...continued from part one

As I watch, Dôbar makes a run for it - the chief medical dwarf is one of only two who has never seen military service, so I brace for the worst. The corpse crawls to block her path - and then tumbles, and rolls over the edge the construction, falling out of sight even as its guts still flutter through the air after it. Dôbar wastes no time, and quickly makes her way to the safety of the fortress, joining the rest of the dwarves who have already evacuated.

I review the "animal" stockpile - cage traps all around the fortress have amassed hundreds of caged beasts, living and undead. Most of these are are useless to the dwarves - I order them to be dumped in the newly constructed atom smasher. Importantly, I withhold several creatures from obliteration, including the giant cave spider.

With construction in the deep on hold, most of the fortress is soon on hand, hauling cages of copper and blood thorn to the pit at the north end of the room and tossing them in.

I notice some traffic jams happening as the dwarves enter the tight corridor leading to the pit. I have no idea what sort of delay this is causing, but just in case it isn't negligible, I order the miners to expand the hallway.

Fortunately, a miner is already present, and the job is finished quickly.

The work continues, and to my eye it seems as though there are fewer traffic issues - hopefully, I have shaved precious minutes off of my experience, if not hours.

The last few cages in the stockpile are dumped into the pit, and the bridge is ready to be lowered.

I pause, and examine the three ghosts that stand about the lever - each is a military dwarf whose name does not appear on the list of dwarves who may be engraved. I suspect that these dwarves are caravan guards sent by the Playful Spattered Walls, who suffered ill fates atop the Ice of Ghosts without ever seeing the inside of the cursed fortress.

There are a few more undead in cages left in the deep - once these final few cages are delivered, they will be disposed of with the rest.

I reset the civilian alert, so that the captured undead can be hauled up for disposal, and so that construction can continue again.

Now that the construction has become a causeway - and can only be laid one or two tiles at a time - the already numbingly slow progress through the abyss decelerates further. The cage traps, however, are reloaded immediately, and all at once.

Not long after I allow the dwarves back into the depths, yet another demon - a white ghost - is spotted to the northeast of the construction site. The fiend is perched atop a slade cliff, not far from dwarven activity, and in the direction of the construction itself.

The process is, as I said, simple, tedious, and - probably - boring. The dwarves are recalled once again.

This fresh batch of undead-in-cages are designated to be dumped.

Rather than allow the dwarves to spend this time entirely idle, or performing individual weapon drills, I have them bolster their stores of food, drink, and clothing. As they work, I notice the construction of a masterpiece.

It is a large stack of dwarven syrup roast - as an even blend of exceptionally minced sugar and syrup, it seems like some kind of dwarven candy, perhaps a hard caramel.

The masterwork was produced by none other than Sigun Savepaints, venerable farmer of Roomcarnage and the oldest dwarf of all the Momentous Dye.

She is 153 years old, having migrated to Roomcarnage in the early spring of 1203. I take a moment to read through her entire profile, well-conscious of the fact that as the years continue to pass, she will likely be the first of these twenty dwarves to pass away of old age.

She has endured, in a save file on one hard drive or another, since 2014.

The time has come to smash the caged undead - well over a hundred of them are piled at the bottom of this cramped pit.

I give the order...

...and the bridge smashes down...

...crushing ten masterworks in the process, nine of which were crafted by Dodók Parchfence.

As the fortress' most skilled blacksmith - truly, the last dwarf remaining with anything but dabbling skill with a hammer - Dodók has supplied the fortress with countless copper cages. Again, I take a few minutes to read through her profile. At 73, she is typical of this middle generation of dwarves who were born during the fortress' very early years. She has suffered the travesty of art defacement - I understand her frustration.

I check the units screen - the "Others" column is sitting just above 1300, while I recall it being in the high 1400s just before the smashing. This incredible quantity of undead is likely a contributor to the fortress' limited framerate, if not its main drag.

The undead are concentrated in a few portions of the map, particularly on the surface, but also here - a particularly awful corner of the caverns, choked with hundreds upon hundreds of cave monster corpses packed into a tiny area at the map's edge.

