Chapter 21 :: The Last Days before the Heat

July 9th, 2014

It is the 2nd of Limestone, in the early autumn of 1206.

The halls of Roomcarnage echo with the sounds of unceasing industry. In the deep, cramped magma forges, the smiths, smelters, and strand extractors are hard at work processing mythical adamantine from raw cyan stone into magma-safe pipe sections and enormous corkscrews. Soon, the mysterious weapon which has long been the focus and goal of the dwarves' labor shall be complete, and the fiery vengeance of the Momentous Dye shall pour out over the Ice of Ghosts in a vast conflagration.

Yet even as the fortress approaches the greatest landmark event in its history so far, the dwarves themselves threaten the weapon's completion. For Feb Griffoncrafts, the tragic death of his wife and infant son was too much to bear. His mind snapped, and now he crawls about the engraved statuary, babbling like an idiot.

The spinner refuses to eat or drink. He will wither away of starvation and dehydration. There is little that I can do, except to maintain my vigilance for death announcements.

Feb's two surviving children - Ustuth Carnalcoal and Dodók Parchfence - are also unhappy, but not to the point of madness. I desperately hope that this chain of misery and death started by the miserable stonecrafter Dastot Ringmute ends here, with Feb Griffoncrafts, and does not spiral out of control.

Roomcarnage grinds on. Are the dwarves unaware of their situation, or do they know how closely the shadow of doom hangs over all their heads? Over the years, they have become so acclimated to life in the caves that a single trip to the surface is enough to ruin a dwarf's day. Then again, the surface above Roomcarnage is particularly unpleasant - I can't blame them for taking comfort in blissful ignorance.

The fortress' supplies of obsidian are running low. The stonecrafters, masons, and mechanics of Roomcarnage use volcanic glass exclusively. As a result, I've been making recent expansions into obsidian layers, to fill the demand for stone while simultaneously improving the fortress.

The miners quickly get to work. When it comes time to excavate the bedrooms, I will probably have them carved out of an obsidian layer as well. The time for that will come when my demands for beds has been met.

Meanwhile, the levers controlling crucial sections of the weapon have been linked to their respective doors. It's time to test them, just to make sure I haven't fouled up any of the connections.

The southern doors open when the lever is pulled... good...

...and the eastern one is correctly linked as well. Good! I order the levers to be pulled once more, snapping the doors back into a sealed position.

Now that the links have been completed, I lock the western door, blocking access to the tiny chamber just south of the highest level of pumps.

The time has come for the nozzle of the weapon to be finished. I order a few designations - the vampire mayer, Rith Craftportent, will be on hand soon to carve away at the ice...

...even as living, breathing miners continue their work in the deeps.

It is time, yet again, to handle the growing ghost problem. I order the construction of a few slabs, to make a memorial area in the dining hall.

Four dwarves souls are laid to rest, their spirits calmed by the knowledge that a memorial exists, dedicated to their memory.

I place the last slab out on top of the weapon's casing. It is a special slab, and it deserves a special place in the fortress.

Rith Craftportent slowly toils, arduously picking away at the blood-coated ice that forms the volcano's slope at a glacial tempo.

Years have passed since she imbibed alcohol. She is a vampire, yet still experiences withdrawal symptoms, including decreased speed and responsiveness.

It takes her a significant amount of time to carve out a single tile of ice.

Even so, she completes the task sufficiently. A few more pick strikes later, and the ice falls away, revealing a dark corridor, lined with obsidian bricks. The long, arched ceiling is raw, hewn ice. It is the closest that Rith has ever come to entering the fortress.

She continues with the task, obediently carving away bit after bit of the haunted ice. Does she work for or against the Momentous Dye? What is the vampire mayor's agenda? She colludes with foul fog zombies and worships the foreign deity Zon, yet she also provides crucial aid in the completion of a device that may very well lead to her own destruction.

I cannot answer these questions. The Worshipers of Zon may remain ever a mystery.

Ah, yes, the memorial to a wagon is complete.

Four years is as much as any wagon might expect to have in this cruel world. RIP, wagon.

Migrants arrive. Fools!

The Ice of Ghosts shall be their final resting place. For weeks, months, they have driven themselves across the haunted glacier, in the hope that they too might share in the legendary wealth of Roomcarnage.

Their fates are sealed. None survive. Still, I am dedicated to finding a solution - some way to deal with the unholy menace that plagues the surface of the glacier.

I turn my attention back to the weapon. In order to ensure that the magma actually makes it out of the volcano and onto the surface, the flow of molten rock must be carefully controlled, directed out over the top of the mysterious obsidian structure.

These glacial upward slopes, if left uncovered, could somehow block the flow of magma out of the vent.

Thus, they must be covered with stone blocks. The vampires obediently get to work placing the constructions.

Ah, the obsidian quarry has been carved out. I have a furniture stockpile placed here - the current stockpile is overflowing, and ought to be replaced. This is as good a location as any.

A flood of job cancellations catch my eye. That's not unusual, but these are disheartening.

The strand extractors can't keep up with the demands of the smiths. Each pipe section requires nine adamantine wafers - each corkscrew requires five. If this weapon is going to be constructed soon, I will need to make some changes.

First, I remove the empty adamantine thread stockpile.

Then, I have three more craftsdwarf's workshops placed in the empty space.

Ehhh... that's not enough. I place three more. That's better.

All the while, the volcano has been refilling. The surface of the lava lake has finally reached the lowest level of the pumps - that is, the volcano is filled to the minimum point necessary for the activated weapon to have any effect at all. If the lava was any lower, it would not be reached by the pumps on this level.

The volcano continues to fill as I look on for a few seconds more, before returning my attention to the forges.

The dwarves quickly erect the new workshops. The number of idlers has been steadily increasing - the textile industry has been finishing many of their work orders. That's good, but after the forges have finished turning out the last machine components, I'm going to have the fortress produce many, many more clothes. I can't risk another tantrum spiral at this point as a result of dwarven indecency.

Once the workshops have been built, I have all of them manned by strand extractors. Good. Something pops up in the back of my mind. Feb Griffoncraft... I haven't checked in on the babbling spinner for some time now.

I check the units screen and jump down to where I would expect Feb's name to turn up. Nothing.

Shit.

I look in the memorial hall, where I last saw Feb. I don't immediately see his body, but I do find one of his sons.

Little Ustuth has apparently been fine lately - an improvement, despite having lost a father recently. Feb's fate is confirmed.

A dog moves out of the way, revealing the spinner's body. I immediately mark it for disposal.

I wait for a hauler to arrive. There's no real concern, I feel - the dogs will quickly deal with any threat that Feb's animated corpse might pose to the fortress.

Eventually, a dwarf arrives and grabs the corpse.

It's a quick walk from the memorial hall to the barracks... and then, out the hatch!

The falling corpse of the father smashes into the animated corpse of his infant son, Rovod. The threat is dealt with - and it seems as if Feb's remaining two children will be able to take the deaths of the rest of their family in stride.

continued in part two...