...continued from part one

I watch as the miners arrive and complete the designations with expert efficiency.

Of course, why stop the firing corridor where it is? The goal of the gauntlet is to reduce all undead to oblivion, with a one-two punch of marksdwarves and magma. If any flaming undead manage to reach the bridges, I would rather have the marksdwarves on hand to continue their attack, rather than just dropping the undead into a pit. I order the dwarves to extend the smoothed walls and marksdwarf access all around the newly dug out square.

Then, I begin the painstaking process of carving away the square, revealing the bridges beneath.

At first, the miners divide their time between digging and channeling.

Soon, however, the digging jobs are finished, and they can begin channeling in earnest.

Channeling out a large area such as this can be tricky. At first, long edges can be designated all at once.

One must be careful to not designate too much at once, or else cave-ins can occur.

Once the long edges have been channeled away, I switch to a more painstaking, but more efficient method - designating corner tiles one by one, as they appear.

Corner tiles are the most likely candidates for cave-ins, since they only have two connecting edges. Hasty designation can easily result in an accident.

As the workspace gets smaller and smaller, fewer jobs are available at a time. As a result, sometimes jobs get picked up by dwarves on the other side of the fortress, and waiting for those dwarves to arrive can hinder progress. Instead of waiting, I cancel and re-enter those designations, which allows a closer dwarf - usually the miner who is already at the worksite - to pick up the job.

Thus, the channeling - usually a miserable, time-consuming task - is completed before the smoothing of the walls around it.

As the last few patches of wall are smoothed, I order the walls beneath and between the bridges to be carved into upward ramps. Also, I connect the lower area to the western portion of the gauntlet.

Also, I designate a deep stairwell, with small adjoining tunnels to be carved out beneath the small passage connecting the eastern and western portions of the gauntlet. This section of the project will eventually serve as a drainage system, so that the magma can be vented into the cavern system if necessary.

The miners arrive, and work quickly.

Once the walls have been cleared away, I order the ramps to be removed as well.

I order the top of the drainage vent to be channeled out. Also, I order the stairwell to be connected to the dig site, allowing the miners to escape the area once they have removed the ramps.

As well, I order fortifications to be carved into the newly smoothed ice walls.

Once the top of the vent has been channeled out, I order a hatch to be placed atop it - except the only hatches available are made of andesite, which is not magma-safe.

At one of the fortress' mason's workshops, I cancel the perpetual task of constructing rock blocks, and mandate the construction of a floor hatch.

As well, I go through the stone restrictions list, and forbid the use of any stone except for obsidian.

Suddenly, a child is taken by a strange mood.

I am not excited - children rarely craft useful objects.

I turn my attention back to the construction of the gauntlet, ordering channels to be dug out on all levels of the drainage vent.

I watch as one of the fortress' legendary miners goes down the stairwell, carving out floor after floor.

When the obsidian hatch cover is finished, I order it to be placed atop the drainage vent. Then, I order an obsidian door to be placed just south of the vent. This is crucial, of course - it will prevent magma from flowing into the access stairwell.

I order walls to be constructed between the stairwell and the channeled tiles, all the way down the vent. Thus, there will be a single drop from the floor hatch to the cavern level, bounded on all sides by sheer walls.

Then, I have a lever built, near the two controlling the bridges.

Careful to use obsidian mechanisms, I order the lever to be linked to the floor hatch.

Soon, work begins on the linkage.

I order a floor of obsidian blocks to be built over the raised passageway leading between the eastern and western portions of the gauntlet.

Eager to complete the gauntlet and welcome the undead inside, I check on the floor hatch linkage. The linkage is not complete, per se, but the mechanism on the hatch itself has been installed. No more access to the lower levels of the gauntlet is necessary - I lock the door and seal it tightly.

The time has come to activate the pumps, and fill the gauntlet with magma. There are still a few tiles that haven't been completely renovated, but none that will interfere with the operation of the pumps. I order the devices, from the bottom-most pump in the stack, all the way to the pump within the gauntlet itself, to be activated.

Soon, there is a dwarf manning each of the pumps. The time has come - how many years have passed since the weapon was activated? I have lost count.

With a sense of dark anxiety that I cannot place, I order the lever controlling the hatches at the bottom of the weapon to be pulled.

I watch with anticipation, and then with horror, as a jet of molten rock surges up into lowest level of the obsidian casing through the open hatch.

My hopes and dreams turn to bitter ash as quickly as the dwarven baby in the pump operator's arms.

I take a quick look at Kol Hamebrims, the brave pump operator whose ill luck landed her with the most dangerous job in the fortress. She has lost a child to tragedy recently. Her misery will end soon enough.

