Chapter 49 :: Ézum Earthwane Takes the Plunge

April 11th, 2015

It is the 2nd of Opal, in the mid-winter of 1212. Once again, the fortress has lost the ability to calculate the total wealth of the fortress - the last broker was slain by Simo Veiledsins the Obscure Terrors in the beast's recent attack. I'm beginning to think that the position of broker in the Momentous Dye is cursed - all of Roomcarnage's brokers have met a grisly end above or below the haunted ice.

I scan through the list of dwarves who are eligible to be promoted to the cursed rank of broker. Most of the dwarves of Roomcarnage are at least adequately trained in a smattering of different social skills, but none have the knowledge of appraisal which is necessary to calculating the fortress' wealth.

I'm not going to get another chance to train a dwarf in appraisal until the caravan comes, next autumn, and only if the caravan is provided a safe, secure arrival. Figuring out how much Roomcarnage is worth, however, is not the main reason why I will try and guarantee the merchants safe passage to the depot. Nor am I particularly concerned with actually trading itself - Roomcarnage has everything it needs within its dark, cluttered storerooms.

I will try and ensure the caravans safe passage so that I can give them an offering. A paltry offering, of a mere seventy-five hundred urists, sent along to the dwarven capitol as a sign of the fortress' success and wealth. Once the offering is received, a migration will occur, and Roomcarnage will become the Mountainhome at last.

I've already made some additions to the fortress for the sake of trade. A new passage leads north from the depot and downwards into the fortress. I had to have this passage dug out, because the eastern tunnel leads into a haunted labyrinth of dust and blood.

These tunnels belong to the dwarves no longer. They are the lair of Simo Veiledsins the Obscure terrors, the beast of bituminous coal and deadly dust. The undead remains of those who perished in the beast's attack must never be found by the living - as far as the dwarves deeper within the fortress are concerned, their friends and kin caught behind the hastily-constructed obsidian walls have merely "gone missing." If they were ever to discover the truth, the resulting tantrum spiral could be catastrophic.

I look for the monster responsible for all of this carnage, expecting to find it in the bloodstained shell of the barracks - but Simo Veiledsins is elsewhere.

I find the forgotten beast just outside a door leading into one of the oldest pumps in the fortress. They were used to fill the reservoir to the south of where Simo now stands with magma, which was then pumped upwards, into a chamber directly beneath the glacier, which could be drained back down with the pull of a lever. It was a trap, intended to melt the ice beneath the feet of lured creatures, which would then be trapped in the quickly refreezing ice. It failed to work as intended, and so the project was scrapped - but these pumps remained in place, in case the dwarves might have another need for a large reservoir of magma. They are quite valuable - the pipes and enormous corkscrew used in their construction are forged of pure adamantine.

The great beast is among the most fearsome enemies that Roomcarnage has faced. Its body is fractured, smashed, or torn open all over, and yet its mineral body allows it to continue fighting.

I've known Simo to destroy objects - the barracks used to be full of furniture.

I check the doors - they're unlocked. I quickly lock them - I don't know if Simo can or will destroy the pumps, but at least, if the doors are locked, it'll keep it distracted for the time being.

Then, I lock all the doors leading to the pumps comprising the weapon. I'm not eager for Simo to wander into greatest offensive asset of the Momentous Dye. With the doors locked, there's not much else I can do about the beast right now. This part of the fortress belongs to Simo Veiledsins now, and if the dwarves try and reclaim it, they will only encounter the undead remains of their loved ones.

I return my attention to the depot, and the section of the glacier beyond it. The northwestern corner of the map is strewn with teeth, clothing, and foul fog - not to mention corpses of both animate and inanimate varieties. There's absolutely no way a caravan would be able to make it through this - something will have to be done. I have until the late autumn of next year to get rid of these undead and clean up the entrance - 10 months. Plenty of time.

But first, there's something else I need to take care of. The mayor, Urvad Teachanvil, has been conducting a meeting with the outpost liaison Ézum Earthwane for well over a year now. In all that time, no negotiation has occured - in fact, initial pleasantries haven't even been exchanged. They've just been "meeting," the liaison faithfully following the mayor as she moves around the fortress, and standing idly nearby while she is eating, drinking, or sleeping.

The circumstances surrounding this odd behavior fill me with a deep, numbing chill. At least, I reflect, this mayor does eat, drink, and sleep. Rith Craftportent was content to stand idly for months at a time, conducting her eternal meeting with the foul fog zombie diagnoser Dumat Sensesstakes. The relationship between Urvad and Ézum seems very much the same as their predecessors, even if Urvad needs to endure the daily trivialities of being alive. Ézum doesn't, of course, since only fortress residents need to eat, drink, or sleep.

