Chapter 54 :: Chaos amidst the Ice of Ghosts

November 27th, 2015

It is the 26th of Malachite, in the mid-summer of 1214. Only a few months remain before the caravan from the mountainhome arrives at Roomcarnage's gates - the dwarves of the Momentous Dye will need to work quickly if they want the merchants to find anything but a violent death and frigid undeath.

However, recent events within the fortress itself threaten to destroy Roomcarnage before the caravan even catch sight of the Oily Furnace across the blasted, bloodsoaked snowdrifts of the Ice of Ghosts.

Madness and horror have erupted within Roomcarnage. Once again, I am reminded that the calm serenity of the inner fortress is only an illusion - the absence of an immediate threat, but not of the ever-looming malice of the haunted glacier known as the Ice of Ghosts. The Ice waits and looms, ready to fill empty vessels with animating hatred at a moment's notice.

I find the blood-spattered, reanimated corpse of Ïteb Oddomsazir in the deeper dormitories.

There are only a few ways that a dwarf could perish here, in a bedroom.

I check the justice screen, and my suspicions are confirmed - Ïteb was found guilty of violating a production order, and was no doubt sentenced to a beating.

I take a moment to examine the tantruming swordsdwarf - Îton Gravelsling is a member of the fortress guard, an expert with her copper blade. It was Îton Gravelsling who slew the forgotten beast Rupola Mobbedpuzzle the Steamy Scabs - her blade, which she has dubbed "The Entangled Storm," is still spattered with the beast's ichor.

Looking at Îton's profile, I find evidence that she was, in fact, responsible for the death of Ïteb Oddomsazir - and the evidence is disturbing. Not only has she beaten someone recently, she "took joy in the slaughter." With no jail, this is what passes for dwarven justice.

I glance at the brutal swordsdwarf's kill list, and cannot help but notice that she has slain more living dwarves than dead. I suppress a chill and turn my attention back towards the undead threat.

The shambling corpse will need to be dealt with immediately. I cannot simply lock the door to the bedroom - a copper bin sits in the doorway, propping the door open.

The militia will need to deal with this threat directly.

For a moment, I consider sending in the fortress' marksdwarves - but no. These dwarves, while competent or skilled with their weapons, are green and untested - not to mention lightly armored. If they were to fail, the situation could go from bad to catastrophic within minutes.

I order the fortress guard to slay the undead, but not as a whole squad. Using the squads menu, I select from the fortress guard all dwarves except for Îton Gravelsling - I don't want to make her tantrum any worse - and designate the undead to be killed.

Seconds pass - I watch nervously, fearing that the corpse will shamble out of the room and begin slaying sleeping dwarves in their beds. I am relieved when the guards arrive and beat the necromantic spirit out of Ïteb Oddomsazir's body.

The body cannot be allowed to spend one more moment than is necessary inside the fortress - at any moment, even in the arms of a hauler, the corpse could be reanimated by the Ice of Ghosts. As the fortress guard temporarily revert to civilian status (an odd effect, taking place immediately after successfully completing the kill order), I order the corpse to be dumped.

One of the warriors - now an administrator - grabs the corpse and begins hauling it out of the dormitories. As the dwarf reaches the top of the stairwell leading to the rest of the fortress, however, he reverts to his military status.

The hauler in question is Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies, one of Roomcarnage's finest warriors.

I watch in horror as Obok abandons the hauling job and makes his way back through the food workshops and stockpiles, and up into the dining hall - carrying the bloody corpse all the way!

Once in the dining hall, Obok begins training while still holding the corpse of Ïteb Oddomsazir. I decided to place a training area in the dining hall, since it was a central location, and a place where tantruming dwarves often come to idle, start fist-fights, and go berserk. An excellent place for warriors to spend their time - but I never thought it would be one of the warriors who would bring the undeath into the heart of the fortress.

Soon, another dwarf arrives, unloads the corpse from Obok's arms, and begins hauling it away.

The hauler is Kûbuk Goldtunnels, a legendary weaver.

I watch anxiously as Kûbuk hauls the corpse out of the dining hall - it is a long way to the dump site. I can only hope that the body doesn't reanimate during that time.

Kûbuk carries the corpse through a mostly-empty wood stockpile, to a long tunnel that leads to a precipitous stairwell. The stairwell climbs upward, finally leaving the relative warmth of the volcanic stone and into the accursed glacier itself.

After that, it's a short walk south, past a drawbridge and the trade depot, to reach the pit that the dwarves have been using to dispose of their dead. It's a crude solution, certainly not ideal, but it serves their purposes.

The crisis is averted. It's time to get back to work.

First, I check in on the reconstruction efforts taking place towards the bottom of the old weapon. It is a tedious process - tearing out half of the pumps and the obsidian blocks they rest upon, then replacing the empty space with walls so that the pumps still remain operable. Construction jobs are regularly suspended when dwarves discover that they cannot construct walls in the space they are standing - it is frustrating, but there is not much else that can be done when the construction area is encased within a thin sheathe of obsidian stone surrounded by thousands and thousands of urists (temperature and mass) of magma.

