Chapter 35 :: Spiels of Modesty and Determination

September 15th, 2014

It is the 26th of Obsidian, in the late winter of 1209. For nearly nine full years, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have clung to life in Roomcarnage - an accursed hellhole of a fortress, sealed away deep beneath the haunted glacier volcano known as the Oily Furnace. Thus far, they have preserved as peaceful an existence as might be hoped for in such a damned locale, but I do not delude myself regarding their safety. Evil forces are at work in and upon the Ice of Ghosts, and their influence pierces the stone walls of the fortress as easily as an adamantine blade pierces flesh.

The most visible of these forces are the usurping vampires, whose true identities are hidden behind a shallow veneer of lies. They are certainly dangerous - were either one to gain access to the fortress dormitory, they would unhesitatingly slaughter many dwarves to slake their years-long thirst.

As well, the circumstances surrounding the weapon's failure during the last activation have been troubling, to say the least. The sanguine confidence with which Rith Craftportent stood at the mouth of the vent, even as the thirty adamantine pumps churned to life within the volcano, engenders all sorts of horrible implications within my mind.

I cannot deny that the vampires have proven to be invaluable throughout the history of Roomcarnage. Without their help, the construction and deployment of the weapon would have been much more difficult. And yet, their very existence is anathema to the living - they are unmistakably agents of evil.

Indeed, Rith's continued tenure as mayor is essentially incompatible with the fortress attaining the status of Mountainhome. How can the vampire mayor meet with the outpost liaison to discuss the appointment of nobility, if the foul fog zombie diagnoser is always at her side?

As I watch Domas Firstfigures lay the last brick in place and stride away northward, I push the dilemma from my mind. Sooner or later, the vampire leadership of Roomcarnage must be dealt with, no matter what benefits their continued presence offers.

For now, however, they may remain. I need the vampires to deconstruct a small portion of the obsidian casing within the vent, so that the lava may be redirected around the nothing that has obliterated a portion of the tube. Before that can occur, a patch of lava needs to dry - and so, for the time being, I divert my attention to other matters.

Improvement of the new statuary continues, with another fresh batch of eight copper statues.

As the haulers bring the sculptures to their new home, the game halts. Spring has arrived - nine years have passed since the Momentous Dye arrived at the Oily Furnace.

Will Roomcarnage survive its tenth year?

As if on cue, I notice a flashing red down arrow.

Kumil Workedchance is unhappy. Oddly, Kumil is a skilled grower, yet labeled as a peasant - this occurs when children come of age and the game upgrades them to a peasant rather than a planter. Kumil and other children trained in growing while gathering plants from the farms, one of the few jobs that children are allowed to do.

Perhaps Kumil was the child of one of the dwarves who recently perished in magma.

I check Kumil's status screen, and confirm her age. She was born in 1197, and came to Roomcarnage shortly after her fourth birthday - it is not unlikely that she turned four during the voyage across the Ice of Ghosts.

Her ill mood, however, is not a result of recent deaths in the family. It is due to old clothing and lack of footwear.

I double check Kumil's relationship screen - both her parents are alive. As well, she is the second eldest child of Tun Noselance, the fortress manager, and Udil Hallpool, one of the most skilled planters in the fortress.

It is plain that Kumil needs new clothes - if there were any fresh shoes available, Kumil would have claimed them. Her left shoe has rotted off completely, and the right one is soon to follow.

I place orders for pig tail fiber clothing - sixty each of tunics, trousers, and pairs of shoes. Hopefully Kumil will claim some of the new garments.

I unpause, and soon my announcement feed is flooded with cancellations.

The cause is clear. All creatures - cats, dogs, and dwarves alike - perish of old age precisely on the first of Granite. It seems oddly arbitrary - although it makes sense, in the context of the game. The gods, in their cruel jurisdiction, decree the deaths of every living creature as the twenty-eighth of Obsidian draws to its close. As the year turns and the first of Granite falls upon the calendar, the decree is carried out, and the condemned die of old age.

