Chapter 51 :: A Migration to Death

July 19th, 2015

It is the 6th of Slate, in the mid-spring of 1213. Twelve full years have passed since the first picks of the Momentous Dye struck the ice in the shadow of the Oily Furnace. For twelve centuries before that, the ice volcano had stood alone amid the haunted glacial waste, for no wild creature calls this place home. Only the dwarves are so bold, and for their boldness they were cursed.

The surface above is lost. The snowdrifts of frozen elf gore are smeared with a vile necromantic substance known as "foul fog" which converts its victims into life-hating, nigh-unstoppable horrors.

An army of foul fog zombies and reanimated corpses occupies the bloodstained waste, and no living creature has made it in or out of the fortress in well over a year.

For a time, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye had secured the northwestern section of ice and successfully traded with the caravan that arrived in 1211. Now, this area is sealed away, the road of cold black stone half-laid amid the drifts of frozen elf blood. The construction of the road was interrupted by a sudden and inexplicable outbreak of foul fog amongst the workers and their children.

The dwarves of the Momentous Dye wasted no time in raising the outer drawbridge, thus protecting the fortress from the spread of foul fog, but all those who were caught outside when the lever was pulled have been lost forever.

This area of the map, however, is not something I am content with losing forever. The dwarves of the Momentous Dye are destined for glory, and I will not sit idly by while Roomcarnage crumbles away to dust, alone and forgotten beneath the ice. Contact must be reestablished with the mountainhome, and for that to occur, a safe trade route needs to be secured. The other two map edges are guarded by undead who number in the dozens. Here, there are yet only five foul fog zombies - four on the surface, and one further within, by the drawbridges. It is a more manageable situation by far.

How to deal with this threat, though? In the past, I might have activated the powerful, apocalyptic magma-weapon, and purged the foul fog with chthonic flame.

Sadly, that solution is no longer readily available. When Simo Veiledsins the Obscure Terrors attacked Roomcarnage, huge portions of the fortress had to be walled off - including the uppermost tunnels within the volcano, where the weapon was located. Retaking these tunnels would be catastrophic - not only would it provoke Simo Veiledsins into another attack, but the corpses of all those dwarves who "went missing" the day of the attack would be discovered. The subsequent emotional shock of coming to terms with the deaths of thirty friends and loved ones could spark a tantrum spiral - a terrible disaster in any fortress, but here in Roomcarnage it would undoubtedly lead to the end of the story.

Even if the dwarves dared and succeeded in reclaiming these tunnels, the weapon would be nonfunctional. As Simo squirms and fidgets through its new lair, the forgotten beast occasionally lashes out, smashing a door or pump. Most of the pump stack is yet intact, and the adamantine components of the smashed pumps seem to have survived - but it is pointless, in the end. The weapon - what is left of it - now belongs to Simo Veiledsins the Obscure Terrors, bane of Roomcarnage.

What's done is done. I turn my gaze from the forgotten beast, and begin designating a new series of tunnels. The current passage from the northwestern surface to the depot is heavily corrupted by foul fog - I cannot risk allowing the caravan to track the contaminant into the fortress.

Instead, these tunnels will lead directly to the map's edge - hopefully, the miners of the Momentous Dye will be able to connect the tunnels to the exterior before the caravan arrives. With luck, the merchants will arrive close to one of these tunnels, and will dive inside before the foul fog zombies get them.

I order four separate exits to be carved out. I can't be sure that they will work, but at this point, I'm willing to try just about anything.

I finish the hallway designations.

Then, I add the trenches that will be covered with raising drawbridges.

As work begins, I receive a notification: the metalsmith Mafol Alakzaneg has been missing for a week. Mafol was a recent migrant to the fortress - his arrival and death alike having gone unnoticed by the dwarves of the Momentous Dye.

For two seasons now, migrants have arrived at Roomcarnage's frozen, bloodsoaked doorstep, and all of them have perished upon the Ice of Ghosts. I may reasonably suspect another wave of migrants to arrive this summer, and then this autumn, and for Armok knows how many seasons after that. For as long as the dwarves of the Playful Spattered Walls are blind and foolish enough to brave the journey to the fortress of the damned, the army of the dead will grow.

Let the migrants come, then. Season after season, they will come, but there is only one chance a year to do trade with the mountainhome.

I watch as the miners continue their work. Instinctively, I keep my eye on the nearby undead - the miners are safe, to be sure, but years of living in the shadow of a haunted glacier volcano have made me wary of the ever-present evil. Nowhere is safe.

As if on cue, the spectral dwarf begins flitting back and forth through the ice, haunting the miners as they go about their business.

This ghost, Erib Ledabbey, cannot be put to rest. His name does not appear on the list of ghosts who may be memorialized - the spectral hammerdwarf will haunt Roomcarnage for all of eternity.

