...continued from part one

As construction of the final road nears completion, I notice some newcomers just outside the passage. The shambling corpses of a mule and a water buffalo, which were left in the northwestern passage. They must have crawled out onto the surface after smelling the tell-tale scent of living flesh.

They move slowly, but deliberately towards the entrance to the gatehouse.

I'm not willing to take chances with these monsters. Not while the fortress is on the cusp of its greatest triumph since embarcation, and certainly not while there is still a pool of vile contaminant just outside the entrance. I order the fortress guard to retreat to the trade depot, so that the undead may be faced with the full military might of Roomcarnage - such as it is.

The warriors draw back, but a lone dwarf strides blindly towards the construction site, unaware of the creeping death that lies beyond.

The dwarf is Kûbuk Goldtunnels, one of the fortress' legendary weavers. Since road construction doesn't require any specific task, Kûbuk nobly offered to brave the freakish weather and place the last bricks in place. Now is not the time, however, and so I order the road's construction to be suspended.

Kûbuk stops, turns, and returns down the corridor. A moment later, the undead mule stumbles down the ramp of ice onto the rough obsidian floor of the tunnel.

Meanwhile, the child's mood has been completed. As might be expected, it is a useless bracelet.

It's a pretty nice bracelet, though, with a couple images of other artifacts carved in dog bone. I have other stuff to pay attention to at the moment, however.

The mule corpse is the first undead to round the corner. The moment it comes into sight of the military, the warriors bravely charge!

The mule lashes out with its hooves a few times, but each strike is turned away by the warriors' gleaming copper shields. Within moments, the battle is over. With a swing of his exceptionally crafted copper battle axe, the captain of the guard deals sufficient damage to the mule's head to expel the unholy force from its body.

As before, the corpses will have to be disposed of. I will use the nearby pit as a garbage dump - in fact, this was the first garbage dump the fortress ever used, and some of the oldest undead in Roomcarnage may be found at the bottom of that black, bloody pit.

I order the unmoving - and curiously unrotten - corpse to be dumped.

A hauler will be on hand soon, I hope. The military returns to their post, thirsty and a little unhappy. Fighting undead is thirsty and unrewarding work, I suppose. As they wait for the water buffalo corpse to approach, a child wanders over, inspects the dead mule, then wanders away. Dwarven children, man.

As the water buffalo corpse slowly shuffles down the corridor, a hauler arrives and begins to drag away the mule corpse.

The hauler almost reaches the trade depot by the time the water buffalo corpse rounds the corner. The mule corpse is dropped in panic, and the battle is joined.

This fight is considerably more one-sided - the water buffalo never even manages to make an attack, so fierce are the warriors.

I order the fresher corpse to be dumped and check to make sure that the older one is already marked as such. Good.

Then, I unsuspend the road's construction.

As the dwarves continue about their business, I notice a strangeness in the mayor's bedroom that chills me to the bone. Rith Craftportent, vampire mayor of Roomcarnage, conducts her meeting with Dumat Sensesstakes the foul fog zombie diagnoser and the newcomer, a restless haunt named Urvad Tongssteamy. I do not and can not know what it is that they discuss or scheme - all I can be sure of is the sensation of frigid nothingness that seems to seep from beyond the edge of my perception, that corrupts and challenges a conception of reality to which I clutch with a desperate and weakening grip.

I distract myself by watching the dwarves go about their business. Two dwarves arrive to take away the corpses, while another goes outside to finish the construction of the road. None of it helps - I can feel my heart beating up in my neck, and my feet are ice cold. Another announcement - the vampire mayor has placed a mandate.

Another slab? S...sure.

It's not as if it can be used to banish Rith's new attendant.

Reminded by the mayor's mandate, I order a previously engraved slab to be placed.

Back at the gatehouse, construction of the roads is complete. The foul fog contaminant that was laying in the middle of the caravan's path has been dealt with. It is good to know that the dwarves have at least some recourse against the foul fog.

There is no more need for the military to be stationed at the depot. I allow them to return to the fortress.

In the deeps, another forgotten beast arrives. It is a monstrous creature comprised of petrified wood - a walking fossil, terrifying to behold.

