Chapter 33 :: The Knowledge of the Dwarves

September 1st, 2014

It is the 10th of Malachite, in the mid-summer of 1209. Nearly eight and a half years ago, the brave expedition of the Momentous Dye struck the earth in the shadow of the Oily Furnace, a primeval mountain of ice and fire. The dwarves have thus far endured the withering hatred of the haunted glacier known the Ice of Ghosts, not to mention an army of shambling undead, plagues of necromantic slime, an endless stream of ghosts, and subversive vampires. Now, their home has crossed a threshold reached by precious few fortresses - the settlement has now attained enough wealth and glory to be known throughout the land as the Metropolis Mosusilush, known in the common tongue as "Roomcarnage."

By the standards of some, perhaps, Roomcarnage is a modest fortress. Narrow corridors lead from chamber to chamber, all closely packed and separated by obsidian doors. As the fortress has grown over the years, rooms were added on as needed - Roomcarnage is a fortress designed by urgent necessity and desperation, not careful planning and leisurely excavation.

Still, the dwarves of Roomcarnage live with a degree of comfort. There are nearly enough rooms for everyone, and there is always plenty of food and drink available in the stockpiles.

The grand dining hall of Roomcarnage has served the dwarves for many years. The walls and floors are thoroughly engraved, and a line of statues stand proudly at its northern end, obscuring the dining area from the rest of the hall. Dwarves come here to relax, to enjoy the fine artistry adorning the walls, and to chat or party with others.

Yet even here, in the quietly thrumming heart of Roomcarnage, evil lurks. Along the hall's western wall, copper cages have been stockpiled. Some are empty, while others contain vile monstrosities of hair and skin - the products of the fortress' cage-trapped butcheries, given unlife by the foul glacier that engulfs the surface world.

Everywhere in Roomcarnage, the evidence of the glacier's malign influence can be easily found. Just south of the bountiful farms lay a few workshops, for masons, mechanics, craftsdwarves, and the like. One corner of the room, however, is walled off by a barrier of obsidian bricks - contained within are the grisly remains of a moody dwarf, and her infant child that she tore apart in her berserk fury.

Yet no place in the fortress is as stark and haunting as the fortress' former infirmary. South of the bustling statuary, full of life and happiness, locked obsidian doors are all that separates the hospital's former patients from the rest of the fortress. Six of the ten rooms are occupied by the shuddering bodies of dwarves who were locked in and left to die by the medical staff, for without a source of water, their fates were sealed the moment they were injured.

They were a necessary sacrifice, so that the fortress might flourish and attain glory. Now, the fortress has reached the rank of Metropolis - it may yet become the Mountainhome.

Over the years, many projects have been designed and implemented, but now the top priority is establishing reliable contact with the outside world. I suspect that this second trade depot, encased in the plateau of obsidian and ice, is screwing with the caravan's arrival point.

I order a staircase to be carved, leading from the passages just outside the weapon's access corridors.

Then, I order the space over the depot to be carved out. Of course, the designation isn't visible, because the depot is present. Normally walls and buildings don't occupy the same spaces.

So, I designate all items in the area to be hidden - that does the trick.

Before digging commences, I do a sweep over the area, just to make sure there isn't any foul fog contaminating the area. I'm not sure how effective my examination is, but there's not much else I can do at this moment.

Due to the reservoir of magma that lies immediately below this level, I have to continually redesignate portions of the passage.

Soon, though, the miner reaches the trade depot, and other miners quickly arrive to help.

I watch with extreme vigilance as the excavation continues. There's no telling what might still lurk in the solid walls, left over from before the first activation of the weapon.

The miners complete the job quickly and expertly.

Then, I unhide and unforbid the trade depot - as well as a dwarf corpse that had been encased in the obsidian!

A dwarven skeleton, caught in the flood! Probably the remains of some luckless migrant.

The dwarves do not flinch - the ritual disposal or cremation of remains has become commonplace. A garbage zone is designated atop one of the many magma vents in the area.

Then, I order the skeleton to be dumped.

One of the miners turns around and returns to the dig site, grabs the skeleton, and tosses it into the inferno without incident.

Good. Now that that's taken care of, I order the depot to be torn out. A few minutes later, a dwarf shows up and takes care of the job.

Now, there is only one trade depot in Roomcarnage. Hopefully this solves the problem of caravans arriving on the surface of the glacier, rather than at the northern end of the secluded channel.

While the fortress waits for late autumn and the arrival of the dwarven caravan, I struggle to manage the metropolis' new hospital. First, I order many of the previous furnishings to be torn out.

With so many idlers, the work is finished quickly.

Soon, the room is empty except for a row of blood thorn beds. I designate the area as a hospital zone, and reduce the amount of required thread and cloth to zero.

Then, I order a pair of stone coffers to be placed in the hospital.

Hopefully, with no cloth products ordered, the flood of haulers will be lessened, this time.

