...continued from part one

With a sinking heart, I take a step back and review the situation. Conditions upon the surface are arguably worse than they were before the caravan arrived - now, in addition to foul fog zombies and mindless corpses, master warriors prowl the icy waste, their copper blades crusted with frozen dwarf blood. Iden Temptedoar, the outpost liaison, still lives - but not for long, probably.

Inside, the dwarves fare a little better - whatever madness has driven the Rapidity of Ink to turn upon their squadmates, I am yet unsure, but whatever it is has yet to pass the trade depot. The marksdwarves, who still guard the gauntlet, show no signs of mutiny - I intend to keep it that way.

Defeated, dejected, I order the levers controlling the first, second, and third bridges to be pulled.

Civilians continue to wander through the trade depot, even as the battle rages on.

It looks as if the western bridges will be raised in time to keep any undead from getting through, so I go to cancel the raising of the third bridge - but it has already been pulled, by manager Tun Noselance, no less. I order it to be pulled again.

The middle bridge rises, sending clothing fluttering. A planter, baby in hand, arrives just a moment too late, and decides to take a different route - presumably, out of the western tunnel and back around through the gauntlet. The planter turns her back just as the bridge lowers once more, but the dwarf has already made up her mind. She crosses the western bridge just the gears begin to turn - and just like the clothing before, the two dwarves are hurled further down the tunnel.

The planter and her baby skid along the ground, suffering only a few harmless bruises - nothing, compared with the ordeal they are about to face.

Returning my attention to the surface, I notice a cyan corpse - that of Tun Linearch, swordsmaster. Immediately, I suspect Obok Girderflares, captain of the guard.

I locate the captain quickly - a chill shock runs down my spine as I read his name. Obok Girderflares the Tone of Spite - a title earned without the help of an axe, and apparently at the cost of Obok's rank as captain. Now, he is simply an axedwarf. Nearby stands Iden Temptedoar.

I read through his kill list, expecting to find the name of Tun Linearch - but no, Tun met his fate at the hands of some other foe. I find another dwarf's name there - Zon Sinktongs, one of the civilians who somehow found their way outside during this disaster.

Obok and Iden run towards the open tunnel - I half-expect Obok to turn upon the outpost liaison herself, but instead the axedwarf runs past the visitor and barrels further down the passage.

I am not sure what they were seeking - an entrance to the fortress, maybe - but at the end of the corridor they find only death. A trio of corpses proves to be too much for the former captain of the guard to handle alone.

The undead descend upon the outpost liaison, shattering bone and bruising muscle - one corpse uses a giant cave spider silk glove with terrifying efficiency. As soon as the liaison has passed out from the pain, they mercilessly crush her skull.

Obok Girderflares the Tone of Spite is in bad shape - his right arm, his weapon arm, hangs useless and bloody. He is already filled with extreme pain, enough to cause him to pass out once his willpower weakens.

The axedwarf dodges about the hallway, avoiding the attacks of the undead, but it cannot go on forever.

Eventually, Obok gives into the pain, and the undead end his misery.

Almost immediately, the Ice of Ghosts seizes the axedwarf's corpse, and the body Obok Girderflares the Tone of Spite rises again to terrorize the living.

Winter arrives on the calendar - perhaps the coldest on record.

As the season changes, I notice two warriors standing idle on the far side of the western bridge. Their calmness is a welcome respite from the horrors I've witnessed in the past several days.

They are Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies, and Inod Mawwhipped. Unlike the rest of the Rapidity of Ink, these two warriors stand together against the madness.

The rest of the Rapidity of Ink may be lost - but perhaps the squad may be rebuilt from these two brave souls. I order the lever to be pulled.

As they wait for the bridges to be lowered, the two warriors fight off the undead monsters that rise from the dismembered gore around them - even as I fight off the feeling that I am making a terrible mistake.

Soon, the bridges are lowered. I relieve the Rapidity of Ink of duty - the two warriors revert to their civilian rank of "administrator" and return to the relative safety and warmth of the fortress.

