Chapter 55 :: Myths of Betrayal and Slaughter

December 31st, 2015

It is the 21st of Timber, in the late autumn of 1214. A chill draft, laden with grim portent, rolls down shafts and stairwells to smother the deepest heart of Roomcarnage.

Against my better judgement, I have ordered a certain lever to be pulled.

This lever is linked to a pair of raised bridges. When the lever is pulled and the bridges lowered, there will be nothing standing between the fortress guard - a band of fearless and deadly soldiers known as the Rapidity of Ink - and the frigid, corpse-ridden surface beyond.

These are bold moves - the boldest made by the dwarves of the Momentous Dye in recent memory - but made necessary by the plight of Iden Temptedoar, outpost liaison of the Playful Spattered Walls, who defenselessly shivers and scrambles about the elf blood snowdrifts.

The caravan has been broken - all that remains are a few stragglers, including a lone speardwarf, Kib Minedcopper, who stands alone against four undead. The bodies of her two companions, also merchant guards, lay motionless amidst the melee, their still-warm blood seeping out to blend with the frozen gore beneath. Soon, these corpses will rise to their feet once more - and Kib Minedcopper, I know, will not be far behind.

If Iden Temptedoar is to be rescued - if diplomatic contact is to be made with the mountainhome for the first time in years - the time to act is now.

There is another survivor of the caravan - Udib Veillashed, a merchant, has fled down a tunnel leading to the trade depot. Perhaps the dwarves will be able to save her as well - but the focus now must be on clearing a safe entrance for the outpost liaison.

As the Rapidity of Ink waits for the lever to be pulled in the deep, the merchant Udib Veillashed tries to flee the fortress. She rounds a corner in the icy tunnel and catches a glimpse of the foul fog zombies further down the passage - Udib turns and flees back towards the trade depot.

The foul fog zombies - a dwarven child and a disemboweled goat - must have caught a glimpse of the merchant as well, for they also flee. I have found that foul fog zombies often have a strange tendency to flee from living dwarves - perhaps the Rapidity of Ink will be able to send the zombies running before them while slaying the other undead, thus ensuring safe passage for the outpost liaison.

One the inner bridges have lowered, I check in on the liaison. She stands with a few other living dwarves - a speardwarf, a merchant, and a foolish pump operator who ran the gauntlet in the wrong direction.

I notice that a few of the nearby undead - a pair of yak cow foul fog zombies - are dueling each other. By chance, I have caught a moment of the action where one cow's bloodied teeth are airborne.

The duel will go on endlessly - nothing short of decapitation will stop a foul fog zombie. The teeth I found in the air were smashed out by a skull-crushing blow that would slay any living creature outright.

I observe Iden Temptedoar as she runs about, hoping to see some change in behavior now that the fortress has been opened up - but no. She flees into a corner of the map with the rest of the living dwarves.

Suddenly, I notice movement in the trade depot - two swordsdwarves have spotted a foul fog zombie, and move to engage it!

The battle is joined, for the glory of Roomcarnage!

On the surface, Iden Temptedoar continues to flee...

...while now, Tun Linearch, swordsmaster of the Momentous Dye, has entered the melee.

So far, the battle seems relatively one-sided. The warriors smash the zombie's left ankle, and the foe crumples to the ground.

There's no point now in holding the rest of the squad back - four warriors are already standing in the trade depot. I station the Rapidity of Ink directly upon the depot itself.

The rest of the squad - including Obok Girderflares, captain of the guard - runs south, and catches the foul fog zombie before it can reach any further into the fortress. The captain begins his assault, and suddenly pieces of gore begin flying out of the melee.

I look through the combat report, and discover that the zombie's hands and feet have been severed by axe. The warriors bear in, striking blow upon blow - the zombie cannot retaliate against so many foes.

Out on the surface, the liaison continues to run about aimlessly.

I check the foul fog zombie's wounds - Stukos Boarbooks is not a pretty sight. Covered with severe injuries, missing feet, its left hand, and its entire right arm. I notice another undead nearby - it's Stukos' right hand, which must have been severed before the rest of the arm was.

