...continued from part one

The two strangers, side by side, charge towards the ramp leading down towards the entrance to the citadel, even as flying demons close in all around them - when more of the map is suddenly revealed.

Oh.

The citadel isn't just guarded by demons - it is teeming with them.

Decades ago, I enlisted every adult in Roomcarnage into the military. At the time, the reason was practical - in a fortress where any severed arm or raw hide might express hatred for the living, it was necessary for every dwarf to be prepared for battle at all times.

And now, as a consequence, I have a fortress full of soldiers - trained, but untried. I did not know it at the time, but this is the battle that they have actually been preparing for, all this time.

I order all of the remaining military squads to gather at a destination a short distance away from the demonic fortress.

I unpause. Lorbam and Erush dash forward, entering the citadel, demons fast on their heels.

Far, far above, the entire enlisted population of the fortress begins making their way towards the staircase to the abyss.

The battle begins encouragingly enough - the adamantine armor worn by Erush Pulleystandard seems to hold up even under the force of demonic 'pushes.' However, the size of the white ghost is too much for Erush to withstand.

The initial blow leaves the spearmaster stunned.

I watch as the melee continues - and the situation quickly turns.

Erush is swarmed by white ghosts, and her hand is broken by a powerful blow - she drops his shield.

The battle continues - Lorbam steps away from the butterfly demon corpse, towards poor Erush. He will not reach her - another butterfly demon rushes north towards Erush, and sends the swordsdwarf soaring.

The spearmaster was already limp and prone, constantly pounded by the demons surrounding her - some attacks were deflected by her adamantine armor, while others broke through and crush bone. Then the butterfly demon kicked her directly in the head, crushing her skull and her brain. Propelled away by the force of the blow, Erush's corpse skids along the ground, the sound of adamantine upon slade echoing throughout the underworld.

I pause, able to catch a look at Erush's corpse in midair.

I check in on Lorbam - he's not doing well, either.

Drawn into a side chamber, the axedwarf was swarmed by various demons and savaged, until a white monster literally stomped his head in.

I unpause. Erush's corpse skids to a halt.

The demons responsible for the first two dwarven deaths are given nicknames - the white monster that killed Lorbam is named Singedanger, and the butterfly demon that killed Erush is named Brainabbeys.

Just as the first two dwarves die, the next wave of soldiers charges in. One axedwarf makes quick work of a butterfly demon, lopping off a leg and a foot before literally scratching away a plate of its head chitin.

They're not impossible to kill - even the monstrous, insectoid ones like the butterfly demon.

Alas, the enemy outnumbers the present militia by a significant factor. Each of the remaining axedwarves is able to get in just one or a few good swings, before the forces of the underworld pile in upon them.

The result is swift and gruesome. Unable to defend against several towering enemies at once, the dwarves are forcibly pushed down. The slade citadel is filled with the sound of dwarven bones being snapped or crushed within adamantine shells.

It is a massacre - that is to say, it's exactly what I was hoping for.

The most terrible of the foes contained here seem to be the feathered butterfly demons and skinless pig monsters; grotesque horrors that on their own might challenge any of the megabeasts or titans roaming the surface - foul fog notwithstanding.

The remaining axedwarves are flung about, hammered against an anvil of slade.

The last survivor of the initial assault is Ustuth Axedoors - I pause in time to catch him lying prone in an archway, winded and unconscious, body spattered with his own blood.

Another child of Roomcarnage - Ustuth was born in 1213, and the interminable misery and suffering of life beneath the Ice of Ghosts is all he has ever known.

I unpause, and the demons do not wait.

One of the pig monsters buries its hoof in Ustuth's skull, and the dwarf's forty-four years of suffering are over.

A few of the demons have gained titles as a result of their killing - Brainabbeys the butterfly demon, Gutssucked the haunt of cinders, and Cystspurt and Eeldungs the pig monsters.

The remains of most of the Rapidity of Ink lie scattered across the bloodied slade. If the remaining dwarves are able to overcome the forces of hell and take the citadel, then these bodies could be tossed into the glowing pits, their former inhabitants memorialized, and all will be well. However, this is Roomcarnage, and I suspect that the influence of the Ice of Ghosts may reach even to this ultimate depth - this could very easily turn from a fortress of demons to a fortress of corpses.

