...continued from part one

There is a good chance that the corpse will be handled tidily by the dogs alone - but even a good chance is more than I am willing to take in Roomcarnage. I order the Worthy Seals to slay the monster.

I watch as the melee unfolds - and, as I had suspected, there is no need for the dwarves to get involved. The pack of dogs clears, and the weaver's corpse lies still upon the muddy cavern floor.

For the second time, I order the weaver's corpse to be dumped.

This time, a hauler arrives within seconds - as before, I follow the corpse as it is brought through the heart of the fortress.

Soon, the hauler reaches the incineration shaft and tosses in the corpse. The lifeless body splashes into the magma and is instantly obliterated.

I take a moment to check in on the engravers - already, they have completed the task of smoothing the merchant's entrance. Wonderful.

Of course, this villainous ghost still has to be dealt with. I have Erush Painthelms' memorial placed alongside all the others.

Before the murderous spirit has another opportunity to strike, the slab is in place - little Erush's soul passes on to whatever lies beyond the veil for the dwarves of the Momentous Dye.

Once again, I find myself worrying that the dwarves won't have enough to trade to the caravan - I would rather have tenfold what is required to buy the entire caravan, plus whatever is needed to lure the dwarven monarch to this hellhole. I order the weaponsmith to forge large, serrated copper discs - as many as the fortress' stockpiles of metal will allow.

The weaponsmith gets to work immediately. Excellent.

Also hard at work is Sigun Savepaints, gathering raw boulders from the mines beneath the fortress for crafting statues. Soon, the merchant's entrance will be truly fit for receiving the emissaries of the Mountainhome.

And the dwarves' timing is excellent - Autumn arrives on the calendar as Sigun labors over each monument. In just over two months, the caravan will arrive, and Roomcarnage will once again be a coveted destination for brave dwarven travelers!

I watch as Sigun goes about her work - hauling stone to the mason's workshop, chiseling away with unparalleled speed and artistry, then returning to the tunnels beneath the fortress for more.

As I watch, however, I am struck with how inefficient the process is - Sigun spends the vast majority of her time hauling stone to the workshop. At this rate, the caravan will arrive before Sigun has finished this batch of statues.

Something must be done. I remove most of the old gem stockpile - most of those precious stones are up in the trade stockpile now, anyway. I replace it with a new stone stockpile, which I restrict only to non-adamantine, non-economic stones.

As well, I order a few wooden wheelbarrows to be constructed.

Then, I make sure that the new stone stockpile is allowed the maximum number of wheelbarrows - three.

Before too long, yet another ghost appears. It would seem that Roomcarnage has a backlog of souls, trapped in some kind of nightmare purgatory between death and unlife, all waiting to rise as ghosts when their time comes.

It matters not - the procedure for dealing with them is always the same.

Already, the dwarves have begun hauling stones and wheelbarrows to the stockpile. To force the legendary mason to use the nearby stone, and not to fetch it from the deepest, darkest mine, I link the stockpile to the mason's workshop.

With satisfaction, I watch as Sigun works - now, completing a dozen or more statues in the time that it took her to craft one before.

As Sigun churns out rock statues, a dwarven child is possessed. This is the most underwhelming kind of mood - the child will not gain a legendary skill, and since they have no skills to begin with, they will almost invariably craft something entirely useless.

Predictably, the child occupies a craftsdwarf's workshop.

Before I forget - I am, after all, mainly preoccupied with preparing the fortress for the caravan's arrival - I have the latest slab placed in the memorial hall.

As soon as it is in place, the child's spirit passes on. Now I can focus on preparations.

By this time, Sigun has already completed a significant number of statues - plenty to choose from. From the recently crafted collection, I select four to place at the merchant's entrance. From north to south:

A masterful obsidian statue of dwarves laboring - a depiction of the founding of Roomcarnage in the early spring of 1201. Surely the greatest - or worst - moment in all of the fortress' history.

An exceptional depiction of Rimtar Gateechoed, leader of the expedition to the Oily Furnace and chief founder of Roomcarnage, weeping. The sculpture relates to Rimtar's departure from the position of expedition leader of the Momentous Dye in the early summer of 1203, when Roomcarnage was elevated from mere outpost to full-fledged fortress.

Just to the north of the passage, a statue depicts the other side of the situation - an exceptional obsidian effigy of Nish Metaldied surrounded by dwarves, relating to Nish's ascendancy to the position of mayor in the early summer of 1203.

Finally, an exceptional schist statue of Heartmob the Sprayed Calamity the zombie ram, surrounded by dwarves. Heartmob became an enemy of the Momentous Dye in the early spring of 1205.

