Chapter 27 :: Glacier, Glacier, Burning Bright

August 6th, 2014

It is the 1st of Timber, in the late autumn of 1207. A prodigious reservoir of molten rock, held back only by an obsidian door, is ready to be unleashed upon the haunted Ice of Ghosts with the pull of a lever.

The fifteen-level pump stack is active, powered by no fewer than thirty dwarves. The pumps feed into a narrow corridor, already filled with steam and magma. The only question is whether to direct the red-hot deluge to the north or the east.

In both directions - north and east - the situation is similar. Foul fog zombies and reanimated corpses shamble about the unholy glacier, leaving trails of necromantic slime in the drifts of elf blood snow.

High up on the northern slopes of the Oily Furnace - a towering glacier comprised entirely of ice - Rith Craftportent, the vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, stands vigil over the frozen wasteland. Nearby, Dumat Sensesstakes, the foul fog zombie diagnoser, and Domas Firstfigures, the other surviving vampire, keep the mayor company.

For reasons I cannot put into words, I avoid staring for too long at the vampires, or their liaison to the foul fog zombies.

Instead, I look out over the vast southwestern plateau as I consider which direction to fire upon. The first activation of the weapon was spectacular, it is true, but it was also highly successful. A great number of undead were encased in obsidian and ice by the time the pumps were shut off.

The result of that activation was the plateau - a broad, kidney-shaped formation that fans out from the weapon's lava vent.

Two large pools of magma rest in obsidian beds...

...and the entire structure sits atop a nearly solid layer of glacial ice. Perhaps counterintuitively, unleashing a torrent of lava upon the glacier seems to only result in more glacier.

I look over the pump stack. It is not a very large construction, but when one considers that every single screw pump and pipe section is forged of mythical adamantine, it certainly seems very impressive, if more than a little ostentatious.

I make my decision. Rith Craftportent and they others have situated themselves upon the northern slopes, as if to secure a good view for the coming massacre.

They will not be disappointed.

A legendary mechanic, Geshud Boltclimax, happens to be standing very close when I order the lever to be pulled. She picks up the job without delay.

A moment later, a torrent of molten rock thunders down through the obsidian tunnel...

...and erupts from the northern lava vent.

Curiously, the narrow bridge, constructed of raw ice, doesn't immediately melt as the lava pours over it. As a result, the deluge has an opportunity to spread out a little to the east before pouring down the mountainside. A sheer obsidian slope forms below the vent, replacing the natural cliffside.

The lava connects with the glacier at the base of the newly formed obsidian slope, and the Ice of Ghosts melts beneath it as the deluge flows outward. Water mixes with lava and forms a new layer of obsidian, spreading out atop the surface of the glacier.

As the deluge churns forward, it drives before it a wave of ice that engulfs and destroys the unmoving, idiot undead. The drifts of elf blood snow melt, but leave behind no trace of their presence. The pools and smears of foul fog, however, mix with the liquids and taint the cooling blocks of obsidian and ice with a sickly green hue.

I double check on the abandoned chambers that lie directly beneath the lava flood - they seem to be safe from the cataclysm, for the time being.

I take another moment to look over the entire lavafall - it's not particularly large, but it is impressive in a way.

A thought comes to me - an idea for a future megaproject.

I put the thought aside for now, and watch as the deluge churns northward, sending up a huge cloud of steam into the frozen air.

The reanimated corpses make no effort to escape from the hellish torrent. They stand still, unresponsive, motivated only by their hatred for all living things - even as the half-melted water engulfs them and squeezes the unlife out of their freezing flesh.

As I look over the lava pouring out of the northern vent, a shiver runs down my spine. I'm sitting alone in my living room, sitting on a couch set right up against the wall, and yet I am suddenly overtaken by the uncanny sensation of having someone looking over my shoulder.

I pan upward along the slopes of the volcano, and find Rith Craftportent and her foul fog zombie attendant standing watch high above the pyroclastic deluge.

One glance into those dead, dark magenta eyes, and a dozen knots form in my gut.

I look away.

Out on the ice, the weapon's efficacy is proven once again. Not only are numerous undead being caught and destroyed by the flood, but the threat of the foul fog itself is reduced as it is subsumed into the broadening layer of solid obsidian.

The northward flow seems to be creating a long, tongue-shaped formation, rather than the broad kidney-shaped formation created by the fanning out of the southwestern flooding.

