...continued from part

Nearby, at the base of the slade cliff, a slain axedwarf shudders and haltingly stands. A butterfly demon charges the undead, knocking it back down immediately, but I know better than to feel relief.

Indeed, a short distance to the south, more corpses are rising to their feet - and this time, it is not an immortal hellspawn that they face, but fragile, mortal dwarves.

The situation is curious, and awful - at least two corpses shamble in the wake of a grievously injured pig monster - balefully named Eelashes the Dusts of Pulp - which drags itself along the ground, leaving a trail of pig monster goo in its wake as it tries to flee from the undead. A dwarf, Astesh Daggerled, attempts to intervene, unsuccessfully.

The demon draws close enough to the stairwell to catch the attention of the dwarves assembled there. The assembled army charges forward.

The dwarves dogpile and completely overwhelm Eelashes the Dusts of Pulp, which - much to my amusement - takes a tumble backwards into the bottomless pit.

The pig monster didn't even have the chance to make a single attack against the dwarves. It might have been slain anyway, without having scrambled over the edge the slade - but it's satisfying to see one of hell's own take the plunge, perhaps back into whatever uncoded oblivion it existed in before the world was generated.

A short distance to the north, an animated corpse draws the continued attention of the amassed squads. I'm immediately concerned - if there is another enemy a short distance beyond this one, it might draw the military out into a battle I'm not quite ready for yet.

Fortunately, the dwarves return to their station to the south as soon as the undead is slain.

As I continue to wait for more of the military to arrive, I check the units screen - and find a newcomer! A skinless fiend, a new kind of demon - but my excitement fades as I check the numbers of the other demons - and find only three.

The skinless fiend is some distance to the west of the dwarves, along the edge of the map. It is a winged skinless dimetrodon, with a poisonous, bite dripping with saliva - apparently both 'great' and 'scrawny.' Fascinating.

As for the rest of the demons - I check the citadel. Most of the exposed portion of the fortress is entirely empty, with only a pig demon and two tear blobs lurking in the upper levels. The remains of the Worthy Seals and the Rapidity of Ink lie - or stand - in peace and silence just inside the entrance. Not a single demon remains in the area. Where did they go?

Still, the uppermost levels of the demonic fortress remain uncharted.

It is time - the army of Roomcarnage is as assembled as it will ever be. I order the entire military to the west, to first slay the roving skinless fiend.

And yet, as the dwarves approach, the slavering dimetrodon flees off the edge of the map. Do the demons fear the dwarves? Perhaps the unexpected fate of Eelashes the Dusts of Pulp shocked the fiends into retreat.

Or, more reasonably, they fear that which the dwarves have brought with them into this eternal, sacred realm - undeath. For the first time since the dawn of time, the influence of the Ice of Ghosts begins to take hold, here beneath the semi-molten rock.

I may never know for sure. Looking back to the citadel, I see that the pig demon has moved to the ground floor - I order the military to storm the gates, aiming for the room past the one in which the swine stands.

The army surges forward, slaying any risen corpses they come across en route to the demonic fortress.

By the time the vanguard reaches the fortress entrance, most have become understandably upset at witnessing death and carnage.

Another dwarf, avoiding an attack, dodges into the eerie glowing pit.

This time, there is someone else around to witness it happen, so I actually get a proper announcement.

The first dwarves reach the interior of the citadel's ground floor.

I know I should wait - to give the rest of the military time to arrive, to gather their strength before storming the upper floors - but I'm eager to see what the rest of the fortress holds.

As the soldiers climb up two floors, much of the remainder of the citadel is revealed.

Surveying the primordial feature, I can see that only a small portion of the topmost floor remains concealed. There are demons lurking there, to be sure, but they are a fraction of their former number - so the other fiends did not flee here, unless they are lurking in that remote corner, in shadows.

Dwarves charge through the slade rooms and archways, and the battle is soon joined. The dwarves aren't outnumbered, but they don't have the advantage of overwhelming numbers - hopefully the remainder of the army isn't too far behind.

More dwarves trickle in - although they manage to slay one or two of the fiends, more of their own perish in the effort.

As I watch the carnage unfold, I recognize a familiar name amidst the rapidfire announcements of tantrums, deaths, and job cancellations.

I find the axe lord backed into a corner of the citadel, in a martial trance.

Three monsters of tears and a butterfly demon stand between the dwarf and the rest of the fortress.

Solon Naturaltome first arrived at the volcano known as the Oily Furnace on the 1st of Granite in the year 1201. He was the planter, charged with the impossible task of nurturing life beneath a haunted, lifeless glacier. For fifty-six years, his hands furrowed cave mud and tended to the mushroom crops - now, they hold a shield and an axe in a last, glorious charge.

He ate a legendary meal lately. He dined in a legendary dining room recently. He took joy in the slaughter lately. He has witnessed death.

He is romantically involved with Etur Pearseal, the first broker of the Momentous Dye. Etur has been dead for a long, long time.

He is getting used to tragedy.

