Chapter 15 :: The Foul Fog Conspiracy

This is the fifteenth installment in my ongoing fortress diary, detailing the exploits of the Momentous Dye at Roomcarnage.

  June 27th, 2014

It is the 2nd of Timber, in the late autumn of 1205. The population of Roomcarnage ever increases, with babies being born every week even as the ranks of the undead are bolstered with the still-warm corpses of fresh migrants.

The caravan will arrive soon. The dwarven caravan always arrives in the late autumn, regardless of whether or not the merchants are still alive. I order the construction of a new trade depot upon the surface, amidst the piles of frozen elf blood snow. Hopefully, it will entice the caravan wagons - slow, and laid heavy with precious goods - to make the dangerous trek across the Ice of Ghosts.

Deep beneath the glacier, the caverns are filled with churning, bubbling magma. The dwarves have drained the colossal reservoir that lies within the volcano so that a weapon of vast destructive potential may be constructed within it.

The time has come for the first passages to be carved out. When the weapon is finished, it will spew a torrent of molten stone out upon the Ice of Ghosts - I can only hope that the combination of lava and glacier is enough to diminish the undead presence. In any case, I've been eager to do something like this since the dwarves arrived here in the early spring of 1201.

I decide to incorporate the mysterious obsidian structure constructed by the vampires, upon which mayor Rith herself now stands. It will provide a sufficient promontory over which the lava may flow, just in case the slopes of the volcano somehow obstruct the deluge.

First, I must lay out the plans for the trap itself, in full scale.

I designate a small room with a down stairway within the volcano. This will be the uppermost level of the tunnels that will provide access to the pump stack, and its construction area.

For my reference, and the reference of my readers, this is the pump stack's footprint. Each pump is one urist by two, and pumps magma from one of its ends to the other - thus occupying an area four urists long in total. Two pumps side by side make an area two urists by four, as seen here.

I'm placing the pump stack close to the edge of the volcano as a way to economize upon labor and time - with the access tunnels located within the volcano itself, the only part of the weapon that needs to be constructed within the volcano is the pump stack itself, and its surrounding encasement.

I tentatively designate a line of ramps. This indicates the actual route that the lava will take as it exits the pump stack. I am carving ramps here so that the space above the lava will be open air, and not meltable ice.

Then, I place designations immediately beside the lava route, so that constructed walls may be placed there, rather than the ice.

After the uppermost level of the weapon has been laid out, I double check the ramps to make sure that I'm not going to accidentally carve a route to the surface. I've lost entire fortresses to casual accidents such as these.

I make the correction and move on.

Zooming downward, I examine the area underneath the footprint I've designated within the volcano. It seems that there is a conflict with the adamantine magma pumps that have already been placed here.

I'm not eager to tear out these pumps - there may be a time when I need magma beneath the glacier, when they would come in handy. I designate access tunnel - a 2x2 room on each level, connected vertically with the rest via an up/down staircase.

However, the pump stack will, when completed, span a height of fifteen urists, with about two thirds of that beneath the surface of the undrained lava lake. I will have to construct a portion of the access tunnel on the pump stack's eastern side.

Before doing that, I reconsider the size of the staircase - there will be an awful lot of traffic going through these tunnels, especially when the weapon is activated. I expand the stairwell.

Naturally, all of the ice adjacent to the pump stack must be carved out as well.

At the lowermost point in the access tunnel, I designate a doorway into the lava tube. Of course, all these small rooms will have doorways, giving access to the pumps once they are in place, but this door is special - it will lead to the small side passage which circumvents the preexisting magma pumps.

That side passage will lead downward for only three urists, at which point it will lead back into the wall of the volcano.

I complete the rest of the access tunnels, finishing at ten urists below the surface of the glacier. The lava lake within the Oily Furnace still bubbles above that point, but by the time I am prepared to construct on that level, I am sure that the lava will have sufficiently receded.

The time has come. I order a small tunnel to be carved from the remains of the failed water freezing trap to the newly designated tunnels.

Before any of the miners can get to work, I notice a passing combat notification - a living ranger engaged in combat!

Attacked by an animating corpse... I hold my breath as I zoom to the site.

Ah, a migrant.

Somehow, he's managed to survive on the slopes of the Oily Furnace for a week and a half. I'm honestly surprised at his good mood - although, I'm sure it won't last.

Kogsak holds no crossbow, despite being a ranger. I wouldn't make any difference - all migrants perish before they reach the inner sanctum of Roomcarnage.

I unpause, and a battle rages upon the icy cliffside.

The ranger is unable to recover in time to make any attacks of his own.

The battle quickly turns.

Kogsak stumbles backwards and collapses. As he passes out from the agony, I notice that his mood has worsened considerably.

One more strike is all it takes.

The frigid cliffside of the ice volcano is painted with Kogsak's blood.

Nobody witnesses the ranger's final fate. He goes "missing," along with all the other migrants. Not even the worshipers of Zon notice their passage.

Roomcarnage continues, blissfully ignorant of the frozen hell that will eventually drag it down into ruin.

The first miners begin to reach the work site.

Due to the narrowness of the tunnel, at times only a single miner may be digging. Come to carve the way is Kadol Worklimb, legendary miner of Roomcarnage.

On the 1st of Granite in 1201, Kadol arrived at the Oily Furnace and helped to found Roomcarnage.

Glancing over his likes, I can't help but conclude that he is a gentleman of impeccable taste.

He likes adamantine and loves a good thrill... he might be the perfect miner, here in Roomcarnage.