Ugh. After this activation of the weapon, there will of course be many others - the dwarves of the Momentous Dye will not stop this fiery cleansing until the last traces of foul fog have been erased from the surface.

The formation grows longer and longer, stretching northward across the ice.

It is clearly visible on the minimap as a solid formation in the north of the map. Already, it stretches most of the way to the northern edge of the map.

Spikes of lag, caused by the constant collapsing terrain at the edge of the flood, drag my FPS down to a crawl.

The game still runs quickly enough for me to watch as the deluge creeps northward and consumes a twitching, disembodied limb.

A division in the flow of lava becomes more apparent. Most of the flood seems to rage through a deeper channel that veers to the left, while some fans out to the right, creating two more layers of obsidian above the first.

Even further north, the outer edge of the flood continues, bringing total destruction upon the enemies of Roomcarnage.

Aha! In the path of the flood are two of the problematic foul fog zombies. For years, Glazedwanders the Hand of Cleaving and Ber Axesprinkled the Matched Conqueror have been locked in single combat. Unable to destroy one another - foul fog zombies seem to be immune to most damage - their melee has been unceasing and endless.

This is a problem because their constant combat reports clog up my announcements feed, and make it difficult to immediately notice when a dangerous situation has arisen.

The zombies dance around one another, striking blow after blow after blow, both blind to the approaching cryoclasm. A moment later, Glazedwanders is encased in ice.

Ber Axesprinkled the foul fog zombie turkey hen pauses for a moment. For the first time in half a decade, her range of awareness extends beyond the foul fog zombie blue peacock with whom she has been fighting... and she notices the howling torrent of ice and stone that is descending upon her. Curiously, she runs away.

She cannot run forever - certainly, this particular activation of the weapon will not rid the entire surface of undead, but with subsequent activations, the entire undead threat will be dealt with.

My focus is drawn away from the flood and to the other side of the map, where the dwarven caravan has arrived from the mountainhome.

They're alive, this year.

Sorry, Lòr Hailanvil - you left the mountainhome in search of Roomcarnage, the mysterious fortress that has been cut off from all contact for years. Perhaps, someday, the undead threat will be dealt with, and the caravans may trade with the dwarves of the Momentous Dye once again, and the liaison may meet with the mayor and negotiate the promotion of the fortress...

...but not today.

The caravan guards bravely attack the nearby undead, but I know that they cannot last forever. The undead will continue to rise again and again, and after the futility of their mission is realized, the merchants will curse the glacial volcano and turn their wagons back towards home.

The liaison will never return, though.

Lòr puts up a good fight, but the onslaught of undead is too much for her to handle. Soon, her lifeless body will join their ranks.

I take one more look at the merchants. Their fate will be the same. In the end, all will be consumed in fire and ice.

The flood continues towards the edge of the map, threatening to consume many more undead that lay in its path.

Meanwhile, the formation itself is beginning to change. Lava overflows to the east and the west, creating new paths for the flood to follow.

Perhaps this formation will be not be so straightforward as I had previously guessed.

Magma and ice often interact in unpredictable ways.

The flood approaches the edge of the map.

Now, there exists a single continues body of rock and ice extending from the volcano to the edge of the map. Anything on one side of the volcanic spit must travel completely around the volcano to get to the other side.

It is a good start - control of traffic on the surface, the ability to quarantine areas while allowing access to others, will be vital to any successful reclamation of the surface.

Some lava may flow off the edge of the map, but that is out of my vision - the dwarves of the Momentous Dye are unconcerned with that which lies outside the boundaries of Roomcarnage.

I take a look at the new structure forming off the eastern edge of the main formation. On the top, it seems normal enough... but its lowest levels, just above the surface of the Ice of Ghosts, looks quite unusual.

As I watch, a canal-like formation appears, channeling the eastward flowing lava into a single narrow flow.

In fact, multiple individual flows have appeared, as the lava pours off the central area in every direction.

The emerging formation is huge.

From above, one can easily make out the rough outline of the emerging land mass.

Moving downward, the outer walls of obsidian and ice are clearly visible, as well as the points where those walls have been breached and molten rock slowly seeps outward. This body of lava is relatively shallow, for the most part.

Below the transient lava lake, its bed of obsidian can be perceived. At its western edge, the lava is deeper as it runs through a narrow channel.

