Chapter 59 :: The Road to Roomcarnage

May 11th, 2016

It is the 28th of Granite, in the early spring of 1216. Every year in Roomcarnage promises new horrors and triumphs, but this year, the sixteenth the dwarves of the Momentous Dye will spend beneath the malign Ice of Ghosts, feels special.

For the first time in five years, the dwarves have successfully secured a portion of the map's edge, so that the caravan may safely enter the fortress without being destroyed by the undead armies that occupy every other bit of the glaicer.

It's not perfect - sure, there's a few patches of foul fog that have to be cleaned up - but it's better than anything the dwarves have managed before.

The area is blocked from the rest of the surface by solid walls of ice and obsidian, created recently by very carefully controlled lava flooding. The extent of the flooding is still visible atop the northeastern plateau as broad swaths where the elf blood snow is yet only a few fingers deep.

The trade depot has already been constructed, and already the dwarves have stashed bins nearby, containing a small fortune in gems and stone crafts. I will have the dwarves create more trade goods, of course - it would be a tragedy if the caravan made the long trek through the frozen north, only to be met with a mediocre treasure trove.

Now, all that remains is to clear the passage to the surface - the protective drawbridge must be lowered, the atom-smasher will be removed, and the foul fog outside must be dealt with. There is no need to rush - the caravan will not arrive until the late autumn, seven months from now.

If, I remind myself, the caravan arrives at all. The dwarves' recent triumph is already tinged with uncertainty - last year, the dwarven caravan never made it to Roomcarnage. There is no way of telling if they were slain en route, or if the caravan never left at all. There is also no way of telling if they will come ever again.

I put the thought from my mind. For now, the dwarves must focus on one task - preparing the trade depot. I order the lever controlling the depot's drawbridges to be pulled.

Also, I order the lever controlling the smashing bridge to be removed.

Earlier, I had relieved the fortress' new militia from duty, so that they could power the pumps that would flood the surface. The Worthy Seals, once a squad of powerful and skilled warriors, is now a squad of pump operators. The commander, Adil Claspedpalace, is the only member of the original Worthy Seals that survived the attack of Simo Veiledsins the Obscure Terrors - in fact, she is the only member of the old military who is alive at all. Out of forty dwarves, only one survives - it is a stark reminder of the cruel blows that have been struck against the fortress these past few years.

Such is life, in Roomcarnage. The bulk of the work is done - I order the pump operators to return to their training.

Indeed, the first two tasks - lowering the drawbridges and removing the crushing slab, are already finished. I watch as a dwarf reduces the outer bridge to its component blocks and mechanisms.

Before I proceed with the task of dealing with the foul fog, I decide to have the dwarves begin producing trade goods. Of course, I could simply create a few "Make rock crafts" jobs and put them on repeat - but the pile of unused raw adamantine in the corner of the ore stockpile catches my eye.

If the dwarves want to draw the attention of the monarch, then they must make an offering fit for an emperor. I order the dwarves to extract the adamantine strands from the ore.

Now, to the surface. I intend to purify the glacier and obliterate the foul fog by paving over it. I have found this to be an effective solution in the past - the only reason it didn't work last time was, of course, a sudden and catastrophic outbreak of foul fog among the workers.

I will need to be vigilant - if a disaster occurs once again, I will have only seconds to order the drawbridge to be raised. I watch anxiously as the bricklayers get to work - I wince as the dwarf strides through snowdrifts streaked with pale, necromantic slime, oblivious to the threat beneath his boots.

Just to be sure, I examine the footwear of all the dwarves who pass through the work site. It would not do to have a dwarf track foul fog through the heart of the fortress.

The first strip of obsidian pavement is completed without incident.

I examine the road, looking for any trace of contaminant - but there is none. Curiously, during the last phase of construction, the ice beneath the road is cleared of snow, leaving the foul fog in its pure form for an instant before the last blocks are laid. I examine it - the fog is a sickening green.

Eager to rid the area of the vile contaminant, I order the rest of the area to the north and south of the opening to be paved over, one strip at a time.

Work continues - soon the foul fog will be eliminated from this portion of the map entirely.

In the meantime, I order the newly extracted adamantine strands to be smelted into wafers.

On the surface, the paving progresses quickly. As always, I keep a careful eye on the work site, but no untimely outbreak of foul fog occurs.

To check in on the adamantine processing, I examine the stocks menu - the fortress no longer has any adamantine strands in the thread category, so all the ore has been processed. Roomcarnage currently has nine wafers of the mythical metal - more than enough to win the confidence of any dwarf of the Mountainhome.

