Chapter 26 :: Yarns of Desperation and Mystery

July 31st, 2014

It is the 13th of Malachite, in the mid-summer of 1207. For six and a half years, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have hidden away beneath the Ice of Ghosts, and Roomcarnage has already endured many potential crises. With every passing year, the fortress has grown larger - first by migrants, then by childbirth. Despite the ceaseless threat of undeath posed by the haunted glacier far above, the dwarves have flourished - but the great size of the fortress is no blessing. Like an ever-growing woodpile doused with gasoline, the tiniest spark has the potential to set alight a vast blaze, consuming the entire fortress in misery and undeath.

For one dwarf, life in Roomcarnage was too much to bear. A furious spark alights in the woodpile.

I order the fortress guard to deal with threat. Hopefully they will reach Dodók in time.

The berserk recruit screams with rage, and the dwarves around her scatter. Dodók rushes northward, through the doors leading to the food stockpile, where a fair portion of the fortress population happens to be enjoying their drink.

Everyone scatters when the copper-clad amateur comes screaming through the doorway.

Luckily, the water's not far away. Two swordsdwarves converge upon Dodók's position, copper swords in hand.

As the civilians flee in terror, the fortress guard bears down upon the relatively untrained recruit.

The battle goes quickly, and soon the farmer's workshops are spattered with dwarf blood.

I look over the warriors - the altercation has left many with unhappy moods. If Dodók's corpse reanimates and attacks, the situation could easily get much, much worse.

The recruit's broken body must be dealt with the same way as all others who die in Roomcarnage - it must be dumped into magma and incinerated.

The fortress guard's duties are not over - they must stand watch and ensure the safety of the civilian dwarves, in the event of Dodók Syrupsabre's reanimation. I station them nearby, and pray that the corpse stays dead.

Roomcarnage returns to its normal activities, despite the presence of a dwarven corpse in the middle of the food stockpile.

So far, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have been lucky - dead bodies have been dealt with swiftly enough so that the incidences of undead have remained scarce.

Urdim Inkfresh arrives to haul off Dodók's corpse. I desperately hope that the corpse doesn't reanimate while Urdim is dragging it off to the garbage dump.

I watch as Urdim hauls the body through the food stockpiles, up the stairs, and into the muddied farm area...

...then down the exit stairwell, to the caverns, and to the narrow cleft that lay just outside the entrance to the fortress. With a heave, Urdim throws Dodók's body over the edge and watches as it splashes into the molten rock, disappearing instantly into the heat.

The military's duties are complete, for now. It's a good thing, considering what a bad mood everyone seems to be in, it would be horrible if something else immediately happened that threatened to push even more dwarves over the edge.

Oh.

Like Rupola the Steamy Scabs, this forgotten beast has also been creeping in the depths of the world since before the dawn of time.

Unlike Rupola, it has a rather dangerous weapon - it breathes fire. Now, I have no doubt that the warriors of the Momentous Dye would be a fair match for the beast - but I decide that this simply not the time for another military effort. About half the military is experiencing some sort of unhappiness, and I'm not eager to make anyone's mood worse.

There's only one solution for the time being - I have the sole passage leading to the caverns from the fortress walled off.

After ordering the wall to be built, I turn my attention back to Cákuth Lakegreases the Bile of Mines.

I wait, but the forgotten beast shows no signs of moving.

Soon, the wall is built, and Cákuth has not moved an inch. Oh well - the fortress is safe from cavern-based threats, at least for the time being.

My attention is snagged by a moody dwarf. Ugh - I hate it when children get moods.

They will always claim a craftsdwarf's workshop...

...and generally produce nothing of practical worth.

See?

I mean, it's pretty, but until music has been implemented, I won't get excited about artifact instruments.

With the fortress safely sealed off from both the surface and the caverns alike, I turn my attention towards various projects throughout the fortress. First, I have doors installed here, at the junction between the bedroom suites, the furniture stockpile, and the tunnel connecting the dining hall and the textile workshops. As with all other doorways throughout the fortress, they exist to hopefully prevent the untimely spread of undeath. Whether or not these doors will be effective in any way remains to be seen.

Then, I designate a new batch of bedrooms, expanding the residential wing down, with the same bedroom design I had previously used.

Thirty-two bedrooms isn't a lot, but it will hopefully alleviate some of the stress currently weighing down upon the fortress.

