Chapter 12 :: The Water of Ghosts

This is the twelfth installment in my fortress diary detailing the exploits of the dwarves of the Momentous Dye at Roomcarnage.

  June 16th, 2014

It is the 25th of Opal, the mid-winter of 1204.

The blood of the mountain cascades into the nighted caverns, illuminating the raw stone walls with infernal light.

It seeps through the narrow tunnels, incinerating what little life clings to the muddy cavern floor. The fully grown blood thorns, as resilient as they are to have survived in the barren underground, somehow withstand even this deluge of molten rock.

The lava lake beneath the towering spires of the Oily Furnace burbles and fluctuates. As the volcano drains into the deeps, the southern end seeps ever lower than the northern, the lava there continuously sucked down along the southern edge of the caldera. The final stage in the construction of the glacier-melting trap is nearly complete.

It can't be finished fast enough, as far as I'm concerned. The undead problem on the surface got out of hand a long time ago. Now, the unceasing fighting of the vile monsters has nearly obscured an event which, if I had not by chance noticed an announcement, would have certainly destroyed a significant portion of the fortress. No longer can I allow these fiends to threaten the dwarves of the Momentous Dye. Roomcarnage must strike back.

The lava lake has sunk past a critical point, leaving a portion of the caldera wall entirely exposed. Behind the wall is the bottom of a ditch - ramps lead up and to the south, towards the glacier melting trap.

I designate that stone wall to be dug out.

The miners bravely rush to the scene and begin carving out the obsidian wall. While it might seem as if these miners were safe, note the periodic - and unpredictable - surges of lava all across the surface of the lake. One of these surges could have, at a critical moment, doused a miner or two in molten rock.

Fortunately for the miners, no accidents occur. The opening is made, and it is time for the volcano to refill.

I order the lever controlling the drain hatches to be pulled.

A moment later, the lava lake ceases its inundations, and levels out. The spikes of liquid stone still surge up from the deeps, slowly yet violently causing the surface of the lake to rise once again towards its former position.

As I wait for the volcano to refill, Tun Noselance, the manager of Roomcarnage, is taken by a strange mood.

He claims a magma forge...

...and begins hammering away at a wafer of adamantine...

...and creates what might be one of Roomcarnage's most useful artifacts!

It might seem nondescript, but this is a weapon rack fit for a king. Any dwarf who lays eyes upon it will certainly be struck by its magnificence. Artifact furniture need never go to waste.

As the volcano refills, I have two more rows of pumps constructed from the magma-safe machine components. The northern row of pumps draws magma up out of the volcano.

The southern row of pumps sends it pouring into the trap reservoir beyond.

I notice an announcement, although this one isn't necessarily fortress-threatening - the mayor has imposed a ban on certain exports.

Rith Craftportent, the vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, has forbidden the export of slabs. Slabs are used for inscriptions, and only two kinds of inscriptions at that: memorials, and the secrets of life and death.

Is Rith sending a message? Does she know something I don't? Perhaps she does.

Perhaps, before the end, Roomcarnage will need every last slab in its stockpiles.

In either case, it reminds me that I haven't dealt with the growing population of ghosts.

The volcano continues to refill, and I check the dwarves hanging out in the dining hall. Most of these dwarves have been here for a few years now, and their clothes are starting to wear out. The unhappy thoughts from rotting clothes can be devastating for even the most developed fortresses - I decide that the time has finally come to incorporate a textile industry.

I have a couple farmers workshops built in the food stockpiles. I have an excess of raw pig tails, which can be quickly and easily processed into pig tail fiber threads and then woven into pig tail fiber cloth.

Once the clothier and loom have been constructed near the cloth stockpiles, I have the manager queue up sixty plant processing jobs...

...and sixty weaving jobs. I'll worry about the clothes after I've got plenty of raw materials ready.

After I've set up plenty of jobs for the dwarves to work through, I turn my attention back to the caldera of the Oily Furnace. I watch from above as the level of the lava slowly continues to fill.

Nearly two more full layers have yet to be filled. There's still other stuff to be taken care of.

While I love looking through the expertly crafted artwork the dwarves have engraved into the floors and walls of the fortress, for the sake of my eyes (and the eyes of my readers) I decide to toggle the engravings. It's still easy to see where the engravings are located, and if I need to look for a specific carving for whatever reason, I still can very easily.

I do the same thing with the dining hall. In a lot of ways, it makes it easier to see what exactly is going on, and how many dwarves are milling about at any given point in time.

After the last few slab engravings have been completed, I have the memorials erected in the old dining hall. The dwarves haul the stone slabs through the farms...