A second wave of soldiers is just outside, ready to rush in and avenge their comrades. This is the Worthy Seals, the best-equipped soldiers in Roomcarnage - among them is the current militia commander, Adil Claspedpalace. In spite of her position and skill, she is similar to most of her fellow soldiers - born in Roomcarnage, pressed into service after the death of the previous (and much more experienced) commander. What makes her special is the vast fortune of adamantine artifacts that covers her from head to toe - no fewer than eleven priceless, indestructible garments, woven from cyan, metallic thread, produced under carefully curated circumstances.

The artifacts themselves are individually gorgeous. I take a few minutes to review each one in turn - the first, and perhaps the last time, that I've viewed them all side by side. I don't speculate as to why the dwarves gave the artifacts these names, but a few strike me as coincidentally intriguing.

Atop, or perhaps beneath her masterfully crafted adamantine helm - all of her standard armor is of the highest quality - she is wearing Glowingcharms, a metal hood woven with historical images, and bristling with obsidian spikes. Her head is also protected by the headscarf, Forestwept the Reputed Screams, and a face veil, the Fragments of Containing. Dwarves cannot normally craft headscarves or face veils, outside of strange moods, and they are spectacular on their own - the veil is even emblazoned with a copper image of the headscarf!

Billowing out behind her as she charges towards the citadel is Carnagecold, a bitterly named adamantine cloak, embroidered with images of foul blendecs, ettins, and spore trees. Its bestowed title seems to draw a connection between the fortress' name and its natural surroundings - but of course, it is just a chance combination. Of course it is.

Another garment that dwarves don't normally create are togas, and commander Adil wears one of these as well, the Hood of Oiling. She also wears a more traditional tunic and skirt - Doursunk the Certain Sea and the Haunt of Apexes, respectively. The toga and skirt are relatively plain when compared with the other clothes, but Doursunk features a significant image - a depiction in copper of dwarves laboring, relating to the founding of Roomcarnage by the Momentous of the Playful Spattered Walls in the early spring of 1201.

Under it all, she is wearing Bledtruss, the adamantine loincloth. I don't think there's anything appropriate or tasteful that I can say about this one.

Trammelfocuses the Lord of Purity is an adamantine chausse - a sort of leggings, or stockings. I'm not entirely sure how much coverage they provide, since they are also considered foreign by the dwarves.

And finally, both of the commander's feet are adorned by a unique artifact - the Permament Culmination on one, and the Elevated Bite on the other. I have nothing particular to say about these adamantine socks, except that I'm grateful there are two of them. I would be profoundly irritated to send the militia commander to this fate wearing only one adamantine sock.

It is not by any chance that the commander is wearing eleven adamantine artifacts - nor is it chance that so many are counted among the treasures of Roomcarnage. Long ago, it became clear that, with the passage of time, each dwarf would eventually be taken by a strange mood. Rather than allow unskilled dwarves to claim craftsdwarf's workshops and create useless scepters, crowns, and amulets, I had every single dwarf train a little bit in clothesmaking, so that when they were taken by a mood, they would create masterwork clothing.

At the same time, the fortress mined and processed a massive amount of raw adamantine - but rather than smelting it into wafers, I had the dwarves weave it into metal cloth. Then, for decades, whenever a moody dwarf began to make their way to a clothier's workshop, I would forbid all of the mundane pig fiber cloth, so that the dwarf was forced to gather adamantine as their first crafting material.

And then, of course, I assigned as many artifacts as I could to the militia commander's uniform.

We shall see if being swaddled in adamantine will do commander Adil any good.

As before, I am optimistic at first - one axedwarf makes quick work of a monster of tears, leaving a pool of what I can only assume is tear water mixing with - dog blood? I can only assume that îton or someone else tracked dog blood out of the fortress and into hell.

Legendary axedwarves and swordsdwarves dance back and forth as the demons close in. The open melee soon becomes a crush.

îton the axedwarf turns to face another foe - Cystspurt the pig monster. With a fast blow, the dwarf slices off the skinless swine's left arm at the elbow - but the demon shows no response, charging forward and taking îton by surprise.

The tide of the battle changes in the blink of an eye. As I watch, hale warriors are knocked prone, sent flying, or stunned - and then wounded.

The defeat of the Worthy Seals is swift.