At this point, unhappy thoughts from things such as a shortage of bedrooms are needless, and easily avoided. I'm not eager to watch Roomcarnage crumble into oblivion due to homeless dwarves.

The miners work quickly - soon, their work will be complete.

I take a break from watching the dwarves work to check in on Cákuth Lakegreases. I am surprised to discover that the forgotten beast has somehow become injured, at some point after the entrance to the fortress was sealed.

A cursory look at Cákuth's profile indicates the nature of the injuries themselves. The monstrous beast has been thoroughly burnt - without skin, the great anklosaurid's fat has boiled out of its flesh, leaving the exposed bones scorched and charred.

I scan the caverns near Cákuth's current position for any clues regarding the forgotten beast's injuries, but I find nothing but sand, stone, and pools of molten rock held back by tangles of blood thorn. It's possible that there could be evidence somewhere nearby - a pool or trail of forgotten beast grease, for example - but that the clues are hidden in the darkest tunnel that are yet unexplored by the dwarves.

I set aside the mystery of Cákuth's wounds, and continue working on the bedrooms.

With the individual rooms carved out, it's time to place the beds. I have enough to furnish all of the bedrooms, with a few to spare.

A swarm of dwarves rush into the dormitory and place the beds in their place. As I watch, I silently reflect upon the nature of blood thorns - for the dwarves of Roomcarnage, these grotesque, sickeningly twisted subterranean "trees" are the only ready source of lumber. Most of the beds in the fortress are crafted of crimson wood - how appropriate it is, I suppose, that the dwarves living in a fortress as cursed as Roomcarnage should lay themselves to rest in beds of gore.

I cannot immediately install doors in the bedrooms - only four rock doors are available.

The masons have yet to chew through the backlog of work orders, but when they do, these bedrooms will be complete.

While the masons continue their work, I check back in on the burnt forgotten beast. Cákuth Lakegreases the Bile of Mines creeps through a half-hidden portion of the caverns.

Some of the burns on Cákuth's bones have faded away, but the beast's wounds are still plainly apparent.

I decide to expose the rest of the caverns to view - if any clues remain that would indicate the cause of Cákuth's injuries, I will find them. I have a passage dug down near the unexplored area, and order the narrow wall between the stairway and the caverns to be smoothed.

A dwarf arrives quickly and smoothes the wall...

...I order fortifications to be carved into the wall...

...and soon enough, the caverns are revealed.

To no avail - despite a comprehensive search of the caverns, I find absolutely no indication of how Cákuth was injured.

Once again, my attention is called away from the events in the fortress. Rith Craftportent, the vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, has mandated the production of more goods.

More short swords? I can't help but wonder what Rith has planned for the fortress - I have enough copper short swords to equip another squad or two of military dwarves.

Perhaps I should do exactly that... but for now, I will simply acquiesce to Rith's demands. It's better than allowing Rith to call down dwarven justice upon the living citizens of the fortress.

Now... what else can be taken care of, while I'm waiting for the situation in Roomcarnage to cool down?

Ah, of course! With the caverns blocked off, the dwarves no longer have access to sand, for glassmaking. Fortunately, with a little searching, I'm able to find a few isolated ledges, inaccessible to the rest of the caverns, that were exposed to magma during the draining of the volcano.

I pick one of the ledges, and designate a connection to the network of claustrophobic passages that laces the solid stone above the fortress.

Observe the bustling traffic of Roomcarnage - even now, as things are winding down, with many of the work orders completed, the number of idlers in the fortress hovers in the mid-twenties.

At least thirty dwarves are required to power the magma-spewing weapon.

Despite having a working, adult population of over one hundred dwarves, over two thirds of those dwarves are occupied with jobs at any given point in time. That number will decrease, however, and soon the consistent number of idlers will rise above thirty - and then, the weapon may be reactivated.

The tantrum spiral that threatened to consume the fortress seems to have subsided. Good - I still have plans for the fortress, which have yet to come to fruition.

I watch as a dwarf carves out the narrow passage leading to the sandy ledge.

Soon, the passage is complete, and the fortress' supply of raw sand is restored.

I make two sand collection zones...

...just in case something should happen to one of them. They are redundant, of course - the dwarves will probably only end up using one patch of sand. But it's just to be thorough.

Now that sand collection zones have been set up, I set a couple sand collection jobs on repeat...

...and the dwarves get to work.

Hmm... I wonder what Cákuth is up to?