Next, I check in on the archery range. None of the marksdwarves are currently training - perhaps they have used up all their ammunition.

I move a level down and unforbid all the ammuntion that lies piled up against the room's north wall. These are bolts that missed their targets, and instead fell into the stockpile a level below - a good way to maximize the usefulness of every single training bolt, especially on a map that has an extraordinarily limited supply of wood.

Then, I turn my attention to the gauntlet itself. When finished, these tunnels will serve as the fortress' primary defense.

The gauntlet is far from complete - I order a series of switchback bridges to be constructed, which will later be linked to a single lever, as a kind of emergency safeguard in case any undead make it past the marksdwarf corridor.

The fortress' architects and masons get to work immediately.

While the bridges are being constructed, I take a moment to check in on Îton Gravelsling, the swordsdwarf who was tantruming earlier. Îton's mood has not improved, but at least she is not tantruming anymore. Then again, a very unhappy dwarf leading a "striking demonstration" may not be a huge improvement.

I resolve to keep my eye on Îton Gravelsling, and continue with the construction of the gauntlet.

Construction of the bridges continues - I watch as a few of the individual spans are completed.

Time is limited - I order a lever to be constructed, so that the bridges may be linked as soon as they are finished.

Soon, the construction is done - but something else catches my attention.

A new ghost has arisen in the fortress - Fikod Tombsinks, the damned soul of one of the merchants who have perished on the surface over the years. Slain, no doubt, at the hands of the undead.

At a craftsdwarf's workshop, I order a slab to be engraved, memorializing poor Fikod, but I notice another name: Eral Libashedan.

No ghosts are welcome in Roomcarnage - I order both slabs to be engraved.

The other ghost is the spectral remains of Eral Axestirred, who was a woodworker in life.

With the engraving orders queued up, I turn my attention back towards the gauntlet. I order the lever to be linked to the bridges - but find that the fortress has a shortage of mechanisms. With only nine mechanisms, a mere four linkage jobs can be queued up! Curse my lack of foresight!

On the manager's screen, I put in two work orders for thirty mechanisms apiece. This is an unfortunate delay - the linking of mechanisms to levers is already a bottleneck when it comes to any project, and having a delay in production won't help.

The slabs are finished - I order them to be placed in the eastern hall, just outside the mayor's quarters. This room also contains five levers, placed around a statue in the center - these levers control the bridges adjacent to the trade depot high above, near the surface.

The slabs are placed...

...and the souls of the two dwarfs are put to rest.

I check in on the lever - only one of the jobs has been completed. To speed along the process, I decide to have another lever built. This second lever will be linked to the northern half of the bridges, in parallel to the linkages being made with the first lever. Hopefully, this will make up some time.

As work continues, a special message appears - Tun Velrovod, one of Roomcarnage's brave warriors, has become a swordsmaster! Tun stands out among his comrades, apparently illuminated to a bright, solid cyan - the same color as mythical adamantine.

Soon afterwards, I receive another special message - yet another ghost has risen in the fortress.

It is business as usual - I order another slab to be engraved.

Before the memorial is finished, Autumn arrives on the calendar. The situation looks dire - just over two months remain before the caravan arrives. Much remains to be done in that time, if the dwarves are to successfully receive the merchants - or else, they will spend another long year in isolation beneath the haunted Ice of Ghosts.

The second lever is completed - I order it to be linked up to the gauntlet bridges, starting from the north end. There are only four mechanisms available - enough for two linkages - but it makes no difference. Only one job per lever can be worked on at a time.

I take a look at Îton Gravelsling - the swordsdwarf's mood has finally begun to improve. It would seem that the risk of damage from her tantrums is over.

Eager to optimize the linkages, I look at the list of the fortress' citizens - it would appear that one of the fortress' two legendary mechanics is occupying their time making mechanisms, rather than linking the levers. This is not a huge problem, but I would prefer that the task of constructing mechanisms be left to less skilled mechanics, for two reasons: one, it will move the fortress towards having more legendary mechanics; and two, it will allow the legendary mechanics to focus their time on linking levers, their advanced skill speeding along that process.

Using the mechanic's workshop's profile menu, I restrict access to those dwarves who have any mechanic's skill less than legendary. It won't prevent less skilled dwarves from linking the levers, but it will keep the legendary mechanics from wasting their time chiseling gears out of raw stone.

Then again, with only a single workshop, the production of mechanisms will go slowly, no matter what.

I find a mostly-empty stockpile - in this case, the ammunition stockpile immediately below the archery range - and erase a three-by-fifteen area of it, enough space for five new workshops. I begin to build the workshops - but backtrack a little, opting to use blood thorn logs instead of andesite boulders for their constuction. While wood might be more valuable in Roomcarnage, and certainly less renewable on a reasonable timescale, in this moment I need to make sure that as much stone is readily available as possible.

Before too long, the workshops are complete.