Even these chilling oddities and similarities I might have dismissed as merely unpleasant, until late autumn arrived. The caravan arrived at the northwestern corner of the map as expected, but a lone dwarf arrived at the opposite corner. It was just a farmer - but a farmer who was intended to be this year's outpost liaison. Upon arriving, the dwarf found that the position was already taken, and then was torn apart by undead. Such is life in Roomcarnage.

I cannot tolerate Ézum's continued presence. In the event that next year's outpost liaison arrives at a more hospitable edge of the map, I want to be sure that they will not be stripped of their position the moment they come within view of the doors.

I know just the thing. For this device, we will need a very deep pit.

Rather than channel out each layer individually - a tedious affair - I order each room to be dug out horizontally. Then, I order a channel dug out around the top layer - this will leave a long sheet of rock, ready to be sent crashing downward through all the other levels. To make sure that the cave-in doesn't happen prematurely, I change one channel to a normal dig designation, which will leave a support for the rock sheet.

Then, I designate the stairwell that will connect all of the floors, allowing the entire column to be carved out at once.

Finally, I connect the area to the rest of the fortress with a narrow tunnel.

The miners arrive, and digging commences.

I watch as the designations are fulfilled, and the blueprint is realized.

Soon, the upper layers are completed, and the dwarves disappear into the layers beneath.

While they're working on the lower parts of the device, I order a stone support to be built underneath the thin sheet of rock at the top of the designated area.

Then, I order a lever to be placed nearby, and a door to seal off the area when the time comes for the lever to be pulled.

As dwarves get to work placing the new additions, I look over the miners' progress so far. It'll take a little while before the entire design has been dug out.

That's alright, it will be a while before the lever has been linked, anyways.

Since the support has been placed, this tile, connecting the thin sheet of rock to the adjacent wall, is now unnecessary. I order it to be channeled away.

Suddenly, another forgotten beast arrives in the deep. Fortunately, this one cannot fly, so it poses little to no threat to the dwarves.

Dungo Creviceslunk will wander these caverns until it finds the undead horrors that lurk in the darkness. It may fight for a time, as many others have, but eventually it will perish and rise again, as all others have.

Digging continues, and soon I am warned that the dwarves have reached warm stone. Of course - this bottom layer lies just above the magma sea.

There's an easier way to do this than constantly redesignating each tile as it is discovered to be warm. Instead, I cancel the designation on the lowest level, and change the level above it to be channeled out.

This way, the miners will dig out both layers at once, without cancelling any designations due to warm stone.

This method works like a charm whenever digging needs to be done above molten rock, but it is also quite dangerous - any mistakes could result in a deadly flooding accident.

Soon, all but one tile is dug out.

I follow the last miner as they dig out the final tile, and return to the fortress.

The dwarves' timing is excellent - the linkage to the support is being completed just as Vutok the miner exits the dig site.

When the linkage is complete, I order the door to be locked, preventing anyone from wandering inside at a terribly inopportune moment.

Then, I order the lever to be pulled.

A dwarf throws the lever, the support crumbles, and the rock sheet crashes downward.

The stone floor demolishes everything beneath it, leaving a gale of stone and dust from the fortress down into the magma sea, where the molten rock churns and spits fiery mist.

Slowly, the mist dissipates.

At the lowest level of the shaft, the magma roils and spews mist. Slowly, I know, it will calm down - by the time Ézum Earthwane plummets down this shaft and into the magma sea, the surface will be as calm as the surface of magma can ever get.

It's time for the next stage of construction. I order the door unlocked and the lever torn out - it won't be needed any more.

I order a bridge to be placed across the top of the shaft, built of andesite blocks.

Then, I order walls to be built next to the stairwell, all the way down, so that there won't be any chance of Ézum landing in one of these open spaces by chance.

The dwarves of Roomcarnage get to work quickly, hauling raw obsidian and blocks of andesite into the device. For tasks requiring amassed dwarfpower - pump operating, masonry, and so on - most dwarves of the Momentous Dye have the appropriate labor enabled.

Within a minute or two, all of the obsidian walls have been built, and the shaft is a clean and tidy drop straight down into the magma sea.

I am forced to wait for the construction of the bridge until the next phase of the project can commence. I follow the fortress' armorer as they go back and forth in the fortress, hauling block after block.

Soon, the bridge is designed and built. Excellent.

With the bridge in place, I tighten up the edges by having more walls built upon the raw stone ramps. This time, I have the walls made of smooth andesite blocks.

As construction continues, the mayor issues a mandate.

A spear, hm? At least it's not a short sword.

I order a copper spear to be built. It's a relatively simple mandate to fulfill - Urvad Teachanvils is an easy dwarf to please.