The channel itself is two urists deep. Here, one can see the outer edges of the four smaller deluges, spreading in different directions.

And just above the surface of the glacier, the curious formations left by those smaller deluges are clearly visible. It seems that, as a result of the unique process that created this formation, the new raised portion of the glacier will be riddled with deep passages, filled with frozen elf blood.

Once again, the lava seems to form into a unidirectional flow, at least for a time - the interaction between ice and lava allow the flow to create its own bed and walls as it goes.

As I look upon the chaos of frost and flame, any pragmatic applications, such as the elimination of the foul fog and the undead, are forgotten.

Instead, I watch in silence as the torrent of molten rock spreads outward, ever outward, creating formation upon bizarre formation.

A landscape of raw, jagged stone and hidden glacier caves - of hard-packed elven gore and the glowing blood of the earth.

By chance, I catch a glimpse of the creation of one of the odd formations that I have come to notice throughout the affected area. Curious.

As I observe the continued realization of the southeastern arm, I notice that the vampire mayor has laid down another mandate.

Mmm, another slab.

No doubt Roomcarnage could use more of them. With the majority of the population dead upon the surface, it will be a long time indeed before the dwarves of the Momentous Dye memorialize every last ghost that appears.

I watch with curiosity as the southwestern arm of the formation comes into contact with the lower slopes of the volcano itself. The northern entrance - the obsidian door that was nearly covered up in the initial deluge - is now thoroughly cut off from the rest of the surface. It was through this door that the first miners of the expedition carved out the first home of the Momentous Dye, here in Roomcarnage.

Now, that door opens up into a hidden grotto of ice and blood, cut off from the rest of the world.

The southeastern arm begins to fan out for reasons I cannot determine. Still, the strange ice caves continue to appear as the deluge spreads to its furthest limits.

At a glance, it seems as if the second activation has covered more area than the first. That's good, I suppose - the more area covered, the more undead may be caught in a terminal, obsidian embrace.

The flood has consumed many undead so far, and it is sure to consume more still. I happen to notice Doren Gemslip, one of the three worshipers of Zon that came to Roomcarnage for purposes unknown. Doren was blighted - or is it blessed? - by the foul fog, and now shambles about the map as a zombie. Will he be consumed in the ice? Time will tell.

As the torrent continues, individual formations twist and turn and converge upon one another.

A passage links this secluded area to the rest of the map...

...but as the floods converge, they begin to seal the passage.

Soon, it is completely cut off - yet another area, of the surface, devoid of undead, that the dwarves of the Momentous Dye may safely put to use.

Likewise, a portion of the current deluge has almost reached the vast obsidian plateau created by the first activation of the weapon.

Doren Gemslip, the vampire foul fog zombie, looks on as the southwestern formation inches closer and closer to the obsidian plateau.

To the east, the two converging floods combine to form a single long front, moving slowly towards the edge of the map.

Near its northern tip, a crowd of undead huddle in the shadow of the weapon's result. They are not yet cut off from the rest of the map - and, alas, it seems that they might not be, this time around.

All at once, I notice that activity has stopped at the mouth of the magma vent.

Almost simultaneously, I notice a pair of distressing alerts.

Yet again, a patch of magma occupies the space where a pump operator ought to stand - indeed, one probably did stand there, up until very recently.

However, the level of the lava has finally dipped below the bottom of the weapon's pump stack. It would seem that the danger from a magma jet is highest when the weapon's "ammunition" is "depleted."

I file away that mental note and order the lever controlling the lowermost hatches to be pulled. The second activation of the lava-spewing weapon has been completed.

Even if no undead were destroyed by this activation, I would deem it a success. The bizarrely beautiful formation created by the deluge sparks a dozen new strategies in my imagination.

Soon.

It is the 3rd of Opal, in the mid-winter of 1207. For two full seasons - late autumn and early winter - the weapon of Roomcarnage has been active, pouring a torrent of destructive, purifying lava out over the surface of the Ice of Ghosts. After the first activation of the weapon, new passages needed to be dug out, but this time, the only thing holding the dwarves back from immediately reactivating the weapon is the depth of the lava within the volcano itself. Once that lava has refilled to a sufficient point, the weapon may be activated once again - this time aimed eastward - and the Ice of Ghosts, along with everything upon it, will be caught in a devastating hellstorm of ice and fire.