Chapter 11 :: Playing With Fire

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

  June 12th, 2014

It is the 4th of Opal, the mid-winter of 1204. For nearly four years, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have dwelt in isolation, deep beneath the glacial volcano known as the Oily Furnace. During that time, hundreds of dwarves have made the treacherous voyage here, to Roomcarnage. Some have found their way through frost-caked portals of ice and stone to make their home deep in the earth. Others roam the bloody snowdrifts that conceal the haunted Ice of Ghosts, their long-since frozen flesh and bone animated by the will of the malign glacier itself.

For nearly four years, Roomcarnage has endured. Now, the dwarves seek not only to endure, but also to conquer.

The vampire mayor, Rith Craftportent, has nearly reached the portion of tunnels accessing what will soon be the drains of the volcano. I have had these tunnels walled off from the rest of the mines, so Rith may not have any contact with Roomcarnage itself.

I'd also rather not let any surface monsters have access to these tunnels either. If a drain hatch were to be destroyed, it would be difficult or impossible to replace it. I order the other vampire to construct a rock door while Rith goes about the business of breaching the volcano, so that it might be placed in the passage leading out of the glacier and locked.

Rith continues digging... a slow affair. Probably the result of her combined alcohol deprivation (vampires drink blood, not alcohol) and being a poorly skilled miner.

I order the first of the breaches to be made. The pattern for all of the breaches is the same - a channel designation is placed one z-level north and above the obsidian hatch. In these gifs, the hatches are open, so it appears to be empty space.

This technique will hopefully prevent the mayor from being incinerated, since magma flows more slowly diagonally than orthogonally. The channel designation (as opposed to a normal dig designation on the same z-level as the hatch) will hopefully give Rith just a little more time to escape.

Rith breaks through the last bit of stone and reaches the access tunnel. As expected, she picks up the Dig Channel job immediately.

The ghost of the dwarven child Reg Figureyor stands before the vampire mayor. Is the spectral girl offering her support, or attempting to sway the mayor away from her fate? I'll never know.

After Rith picks up the first channelling job, I designate the second one. This is vital - once the first breach has been made, the mayor will have precious seconds to run up the stairwell before molten rock floods the tunnel. For dwarves, few things are more motivating than the opportunity to hew stone.

I unpause. Rith moves quickly through the claustrophobic corridor towards the hatches, leaving the ghostly child alone in the darkness.

She dives down the westernmost stairwell and begins digging...

Praise Armok! The mayor mines the last few boulders free and is gone, running up the stairwell, as the molten rock splashes across the steps upon which she stood only moments before.

The first breach has been made, and the heart of the volcano bleeds a long, thick strand of viscous magma out into the caverns. Rith is already back in the access tunnel above the hatches before the first blood thorn saplings are engulfed by the liquid conflagration.

Already, the signs of the breach are visible at the surface. A soft burbling, a few inundations along the southern edge of the lava lake concealed within the towering peaks of ice.

I designate the third and fourth breaches in the same way, with a channel designation placed above and to the north of the hatches, diagonal from the stairwells.

Rith heads down the second stairwell and begins swinging her pick against the warm obsidian wall.

What luck! The vampire mayor successfully makes the second breach without being doused in magma.

Now, from the second stairwell to the third...

...where she proceeds to carve a hole through the wall of the magma tube.

As she successfully completes the third breach, I take my bearings. These drains are located just above and due south of the dining hall. Interestingly, the dining hall is located beneath the caverns, while the drains are built into the cavern ceiling - this just goes to show the difference in the elevation of the caverns at various points on the map.

I designate the last breach.

Rith makes her way down the fourth stairwell...

...and begins mining away.

The fourth breach is successfully made - only one to go.

The vampire mayor descends the last stairwell and begins setting pick to stone.

I realize that, without another mining job set up after the last breach is completed, Rith has no reason to immediately leave the breach site. I designate a single tile of ice to be dug out, back in the glacial chamber, so that Rith might escape the heat as soon as her mission is complete.

I wait with bated breath, watching the obsidian wall while the vampire carves away the volcanic rock...

...success! Rith knocks out the last of the rock before ascending the stairs and walking back through the corridor. There are now five fully operational drains on the southern side of the volcano, emptying the caldera into the cavern layer beyond.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried about Rith's final escape from the last stairwell - immediately after completing the final breach, she goes on break rather than pick up the digging job in the ice chamber. She's been satisfied at work recently - it's difficult not to perceive the vampire mayor as being a little smug at her good work.

As if to declare her own reward for a job well done, Rith mandates the construction of three more short swords.

With the mythical cyan metal in short supply, I order three copper swords to be constructed.

Rith Craftportent, the vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, has successfully carved five holes into the vertical wall of the magma tube of the Oily Furnace. Already, the drains have begun flooding the caverns with a deluge of molten rock.

At the surface, the lava lake churns and roils, significantly lower at its southern end than at its northern. Slowly but surely, the Oily Furnace drains into the caverns deep beneath the surface.