I order the passage to be sealed tightly behind them.

Inexplicably, Inod Mawwhipped suddenly turns and flees from the trade depot, returning the way he came. He makes it almost to the surface before turning back once again - but it is too late. The bridges have already been raised.

Inod Mawwhipped flees to the surface, running for several paces before regaining his steel - as a swordsdwarf of the Momentous Dye, the brave warrior charges into a crowd of undead.

The first blow suffered by the swordsdwarf forces him to drop his weapon. The rest of the combat report is a grim and sloppy execution - and afterwards, not a single living soul can be found upon the Ice of Ghosts.

I take a deep breath. Is the horror finally over?

With the bridges raised, there is only one way into the fortress from the surface - the gauntlet. It seems as if the marksdwarves have been doing their job well - but before I can fully evaluate the situation, a distressing announcement appears.

I check the combat report, and my heart freezes with terror.

Sure enough, I find Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies standing over the mutilated body of Inod Vinegold. His axe already drips with the blood of Atîs Cultcrystal, who lay stunned and injured before him.

This is disastrous - there is currently no way to lock Obok Workerringed into this part of the fortress. I order a door to be built between the stairwell and the gauntlet.

Then, I release both squads of marksdwarves - the Fenced Release and the Skinny Gloves - from duty.

Finally, I issue a prayer to Armok that Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies will still listen to orders. I select Obok individually - not that it matters, since he is the last living member of the Rapidity of Ink - and order him to station himself in a secluded alcove of ice, out of sight from the rest of the dwarves.

The marksdwarves return to their civilian status and begin the long trek back to the heart of Roomcarnage - but it is too late. Obok Workerringed charges down the stairwell and into the terrorized midst of the Skinny Gloves.

A few quick strikes of Obok's battleaxe and a marksdwarf lay in pieces on the cold obsidian floor.

I cannot risk allowing this contagious madness to spread into the main body of the fortress below. I steel my nerves against the chill and order the Fenced Release and the Skinny Gloves to turn and fight. It will surely result in the death of all of them - but it will give the other dwarves precious time to erect a barrier, and will prevent this violent betrayal from reaching the heart of Roomcarnage.

Suddenly, I remember that there are already many civilian dwarves in this sector - all of the pump operators, hard at work powering devices that are pumping nothing at all, blind to the scene of death and carnage just a few floors above them. I halt all pumping, and pray that some of them manage to reach the fortress in time.

As the pump operators abandon their posts, the Skinny Gloves turn upon Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies. Showing no mercy, he murders a marksdwarf - the militia scatters throughout the gauntlet in terror. Echoes of screams and clattering copper fill the frigid passageways.

My current state of alerts is unacceptable, given the situation. I create a new one. It's not literal - I would rather the dwarves not get as far down as possible - but will serve as a general downward oriented alert from now on.

I create a new burrow that encompasses most of the deep fortress and the caverns, but not any of the deepest mines, or the abysses below those - those holes belong to another burrow.

I attach the new burrow to the new alert, as well as the Deep Underground burrow. Hopefully, this will send all of the civilians diving into the fortress.

Then, I order a wall to be built, blocking off the long stairs to the trade depot and gauntlet. Obsidian is the closest building material - but it is heavy, and probably lies within the passage beyond. Blood thorn logs are the next closest - but there are few carpenters in the fortress. I opt for andesite blocks - they are some distance away, but they are light, and there are many masons in the fortress.

Finally, I cancel the section of the new burrow that lay beyond the walls. When the seal is complete, every dwarf stuck on the other side will be doomed to die.

At first, the alert seems to work. The civilians all turn back and return to the safety of the fortress in a steady stream.

Meanwhile, a quartet of marksdwarves and a war dog have cornered Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies in a far corner of the trade depot.

The axedwarf's profile is a nightmare - not for what horrors it contains, but rather that contains none at all. Obok Workerringed has been fine lately - some inclement weather, some sunshine, and of course long patrol duty. Slaying undead and witnessing death are all in a days work for a warrior of the Momentous Dye. He takes joy in the slaughter.