This year, the death Edëm the marksdwarf marks the turning of the year. Mercifully, he must have perished while sparring or sleeping in the barracks, so his living squadmates are already handling the situation.

The two warriors engaging the undead are the militia commander Reg Fencedsplatters and the recruit Ber Trustmirrored.

Despite being essentially unskilled in combat, Ber swings his masterfully crafted copper battle axe with fervor.

Unfortunately, between witnessing Edëm's death and enduring his corpse's assault, the recruit's mood has taken a swift plunge.

Fortunately, Edëm's corpse poses little threat to the two warriors, and the undead is dispatched quickly.

Curiously, it is the recruit who lands all the blows - the militia commander seems to not take a single swing. Odd.

There's no time to waste - I designate a garbage zone south of the barracks, as usual...

...and order the corpse to be dumped.

A hauler arrives within seconds, and tosses Edëm's corpse out the obsidian doorway.

The corpse slams into another animated undead far below within the cavern, and the threat is dealt with.

I quietly hope that Edëm's fate doesn't have any further ramifications within the fortress, and turn my attention back towards the surface.

Now that the molten rock within the vent has dried completely, the vampires may access the portion of tunnel requiring modification.

I watch as they tear down a section of obsidian wall. I try not to stare too long at the inky void, the abominably missing bit of space and time immediately south of the undead.

Just as I am preparing to continue the operation, a troubling announcement appears at the bottom of the screen.

There is little I can do in this situation, except desperately hope that Ber's psyche remains intact.

Back in the vent, I designate a small bit of ice to be carved out.

Once Rith Craftportent picks up the digging job, I order the a section of obsidian flooring to be laid down upon the exposed ice.

Domas Firstfigures idles for a moment, then leaves the passage, heading for the other side of the volcano where a few obsidian blocks lay littered about atop the MELT. Rith Craftportent dives in.

Soon, the vent will be complete, the weapon may be reactivated, and the fury of the dwarves will be unleashed once again upon the surface of the glacier.

Another tantrum calls my attention into the fortress. Ber's mood seems to have improved marginally - but if the recruit decides to start a fistfight here in the food stockpile, the results could be devastating.

I watch as the tantrum subsides, and the dwarves continue about their daily business.

Back in the vent, I order the vampires to build a couple more constructions - a wall and a floor. In order for access to the icy stairwell to remain intact during activation, a door must be placed here.

The vampires don't have access to a door - yet. I toggle the doors to allow the fortress access to the airlock...

...then, I create a new garbage dump in Rith's office.

I order one door to be dumped, and a hauler soon arrives to drag the furniture up into the icy airlock.

Work continues in the vent. Without the vampires, this operation would have been significantly more dangerous - they are undeniably useful.

But before Roomcarnage becomes the mountainhome, they must die.

Deep within the fortress, the textile industry churns with activity.

Finely crafted pig tail fiber clothing lays strewn across the clothier's workshops. The tailors of Roomcarnage have grown quite skilled in the years since the Trousers Crisis.

Ah, the door has been delivered. I toggle the airlock, and reclaim the piece of furniture.

I order the door to be put into place. Good.

The last bit of construction takes place above the tunnel. In order to ensure that the seals remain intact, and that there is no threat of melting ice to impede the flow of lava, I order bits of the floor to be channeled out.

Rith obliges...

...and I order an obsidian wall to be constructed in the empty space.

The wall is soon built...

...and I order the next icy floor to be carved out.

It is the last bit of digging that needs to take place before the repairs are complete.

With this final section of walling, the vent will be completely repaired, and will be ready for another activation of the weapon.

Domas arrives and places the last block in place. Excellent!

Unfortunately, the weapon cannot yet be activated - a significant portion of the fortress workforce is dedicated to the construction of pig tail fiber garments. I am willing to wait until that endeavor has been completed, for the sake of dwarven modesty.