As the draining continues, the volcano bubbles with barely contained primal fury. Pillars of lava erupt from the rippling surface, bringing liquid stone from the magma sea up from the depths. It is this volcanic activity that will refill the caldera, once the drains have been closed.

For now, however, I will wait until the surface of the lava lake lowers a few more z-levels. In order for the next stage of the trap construction to be implemented, the lava needs to descend below a certain point.

As I am waiting for the volcano to sufficiently drain into the caverns, I notice this notification pop up at the bottom of my screen. My innards clench as I slap my thumb against the spacebar, pausing the game.

For a moment, I stare at the announcement. There are no living migrants on the surface. I wait a second more, before I move to examine the announcements log.

My worst fears are confirmed. The death announcement is nestled in a torrent of cancelled job announcements of the worst kind. But these announcements are already a few pages deep... with a grimace, I scroll down, to see if the unspeakable has already befallen the corpse of little Adil.

It has.

How appropriate that on the eve of the dwarves' vengeance against the Ice of Ghosts, that the terrifying glacier should strike first? For truly, the lives of every dwarf in Roomcarnage is now threatened by this horrific turn of events.

I zoom to the location of the deaths. The two corpses now lay adjacent to the old farm, the first plot laid down in the muddied cavern floor by the dwarves. For the time being, they are quite dead - the curse of undeath has, for the time being, relented.

I cannot simply lock the doors and let the corpses have this part of the fortress, for the bodies currently lay on the threshold, blocking two stone doors from closing.

Whatever I plan to do, I am agonizingly aware that the dwarves have mere seconds before the corpses reanimate. Before I move to deal with the threat, I examine the combat reports in an attempt to deduce what just happened.

This is the entire combat report involving Doren Ethadmosus' corpse. After the brutal murder of Adil Avalerush, the zombie was promptly put down by the military. The barracks lay immediately adjacent to the farm - a fortuitous coincidence, for I may thank the military's autonomous action for containing the outbreak of undeath.

The child's corpse rose shortly thereafter, but was also quickly slain by the militia.

Oddly, I can find no sign of what killed Doren Ethadmosus in the first place. Doren was enlisted in the military, and died near the barracks, so a sparring injury seems to be the most likely cause of death. In any case, I cannot check either the announcements log or the combat report - due to the constant dueling undead on the surface, the logs only go back a few days into the past before becoming inaccessible.

Haste is vital in dealing with this situation, but the nearest exit from the fortress lay several z-levels below, in the forges - or further to the north, through the cavern exit. I decide that both of these options are too distant to risk. Instead, I order a hole dug in the southern wall of the barracks.

At the same time, I order the military stationed in the first farm, so that they might deal with the corpses should they rise again before the wall has been carved open.

The military waits patiently while a miner travels straightaway from the dining hall. Mercifully, the corpses remain on the cavern floor, devoid of any animating force, wholesome or otherwise.

Once a doorway is hewn into the southern wall, I place an activity zone over the ledge and assign it to be a garbage dump.

Then, I mark both of the corpses to be dumped.

Two dwarves quickly arrive on the scene, grab the corpses, and begin hauling them to the garbage dump. Whether it is bravery or ignorance that brings them so happily to work, I cannot be sure.

I breathe a sigh of relief as the two corpses are tossed over the ledge and into the cavern beyond. For now, mercifully, Roomcarnage endures.

The two corpses have fallen onto a narrow muddy ledge.

The ledge is cut off from the rest of the caverns - the corpses, when they reanimate, will not be able to escape from this little shelf by foot.

I have a door installed in the newly created garbage dump - a door is better than a wall. As grim as the prospect is, I fear I may need to use this passage again before Roomcarnage crumbles to its end.

Likewise, I have the vampires install a door on the surface. It is locked immediately, blocking access from the surface to the drains, at least until I decide to unlock it.

Meanwhile, the drains continue to empty the contents of the Oily Furnace into the caverns. The mud that has built up on the floor of the caverns for a millennia dries and cracks as the molten rock creeps across it. Blood thorns pop and ooze with strange, woody gore. Through the narrow tunnels and galleries, the molten rock flows unceasingly.

Soon, the lava lake will descend below the level of the pumps - once that has happened, I will send in the miners to carve away these walls. At that point, the final stages of construction will begin - the glacier-melting trap may be filled with magma and tested for the first time.

The bubbling, unceasingly active lava lake continues to sink in level. Mere days, perhaps, have yet to pass before the trap may finally be filled with magma. I have high hopes for the success of the construction, and yet I already have in my mind the blueprints of a device that is much larger - and much more destructive.

It is the 24th of Opal, the mid-winter of 1204. A mere twenty days have passed since the beginning of this chapter - twenty days full of volcano tapping and corpse handling. In these twenty days, Roomcarnage has come the closest to ruin than at any other point in its four years. Despite its brush with undeath, however, the fortress survives. Springtime approaches, and it promises to be a warm spring indeed.