Chapter 13 :: Ice Fishing and Other Futile Efforts

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

  June 23th, 2014

It is the 15th of Slate, in the mid-spring of 1205. More than four years after the first miners carved a wretched hole in the base of the Oily Furnace, the population of Roomcarnage approaches the default limit of 200. Against all odds, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have withstood the neverending curse of the death that afflicts Roomcarnage.

The fortress currently exists in that awkward state that immediately follows a failed project. How do I salvage all this dwarf-power? How will the dwarves of the Momentous Dye fight back against the undead threat?

Unconcerned with such questions, Rith Craftportent - the vampire mayor of Roomcarnage (despite having never been to the fortress itself, or even met any of the dwarves who live there) - goes fishing. This tiny blue hole in the ice leads to a broad square of liquid water, melted from the Ice of Ghosts itself.

Is she mocking me? I'll never know.

I disable the fishing labor on the vampire mayor, and move on. Without unpausing the game, I check around the rest of the fortress.

While the game is paused, Roomcarnage's dining hall might seem like a blissful oasis of plump helmets, dogs, masterful engravings, and dozens of dwarves mingling with one another in peace and harmony. But note the stockpile of copper cages lined against the western wall. A few of these cages contain undead monsters that are the stuff of nightmares - mats of vicious, life-hating hair cast off during the butchering process - the very skins of slaughtered animals that reanimated right there in the tanner's workshop. These horrors are kept here, in the dining hall, as a constant reminder to myself that even in such a blissful place, the malicious influence of the Ice of Ghosts holds the ultimate authority.

The lever located there, in the mayor's quarters to the east of the dining hall, controls the hatches that are an integral part of the large project that has just failed. Also, note that mayor Rith has never set foot in these chambers - nor were they ever assigned to her. Nish Metaldied, the broker of Roomcarnage and former mayor still occupies these quarters, even though she no longer demands them.

So far, the dwarves have contained a single outbreak of undeath. Fortunately for Roomcarnage, the incident occurred upon the farm adjacent to the barracks. The military was able to contain the outbreak, and the corpses were thrown out into the caverns.

The marble lever located there in the corner controls the drains. When pulled, the surface of the lava lake within the volcano will slowly sink.

The stores of food and alcohol have not dipped below 400. The number of seeds in the fortress have reached that critical level where the fortress' food supply spirals into abundance. With such a large portion of the population dedicated to plant growing, processing, and brewing, the fortress is able to maximize returns and stockpile huge amounts of food and alcohol, not to mention pig tail fiber threads. Alas, I have no rock nuts - rock nut oil would provide a viable alternative to tallow for making soap, which would legitimize the creation of an actual medical force.

In some fortresses, soap is useless - a dead dwarf means little, unless the body is left to rot and is witnessed by a relative or something like that. In Roomcarnage, a single infection could lead to total and unstoppable ruin.

Things look okay. I'm fine with letting the entire fortress idle - they're safe where they are. I look back towards the surface.

I might as well set them to use. I hope that I will have enough time to carve the ice back out and have the vampires grab a few bucketfuls - maybe the water will remain liquid long enough for it to be used offensively against the undead. At the end of the last chapter I was optimistic - I mandated the construction of no less than thirty copper barrels. About half of them have been completed, and there are a few masterworks.

I should make a well. Perhaps after a few more buckets have been finished. I unpause, and go back to see if Rith Craftportent has ceased with her buffoonery.

Her buffoonery intensifies.

The vampire mayor contentedly fishes out of a solid block of ice.

There's not much to do but to let the bout of madness run its course. I turn my attention towards the cramped glacial room that Rith carved out of the ice, expecting to find the other vampire.

Inside, I do find the woodworker vampire, and also a new face - Doren Gemslip, a skilled woodcrafter, among other things. I had set up a zoned meeting area inside the ice chamber, so it's not especially surprising that someone made it inside.

I can't say I'm especially surprised at Doren's profile, either. Another worshiper of Zon - the god of fortresses, a deity of the pantheon of the Superior Lances. The other two vampires already residing in the shadow of the Oily Furnace also worship Zon, who is responsible for a great number of vampires and werecreatures. It seems that a cult is forming upon the Ice of Ghosts.

It's worth noting that the rest of the dwarves in Roomcarnage do not worship Zon at all, since they are all members of the Playful Spattered Walls. Their god of fortresses is Bothon, who appears as a male dwarf, and is also associated with war and nightmares - an appropriate patron deity of Roomcarnage, if ever there was one.

I decide to continue with my plan to use a vampire bucket brigade to use cast-ice as a weapon against the undead. I designate a chamber to be carved out of the very end of the southern tunnel, and order a door installed on the northern side of the room - a rudimentary airlock.

The highly skilled miners of Roomcarnage dig out the chamber, and the door is installed.

Then, I create an activity zone and flag it as a garbage dump, being sure to remove the previous garbage dump zone.

Then, I designate all the copper buckets to be dumped.

A crowd of haulers rushes into the forges, each grabbing a single bucket off the piles that must crowd around the anvil, and rushes back up into the fortress.