The soldier fighting Stukos Boarbooks' right hand is Stukos Stakeequal, an accomplished swordsdwarf. The warrior's mood has been affected - and what is that wound?

A quick look at Stukos' status screen confirms it. His entire left leg is gone.

I check the combat report, but I am too late - records of battle do not last for long in Roomcarnage. The swordsdwarf shows no other sign of recent injury - I conclude that Stukos must have lost his leg in some prior conflict.

Despite all of its injuries, the foul fog zombie engineer manages to drag itself through the frigid passage towards the trade depot.

All the way, the Rapidity of Ink stands over the undead, stabbing and hacking at its accursed flesh mercilessly.

I take a look back at the outpost liaison - Iden Temptedoars still wanders the bloody landscape. The situation seems to have worsened - I cannot spy any other living dwarves on the surface.

It is a desolate place, blasted by eternal blizzards and unholy storms and steeped in an ancient, glacial evil. As I watch the liaison sprint across the snowdrifts of frozen elf blood, I can't help but shiver as a dark chill seeps into my viscera - faint but persistent. A moment later, I notice an unusual announcement.

Stukos Boarbooks, the foul fog zombie engineer, has been struck down.

Sure enough, I find Stukos' motionless body strewn about the corridor.

I check the combat reports and discover that it was a swordsmaster who struck the final blow.

There is only one swordsmaster in Roomcarnage - Tun Linearch. I examine Tun's sword, and discover that it only has one kill - Stukos Boarbooks, dwarf.

The chill in my gut intensifies - something is wrong, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Looking at Tun's profile doesn't help. One look at "he took joy in the slaughter" lately is enough to make my heart stop for a moment.

I can't explain why I'm feeling as disturbed as I am. A foul fog zombie is dead, slain with a mere copper blade. In the hand of a swordsmaster, yes, but if brilliant martial prowess is what Roomcarnage needs in order to overcome its enemies, then that can be arranged. I order all the body parts to be dumped - otherwise, they will surely rise again to torture the living.

Up on the surface, the liaison's situation has not improved. For a moment, it almost seems as if Iden is running towards the most southwesterly of the entrances to the fortress - but then, I notice something else that is distressing.

Inod Mawwhipped, swordsdwarf, stands alone just outside the paved entrance to the fortress. If Inod decides to engage any undead further out on the ice, the result would be tragic, if not disastrous.

I unpause - and watch with relief as Inod returns to the safety of the fortress. Also, Iden Temptedoar runs down the passage!

Only two undead stand between Iden Temptedoar and the safety of the fortress within: Atîs Wavedwound, a child zombie, and a shambling dwarf corpse.

I order the Rapidity of Ink to be stationed in the corridor immediately.

The warriors run along the corridor, past the merchant and child fleeing from the undead. They attack and slay the animated corpse easily - but Iden Temptedoar has fled.

Axes are potent decapitators - perhaps I would do well do train a full squad of axedwarves specifically to battle with foul fog zombies.

Soon, the fortress guard reaches the foul fog zombie, and another grueling battle is begun.

Suddenly, I notice a disquieting announcement - a peasant corpse distracting workers.

I zoom to the site - and find an abandoned foot, unsuccessfully dumped. Another hauler - Vutok Grottopainted, legendary miner - is nearby, also working on a dumping job. It would seem that the other hauler was put off by the sight of the undead that already occupy the bottom of the pit. Hmmm... perhaps it would be a good idea to install a series of lava-bottomed trash chutes, located at intervals throughout the fortress.

Meanwhile, the battle rages on. I note that, prior to the arrival of the rest of the Rapidity of Ink, the dwarven child fought the axedwarf with fervor. Once the warriors have the zombie surrounded, the battle is mostly one-sided. Already, the dwarves have severed both of the monster's hands.

Also, I notice the presence of another foul fog zombie - a pump operator by the name of Sodel Holemountain, who stands quietly in the tunnels beneath the trade depot.

Sodel Holemountain will have to wait - the Rapidity of Ink is busy with another foul fog zombie at the moment.

It is hardly a battle - the once-living dwarven child lies prone on the ground, its limbs brutally dismembered, unable to defend itself against the tempest of biting copper blades. At one point, the swordsmaster Tun Linearch bites the zombie in the right lower leg.

