Chapter 50 :: Warm Meat, Cold Meat; Fresh Meat, Old Meat

April 28th, 2015

It is the 19th of Obsidian, in the late winter of 1212. Over a year has passed since the vampire mayor Rith Craftportent mysteriously disappeared - a year of violence and gore, of tragedy and horror. What a coincidence it is, that the year immediately following Rith's disappearance was the bloodiest the fortress had ever seen. And yet, it is just one coincidence amongst this year's many strange happenings, which, taken together, form a nightmarish view of the situation. Roomcarnage is cursed - haunted by the lingering spirit of its former overlord.

Fortunately, I've rid the fortress of one of these other coincidences, at least for the time being. The fortress' current mayor, Urvad Teachanvil, stands in a secluded chamber chatting with her children. For the first time in a year, she is not engaged in a fruitless meeting with the outpost liaison, Ézum Earthwane - a meeting which bore an uncanny resemblance to the interactions between Rith Craftportent and her foul fog zombie diagnoser, Dumat Sensesstakes.

An unfortunate accident occurred, and a bridge opened while Ézum stood upon it - before anything could be done, the liaison was gone, their remains obliterated within the magma sea.

Other remnants of Rith's foul leadership remain, however. When the ghost of Urvad Tongssteamy first emerged from the Ice of Ghosts, he haunted the vampire mayor, and his name did not appear on the list of creatures who could be memorialized. The three formed a vile trio of undeath - Rith, Dumat, and Urvad - for a short time before Rith's disappearance.

Urvad was haunting the present mayor, for a time - but now, seems to be content to hover in the food stockpile, passively haunting the dwarves that come and go.

The creepy situation surrounding the fortress' mayor has been dispelled - for the time being, at least. However, there are other problems that need to be addressed. The northwestern corner of the map is once again infested with undead - this time, the mindless, life-hating remains of last autumn's caravan.

As well, there is another ghost - a spectral hammerdwarf by the name of Erib Ledalley.

I open up the menu at a craftsdwarf's workshop to engrave a memorial for the newly risen hammerdwarf ghost - but am shocked to find that the name of Erib Erarkulet is nowhere to be found.

Another ghostly hammerdwarf has arisen that may not be memorialized, and thus, may not be put to rest. The damned souls of both Erib Ledabbey and Urvad Tongssteamy will haunt the blasted lands of Roomcarnage forever.

There may be nothing I can do about the ghostly hammerdwarves, but the reanimated remains of the caravan can be dealt with easily. I look to the fortress guard, known as the Rapidity of Ink. Their leader, the captain Obok Girderflares, is a skilled axedwarf. The swordsdwarves that comprise the guard are of a similar skill.

All of the warriors are clad in the finest armor that Roomcarnage has to offer - gleaming copper plate and mail of exceptional or masterful quality. There is no iron in Roomcarnage, and thus no steel - and as for the legendary ore that lies deeper, let it be known that there are some foes that still strike fear into the heart of the dwarves of the Momentous Dye.

It is the warriors of the fortress who will cleanse the surface of undeath - but I am not fool enough to send Roomcarnage's most courageous out upon the bare, bloodstreaked surface. I station the Rapidity of Ink in the trade depot, where they can fight the corpses within the safety of cold ice walls, and upon raw obsidian floors.

As an afterthought, I station nearby the last member of the Worthy Seals - who has been recently promoted to militia commander in the absence of his "missing" comrades.

The military might of Roomcarnage, such as it is, springs to action.

I follow Obok Girderflares on his journey through the fortress, from the farmer's workshops, through the quiet and rarely-trod furniture stockpiles, down the dark corridor leading to an echoing stairwell that leads up into a carved out space directly beneath the haunted Ice of Ghosts.

Once the military is in place, I order a lever to be pulled.

Down the corridor to the west of the fortress guard, the dark stone bridges slam down into place. This is the same portal, I remind myself, into which Rith Craftportent strode, from which never to emerge.

I shiver. Roomcarnage is a haven to death, terror, and the damned who yet live. Nowhere in the fortress is truly safe, and all who live in Roomcarnage are doomed to die, eventually. Every square urist of ice, stone, and blood in this Armok-forsaken fortress is nightmare fuel - and yet, there's something about this stretch of corridor, these stone bridges, that makes my skin crawl.

I resist a sudden gut instinct to have the lever pulled once more, and watch as the undead begin shambling towards the passage leading to the trade depot, one by one.

The first foe is the corpse of one of the caravan's beasts of burden - a muscular, life-hating yak bull.

As the yak bull stumbles down the corridor leading to the trade depot, another undead appears, moving much more quickly - the corpse of one of the merchants.

The two undead monsters round the corner, and the battle is joined.

