Chapter 44 :: The Curse of Rith Craftportent

January 21st, 2015

It is the 19th of Opal, in the mid-winter of 1211. As the year draws to a close, I reflect upon the recent accomplishments of the dwarves of the Momentous Dye. After years of isolation beneath the ice volcano known as the Oily Furnace, the dwarves finally established contact with the Mountainhome, and successfully traded supplies with the merchants who braved the journey across the haunted glacier. Their triumph cannot be overstated - to safely receive the caravan, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye had to endure the constant attacks leveled against them by a variety of malign forces. And yet, it is not their victorious trade that indicates a new age of prosperity and glory for Roomcarnage, but rather a much-anticipated change of leadership.

In the great dining hall of Roomcarnage stands the mayor Urvad Teachanvil, conducting a meeting with the outpost liaison Èzum Earthwane as a crowd of dwarves looks on. Urvad has only been mayor for a few days, but already she seems to be eagerly fulfilling her responsibilities. It's a nice change, considering that the previous mayor would have drained the blood of every man, woman, and child in the fortress if she could have managed it.

In order to better acquaint myself with this new mayor, I examine her profile. Urvad is on the older side - although not nearly as old as Rith Craftportent was - at 130. Her social skills and good intuition make her an excellent choice for the position. I just hope she doesn't make any demands for galena or aluminum furniture - otherwise, she might begin to start trouble.

Èzum Earthwane, the outpost liaison, has already posed difficulties. She insisted upon meeting with the mayor here, within the fortress - and why not? What would the monarch of the Playful Spattered Walls think if word got back to the Mountainhome that the legendary frontier colony of Roomcarnage was governed by an undead horror? Fortunately, the difficulties surrounding Èzum's insistence disappeared along with Rith Craftportent.

I take a look at Èzum's profile as well, just to get a mental image of her and Urvad chatting together, and then move on.

As mayor, of course, Urvad requires certain furnishings. Since Roomcarnage's previous mayor never slept or ate, the fortress went without a mayoral suite for many years. It wasn't until the prospect of a successful meeting with the liaison seemed possible that rooms were carved out. Unfortunately, those rooms, which lie very close to the surface, are now overrun by undead, and a new suite will need to be excavated.

I decide to have Urvad's new suite of rooms carved out of the rock to the east of the memorial hall, a short walk from the fortress' well. The stone here is solid obsidian, which is sure to boost the value of each room significantly.

Soon the miners arrive, and the digging commences.

With not much else to do, I watch the miners as they carve away boulder after boulder of gleaming obsidian. My mind wanders, and I find myself thinking of the former mayor - the vampire, Rith Craftportent.

Rith Craftportent - the name still sends a chill down my spine. The room around me seems to grow colder as I imagine those violet eyes staring back out of the all too thin LCD screen before me. But no - now, Rith is gone, smashed into nothingness with the pull of a lever. Returned to the malicious void that spawned her.

Memories of Rith's eccentric, vile behavior flash through my mind. The eternal meetings with Dumat Sensesstakes, the foul fog zombie diagnoser that still stands in the frozen tunnels near the surface. The unexplained connection between the vampire mayor and a ghostly hammerdwarf that lingered near her in the months before her disappearance. Rith is gone, but her secret words remain, echoing in the ears of the dead.

There are darker implications as well. Certain oddities that occurred throughout Rith's vile reign which, when taken together, seem to indicate her position within an eldritch hierarchy. The sudden disappearance of a small portion of the map into a void of nothingness might be perceived as merely odd, had it not occurred on the vampire mayor's watch. Her pathfinding as well might be seen as a strange quirk of the code, if it had not been so damnably knowing.

It doesn't matter anyhow. Rith was surrounded by oddities, glitches, and bugs, and it was arguably a bug that destroyed her - the nature of dwarven bridges as "atom-smashers," devices that will annihilate most items caught beneath them, leaving nothing behind. Rith was standing upon the anchor of the bridge when it closed - otherwise, she might have been flung further down the tunnel, or down into the pit beneath. Instead, she was caught between two bridges - and when they were lowered again, her physical form was nowhere to be seen.

I notice that excavation of the mayor's quarters is finished. I order them to be smoothed by the engravers.

As the first engravers arrive - a bunch of amateurs - I try to push the thoughts of Rith Craftportent from my mind. There's no sense dwelling on what is past, and the mayor is gone, I tell myself.

But I can't shake the coldness, that piercing chill, which after years and years in Roomcarnage I have come to associate with Rith Craftportent, and the vile forces from beyond which she serves. A disturbing thought suddenly comes to me - I have no proof that Rith is, in fact, dead. As far as the game is concerned, she is merely "missing," and no dwarf will ever find her corpse.

Another chill seeps into my flesh, and I shake my head. No. Rith is gone. Dead. Her plans and plots are at an end.

