Chapter 66 :: Whispers of Suicide and Despair

November 20th, 2018

It is the 3rd of Malachite, in the mid-summer of 1253. For better or worse, I have made a bold decision - to carve an unimpeded passage between the adamantine mines and Roomcarnage's dining hall, so that a direct path will lay between the bustling heart of the fortress and the nightmare country that remains undiscovered beneath. When the miners' picks finally burst into that swirling void, the dwarves will not run from the nameless evil - they will turn to face it, heels firmly planted, secure in the knowledge that the surface has long forsaken them to the cold embrace of frozen earth.

The first segment of the passage leads from the dining hall, straight down through the residential quarter. A few engravings will be lost, a few beds displaced, and some new walls and stairs will need to be built instead of carved.

I decide to complete this first stairwell before continuing the passage - the miners and masons alike get to work on this new, and perhaps last endeavor.

Once the furniture in the bedrooms has been removed, I can place the remaining up/down stairwells.

Before that occurs, a child is taken by a fey mood.

Curses. It is likely that little Thob Hallfinders will require some kind of bone material for their artifact. At that point, very little can be done except to erect a curtain wall around the workshop and forget about the moody child entirely.

Soon, the stairwell has been completed.

I designate the rest of the stairwell, right down to within a few z-levels of the magma sea.

I also order walls to be built around the stairwell, disconnecting it from the residential areas.

Some furniture will need to be removed for the wall to be completed, and some rooms will need new entrances for their residents to use.

Fortunately none of the stills or farmer's workshops need to be torn down in order to accommodate the new construction.

Finally, some mostly cosmetic alterations - I order the upward stairs, one of the two passages that connect the dining hall to the fortress' upper levels, to be replaced with a floor.

Instead of emerging adjacent to the new - last? - stairwell, I have the upper passage extended eastward, to connect with the dining hall along its southern wall.

Before digging commences, I check the engravings that will be lost - a finely-designed image of blazing suns, and two depictions of the founding of Roomcarnage. I think the fortress can probably deal with losing these.

I return my attention, briefly, to moody Thob. "I must have bones!" they scream. You'll have them soon enough.

The stairwell is almost complete - all that remains are a couple of wall segments where recently-removed doors once stood, and some cosmetic polishing.

The upper passage's bypass is nearly complete as well.

I wouldn't call it OCD, but part of me cannot tolerate the appearance of raw stone walls next to polished stone or brick construction. I order the recently-exposed walls and floors to be smoothed by the engravers.

Now for the final stretch of the passage - a three-tile wide hallway that will provide the seething, fuming forces of the netherworld with clear passage to the dwarven intruders. Once I get into designating the tunnel, however, I realize that the already-excavated stairwell goes much deeper than necessary.

After connecting the passage designation to the stairwell - at a point several levels higher than the lowest stair - I order up stairs to be built, and a landing to be excavated. The stairs below this point will be inaccessible.

And there it is. Nothing happens immediately - all of the fortress' miners must be occupied. I decide to check in on them.

Vutok Grottopainted, legendary miner, is too busy with combat drills to be bothered with mining. Military dwarves who are not on active status will still spend a great deal of time training individually, often to the exclusion of other, perhaps more pressing tasks.

There are two other miners who are currently on active military duty - Astesh Daggerled, high master miner...

...and Zon Nuttour, grand master miner. These two will become available when the season turns, but for now they have other responsibilities.

The only other dwarf with any serious mining skill is the mayor, Atír Fingerarmors. Atír seems to be busily attending to the construction of the stairs - that task will be finished soon, at which point I hope the mayor chooses to begin mining, rather than going to train with her axe. But... what if she never needed to carry an axe?

Each of these four dwarves possesses a skill with picks that is far superior to that of their chosen weapon. I go through the military uniforms tab, locate each of the four dwarves, and replace their weapon assignment from "individual choice, melee" to "pick."

Then I place a work order for four adamantine picks.

Just as I'd hoped, mayor Atír gets to work mining away as soon as the base of the stairwell is finished.

It will take some time for the passage to be completed. I can only wait - and with waiting, comes the inevitable grinding entropy of life beneath the Ice of Ghosts.

There's nothing I can do for this child - the fortress resigns itself to the usual prescription without even waiting to see if the moody adolescent will request bones.

Just as I feared - the child draws pictures of skeletons. Goodbye, Sarvesh Cryptwane.

A few weeks later, I receive a strange notification. Strange - because normally no other dwarves are around to witness the death of a dwarf who has been isolated behind solid stone.

Uh oh. Doren Paintedsnarl has managed to trap himself inside the brick wall along with Sarvesh.

I take a moment to consider my fortune - Sarvesh didn't go berserk, after all - and order the walls to be torn back down.