I look over the battle reports. Captain Obok, I find, deals the killing blow to the yak bull corpse, after a brief but dangerous exchange of blows.

It seems Captain Obok is also responsible for slaying the dwarf corpse. I am glad that Roomcarnage's military is led by someone so brave and competent.

However, I realize that there is no garbage dump nearby - these corpses will need to be thrown into a contained area, so that they do not pose any further threat to the military. The pit to the east of the trade depot will do nicely - I order a door to be installed at the bottom of the pit, so that whatever is tossed may be locked in.

(I don't order a wall installed, because then I run the risk of the dwarf walling themselves in and, well, time is of the essence here.)

In the aftermath of the first encounter, one of the swordsdwarves has become unhappy. I examine his thoughts and preferences, and find that he has two unhappy thoughts, due to long patrol duty and fighting horrifying corpses.

Well, Nish, that's what it's like in the military, here in Roomcarnage. There's not much that can be done about it.

I watch, waiting for a number of things - for the corpses to rise again from the dead, for another foe to shamble down the corridor, for a dwarf to arrive carrying a door.

The new foe arrives first.

It's one of the merchant's corpses.

The military responds immediately...

...and the corpse is expertly dealt with.

As I continue to wait for the dwarf to arrive with the door, the number of warriors protecting the depot dwindle. Where are they going?

Oh. Well, I suppose that's important. Nevermind the three necromantic time bombs sitting just outside the fortress.

A dwarf arrives, carrying a door - and simultaneously one of the merchant corpses reanimates. Its stinking guts dragging behind it, the undead dwarf is charged and slain by only one of the remaining swordsdwarves - the other two, apparently, did not see the corpse around the corner.

The door is in place - I order it to be locked.

Then, I create a new zone at the lip of the pit, and designate it as a garbage dump.

Finally, I order the bits of dead dwarf and yak that might still reanimate to be dumped.

The pump operator who installed the door turns around and begins hauling the yak corpse to the dump. It's only a short distance away, but the dead yak's size and weight makes for a formidable load.

Before the pump operator can even cross the trade depot, another undead arrives from the surface - this one is the severed head of a yak bull, inexplicably dubbed "Climatebroiled" by the dwarves.

The yak bull head is slain, but not before it is noticed by the pump operator who, startled, drops the other corpse and runs.

The yak bull head posed no threat to the fortress guard - least of all Captain Obok, who savagely bit the severed head before shattering its skull with a well-placed axe-strike.

The battle continues - another dwarf corpse is now advancing towards the trade depot.

As the dwarf corpse rounds the corner, the military charges - but just as the fortress guard reaches their enemy, two other corpses nearby shudder and rise to their feet!

Fortunately, the warriors of Roomcarnage emerge unscathed from the melee.

One war dog, however, has suffered a broken foot. I pray that the injured beast doesn't get in the way of the current operation.

There are no other undead in sight. I order all of the dead bodies and limbs to be dumped once again. Hopefully, this time the haulers will complete their work before even more undead arrive.

Before anyone can reach the newly designated bodies and parts, spring arrives on the calendar. As the game autosaves, I grimace with anticipation. Every year, on the 1st of Granite, the gods of the Enchanted Planet look down upon the living, mortal inhabitants of Roomcarnage, and pass judgment.

This year, the dwarves are fortunate. A single cat has passed away of old age.

Wary of unhappy thoughts, I soon locate the cat's former dwarf. It is Onol Boatlabors, one of the fortress' legendary growers.

Onol is indeed saddened by losing her beloved pet, but she is still quite content, overall. Here, at the calm center of the unending whirlwind of death and misery that is Roomcarnage, a humble grower mourns the death of her cat. Unlike the vast and unspeakable tragedies which have befallen and are yet to befall the fortress, this is a loss with which I can profoundly sympathize.

Time grinds on, however, and this cat has far more potential to cause misery in death than it did in dying. I harden my heart, designate the corpse to be dumped, and unpause.

The moods of the warriors guarding the depot slip more and more into discontent, but at least the corpses are being disposed of.

Not quickly enough, though. One of the peasant corpses rises up again before a hauler can arrive.

As with most of the other battles, it is ended by a strike from Obok Girderflares, captain of the guard.

The corridor is becoming increasingly cluttered by remains. I order the fleshy bits of the peasant corpse - a foot, an arm, and everything else - to be dumped, while leaving the teeth on the cold obsidian floor.

The remaining corpses are dumped without incident. A hauler arrives from deep within the fortress, carrying the lifeless body of a cat.

It is a small sadness indeed, but I take a grim consolation in the fact that Onol Boatlabors will not miss her cat forever. Eventually, they will be joined together in eternal undeath, and there will be no more unhappiness.

