Chapter 70 :: The Last Offense of the Momentous Dye

February 17th, 2023

It is the 1st of Moonstone, in the early winter of 1266. It has been sixty-five years to the day since the first dwarves of the Momentous Dye arrived at the Oily Furnace, and in doing so, sealed their own doom. It has also, as of February 2023, been nearly nine years since I first altered the worldgen parameters and created the Enchanted Planet - whether my own doom has been sealed or not remains to be seen.

In order to continue telling this story, I have transferred the save to a newer laptop - the fourth device in total to host the accursed file, and hopefully the last. I have gained a new vigor for storytelling, and a few FPS in the process, but an air of malice still hangs heavy about me as I load the fortress. Perhaps it is just my imagination, but my laptop's fan seems to whir far less often ever since I made the transfer.

Roomcarnage is empty. With only twenty dwarves left among the living, a fortress carved out for more than a hundred is as cavernous and quiet as a tomb. The main hall, once a bustling center of dining and sparring, is trafficked only by a few cats, and a lonely spirit. As I watch, a single dwarf wanders through, surely on their way to somewhere else.

In truth, the dwarves are in the process of abandoning the old hall, and are preparing a new home in the deep. The entire affair is artless - on my part mainly, for the dwarves are busily at work engraving every exposed surface of the long hall. At its east end, the floor is riven with streaks of mythical ore, and a horseshoe of raw adamantine memorial slabs line the far wall. Ten thrones and ten tables, all forged of adamantine metal, stand opposite each other in the center of the hall.

Beneath the dining hall, surrounding a central stairwell descending through the heart of the adamantine spire, the dwarves have hewn a fresh set of bedrooms - enough for each of them to have a new bedroom in the depths, each with an adamantine door. Soon, they will each have an adamantine chest and cabinet as well.

These are kingly accommodations, and a kingly hall, but even so - they are intended only as temporary home while the dwarves of the Momentous Dye labor towards their ultimate goal.

Down below the lowest bedroom, past an andesite floor hatch, a stairwell leads down to the abyss, where the dwarves have begun construction of a curious structure - an enclosed passageway, built of stone blocks and clinging to the semi-molten rock that forms the ceiling of the underworld.

Having such a passageway in the abyss - an open route for demons to potentially find their way into the fortress - is inherently dangerous. A giant cave spider that the dwarves have acquired recently presents a teasingly fun possibility - using webs to tangle demons, to then capture them in cage traps.

The spider was cought along with some dralthas, after they entered the caverns along an undead-free edge of the map, and ran into the cage traps placed there long ago by the dwarves.

Putting together a demon-catching giant cave spider trap is enticing, but I deem it too dangerous an option to move forward. Besides, most of the demons left in the sprawling underworld seem content to lurk at the edges of the map, striking down whatever undead they find nearby, and only peering cautiously at the fortress that stands a way off, still teeming with dwarf corpses.

The spider, and the dralthas, will remain in the animal stockpile, along with the cat skins and crundle parts that the fortress continually accrues - for the time being, at least.

The solution I have in mind for the dwarves' ultimate goal is simple, tedious, and perhaps boring. However, while the game runs at no more than 8 FPS, I feel inclined to take a cautious route in which I can allow the game to run, idle with light supervision, while the dwarves take IRL hours to accomplish simple tasks.

While caged, a draltha gives birth to triplets. I could have them butchered, or trained - but why? The dwarves have other tasks at hand, more pressing goals than taming cave creatures.

One of these specific tasks is engraving a memorial for every dead dwarf, whether they appear as a ghost or not. Some of this has already been accomplished, but the old archery hall is nearly full of slabs, wall to wall, and there are still dozens to be engraved - I have the miners expand the chamber to accommodate more memorials.

After the enclosed passageway - the top level of it, at least - is complete, I order the construction to be expanded downwards, carefully placing floors so a cave-in does not accidentally occur.

