Chapter 43 :: The Attack of the Foul Fog Conspiracy

January 12th, 2015

It is the 3rd of Moonstone, in the early winter of 1211. For the first time in nine years, and only the second time since the fortress was founded, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have made contact with the outside world and successfully bartered goods with the caravans from the Mountainhome. It is a glorious time for Roomcarnage, but there are still knots that have yet to be unraveled.

The outpost liaison, Èzum Earthwane, stands in the corner of the memorial hall to the east of the statuary and north of the well hall. Normally, a diplomat from the Mountainhome would be trailing the fortress' mayor, eager to begin trade negotiations. Instead, Èzum remains idle, patiently waiting the appearance of a noble whom the stoic dwarves of the Momentous Dye have carefully stowed away in an isolated corner of the fortress.

That noble is Rith Craftportent - mayor, vampire, and usurper. Rith is a crafty and evil creature, who would gleefully consume the blood of every dwarf in the fortress, were she given the chance. Fortunately, since her arrival in 1204, she has been kept at bay, and has never gained access to the interior of the fortress. Instead, for seven years, she has stayed above the surface, or in rough-hewn chambers immediately beneath the ice. Now, she resides in a newly carved suite of rooms, furnished to serve as her mayoral quarters.

She occupies herself with her macabre company - a foul fog zombie diagnoser by the name of Dumat Sensesstakes, and a restless spectre known as Urvad Tongssteamy. Since her arrival, Rith has been at the center of a bizarre and terrifying array of circumstances that I have named the Foul Fog Conspiracy.

The appearance of two other vampires, both worshiping the same foreign god as Rith, I may have dismissed as coincidence. Her constant meetings with Dumat Sensesstakes could simply be a result of her status as an undead combined with her traditional mayoral duties, as well as the recent arrival of a ghost who apparently knew her in life. Even her apparent prescience and unnatural awareness of her surroundings, I might have dismissed as a mere quirk of the code. But taken together, they constitute a much more horrible set of evidence, the implications of which coldly cut to the core of my being.

Before, I was content to have Rith isolated far away from any of the living dwarves, but now I need her. Only the mayor can negotiate with the outpost liaison, and Rith is locked away beyond the trade depot, far from the ear of Èzum Earthwane.

To get Rith and Èzum in the same room together, I have many plans - none of which I am positive will work. First, I notice that Èzum tends to idle about in the fortress' shared leisure areas - the statuaries, memorial halls, and so on. In the event that I find the outpost liaison alone in one of these rooms, I want to be able to lock all the doors, thus isolating the diplomat and safely allowing Rith to dig her way to the chamber.

It's a long shot, but time is running out. Something must be done immediately, or else the outpost liaison will go insane.

Meanwhile, the fortress' living population focuses upon hauling recently imported goods from the trade depot.

Most of the goods that were traded for consist of lumber or food. Both are valuable in their own way - usable wood is invaluable in Roomcarnage, since the caverns are inaccessible and the tree farm has not yet come to fruition.

The food brought from the Mountainhome is precious as well. The dwarves haul all kinds of animal meats and offal and cheeses down into the fortress - a vast array of foodstuffs that is sure to keep the fortress happily fed for some time.

I check in on the outpost liaison, and find that she is on the move.

Until Rith is made available, Èzum will wander from place to place in the fortress, making it all the more difficult to secure a direct route between the two of them. Suddenly, watching the liaison stroll through the fortress' darkened halls, I get an idea.

There is already another route that might be used to connect Rith and the fortress. This antechamber, carved out of the base of the volcano's northern cliff, was in fact the very spot where the dwarves first struck the earth, back in the early spring of 1201. For a time, it served as the fortress' main entrance. Ever since the dwarves covered the surface of the glacier with lava, however, it has been blocked and can no longer be used to reach the outside.

To the east of the antechamber, a tiny passage cut through the inside of the glacier winds around to the south, eventually reaching another chamber. This too was used to access the surface before the floods, and was used afterwards as the mayor's office. From this southern doorway, there is an overland route that leads across the volcano's slope to the passage that Rith herself carved, and finally to her new suite of rooms.

If I'm going to allow this route to be used, I need to make sure that there are as many failsafes as possible. Here in the oldest part of the fortress, the large square rooms are separated by stone doors. I lock a couple of the portals, ensuring that the vampire mayor won't be able to simply walk straight into the fortress if she manages to make it this far.

It takes the haulers a few minutes to realize that these doors have been locked, but they eventually figure it out.

With the path cleared and prepared, I unlock the two doors containing Rith Craftportent's old office.

That gets her attention immediately.

