Chapter 30 :: The Vigilance of Vampires

August 18th, 2014

It is the 16th of Hematite, in the early summer of 1208. The forces of evil gather all about Roomcarnage, reaching dark collusions atop the bloody ice, but the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have so far managed to defend against the unceasing threat of undeath. The dwarves may merrily meander through their homey mines, but I am not so foolish to think that they are safe. Restless spirits howl in the deep, and armies of foul fog zombies and mindless corpses shamble atop the frozen elf blood snowdrifts. The malicious shadow of the Ice of Ghosts is forever watching, hanging over them, ever-vigilant for an opportunity to bring the fortress to its knees. Even the dwarves themselves pose a dire threat to Roomcarnage's continued survival - yet it none of these threats strike fear into my heart, or cause goosebumps to ripple across my skin.

There is one who does.

What malign intelligence lurks behind those piercing violet eyes?

That blithe, false smile? A draught of chill air blows in my open window, and for a moment I feel as cold as the hateful vampire that stares out of the computer screen and into my soul.

Does she even feel the cold? Does she feel anything?

Rith Craftportent, the vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, has only three recent thoughts - two regarding the weather, and one regarding the delayed punishment of a criminal. Still, she is "fine."

Her near-total lack of empathy gives credence to the idea that she is a heartless creature. Unsurprising, really - she claims to be 119 years old, but in truth she is likely much, much older. Her name isn't even Rith - that is a lie as well.

How many poor dwarves has this bloodthirsty monster murdered? For how long has she flitted from one city to the next, settling in with a new identity and earning the trust of her fellow citizens, before slaughtering them in their sleep?

Whatever bloody secrets her past might hold, whatever lies mask her true identity, whatever eldritch power fuels her unliving hatred - she is a dwarf. A vampire, true; a murderer, yes; but still, a dwarf.

And, like all the other dwarves that have come to live here, her story will end here, at Roomcarnage.

The vampire mayor's insistence upon meeting with her foul fog zombie attendant has reduced the fortress' surface workforce by half. The other vampire, Domas Firstfigures, continues to lay block by block upon the glacier just east of the Oily Furnace.

Meanwhile, many urists below Domas, the miners of Roomcarnage excavate what will be a great cistern, for the gathering and holding of a most precious resource - liquid water.

But, as with all of our aspirations, we must first live to see them to fruition.

Tun Linearch, swordsdwarf of the fortress guard, threatens the life of every dwarf in the fortress.

His misery is primarily due to having witnessed a fellow dwarf collapse into death - as well as having been physically assaulted by that dwarf's reanimated corpse. I cannot blame him - no being should have to endure such horrors.

But such is life, in Roomcarnage.

The dining hall bustles with activity. Warriors run individual combat drills while half a dozen children stand watching. Several dwarves sit at the northern tables, some having brought prepared meals from the food stockpile. The stairwell from the upper levels of the fortress is filled with foot traffic - dwarf and dog alike.

And along the western wall, a collection of copper cages, fifteen of which contain unholy remnants - fluttering capes of animal hair and skin, possessed with a hatred of the living. These monsters are a constant reminder to the dwarves of the Momentous Dye, of the fate that awaits any dwarf whose body is not purified by magma.

Tun Linearch's misery has become too much for him to bear - he bursts into a tantrum.

The dwarves around him continue their business, oblivious to the danger posed by the unhappy swordsdwarf.

Suddenly, Tun begins walking towards the stairs that lead down into the food stockpiles, a hot fury burning in his amethyst eyes.

Once in the food stockpiles, Tun strides towards the nearest dwarf - Rimtar Lividdaggers, a planter who was working on preparing a lavish meal in one of the kitchens.

Tun descends upon Rimtar and punches her repeatedly, delivering major injuries.

Rimtar's infant child Obok tumbles from her arms as the planter blacks out.

Soon, someone will come and haul Rimtar off to the infirmary.

The dwarves don't know it yet, but I do. The planter and her baby are doomed to die.