With a heavy heart, I lock the door leading to the extempore crematorium.

I order the lever to be pulled once more, closing the hatch.

There is nothing else to be done - I watch as the plumes of smoke billow and subside. A child waits outside the locked door - no doubt one of Kol's surviving children, who sought to join their mother at work. The child is lucky to be alive.

Fortunately, only a 1/7 pool of magma remains, which will eventually dry up - the operation may be attempted once more. I note that a copper flask and crossbow lie melting in the magma - Kol Hamebrims was one of the newly minted marksdwarves.

It is a grim blow - at this point, I can only hope that the magma dries up before the copper implements melt. I cancel the order to operate the pump, and unlock the door.

Ultimately, it is in vain.

Soon, naught remains of Kol Hamebrims and her infant child, besides a pool of molten copper.

Meanwhile, the moody child begins constructing an artifact. It is no consolation.

There is no time - it is already late autumn. I make a desperate decision - to open up the gauntlet and draw the undead inside, perhaps to thin the numbers of the undead on the surface enough to allow the caravan to break through.

It is a grave gamble. As the miner carves through the exterior ice wall, the long-hidden corpse of a dwarf is revealed beneath. I fear it is an ill omen of things to come.

I wait until the brave miner has made their way past the trade depot, and into the safety of the inner fortress.

Then, I order three levers to be pulled - the first, third, and fourth of the five levers in the memorial hall, counting from the left.

The levers toggle three bridges - counting, again, from the left, the first third, and fourth double-spans, which raise and lower on hinges anchored on a ledge bounded by pits on either side. The design renders the bridges impenetrable on both sides, even by flying invaders, when they are raised. They are the perfect design for a fortress that might encounter threats from any direction - even within.

With the two western bridges lowered, the trade depot is made directly accessible to the exterior of the map - the three eastern bridges, now raised, render the fortress inaccessible to the undead, except through the gauntlet.

I observe the surface of the map - ah ha! The undead seem to be pathing towards the entrance to the gauntlet. The trap seems to be working!

The time has come for the marksdwarves to prove themselves. I order the two squads to be stationed on opposide sides of the western gauntlet - to the north, the Fenced Release, and to the south, the Skinny Gloves.

The marksdwarves mobilize not a moment too soon - two foul fog zombies are already halfway across the span!

And - even worse - the child, Bomrek Constructtempests, is traversing the bridges. I should have known that the children would muck things up, just like they always do.

Suddenly, another child appears - Tun Wheeledgleamed. Tun must have been atop the staircase, even closer to the foul fog zombies than Bomrek.

In the midst of disaster, the moody child completes an artifact - a dog bone weapon rack. It is interesting - even useful - but it is little more than a minuscule island of amusement in a sea of death and misery.

What follows is a bizarre dance of fear and death - as the living children and the foul fog zombies draw close to one another, they both turn and flee from one another. Once again, I am forced to question the nature of the foul fog, as it seems more and more like less of an undead plague, and more like an unholy conversion from one sort of sentience to another - as if through a mirror, where the fear and love of the living is reproduced in the dead as a perfect reflection.

The shambling corpses, however, are not such reflections as the foul fog zombies. Undead flesh, given will and strength by the Ice of Ghosts itself, knows no fear, no love - only hate.

Little Tun dodges past an animated corpse and flees down the causeway, towards the exterior of the map. The corpse chases after the child - and dodges crossbow bolts fired by the marksdwarves, who have just arrived!

The corpse dodges a bolt, jumping into the open space beside the causeway, and plummets to the cold stone floor below.

Meanwhile, Tun Wheeledgleamed flees straight through the icy passages to the surface, sending foul fog zombies scattering in her wake. In a bizarre turn of events, it seems as if Tun is chasing one of the zombies, following closely on its heels.

I check the gauntlet - the marksdwarves are still in place. I can only hope that they will hold the line against any undead that manage to reach the causeway.

I follow little Tun around the surface, watching as she sprints around the sanguine snowdrifts. Soon, she catches the attention of a few mindless undead, who begin chasing her.

Meanwhile, other dwarves have begun running into the gauntlet - a pump operator, with baby in arm, tangles with a foul fog zombie near the stairwell. The zombie flees, but is sent tumbling down into the pit beneath.

The entire combat report consists of the pump operator attacking the foul fog zombie - the undead did not even attempt to retaliate. Who is the true villain here?

The pump operator reaches the ice passages - but wisely turns back, just as a couple animated corpses shamble down the corridor towards them.