I try not to think too hard about Erib's fate, choosing instead to focus on the progress of the miners.

The dwarves work quickly, their picks carving through the ice and stone like an adamantine knife through a plump helmet roast. One of the benefits of a long-lived fortress is a skilled workforce, and Roomcarnage has its share of legendary miners.

After the passages have been excavated, I notice some garbage lying around. In the western corridor, I find a pile of abandoned clothing - probably left behind by an ill-fated migrant, and subsequently encased in ice during the lava flooding. I go through each article of clothing, making sure they haven't been coated in foul fog. Fortunately, they haven't.

In the eastern corridor, I find something much more dangerous - the skeletal remains of a yak calf foul fog zombie. I check to make sure the skeleton isn't coated in a fun layer of fog, and then order it to be dumped.

A hauler will come to take care of the yak calf skeleton - in the meantime, the miners can continue their work. I order the pits to be deepened, and connected with access tunnels as I've done in the past.

Then, to make sure I don't have any pathing problems, I order a ledge to remain unchanneled in each pit - these bits can be left until the very end, after the bridges have been built overhead.

The skilled miners of the Momentous Dye finish the work in a matter of minutes.

At the same time, a dwarven child is taken with a secretive mood.

The child claims a craftsdwarf's workshop. What useless artifact might this dwarf make, I wonder? A scepter, a crown? A mug, perhaps?

I try to contain my excitement as I return my attention to the dig site. Thankfully, the yak calf skeleton is disposed of without incident.

The pits have been dug out - the time has come to construct the drawbridges. I cannot be sure if this plan will work - I've come to expect the worst, here in Roomcarnage - but at least an array of lever-linked bridges will allow me to control the accessibility of the tunnels around the trade depot.

I order two new levers to be placed in the meeting hall outside the mayor's quarters...

...and soon, dwarves arrive hauling stone blocks.

Before too long, the bridges are completed, and are ready to be linked.

At about the same time, the moody child begins constructing their artifact.

I order the levers to be linked...

...and soon afterwards, the artifact is completed. Dog bone leggings, what a treasure!

Bone armor fails to turn away even the crudest of weapons - even an artifact such as Alliedbeak the Drab Clouds is less useful than armored leggings forged of copper. The true treasure of this artifact is in the artwork. There is an image of dwarves travelling and of dwarves laboring, crafted of pale dog bone and white tower-cap - depictions of the founding of Roomcarnage in the early spring of 1201. Also, there are two images crafted of gleaming gemstones - one, depicting a triumph of dwarf over yeti, and another depicting the appointment of one Lorbam Oiledtunneled to the position of outpost liaison.

It is a gaudy artifact, to be sure, and practically useless. I'm sure the captain of the guard or some other warrior will choose to wear it instead of a more protective piece of armor.

I return my attention to the construction site. The bridges are in the process of being linked, and the ghost Erib Ledabbey has taken to haunting the dwarf doing the linking. There was a time when I might have feared the influence of a single disembodied spirit - but it has been a long time since Roomcarnage had to deal with low morale. I think Uzol Knifebrass will be able to deal with it.

With the bridges in place and nearly linked, I order the ledges underneath to be channeled away.

Once that's done, I order the ramps left behind to be carved down - this serves a mostly cosmetic purpose, since the ramps don't actually go anywhere.

Also, I am suddenly reminded of the carnage that inflicted upon the dwarves when another ghost began opening locked doors. I order a wall to be built outside the undead pit, thus sealing them in forever.

Miners arrive and carve away the ramps, leaving the bottom of the pits hewn flat, and the stone wall is constructed, isolating the undead.

The levers have been linked up as well. The new passages are nearly complete.

All that remains is to carve away the walls of ice that separate the ends of the tunnels from the surface beyond.

It would be foolish to give such an order at this time. The surface is crawling with foul fog zombies, and I'm not eager to chance any interaction that might possibly spread the contaminant. The whole point of these new tunnels is to give the caravan plenty of entry points that are free of foul fog - it would not do to have the vile undead crawling around the snows outside.

As the season turns, I consider my course of action. It is now the early summer of 1213 - in just over five months, the dwarven caravan will arrive at the map's edge. In five months, the surface needs to be clear of undead, otherwise the merchants will stand no chance of reaching the tunnels.

In another fortress, I might just lure the enemy into a long corridor filled with weapon traps - but here in Roomcarnage, where every corpse is destined to rise again, such a trap would not be a permanent solution. I could use cage traps instead, but I'm loathe to turn to such an anticlimactic solution. Besides, I can't even say for sure if the foul fog zombies can be stopped by mechanical traps at all.

As I consider my options, I idly look out over the surface. I notice something in the northwestern corner - a staircase, buried beneath a decade of elf blood snow and a frozen pool of foul fog, and yet somehow completely accessible to the surface. It is one end of a long passage that winds under the earth, leading to an open void.