For the first time, I notice his civilization memberships. He is an enemy and former member of both the Playful Spattered Walls and the Momentous Dye - the national and local governments, respectively.

And then it hits me, like a lead wheelbarrrow full of ice boulders. When Tun Linearch slew the first foul fog zombie, Stukos Boarbooks, I checked the swordsmaster's blade - the kill was not listed as "Stukos Boarbooks, foul fog zombie dwarf," but as "Stukos Boarbooks, dwarf." For whatever reason, Tun Linearch was considered to have slain the dwarf, a member of the Momentous Dye and the Playful Spattered Walls - and was thus banished from the fortress and made an enemy of Roomcarnage.

I have seen something like this before - in other fortresses, where I ordered the militia to slay the merchants and their guards, in a ham-fisted attempt to steal all their goods. The warriors, marked as enemies, turned upon the fortress and each other - a violent insurrection known as a loyalty cascade.

I had no idea that the foul fog zombies would retain some sense of faction loyalty. The curse of the foul fog, it seems, will even pass on to the slayer of a zombie, turning them against the very dwarves they sought to protect.

It is too late now to save Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies. He cuts down the war dog, then eviscerates two of the marksdwarves, spilling their guts and spraying gore across the trade depot.

As the marksdwarves bleed out onto the cold obsidian, Obok runs towards the stairwell. He will not rest until he has won the conflict, and overthrown the Momentous Dye.

With a grim will, I order the Fenced Release and the Skinny Gloves to guard the top of the stairwell - Obok Workerringed must be stopped at all costs.

The marksdwarves are slow to respond, but luckily Obok seems content to fight the dwarves up here, in the gauntlet.

I watch as Obok runs back and forth along the northern side of the shooting gallery, even knocking a recruit out of the way rather than fight.

After a moment, he slays the recruit, then continues running back and forth.

It is strange behavior, but I am thankful Obok is taking his time. The sealing walls have yet to be completed.

I cancel the old walls and order new ones - made of blood thorn.

Then, I go through the fortress and enable the carpentry labor on several dwarves. I only need two - but I'm not willing to take any more risks than necessary.

Obok Workerringed slays another recruit, then takes a leisurely walk along the gauntlet's eastern end. A few marksdwarves follow, but are distracted by undead on the bridges below.

The axedwarf runs back around the eastern end of the gauntlet, and is cornered by a recruit and a marksdwarf - but instead of cutting them down, Obok simply pushes past them.

The rebel apparently has some sort of choice over who he kills and who he slays. I cannot explain it.

As Obok begins another lap around the eastern end of the gauntlet, the situation worsens. More and more corpses rise up at a time, with fewer and fewer marksdwarves left to battle them back down.

From behind their elevated fortifications, the marksdwarves could destroy the undead with volleys of carefully aimed bolts. Here, in these cramped corridors of ice and blood, their copper crossbows are useless.

Down at the base of the stairwell, the dwarves still struggle with the task of sealing off the corridor. One task keeps being suspended - I unsuspend it, and give the dwarves one last chance to complete the construction before I intervene directly.

There is not much time left. Most of the marksdwarves are dead - not that they could hold off Obok Workerringed forever. The betrayer - now an axe lord - blocks and dodges the loyalist's bolts with ease, closing the ground between him and his foes before hacking them down with his copper battle axe.

The wall has been suspended again. I cancel the construction, remove a portion of the stockpile nearby, and order two other walls to be built just inward.

Returning my attention to the axe lord Obok Workerringed, I find him in the trade depot. A few unhappy marksdwarves and recruits desperately firing down the corridor, their bolts whizzing over the corpses of their fallen comrades.

Now is the time. The gauntlet may be lost, but I will not allow Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies to gain any more ground. I order a lever to be pulled.