As the battle rages elsewhere, Solon dances backwards, dodging a cloud of boiling tears.

Each attack either misses outright, is blocked, or avoided as Solon rolls or scrambles away.

It's not completely unexpected - Solon is incredibly experienced, and unlike most of the rest of the military, has actually killed things before.

I hope against hope that Solon will be able to hold his own until the rest of Roomcarnage's strength arrives.

For a time, it looks like he might be able to - until a butterfly demon charges - knocking into the planter, they tumble, and the butterfly demon takes advantage of the moment to seize Solon grapple him to the ground.

Where is the rest of the army? Why is Solon facing these demons alone?

Ah - it would seem that the bulk of the soldiers were held up by undead.

There's nothing to be done about it now.

I unpause, and the butterfly demon snaps Solon's wrist. A monster of tears gives the planter a sharp push, damaging his liver and sending him flying. His left upper leg breaks as he skids along the floor - the butterfly demon pursues, kicking him in the belly and knocking him back again. As the fiends close in on him, Solon retches and vomits.

The rest of the military rushes up the stairs, but it's too late - Solon gives into the pain and slips into unconsciousness before any of the others can reach him.

As more dwarves ascend to this floor, they begin to overwhelm the demons close to the stairwell.

But the situation, as before, quickly turns. The bodies of the slain begin to rise, adding to the chaos of an already confusing melee.

Finally, the bulk of the remaining military breaks through to the back chamber.

As the soldiers charge the butterfly demon, they spot Solon's dead body in a corner.

Six of the warriors prove themselves against the butterfly demon, mercilessly beating it down until it stops moving.

It's an all-out assault. The dwarves slash, kick, and - in one case - bite the demon into submission.

I spot two monsters of tears in what seems to be an enclosed space within the slade - but it turns out to be open to the abyss above. Well, no sense in worrying about those now.

Theres only one thing to do - press onward. These dwarves will never return to the safety of the fortress - indeed, they may never make it to the destination I am spurring them on towards - but they will have given their lives striving against the dark, pushing back the last unexplored boundaries of a doomed, long-dead fortress.

The surviving warriors run south, making for the upward staircase - but a few lingering fiends still block the way.

The situation is hopeless. Most of the dwarves left are wounded, unconscious, or dying. Everyone, generally speaking, is unhappy - whatever is left of the Momentous Dye after this endeavor will have a morale situation to address.

I scan the landscape. Two injured dwarves idle near the base of the dwarven staircase - at any moment, a nearby corpse could rise to its feet and put them out of their misery.

To the north, a few soldiers, strung out in a line, are forced to face animated corpses as they rise, harrying them on their way to the citadel.

The entrance to the citadel itself is similar - threatening to become an undead-choked gauntlet at any moment.

What is left of the army of the Momentous Dye - not counting anyone lucky enough to have been in the fortress at the time of the assault - desperately fights a losing battle against terrible fiends and an ever-growing undead presence.

If the citadel is going to be taken by the dwarves, it will not be at this time.

However! The remainder of the citadel was mapped. I find the solitary corpse of an axedwarf on the second floor from the top. That dwarf's lone push managed to reveal the last portion of the top floor of the fortress, including a staircase that leads upwards - into a mysterious, winding passage that disappears into the magma sea above.

An intriguing mystery - or, perhaps, the final goal of a fortress that has endured misery and disappointment for decades? I will have to give a great deal of thought to my next actions - indeed, Roomcarnage will be fortunate if it can recover from this massacre at all.

I cancel orders for all squads.

The surviving dwarves return to their civilian professions, and begin returning to the fortress - if they are able.

Many will never make it back. The demons remaining in the citadel lurk across the carnage-strewn slade rooms, crushing the heads of anyone still breathing.

I take one last look at the demonic citadel before I return my attention to the fortress, far above. Horrors still lurk in its darkened passages, soon to be joined by an army of shambling corpses - but it is now completely visible to the dwarves, save for whatever lies at the end of the mysterious passage at its summit.

Nearly a hundred dwarves - perhaps more - when all of this is said and done, will have paid for that visibility with their blood. Was it a worthy price?

I remind myself: that was not the point. The dwarves of the Momentous Dye have contended with reanimation, foul fog, mysterious vampires, deadly dust, forgotten beasts and tundra titans. With tight control and an abundance of caution, Roomcarnage has endured, and would continue to endure if I kept that control tight, and never acted rashly.

Losing is fun. The inverse of this is also true: not losing is not fun. Roomcarnage has survived through so many terrors, and I myself have been playing this version of Dwarf Fortress for so long, that I can confidently choose how and when to lose.

Why should I choose any doom, but that which is the most spectacular?

It is the 1st of Slate, in the mid-spring of 1257. Thirty-five dwarves remain in Roomcarnage, and I expect that number to continue to shrink in the months to come. Perhaps the death blow has already been struck, and the fortress will crumble in silence and isolation before the year is through. Perhaps it will continue to endure, as it always has - resilient, quiet, and stubbornly alive.