When the dwarves entered the underworld for the first time, they built a single unenclosed stair, and stationed their finest warriors at its base - that strategy ended in ruin. This time, the dwarves will move cautiously, installing cage traps to capture the remains of their slain comrades as they slowly establish a foothold in hell.

Truly, the fortress now moves at a glacial pace. The 1st of Granite, 1270 arrives on the calendar - four years have passed for the dwarves since I began this chapter, and yet it feels as though they have made little progress in the deep. Nearly an entire week has passed for me - the magnificent weight of the task I have set for myself looms above me, as familiar and terrifying as Rith Craftportent herself, but I steel myself. I will not be deterred - I will see this fortress through to its bitter, frigid end.

Every year, cats die, and their bodies need to be dumped. The feline population got a bit out of hand during the previous decade - an understatement, to be sure, as the cats now outnumber the dwarves four to one. Seeking to avoid a uncontrollable catsplosion - and the spiral of death that would eventually follow - I change the announcement initialization file so that the game pauses whenever a new litter is born.

It is tedious, as the already dragging fortress now pauses regularly, forcing me to redirect the dwarves' labor to allow for the immediate slaughtering of kittens. For days I sit, Roomcarnage creeping away within the laptop beside me, calling my attention every few minutes to hours so that I can designate cats for slaughter or corpses for dumping.

Still, time moves forward, and eventually the enclosed passageway is ready to be connected to the infernal basement. At the last moment, I err on the side of caution - after removing one of the floors before the cage traps, I have the dwarves install a drawbridge and link it to a lever in the new adamantine hall. This way, if a demon attacks, I can at least cut my losses and prevent it from getting into the main part of the fortress - hopefully.

The dwarves have settled into their new digs with apparent satisfaction.

The recreation areas of the old fortress - the main hall, the statuary - stand empty.

It is time - I order an upward stair to be constructed atop the slade surface below the passageway.

Dôbar Sealyawned, chief medical dwarf takes up the task.

I watch apprehensively as Dôbar carries the stone block past the cage traps, and down the hatch. I have no idea how the undead, or the demons, will react to the dwarves' return to the underworld.

The instant the stairwell is built, I order a ring of cage traps to be built around it.

There's no time to do so - just moments later, a skeletal hand approaches the stair, crawling across the dense stone. In the years since the fatal assault, wandering demons have slain the reanimating dead over and over again - bisecting, dismembering, and decapitating many of them, so that the slopes of abyssal black stone are now crawling with countless hands, heads, and mutilated bodies missing any combination of those.

Safety first - I suspend the construction of the cage traps.

The undead creature climbs the stair and walks straight into the cage traps. For now, at least, I will take this small victory. I unsuspend construction of the cages, and the dwarves get to work.

Time passes. The dead/missing tab of my units screen is, for page upon page, mostly kittens. My heart sinks, I grimace. This is the price - a price - of this fortress' continuation. I don't want this, but it is unavoidable - a simple equation of the existing cat population and my desire to avoid FPS death, every year. In any version more recent than the one in which Roomcarnage resides, gelding would be an option, but I am denied that mercy.

I could avoid the problem entirely, of course, by committing mass felicide either directly (a pasture on an atom-smasher) or through negligence (sealing them away from the dwarves). The thought of implementing either option upsets me more than I expect.

This fortress has suffered through years of grief and isolation and disease to be told, as have I, in the telling. It is enough. Let cats be among their final comforts.

By chance, I notice an olive ampersand soaring through the abyss.

Usually the wandering demons stay close to the map's edge, but this one has flown close to the fortress entrance in the deep - it seems to be making directly for the construction.

The dwarves must evacuate - they have no way of fighting this foe. I order the lever to be pulled, and for everyone to retreat to the fortress.

The unnamed butterfly demon does not slow - if anything, it picks up the pace on its way to the enclosed passage.