I find the forgotten beast in the units screen, but not under the Others menu. Cákuth Lakegreases the Bile of Mines now tops off the Dead/Missing list.

I look over the combat reports, but the most recent report involving a forgotten beast relates to Rupola the Steamy Scabs, which certainly predates Cákuth's arrival.

A search of the caverns reveals nothing. How then can I determine Cákuth's fate with any degree of certainty?

There is a way. I order the dwarves to carve a memorial to Cákuth Lakegreases the Bile of Mines. Such a memorial will certainly indicate Cákuth's final fate.

Just for shits, I have a memorial carved for Rupola as well.

I look over the memorials. Interesting - I had not been aware that Rupola had acquired the surname "Mobbedpuzzle" at some point during its rampage. Very curious.

I look over the memorial to Cákuth Lakegreases. It seems that the forgotten beast "died in the heat." That's enough information, I suppose, to deduce what happened.

Without any other monsters in the caverns nearby, Cákuth's breath weapon is not to blame. Instead, this evidence points to the forgotten beast being incinerated in magma - it seems as if Cákuth, at least twice, went for a swim in a pool of molten rock.

I won't pretend to know the motives of a primordial creature which, after more than twelve centuries alone in the darkness, repeatedly took the plunge into chthonic fire. Its actions seem bizarre... but perhaps it is privy to more information than the dwarves of Roomcarnage. Perhaps, if the dwarves knew what Cákuth knew, they too would cast themselves into the flame.

I don't dwell on it for too long. I have the two memorials erected in a dormitory foyer.

Finally, the masons have carved enough stone doors for the new bedroom suite to be completed.

I have the doors installed...

...and then immediately designate each of the new bedrooms.

It is a repetitive process, but it doesn't take very long.

The haulers arrive quickly, dragging obsidian doors out of the furniture stockpile and down the stairs to the dormitory.

The doors are installed, and the bedrooms are complete.

At last! The improvements to the fortress are complete, and the number of idlers in the fortress is well in excess of what is necessary to power the weapon. The time has come once again for the dwarves to display their prowess, and rain righteous destruction upon the surface of the Ice of Ghosts.

I do a last-minute examination of the weapon's new additions. Icy wind howls through the obsidian-lined tunnels, and there is no sight of any creature - vampire or foul fog zombie alike. Recently, Rith Craftportent and her foul fog zombie advisor stood at the end of the northern tunnel, but they have vacated the area.

I look for the vampires - to my surprise, I find both of them clinging to the icy slopes of the Oily Furnace, seven urists above the weapon's lava vent.

I struggle to contain my shock as I examine the trio. Rith Craftportent, the vampire mayor, is attended by both the vampire Domas Firstfigures, as well as her trusted advisor, Dumat Sensesstakes the foul fog zombie diagnoser.

They stand watch, high upon the slopes of the glacial volcano, waiting patiently for the weapon's activation.

I stare for several seconds at those eternally serene, smiling faces, until a queer sensation crawls through my gut and I feel compelled to look away. Even as I turn my attention elsewhere, I can't shake the undeniable malaise that I felt as I peered at my glowing computer screen, and felt some lurking evil staring back at me from beyond those cold, dead pixels.

I steady my shaking hand, and order all of the pumps to be activated.

I unpause, and watch as the number of idlers drops from the mid-forties into the teens.

A small army of dwarves rush through the cramped tunnels to the pump stack.

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

The hatches open - the first safety is released, and the pump stack grinds into action.

Soon, the stack is filled to the brim - a straining, churning tower of pressurized magma.

I order another lever to be pulled, opening the eastern door, and allowing the magma to reach the new additions to the weapon.

The door opens, and a torrent of molten rock fills the eastern passage. The second safety is released.

All that remains now is to decide which of these two doors will be opened - will the magma be unleashed upon the northern or eastern glacier?

The answer is probably both - but then, will it be one after the other, or at the same time?

Decisions, decisions.

It is the 1st of Timber, in the late autumn of 1207. The berserk dwarf who threatened to bring the fortress into ruin has been neutralized, and a vile forgotten beast has perished alone in the darkness. Who knows how close the fortress came to a tantrum spiral? Perhaps Roomcarnage is more robust than I had previously thought... I should not think in such ways, though, for the moment that I turn my back upon the Ice of Ghosts, I know, is the moment that it shall strike the hardest.