Perhaps, sometime down the line, I will seek to finally rid the fortress of these passive nuisances - for now there are more immediate tasks at hand. Construction on the causeway continues in the absence of any demonic presence.

Suddenly, I notice something very odd. As the dwarves remove constructions - as is often necessary in the process of building large structures - a large amount of equipment spills to the ground along with the stone blocks. It is almost as though this block wall, built by the dwarves just a few seasons before, unknowingly encased two full suits of armor, as well as a few severed body parts, all of which was discovered upon its deconstruction.

Work continues, now relatively quickly - the roof of the enclosed passageway appears so wide due to the fact that some of these slade walls do not have slade floors in the tile above them. It would look strange to leave these empty floor tiles unpaved, so I have the dwarves cover them up along with the actual covering of the passageway.

As another floor tile is removed, I notice more body parts being spat out onto the pavement nearby. What is going on?

Another long stretch of idle play ensues. Now that the enclosed passageway is completely cut off from the surface of the underworld, and the construction site mostly overlooks an eerie, glowing pit, work continues - slowly - with almost no interruptions.

As construction pushes forward, I order the construction of each new stretch of wall or floor, taking care to plan for corners, and to avoid cave-ins.

I have plenty of time to appreciate the alien symmetries of the unholy fortress, littered as it is with the ageless remnants of the massacre.

I tend to keep seasonal autosave on at all times while playing Dwarf Fortress, but in these later days of Roomcarnage they are basically redundant. I manually save the game every hour or two - even so, save corruption strikes now and again, and in this case I am grateful to have seasonal backups.

The dwarves remove another constructed floor, and out of the deconstructed rock blocks pours three more full suits of armor, as well as a masterful adamantine shortsword, a copper axe and spear, and a couple of molars. Where is all of this equipment coming from?

Ahead of deconstructing yet another block floor, I check the area thoroughly, confirming that there is absolutely nothing here besides the dwarf who is about to remove the construction.

The floor is removed, and Domas Urnprice walks away, leaving the rock blocks behind her. I don't immediately notice the simultaneous disappearance of the pile of equipment as she departs.

I check the location of the rock blocks, and sure enough, I find a pile of dwarven gear - but this is the same pile of gear that was just released a bit earlier, right down to the adamantine shortsword and the teeth. Going back to the previous .gif, I see that I have captured the moment where - apparently - all of these items teleported beneath Domas' feet.

This distant interaction is wholly spooky, but it doesn't faze me. I've witnessed more uncanny things in Roomcarnage.

Finally! The dwarves have nearly reached the further entrance to the evil fort. I trap the area thoroughly.

I also order a final bridge to be constructed - a lower seal, so that I can easily sever the connection between the length of the enclosed passageway and the demonic stronghold, at this far end.

Once it's built and linked to a lever, I order the last floor tile to be constructed.

As soon as the connection is complete, I trap the passageway.

Once that is done - and there are already cats wandering through the foul chambers, provoking undead - I order a couple of pillars to be constructed to the north of the entrance. These will block off two tiny diagonal passages, which are a potential point of entry for wandering demons.

As the dwarves work, their cats go on to explore this new area, and the undead trail afterwards when they can.

The cats actually provide a helpful distraction, keeping the undead at the bottom of the stairs from noticing the dwarves as they install more cage traps in an advancing position.

Suddenly, it feels as if the pace has picked up, although my framerate hasn't changed at all. The situation, as slow as it is, is live - I try and imagine how this would look with dwarves moving at full FPS in and out of hell, a swarm of undead constantly buzzing and occasionally encroaching to be caught in a cage that disappears and is replaced in seconds. I suppose I could simply take a .gif and speed it up - and why not do that with the entire story?

It occurs to me, suddenly, that I could simply speed up these .gifs to some degree, removing some of the effect of the slow framerate for readers of the story - and then, why complain about the slow framerate here in the narrative?