Now, the fortress has a new mayor - although, she seems to be having trouble meeting with the liaison.

Perhaps she is too busy with other work. My hand shaking from the cold, I go through and remove all of her labors. Curious - she had all of the healthcare skills enabled... ah! Of course! Urvad Teachanvil is still the fortress' chief medical dwarf! That will need to be changed.

There are no other dwarves in the fortress with the diagnostician skill, so I find someone who is appropriately useless to fill the role of chief medical dwarf. That someone is Stodir Beachedtombs, a young dwarf who has only recently come of age. I remove his hauling labors, and enable all of the healthcare labors.

Then, I appoint Stodir as the new chief medical dwarf. It warms my heart to see a collection of living dwarves as the fortress' administrators.

I check the mayor's profile. Rings, eh? We can do that.

I order thirty rock crafts to be made. I can't ask specifically for rings - I just have to order crafts, and hope that at least one of the thirty is a ring.

Back in the nobles screen, I notice something else - the new option in the lower right corner.

Yes, Roomcarnage has reached the point where it can become the new Mountainhome! Wonderful. As a bonus, all of the necessary fortress architecture is already in place. All that needs to happen is for the fortress to survive another year, safely receive the merchants for the second year in a row, and offer them a small amount of valuables. Such an act will entice the monarch to arrive with their entourage.

The thought of Roomcarnage attaining the rank of Mountainhome is a heady prospect. When the dwarves of the Momentous Dye first embarked, I had doubts that they would even survive to winter, let alone a whole decade.

For a fortress beneath a haunted, reanimating glacier, with no natural water source, no soil layer, and an affliction of zombifying foul fog, becoming the Mountainhome is a real accomplishment.

Ah, the smoothing of the mayor's quarters is finished. The chambers now have walls and floors of smooth, polished obsidian, with a cluster of gemstones in one of the back rooms. Definitely a fine suite.

I order doors to be placed between the rooms...

...and then the room-defining furniture: a bed, a throne, a dining table and chairs.

Finally, the other requested furniture: a pair of coffers, an armor stand, a weapon rack, and a cabinet. All crafted of pure obsidian.

Suddenly, I get an announcement - someone has begun a mysterious construction!

Ah yes, it is Kol Fanggravel, the miner who entered a strange mood a few weeks ago. It's good to see that Kol has finally begun construction - if he hadn't, I might have forgotten that Kol had entered a mood at all, and the fortress would have an insane, berserk, or melancholy dwarf on their hands.

As I watch the mayor's new furniture being hauled into place, I reflect upon the fragility of the fortress. Many of these dwarves have never seen death, or experienced grief. In defending Roomcarnage against exterior threats, I have also sheltered these dwarves more than any other fortress population I've managed.

I honestly don't know how much it will take to send the dwarves over the edge. I've secured countless art objects, a fresh source of water for cleaning, a new hospital, dormitories of private rooms, and most recently a veritable cornucopia of meats - a true delicacy here in Roomcarnage, where butchering a creature is a dangerous process. I can only hope that, when the time comes for the dwarves to endure disaster and emotional distress, these luxuries are enough to keep them from crossing over into a tantrum spiral.

With the furniture installed, I designate each chamber and assign them to the new mayor.

Then, I free up the chair which I was using to give mayor Urvad a temporary office, while her quarters were being built.

Soon afterwards, Kol Fanggravel completes his artifact - an orpiment grate. Most curiously, he names the grate after himself.

I've seen this a few times before. It is a rare occurrence, but sometimes a dwarf will name their artifact after themselves. My personal theory is that such artifacts are figurative self-portraits, intended to portray the character and personality of the dwarf who made them. In typically dwarven fashion, these characteristics are communicated via the complex interplay of materials, shapes, and surrealist imagery. In this case, a mountain, a cut gem, an osprey man, and a group of giant green tree frogs tells us something about Kol Fanggravel - what, exactly, I cannot say.

Kol returns to the lower fortress, his artifact shrouded in mystery. At least I'll probably get some use out of it at some point - grates can prove very useful in a number of situations.

I look back to the mayor. Urvad Teachanvil and Èzum Earthwane stand in the mayor's bedroom, discussing matters. This meeting has been going on for a while - I suppose the two have a great deal to discuss. Nine years' worth, in fact.

I watch and wait, hoping for a new screen to appear - some sign that their meeting is going successfully. But nothing happens.

A cool draft blows across the floor of my living room, despite all the doors and windows being closed.

Trying to distract myself, I check to make sure that all of Urvad's requests have been met. They have, and then some - I might have to make some adjustments to her furnishing if a higher-ranking, more pretentious noble arrives.

Her splendid office is probably a result of the masterfully crafted weapon rack. Enjoy it while you can, Urvad - once another noble arrives, I'll have to tear this out and replace it with something more fitting of a mayor's office.