Meanwhile, Èzum doesn't seem to notice. She just stands there. Maybe she'll pick up on it soon.

I watch as Rith progresses through the passage, towards the surface of the map, and - eventually - the fortress itself.

As I watch, a disturbing announcement appears. An announcement that means only one thing - the living dwarves have encountered their undead counterparts.

Something has gone horribly wrong.

Ugh, I might have known. Edëm Rampartgripped, a helpless dwarven child, has decided to find her way outside the fortress in search of - what? A sock? A shirt?

Who knows? I know the price, though - Edëm stands between a pair of ravenous corpses that will kill her on sight.

Apparently the dwarven children of Roomcarnage have an insatiable urge for new clothing. A few others are already making their way through the tunnel to the outside.

And still, the outpost liaison has not moved.

Amidst all of this, Rith feeds me with lies. The units screen indicates that she is "on break," but her individual profile indicates she is "conducting a meeting." It is safe to assume she is doing neither - rather, she is taking an opportunity presented by the chaos of having children running about outside to make her way into the fortress.

I will not allow it. I will have to find some other way to connect Rith and the liaison. I use the alerts screen to order all dwarves to retreat to the safety of the fortress below.

Edëm dodges around the undead before her - but the shambling corpses seem oddly unconcerned about her presence. One corpse runs into the passage, cutting off Edëm's escape.

This situation has been fouled up enough as it is. I order the military to attack the dwarf corpse in the passage, in the hopes that little Edëm may yet be saved.

Fortunately, Edëm runs into the fortress entrance, suddenly eager to return to the warm, safe depths.

Good. I lock the doors behind her.

A confrontation is inevitable. I fear for the worst...

...but as it turns out, little Edëm is not so helpless after all. The child batters the corpse until it falls to the ground, motionless.

I order the corpse to be dumped as normal. That turned out better than expected - except, of course, for the fact that Rith and Èzum are still unable to meet.

Just in case the hauler doesn't arrive in time, I order the military to be stationed in the first chamber, where the corpse would arrive if it were to rise again.

Then, I unlock the two doors. So much for that plan.

Èzum is still moving around from place to place. I'm starting to think that it will be impossible to get her to path to Rith. Rith, though, I'm sure, would path directly to Èzum if she got the chance.

The vampire mayor herself has stopped on the slopes of the volcano - apparently having halted the moment the doors below were locked. Her preternatural ability to sense an open route to the fortress disturbs me, for it is likely that if one were to appear without my knowledge, she would notice it before I did. The results of such an event would be disastrous.

Èzum, meanwhile, continues to wander around. I have to find another way.

I wonder if, somehow, Èzum will find her way to the mayor's office - even if the mayor is not present. I lock the two doors leading from the mayor's bedroom to the rest of her quarters, and make sure that the other two doors are unlocked.

Then, I order the lever controlling the outer trade depot bridges to be pulled.

I feel a cool draft rush over my feet - even though all the windows are closed.

The bridges lower quickly, and I receive a message that the merchants will be leaving soon. What great timing.

The liaison doesn't seem to notice. Damnit.

At about this time, I remember that the dwarves are on an alert - I rescind the order, allowing the citizens of Roomcarnage to access any part of the fortress that isn't behind a locked door or other barrier.

I watch the outpost liaison standing alone in the statuary, trying to banish the sensation of unnatural coldness that has begun to permeate my flesh. Something is wrong, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Èzum is here, and she will not go somewhere else. Rith must come to her.

I order a stairwell to be carved out, leading from the statuary up to the level of the old fortress.

This passage will be hewn in a matter of days by one of the fortress' most talented miners.

When it is finished, I will lock the doors to the statuary and order Rith to dig her way to the passage, thus granting her access to Èzum and the room within which she stands. Such an action may condemn all the dwarves standing within that room to death - so be it, if it is the price to be paid for establishing diplomacy with the Mountainhome.

Kadol Worklimb the legendary miner, one of the founding seven of Roomcarnage, responds to the call.

With Kadol's help, I know the passage will be done quickly. I am frustrated, however, to see that Èzum continues to move around.

It is to be expected, I suppose. As Èzum moves through the heart of Roomcarnage, I realize that no one plan will be sufficient. I must make multiple arrangements.

I'll turn this entire fortress into fucking swiss cheese if I have to. This meeting needs to happen.

I receive a notification that the merchants have begun packing. Good - the way out is safe for the time being. I hope that they safely make it back to the mountainhome.

As I watch, one of the miners is taken by a strange mood. This is fortuitous! Miners often produce useful artifacts.

