Chapter 56 :: The Consequences of Mourning

January 27th, 2016

It is the 16th of Moonstone, in the early winter of 1214. As a result of unforeseeable circumstance and a few ill-considered decisions, the fortress population has declined to 137.

In an effort to destroy the undead occupying the northwestern corner of the map, the dwarves excavated a gauntlet - a long passageway lined with fortifications and vigilant marksdwarves. Two squads of ten dwarves each were stationed here for a time.

I had hoped that the undead would lumber inside and be shot dead, their frigid remains disintegrating into the shallow magma that would have been pumped in.

Now, the gauntlet is silent, save for the aimlessly shuffling feet and charnel moans of the undead militia - the bloody remains of twenty marksdwarves.

The gauntlet failed - though admittedly not due to the marksdwarves or the design of the fortifications. The gauntlet failed due to a lack of judgement on the part of myself, the player. In a foolish attempt to save the outpost liaison, I ordered the Rapidity of Ink to venture boldly into the undead-infested tunnels of the trade depot. I had hoped to secure a safe entry point for the liaison - but a foul curse slew most of the swordsdwarves, and soon afterwards destroyed the marksdwarves.

The only survivor of this curse is Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies, bane of the Fenced Release and the Skinny Gloves. When the Rapidity of Ink slew the foul fog zombies in the late autumn of 1214, I could not have known the horror that their blades would unleash. I knew something was wrong the second the swordsmaster Tun Linearch lodged his copper shortsword in the arm of Obok Girderflares, the captain of the guard. But as the rest of his squad slew each other, Obok Workerringed stood outside the bridge, calmly standing at his post. Hoping to salvage something from the situation, I ordered the bridge to be lowered and the axedwarf let in.

Within seconds of entering the fortress, Obok Workerringed earned his title, the Order of Skies. What it means I cannot say - all I know is that over a period of weeks he slew fourteen dwarves of the Momentous Dye. The axedwarf can never be allowed to enter the fortress, or else he would surely set off a new cascade that would annihilate Roomcarnage.

He will die, here in this trade depot. Corpses surround him - occasionally one rises up and attacks. This is most dangerous when Obok is sleeping, of course, but so far he has successfully woken up and defended himself in each instance. So far, he has slain six zombie dwarves - he will continue to fight them for the rest of his life. He's not likely to die of thirst or starvation anytime soon - the battlefield rations of a few slain marksdwarves are littered nearby.

The shambling remains of Obok's victims are held at bay by a barricade of blood thorns - but this wall of wooden gore also seals away the trade depot, the gauntlet, and all access to the northwestern corner of the map. Indeed, at this time there is no direct route from Roomcarnage to the surface - the dwarves of the Momentous Dye are sealed away, more isolated than ever before. I do not mistake their isolation for safety - the malign will of the Ice of Ghosts lurks even here.

Indeed, the dwarves have never been so unprotected. In a single season, Roomcarnage's military was all but obliterated. All that remains now are Obok Workerringed, doomed to die; Adil Claspedpalace, militia commander and only surviving member of the Worthy Seals, who were wiped out by Simo Veiledsins the Obscured Terrors; and Urvad Teachanvil, mayor of the Momentous Dye and captain of the Everlasting Wires, an honorary title related to the unfortunate accident that befell the outpost liaison Ézum Earthwane in the late winter of 1212. Only one of these dwarves can be counted upon to defend the fortress in the event of an undead outbreak - which will happen again, sooner or later.

Conscripting a new militia would be costly. Of the 137 dwarves left in Roomcarnage, only 46 are working adults - and one of those is Obok Workerringed. The children outnumber the adults nearly two-to-one.

However, I must confront the facts - at some point soon, there will be death in Roomcarnage. Already, at least two children have been stricken with melancholy - they have lost the will to live, and will die of thirst or hunger.

Other children are also teetering on the brink of madness.

Edëm Wallspray has stared into the black depths of misery. He has lost his mother, his father, and a sibling recently.

Perhaps even multiple siblings. Both of Edëm Wallspray's parents were enlisted in the militia, and were slain either by Obok Workerringed, or the reanimated corpse of one of their comrades - perhaps even their spouse. Poor Edëm hasn't been driven insane yet - but it seems likely that he will be soon.

Adil Claspedpalace is only a competent axedwarf - I cannot depend on her alone to protect the fortress.

I enlist several dwarves in the Worthy Seals - eight pump operators and the hammerer.

One by one, they go into active duty, becoming green recruits under the tutelage of Commander Adil.

The recruits go first to the equipment stockpile, where they arm and armor themselves in polished copper.

Then, they go to the dining hall, where they will begin their training.

