...continued from part one

I do not look at or think about Dwarf Fortress for months. I desperately try not to. The idea of writing a conclusion, an acknowledgment of indefinate hiatus, leaves me deadened. Desperate and frankly unable to cope, I seek respite and distraction in lesser games. I divert as much of my attention as I can into my work and music. Nothing I do completely dispels the sense that I have been had - that, at long last, the Ice of Ghosts has torn out that bit of my mind that it sunk its claws into all those years ago, and that I am never going to be quite whole again.

Eventually, I resign myself to the idea that - someday - I might be able to afford a computer that can eke a few more years out of Roomcarnage. Enough, maybe, to write a satisfying conclusion, or something resembling it. It isn't much to hang my hopes on, but it's something to work towards. I begin looking at CPUs, and put together a wish list.

And then... it happens. One day, I'm searching for technical information about the "ideal DF machine" - what else would I use it for? - when I happen across a thread on the Bay12 forums, a discussion from 2012 concerning improving DF performance by modifying the game to be "Large Address Aware." While the general consensus of the thread seems to be that, no, making DF LAA will probably not improve normal fortress speeds, it MIGHT help with worldgen crashes, or "late game when there is so much crap for the game to remember."

Hm.

Not even daring to hope - or really even understanding what LAA means - I download the file and follow the instructions.

And it works.

It works! There's no hitch when I unpause, no dreaded heaving of digital weight. I simply unpause, and the game continues - as though there had never been any crash at all.

Reeling, I return to Roomcarnage. This is the same fortress I remember, but I do not feel the same. Everything is where I left it, exactly as it was. Of course it would be. Of course.

Overtaken with manic intensity, I decide I am done with waiting. It is time for action.

A pig monster stands below this andesite bridge. Am I absolutely sure that demons can't be squashed?

Somehow, I can't recall. I try it, just to be sure.

Nothing happens - that's alright.

I give myself some time to consider my next actions - I have been away from the game, from this fortress, for so long. I'm quickly reminded that the fortress has a bit of a cat problem - how did I allow it to get this bad? What the hell was I thinking?

The real consequence of the cat problem, of course, is when they die of old age. Every year - which takes somewhat less than a day of real time, unpaused - corpses must be methodically hauled, re-slain, and dumped, lest the fortress descend into a nightmare of undead meows.

The cat corpses themselves don't really pose any danger to the dwarves - they're just a nuisance.

Nearly every dwarf in the fortress is a highly skilled warrior.

There are almost always idlers available for the dumping jobs.

And if a corpse springs to unlife in the arms of a hauler...

...as often happens...

...it is a simple matter of activating the hauler into the military, and continuing the process.

I return my attention to the ultimate task - ridding the slade citadel of its present inhabitants. The crowd of demons huddle amid the caged switchbacks, shifting this way or that, sometimes even wandering beyond the bridges, but never leaving the immediate area.

I have an idea. I wait until the demons have moved so that all of them are within the trapped corridor.

Then, I order the dwarves to pull the outermost levers of the four controlling the bridges.

The bridges raise, snapping neatly into place. The stairwell leading up to the innermost citadel is sealed away with the demons.

I forbid the hatch leading downwards to the bottom floor of the citadel, and the exit.

With the pull of one more lever...

...the bridge connecting the fortress to the citadel lowers. The dwarves may now access the demonic fortress safely.

It was the sacrifice of Kogan Knifeleads that allowed the dwarves to peer as far upwards into the citadel as they have - and it was Kogan's remains, which still occasionally reanimate up there sometimes, that drove out the demons that are currently trapped.

One dwarf - one corpse.

What if there were many?

The dwarves get to work, and all of a sudden it seems like the game has ground to a halt once again. It's no problem with FPS - it's entirely to do with the weight of the cages, many of which are made out of copper. Even the wooden ones are made of blood thorn, the densest wood in the game, and the only type available in Roomcarnage.

I let the game run in an open window, keeping an eye on it every now and again, while I go about my day.

Some time later, I spot a distressing job cancellation.

Ah. As the dwarves haul their cages to the construction site, they cross into a narrow line of sight, and for a moment are able to spot the demons through the fortifications to the south.

I use the traffic tool to designate the central chamber as a restricted area, with a high traffic route stretching around to the north. Hopefully that'll put enough distance between the dwarves and anything that might spook them.

It turns out to not be quite enough after all, and I decide instead to have the dwarves seal off the southern doorways, so that only the path to the north remains open.

That works, and soon the first of the cages are successfully in place. I order the dwarves to build another lever in the deep dining hall.

Once it is constructed, I order it to be linked to as many of the recently-built cages as the building menu will allow. There will be many more rounds of these, and waiting for the linkages to complete will be the bottleneck in this project.

Later, I will install a second lever, to speed up the process.

While work continues in the deep, I notice that there is another type of creature that has fallen into Roomcarnage's cage traps - living naked mole dogs! Some have even begun to give birth to puppies while in their cages.

In truth, I adore these creatures. Out of all of DF's unique fauna, they are the most elegant. What is a rutherer, or a gorlak, or a foul blendec? You must read their description to know. The naked mole dog needs no explanation.