Also, the dwarf's surname, Fanggravel, is pretty awesome.

Èzum continues to move about the fortress. I've come to expect it. I don't know where she's going to be when the plan is ready to be implemented.

Always canny, I make sure to have a door installed between one of the new passages and the fortress. It wouldn't do to have multiple points of connection between the fortress and the mayor.

Here too. Safety first.

Kol the miner soon reaches his workshop and begins gathering materials for his mood. As he occupies the work space, I feel a deep chill. Something is wrong.

It's not until a few minutes later that I realize something is wrong. Once again, a disturbing announcement appears in my feed, but it's only by chance that I notice it - amidst a number of glitchy tanning errors, I notice two events that strike deep into my soul. Two dwarven children, interrupted in their attempts to collect new equipment - probably clothing. Interrupted by a dwarf diagnoser foul fog zombie.

There is only one dwarf diagnoser foul fog zombie.

No. No. No. No. No.

My desperate refutations mean nothing. Two children stand in the corridor leading from the mayor's quarters to the volcano's slopes. One child has somehow made it past two foul fog zombies. Suddenly, I find myself shaking with the cold.

How could this happen?

I pan northwards, and my heart shudders. I shake with fear and frigid realization. Rith Craftportent stands in the open doorway of her quarters, a short distance from the trade depot. Her path to the fortress is unobstructed. How could this happen?

This door was locked. I locked it. And another being, within the game, unlocked it.

As I survey the situation, a biting cold cuts deep to my core. The edges of my sensations shake and shatter, letting in an ocean of frigid ice-ridden terror. The mayor has made her move.

Even in the midst of terror, I will not fail. I order the dwarves to retreat once more to the deeps, in the hope that the children might be saved. But I have little hope for them.

Within the fortress, I order the levers controlling the bridges at both ends of the trade depot to be pulled. Then, I return to the surface and watch as Rith Craftportent makes her attempt.

Could it be? I check the scene, and there is no evidence of the vampire mayor's remains.

I look at the units screen. Nothing - Rith is not there.

My announcements confirm it - the vampire mayor has been smashed between the bridges. There is nothing physical left of her.

Indeed, a new mayor has been quickly elected in her place.

This is Urvad Teachanvil, the new mayor of Roomcarnage. Perhaps not the most stunning dwarf, but I'll take anyone in the place of the vampire.

I remove the previous order to pull the eastern lever.

As well as the uncompleted dig orders. These are no longer needed, since the new mayor and the outpost liaison are now both inside the fortress.

But there is nothing I can do to save these children.

The undead shatter the child's left foot before caving in her skull.

At the trade depot, the other children that sought to gain access to the outside of the fortress retreat to the interior.

I go through and lock all of the doors in the mayor's quarters - whatever good it will do. Doors are no longer a guaranteed safety in Roomcarnage. Whatever lurks in the darkness between my world and theirs, it will seek to compromise the safety of Roomcarnage at every turn.

Once again, I make sure to revert the civilian alert status.

And as for the zombie that apparently rose before a hauler could get to it...

Eh. Fuck it. I lock the door, sealing the zombie it. Done - for the time being, at least.

To make sure that the new mayor has a place to meet with the liaison, I designate a chair in the dining hall to be used as the mayor's throne. Soon, I'll have to dig a whole new set of mayoral quarters. The suite nearer to the surface simply won't do, and since all the vampires are dead, there's no need to make arrangements for bloodsucking usurpers any longer.

Finally, the merchants make their way from Roomcarnage, passing over the bridge and out of the ice-walled corridor.

I order the outer bridge to be raised, allowing the dwarves to safely collect the trade goods still left at the depot.

The merchants leave the map, heading back towards the mountainhom. May Armok guide you, brave traders, and lead you safely across the haunted Ice of Ghosts.

And, with a little more luck, the fortress may yet survive another year, to see the caravan another time.

As the caravan disappears into the blizzard, I notice another announcement. Considering the nature of the announcement, I know I ought to feel relief, satisfaction, the heady glory of triumph and victory over a dedicated foe - but, somehow, all I can feel is coldness. In my heart, I know I have not seen the end of Rith Craftportent, or the vile forces which she represents.

It is the 19th of Opal, in the mid winter of 1211. The vampiric usurper has been overthrown, and the mantle of leadership taken up by a living, faithful dwarf of the Momentous Dye - and yet, the curse of undeath continues. Roomcarnage will never be safe, and it is a fool who believes that the fortress may endure forever. I still feel the chill gaze of the Ice of Ghosts reaching out from beyond, and the malign will of Rith Craftportent endures somehow. This fortress is cursed.