As I watch, the butterfly demon reaches the entrance to the passage, while a clothier carries a blood thorn bin over the drawbridge - which raises the instant the dwarf crosses, frame-perfect. If the clothier had been any slower, they would have been smashed into nothingness.

The demon reaches the stairwell leading up to the trapped passageway, and stops, apparently discouraged.

After several minutes, the demon seems to decide that the dwarves aren't worth its time, and it flies away to the west.

These butterfly demons were some of the more potent foes that the dwarves faced the last time they stormed the underworld - I will wait until they have decided to leave the map before allowing construction of the enclosed passageway to continue.

While the dwarves and I wait, a rarity appears at the edge of the caverns - a cave dragon! And a living one, too. How wonderful.

I briefly consider capturing the cave dragon, if only for the sake of novelty - but the presence of a nearby forgotten beast quickly convinces me that it's not worth it.

Again, other endeavors and all that. One of the tasks I mentioned earlier has been completed - the memorial hall, once the archery range, is now filled with engraved slabs. There are some ghosts, oddly, who do not show up on the list of creatures that can be memorialized, but all of the others have been honored.

All except one, of course - Adil Crushedgild, whose slab still lies forbidden in a stockpile, not far from here. That stone bears her true name, and not the name of the person she fooled the dwarves of the Momentous Dye into believing she was.

Looking at all these slabs again, I can't help but feel that it's more than a little disrespectful to just mass all of these together.

The dwarves go about tearing slabs down here...

...and replacing them elsewhere. After a relatively short time - these twenty dwarves have nothing else to do at the moment, after all - the memorial area has walkways and rows, and looks much tidier, and more respectful.

Years grind past, one after the other, as I wait for the situation in hell to calm down. One particularly harsh spring, five cats die of old age all at once. The manager, Tun Noselance, is beside himself for several days - all of the cats in the fortress belong to either him or Tekkud Watchfultreaties, the weaver - but he eventually recovers.

At first, I dutifully recorded gifs at the beginning of each year - until I realized that the passing of each year, the careful tossing of corpses and slaying the ones that rise too quickly, had become as tedious and regular as ordering off a new batch of clothes, or a new round of rock blocks.

Even the constant presence of death has faded into the background of fortress monotony.

After a few years, it seems like there are no more demons lingering in the abyss - construction continues, and the enclosed passageway begins to creep across the slade landscape like a line of mold.

The cage traps kept just behind the construction area begin to add to the animal stockpile, along with the cavern beasts that have been caught over the years. Most notably, a trio of blind cave ogres and an honest-to-Armok troll are now counted among the fortress' assets - I'm sure I can put them to good use, although I'm not sure about the array of fluttering, kitten-sized skins.

I resolve to use a certain technique to dispose of these unwanted, caged undead. In the early years, when they were a curiosity, I placed them in rows in the statuary. Now that they are a tedious burden, I will remove them utterly. I have avoided this technique in Roomcarnage for various reasons related to my personal play preference, but I cannot say that it has not come up in this fortress before.

In the early winter 1211, a lever was pulled, and a drawbridge was raised, and a certain vampire mayor disappeared beneath it. That was an accident - I have often considered what options might still remain to the Momentous Dye, if their mayor still lurked atop the Ice of Ghosts.

I will not consider it now. I will smash these undead beneath a drawbridge, erasing them from the fortress forever.

In the abyss, more undead are captured as construction continues.

As the dwarves work, their labors draw ever closer to the crowd of shambling corpses to the northwest. Construction becomes a slow cycle of designating walls, suspending work as an undead approaches, waiting for the work area to clear, and then continuing.

Over the course of years, the worksite gradually creeps further and further from the entrance to the abyss.

Along the western edge of the map, not far from the dwarves, a quartet of one-eyed fiends appear. They are horrible, tortoise-like creatures, and I keep a close eye on them while the dwarves work - but nothing comes of it, and they leave peacefully.