I grimace - there is no wisdom in biting an undead monster - known to be created by a pernicious and evil curse spread by direct physical contact with a kind of dust - who is also currently gushing or spraying blood from dozens of wounds all over its body.

I can't know for how much longer the battle will go on. I order the remains of the defeated corpse to be dumped - hopefully the haulers don't peek around the corner.

I continue to check occasionally on Iden Temptedoar, the outpost liaison - mostly, just to make sure that she is still alive.

The battle with Atîs Wavedwound draws to a bloody close. Four warriors, including captain Obok Girderflares and swordsmaster Tun Linearch, crowd furiously around the foul fog zombie child. Accursed Atîs can do nothing but drag itself slowly along the cold, rough-hewn obsidian floor, leaving pools of blood and body parts in the wake of its steaming guts.

Finally, Atîs Wavedwound is slain - Tun Linearch cleaves the foul fog zombie with a great slash to the lower body.

I sift through the disquieting remains and order anything not bone or tooth to be dumped.

Two foul fog zombies have been slain in combat - a feat never before accomplished by the dwarves of the Momentous Dye. And yet, I doubt that Iden Temptedoar is any closer to making it into the fortress. I am loathe to send the Rapidity of Ink anywhere closer to the surface - so far, the foul fog zombies have only been slain when the dwarves possessed the advantage of numbers. Out on the Ice of Ghost, things are different.

All I can do is slay anything that comes within the trade depot, and dump its remains in the trash. It has worked so far - the dreaded plague of foul fog has not spread, and not a single injury has been sustained by the military. If the dwarves continue to enjoy this sort of success, then I may just leave the bridges down until next autumn.

Then again, the dwarves always manage to screw it up. I notice a handful of civilians traveling out the western passage.

Stodir Laborglided, pump operator, approaches the ramp, hewn from the Ice of Ghosts, that leads upward to the surface. Just beyond, evil lurks - a mindless dwarf corpse and a goat kid foul fog zombie.

I have no idea why these dwarves are trying to reach the surface - I've restricted them to burrows and forbidden everything out on the ice. I steel my nerves - it is likely that some dwarves are about to die. But at least the Rapidity of Ink will be there to save as many as they can.

Since Roomcarnage was founded well over a decade ago, dwarves of the Momentous Dye have sought many ways to combat the everpresent undead - many have failed, or shown limited usefulness, but copper swords and axes have been tested and proven time and time again.

I watch the warriors of the Rapidity of Ink respond to my orders, moving quickly towards the western passage - at the same time, the civilians either turn back or inexplicably continue onward towards the surface. Tun Linearch and Obok Girderflares lead the charge, captain of the guard trailing just behind the swordsmaster.

As the Rapidity of Ink begins to cross the bridges connecting the trade depot to the western passageway, a stray thought - a memory - arises conspicuously in my mind. It is here - upon, or perhaps between or even within these bridges - that the mysterious creature known as Rith Craftportent apparently disappeared. The bridges were raised - but when they were lowered again, the vampire mayor was nowhere to be found. She has not been seen since - Rith is only a memory - but the pervasive chill that suddenly creeps through my body carries with it a damnable familiarity.

Shivering, I call my attention back to the battle. The warriors charge the goat kid foul fog zombie - and suddenly, a flash of grey and yellow appears over the captain of the guard.

I pause and examine the scene. Obok Girderflares is injured. The chill deepens.

My hands shaking, I open up Obok's status screen. The captain's right upper arm has been cut open.

I check the combat report, and my heart seems to stop - engulfed in frigid darkness, the last few moments replay before my eyes. Obok Girderflares, captain of the guard, and swordsmaster Tun Linearch fighting side-by-side, their weapons biting deep into the goat kid foul fog zombie's flesh - when the swordsmaster suddenly turns and slashes the captain in the right upper arm. Caught unawares, Obok cannot block the attack, and his copper breastplate does not cover his upper arms - Tun buries his blade so deep in Obok's arm that it lodges firmly in his flesh. The captain's weapon - an exceptionally crafted battleaxe - clatters to the floor, droplets of steaming blood spattering upon the cold stone and gleaming obsidian.