Kadol quickly advances into the tunnels, and more miners follow after him.

Once the door to the circumventing passage has been carved out, I order the construction of a floor - I'm holding off on the rest of the construction until access has been established to every level of the weapon.

Meanwhile, outside atop the mysterious obsidian structure, Rith Craftportent, the vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, holds council.

She is attended by Dumat Sensesstakes, a foul fog zombie diagnoser. Rith has no relationships - she has never interacted with any living creature on the Ice of Ghosts. And yet, it seems that she is discussing a matter of great importance with the foul undead.

I spend a minute or two carefully looking over Rith Craftportent's thoughts and preferences. Physically, the vampire mayor seems rather normal, but her mental traits clearly mark her as unfit to rule. She possesses no linguistic ability and has a very bad sense of empathy, not to mention next to no willpower. It is difficult to explain how she managed to usurp leadership of Roomcarnage - I suppose there are methods of dwarven communication to which we humans are not privy.

Of the foul fog zombie's thoughts and preferences, one can only guess. All I can look over is his physical description.

As I contemplate the undead council, the caravan arrives.

This time, they are alive. For now.

With an accessible trade depot now built at the base of the volcano, the wagons have a destination. The merchants bravely drive their way south, through a small crowd of shambling dwarf corpses.

The caravan guards manage to slay the undead as they come, and for a minute or two I entertain the hope that some good might finally come out of this.

I look for the outpost liaison. The diplomat runs shrieking across the Ice of Ghosts, apparently fleeing in terror from the ubiquitous undead.

I look back at the wagons - they seem to have changed their mind.

As the caravan desperately tries to escape, I notice that the outpost liaison seems to be hanging around the southeastern corner of the map, more or less. I order a stairwell carved down into the glacier nearby - hopefully, the vampire mayor will be able to meet with the liaison in a place of relative safety.

However, even as Rith Craftportent takes up the job and begins slowly walking across the map, the outpost liaison scampers northward, away from the designated area. I hope that the liaison will return, and leave the stairwell designated as is.

Rith arrives a few moments later, followed closely by none other than Dumat Sensesstakes, the foul fog zombie advisor. What nightmarish dwarven government is this?

As Rith digs, I quickly realize that she is taking too long. I have an obsidian throne thrown into the airlock, which is then made into a small, meager office. The mayor now has a meeting place, if she chooses to take it.

I check back with the construction of the weapon. With the floors complete, I order a downward stairwell built.

Then, I look back to the southeast corner of the fortress. Rith seems content to have a meeting on the bloody ice, and not in her new office. As the outpost liaison approaches, a queer thing happens - the foul fog zombie diagnosed flees from the liaison!

The diplomat seems to scare the diagnosed away before returning to meet with the mayor.

Things don't pan out, unfortunately - a couple frozen corpses stalk the outpost liaison, who then flees northward.

I'm stunned, and completely unsure what to make of the situation. It almost appears that Rith Craftportent has her own vision of Roomcarnage - a fortress inhabited solely by the undead, a lifeless paradise for vampires and foul fog zombies. The outpost liaison, however, scared away a foul fog zombie - perhaps Rith's plans have yet to come to fruition, and she must (for the time being) operate in secret.

The miners finally reach the uppermost level.

They quickly work through the ice of the Oily Furnace.

Soon, molten rock will churn through this passage and out onto the glacier, forever changing the surface of the Ice of Ghosts.

The dwarves of Roomcarnage will have their vengeance upon the haunted glacier, but I fear that their wrath will wreak only superficial havoc.

For I know that, no matter how much ice is melted, no matter how many undead are encased in cooling obsidian, the malign influence of the Ice of Ghosts will forever torment Roomcarnage. The glacier will win, eventually.

But not before the dwarves put on a sufficiently spectacular display.

The down stairs are complete - I order another layer of the passage to be built. Once the stairs have been completed, and the access tunnel is continuous from top to bottom, construction shall begin upon the device itself.

In order to facilitate construction, I place a new stockpile within the ruins of the failed trap.

This stockpile is only for obsidian blocks.

Then, I remove obsidian blocks from the list of items held in the old bar/block stockpile.

As the dwarves rush to haul the stone blocks up from the deeps, I examine the narrow passage that yawns above the spot the miners just finished digging out. This open space is the exact shape and placement of the nozzle of the weapon - it is through a passage directly underneath that the lava will flow.

Once the trap has been fully completed, it will fall to the vampires - specifically the mayor herself - to carve away the last few layers of ice at the western end of the tunnel.

Speaking of the mayor... I look back at the southeastern corner of the map. Sure enough Rith Craftportent is still there, holding council with the undead diagnoser.

I struggle to find an explanation for what is going on right here. There are times, when playing Dwarf Fortress, that I have come across situations where the dwarves' coding makes them act in peculiar, even uncanny ways. This is one of those situations.

Curious, I look around for the outpost liaison, but the diplomat no longer appears on my units screen. I find the liaison's last known position via the combat reports.

I guess there won't be any trade agreements this year.

It is the 28th of Timber, in the late autumn of 1205. Soon, winter will envelop the Oily Furnace, yet the dwarves will continue their toil. The framework for a massive device has been laid into solid stone and blood-caked ice. Before the year turns, the form of the weapon itself will have taken form within the caldera of the volcano.

Still, questions hang in my mind. Who is Rith Craftportent? Does she work for or against the dwarves? My heart tells me that she has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end.