Fortunately, it's trapped at the edge of the map, wedged between a pair of blood thorns. It won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

With work on the surface complete, the gatehouse can be returned to a receptive state. I order the eastern lever pulled, and the eastern bridges snap back up into a sealed position.

With the fortress no longer accessible, I unlock the outer door to the mayor's quarters. Now, when the caravan arrives, Rith and her office will be accessible to the liaison.

The two corpses are dumped without incident. Excellent. Now there is little else to do but wait for late autumn, and the caravan's arrival.

I check in around the fortress, and notice something that distresses me greatly. Obok Girderflares, the brave and strong captain of the guard, is starving! Fortunately, Obok is stuffing his face with plump helmets, but it is telling of a larger problem which I have not addressed. Without ready access to leather, I haven't been able to equip the military with backpacks, which are necessary for the warriors to carry provisions while on patrol. The fortress guard was stationed near the surface for so long that they very nearly starved to death.

While I would hope that the warriors would return to the fortress for sustenance, I would rather just avoid the situation in the future. Fortunately, the fortress has some tanned hides stockpiled, so there is enough to make some leather backpacks. I also decide to equip the warriors with something to hold fluid - instead of waterskins, which are made of leather, I order a round of copper flasks to be forged.

Late autumn arrives on the calendar. The caravan's arrival is imminent, and another important fortress landmark is reached - Roomcarnage's first elite warrior!

Tun Linearch has reached the rank of swordmaster! Wonderful.

I'm still marveling at the warrior's skill at arms when the caravan arrives.

Yes! Excellent! The caravan has arrived upon the northwestern ice, a short distance from the paved entrance to the depot. But where is the outpost liaison?

...oh. The liaison has appeared at the maps eastern edge, far from the caravan, the vampire mayor, or any concept of safety.

But wait - just to the north of the outpost liaison, there is a stairwell that leads beneath the ice to a narrow passage that eventually connects to the upper fortress. This passage was dug in the fortress' early years, when migrant waves were arriving regularly and the surface was not yet overrun by undead.

It's worth a shot. I unlock the outermost door.

Mercifully, the liaison takes the hint and dives down the stairwell into the tunnel.

I make sure to lock the door behind her.

On the other side of the map, the caravan makes its way around the northern edge of the vast plateau of ice and obsidian. It is the last leg of a long and arduous journey across the haunted glacier - one that the merchants were certainly not guaranteed to complete alive. In years past, caravans of foul fog zombie merchants have arrived at Roomcarnage - I am thankful that this year, the traders made the journey successfully.

Suddenly, a newcomer arrives - out of nowhere, a mutilated goose corpse swoops down towards the caravan.

The guards rush to the defense, but too late.

One of the wagon-pulling beasts handles the undead threat with ease.

I don't bother designating the goose's corpse to be dumped. There is other business to attend to.

I check in on the outpost liaison. Èzum Earthwane makes her way through the bustling fortress - she is the first outsider in many years to see Roomcarnage with her own eyes. What is she thinking? Is she appalled at the apparent lack of organization, the maze of corridors and rooms crowded with statues and workshops, or is she awed and astounded that she now stands within the legendary fortress about which so many stories have been told?

Just as the merchants arrive at the trade depot far above, Èzum reaches the dining hall - and then stops.

Liaison Èzum has reached the heart of Roomcarnage, only to find the mayor absent. Rith Craftportent is far away, near the surface, in her suite of rooms. Somehow, I will need to get the two in contact with one another.

As the last of the merchants and their guards reach the trade depot, Rith issues a ban on certain exports.

Apparently I am not to export any of those copper short swords that Rith has been mandating over the years. Fine. The fortress has plenty of other stuff to trade.

The time has come. I order the western lever to be pulled...

...and the outer seal closes behind the merchants.

Then the other lever is pulled...

...and the inner seal is opened. The trade depot is accessible to the fortress, and goods may be brought up from the fortress for trade for the first time since 1202.

I order a wealth of various items to be brought to the depot. All the fortress' cut gems, toys, mugs, jewelry, and musical instruments that have been crafted over the years are marked for trade. Dozens of bins worth - a small fortune for any other fortress, but for Roomcarnage it is a symbol of victory.

