Chapter 16 :: On Thin Ice

June 30th, 2014

It is the 28th of Timber, in the late autumn of 1205. Deep beneath the frigid, haunted glacier, Roomcarnage flourishes - a dwarven paradise comfortably nestled within a frozen hell.

Autumn slips into winter, and Roomcarnage nears the end of its fifth year. For nigh on half a decade, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have successfully resisted the malign influence of the Ice of Ghosts. Their resistance cannot go on forever - eventually, Roomcarnage will crumble to its end, as all fortresses do. Before that day arrives, however, the dwarves will claim their vengeance upon the glacier, and leave an indelible monument to the glory of the dwarves embedded within the deadly ice.

The weapon of their vengeance has yet to be completed, but even now the framework of its construction has been laid. The dwarves haul obsidian brick after obsidian brick up towards the weapon's access tunnels to lay in a stockpile nearby. As they come and go, I can't help but notice how many haulers are carrying infants as well as bricks. Soon, Roomcarnage's population will exceed 200, and the fortress will - in theory - stop receiving migrant waves. At least that will be a mercy - until the population dips back down below 200, that is.

Once again, my habitual checking of the ceaseless, unending combat logs pays off. I notice a recent exchange between two living dwarves - a swordsdwarf and a peasant.

Two swordsdwarves, actually - it seems the one on the receiving end of the beating was automatically relieved from active duty once the extent of his injuries became apparent. I count the attacks - ten strikes, the standard dwarven beating, often used as a punishment when no chains are available for prisoners.

This is dwarven justice, brought down upon the living of Roomcarnage by the vampire mayor, Rith Craftportent. Despite never having come into contact with the dwarves, she issues demands and declares sentences through some kind of eldritch authority.

I find Geshud Matchedplank resting in one of the hospital beds, four doors down from the last injured dwarf who was brought here.

In any other fortress, I would have let Geshud live. Even without soap, Geshud stands no risk of getting an infection - his skin was never actually broken, despite the bones in his left hand and feet being shattered.

No, it is the fortress' lack of water that condemns Geshud to his fate. The dwarves might try to treat his wounds and have him up on his feet before he dies of dehydration, but the risk is too great.

I check his relationships. Two living parents, and a younger sibling - but not too many others. A few unhappy thoughts when he dies - even more when his family happens to glance upon his undead corpse.

The way I see it, Geshud would have died of thirst anyway. Now he's just doing it behind a locked door.

With a clear conscience, I look to the construction of the weapon's casing. The lower portion of the access tunnel has yet to be completed - I order the stairwell to be continued down towards the roiling, bubbling magma lake.

How do the dwarves construct a downwards staircase into open air... with nothing but stone bricks?

The answer will have to wait. The mayor has laid down another edict.

Not to oppressive this time, just some stone slabs.

Does the mayor have a problem with the population of ghosts? Yet she takes a foul fog zombie as a personal advisor. Her actions leave me bewildered, but at least her demands will be met.

I order the construction of the lowest level of the exterior stairwell... almost there.

Jets of lava spout from the turbulent caldera, some reaching as high as the exposed stairwell. A single spurt of molten rock could wreak havoc upon the construction site, I am well aware.

But that is the price to be paid for building within the volcano itself.

Finally, the construction reaches the last segment of the access tunnel.

Miners show up quickly...

...and within minutes, they reach the lowest level of the construction.

The lava still hasn't quite receded past where I need it to be in order to begin construction... there's stuff that can be done elsewhere, in the meantime.

Back up at the top of the weapon, I order the magma-safe corridor to be constructed. This floor indicates where the lava will actually flow on its way out of the volcano.

The dwarves work quickly, laying down a hand-crafted, smooth obsidian tunnel.

In time, a torrent of molten rock will surge through this passage and bathe the Ice of Ghosts with chthonic flame.

The time has come. The surface of the lava lake has dipped just below the lowest point of the soon-to-be weapon.

I order a passage dug out.

Keenly aware that the dwarves will be operating less than a urist above the lava, I order the construction of a platform.

As the dwarves work, lava bubbles up from the depths and surges into the air - often high above the level of the construction - before falling back down into the volcano. One comes near enough to splash a bit of lava onto the platform itself - no dwarf was there at the time, thankfully.

To facilitate the construction of bricks, I have a few more mason's workshops placed next to the stockpile. This will help ensure that I don't run out of materials partway through construction.

There are several close calls. Observe the tile directly to the northeast of the miner.

The extra floors allow the dwarves to access the hard to reach corners of the weapon casing. This part of the construction process will become easier on every other level, since there will be a ring of walls on the level below, upon which to walk.

Once those walls have been constructed, the temporary floors are torn up, their bricks reclaimed. The bit of floor designated here has a pool of magma covering it - mercifully, no dwarf was standing there when it splashed onto the platform.

A child arrives to remove the construction. Magma bubbles everywhere, threatening every moment to coat the platform and the dwarves upon it with immolating fluid.

But it doesn't, and fortunately there are no casualties. The worst is past - as construction continues upward, the lava lake will continue to recede, and the threat of lava jets will diminish greatly.

Eventually, the last temporary floors can be torn up.

Again, it is the children who arrive to remove the constructions.