Many dwarves quickly arrive and begin deconstructing the wall - but as the first segment comes down, I realize that I might be able to allow Doren to escape and still keep Sarvesh inside! I order a brick wall to be placed in the only empty space, and hope that Doren will make it out in time.

And victory! Doren makes it out, the wall is built, and Sarvesh will die of thirst in the dark, alone - exactly as I intended.

It is not merely these two dwarves whose spirits may not be laid to rest - no fewer than forty ghostly dwarves lurk in Roomcarnage's terrifying tunnels. So they will, until the last living dwarf has breathed their last breath, and for timeless aeons after.

Some time afterwards - but not before the passage is completed - another dwarf is taken by a mood.

This time, it is a militia captain - Kogan Oilisland, legendary axedwarf.

Such a loss will be terrible for the fortress to bear. With every passing year, legendary warriors are falling to old age and strange moods.

With a heavy heart, I go through the necessary procedure to isolate Kogan from the rest of the fortress.

I cannot waste any more time than I already have - what good is military training, after all, when the warriors ready fall to the millstone of time?

This is the moment, if ever there was one. The passage is clear, and will be completely excavated soon.

Dangerous dwarves have been accounted for.

I order the old passage to the adamantine tubes - a narrow mining tunnel leading from the depths to the forges - to be blocked off, plugging the top of a stairwell with raw stone. I intentionally seal off the passage above the exploratory tunnels where the foul fog zombie dragon Inira Diamondjade the Torrid Silver of Glows lurks behind Sneakslayers the dog bone door.

For the sake of sentimentality, I decide to place a statue in the center of the antechamber between the passages leading to separate adamantine veins - I select a depiction of the ghostly dwarf Adil Crushedgild's ascension to the position of mayor in the early summer of 1204.

Now, the question... which vein to dig into? I have three at my disposal.

I examine the lodes from west to east. The first vein has only been dug out to z-70, while the second vein has been dug out to z-76 and the third vein has been dug out to z-71 or so. Looking deeper, however, I see that the easternmost vein traverses a very deep gulf of magma, which poses a significant risk in and of itself - moreso, only a fraction of the adamantine would be available to the miners on each z-level, providing a frustratingly limited reward for each risky downward pick-strike. No, it must be one of the western veins.

I go with my gut instincts and order a downward stairwell to be carved into the center vein, even though it is deeper than the one to the west. This is truly uncharted territory.

As soon as a miner picks up the job, I check to see who the fortress has nominated - it is none other than Atír Fingerarmors herself.

The mayor has been very unhappy lately - of particular note is the unhappy thought, "she has been tormented in nightmares by [her] own dead child lately." I'm reminded once again of how terrible life actually is in Roomcarnage.

I check the mayor's relationships. In fact, two of her children are ghosts - her third and seventh eldest sons, to be precise.

This is perhaps the most insidious, the most inevitable blow to the Momentous Dye, laid plain as I check the menu for memorial engraving. In order to calm a restless spirit, a slab must be engraved and intentionally displayed somewhere in the fortress - but a dwarf whose name does not appear on the list may not be memorialized. The two ghostly children of mayor Atír are doomed to haunt Roomcarnage forever.

All the more reason to dive downward into darkness. I watch, tensely, as the mayor carves away the priceless ore, prepared for terror to strike at any moment - but it does not.

Soon, the entire level is excavated - I do not wait for the haulers to clear away the raw adamantine.

This time, the call to carve downward is answered by Vutok Grottopainted.

Vutok is one hundred thirty-one years old, having migrated to Roomcarnage in the mid-summer of 1202. Fifty years of life beneath the Ice of Ghost could potentially end now, as Vutok aims her pick down.

I hold my breath as the downward stairway is mined - and exhale with relief. All that Vutok's pick finds is wall upon wall of precious adamantine ore.

I push my luck, and designate a third downward stairwell, before even a single boulder of raw ore can be hauled away. Luckily, my hubris does not cost the dwarves of the Momentous Dye their lives - this time.

I pause the mining efforts, allowing the fortress time to claim and process the adamantine that has been gained. After all, three levels of adamantine will go a long way towards ensuring a well-equipped military when the battle arrives.

As the first boulders of adamantine ore are placed in the stockpile, I reflect upon the state of the strand extraction facilities - the persistent string of unfulfillable moods has forced the dwarves to tear down or isolate many of the craftsdwarf's workshops.

I pare away the edges of the stockpile to make room, and order the construction of four more craftsdwarf's workshops, bringing the total in the facility to eleven.

Before long, the workshops have been built and the loose adamantine has been stockpiled. I set up repeating strand extraction jobs at all the workshops as normal.

Then I order digging to continue - again, with some degree of recklessness. Adamantine still litters the floor as the miners forge downward into the core of the earth.

continued in part two...