Soon, another undead appears in the corridor beyond the bridges. It is another severed head of a yak bull - the heads, I know, were once attached to bodies that were possessed by foul fog. Foul fog zombies may only be slain by decapitation, and they are immune to most other kinds of damage. It is a vile, unholy affliction, but this severed head is proof that they can be slain.

Fortunately, for the time being at least, the military of Roomcarnage does not face a foul fog zombie. This yak bull head is just reanimated flesh and bone, nothing like the apocalyptic foul fog.

Looking over the battle report, I count myself fortunate that this was not a yak bull head foul fog zombie - how does one slay a foul fog zombie disembodied head, when foul fog zombies may only be slain by decapitation?

I pray that I never need to seek an answer to that question, and order the head to be dumped.

Soon, the deed is done, and an uneasy silence falls upon the frozen corridor.

I look over the surface to the northwest. No more undead lurk amidst the sanguine snowdrifts - none except the ghostly hammerdwarf, Erib Ledabbey. There are a couple mutilated yak bull corpses - I assume these are the bodies that were once foul fog zombies.

Interesting - the Ice of Ghosts will only reanimate corpses that still have a body part with the [GRASP] tag. For dwarves, these body parts are the hands and the mouth - but for yaks, it must only be their mouth. Thus, a decapitated yak cannot be raised as an undead. How merciful.

With the surface finally clear of undead once more, I order a new stretch of andesite road to be laid out across the surface. I hope that, when complete, these roads will provide a route to the map's edge free of snow, blood, or foul fog - a route leading the caravan safely into the fortress.

As the dwarves get to work on this new project, I check in on the terror of Roomcarnage. I find Simo Veiledsins high up on the map, within the peak of the Oily Furnace itself. The beast is exploring its lair, I suppose, feeling out every tiny nook and cranny - the thought occurs to me that, in time, it might break free of the fortress entirely and soar up into the sky.

A sickly freezing feeling seeps through my viscera as I examine Simo's surroundings. Just a few squares away is - or, I should say, isn't - a tile that has been surrounded by mystery and menace since it first appeared on the map. It is a void - not even marked as "open space" by the game. Nothing registers as I pass the cursor over the tile, except the environmental descriptors: inside, dark, subterranean.

A cold emptiness seems to creep into my extremities as I stare at that empty darkness - a kind of radiation outward. Not through this frail prison of space and time, but into the black icy void, that lurks infinite and timeless between our narrow universe and the next.

It's an unsettling sensation, and despite my best attempts to distract myself by watching the construction of the roads, it lingers with me, like a patiently waiting predator.

The smallest patch of road, a square at the edge of the map, is completed first. I watch as the builder clears away a decade of frozen elf blood precipitation to complete the road.

Construction continues, and still the brave warriors of Roomcarnage stand on the trade depot, all of them grumbling about the long patrol duty and the horror of battling the undead. They will stay here until the bridge can be closed again - they are the first and last line of defense for the dwarves of the Momentous Dye.

Meanwhile, a new curiosity arrives in the deeps. It is Oyéle Creviceslugs, a creature that I somehow find simultaneously adorable and disgusting at the same time. On one hand, the thought of a colossal crimson-feathered cat warms my heart - while on the other hand, I personally prefer my cats to be without elephantine trunks, and I despise the noxious secretions of even my own cats.

Fortunately for the dwarves, Oyéle is trapped in the caves beneath the Ice of Ghosts. It is unlikely that it will ever pose any threat to the fortress.

I return my attention to the trade depot. Some of the remains left by the recent battles have begun to rot. Since most creatures are reanimated before their flesh has a chance to putrefy, miasma is a rare occurrence indeed, here in Roomcarnage.

And yet, it is not the rarest of occurrences. As the first month of the year draws to a close, I receive an announcement that is simultaneously shocking, distressing, and awe-inspiring.

I can hardly believe my eyes. It's been so long since Roomcarnage received migrants. What are the rumors, I wonder, that have circulated throughout the Playful Spattered Walls about this legendary fortress beneath the Ice of Ghosts? What strange tales of ice, fire, adamantine, and blood reached the ears of these poor travelers, whose fruitless trek ends here, in the shadow of the Oily Furnace itself?

Surely they must know the folly of their journey - in an entire decade, only two caravans from the mountainhome have reached the fortress safely, in 1202 and 1211. All others have perished or fled in the face of the undead army that is known to occupy the surface around the ice volcano. Perhaps these poor souls thought they would be able to find the entrance that was used by the caravan of 1211 - or perhaps they were tricked, or coerced? It might be more likely that they are simply oblivious to the danger, and have heard little more than a tale or two about the vast wealth accumulated by the Momentous Dye.