I know just what to make. Large, serrated discs have one of the highest values of any item available - a single circular blade of adamantine would probably be sufficient to purchase everything on the caravan. Two will be plenty.

While the manager files the fortress' work orders, construction continues on the surface.

Several dwarves work simultaneously - each laying down a lane of bricks upon the evil glacier - and the area is quickly paved over.

With the foul fog all but purged from the secluded merchant's entrance, I order paved roads to be built over the remaining bit of glacier.

Soon, the last strip of pavement is complete - the merchant's entrance has successfully been purified. What is more, snow - frozen elf blood or otherwise - cannot build up on this corner of the map. It melts upon the obsidian brick, as if the stone carries with it a residual heat from the heart of the earth where it was formed. Or perhaps the dwarves have bound up some enchantment with the bricks as they were laid down, for dwarven constructions often exhibit curious properties.

In any case, snowdrifts do not form on paved roads - and without snowdrifts, there is nothing onto which the zombies can smear their foul fog. Except dwarven flesh, obviously, but I'll take what I can get.

Suddenly, I am notified of the arrival of a forgotten beast - a gigantic winged earthworm, composed of ice, constantly fidgeting and squirming. If that weren't nightmarish enough, it also tosses webs.

Akusm the Phlegm of Fate has been wandering these caverns since the time before time. Now it has arrived at Roomcarnage - and either the dwarves will die, or it before them. Fortunately, the latter seems more likely - following the attack of Simo Veiledsins, I resolved never to breach the caverns again.

Before returning my attention to the surface of the map, I check in on the weaponsmith - both serrated discs are completed, and are of exceptional quality. As I examine the discs, I notice that one of forges includes an adamantine anvil in its construction. It is the result of an odd decision I made long ago, when Roomcarnage was in its prime, and adamantine seemed so common - now, this anvil may also be used for trade when the caravan arrives.

Suddenly, I am notified of the rare arrival of living guests - kobolds!

The poor creatures don't stand a chance - mostly. While a few brave, doomed kobold warriors distract the undead army, a handful of master thieves seize whatever treasure they can.

All the while, work continues on the surface.

Before the road is completed, I notice a troublesome event - a violent ghost has arisen in the fortress! It is the angry spirit of Cog Flareoil - a moody dwarf who was recently encased in stone walls and left to secluded insanity and death.

The angry ghost has torn the child Uzol Temptroof's right leg clean off.

As I have done so many other times in Roomcarnage's history, I order the severed limb to be dumped into lava.

Also, I order a slab to be engraved, memorializing Cog Flareoil.

While the dwarves scramble to contain the situation, the fortress' chief medical dwarf carries little Uzol to the hospital.

Soon, Cog's slab is prepared, and I order it to be placed in the memorial hall outside the mayor's quarters.

Likewise, a hauler quickly arrives and hauls Uzol Temptroof's right leg to the deep pit north of the food stockpiles, and tosses it in - the limb is incinerated moments afterwards, as it plummets into an ocean of lava.

Summer arrives on the calendar. I am pleased with the dwarves' progress, but I will not rest until all preparations have been made for the caravan's arrival.

As soon as the autosave completes, Cog Flareoil's disturbed soul is put to rest.

Work continues on the surface - I watch as a swath of pavement is completed, the each brick helping to conceal the haunted ice beneath.

Before the road is complete, my attention is diverted once more - one of the recruits has been taken by a fey mood!

What luck! The moody dwarf has claimed a mason's workshop. Not only will Sigun Savepaints likely produce a useful object (as opposed to a mug or a scepter), she will become a legendary mason when the artifact is complete.

As Sigun works, I check Roomcarnage's stocks - there remains a single wafer of adamantine. I could simply trade the paper-thin sheet of mystical metal to the caravan - but I would rather improve its value first.

I order a batch of adamantine coins to be pressed at the forge. Ironically, coins are one of the worst objects to craft if one is interested in increasing material wealth - but I appreciate the novelty of it.

As the dwarves labor safe within the fortress and upon the surface, another forgotten beast appears in the depths - a monstrous, winged opossum with gold hair that throws entangling webs.

The opossum monster Amsir has arrived within close proximity to another beast - a fire-breathing hadrosaurid cyclops named Bitrak Cobramurdered. Not for the first time, I take a moment to appreciate my decision to wall off the caverns forever.

I return my attention to the surface - construction of the road is almost complete!

With elation, I watch as the last blocks are laid into place. The road is finished!

Now all that remains is to clear away the last patches of ice blocking the caravan's route to the trade depot. As well, I have a few tiles to the north and south of the entrance carved away, so that other constructions may be erected - statues and the like cannot be built upon paved roads.