The gears begin turning as Obok duels a hapless recruit. Hearing the deep rumbling of machinery, the axe lord runs back towards the stair well - but not in time. The bridges raise up before him, snapping into place and sealing off the fortress beyond. The Order of Skies halts at the edge of the pit, then turns back and begins looking for another way into the fortress - there is none.

The dwarves are still having trouble getting the walls built. I unsuspend the section that was halted.

Just to be safe, I extend the burrow a few tiles outward, and order another set of walls to be built.

The passage needs to be sealed immediately - the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have run out of time. I watch as the undead in the gauntlet - the remains of the marksdwarves - tear apart the last of their number who still lives.

The Fenced Release and the Skinny Gloves are all slain. All that remains of the military of Roomcarnage are three dwarves - Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies, the militia commander who was left in reserve within the fortress, and the mayor, who was only enlisted so that I could draw a previous outpost liaison into a deadly trap.

With bated breath, I watch as the dwarves arrive and begin laying the logs in the corridor - and success! The outer wall is constructed, and the fortress is safe from the undead threat in the passage beyond.

With the passage sealed, I cancel the fortress' alert status. Then, I check in on Obok Workerringed.

The axe lord is fast asleep, lying quietly upon the trade depot, surrounded by the corpses of loyal dwarves.

He remains unfazed by his situation. He took joy in the slaughter.

I watch as he rests in the frozen chamber. Somewhere deep below, a child begins throwing a tantrum.

As he sleeps, the severed head of a marksdwarf reanimates, rolls over to him, and begins its attack.

The axe lord wakes up when the severed head latches onto the base of his neck, bruising his spine. Obok wakes up and slaps the undead away.

As the severed head jabbers around, Obok frantically runs around in the adjacent tunnels, as if searching for a way back into the fortress.

I check the status of the military - and find that I still have stations marked for the Rapidity of Ink, the Fenced Release, and the Skinny Gloves. I cancel them all.

Obok temporarily becomes an administrator, and cuts down the severed head. It reanimates a few moments later, just as Obok regains his active military status - and the axe lord cuts down the head once again.

The dwarves completed the blood thorn walls just in time. A peasant corpse shambles down the hallway, realizing that the passage has been sealed with logs only once it has bumped into them.

Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies has been isolated, and the undead in the gauntlet have been sealed away - but at what cost? Nearly the entire military has been slain, and a deep blow has indirectly struck the dwarves of the Momentous Dye.

A few of the children have lost their parents in the carnage - some have fallen into a deep misery.

With the outside world sealed off once more, there is nothing to do but to wait - to wait and see if the casualties suffered by the Momentous Dye are too much for the dwarves to handle.

And so, life continues in Roomcarnage much as it always has - many dwarves fewer, perhaps, but the thrumming heart of the fortress still beats. The dwarves of the Momentous Dye go about their business, chatting and idling in the statuaries.

But for how much longer?

As the miserable children are stricken with melancholy, one by one, an anachronistic message appears at the bottom of the screen. In the coming weeks, the full extent of the damage dealt to Roomcarnage will be made known. The greatest blow, however, is the failure upon the surface, the defeat of the military, and the loss of the tunnels surrounding the trade depot. Even as I read the message - that the merchants have finally embarked upon their journey - I find myself looking beyond to a cold future, filled with doubt that Roomcarnage will ever make contact with the mountainhome again.

It is the 16th of Moonstone, in the early winter of 1214. It is a dark hour in the fortress of the damned. Thirty-four dwarves have perished since the late autumn - fully one-fifth of the fortress population was lost in the attempt to rescue the outpost liaison Iden Temptedoar. If I had any doubts before that the dwarves of the Momentous Dye were cursed, they are now all banished - after facing ghosts, reanimated corpses, foul fog zombies, vampires, forgotten beasts and titans, Roomcarnage's bravest warriors were finally defeated by the greatest foe they could ever face - themselves. And yet, there is nothing for the dwarves to do but forge ever onward towards glory - which, I fear, may now be closer than ever.