I stare at the screen, frozen with shock. I unpause, the game resumes, and the warriors disappear up the ramp. The ice walls thrum with the echoes of baying dogs and copper boots.

The rest of the Rapidity of Ink, accompanied by a pack of war dogs, closes in on the foul fog zombies.

The captain of the guard barrels out of the rough-hewn tunnel and onto the Ice of Ghosts - the swordsmaster is not far behind. Before them lay nothing but chaos and death - a blasted landscape of elf blood snowdrifts, littered with body parts, abandoned equipment, and life-hating monsters, and everywhere in sight smeared with long, nauseating streaks of foul fog.

The caravan guards are all dead - there is nothing to distract the undead now, except for the citizens of Roomcarnage who now emerge from the fortress amidst a fog of confusion and betrayal. The outpost liaison has fled to a far corner of the area where there are few undead.

Captain Obok pays no attention to the army of scattered, groaning undead before him - nor, indeed, does Tun Linearch. They race northward across the elf blood snow, while even more dwarves emerge from the opening in the ice behind them.

The passage from the trade depot is filled with combat. Angry dogs charge up the ramp towards Sodel Holemountain, while the rest of the pack literally dogpiles the goat kid Honorgalleys.

Sodel Holemountain has banished any thought I might have had that the foul fog zombies were in some way friendly - the twisted pump operator punches one of the war dogs in the upper body, bruising its lung and sending it flying. Understandably, this enrages the dog.

The battle with Honorgalleys is a more intense but less dramatic scene - a few swordsdwarves and several war dogs laying into an undying goat child.

Of the dwarves who have mysteriously wandered out onto the haunted ice, there are four - the unfortunately named Vutok Handlebowels; Onol Boatlabors, legendary planter and mother of Ral Wheelposts, held in her arms; and Zon Sinktongs, whose name sounds more like that of a cook than a pump operator.

I unpause for a few seconds. The swordsmaster chases the captain - with no opposition, the undead descend on Vutok Handlebowels and begin to tear him apart. The outpost liaison draws close to the entrance, and a war dog chases Sodel Holemountain out on the ice, only to suffer injury.

In a few seconds, Vutok Handlebowels and three war dogs have been slain - but no. One living war dog was slain, as were two others that had been turned into foul fog zombies.

The tide of battle has turned. As the unarmored animals turn into foul fog zombies, the Rapidity of Ink is forced to turn upon their own war dogs.

What a nightmare.

And what horrible impulse drove Tun Linearch to attack Obok Girderflares? The captain of the guard's blood drips from the swordsdwarf's blade, even as it drips from the fleeing dwarf's injured arm.

I follow the outpost liaison as he dodges about on the ice - approaching the entrance to the fortress, then shying away. Nearby, Tun Linearch breaks his pursuit, and turns to attack the undead around him. Obok Girderflares continues to run away to the north.

Death surrounds me. A warrior of the Rapidity of Ink has been struck down, along with two dogs.

I check swordsdwarf Stukos Stakeequal's combat report, and find more betrayal. In the heat of battle, a squadmate turned upon Stukos, stabbing them in the throat - a mortal wound. In the ensuing duel, Stukos grew skilled enough to be considered a swordsmaster. Then, Stakeequal bled out.

There seems to be no end of carnage in sight. I find Ral Ageworked, legendary grower, lying prone before Stukos Stakeequal's slayer - Îton Gravelsling, now known as the Conflagration of Swaying. Îton wields a copper short sword named the Entangled Storm - Ral's blood is already smeared along the blade, and Stukos' name appears in its kill list.

I go back through the combat reports. After Stukos Stakeequal was struck down, Îton Gravelsling turned and charged a nearby war dog. The dog was surprised by the ferocity of Îton's onslaught - not to mention the unprecedented onslaught itself.

Îton dispatched the war dog quickly before turning upon the farmer, Ral Ageworked. A blow to the leg, and then to the arm, and Ral is on the ground bleeding out. Îton Gravelsling the Conflagration of Swaying shows no mercy - with two more slashes to the chest, the swordsdwarf tears apart the farmer's lungs. Ral will surely suffocate, if Îton doesn't outright murder him first.

continued in part two...