Soon, the miners arrive and begin carving away the ice.

With alcoves excavated next to the entrance, I move to order the construction of statues - but find that I only have two available. One is an image of the dwarf Logem Goldsquashed withering away - a depiction of Logem's death by dehydration in the early autumn of 1202. The other is an effigy of a hedgehog fiend. Neither are fit for welcoming the caravan - I will need to have more statues crafted.

Curious as to the circumstances surrounding Logem's demise, I look through my old writings from that time. I can only find this entry, made sometime between the late summer and late autumn of 1202, nearly 14 years ago:

"In the time it takes for me to notice the migrants and decide on a plan of action, two of the dwarves on the surface of the glacier die of thirst or starvation, apparently having arrived a significant amount of time later than the others."

It is a grim reminder that Roomcarnage has, and always will be, a fortress of death and despair.

I check in on Sigun - the legendary mason-to-be is still frenetically gathering raw materials. I will wait to order the crafting of new statues until after the artifact is complete.

In the meantime, I order the entire caravan entrance - from the paved road to the depot itself - to be carefully smoothed.

Before too long, Sigun begins work.

While Sigun and the engravers labor, I have nothing to do but wait. I take advantage of the lull to check in on the minting of adamantine coins - and discover that there is no dwarf in Roomcarnage with the metal crafting labor enabled.

I find a young dwarf named Eral Linepillar - a peasant, having barely reached adulthood, who was born here in Roomcarnage, who has and will know nothing else - and enable the metal crafting labor.

Soon Eral takes up the job. I don't expect much, honestly - he is entirely unskilled - but everyone has to start somewhere. And who knows? Eral may someday be taken with a fey or secretive mood, and then all of Roomcarnage will benefit from his newfound expertise.

Unfortunately for Eral and the fortress, the effort is soon met with failure.

Once again, I use the stocks menu to identify the single remaining adamantine wafer. Why is it unavailable!? I zoom to its location...

...ah. I see. The wafer is concealed behind a constructed wall - contained in a black alcove along with the undead remnants of a moody dwarf and her infant child.

Perhaps I will have need of a metal crafter another time, Eral.

Soon afterwards, Sigun Savepaints completes her mood - the recruit has created a priceless gabbro coffin!

It is truly a coffin fit for a king. Besides the spikes, bands, and other decorations, it includes an image of Ézum Earthwane - a recalcitrant outpost liaison who suffered an "unfortunate accident" a few years ago - hugging a goose. There is also a copper sculpture of an ettin slaying a dwarf - a reference to an obscure battle that took place upon the Ice of Ghosts over a millennia ago.

Yes, it is a wonderful artifact - but here in Roomcarnage, it is ultimately useless. All those who die in Roomcarnage will rise again as undead, and so the dwarves have taken to cremating all of their recently deceased in molten rock. This coffin will never be occupied.

Still, the fortress is bettered by the presence of another legendary mason.

The militia is no longer any place for Sigun Savepaints - I relieve the mason of duty, and replace her with a peasant who has recently entered the workforce. I am careful not to enlist Eral Linepillar - just in case I do need a metalcrafter somewhere down the line.

Relieved of duty, Sigun drops her equipment and returns to her day-to-day life beneath the glacier - such as it is.

With Sigun's artifact complete, I set about producing some magnificent statues. I restrict the mason's workshop to only those dwarves with legendary masonry skill - then I queue up a round of rock statues.

Before any effigies can be hewn, another spectral attack occurs - this time, it has resulted in the horrific death of one of the fortress' weavers.

I find the weaver's corpse lying in the other mason's workshop - no doubt there to haul away stone blocks. I order the corpse to be dumped, then examine the ghost. It is the damned soul of Erush Painthelms, who perished as a child.

It is a terrible turn of events - but even such tragedies have become commonplace in Roomcarnage, serving as little more than notches in the stone to mark the passage of time. Compared to the attack of Simo Veiledsins or the slaughter of the Rapidity of Ink, it is but a sock in the vast and disordered history of the fortress.

I order a memorial slab to be engraved for little Erush Painthelms, slayer of the living.

While the slab is being engraved, I keep an eye on the corpse. A hauler arrives and begins the long trek through the fortress to the incineration chute...

...when suddenly, the corpse shudders and reanimates in the hauler's arms!

While the nearby dwarves scatter in terror, the fortress' dogs - trained and wild - descend upon the undead monster and mercilessly bite it into submission.

The combat report is entirely one-sided. Surrounded on all sides and forced to the ground by angry hounds, the dwarf corpse cannot even swing its fists.

continued in part two...