As I browse the fortress, I cannot help but notice a conspicuous white Ñ hovering amidst the drinking dwarves in the stockpile below the dining hall. It is Urvad Tongssteamy, the ghostly hammerdwarf that met with Rith Craftportent and Dumat Sensesstakes in the the weeks before the mayor's disappearance. With Rith gone, it seems that the ghost is free to haunt the fortress as she pleases.

Dumat, however, still stands idle in the corridor of ice south of Rith's personal suite. The foul fog zombie diagnoser stays motionless here from day to day, the mayor he obediently followed having vanished behind a raised bridge. I do not mistake his behavior for despondency, for Dumat Sensesstakes is a foul fog zombie, a vile monster opposed to all life. With no living creatures nearby, and no leader to order him around, there is nothing for him to do - he has no motivation, no will. He despises every living thing, and feels nothing else.

Near the mayor's abandoned quarters, I examine the trade depot. There is no foot traffic here, but the depot is still loaded with goods.

This is because Roomcarnage has never had to store this much lumber before. The caravan wagons were loaded heavy with fungiwood and tower-caps, and the dwarves of the Momentous Dye bought all of them.

To unload the entire depot, I will need another stockpile.

The miners get to work quickly. Roomcarnage's design is not an elegant one, and it is assuredly quite inefficient - the architecture of Roomcarnage is borne out of necessity. Rooms are carved out of the space between caverns as needed, and as such, the fortress has become a nightmarish maze of tunnels, rooms, and stairwells.

At least I have been diligent about containment. All hallways to the surface are made inaccessible by stone doors. Such defenses have weaknesses, of course - as evidenced by the foul fog zombie titan that punched through several in a row - but building-destroyers are rare out here upon the ice. Here, there is little to fear but the walking dead, and the walking dead cannot unlock doors.

The digging is finished. I want to make sure the depot can be cleared out entirely, so I make the entire area a wood stockpile.

I decide that, with this surplus of wood, the fortress can afford to make some items that I've had to resort to making out of copper. More barrels means more syrup production, at the very least, and most of the fortress' bins were traded away to the caravan very recently.

Soon, the haulers of the Momentous Dye arrive, their breath steaming in the frigid tunnel. The rest of the fortress is beneath the earth, close to the magma sea, but up here the glacier holds sway. It is a haunted, accursed place.

The fortress passes into the new year - it is the 1st of Granite, in the year 1212. If I can survive until the late autumn, Roomcarnage will become the Mountainhome of the Playful Spattered Walls.

I check in on the mayor and the liaison. They're still meeting.

An awful feeling overtakes my senses - a disturbing and panicking sense of familiarity. My heart begins to race as I stare into those violet eyes. Violet eyes I've known for years.

The mayor conducts a meeting. The meeting does not end.

Behind those violet eyes, something stares back, frozen and empty.

Suddenly, things begin to die.

Feeling my bile rising, I check the combat reports. A reanimated corpse, a dwarven child, and eleven dogs are engaged in combat.

The reports are eight pages long. A bunch of dogs swarmed the corpse and the undead crushed the skull of one of the beasts. The dwarven child seems to have gotten in just a few punches at the beginning of the combat.

The reanimated corpse of Cerol Sokanbesmar still fights on in the old engraved statuary. Cerol was one of the dwarves that suffered a horrible injury in the days before the well of Roomcarnage was secured. In those days, a minor injury was a death sentence, as injured dwarves are only given water for sustenance, and not alcohol. The bedrooms to the south of the engraved statuary were the fortress' "hospital" - a set of chambers where injured dwarves could be placed, locked in, and left to die.

Somehow, the door to Cerol's death chamber was unlocked, and the reanimated corpse of the abandoned dwarf emerged.

I find the body of the dog slain by Cerol Sokanbesmar's corpse draped over a nearby statue. This poses an inconvenience - for the dwarves to dump the dog's corpse, the statue will have to be pulled down.

Most horribly, this statue is a depiction of a dwarf dying of thirst - Cerol Sokanbesmar most likely died of thirst, or otherwise starvation.

I can't take any risks with this corpse killing more dogs. I order the militia and the fortress guard to slay the undead.

The battle rages for a second more, and then Cerol's corpse is struck down.

I order Cerol's motionless body to be dumped into the caverns, before it causes more trouble. Also, I order the dog's corpse to be dumped, and for the statue upon which it hangs to be deconstructed as well.

I recreate the old dump zone to the south of the barracks. For years, corpses have been tossed out this portal into the black caverns beyond. Now, a constant smoky haze hangs in the space south of the trash door, for the undead corpses below have caught fire, and burn eternally, without any signs of decay or weather.

Fortunately, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have little else to do at this point in time. Within seconds, the statue has been torn down, and both corpses are on their way to the dump zone.

Relief washes over me, comforting and warm. Crisis averted.

continued in part two...