Meanwhile, another warrior's skill has advanced in its own right. Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies has become an axe lord.

I can pinpoint the very moment where Obok became an axe lord - immediately after striking a severed left hand with his shield, oddly enough.

The axe lord shows no signs of slowing down. He pauses for a moment, perhaps reflecting upon his new status in dwarven society, before charging into a cloud of choking miasma.

Soon, Edëm Wallspray begins to tantrum.

The child draws ever closer to madness - I am thankful, though, that he has sequestered himself in his room, far from the more crowded parts of the fortress. Still, I cannot help but feel a grim anticipation - these miserable children are walking corpses. It is only a matter of time before they perish and rise again as enemies of the fortress.

As always, the rest of the dwarves are totally oblivious to their impending doom.

I scan the fortress, and notice one of the miserable children - a profoundly depressed boy named Kib Sabreclod. Kib's only surviving relative is his older brother - Edëm Wallspray.

If Edëm wasn't doomed to go insane before, he certainly is now. By my count, three children have been fated to die within the next few weeks. However, there is no sense in simply waiting for death to come - I must trust that the newly enlisted recruits will protect the fortress, if an when the children's starved corpses shudder to their feet. The path to glory is paved with the bones of the dead, but the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have not yet reached its end - as before, as always, they forge onward.

"

But what is there to do now? The northwestern corner of the map is now totally lost. My hopes - to cleanse the surface of undead, to rescue the outpost liaison, to salvage one member of the Rapidity of Ink - were dashed against the cold obsidian without mercy. I must believe, however, that hopes may lead to more than just disappointment and failure. I am determined to secure contact with the mountainhome, to make an offering to the king, to secure Roomcarnage's place as the capital of the Playful Spattered Walls - but it will not be here, in this place of death and failure.

Nor will I find success to the south, where the glacier remains the most untouched. A vast swath of ice, unaffected by the repeated magma deluges of Roomcarnage's glory years, is now inundated with shambling corpses and foul fog zombies - not the least of which is the soulless husk of a dangerous titan.

But here - at the map's northeastern edge, I find a bit of glacier that is yet untainted by the foul fog. To the north, atop a vast field of blood and foul fog resides a small army of undead, and the south is only a little better - but in between, on the map's eastern edge, just south of the corner, there is a patch of ice that is yet untainted by the foul fog.

There are a few undead here, of course - but a few undead may be manageable. This small patch of ice is probably the dwarves' best - and last - chance to secure contact with the outside world. The only question is - how do they block it off, so that the remaining undead can be purged and the caravan can safely arrive?

A few z-levels higher, I find my answer. This portion of the hellscape, created from the unpredictable union of ice and lava, takes the form of a broad fan, covered with a thick layer of elf blood snow. No undead have found their way onto this plateau - which means that it is nominally safe for constructions to be built here.

I decide to act immediately - the new year has almost arrived, and I am sure that the late autumn of 1215 will be here before I know it. I designate a long tunnel, leading from the northeastern plateau to just beside the caldera of the Oily Furnace. My plan - to pump magma from the volcano up to the plateau, direct it to the north and the south of the clean portion of the glacier, and secure a tiny portion of the map's edge for trade.

In addition to the magma channel, the dwarves will need an access tunnel running in parallel, so that they can get to the magma pumps once the device is complete.

The last step is connecting the new dig site to the fortress. I locate an old stairwell that runs close to the designations. It leads from the statuary to... nowhere.

I'm not sure what the original intent of this passage was - but it now has a purpose. I connect it to the new designations.

Finally, I add a couple access points along the designations lowest levels, to speed up the excavation - and I remove the designation at the outer end. When the time comes, I will connect the passage to the surface - but not yet.

Who should take up the task but Kadol Worklimb - legendary miner and founding member of Roomcarnage. Together with six others, he arrived at the Oily Furnace on the 1st of Galena, in the early spring of 1201. Kadol has excellent taste - he likes adamantine, red diamond, green glass, and bismuthinite.

Of the starting seven, four remain. Not bad, considering the various disasters that have occurred in Roomcarnage over the years. In that time, Kadol has only forged friendships with his fellow founders - the rest of the fortress is a blur of passing acquaintances.

Kadol climbs the stairwell and begins digging immediately, his pick carving through the stone as if it were rock nut paste.

Soon other miners arrive, and excavation begins in earnest.

Special attention needs to be paid to this stretch of construction - at this point, magma will need to be pumped up through a layer of ice.

To accomplish this, I resolve to have the ice carved away and replaced with a sheath of stone.

The miners work quickly...

...and soon the first bricks can be laid.

Suddenly, it happens - Edëm Wallspray goes insane with misery.