Tun Linearch returns to the dining hall, where he soon calms down and returns to being merely very unhappy. It seems that he will recover - but the damage has already been done.

Are the deaths of two dwarves enough to trigger a tantrum spiral?

We shall see.

I check in on the progress of the new project. Domas Firstfigures is still working and Rith is still conducting meetings. As I watch, the vampire mayor moves from place to place around the map, pausing here or there for a while before moving again to another spot. The entire way, she is followed faithfully - or perhaps fanatically, or supernaturally - by Dumat Sensesstakes, the foul fog zombie diagnoser.

Why do they move about the map like this? What is the subject of Rith's eternal "meeting?"

When it comes to me, I feel a shiver.

She's looking for a way in.

I ignore the creeping sensation in my gut and turn my attention back towards the construction of the new device, which I have named the Magma-Engineered Liquefaction Treatment, or MELT. I'm not satisfied with the amount of the glacier that is currently covered by the obsidian flooring - so I decide to have a few more obsidian blocks dumped somewhere where the vampires can get at them easily.

I realize that dumping the blocks just inside the lava vent that will be used for the MELT will allow for the shortest distance between the blocks and the construction site. I create a garbage dump just inside the lever-operated obsidian door...

...and soon, the corridor is crammed with haulers.

As the obsidian blocks are being dumped in the weapon's corridor, Rith Craftportent issues another mandate.

Roomcarnage is filled with copper short swords. I'm sure that Rith wants the interior of the fortress to be as dangerous a place as it can possibly be. Then again, I can't possibly guess at the intentions of such an alien monster.

Her actions are inscrutable.

It is clear, however, that she has desires. She takes time out of her busy meeting schedule to replace a worn cave spider silk cap with a relatively new sheep wool cap.

She's hauling the silk cap back to her office, where it will remain. Dwarves have a habit of collecting clutter, and it seems that Rith is no different in this respect.

All the while, Dumat Sensesstakes the foul fog zombie follows after her, like a cowed servant - or is he a sinister supplicant, petitioning the powerful vampire for her favor?

It will remain a mystery. Rith drops off the cap in her office, grabs an obsidian brick, and returns to work.

The airlock is already littered with partially worn out clothing. Perhaps there is some dwarf left within Rith after all.

Their jobs finished, the haulers return to the heart of the fortress via the newly carved and expanded passage. Soon, the weapon's lava vent will be opened, and the vampires will have a new supply of building materials.

But first, I'll let them work through more of the older blocks.

It isn't long before Rith abandons the construction once again.

As before, it's to pick up a new article of clothing.

Probably from a slain migrant, whose corpse now stands lifeless amidst the sanguine waste - or entombed in ice beneath the vast obsidian formations.

Work continues in the deep. The cistern, which may soon be filled with water for drinking, grows deeper with each passing week.

Not soon enough for Rimtar Lividdaggers, however. She will die of dehydration before the MELT fills the cistern.

She is the sixth dwarf to perish in the infirmary. I only have four rooms left - but when the cistern is filled, it will be necessary to dig out a new hospital. With liquid water available to the dwarves, a successful hospital becomes an actual possibility.

On the surface, Domas Firstfigures takes a break from work, and construction grinds to a halt.

Meanwhile, excavation in the deeps continues unabated.

The time has come, I toggle two of the weapon's doors - sealing the passage leading to the pump stack, and opening the vent leading to the MELT area.

With this new supply of obsidian blocks, the area to be affected by the MELT can be significantly increased.

There. I use the last of the bricks to round out the far end. I remind myself that, even if the water reclaimed by the MELT is insufficient for whatever purposes I have in mind, I can always execute additional MELTs at various places around the map.

I watch as Rith climbs the staircase, enters the vent, and steps past the pile of obsidian blocks, ignoring them entirely.

My stomach sinks. Something is wrong. Why is Rith so far down the corridor?

Suddenly, the obsidian door set into the southern wall at the end of the corridor swings open and a dwarf steps through. A farmer, a living dwarf.