These four statues certainly don't tell the whole story of Roomcarnage - what could? - but they serve as a brief depiction of what might reasonably be interpreted as the fortress' history so far.

Soon after the statues have been put into place, the moody child begins their construction.

Before too long, it is completed - and the child presents to the fortress a cow bone right gauntlet!

Perhaps one of the new recruits will view it as a curiosity, and choose to wear it. Or not - I don't care.

What I do care about is the caravan. I check the date - it is the 20th of Sandstone, in the mid-autumn of 1216. The road is complete, a welcome prepared, and a hoard gathered. Now, all there is to do is wait.

All extraneous activity in Roomcarnage pauses. Nearly a third of the fortress stands idle - deep in the forges, the halls echo with the sound of hammer on metal, as the weaponsmith still labors to craft copper serrated discs for trade.

The 1st of Timber arrives. It is late autumn - every dwarf in the fortress holds their breath.

Just to be sure, I double check the depot's accessibility - it would not do for the caravan to arrive, only to turn away their wagons because I had forgotten to dig away one bit of stone or ice.

Some days will pass before the caravan arrives - they do not come on the 1st. I wait, along with the Momentous Dye, as the days drag on, with only the comings and goings of the dedicated weaponsmith to distract me.

I check the date - it is the 9th of Timber. The caravan should arrive any day now.

With nothing to do, I find myself idling - looking over the fortress quarter by quarter, my mind carelessly turning over recollections of this damned fortress of ice and fire and stone and darkness that I have found myself narrating for nearly three of my own years, and sixteen of the dwarves'. How long ago was it that the dwarves of the Momentous Dye first hewed these nighted halls? How long ago since Rimtar Gateechoed first set his eyes upon the blighted slopes of the Oily Furnace? It seems like aeons - and like nothing at all.

The dwarves scuffle about in the food stockpiles, casually drinking and eating. Do they know that their fate hangs in the balance - that all their efforts, all their trials and pain, their blood and flesh and madness hurled screaming down a fuming shaft of magma, all of it rests upon this moment? For if the caravan arrives, all will share in the glory, and the name of Roomcarnage will be known throughout the land, and the labors of the Momentous Dye will have counted for something. But if not...

For there was ever only one way Roomcarnage could end. Oh yes, the details would vary - and, after all, aren't the details the most interesting thing? The landmarks, the scents, the music? The souls we meet along the way, and the experiences we share? - but in the end, as I have known it would be from before the beginning, there would be only seven lonely words in the darkness: "Your fortress has crumbled to its end."

It won't be long now - it is the 15th of Timber.

The days grind past. I watch, transfixed, waiting for a notification to pause the game and inform me of the arrival of the caravan. I sit in silence - I can feel my heart beat in my temples, thumbs, and soles.

I wait. Until...

Finally! A notification of visitors - but my heart sinks as I register exactly who these visitors are. It's not the caravan from the Mountainhome - it's just more thieving kobolds.

It's the 19th of Timber... the caravan ought to be here by now.

As always, the little menaces do their best to slay the undead residents, charging the nearest corpses while brandishing copper shortswords or shortbows.

And, as always, they die at the hands of the reanimating horrors - their own corpses adding to the ranks of the undead army.

Still, they keep coming. Another squad of kobolds arrives on the 21st of Timber.

They perish, just as their comrades before them.

On the 22nd, the undead are lucky enough to spot one of the kobold thieves.

The thief is apparently not too bright - they hang out at the end of the western corridor, just a few steps from the edge of the map, until they are surrounded by undead and slain.

Within a day or two, the kobolds have been totally repulsed, and the remains of the slain slowly begin to shudder and rise to their feet.

On the 26th of Timber, I am notified that a kobold has successfully made off with Aromsokan...

...although I am unable to determine exactly what Aromsokan was, or is. Oh well. Congratulations, little kobold - you were the only victorious one this Autumn.

As the last days of Autumn pass, I watch only the road - my eyes transfixed on the horizon, hoping to spot a delayed but goods-laden caravan traveling amidst the bloodied snowdrifts.

Alas, it is not to be - Winter arrives on the calendar, without any sign of the caravan.

It is the second year that has passed without the arrival of the dwarven caravan. Perhaps they were slain en route - or, perhaps the Mountainhome has given up on any attempts to make contact with the fortress beneath the Ice of Ghosts. I find it difficult to blame them - after all, Roomcarnage has had a terrible track record for keeping caravans safe, and the trade depot has been in a different spot each time (both times?) commerce was successful. The fortress has probably gained an unspeakable reputation in the Mountainhome.

And why shouldn't it? Roomcarnage is, after all, a nightmare fortress of death and misery, where most visitors die within days of arrival, and all survivors speak only horrifying tales of undead armies, zombie goo, and bloody precipitation, with not a mention of any living dwarves at all.