The buckets are safely deposited just inside the chamber. Also, in order to properly equip the other vampires, I have a couple +copper picks+ sent up as well.

Rith continues to fish. I'd be astonished if she caught anything, but at this point it's a waste of time. Once the airlock is opened, the other two vampires will have access to picks, and be able to break the ice themselves.

Once all the buckets and the picks are in the chamber, I order the northern door to be sealed tightly and locked, while also unlocking the southern door. The items are now available to the vampires - and anyone else who wants them, I suppose.

rustratingly, the vampires do nothing. Rith continues fishing, while the other two stubbornly refuse to pick up the picks, despite having the mining labor enabled.

Unwilling to allow Rith to stall the process any longer, I order the trap reset with the pull of a lever.

The hatches set into the floor of the upper chamber open, and magma pours back down into the reservoir below. When this chamber was first pumped full of magma, the ice immediately above it melted - but now it seems that exposure to the open air causes it to freeze once again, despite the presence of molten rock.

As the magma oozes back into the chamber below, the flow causes obsidian boulders to tumble slowly towards the open drains...

...and down into the reservoir with dozens of others.

The water flash freezes and thaws in the spaces above the open hatches as the flow slows.

After a time, only a thin layer of molten rock lies upon the floor of the upper chamber - as it dries, the waters above it freeze.

Time to restart the trap, and see if something can be done. I order the pumps to be powered, and nine dwarves rush in to take care of the job.

The entire water reservoir thaws once again, with a thin layer of ice separating it from the hostile environment above. As before, I order the center tile mined. This time, it freezes immediately, as I watch.

I order the tile mined out again. Finally, Rith has finished fishing.

Nope. The moment the water becomes exposed to air, it freezes. All of this water is inaccessible to the vampires.

I'm distracted for a moment by the arrival of armed kobolds - no doubt come to claim the treasure trove of high-quality copper buckets that lay unused and useless in the airlock.

In any other fortress, these kobolds might pose a threat. A lone woodcutter might hold her own against a cougar or a skulking thief, but against a trained and armed squad she might not be so successful.

In Roomcarnage, it makes no difference.

I watch for a few seconds while the spear-wielding kobolds manage to cut down a single dwarf corpse. A few seconds after that, the undead descend upon them and they scatter. Most run off the edge of the map. Others go sprinting across the map with a few zombies in tow. I turn my attention back towards containing the undead menace.

On a whim - without really any sort of plan or blueprint - I start building an obsidian structure on the southwestern corner of the volcano. In my mind, I'm thinking that I can somehow build a series of pumps up through the volcano, coming to a terminus at the top of an obsidian cliffside. That cliffside will allow the magma to spread out vertically, hopefully slaying the zombies. I haven't really thought anything through.

While the vampires get to work at whatever it is they're doing, Urist Mobguilds, an adept miner, is taken with a strange mood.

Baby in hand, she rushes to the industrial quarter and claims a mason's workshop. I unpause, and she immediately begins claiming items.

My attention is called away by the arrival of yet more migrants. Apparently the fabled wealth of Roomcarnage entices common workers to leave the safety of the mountainhome and risk certain death for even the barest chance to dwell within the fortress beneath the ice.

I check back in on poor Urist. She sits in the workshop, screaming about all of the various items she requires. I go through the list and cross reference with the materials she has already been gathering. The only missing item is, absurdly, yarn cloth.

I have no yarn cloth. Yarn is made of wool, and the only wool that has ever been seen inside of Roomcarnage now either occupies one of the copper cages in the dining hall, or resides within the magma sea.

I check her profile - no mention of yarn anywhere. Curious. Oh well.

There's nothing else to be done. I order the adjacent mason's workshop to be torn down, and remove a portion of the stockpile that lies next to the moody miner.

Once the workshop has been dismantled, I order an obsidian block wall to be built around the occupied workshop, sealing it off from the rest of the fortress.

The many dwarves in the fortress who have masonry enabled as a labor rush to build the wall.

The wall is completed while Urist just sits there, clutching her infant child in one hand and her pick in the other, screaming out "I must have yarn cloth! I must have rock! I must have cut gems! I must have metal bars!"

Her screams fade from hearing as the last bricks are laid into place, and the dwarves of the Momentous Dye become oblivious to the fate of poor Urist, or her infant child.

Not a moment too soon, either.

Urist's screams reach a fevered pitch, words fading into rage as she turns upon her own baby.

I unpause, and a moment later, it is over.

In a heartbeat, Urist's mind snaps. She severs the infant's feet with her bismuth bronze pick. Furious, the baby howls in rage just as the mother's teeth close around its left upper arm. Mercifully, the infant dies there, and not after a more prolonged assault.

It isn't too long before the child's corpse reanimates.

With no other foe to take her attention, Urist stands there, wild-eyed with bloody pick in hand, striking down the pieces as they return to unlife, one by one, again...

...and again...

...and again.

Meanwhile, Rith Craftportent has a new mandate. First short swords, then slabs, and now bracelets? Curious. I can't help but be perplexed as to her motives.

