Craftportent, in a little more detail.

Oh. Oh dear. While, in future versions, we may expect every innocent dwarf to have a storied history, for the time being a dwarf with such an extensive background of civic membership draws only suspicion from fortress overlords. Rith's prior affiliations imply that she has, over the course of her lifetime, lived as a citizen in many different villages and cities. Even more damning is the fact that she once served as the holy shield of the Coven of Healing - effectively, she was the high priest of a major religious organization.

Rith worships Zon, a deity of the Superior Lances whose portfolio is centered upon fortresses themselves. There's only one problem - Roomcarnage was founded by an expedition from the Playful Spattered Walls, not the Superior Lances.

The last few pieces of the puzzle come into place when I survey Zon's exploits over the centuries. The dwarven god is responsible for countless werecreatures and vampires - one of the latter, I can safely conclude, has now come to Roomcarnage under the guise of "Rith Craftportent." I know enough to draw some conclusions about this newcomer's history: at some point in the past, she served as the holy shield of the Coven of Healing. She profaned the temple, and was cursed by her god, Zon, to prowl the night in search of blood. Since then, she has traveled the world, creeping into bedrooms and dormitories to feast upon the living.

As with the rest of the dwarves of the Momentous Dye, her story ends here, in Roomcarnage. I cancel the designation and leave her in isolation beneath the glacier.

At about this point in time, I look back to the dining hall and notice a lot of thirsty dwarves. Then I check the status screen. Fuck! The alcohol!

I order the breweries to distill alcohol on repeat. Fortunately, I was fast enough to evade disaster... this time.

Just in case the unhappy thoughts from thirstiness are close to pushing any dwarf over the edge and into a tantrum, I order the entire dining hall to be engraved. After briefly checking on the progress of the glacier-melting device, I return my attention to the surface to check up on whoever might be left.

I zoom back to the site of the migrant's arrival, and notice this chap, just standing here. A few undead shamble by, apparently not even noticing his presence. Flags as red as the snow on the glacier fly up, impossible to ignore.

"Domas Firstfigures," eh? Somehow, I doubt that.

My suspicions are confirmed. Like the other vampire, this one is also a worshiper of Zon, and a former religious leader - the high cradle of the Faith of Barricading. For a dwarf of only thirty-five, he sure has seen a lot of the world.

Roomcarnage will be the last stop in his journeys.

In order to decrease the number of idlers - and to hopefully be able to react in a meaningful way to any undead incursions - I order the formation of another military squad, the Worthy Seals. My selections for new recruits are based primarily upon who happened to be standing around without a job when I formed the squad, and of those, who had the fewest usable skills.

I then order ten full sets of adamantine armor to be constructed. The warriors of Roomcarnage may be doomed, but they will fight in the finest armor I can provide for them.

Ugh. More migrants.

I don't even care anymore. I unpause and zoom back to the dining hall to take a look at some of the artwork my engravers have chiseled into the already smoothed walls.

Exhibit A: The Apex of Craft, a rendition of the symbol of the Momentous Dye, the local dwarven government. What, precisely, a mantis has to do with the settlement of Roomcarnage is anybody's guess.

Exhibit B: The Avalanche of Sieging, a depiction of the Bothon. Bothon is a deity of the Playful Spattered Walls, whose portfolio centers upon nightmares, war, and fortresses - a fitting patron deity for Roomcarnage if ever there was one. Why would such a deity be weeping so? Dwarven art leaves much room for interpretation.

Exhibit C: The Sloppy Trade, a portrait of the mayor, Nish Metaldied, surrounded by purring maggots. Charming.

Exhibit D: The Ghost of Colors, a depiction of Nish Metaldied's election to the position of mayor, less than a year ago.

Exhibit E: The Sliver of Pimples (...mental image...), a depiction of an undead dragon slaying a dwarf in the Ice of Ghosts. Somewhere nearby, perhaps. I guess I can rest assured that megabeasts will someday attack Roomcarnage - if it survives long enough to attract their attention.

Exhibit F: The Infamous Irons, a rendition of the image of Roomcarnage's parent civilization. The symbol of The Playful Spattered Walls is a circle - plain and simple.

Exhibit G: The Lord of Lurking, an appropriately titled depiction of Rimtar Gateechoed's ascension to the position of expedition leader. Note the date of the event - the early spring of 1201. Rimtar was the first expedition leader of Roomcarnage, the doomed fortress' first leader.

