Chapter 42 :: The Wealth of Roomcarnage

January 10th, 2015

It is the 12th of Galena, in the late summer of 1211. In a mere three months, the dwarven caravan will arrive at Roomcarnage, as they have every autumn since the fortress was founded in 1201. In years past, the merchants have fled in terror shortly after their arrival, chased from the glacier volcano known as the Oily Furnace by hordes of life-hating undead. Indeed, no trade has been conducted beneath the Ice of Ghosts since late 1202.

This year, things will be different. A simple but effective gate has been established beneath the ice - a pair of airtight obsidian seals which may be opened or closed with the pull of a lever, placed on both sides of the trade depot.

When the caravan arrives, they will find a direct route leading from the northwestern ice - which has been recently cleared of undead - to the trade depot. When they reach the depot, the levers will be pulled, and the fortress will be able to safely do trade with the merchants.

As for the diplomat - that will be trickier. The outpost liaison will only meet with the fortress' mayor, who is currently hewing her way through the glacier to her new quarters just outside the depot's outer seal.

Rith Craftportent, the vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, is accompanied day and night by Dumat Sensesstakes the foul fog zombie diagnoser. It will be impossible for the outpost liaison to meet with Rith while Dumat stands nearby - somehow, I will have to separate the two.

For now, there is little to do but wait. Three months have yet to pass before the liaison and the merchants arrive - but much can happen in three months, and it would not do for the fortress to descend into oblivion now, on the eve of a glorious mercantile victory.

It is a busy season. The kobolds, drawn to Roomcarnage by the promise of wealth as much as the dwarven traders, have been arriving in force lately. By the time this thief is spotted (by whom, I cannot say), she already clutches a giant cave spider silk cloak in her paws.

Godspeed, Tlothradus - may your journey to Roomcarnage be an unusually fruitful one, for there is naught else here but misery and death.

There are other visitors as well. A monstrous poisonous avian named Bora has arrived in the depths. I can safely assume that the beast will never find its way into the fortress through the narrow door set high into the cavern wall, for the way is guarded by a small army of eternally burning undead.

I turn my attention back to the fortress, and pray that the beast remains forgotten.

As time passes, I idly watch the dwarves as they idle themselves. The fortress is well provisioned, with enough food and drink to last the fortress for many months. I try to imagine what these accursed halls are like from within - the dining hall and statuary burble with the casual conversation of the farmers and pump operators, and the laughter of two dozen dwarven children echoes around the polished and engraved obsidian surfaces. The gleaming copper swords of the training guardsdwarves whoosh through the stale fortress air, mingling with the neverending rustling and brushing of the caged nightmares along the walls of the statuary. Statues of obsidian and copper and green glass look on, and dogs are everywhere.

At a glance, Roomcarnage seems like any other fortress. Here, deep beneath the protective stone, one might forget the myriad threats above and within the ice far overhead, each waiting with supernatural patience. Each and every dwarf in Roomcarnage, I remind myself, is doomed to die - they are, after all, mortal creatures, and every true dwarf must perish in the end. An unspeakable fate awaits these poor souls, however - the fortress, and everything within it, is damned.

And yet, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye are made of sterner stuff than mere humans. In the face of eternal damnation, they happily go about their daily business, resting and eating and idling under the gaze of eternal evil. They are oblivious and uncaring, paying no heed to what lies beyond the fortress walls. In time, I know, what lies beyond will eventually break through, and the time for stories will be at an end.

I notice an announcement - another ghost has arisen in the fortress.

It is a ghostly macedwarf, one of the caravan guards who managed to slay many undead before she herself joined their ranks. So many corpses did she strike down, that the dwarves saw fit to bestow upon her the title of "Cyclopean Elevation of Bulbs" - whatever that means.

She's harmless, but I cannot abide a ghost in the fortress.

Her name will live on into eternity, engraved upon an obsidian slab for all to see.

As the job is carried out, I return to casually observing the fortress. The fortress' farm plots, placed directly into the muddy floor of the cavern, teem with growing fungus. Dwarven foot traffic moves continuously to and from the dining hall in the north and the workshops in the south.

I notice another announcement indicating the return of a spirit from beyond the grave.

This ghost, though, is more dangerous.

It will batter and maim the living until it is put to rest.

I order another memorial to be engraved.

Then, I check in on the dwarven child. Her left lower arm has been torn off at the elbow, but I know from previous experiences that injuries inflicted by violent ghosts are rarely fatal when they only affect the extremities.

The limb itself, however, poses more of a threat than the ghost who tore it off. If not dealt with, Rovod's left lower arm will be animated by the glacier, and will attack anything nearby - most likely, the sleeping child from whom it was torn. I order the limb to be dumped.

Fortunately, a hauler arrives within a few seconds.

The arm is carried through the fortress, and tossed out into the caverns.

Soon, both memorials are completed. I order the engraved slabs to be placed in the eastern hall, beyond the statuary.