I unpause, and the number of idlers in the fortress drops from forty-two to zero.

The entire population of Roomcarnage emerges from the depths to haul the fortress' wealth to the depot.

It is a beautiful moment - one of cathartic release.

For years, the fortress' fate was unsure. Many times, it seemed as if the dwarves of the Momentous Dye would not live to see another season, but somehow, they always pulled through. In the face of some of the greatest adversity that might be faced by their kind, they endured - withstanding usurping vampires, foul fog contamination, armies of undead, malevolent reanimating forces, forgotten beasts and titans and countless other minor horrors.

The winter of 1211 arrives. If the caravan makes it off the map alive, this season might be known in legends all throughout the Enchanted Planet.

Finally, all the goods have been brought to the depot. The time has come to negotiate the deal, but without a skilled broker, any dwarf may be as good as any other. I allow any dwarf who wishes to take up the mantle of broker to volunteer their time at the depot.

Monom Temptedsilvers, one of the fortress' most skilled cooks, seizes the opportunity.

"Greetings from the Mountainhomes. Your efforts are legend there." I'm sure they are.

With no skill at appraising, it is impossible for Monom to guess at the worth of the trade goods. I decide to start her off by offering the first few bins, filled with stone and glass crafts, for the caravan's supply of lumber. The merchant is ecstatic with the trade, which means we probably traded at a huge loss.

But that's alright, because now Monom is a novice appraiser.

I appoint Monom Temptedsilvers as the new broker of the Momentous Dye, and return to the trade screen.

Now that Monom can estimate values, I put up everything else the dwarves of Roomcarnage have brought to the table, which amounts to 45790☼ - a significant sum, but again, nothing close to what another, wealthier fortress might be able to offer.

I'm selective about what I request in return - not because I'm worried about making a poor trade, but simply because the caravan has only brought a few other things that the fortress requires. I pick out a few bars of metal and all of the food the merchants have brought with them. Barrels upon barrels of pale cave fish and lobster, all kinds of offal and carved meat, and plenty of cheese - a true rarity beneath the Ice of Ghosts. Once again, I trade at a massive loss, but I don't mind - the merchants will take home tales of the wealth of Roomcarnage, not to mention dozens of bins full of finely crafted toys and instruments.

I allow Monom Temptedsilvers to return to the fortress - the new broker's work here is done.

Monom walks down the icy hallway, content at having secured the first trade deals between Roomcarnage and the Mountainhome in nine years. Soon, the wave of haulers will return to the depot and begin hauling all of the new foodstuffs down to the stockpiles. No longer will the dwarves be restricted to consuming the same old roasts of sugar, syrup, flour, and quarry bush leaves - every dwarf will have his or her pick of the feast.

As great a time as this is, I remind myself that there is still one snag that has yet to be resolved. Èzum Earthwane stands in the corner of the memorial hall to the east of the statuary, deep in the heart of the fortress. She will not budge until she can reach the mayor by foot - but to allow her to do so would involve creating a direct route between Rith Craftportent and the inner sanctuary that she has striven to reach for so many years. Whatever I decide, I must do it soon - Èzum will not leave the fortress before she has met with the mayor, and would sooner face death than failure. If I do not secure a meeting between the mayor and the liaison soon, Èzum will go insane, and then I'll have an entirely different set of problems on my hands.

It is the 3rd of Moonstone in the early winter of 1211. For the first time since 1202, the doomed fortress of Roomcarnage has successfully engaged in trade with caravans from the Mountainhome. Consequently, this is the first time in many years that there has been a skilled broker, and so the fortress' profile now shows the wealth that has been accumulated over the years. The fortress' food stockpiles overflow with exotic meats and cheeses, which are sure to improve the dwarves' morale over time. All in all, it is a glorious time for Roomcarnage, but even now there are threats lurking in the deep, dark places of the fortress. Eventually, I know, one of them will rise up to conquer Roomcarnage for good - but until that day, let it be known throughout the land that the dwarves of the Momentous Dye stared down the haunted glacier, dug their heels and picks into the ice, and endured.