The enclosed passage now reaches across slade surface, clear to the center of the map. Oddly, it is easily noticeable as the center of the map grid at certain z-levels, where the glowing pit tiles extend further up and down than those in the surrounding area.

This is, I assume, related to the presence of the volcano directly above this area of the map. It's a funny consideration, that the dwarves are now directly beneath the caldera of the Oily Furnace - that far, far overhead, the open magma steams with elf blood, and crimson spires of ice pierce the watching sky.

Amid all of this, the mayor demands a billon statue in their bedroom. Billon is, of course, an alloy of silver and copper - while Roomcarnage has copper in abundance, it is the only mundane metal available at all. Sorry, Ast - no statue.

Work continues, uninterrupted by wandering demons - the construction area, now beneath the center of the map, is as far as it can be from any edge. As the dwarves strive forward, their traps capture corpse upon corpse. One by one, piece by piece, the fallen warriors of the Momentous Dye find their way home again - albeit, in a heavy wooden cage stashed in a remote stockpile, soon to be smashed.

Playing the game at this rate is extraordinarily unpleasant. Every .gif I capture moves like cold dwarven syrup - less a display of any scene or happening, and more a dim window into my experience as chronicler. I let Dwarf Fortress run in the background as I go about my daily business, the monotony of game "play" broken only as I check in to dump cat corpses or slaughter kittens.

As my days turn into weeks, the dwarves' task seems to stretch out before them, taking even more time. The dwarves run out of rock blocks, and it takes two entire in-game years for the twenty dwarves to produce the blocks and haul them down to the stockpile in the underworld. Later, the dwarves retreat to the safety of the fortress to avoid encroaching demons - the fiends do not leave the construction site for several seasons.

Roomcarnage plods forward, but to my senses and experience, it loiters - as it has, perhaps, patiently waiting for my attention in drawing its narrative to a close. Were this any other fortress, I would have abandoned it long ago - but not this. The strength of the Momentous Dye will not be broken, and I will not allow this story to remain unfinished.

Eventually, the dwarves' construction does begin to reach the walls of the demonic fortress itself. Here, the across raw, abyssal stone is covered with pools of dwarven blood. This was the site of one of the fiercest and earliest battles during the first battle in the underworld, and the landscape still shows this evidence clear.

Now, there is a choice to be made. I could continue the walkway downward, connecting it to the main entrance at the lowest level - which the warriors of the Momentous Dye fought through about a decade ago, to a horrible end. This entrance is wide, and messy, and very open to the western portion of the map.

This is not the way the dwarves will take - instead, they will craft a causeway along the wall of the fortress, to reach an opening on the second level, overlooking a glowing pit. This way, they can complete the final stage of the enclosed passage without needlessly exposing themselves to infernal conditions.

I order the dwarves to construct the first portion of the causeway, leaving an open tile to let them in and out of the construction site. Soon, I will want to cut off access to the main area of the underworld entirely, but we're not quite there yet.

Before the construction can begin on the causeway in earnest, I spot a visitor - a slugh spirit, soaring through the air, moving northeasterly, in the general direction of the construction site.

I don't know if the demon has spotted any dwarves yet - the game moves far too slowly for me to make a guess at its specific target. Still, better safe than sorry - I activate the civilian alert, ordering all dwarves out of the abyss.

I follow the slush spirit as it flies towards the enclosed passageway - it alights on top of the construction, and then, curiously, continues traveling towards the northeast, apparently ignoring the dwarves and undead alike.

I follow the fiend for a little longer, as it flies around the eastern flank of the demonic fortress. It doesn't seem to be interested in the dwarves at all, but I keep the civilian alert in place for the time being.

It's fortunate, too, since Dôbar Sealyawned, chief medical dwarf of the Momentous Dye, has found herself out on top of the construction, chased by a dwarf corpse that drags itself across the stone blocks, its guts trailing out behind it.

continued in part two...