Chapter 69 :: Those Who Remain

January 19th, 2023

It is the 1st of Slate, in the mid-spring of 1257. After fifty-six years of meticulous care, cautious management, and willful preservation, most of the fortress population has been lost in a reckless full-on assault in the underworld.

The lifeblood of Roomcarnage, its dwarves, lie spattered across the abyssal surface - soon, to rise again.

A month ago, the ranks of these militia squads were full - nearly every adult in the fortress was enlisted. Now, most count only a few among their number - others have been completely obliterated.

Of the thirty-five dwarves that have survived the initial battle, I expect more will perish soon. Some are too injured to make it out of the underworld before they are found and slain by a stray demon - others have witnessed more death than any dwarf might reasonably expect to see, and may go mad as a result.

Time will tell. Only one thing is certain, as it has been certain from the first days of the fortress' youth - none of these corpses will remain still forever.

Already, undead across the battlefield have begun to rise, threatening to turn this last frontier into another realm of evil - not the primordial, chthonic evil of the demons that resided here, but the frigid maliciousness that has come to dominate every other portion of the map, the fortress interior excepted.

The situation is dire, but I take a moment to investigate a notification regarding the end of a mayoral mandate.

I search for the mayor's name - Mosus - but no dwarf lives in Roomcarnage by that name. Until recently, one may have, not any more.

The mayor is dead, then. I assign the rooms of the mayoral suite to the new mayor, Nish Saintochre - never mind the fact that the entire suite is walled off, and is actually the permanent residence of the foul fog zombie roc Bål Cometvale, and the contagious remnants the few dwarves that were caught in here during its surprise attack.

Ancient history, now.

Much of Roomcarnage - what was once Roomcarnage - is sealed away behind constructed walls. Portions of the fortress, lost to undead, or the foul fog, or forgotten beasts, stretch away in all directions - but the fortress core endures, pristine and polished, now silent except for the periodic howling of the dead, and the sound of animal skins rustling in their cages. Nowhere can be heard revelry, or drinking, or the fall of boots or the hammer of industry. It is a fortress of ghosts.

I find the new mayor, Nish Saintochre - prone, unconscious, and thoroughly miserable - in the abyss, not far from the staircase.

At a mere thirty-seven years old, the mayor was born during a time of lost hope - before she was an adult, the dwarves had already forsaken the surface, had already begun turning their attentions inward, and down. It is probably that she has never looked out upon the Ice of Ghosts, or beheld the Oily Furnace - the defining features of the landscape, they must have been mere stories to a young dwarf, during decades of darkness.

The mayor begins to throw a tantrum, and I cannot fault her. The situation is intolerable.

All around, the remaining dwarves are hunted down by the fiends. As I watch, Stodir Beachedtombs, the chief medical dwarf, is chased down and quickly crushed.

The mayor and a seriously injured planter, also named Nish, contend with undead as they arise. Every minute or two, one of their dead comrades - or, in this case, one of their severed hands - shudders and attacks.

As the mayor falls unconscious again, the planter - who has two broken shoulders and a broken leg, among other injuries - desperately but successfully subdues the animated hand.

After a dubious bite, the hand leaps and scratches at Nish's leg, then jumps to his hand, and then at his face - but the planter puts down the monster with a couple kicks from his good leg.

Anyone still loitering in the abyss, if they have the ability to leave now, should do so.

The civilian alert takes effect immediately. Unib the planter cancels their pickup equipment job - no doubt they were on their way to claim some recently-available equipment.

Curiously, soon after the alert goes into place, I spot a demon soaring through the air at a quick pace.

I take one final look at Toothsuckers, the white monster.

Then, it slips off the edge of the map, never to return.

Inside the demonic fortress, other fiends are on the move as well. One by one, they step away from their eternally still groupings and wander slow through the empty halls, until they reach the staircase and descend to the exit.

The dwarves, too, are withdrawing from the underworld. Nish Saintochre, mayor of Roomcarnage, drags herself up the seemingly endless stairwell in spite of her broken foot. Perhaps the demons are abandoning their fortress for the same reason the dwarves are retreating to theirs - because the horrors taking hold there are simply not worth dealing with right now.

A rare announcement pops up.

I find the legendary miner, Astesh Daggerled, hungry and miserable, enjoying a meal in the old - and now vacant - captain of the guard's dining room. He has grown attached to his exceptional adamantine pick, and when I examine it, I discover why: it is smeared with Eelashes the Dusts of Pulp's pig monster goo, and Astesh has slain a zombie dwarf with it, possibly during the events in the abyss. Roomcarnage is a terrible place, however, and it is also possible that Astesh slew a zombie dwarf with it at some point beforehand.

In either case, he won't put it down again.

I hope the meal cheers him up.

I spot another white monster moments before it slips beyond view, into an unexplored portion of the underworld. It is unlikely that there would be another structure so close to the one the dwarves have already discovered, but I can't help but feel curious about these last unrevealed portions of the map.