Their work finished, Rith and Domas exit the vent.

A cool draft of air blows through the room.

It's as if they know it's a dangerous place to be.

There's no time to ponder the intelligence of the vampires.

A tantrum is being thrown, but this time, it's not Ber Trustmirrored. It's Thob Wallearths, a bone carver.

I zoom to Thob's location, and my stomach twists.

Many dwarves have been struck with low morale.

The issue is the same as it was with Kumil the peasant - a lack of clothing, and the decay of older garments. Not just with Thob, but with all the unhappy dwarves - the cause is the same.

The solution, as ever, is more clothing. I order another round of thirty each of trousers, tunics, and pairs of shoes.

I unpause, and the food stockpile bustles with activity. Dwarves going this way, that way, hauling pots and barrels, drinking rum and beer and chatting with others.

It can't last. I've known since the beginning that Roomcarnage will end in tragedy.

Some day, these halls with be overrun by undead, and long smears of blood and vomit will paint the statues and engravings red, green, and brown.

How far off is that day?

As if to provide an answer, Thob roars into another tantrum.

The cause is the same - Thob is completely naked. He hasn't claimed any of the new clothing made by the tailors - or maybe there just isn't enough to go around.

The unhappy thoughts caused by nakedness and rotting clothing can be devastating.

What's that? "He enjoyed throwing something recently?"

Ah, of course. One of the many dangers of tantruming dwarves is their predilection for hurling objects at other dwarves. In this case, it's fortunate that the miner had reflexes.

However, everything that may be done to help Thob is already underway - the tailors are turning out piles of garments. There's nothing to do now, except wait, and hope that the bone carver manages to claim a pair of trousers.

In the meantime, I look over the new statues that were recently constructed.

As always, dwarven artwork provides a unique window into the mostly-hidden aspects of dwarven society. Certain events or ideas are bestowed a measure of importance by the artist, by their very choice to immortalize the image in concrete form.

A favorite event is, of course, the founding of Roomcarnage itself in the early spring of 1201.

The dwarves also memorialize events long past. This rather spectacular statue depicts Osplu Steamcanyon the Boot of Directions, a bronze colossus, cringing as its leg is torn asunder by the dwarf hero Astesh Boltblots. This event occurred in 227, nearly a millennia prior to the founding of Roomcarnage, and yet the event is still fresh in the minds of the dwarves of the Momentous Dye.

Most of the statues, though, show more recent events, not all of them triumphant. Some refer to the rise of infamous enemies of Roomcarnage...

...while others immortalize events that might be considered shameful by dwarven standards.

Although, when it comes down to it, the kobolds may be the closest thing to allies that the dwarves have, here in Roomcarnage.

As usual, one can find an instance of dwarven surrealism - not so banal as Kol's duck statue, but a bit more troubling. Clearly, this is an image from a deranged, unhinged mind, dwelling firmly in fantasy.

One statue depicts a most insidious event - I take one glance, grimace, and move on.

Before much else happens, another uninvited guest arrives at the fortress' subterranean doorstep. Äs, a monstrous web-throwing crow.

I watch as Äs flutters about the northern caverns, but don't worry too much. Not a single forgotten beast has penetrated the fortress' defenses yet, and I doubt this one will.

Instead, I check back in on Thob Wallearths. The bone carver is still in an extraordinarily poor mood.

His tantrums have grown worse - now, Thob is starting fist fights.

Once again, Thob's destructive efforts have been ineffective - the target of his rage may very well be the one who carries out his death sentence, if the situation progresses in a regrettable direction.

I watch as the fortress bustles with activity. There is little I can do at this point, except hope that Thob will claim the clothing that is being produced by the tailors.

Unfortunately, it seems as if the bone carver is rather low in the queue when it comes to ownership - behind nearly a hundred needy children, no doubt.

Still more clothing is needed. I order another sixty each of trousers, tunics, and pairs of shoes, and desperately hope that it will be enough.