Rimtar still lives, although he has since been relieved of his leadership duties. Here he is, idling about in the dining hall.

Finally, the glacier-melting trap has been dug out, and all the screw pumps and obsidian hatches are in place. All that remains is for the hatches to be linked to a lever (with magma-safe mechanisms, of course), and for the reservoir to be filled with molten rock. The latter challenge may take a significant expenditure of effort in order to pull off correctly... but I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.

While the linkages are being made, an adequately skilled bowyer is taken with a secretive mood.

Aban creates an artifact that is almost as useless as a crown, scepter, or bracelet. I briefly consider enlisting the bowyer into the military and forcing him to wield the bow... but eh. At least now I have a legendary bowyer.

It does have a pretty wacky name - "Ultrafur" isn't exactly a phrase that strikes fear into the heart. But it does have some pretty interesting artwork on it. I consider having Aban craft crossbows for a ranged militia, but I don't feel like navigating the nightmare that is efficiently equipping and training a squad of marksdwarves.

I look back towards the surface. The situation has worsened - all over the map, the ravenous undead have seemingly turned upon one another, forming tight knots of endless melee and wrestling matches. They clog my combat alerts with pointless notifications... my patience is beginning to wear thin.

The trap is nearly complete - all that remains is to properly negotiate the transfer of magma from the volcano into the reservoir. The problem - I can't simply breach the volcano and let it flow freely into the reservoir. In such a situation, the reservoir would simply refill when magma is pumped into the upper chamber, and then the trap would be unable to drain back into a starting position. No, the magma needs to be carefully pumped or drained into the reservoir, and then cut off from the volcano with care.

I order a passage dug along the southern edge of the volcano, just above the highest part of the caverns. Stairwells descend from this passage at regular points. At the bottom of each stairwell, a channel is dug, breaching the ceiling of the cavern below. Then, obsidian hatches are installed over the breach, and I order my mechanics to link the hatches to a lever in the fortress. When the linkages are complete, a hole will be dug out of the volcano wall next to each floor hatch. Once this process is complete, the volcano may be drained, allowing safe access to the upper levels of the Oily Furnace - both for the completion of the glacier-melting device, but also for future projects that involve the manipulation of molten rock.

My train of thought is interrupted by a seemingly innocuous announcement that nonetheless makes my stomach sink. Nish Metaldied has ended a mandate, which normally means that a dwarf is about to be punished for violating a work order. However, it's the "broker" part of the announcement that makes me nervous - it means, instead, that Nish has been relieved of her responsibilities as mayor, and replaced with another.

I already know who the new mayor is before I check the nobles screen, but my fears are instantly confirmed.

Rith Craftportent has been elected as mayor of the Momentous Dye. As befits a lifeless vampire, she holds council in the darkened chamber she herself hewed from the haunted glacier. Her advisers are the ghosts of those migrants she arrived with, their tormented souls torn free of their corporeal bodies which now shamble mindlessly across the ice above.

Somehow, despite having no living acquaintances, despite never setting foot inside Roomcarnage itself, Rith has successfully usurped control of the fortress from Nish Metaldied, the rightful mayor of the Momentous Dye.

As nobles are wont to do, Rith lays down the first of what I can safely predict may be many edicts: the construction of a short sword. In this sense, perhaps, Rith and I are on the same page - at least she isn't mandating the construction of rock toy hammers.

I order the construction of an adamantine short sword, and have it promoted to the front of the queue. From within her icy prison, Rith offers no threats to Roomcarnage - only demands for the construction of weaponry. For now, I decide to let her continue her mockery of life. She may prove useful to me in the near future - there is a volcano nearby that needs breaching - a dangerous procedure. A prime candidate must have no friends or family to leave behind grieving, lest a tantrum spiral erupt in their wake. How fortunate that Rith Craftportent arrived at Roomcarnage with a pick already in hand.

It is the 21st of Galena, the late summer of 1204. Construction of the glacier-melting trap nears completion. None can say for sure if it will succeed or fail - but in the process of its construction, I have laid groundwork for other, similar projects. For now Roomcarnage endures, despite foul fog zombies, risen corpses, incorporeal spirits, and vampires. How long can it last?