I'd forgotten to have these doors locked once more after the haulers had finished bringing the obsidian blocks to the dump site.

Now, a living dwarf stands face to face with Rith Craftportent, vampire mayor of Roomcarnage. Behind Rith lurks the ever-present Dumat Sensesstakes - the farmer spies the foul fog zombie and panics.

Curiously, Dumat seems just as eager to escape the situation as the farmer. As the living dwarf bolts back through the obsidian door, Dumat slinks back through the darkness, abandoning the vampire mayor.

Rith Craftportent dives towards the door, but it closes before the mayor can reach it. I lock the portal and have it sealed tightly.

Apparently unperturbed, Rith calmly turns and returns the way she came. Dumat Sensesstakes returns to her side - it is clear that the foul fog zombie does not want the dwarves of the fortress to be aware of his dealings with the mayor, for he ran when the farmer appeared.

The implication is troublesome.

Just to be sure, I have the other door locked and sealed.

Undead now occupy the weapon's corridor. For a few seconds, there was a direct route from the fortress to the surface, and every single creature on the map felt it immediately - yet I was oblivious. Some things, it seems, are obvious to either the dwarves or the overseer, but not both.

Rith Craftportent returns to the construction site, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I try not to think about what might have happened if she had made it past those doors, and into the fortress.

Another uninvited guest appears out of the darkness of the caverns. A foul beast, certainly, but blobs are amongst the easiest of creatures to deal with.

Slevina Beachterror has only three body parts, and being made out of mud, she is more disgusting than terrifying.

It is irrelevant. The only passage in or out of the fortress is sealed with a pillar of rock. I return my attention to the fortress.

Another child is taken by a strange mood.

The last few moody dwarves have all been children. Underage dwarves now account for nearly half of the fortress population, but that doesn't explain the bias towards moody children. Hmm.

I check in on the forgotten beast, but it's nowhere to be seen. I check the unit's screen, and find that it has already died.

Luckily, there's a fresh combat report. It seems that the blob went up against an animated severed arm, and lost.

Curious. The arm is located in the caverns immediately beneath the barracks dump - ah. In the southern wall of the barracks, there is a door. Slevina Beachterror was undoubtedly attempting to access that door - the blob had wings and could fly.

I suppose I should be thanking this severed arm for deflecting the threat for me.

The forgotten beast's remains are rather odd. It seems that the blob left behind two remnants: Slevina Rofaasithi's right wing, and Slevina Rofaasithi's .

Curious. I wonder if anything will come of it.

I check back in on Tun Linearch.

The swords dwarf's mood has improved considerably - that's good. It just goes to show how fragile Roomcarnage's situation is. Tun Linearch was but a single unhappy dwarf - if something should happen that would result in several unhappy dwarves, the damage could be far, far more severe.

Aha, little Melbil begins construction...

...and for once, a child creates an artifact that isn't entirely useless!

Despite being made of cow bone, this floodgate is magma-proof.

Well, that's not entirely true. If exposed to magma, it will burn, but it will never deteriorate - it will continue to burn forever.

Autumn arrives on the calendar. Before the seasons turn again, a caravan from the Playful Spattered Walls will come to Roomcarnage, and whether the merchants and their guards are a live or dead, I intend to be prepared to trade.

At the moment, the miners are occupied with the excavation of the cistern, and I do not intend to abandon this task before it is finished. There is enough time yet to complete the cistern and construct a new, safe trade depot.

Within days of the seasons turning, another dwarf dies. It is little Obok, the infant child of the planter Rimtar Lividdaggers, who died of dehydration after suffering wounds inflicted by the tantruming swordsdwarf Tun Linearch.

After Rimtar was injured by Tun, Obok crawled about the fortress alone, ignored by the rest of the dwarves. Left to die of dehydration.

Such is life in Roomcarnage. I order the baby's body to be dumped.

A hauler quickly arrives...