And yet, there is a third, much more terrible possibility - that the horrific glacier, the Ice of Ghosts, has crushed the dwarven Mountainhome entirely, and that the dwarves of the Momentous Dye are now the last of their kind. This is highly unlikely because, in this version of DF, the world does not progress alongside the fortress. However, I recall that when embarking upon Roomcarnage, most of the world map was occupied by the Ice of Ghosts already.

There is no sense in speculating upon the reasons behind the Mountainhome's abandonment of its greatest outpost. The dwarves of the Momentous Dye must now face the reality that they are alone - cold and isolated beneath the haunted glacier, forever cut off from contact with the outside world.

All their efforts have failed - countless dwarves have perished, and those halls that were once filled with laborers yearning for a word from home are now filled with their shambling, moaning remnants.

In light of these recent developments, I cancel the production of large, serrated copper discs at the forge. There will be no trade being conducted any time soon.

Still, in the face of such terrible eventualities, I cannot give up. Somewhere in this nightmare, there must still be an opportunity for the dwarves to seize glory - to craft an enduring testament to the will and tenacity of their kind. I look over those who are left in the fortress at this time - there are many legends, so I will have little trouble with executing the plans I lay down.

Also, there are many peasants - dwarves who have recently become adults.

These peasants are part of a new generation of the Momentous Dye, a mass of dwarves who were born in the darkened tunnels beneath the Ice of Ghosts, and have likely never seen the sky - at best, they have seen a hellscape of fire and obsidian, surmounted by an endless storm of blood and ice.

And yet, there are a significant amount of children who, in the years to come, will reach adulthood and join the workforce at a fairly steady rate. Despite the constant horrors of day to day life, there is a good chance that Roomcarnage will continue to endure whatever misfortunes might befall it. The dwarves of the Momentous Dye could wait out the storm, hoping for the unexpected arrival of a caravan in the years to come. A long shot, but a possibility.

And yet, such a resolution sickens me. To wait - to allow the legendary fortress Roomcarnage to simply sit and endure while not reaching out for some chance at glory - goes against everything I have striven for with this fortress.

No, if the surface holds no more chance at glory - not in the foreseeable future, anyway - then the dwarves of the Momentous Dye must once more turn their gaze downward.

The great riches of the deepest stone have always been at the dwarves' fingertips. Wisely, they chose to only delve as deep as was necessary to accomplish their current tasks. But now the ore calls to the dwarves, for hidden behind these gleaming cyan rivulets lies the last chance at glory for the Momentous Dye.

Of course, any fool could devise a trap to defeat the nameless evil that lurks beneath. A collapsing column, for example - the dwarves could carve a series of switchbacks, able to be crushed by a single collapsing monolith at the pull of a lever. Or sealing the enemy in obsidian - by drawing them into a chamber, flooding it with magma, and then dousing the whole thing in water. Such exercises are trivial, and carry little risk.

No, the true challenge lay upon another road. I nullify the two unused marksdwarf squads and replace them with two squads equipped with metal armor. Then, I enlist twenty peasants.

They will train, gaining in skill and experience until the fortress is ready. It could be years - decades, even, before these green recruits have reached a level of skill that is worthy of the challenge. Perhaps, in that time, the caravan will arrive - but if it never does, this honor guard will be here, training.

I assign the new recruits to train in the dining hall - the thrumming heart of the fortress.

Within minutes, they all switch to active military status, and begin collecting their equipment.

Ah, equipment - all of the fortress' best arms and armor were lost in the betrayal of the Rapidity of Ink. It will be necessary to forge more.

I go through the stairwells accessible to the dwarves, and order all the copper I can find to be dug out. It is likely that these veins will spread out and connect to other veins of ore, and that there will be enough to arm all the new recruits and as many more.

I look over the recruits as they gather their equipment, to see what the fortress has left in reserve.

As expected, I find only flasks and weapons - all of the armor has been lost, it seems. Then, it occurs to me - these recruits are training to defeat one thing, and one thing only. Copper is a poor choice of material for chosen heroes who will be facing the nameless evil.

The path is laid clear.

The fate of the fortress hangs in the balance.

It is the 16th of Moonstone, in the early winter of 1216. For the second year in a row, the caravan has failed to arrive. Fearing the worst, the dwarves of the Momentous Dye have resolved to no longer leave their fate in the hands of the Ice of Ghosts. Instead, they seek deeper glories, such as befit their kind. If the outside world never hears word of Roomcarnage again, let them know this - that the dwarves of the Momentous Dye perished in pursuit of glory, and in so doing achieved it.