As it turns out, there are fewer haulers - but they still bring an abundance of copper buckets and dog soap. Way more than is necessary for such a small hospital.

Still, though, I decide to continue. I want to make sure that the hospital is stocked with plenty of soap (especially soap) before I request cloth products.

Before the haulers can arrive, a distressing announcement appears - Bim the brewer has gone missing.

This is unsettling, for a couple reasons. One, I don't recall who Bim was. Two, whoever Bim was, if they left behind a corpse, it will reanimate soon.

It's impossible for me to know. Perhaps Bim was one of the pump operators during the last activation of the weapon, and was incinerated in magma? But I could have sworn that was over a week ago.

Perhaps I can figure out Bim's death the same way I found out how the forgotten beasts perished. When Cákuth Lakegreases the Bile of Mines disappeared from the caverns around Roomcarnage, I ordered a memorial to be engraved of the great skinless ankylosaurid. It turned out that Cákuth had "died in the heat," most likely after going for a quick dip in molten rock.

When it comes to certain things - the death of a friend somewhere on the map, for example, or the ownership/availability of a discarded sock on the other side of a locked door - the dwarves have a curiously instant and complete awareness. Of course, they are practically blind to other things - like the danger posed by foul fog, or whether or not something is on fire.

Engraving slabs is one way of accessing the dwarves' knowledge - allowing them to express themselves and provide complex information not easily seen with my limited two-dimensional view. Meanwhile, I am privy to knowledge unavailable to dwarves, which allows me to forbid the items covered in foul fog or fire.

More haulers arrive, bringing additional soap.

Fortunately, the hospital's bucket quota has been fulfilled. Still need crutches and splints, though.

There was no need for crutches or splints before, because I could reasonably expect any hospitalized dwarves to die of thirst before completing surgery and getting back on their feet. Now that Roomcarnage has a water source, there could conceivably be a need for crutches and splints.

Ah, the water source. The MELT worked perfectly, and now the fortress has a vast supply of drinkable water.

But wait, what's this? Pools of dwarf blood and elf blood, no doubt washed off by filthy haulers who haven't had the chance to take a bath for nearly a decade.

I can't risk contaminating the water source with anything else that the dwarves might wash off themselves. The fortress needs a well.

Also, the fortress needs a new passage carved, so that it may access the broad swath of warm mud that lies beneath the lava lake. The saplings here will eventually twist and swell into thorny horrors of wood and blood, sickeningly reminiscent of gore.

They will provide a constant supply of fresh wood for the fortress.

The passage to the blood thorn groves is easy enough to dig - I just connect a fresh passage to the muddy staircase that served as the drain for the thawed glacier.

A miner arrives...

...and is soon finished. I order an upward staircase to be built at the bottom of the muddy stairwell. If any accidents occur here, I would rather nothing plummet straight down into the cistern.

Now, the well hall.

I draw a rough outline, but wait to connect it to anything. I want the well to be accessed primarily from the dining hall. Perhaps later I will make a second passage, leading directly from the hospital, but for now I have different plans.

At the dining hall's eastern end, an obsidian door surrounded by engraved memorials leads to what was once intended to the mayor's quarters. Nish Metaldied lived in these rooms, despite her demotion from mayor to broker of the Momentous Dye. The rooms were furnished for a mayor, but I let Nish stay there, hoping it would spite the vampiric usurper that continued to plot and scheme atop the Oily Furnace.

Now that Nish has died, a child has claimed her bed, and her office and dining hall go unused except by dwarves who'd rather eat alone. A marble lever stands dusty in the northeastern corner of the office, its links severed and forgotten.

Rith Craftportent will not have these chambers.

No dwarf shall have these chambers.

They will be reclaimed by the fortress, by the living dwarves who prospered under Nish Metaldied, and who have only laid eyes on Rith Craftportent once.

Haulers stream in through the door. A miner sets his pick against the smoothed obsidian wall - a moment later he runs through the new doorway, followed by many others.

The lever is pulled up from the floor, scattering obsidian mechanisms across the floor.

Then the rest of the miners arrive, and immediately begin carving away the polished, night-black black walls of volcanic glass.

Within seconds, the mayoral suite is reduced to a hollow shell.

It will be expanded.

This new chamber will serve as a larger statuary than the one adjoining the old hospital. That older, heavily engraved chamber shall remain, but this new hall shall be a wonder to behold.

Copper is probably the most expensive medium for statues to which the fortress has ready access.

There is, of course, another metal, which might be used to make priceless masterpieces... but no, too much hangs in the balance.

I watch as the miners carve out the fortress' newest addition.

As excavation progresses, yet another dwarven child is taken by a mood.

I don't expect too much from the possessed youth...

...dwarven children almost invariably make useless artifacts.

Hmm. Between the announcements concerning little Tosid's mood, I notice a few alerts that signify the exhaustion of the fortress' wood supplies.

Not to worry. Once the blood thorns grow to full size, there will be plenty of wood to go around.

continued in part two...