As the work orders are carried out by the fortress manager, another forgotten beast arrives.

The monster is a waxy-skinned, shelled salamander named Uker the Suckers of Grease - a vile, belching, croaking beast.

Even so, I don't worry too much. The magma pools in the caverns have proven to be a match for most of the beasts thus far, and I doubt the attack of Uker will be any different.

In the end, it seems, the tailors were not quick enough. Thob's misery ends in furious madness - as he stands alone in his bedroom, the bone carver's mind snaps and he goes into a berserk rage.

The solution is horrifically easy.

I simply lock his bedroom door.

Now, Thob will live out his madness in quiet seclusion, alone in his room. Eventually he will die of thirst or hunger, and his corpse will rise again soon afterwards.

Another hidden monster of Roomcarnage, kept secluded and forgotten in a dark corner of the fortress.

I check in on Ber Trustmirrored the recruit, and am relieved to find that his unhappiness has subsided.

Fortunately, Ber's unhappiness wasn't related to the clothing crisis, but to the untimely death of his sparring partner. That disaster has passed, however, and it seems that Ber will turn out just fine, for the time being.

With the workforce dedicated towards craftsdwarfship, rather than pump operating, I decide to get a few other things done. I order the far eastern hall to be smoothed, so that it too might become a place of dwarven leisure.

I order the ramp leading to the well hall to be smoothed as well.

A few engravers arrive momentarily and begin work.

One of these is Kadol Worklimb, a proficient engraver and legendary miner - and one of the founding seven of Roomcarnage.

He arrived in Roomcarnage on the first of Granite in the early spring of 1201. He is the last surviving founding miner, one of the original three who first set their copper picks to the ice at the base of the Oily Furnace.

His legacy is the glory of all dwarvenkind.

The food stockpile burbles and bustles, with not a single unhappy dwarf to be found. The crisis seems to have been averted, with only a single dwarf having perished.

I look to the number of idlers. 37.

More than enough to power the weapon.

I check in on the vampires. Rith Craftportent and Dumat Sensesstakes stand in the mayor's office - the Icy Chamber set into the base of the volcano's southern side. She is safe from any magma that might be pumped out of the weapon.

Of course she is.

Domas, meanwhile, stands idle in the weapon's western vent, directly between the sites of repair that he himself took part in mere months ago.

My eyes narrow.

Is this some kind of trick?

The time has come - autumn fast approaches, yet the prospect of trade comes no closer. If Roomcarnage is to become the mountainhome, then action must be taken.

I order the pump stack to be powered.

As before, thirty pump operators and their children ascend the stairwell and pass through the uppermost part of the fortress, just below the Ice of Ghosts itself.

Suddenly, yet another forgotten beast appears! A trunked, leathery-chitined fire-breathing lobster.

Terrifying - and yet, the only entrance to the fortress from the caverns is the tiny door set into cliffside above a high ledge crowded with undead. I doubt Taron will get inside.

The pump operators pile into the obsidian-cased pump stack. The weapon activates.

From top to bottom, every pump operator is in place.

Now, the only question - which lever do I pull?

One lever would open up the eastern vent once again, but this time, instead of melting a huge section of the glacier and draining it into the cistern far below, the deluge of molten rock would react with the cliffs of the Oily Furnace and cover the area east of the glacier with a new promontory of obsidian and ice.

Another lever would send a torrent of molten rock through the western vent, covering a largely untouched portion of the glacier with a purifying flood of lava and water...

...not to mention incinerating Domas Firstfigures as it surges past obsidian and nothing.

It is the 11th of Malachite, in the mid-summer of 1210. Within moments, a lever will be pulled, and a flood of ice and fire shall melt and fume and seethe across the surface of the Ice of Ghosts. Should I sentence Domas to the flame, and rid the fortress of one of its lifeless overlords? Or should I spare the vampire, perhaps to use him again when his skills might be of use?

Decisions, decisions.