The fiends continue their silent procession.

Somewhere in the fortress, a cat loses its dwarf.

I find Ushat Pulleytwisted, a gigantic (but weak and skinny) chocolate-brown cat, lingering near the refuse stockpile.

Curiously, Ushat is the only cat in the fortress who was made a stray by the battle - all of the others belong to one of four dwarves. I go back into a previous save and learn that Ushat's owner was Doren Paintedsnarl - "Logemdesis" in dwarven. There is another cat, then, who will soon become a stray as well.

It occurs to me that the dwarves will soon have to make a sizeable number of memorial slabs, and also that I haven't gotten around to placing the other five slabs as well. I order them to be built in the long-unused crossbow range.

Soon, only five demons remain visible in the abyss.

The last of the named demons, Evilhates the monster of tears, is trapped within the citadel.

I watch as Evilhates pushes back corpse upon corpse, defeating each in turn as it charges towards the exit.

At the mouth of the fortification, it stops to fight - before my eyes, a crowd of dead dwarves stumble to their feet, surrounding the monster of tears and swarming upon it.

The scene is interrupted by the arrival of a new, angry ghost.

Its name appears on the list - the dwarf can be memorialized, and the ghost exorcised.

I return my attention to the demons, but Evilhates is nowhere to be seen.

I find the corpse that struck the killing blow - now known as Chopblocks - standing in a pool of dirty, and I presume salty, water.

Only two demons remain visible on the map - the two monsters of tears that have hidden in a recessed area on the north side of the citadel. They have not moved since before the battle - perhaps they never will.

Far above, the tantrums continue to rage. I use Dwarf Therapist to check everyone's happiness levels, and discover that nearly solidly half the fortress is very unhappy or miserable.

Young Astesh is specifically unhappy - after looking around, I discover that Astesh has not lost just one sibling, but four. She is also predisposed to melancholy - "she often feels discouraged."

Entire families were lost in the assault.

I'm a monster.

Astesh, along with every other dwarf that has ever lived in Roomcarnage, must and will endure the strain of life beneath the Ice of Ghosts, until at last until she cannot any longer.

Amid all this misery, the mayor issues a construction order.

For backpacks? Easy enough.

I check the work orders menu - these old jobs are no longer necessary.

I remove them from the list, and issue a new order for the backpacks.

I also ought to deliberately - and permanently - seal off the passage used to get to the stairwell. There are likely undead already treading those depths, and if I ever want to return to the abyss, it would be better t use another route.

I order the adamantine artifact door to be locked - then, I order a wall to be constructed before it.

I also deactivate the alert - with hell sealed away, there's no passage to restrict.

I unpause, and let time flow. The tantrums continue unabated - it may be months before things return to any sort of equilibrium.

I hope that the magnificence of Roomcarnage's dining hall and the quality of its prepared meals is enough to nurture the morale of the Momentous Dye back to good health.

A concerning announcement appears. The manager, Tun Noselance, shouldn't be anywhere near a corpse right now.

I find a zombie, Curledgrey, standing over one of the planters' corpses in the long hallway leading to the well. The murder was swift.

How did an undead creature get into the fortress? Cerol had been on their way to install a hatch over a stairwell I felt suspicious about, just beyond the wood farm - I hadn't thought twice about it.

That passage connects to - ah. A stone-fall trap I had forgotten about. This one was intended to defeat the initial wave of demons as they emerged from the breached adamantine tube - but it was never used.

I scan the full height of the trap, and discover a severed arm crawling upwards.

This is where they are getting in. The bottom of the trap connects to the tunnel beyond the locked adamantine door, making a long but traversable pathway from hell to Roomcarnage.

The trap is no longer needed - as long as it remains intact, it is a danger to the fortress. I order the connected lever to be pulled.

There is, however, already an intruder. The hallway is cluttered with memorials - I didn't think I'd have to close off this passageway, too. I order one of the slabs to be pulled out.

Next to it, I order a wall to be constructed.

One of the dwarves in the dining hall pulls the lever without hesitation.

The trap is filled with a churning mess of stone, sand, dust, and magma mist as a block of stone plummets down the switchback passages, crushing everything beneath it into the semi-molten rock.

I watch as the dust slowly clears.

Now, the dwarves just need to close off the passageway before these two monsters decide to attack. For now, however, they wait.

The wall is constructed quickly. None other than Zon Nuttour comes to wrench the slab out of its dusty home.

The moment the slab is loose, I order the construction of the second wall. The two zombies continue to wait, just out of sight to the south.

In the midst of the rush, ùshrir Dwellerhatchets is stricken by melancholy.

The poor child could not handle the grief of suddenly losing everyone she knew, including four siblings.

But - good news! One of the stray kittens has found a new owner.

continued in part two...