I'm struck with an idea - channel out an area directly above the cavern layer and build a series of bridges, each a single tile wide, all linked to a single lever. Lure the zombies inside with the typical fortress-pathing bait, pull the lever at the right time, and...

...boom, the foul fog is introduced to the cavern layer. Worse things have happened to the dwarves in the history of Roomcarnage, but not many. The caverns are already filled with undead horrors - reanimated dwarves, forgotten beasts, and assorted limbs thereof - but at least they are merely animated corpses, and not curse-laden, life-hating husks. I would rather the foul fog stays out of the caverns, and that the foul fog zombies are permanently removed, and not merely displaced.

The solution is obvious - drop them into magma, instead.

Of course, this will simply be another displacement - neither the fall nor the molten rock will kill them. They will burn forever, doomed to wander the magma sea for all eternity, their withered, blackened bodies crackling in the heat but never disintegrating.

I wonder if foul fog zombies feel pain - if they do not, have they achieved some sort of dwarven nirvana? Millennia after Roomcarnage crumbles to dust, they will endure, the last physical remnants of a long-dead people. Their bodies will be corrupted, blackened and bloody, but they will bathe forever amidst the pillars of raw adamantine.

If they do feel pain... well then.

I pick out an area where the roof of the magma sea is broad and level. I mark the area out - this is the trap's footprint.

I expand the footprint designation upward, as far as it will go without breaking into the cavern layer - 17 z-levels. In the days before vertically enabled designation, each layer of this trap would have to have been designated individually.

This column will be the open area into which the enemy will fall after the bridges are retracted. The top level is where the bridges themselves will be located.

I connect the passageway to the newly designated trap, making sure to leave an undesignated tile between the passage and the area where the dwarves will be working.

I remove the designations on the second layer from the top. Then, using the channel designation, I mark out the squares that will be occupied by retracting bridges.

Finally, I connect the southern end of the trap to the fortress.

The job is taken up by Kadol Worklimb - a legendary miner, and one of the founding dwarves of Roomcarnage.

He arrived at Mosusilush, "Roomcarnage" on the 1st of Granite in the year 1201, one of seven brave and, at this point, probably infamous dwarves who first braved the Ice of Ghosts to found a fortress in the frozen waste. With his poor analytical skills, poor focus, and nervous tendencies, he seems a little bumbling, but I have to admit that his excellent taste more than makes up for it. His first three material preferences are bismuthinite, adamantine, and red diamonds. He likes water buffaloes for their water wallowing and appreciates the soothing (deep blue) color of dimple cups. Overall, he seems to be a dapper, friendly fellow.

I follow Kadol on his journey through the fortress. It is a short journey, but then again, all journeys within Roomcarnage are short nowadays. He ascends the stairs from the dining hall, strides across the farm plots in the furrowed mud, passes quickly through the textile workshops and into a darkened chamber filled with levers.

Some time ago, I had hoped that I might flood the southern edge of the map with even more magma, applied more precisely. Multiple levers for multiple floodgates - but that was a different time. Before the coming of the forgotten evil, the unseen beast of the deadly smoke - before the magnificent weapon of the dwarves was lost to them forever.

Those days are over. Ever as always, Roomcarnage strives upwards, out of chaos and into dark, isolated order.

Kadol begins digging.

There's no better dwarf for the job. Only one dwarf at a time can dig a corridor such as this. By taking on this task, a less-skilled dwarf would delay the entire project - and time is of the essence.

In a short time, Kadol reaches the main body of the trap.

Other dwarves come to help dig, and the trap takes physical shape for the first time.

I find the scene to be mesmerizing, as the busy designations give way to unmoving black stone.

Once the room is finished, I order all of the bridges to be constructed. I am careful to place them so that each one is connected to one of the room's walls - once the floors in between them have been removed, the bridges will only be supported by the walls.

Amateur architects soon arrive and begin designing the bridges. The trap may end up being a sloppy, unaesthetic mess (by dwarven standards), it will work. Theoretically, at least.

I also order a lever to be constructed, which will be connected to all of the bridges. When the lever is pulled, all the bridges will be retracted at once.

I watch as the bridges are completed, one by one.

The construction time passes uneventfully. Here in the hidden tunnels of Roomcarnage, there are no threats save those that the dwarves bring upon themselves.

At this point, I realize that I don't have enough mechanisms to complete the project - so I place a work order with the manager for fifty more.

While the mechanisms are being built, I designate a stairwell that runs downward, just adjacent to the body of the trap. At the bottom, I remove the designation just above the magma sea, and change the next layer up to channel designations. In this way, there will be no digging cancellations from warm stone. After that, I connect the stairwell to each layer of designations.

Now, it's just a matter of letting the miners do their work.

continued in part two...