Just as with the other mechanic's workshop, I restrict these buildings to only those dwarves with a skill less than legendary. Nothing else needs to be done - the fortress manager will queue up jobs at these workshops automatically.

Once again, I receive a notification that a new ghost is haunting the fortress.

Once again, I order a memorial slab to be engraved.

In passing, I notice that one of the new levers - the northern one - has only a single active job. There are only enough mechanisms to queue up one more job, but it will ensure that there is no down time when the current job finishes. Hopefully, having five more mechanic's workshops will keep up the supply of mechanisms more efficiently than before.

The slab is completed - I order it, and another from before, to be placed in the memorial hall with all the others.

The slabs are placed in the hall, and the restless spirits are put to rest...

...and I thank Armok that exorcisms are so simple. The other undead threats to Roomcarnage cannot be banished so easily.

I go back to the levers, and am pleased to discover that there are several more mechanisms than there were before. The mechanics are hard at work! I order two more linkages on the northern lever...

...and one more on the southern lever. This brings the total linkages on each lever to five. There are eleven bridges in total, so one of the levers will need to have one final linkage.

Without the distraction of the workshops, the fortress' legendary mechanics complete the linkages quickly. A disembodied spirit looks on as a living dwarf installs the machinery - this ghost's name does not appear on the list of entities who may be memorialized. It is damned to eternally roam the fortress, forever present, forever watching, but eventually to be forgotten when Roomcarnage crumbles in its final days.

Deep beneath the gauntlet, life continues as normal in the great hall of Roomcarnage. Dwarves mill about, chatting and idling as a mechanic works on a lever linkage, ignorant of the undead horrors of skin and hair that are somehow contained within the copper cages nearby. They are a constant reminder of the grim fate that awaits all who live in Roomcarnage - a tortured existence of mindless violence stretching far beyond the last beat of their heart.

I put the fortress' eventual fate from my mind - the end will come, regardless of anything that happens between now and then. What matters now is glory, and whether the dwarves can achieve it before the end or not.

I order the final linkage - once it is completed, the levers will be finished.

I return my attention to other parts of the project, ordering fortifications to be carved into the smoothed ice walls overlooking the gauntlet.

The gauntlet itself, I plan on flooding with magma. Not enough to fill it completely, but enough to incinerate the corpses of intruders, once they have been de-animated - perhaps 2/7 or 3/7. However, I realize that, at this rate, the magma will simply flow into the eastern cave, filled with bridges - and I have made no attempt to ensure that the mechanisms used in the linkages are magma-safe, nor have I carved away the ice that would be melted, if molten rock were to flow beneath it.

To contain the magma, I order a simple barrier to be constructed - an obsidian block wall, with stairs on either side.

Along these same lines, I note that a portion of the southern smooth ice wall will lie directly above the path of the magma being pumped into the gauntlet. Instead of carving fortifications into this patch of wall, I order the wall to be carved out.

The dwarves work quickly.

In the gap in the wall, I order a fortification to be constructed, rather than carved out. Ironically, the fortification will be built out of ice - when used in a construction, ice is just as magma-safe as any other building material.

It then occurs to me that, if an undead were to make it through the gauntlet without being slain by the marksdwarves, it would be thoroughly aflame - and would melt the ice walls at the top of the newly-constructed stairwell, as well as the ice above it. I resolve to carve out all of the ice surrounding the route an undead might take, to ensure that there are no unfortunate accidents - at least, not the bad kind.

Ice is fickle - the dwarves must work carefully. I order a patch of ice immediately above the passage to be dug, not channeled, out.

This designation will breach into a small patch of raw glacier, still laden with deep piles of elf blood snow. I double check the area, to make sure that this part of the project will not needlessly expose the miners to more danger. Fortunately, this is just a small cave, the result of converging magma flows. An interesting formation rises above the hellish landscape caused by repeated activations of the weapon, marking the presence of the hidden cave beneath.

The dwarves toil away diligently - engravers carve out slits in the ice wall, a mason erects the frozen fortification...

...and miners carve out the ice, revealing the forgotten patch of raw ice.

I order a small patch of ice to be channeled away...

...revealing the passage beneath.

Then - just to be safe - I order the area surrounding the passage to be carved away as well.

There are some pathing issues - the first miner on the job carves away his access to the dig site, and has to make a circuitous trek to approach the area from the other side - but soon, this work is also finished.

I order the ramps left by the channeling to be removed.

As the work is done, I wonder if I am being needlessly meticulous. I could have simply placed walls over the ramps... but no. When dealing with ice and magma, one can never be too careful.

I am struck with an idea - why restrict the marksdwarves to firing upon the western portion of the gauntlet only? Instead of walls, I order fortifications to be placed on either side of the raised passage. Then, I place a few digging and smoothing designations, which will extend the firing corridor a few tiles further to the east.

Of course, if any burning undead were to make it into the eastern tunnel, they would melt the ice over their heads... this portion as well will need to be excavated.

continued in part two...