Most of the dwarves are slain outright, but a few stand, disarmed and broken for a few more seconds before they succumb to the pain.

Commander Adil, for her part, holds her ground while death surrounds her. Multiple demons lash out at her, but she manages to block or dodge every attack - except two kicks from a white monster. The first blow landed by the bloated salt-pheasant is partially deflected by Carnagecold, the adamantine cloak - but the second one strikes true, shattering Adil's left lower arm.

The commander drops her masterwork adamantine battle axe, gives in to the pain, and is knocked away by a towering ribbon worm composed of salt.

The battle is over - the remaining dwarves crawl along the blood-slick slade, desperately trying to fend off attack after attack until they, too, join the ranks of the dead.

The commander's death is not swift. A white ghost, perhaps the same salt-worm that attacked her before, stands over her body, repeatedly pushing her all over, breaking bone after bone in a way that seems cruelly methodical. Perhaps all of Adil's adamantine clothing provides some sort of protection, even though she lies unconscious. Eventually, though, she dies.

As the demons surround the dwarves that still linger, I spot a familiar occurrence - one of the dwarf corpses stirs, and rises, just for an instant before it is immediately hurled back against the wall by one of the demons. So the Ice of Ghosts holds sway even here, it seems.

The last of the warriors are slain. Now, these corpses will be the demons' problem - not a terrible one, I'm sure, but if I'm being optimistic, perhaps the undead will get lucky and thin the forces of hell for me.

There are still enlisted soldiers in the Rapidity of Ink and the Worthy Seals - souls who, by chance, happened to be up in the fortress at the time of the citadel's discovery.

It wouldn't do to have these five souls storm the citadel on their own. I order them to join the rest of the fortress, at the rendez-vous area to the southwest of the demonic fortress.

As I wait for the forces of Roomcarnage to muster, I notice that several of the demons have exited the fortress, and are starting to spread out before its entrance.

Perhaps the rendez-vous area is too close. I order the squads to assemble further to the south, near the base of the staircase.

But what's this? A mere recruit, Tirist Secttin, is already a short distance away from the demonic fortress, nearly within reach of a pair of flying demons.

As if out of nowhere, the forces of evil swarm the recruit, smashing out her teeth and sending her flying in a bloody arc across the slade plateau that rises about halfway between the dwarves' stairwell and the citadel. As her body skids to a halt, I see that another axedwarf is already approaching.

These dwarves must be members of either the Rapidity of Ink or the Worthy Seals - following old orders to attack the demons head-on. I take a quick look at them - Rovod Brasswatches is like many others in Roomcarnage, having been born in the fortress' heyday, but poor Tirist is a mere thirteen years old!

Rovod charges the assembled fiends, buying Tirist a few more miserable moments as he is engulfed in a cloud of steam.

The vapor is a - likely poisonous - extract from the tear fiend: boiling tear vapor.

Two swift kicks, and both dwarves are sent flying. Tirist mercifully expires on impact with the ground.

Two more stragglers, naively eager to join the fray, are quickly dealt with by the roving demons.

Nearby, a similar situation is developing - the first arrivals to the old rendez-vous point, just to the northeast of the plateau, are met by a pack of bloodthirsty fiends.

Arriving as they are, one by one, they stand no chance.

I can only hope that more dwarves arrive quickly. Several have already gathered near the base of the stairwell, south of the plateau. As I watch, a salt demon attacks and is quickly slain - though, not before it seriously injures a swordsdwarf.

Individually, no dwarf can hope to stand against the forces of hell - even a single demon on its own poses a significant threat. When the dwarves have the advantage of numbers, however, they can overwhelm and slay even the most resilient fiend.

It is, as I have discovered, a long walk down the staircase. Hopefully the army of Roomcarnage gathers its strength in time.

Beyond the plateau, the situation is worsening. In a constant but staggered stream, dwarf after dwarf walks into the demonic ambush. As I watch two more dwarfs fall in battle, another of those odd notifications appears - a masterwork has been lost, which means someone has fallen into the eerie pit again.

This time, I arrive at the scene quickly enough to watch the poor dwarf disappear from sight.

I wait, and watch, unwilling to alter the flow of events as the unfold before me. More dwarves charge in to the hellish meat grinder...

...and soon the area is littered with corpses, adamantine and copper weaponry, and shattered teeth.

continued in part three...