...and the infant's corpse is tossed out of the barracks without incident.

Construction continues upon the surface. Rith and Domas toil away, laying down obsidian brick after obsidian brick, paying no mind to the foul fog zombies that duel endlessly upon the glacier.

Excavation continues below as well, but I notice something wrong. A few spatterings of Bomrek Craftfresh's blood in the dig site.

I check the combat reports, and the source of the blood becomes plain.

Sometimes, when a group of miners are channeling out an area, a dwarf will have the ground dug out from underneath him or her, and go tumbling down a single z-level. Usually, this just results in a bruising, if anything, but sometimes a dwarf falls down in just the wrong way.

Bomrek stumbled and fell. Her head bore the brunt of her fall, and her neck snapped.

Zulban Tongsfancies, another miner, carries Bomrek up to the infirmary, but I doubt that she will make it that far. Already, Bomrek is winded - she is completely paralyzed from the neck down, and cannot breathe. She will suffocate before Zulban reaches the hospital.

Bomrek Craftfresh, one of the seven founders of Roomcarnage, came to the Oily Furnace on the 1st of Granite in 1201. She was the first militia commander, and for a long time has been one of the most talented miners in the fortress.

Now, because of a faultless accident, she will die.

Zulban carries Bomrek up the ramp set against the side of the cistern. The paralyzed miner struggles to breathe, but she cannot.

Before Zulban reaches the stairwell leading to the fortress, Bomrek's body grows still. The legendary miner is dead.

Despite being a founder of the fortress, Bomrek's fate is no different. All dwarves in Roomcarnage suffer the same indignities, and since the fortress has been cut off from the lava-filled cleft, the miner's body must be cast out of the southern wall of the barracks, and into the caverns, where it will join the other reanimated corpses that were cast out of the fortress.

Bomrek's only friends were other founding members - and her lover was none other than Minkot Zimzon, who perished in flame during the first piercing of the volcano.

Now Kadol Ducimod is the chief miner of Roomcarnage - of the three miners who struck the earth back in 1201, Kadol is the only one left alive.

It seems that much of the rest of the fortress knew Bomrek, at least in passing.

Hopefully the deaths of three dwarves within such a short time period won't push things over the edge.

Zulban, the same miner who brought Bomrek's living body up from the cistern, now hauls the legendary miner's corpse up to the barracks.

Zulban ascends the staircase and reaches the barracks - but as she crosses to the doorway, Bomrek's body shudders and springs into undeath!

The battle is swift and one-sided. A single dwarf corpse is no match for the military of Roomcarnage and the swarm of war dogs that accompany them.

Once again, I order the Bomrek's corpse to be dumped...

...and it is done.

I take Bomrek's death as a sign that the cistern is complete. I order the ramps to be removed all around, so that it looks more consistent.

Soon, it is done. Now, all that remains is for the obsidian flooring to be completed upon the surface.

That may take some time, just yet. A large portion of the flooring has been put into place, but there is still much more that needs to be done.

In less than two months time, the caravan will arrive. On that day, all of Rith Craftportent's maneuvering, her vile scheming and plotting in conjunction with the foul fog zombies will be tested. Will the caravan arrive safely? Or will they taint the new trade depot with smears of foul fog contaminant?

Only one thing is sure. If there is any weakness in the fortress' defenses, if any chinks can be found in its walls, if I make any careless mistake - Rith Craftportent will be there to take advantage of it.

I put it from my mind. There is work to be done.

The lava that once filled the northern canyon has completely dried, leaving a long channel of obsidian covered in a thin layer of frozen elf blood, and dotted with pools of magma here and there.

At it's southern end, I designate a new entrance to the fortress.

It is the 24th of Limestone, in the early autumn of 1208. For the first time in half a decade, Roomcarnage is poised to receive the caravans from the mountainhome. Trade and diplomacy may yet be reestablished with the rest of dwarven civilization. After years and years of dark isolation beneath the haunted Ice of Ghosts, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye are returning to the surface.