...and install them in the engraved chamber, which is now repurposed into a statuary/memorial hall.

No less than eight ghosts are laid to rest in the effort. If the incident during the mid-winter of 1204 was caused by disembodied spirit, then hopefully I have prevented a future disaster.

...wait, what's that?

An injured dwarf? I zoom to the hospital.

Oh. Looking back, I quickly discern how Kol Orderaxe's left upper arm was broken. The zombie child Adil, one of the two risen corpses during the brush with destruction in mid-winter, shattered the bone in little Kol's shoulder.

Without access to liquid water, Kol will die of thirst in the hospital, as the dwarves refuse to bring alcohol to nourish the ill. Even if I somehow managed to keep the child alive, Kol's wounds will never be properly cleaned. The child would die of an infection weeks later - probably in the middle of the dining hall.

This is why I have installed doors on all the rooms in the hospital.

On the surface, more migrants arrive.

Now, I suppose, is as good a time as any to activate the trap for the first time. The surface of the lava lake has almost risen to its highest levels - I ought to have access to more than enough molten rock to fuel the device.

I enable the pump operating labor on all non-legendary dwarves (using Therapist). The first dwarf arrives at the lower pumps, and magma quickly fills the area between the pumps.

A dwarf arrives at the upper pump, and magma, viscous and glowing, begins filling the lower of the two reservoirs.

Soon, other dwarves arrive at the pumps.

With six dwarves operating two rows of three pumps each, the lower reservoir fills quickly.

A dip appears at the southern edge of the lava lake as the red-hot blood of the mountain is mechanically drawn through a hole a few z-levels below the surface.

As the lower part of the trap fills, I check on the migrants. Things aren't going well - that's to be expected. Hopefully, in a short time, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye will actually be able to do something about what is left by the newcomers.

The magma pours across the floor of the lower reservoir in a thick, broad sheet. Most of the stone left over from the chamber's excavation is obsidian, but there are a few orpiment boulders present. The yellow stones quickly melt as the magma oozes over them. A few seconds later, the surface of the molten rock bubbles with foul gases - orpiment vapor.

I let the pumps run until the chamber is more full than empty. The flow from the northwest corner of the reservoir pushes the obsidian boulders back, leaving a relatively clear area near the pumps.

The time has arrived. I turn off the lower pumps and order the upper pumps to be powered. Finally, after months of planning and construction, the trap is activated. Magma is pumped up from the lower reservoir and into a chamber directly beneath the glacier.

More dwarves arrive - it seems not as many pumps were needed as I had anticipated. This is good news for any future projects - I probably can be more economical about my use of the mythical cyan metal.

The time has come. I move my view to the surface, to see what the magma has done.

What I had hoped to see here was a square pool of liquid water - instead, it's just the same old elf blood snowdrifts. A zombie dwarf casually shambles over the trap. It's almost as if the glacier is mocking me.

I decide to check and see if anything has happened at all. I order a single channel designation on the surface, directly above the center of the trap.

Rith Craftportent, vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, rushes to the scene, pick in hand.

If I had had any doubt of Rith's undead nature, it is now completely banished. The mayor trundles, unconcerned and content, across the blighted ice. She attracts no attention from the frozen corpses, nor offers any.

Rith steps over a prone zombie as she approaches the dig site.

With a few swings of her pick, the mayor shatters the thin surface that lay before her. Elf blood snow and accursed ice give way to reveal something that neither Rith Craftportent nor any other dwarf in Roomcarnage has witnessed since they set foot upon the Ice of Ghosts:

Liquid water.

The trap doesn't work as I had planned, true, but I decide to make the best out of the situation. Liquid water is a highly significant resource - one that, until now, was unavailable. This water may prove to be a significant weapon against the undead, if it can be properly and effectively applied.

There are many ways to weaponize water, especially in a frozen biome. I decide to go with the simplest method, which also happens to be, in my opinion, the most elegant.

Besides, cast-ice has plenty of architectural applications as well.

It is the 5th of Slate, the mid-spring of 1205. Roomcarnage enters its fifth year with what might be seen by some as a failure - but in truth, the labors of the Momentous Dye over the past year have greatly improved the infrastructure of Roomcarnage. The volcano may be drained at will, allowing for easy installation of additional pumps for whatever purpose I can devise. For the first time in the fortress' history, liquid water exists on the map. A clothing industry is in its formative stages, and the dwarves have proven their resilience in the face of nothing short of a zombie outbreak.

Roomcarnage endures.