I may never know how these poor migrants began their long trek, but I know how it will end. Entering the map is like stepping into a nightmare of blood and ice. As the first migrant arrives, a trio of nearby dwarf corpses break their motionless vigil and begin shambling towards the newcomers. The migrants scatter, each one bolting off in a different direction in the hopes that they might find a hidden entrance to the fortress.

Their entire voyage has been in vain - each and every migrant will perish here, upon the Ice of Ghosts, even as the Momentous Dye constructs new roads on the other side of the volcano. If only they had arrived from the northwest... but it is pointless to hope for anything different. Roomcarnage is not a forgiving place, and these migrants will pay for their mistakes with their lives.

Their deaths are unspeakably brutal. I watch as a metalsmith flees around the map, only to be thrown to the ground and wrestled into submission by a disembodied lower arm. The dwarf passes out after the first blow, which is a mercy, considering the pages of violence that follow.

It is the same with all the migrants.

None survive - and why would it be any different? This is Roomcarnage. The ranks of the undead on the surface have grown by a dozen or so, for all the difference it makes.

The migrants slain, I return my attention to the construction of the roads to the northwest. As I watch, the southernmost stretch of road approaches completion - and I cannot help but notice the presence of Erib Ledabbey, the unbanishable ghostly hammerdwarf.

It looks as though everything is going according to plan, until - quite suddenly - everything goes wrong.

I pause the game as soon as I notice something going wrong. I fling the cursor across the screen, examining the workers.

No.

No no no no no.

I check the trade depot - no foul fog zombies here. The contamination is limited to the exterior of the fortress, for now.

My stomach is in knots. How could this happen? As quickly as it did? The dwarves were working, the road was nearly complete - and then, in the flash of an eye, four dwarves and a guineacock were corrupted by foul fog. I was watching, and yet saw nothing happen. How?

It is impossible to say for sure. One thing is certain - any attempts to reclaim or improve the northwestern corner of the map are suspended.

As well, the bridges must be raised.

As I watch, a dwarven child runs into the cloud of miasma, and a moment later the bridges tick up into their raised position. My heart skips a beat - have these bridges claimed another victim? Is this child destined to join Rith Craftportent in whatever realm she now occupies?

Fortunately for the child, no. Bomrek Constructtempests was standing on the lip of the bridge when it began raising.

She was tossed into the air and fell down into the pit beneath, where she she sustained minor injuries.

Fortunately, she will live. Bomrek scurries down the tunnel leading back to the fortress.

Above, I find one of the newly corrupted foul fog zombies standing at the edge of the pit, where the bridges were raised only moments before. It is good that I had the bridges raised as soon as I discovered the affliction - the consequences could have been dire indeed if I had not.

With the depot sealed, there is no more need for the military to be present. I finally relieve them of their lengthy combat duty. They relax into civilian status and begin organizing their thoughts.

At that moment, a child arrives from below, reaches the pit, finds that the bridges have been raised, and returns beneath.

I struggle to calm myself as I examine the child's profile. Why was little Erush trying to reach the outside?

I already know the answer before I look at Erush's relationships.

Sure enough, Erush's mother and two of her sisters were corrupted by foul fog. Her only remaining sibling is Bomrek Constructtempests, and her father was apparently somewhere within the fortress when the tragedy occurred.

Fully half of this dwarven family was caught outside when the bridges were raised.

Fortunately for Erush, she never got the chance to see the demise of her mother and two sisters. Thus, she has no unhappy thoughts regarding their undeath.

For Erush, life will go on - but probably not for very long.

After all, this is Roomcarnage.

I watch as the rest of the military leaves the trade depot, heading for the stairwell that leads down into the fortress. Soon, the frigid ice cave is silent, except for the shuffling of undead monsters at the bottom of the pit to the east. To the west, the corridor is clouded with miasma, the bridges obscured from view by a choking haze of rotten flesh-vapor.

And beyond the bridges stands a forsaken mother who wants nothing more than to be reunited with her family.

She is patient.

She will wait.

It is the 6th of Slate in the mid-spring of 1213. An attempt to cleanse the northwestern corner of the map of undead has only served to solidify the forces of evil in that area, costing the Momentous Dye four of its own in the process. Meanwhile, the ranks of the undead army to the south have also been bolstered with the flesh of ill-fated migrants, for the first time in a decade. The goals of the Momentous Dye remain unchanged - contact must be reestablished with the mountainhome, and the next opportunity to do so is in seven months time. As always, there is only one road, with one destination - the glory of endurance in the face of impossible odds. For, in the end, all will perish in Roomcarnage - but long, long after the last spark of life has been snuffed out beneath the Ice of Ghosts, people will speak of what was accomplished here, of the legendary perseverance and defiance of the dwarves of the Momentous Dye.