As a pair of dwarves carry the slabs to the memorial hall, autumn arrives on the calendar. This is the momentous season, when dwarven providence may yet secure the place of Roomcarnage within the halls of legend forever.

The slabs are placed, and the ghosts pass peacefully into the afterlife. They are the fortunate few, I realize, who were lucky enough to have perished while there still remained a living dwarf to engrave their memorial. For those who manage to survive to the very end, their fate shall be the worst, for they will be cursed to haunt the lonely halls of Roomcarnage for all eternity.

I check in on Rith Craftportent - she still has a ways to go.

I double check to make sure that all other preparations have been made for the caravan's arrival - and notice something that, somehow, I had previously overlooked. A small patch of foul fog, directly in the path that the merchants will take to the depot. This is unacceptable - I'm not willing to take any more risks than necessary when it comes to these trade arrangements.

I lock the door to the mayoral suite, so that Rith can't just waltz out into the corridor once she's finished digging.

Then, I order a lever to be pulled, which will open up the inner seal to the east of the trade depot, and allow the dwarves to access the afflicted area.

Just to be safe, I order the fortress' military to guard the corridor. I don't want anything sneaking into the fortress while this operation is underway.

Meanwhile, Rith Craftportent finishes digging her tunnel. Instead of running into her new quarters, she pauses, then retreats back to the surface. Interesting - but I don't have time to follow her around. It's already autumn, and there are last-minute preparations to be made.

To ensure that there's no chance of an enemy getting through, I order the military to be stationed at two different points in the corridor.

The fortress guard advances, securing the passage.

The guard is led by captain Obok Girderflares, a skilled warrior who has fought in countless battles over the years. Now, the safety of the entire fortress has been entrusted to him and those who follow him into battle, for nothing else stands between the fortress and the cruel, hateful outside world.

I have only one solution to deal with this foul fog, and I'm not even sure if it will work. I order paved roads of obsidian blocks to be laid down upon the bloody ice, with their northernmost edges just barely covering up the foul fog. With any luck, the construction will obliterate the contaminant and the builders won't step directly in the stuff. To expedite the process, I have three smaller roads built, rather than one large one - the end result will be the same.

I check in on Rith. Ah, that's why she ran back out the corridor - she has returned to her old office within the volcano's southern base, where all of her belongings are kept. If I don't do anything, she'll slowly and laboriously transfer all of her clothing to her new quarters.

Unacceptable. I can't have the fortress' mayor running around at a delicate time like this. I lock the door.

Then, just to be sure that no shenanigans arise as a result of Rith having two offices, I free up this one.

Meanwhile, a dwarven child is taken by a fey mood. I'm hardly excited - children rarely make usable items, let alone anything worth using at all.

I return to the gatehouse in the ice. Mayor Rith has returned to her new quarters, where she then makes another mandate. She's exactly where I want her to be when the caravan and outpost liaison arrive.

Her mandates - predictably - are for more short swords.

Fine, Rith. No problem.

Just outside, construction of the roads has commenced. Fortunately, the builders need only travel a few urists beyond the passage before their bricks may be laid.

Ugh, another ghost.

Curious - this ghostly hammerdwarf has taken to haunting the mayor herself.

Urvad Tongssteamy is a restless ghost, troubling past acquaintances and relatives.

I have no way of determining precisely how Urvad Tongssteamy is acquainted or related to the vampire mayor, since Rith's own relationship page only shows one connection. I'm not sure who Urvad Tongssteamy is, or when he or she came to the fortress, but my path is clear: have another memorial carved.

Except Urvad Olinkeng does not appear on the list of names that may be memorialized. I scroll through several times, but it's simply not there. A chill runs down my spine. Who is this ghost, who doesn't appear on the workshop's list, and coincidentally has some confirmed prior connection to the vampire mayor?

Unable to banish the ghost into the afterlife, I let the game run and try to quell the familiar unease rising in my stomach. Soon, the moody child begins their construction.

Back up on the surface, the roads are approaching completion.

I check the tile that was previously poisoned with foul fog - it is clean! There is nothing there but obsidian pavement, with ice below. Excellent!

As construction continues, yet another forgotten beast arrives in the depths.

This beast has a pretty awesome name, but it has been a long time since a forgotten beast posed any threat to the fortress. I return to the project.

As another patch of road nears completion, its builder stands perilously close to the remaining pool of foul fog. Fortunately, the dwarf sidesteps the contaminant on their way back into the fortress. Meanwhile, I am informed of the return of yet another spectral undead.

Sodel Tinpassed, the ghostly glazer, is found haunting the southwestern corner of the surface. I suspect that he was a migrant who perished upon the ice, unable to find an open entrance to the fortress within.

Until he is put to rest, Sodel's ceaseless howls will echo across the ice, piercing the unending blizzard of gore to cut deep into the hearts of the dwarves who, only a short distance away, are working on projects near the surface. Truly, Roomcarnage is a terrible place.

Fortunately Sodel is no different than most of the other ghosts, and a memorial slab may be engraved for him.

continued in part two...