Now, this poor child will share the fate of his brother. There is nothing that can be done now to save them.

Instead, I focus my efforts on this new construction.

There are few - if any - dedicated masons in the fortress. Most dwarves have several different jobs enabled - so these bricklaying jobs are taken up by dwarves of all professions.

Soon, I have placed orders for all the walls - it is time to check in on the rest of the construction.

The primary phase of digging is finished. I order the ramps to be removed - this is a mostly cosmetic act, but it also helps avoid pathfinding issues as construction continues.

Suddenly, it occurs to me that I do not have a garbage dump zone that is currently accessible to the dwarves. I do have a spot that could work, however - in 1212, when I found a need to deal with the outpost liaison Ézum Earthwane, I ordered a secluded drop shaft to be built. It consists of a room, the floor of which is a retracting bridge - when the bridge slides away, it reveals a deep shaft terminating in the magma sea.

It is a perfect trash incinerator. I order a lever to be pulled...

...and the bridge slides away, revealing the void beneath with a rush of hot air.

I place a zone at its edge - now, the dwarves will have a place to take the children's corpses when they finally wither away.

Meanwhile, another child is taken by a secretive mood.

The child predictably claims a craftsdwarf's workshop - I hope that the outcome is a useful artifact, like a bed or a mechanism, rather than a cup or a scepter.

I check in on the other children - two are starving and dehydrated. Death is close... I must be vigilant.

On to the next phase of construction. At the southern end of the tunnel, I will build a magma pump - when manned, it will draw molten rock out of the caldera and into the tunnel. One pump, placed a mere two urists below the surface of the lava - not enough, perhaps, for large-scale flooding, but plenty for the precision work I have in mind.

Had I wanted to build this device a mere three or four years ago, I would have had the dwarves pull a lever, opening these five hatches, and allowed the magma to drain out.

That option is no longer available. The lever controlling the five hatches lies within the old barracks - the site of the first attack of Simo Veiledsins the Obscure Terrors. A few undead lurk nearby - they are likely to be the remains of the Worthy Seals, the dead comrades of Adil Claspedpalace. Their deaths are still unconfirmed, as far as the Momentous Dye is concerned - were the corpses discovered, the emotional blow dealt upon their surviving friends and relatives could be disastrous. No, this room is better forgotten, along with the nightmare beast that still lurks in the tunnels beyond.

With no way to drain the caldera, my options are limited. I steel my heart and make the hard decision.

I find a dwarf with few social contacts - Litast Helmbrightness, the fortress' grand master brewer. Litast has no surviving relatives in the fortress. Indeed, he has only ever had two relative at Roomcarnage - his younger brother, who is now dead, and a niece who is now a foul fog zombie. He was once married, and has - or had - two daughters. Yet, Litast came to Roomcarnage alone in the summer of 1202. His wife must have died before he migrated, I realize, and his daughters are likely grown and married - or dead. Litast himself has seen 166 summers.

He will be dead soon, I reason. The fortress will lose its grand master brewer one way or the other. He will die alone, and no one will mourn his passing - Litast has no friends, only passing acquaintances.

I enable the mining labor in Litast's profession tab, and then disable the mining labor on all other dwarves.

Then I create one channel designation - the first of two.

As I wait for Litast to finish his last nap, Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies bestows a name upon his copper battle axe.

The blade now bears a name - "Whispertells." A haunted name if ever there was one. I examine the weapon's kill list, and am shocked - the last time I checked, Obok had slain six zombie dwarves. Now, he has slain fifty-nine zombie dwarves. The undead have been attacking him relentlessly. How much longer can he last?

I have my answer seconds after I unpause.

All it takes is one lucky strike to the head, and Obok Workerringed the Order of Skies is dead.

The trade depot roils with the scent of rotting flesh - the last warrior of the Rapidity of Ink moves no more.

Suddenly, an announcement - one of the children has died of thirst.

I order the corpse to be dumped.

Soon, a dwarf arrives and hauls away the body.

I watch as the hauler makes their way towards the dump - I watch as the child's corpse tumbles down the shaft and into the magma sea, where it is instantly incinerated.

Meanwhile, Litast Helmbrightness has awoken, and is seeking out his equipment.

The brewer makes his way to the equipment stockpile and grabs a copper pick. It is probably the first time he has ever held one.

Then, he goes to work at his new job.

I follow the brewer as he takes his last walk through the fortress. Passing unheeded through the bustling food and drink stockpiles, Litast reaches the dining hall and statuary. He passes by the magnificent array of dwarven art one last time - I wonder how closely he peers at each engraving, each statue as he walks past, how closely he would peer if he knew he would not be coming this way again.

continued in part two...