Chapter 53 :: Ice Gauntlets and Obsidian Revisitations

September 15th, 2015

It is the 2nd of Granite, in the early spring of 1214. The turning of the year brings with it no great changes - but the year is still young, and this spring will be the thirteenth since the dwarves of the Momentous Dye struck the ice here in Roomcarnage. Thirteen - an unlucky number, if one believes that sort of thing. I cannot say what the new year has in store, but I can count on one thing - in just seven months, the caravan will arrive from the dwarven Mountainhome, and if they depart with an offering, the monarch will immigrate to Roomcarnage and make it the new capitol.

I do not waste any time considering whether or not Roomcarnage would be fit for such an honor - or if it would even be a good idea. It is just another challenge - another level of glory for the dwarves of the Momentous Dye to achieve in spite of the ever-increasing threat of death and destruction.

In some ways, Roomcarnage is more of an idyllic paradise than most other fortresses. Here, deep beneath the glacier volcano, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye live day to day in dark and quiet solitude, far from the tainted fields of blood snow. There is no threat of war from other civilized races - for years, nothing has passed into or out of the inner sanctum of Roomcarnge. It is safe - as safe as a fortress can be, that lies under the influence of the Ice of Ghosts.

I know, though, that it will not last forever. Some day - perhaps soon - the luck of the dwarves will take a turn for the worse and Roomcarnage will be destroyed. Any time I feel comfortable about the dwarves' position, I just look a little closer, and the signs of death are all there. The unbanishable ghosts lurking amidst the stone, the walled-off corridors, the copper cages full of bloodthirsty skin and hair - the horrors of Roomcarnage's past surround and permeate it, like deep wounds stitched shut but never truly healed.

Yes, the fortress will eventually succumb to its wounds, both past and future, but for now the dwarves look forward to but one thing - glory. In their ongoing quest to ensure the safe arrival of the caravan, the dwarves have enlisted twenty of their own into the militia, to train with crossbows. I have found that crossbows are an effective weapon against most of the undead - although I have not entirely decided how they will be put to use, I am sure these training marksdwarves will help greatly in the struggles to come.

And of course, life in Roomcarnage continues as normal - moody children included.

As they train, I check in on the training dwarves' skills. The most skilled amongst them is but a novice - but they will continue training for as long as they have a supply of bolts. They are also equipped with masterfully crafted copper crossbows - surely these will be an asset when they are finally put to the test.

The child completes the mood - and produces an artifact that is almost, but not entirely useless!

At least a bone gauntlet can be used as armor, unlike a goblet or a scepter or a ring. However, bone armor, even of artifact quality, is less effective than even copper. It is something, though.

While the marksdwarves train, I turn my attention to the pit trap that was recently constructed. It failed - but perhaps it can still be salvaged. I have an idea... but there is no telling if it will work or not. I decide to try.

First, the final row of walls should be put into place - this will ensure that any falling undead do not happen to land on a ledge, where they could easily path into the fortress.

Soon, dwarves arrive bearing rock blocks...

...and construction of the walls gets underway.

While the fortress' bricklayers work, the marksdwarves continue training. I've disabled most of their labors, including hauling, stone detailing, pump operating, masonry, and so on - jobs that, at some point in the past, I enabled en masse. Now, they can focus on their training.

Despite the cramped tunnels, the dwarves quickly complete the stone wall.

There's just one last touch - I order walls to be constructed along the east edge of this deep stairwell. The stair was carved out to provide access to a series of parallel galleries which were later intentionally destroyed by cave-in, resulting in a vast open space.

Then, I order a small chamber to be carved out, just inside the trap.

I also try to place a door in the corridor, a little further inside - but find that there is only one artifact door available.

I decide to save the artifact door for a more appropriate location, and put in a work order.

Soon, a miner arrives and begins carving out the chamber...

...and I order a newly crafted door to be placed in the corridor.

Next, I order a chain to be installed in the center of the small chamber. With a door in place further up the corridor, the dwarves ought to be able to chain a living creature here, locked up alone, to serve as bait for the undead creatures outside. By locking themselves out, there is no risk that any dwarf might accidentally wander into danger.

Once it is in place, I go into the (a) Assign Animal to Chain menu, and scroll through the list of available creatures - there are only three general groups.