The walls are built quickly.

With the walls in place, I order a dead-end passage dug out to the west of the bridge. As well, I order the remaining ramp to be carved away.

As well, I order a new lever to be built in the statuary, where there will be plenty of idle dwarves when the time comes for it to be pulled.

The miners arrive, and soon the passage is carved out.

When the lever is completed, I order it to be linked to the newly-built bridge.

It's going to be a little while before the linkage is complete, so I order the walls around the bridge to be smoothed. This will make it look a little tidier, which doesn't have any functional use, but it does make Ézum's demise a little better looking.

There are fewer dwarves with the stone detailing labor enabled, but still the work is completed fairly quickly.

With the smoothing complete, I have a pair of doors placed on either side of the bridge.

Soon, the doors are in place...

...and the lever is linked.

The time has come for Ézum Earthwane to suffer an unfortunate accident. To get the useless outpost liaison into the trap, I'm going to enlist the mayor into the military and station her in the dead-end passage.

I review the military - all but one member of the Worthy Seals was slain by the dust of Simo Veiledsins. I promote the poor, lonely axedwarf to the rank of militia commander, and remind myself that I need to enlist more dwarves so that a new generation of warriors can be trained.

For the time being, though, I have other business. I order a new squad to be created, and make the mayor the squad's leader. Urvad Teachanvil is now the militia captain of the Everlasting Wires.

Then, I order the Everlasting Wires to be stationed within the dead-end chamber.

Mayor Urvad's military status activates, and she moves towards the entrance to the trap - but at the last second, she breaks away and walks to the south, towards the rest of the fortress.

Ah, of course - before Urvad can see to her military duties, she needs to gather equipment first.

She is currently clad in only a pair of pig tail fiber trousers, a pig tail fiber shirt, and a pair of pig tail fiber shoes - all in a state of general wear and tear. What else could she need?

I follow the mayor on her journey to the fortress' equipment stockpile.

She's gathered a copper flask and a dog leather backpack. The mayor has already filled her flask with ale, and she will presumably put some food in her backpack, in case she has to eat or drink on patrol.

Sure enough, she wanders into the food stockpile and loads up on provisions before turning once again towards the trap's entrance.

I examine what she's chosen for provisions - two delicious roasts of minced cave lobster.

The moment has arrived. I watch closely as the mayor strides across the bridge, followed by a child, and finally Ézum Earthwane. For a moment, I am worried that the child will prevent the trap from working - but there's plenty of time to lock both doors, trapping the outpost liaison upon the bridge.

Like a faithful dog, like the foul fog zombie diagnoser Dumat Sensesstakes, Ézum Earthwane blindly follows the mayor into certain death. For a moment, I feel my hair stand on end, and I perceive an undeniable link between both mayors and their attendants that is less of a similarity and more of a recapitulation, a continuation of the accursed circumstances that surrounded the vampire mayor during her reign...

I shudder. So much of the nightmare of Rith Craftportent has persisted, more than a year after her disappearance. How much else is persisting, unseen and scheming in the darkness beyond my perception?

It is irrelevant. Ézum is right where I want him. I order the lever to be pulled.

The liaison bangs on the locked door, but to no avail. A moment later, the bridge retracts into the stone walls, and Ézum Earthwane drops like a stone into the magma sea. There is a splash of magma mist, and a cloud of smoke, and the outpost liaison is gone.

I order the lever to be toggled back...

...and I unlock the doors, so that the mayor might return to the fortress. As well, I cancel the orders of the Everlasting Wires.

Urvad Teachanvil returns to civilian status, and the bridge slides back out, giving her a clear route back into the fortress - but she does not move.

I feel a slight chill as the cursor passes over the idle mayor. She is no longer conducting a meeting - the trap was successful, my plan executed, the goal achieved. And yet, I cannot deny a certain sensation of familiarity, a twisting in my gut and a chill in my heart that intensifies and threatens to overwhelm me as I stare into those violet eyes.

I look away, I turn off my computer, and I go about my daily business. I eat, I drink, I sleep. But wherever I go, whatever I do, the feeling stays with me, gnawing at the fraying ends of my sanity. I try to ignore it, often with a measure of success, but more and more, in the blackest hours of the night, I wake in terror from a nightmare I cannot remember, except for a deadly, lingering cold and violet eyes in the darkness.

It is the 19th of Obsidian, in the late winter of 1212. The outpost liaison Ézum Earthwane has been slain, and next year's liaison will not have to compete with him for diplomatic rank. There is still much to be done before autumn arrives, lest caravan and liaison alike suffer a terrible fate. And on top of it all, the lurking menace of Rith Craftportent haunts the fortress - her curse is far from over.