I conclude, after some thought, that FPS death is as quintessential a part of the Dwarf Fortress experience as anything else that Roomcarnage has endured. I return my attention to the situation at hand.

I review the entire abyssal structure. At last, after more than a decade of misery and labor, the remaining twenty dwarves of the Momentous Dye have a direct route between their fortress and this one. There are still final steps to take - removing the stairs that grant access to the now-completed roof of the passageway, for example, and the lower level is still claimed by undead.

Importantly, though, there is now nothing standing between Roomcarnage and the darkened, unexplored passageway that leads upward from the top level of the demonic fortress. This is, perhaps, the last challenge posed for the Momentous Dye - the final opportunity for glory that may ever be afforded them in this nightmare.

The dwarves don't know what's up there. I don't know what's up there - but we are all about to find out.

I find a skilled dwarf, freshly finished from loading a cage trap - Uzol Knifebrass, militia captain of the Silvery Whiskers. Uzol is a legendary axedwarf, but I do not have high hopes for his survival if he encounters anything lurking up there.

I steel my nerves, and order the Silvery Whiskers - a squad of one - into the darkest tunnel beneath the Ice of Ghosts.

Uzol, axe gripped firmly in hand, strides up the staircase to the third level. This is where the fiercest battle took place ten years ago, where the strength of the bravest warriors of the Momentous Dye was finally held back, and broken.

Uzol climbs the stairs to the fourth level - this is as far as any dwarf has ever trod into the abyssal structure. The remains of the one dwarf who reached this level is smeared across the wall to the axedwarf's left as he passes by.

Finally, Uzol reaches the fifth and uppermost level of the fortress. There is evidence here of a conflict, but it must have been between a demon and an animated corpse, some time after the siege.

Uzol approaches the stairwell, and climbs up into the darkened passageway, immediately revealing another stretch of what appears to be some kind of labyrinth.

Up ahead, and moving quickly, is a haunt of cinders - an enormous shelled theropod composed of undulating ash, that hungers for warm blood.

Immediately, I order an evacuation to the main fortress.

I also cancel Uzol's orders and unpause, hoping that the captain reverts to civilian status and turns to run - but not luck. The Silvery Whiskers continues their charge, and as the haunt rounds the corner, the two of them collide.

Or - so it seems, but as I continue to watch, the haunt of cinders simply continues on its way down the passage. I am forced to conclude that Uzol simply laid down to allow the haunt to pass, as there is no combat report referring to the incident.

I follow the demon as it continues to path from stair to stair, apparently keen on reaching the ground level.

On its way, it takes a moment to destroy a disembodied undead hand. I find it curious that the fiend ignored Uzol the dwarf, but saw the need to pause its escape to attack an animated corpse.

As the demon reaches the second level, I hold my breath - but it ignores the route leading to the fortress, and continues downstairs to the ground floor.

Uzol, on the other hand, rushes into the enclosed passageway and begins making his way up to the safety of the fortress - the unlikely survivor of a literal brush with death.

The haunt of cinders eventually makes its way out of the demonic fortress entirely, and busies itself with the horde of undead remnants that are concentrated in the north.

The incident has given me much to think about. Still, as I said before, there are still a few more things that need to happen before I'm willing to declare the area "secure." The dwarves return to work.

I order a final encirclement of cage traps to be built around the ground floor stairwell. I don't want to place these cage traps at the outermost fortress entrance - the chance is higher that the dwarves will draw unwanted attention out there.

Eventually, once the dwarves are ready to move in for good, I will want to seal off this portion of the map entirely, and there will be no need for rows upon rows of cage traps. While there are an unknown number of demons in the attic, though, this area will have to stay open - it seems to be their escape route.

I could just send another warrior into the labyrinth, in the hopes that any demons that are still lurking there behave the same as the haunt of cinders found by captain Uzol - but this is a rare opportunity, and with the game moving at the rate it currently is, I have plenty of time to brainstorm and plan an equally rare trick.

I lay the first stretch of constructions - a raising drawbridge and a bit of wall, next to the upward stair on the third level.

continued in part three...