The first are the undead remains of pets that were willfully butchered within the fortress. Horrific mats of hair or cloaks of skin, kept from rot and decay by the same unholy forces that fill them with malice for the living. They are obviously unfit to serve as bait.

The second are dogs, some but not all trained for war. The dogs are all useful to the fortress as guards - when accidents occur in common areas, and the cold touch of undeath is felt in the heart of Roomcarnage, it is the dogs who rush to the defense while the dwarves flee in terror. For this reason, I am loathe to sacrifice on of their number.

Fortunately, the third group is full of perfect candidates - kittens. Tiny, cute, adorable, and essentially useless. In other fortresses, cats are a vital presence, as they keep the food stockpiles free of vermin. Beneath the Oily Furnace, there are no vermin.

I watch as one of the kittens is hauled, helpless and mewling, through the fortress. I hope the undead find it irresistible.

Before the kitten is clapped in irons (coppers, actually), another migrant wave arrives.

I almost envy them - their death will be swift. The dwarves of the Momentous Dye are fated to suffer a slow, harrowing demise that will likely result in madness before the end.

There is no hope for salvation. The migrants flee the moment they arrive on the edge of the map.

All perish upon the Ice of Ghosts.

One unlucky child makes a run for it, and flees screaming and bawling across the snowdrifts of frozen elf blood.

Eventually, the undead catch up to the crying child.

His fate is no prettier than that of the others. Within minutes of their arrival, all of the migrants are dead. The ranks of the army of the dead swell a little bit more.

I return my attention to the now-baited trap.

The time has come. I lock the inner door, and unlock the two outer doors, thus creating a direct footpath from the chained kitten to the northwestern surface of the glacier.

I wait for a few moments, but there is no immediate activity. I examine the passage, and find a pair of foul fog zombies just a few paces beyond the trap - the ranger Solon Talkarrows, and the child Endok Postlistened.

Anxious for something to happen, I follow Solon Talkarrows - but the foul fog zombie ranger does not move.

On a hunch, I check the trap again - a fortunate idea. While I waited for Solon to enter the trap, little Endok crept past the zombie ranger and into the trap.

I wait a few seconds, allowing Endok to get a little further out upon the catwalks.

Then, I pull the lever.

Endok Postlistened can only take a few more steps before the bridges swiftly retract into the stone walls. The foul fog zombie child is flung against the side of the trap and plummets downward into the subterranean ocean of magma.

As with the other undead, Endok will not perish in flame - instead, the zombie will be consumed by it for all eternity, doomed to burn until long after the last living dwarf has died and Roomcarnage has crumbled into dust. Fortunately for Endok, foul fog zombies cannot feel pain - I think.

I order the lever to be pulled again, returning the bridges to their extended position once again.

Then, I wait.

I wait for some time.

Nothing else seems to be taking the bait.

Perhaps the kitten is not as enticing to the undead as I hoped it would be - perhaps the forces of evil would prefer a juicier morsel.

I unlock the inner door.

Within seconds, fresh bait appears. Two children - Bomrek Constructtempests and Erush Painthelms - familiar faces. Both of these children were responsible for the trap's failure last time - they kept entering the trap, and forcing the foul fog zombies to flee.

It is no secret why these children continually seek out the surface - their mother and two of their siblings have been corrupted by the foul fog.

It is a vile attraction - and one that I am loathe to allow to continue. I check the relationships of the two children - with the exception of their father and an older brother (who is a swordsdwarf in the militia), they are only known as passing acquaintances to the rest of the dwarves in the fortress.

If something terrible were to happen to them... I can only hope the impact upon the rest of the fortress would be minimal.

I check the tunnels again - Solon Talkarrows, foul fog zombie ranger still stands on the stairs just beyond the trap.

These children will shake things up a bit, I hope.

Bomrek and Erush reach the far end of the trap - but Bomrek grows sleepy, and turns back. Erush continues onward.

I had hoped that Erush's presence would spook the foul fog zombie, forcing it into one kind of action or another. It worked, after a fashion.

The bone of her upper leg is shattered - Erush lies on the stairs beneath the foul fog zombie ranger. I take one last look at the child's thoughts and preferences screen.

The end comes quickly.

After Erush passes out, Solon crushes the child's skull with her steel crossbow.

Then - motion! But not the kind I was looking for. As if in horror, Solon flees to the top of the stairwell, where she stands motionless.

continued in part two...