I hold my breath as the lava jets continue to rage in the caldera beyond, but the children succeed without incident.

The danger of any operation within a volcano cannot be overstated. It is a perilous, unpredictable environment. For now, it seems, the Oily Furnace tolerates the presence of the industrious alcoholics.

I order the last bit of wall to be constructed on the lowest level.

The wall is completed safely, but there is yet one last step before construction may begin upon the rest of the weapon.

These two tiles must be torn up once more. This is the passage up through which the lava will be first pumped from the volcano.

Once the floors have been torn up, I have obsidian hatches installed. When the volcano is refilled, it would not do to have a lava jet fill this lowest chamber with molten rock.

The hatches are installed - time to move to the next phase of construction.

I order the rest of the doorways to be carved from the access tunnel to where the pump stack will stand.

Once that's been done, I order the four central floors on every other level to be laid down. It is upon these floors that the pumps, two by two, will be built.

The completed device will include a fifteen urist high pump stack - a modestly tall construction, but sufficient for my needs.

Construction at this point grows tedious. The walls must be laid mostly level by level, since access to these corners is limited by the completion of the walls on the level beneath.

There is more that can be done at the same time, though. I order the construction of the rest of the flooring on several levels. This alternates between north and south on each successive level, as befits a traditional pump stack.

A flashing red down arrow catches my eye. Dastot Ringmute, legendary stonecrafter, is very unhappy.

A sickly feeling creeps through my gut.

She is a dwarf particularly prone to unhappiness, it seems, and has recently experienced a number of unpleasantries. Some of these unhappy thoughts I could have prevented, but some are to be expected. Cave adaptation is to be expected, there's not much I can do about the weather. The monotony of food, however, might yet be handled with the butchering of a few choice canines (safe within the cage-trapped charnel chamber, of course), and I had simply forgotten to get the clothing industry up and running.

Yep. No pants.

I find it curious that Dastot Ringmute is the creator of Mutepanted, a legendary native copper figurine of dwarves, depicting the founding of Roomcarnage. Coincidence, or prophecy? You be the judge.

I have the manager whip up a round of clothing. Dwarves only need footwear, legwear, and bodywear, so I have some pig tail fiber shoes, trousers, and tunics put into production.

Just to make sure I don't exhaust my supply of raw cloth at a critical moment, I order a slew of pig tails to be processed into thread.

As for Dastot, there's not much else I can do right now. I disable all her labors, so that she'll return to the comfort of the fortress and - hopefully - be cheered up by all the engravings and statues.

As the very unhappy stonecrafter wanders back into the fortress, construction of the weapon continues unabated.

Dwarves run back and forth with stone bricks as temporary platforms are laid down and torn back up again. Very pleased with how things are progressing, I order a few more sections of the weapon's casing to be built, and check back in on Dastot.

Fuck.

She's made it back into the dining hall, but her mood is even worse than before. The pants have gone into production - I can only hope that she will claim one soon. Keeping an eye on the announcements screen, I return my attention to the construction.

I look over what's been done so far. Much of the lower portion of the weapon is complete, with only a few sections of wall here and there that have yet to be laid down.

The upper portion is less finished, consisting of little more than several small platforms of stone, jutting into the steaming caldera from the jagged ice cliff.

These errors in construction are a result of dwarves standing in the tile upon which they are attempting to build the wall. Essentially, the dwarf nearly finishes building the wall, then realizes they are standing in the way - then suspends the job and leaves to get a drink.

It's a tedious process, but each "problem" wall has to be cancelled and rebuilt. Sometimes it will automatically work the second time, but I often have to use traffic designations to prevent dwarves from entering the space of construction.

Spring has arrived! Congratulations, dwarves of Roomcarnage - the fortress is five years old.

For half a decade, Roomcarnage has endured. It has withstood attacks by foul fog zombies and animated corpses. It has persevered beneath the oppressive yoke of vampiric leadership. It has denied the will of the Ice of Ghosts, and lived.

What fates do the next five years hold for Roomcarnage?

I have my guesses.

A volcanic island of misery in an ecstatic ocean of alcohol-guzzling dwarves, Dastot Ringmute quietly broods, threatening to erupt into a tantrum at any second.

For five years, Roomcarnage has been a slowly growing mass of metaphorical gunpowder, and now a spark of rage flickers here, in the food stockpile.

Her mood might improve. It might worsen. She might go insane and begin slaughtering dwarves left and right - or maybe a single well-placed punch will be all it takes to send the fortress spiraling into ruin.

Knowing that I may, in truth, be witnessing Roomcarnage's final moments, I look over the fortress. Death can be found everywhere, from rotting corpses shambling blindly behind smooth obsidian walls...

...to the incorporeal spirits of the dead that haunt the military in the barracks.

Undead monsters lurk behind locked doors in the infirmary...

...even as caged animal skins and furs quiver in the corner of the dining hall with barely contained hatred for the living.

As the fortress quavers upon the precipice of ultimate destruction, Rith Craftportent proclaims yet another edict.

Somehow, Rith, I don't think that will be a problem.

It is the 3rd of Granite, in the early spring of 1206. The fate of Roomcarnage hangs in the balance - will the fortress survive long enough to complete the weapon, or will the Ice of Ghosts finally claim Roomcarnage for the dead? Tune in next time!