I see no need to endanger dwarven lives by bringing down justice upon them. I order some rock crafts to be made, and put them at the front of the queue. The rock pots are there so that I can be sure I won't ever run out of alcohol.

After a time, the vampires have completed this four urist tall obsidian structure. At this point, I consider what to do with it. In order to pump magma off the top of it, I would need a series of pumps bringing magma up... where? Through the volcano? Building a pump stack in the volcano is more dangerous than in open air, precisely because you have to clear away the ice before the stone can be constructed.

Besides, it took the vampires all of summer to build the structure - I'm beginning to think that they are useless for all but the least labor-intensive tasks. It seems that, once again, my time has been wasted.

I take some time reassess the situation. The undead menace has grown into such a massive infestation that no small means will rid Roomcarnage of their threat. A varied array of reanimated corpses, foul fog zombies, and disembodied spirits lifelessly roam the elf blood snowdrifts.

Some of the vile monsters have plagued the surface for so long, and slain so many migrants that the dwarves have bestowed names upon them.

The foul fog contaminant is the worst of all the undead, I think. It has the power to turn normally harmless creatures into unholy terrors.

These long titles are one of my favorite parts of DF - I try and figure out the "why" behind the names. Sometimes, it comes together well. Sometimes, I'm left clueless.

As I scan across the fortress, I come across the insane miner. Urist won't last long - soon, she will follow her infant child into the cold embrace of undeath.

Something about Urist's fate seems portentous. She will perish alone in a sealed chamber, isolated from the blights of the surface, insane, thirsty, starving, fighting off an indefatigable onslaught of undead. It's difficult not to feel as if I'm witnessing some kind of procedurally generated foreshadowing.

At least the dwarves will not quietly crumble into the darkness, and Urist will die on her feet, pick in hand. After that, she will cease to be Urist, and her body will rise again to beat its rotting fists ceaselessly and uselessly against the obsidian stone wall.

Her body will not be the first to occupy one of the dark, isolated corners of the fortress. Reanimated corpses can be found locked away in abandoned bedrooms...

...on inaccessible cavern ledges...

...deep within forgotten passages...

...and at the bottom of refuse pits.

Roomcarnage endures the onslaught of undeath from within and without. A single accident could doom the fortress at any time, as it nearly has in the past. If I am going to act against the undead, now is the time, for every month that passes brings Roomcarnage closer to its ultimate fate.

I glance out over the caverns. Curious! It seems that, as the magma burnt away portions of mud and adolescent blood thorns, it somehow reacted with the surface to create small, scattered patches of yellow sand amidst the heat-scoured stone cavern floor.

Yep, it's sand. I suppose that I could now reasonably start a glassmaking industry, but I'm not sure it would be worth it, at this point. There's very little at this point that I could make with glass that could not be supplied with obsidian or copper.

What to do? I scan the most unique feature of the map that I've uncovered so far - the icy volcano known as the Oily Furnace. It's an incredibly dramatic feature, being comprised entirely of ice that slopes upwards to form jagged peaks.

As I stare at the towering, shard-tipped mountain, the answer comes to me, elegant and complete.

The solution is, really, quite simple. The undead plague the entire surface, which has thus far resisted any attempt to bring it back under control. I think back to another fortress which endured a similar problem - Koganusân, a forsaken hellhole spoken of only in whispers. When those dwarves forsook the surface, they made it uninhabitable by any other creatures.

If the dwarves cannot have the surface, then something spectacular might as well be done with it.

The Oily Furnace shall erupt, lava will creep across the ice, forever changing the face of the Ice of Ghosts in an unpredictable and violent deluge of molten rock.

Fuck the world.

I'm going to need bricks. A lot of bricks.

To ensure that the bricks are made inside the fortress, rather than on the surface, I order the vampires to deconstruct these two mason's workshops. I had this problem when I ordered a bunch of statues to be built, and the vampires made a few of their own.

Curious, I look through the statues. Sure enough, two images of the foreign god of fortresses lay unused in the glacial chamber.

One is a statue of Zon engraving. What is he engraving? Is he telling a story? The secrets of life and death?

A more traditional image of a deity.

I have the statues placed in the southwest corner of the map, making a small shrine to Zon. It will not stand forever.

I'm going to need all the pumps I can get my hands on, so I order the pumps in the failed trap to be deconstructed. Nine isn't going to be enough, but it's a good start.

Finally, it's time to drain the volcano. I order the level to be pulled.

The tell-tale bubbling at the southern edge of the lava lake indicates that the hatches have opened.

The magma flows through the caverns once more - this time, so that it may flow above the ice, not beneath it.

Even further from the surface, I order a staircase to be dug blindly downwards.

It's time to dig deeper.

It is the 19th of Limestone, in the early autumn of 1205. As Roomcarnage prepares to inflict the full wrath of the dwarves upon the surface, so too do they threaten their own lives with insatiable greed. How much longer can the fortress endure before a freak accident sentences the dwarves to their fates? Tune in next time!