In the gauntlet, the situation has escalated - no fewer than four children now stand atop the bridges. There is no way that I can monitor all of the events going on - chaos is blooming amidst the Ice of Ghost.

But, as often happens in Roomcarnage, and Dwarf Fortress in general, the chaos grows.

What luck! For the first time in many years, the outpost liaison has arrived on the northwestern corner of the map. There is, then, a chance that Iden Temptedoar might make contact with the mayor of Roomcarnage - a rare event, to be sure.

Then again, the surface is still crawling with undead. The caravan and liaison alike are far from guaranteed to reach the safety of the fortress.

The trade depot is separate from the rest of the fortress - the merchants and their guards will have to fight their way there, if trade is to occur. The liaison, on the other hand, will have to find her way through the gauntlet, which will need to remain open and accessible to all, including the undead. In preparation for the grim eventuality that the undead manage to breach the gauntlet, I station the fortress guard, the Rapidity of Ink, at the top of the stairwell leading from the shooting gallery to the fortress beneath.

A deep chill runs through my body as I watch the scene unfold. The caravan scatters, with wagon, merchants, and hired guards spreading out over the ice. The undead descend or flee before the newcomers, depending on their inclination, while the baby-bearing pump operator and another child scrabble across the snowdrifts of frozen elf blood. And through it all, the outpost liaison Iden Temptedoar seeks the entrance to the fortress.

It is a scene of chaos. I can only watch, and hope that the caravan makes it to the trade depot, at which point I can pull a few levers and seal the passages to the surface.

I follow Iden Temptedoar as she runs about, and watch as the scene around her progresses. The merchants and their guards are immediately beset by undead, but to my surprise the merchant guards - two speardwarves and an axedwarf - seem to have some success protecting their charges. As I watch, the guards slay the few conventional undead, and then converge in a central knot with a few foul fog zombies. A fierce melee ensues - and in the ASCII I can see limbs being severed and zombies being slain. One by one, the warriors of the Playful Spattered Walls decapitate the foul fog zombies, slaying them. I do not know if they will reanimate.

The rest of the caravan fares a little worse - one merchant has lost their pack animal, and another is still being attacked. The wagon trundles into a cleft in the jagged, nightmarish plateau that looms over the surrounding glacier. The crevice is littered with trash, blocks, and half-finished roads, but it leads to the trade depot. Will they make it?

I do something I should have done a while ago - I order the dwarves to be restricted to below the surface. Hopefully this order will prevent more dwarves from wandering through the gauntlet - although, I know from experience that children have a tendency to ignore burrows.

Once again, I follow the outpost liaison - but to my chagrin, as Iden Temptedoar progresses southward, dodging the violence the entire way, I notice that the wagon has changed directions. The merchants have abandoned the prospect of trade with Roomcarnage - or, rather, they have decided that they need to escape this fortress of the damned while they still can. I cannot blame them.

Iden herself reaches the frozen corridor, and almost makes it to the gauntlet before turning back, apparently made fearful by the crowd of undead horrors lurking in the tunnels ahead.

Iden flees, running to the north edge of the map, pursued at some distance by corpses. The only other undead nearby are the monsters locked in combat with the three merchant guards. The merchants themselves are mostly departed - one still remains, for what reason I cannot tell - but their guards remain, determined to slay their foe rather than retreat with the wagon.

As unwise as it is, I admire their single-minded obsession to duty - an obsession shared by Iden Temptedoar. The outpost liaison will attempt to reach the mayor of Roomcarnage, even if it kills her - which, for the several previous outpost liaisons, it has.

I consider my options. I look over the Rapidity of Ink. The fortress guard is filled with skilled warriors, clad from head to toe in gleaming copper, all their equipment exceptionally forged. Since their inception in 1203, they have been repeatedly tested against the undead. They have fought countless undead, and even slain forgotten beasts. Now, they will be put to the test again.

Deep beneath the frozen stone, in the thrumming, secluded heart of Roomcarnage, I order a lever to be pulled.

It is the 21st of Timber, in the late autumn of 1214. The caravan has fled, dooming Roomcarnage to another year without trade - and thus, another year without an opportunity to make a critical offering to the mountainhome, that will convince the monarch to change their seat of power to this accursed hellhole. The outpost liaison, however, still lives. She is relatively safe, for the time being, as most of the undead on the surface are tied up in combat with a few brave caravan guards - but their battle cannot go on forever, and when they finally succumb to their inevitable fate, Iden Temptedoar will be doomed as well. Only a last-ditch effort, a risky gambit hinging upon the martial prowess of the fortress guard can save her now - whether they succeed or fail, the glorious deeds of the Rapidity of Ink will be spoken about for centuries to come.