Alas, in any other fortress, I would keep and tame these lovely creatures. But this is Roomcarnage, and I simply don't have the patience or heart to train and keep them.

Puppies and all, they are tossed into the magma sea.

Work continues, but my attention is caught again - this time by something potentially concerning. A situation with a crundle corpse - I don't recall how it started - and Astesh Daggerled somehow gets out of hand.

The crundle - of all things! - has wrestled the dwarf to the ground, placed her in a lock, and shattered her right hip.

Astesh failes to fight off the crundle corpse, while other dwarves rush to the scene.

The small monster continues to shake around Astesh by the right upper leg, tearing open arteries and severing nerves. Finally, a swordsdwarf arrives and slays the crundle corpse.

I check Astesh's profile, anxious that it may be the last time I do so - though, her wounds don't seem nearly so bad. Perhaps she only tore a crundle-sized artery.

I order the corpse to be dumped - but with so much construction going on in the deep, there is enough time for the crundle corpse to reanimate before a hauler arrives. Astesh scrambles away while the mayor - the nearest dwarf to the scene - rushes in to kill it.

The mayor makes quick work of the crundle...

...but once more, I am forced to wait for a hauler to arrive. What is worse, I am also forced to wait for someone to come and carry Astesh Daggerled to the hospital, so that both dwarf and crundle corpse lay there side by side for several nail-biting minutes.

Eventually, mercifully, a hauler arrives, and the crundle corpse is incinerated.

So, too, does Astesh eventually get carried to the hospital, and is given water and cared for.

Before long, the miner/wrestler is back at work in the deeps along with everyone else. Crisis averted.

Time passes. I let the game run unattended, more or less constantly, for days. Once or twice a day I check in, unpausing at the turn of the year and overseeing the dumping of cat corpses, or squaring away another series of lever/cage linkages, or unsuspending jobs interrupted for some reason or another.

But mostly, it runs on its own, always active, though very little is happening.

I am always playing Dwarf Fortress, I reflect. And it has been years since I played Dwarf Fortress.

Eventually - finally! - the project is done. Each cage has been linked to one of the levers in the dining hall up above. I watch as a dwarf places the last blocks in place, sealing off the chamber.

Some of the cages have actually been linked to both levers - oops.

It happens.

I order the two levers to be pulled - as well as the lever controlling the eastern bridge.

The cages deconstruct, one batch after the other, releasing dozens of creatures.

Not all of these are undead - there were several living crundles that found their way into the citadel as well.

Soon, only the dead are left.

I order the western lever to be pulled...

...and soon there is a clear passageway through the trap. I don't expect the undead to path all the way through, but I am hoping that their continued and relentless presence spurs the demons to new activity.

I watch intently, but nothing seems to happen. I must be patient, I remind myself - trust the plan.

A season passes.

And another. I begin to notice small changes.

More of the undead reach the far corners of the trapped area, some getting trapped themselves, thinning their number.

After a day or so of patient waiting, there has been little apparent change. The demons have not fled, and now the trapped corridor is simply clogged with more foes.

I steel myself.

There must be another way.

The year turns, and three cats die at once.

I check the year - 1297. Roomcarnage is a decade and a half past the fatal crash that had crushed me. Just four years away from its centennial.

I order the dead cats to be dumped.

There's not much else to do besides take care of the corpses as they appear. The dwarves have taken to tossing living kittens directly into the magma chute, rather than butchering them and worring about the skins later. It's an abhorrent practice, but I don't see any alternative besides the wholesale disposal of the entire adult cat population, which strikes me as even more unacceptable.

I reconsider the twice-clogged cage traps. I suppose it isn't really necessary for the dwarves to get their hands on the successfully caged demons - it was a nice idea, but perhaps too ambitious.

I look at the arrangement of demons and undead - various corpses are trapped on the far outskirts of the trap, while the demons seem to have been pushed down the corridor. If only there was some way to get rid of the undead at the trap's eastern end, the demons would be out of sight of the upwards stairwell leading into the heart of the citadel. Getting rid of the undead, though, might release the pressure on the demons. It's a shame mining isn't an option.

...wait.

Of course. Where has my mind been? The idea comes to me in a flash of realization.

I order the outer levers to be pulled...

...and the bridges snap upwards, flipping a couple cages in the process.

With the pull of another lever...

...the dwarves have access to the lower citadel once more.

Some tidying of the area is necessary before I can execute my new plan. I order a hole to be torn in the recently constructed wall, reopening the area where so many cages were built just recently.

Tekkud the weaver approaches the wall. Suspicious of more deconstruction shenanigans - some odd things have happened before while removing floors and walls in hell - I check the nearby floor.

The area is clear.

I watch as the dwarf deconstructs the wall - and in the blink of an eye, as the wall is torn down, a swath of the mechanisms and cages in the room beyond disappear!

My suspicions are confirmed - dozens of mechanisms and cages, as well as many dismembered cat bits, now lie in a pile just to the north of the breach.

I place a furniture storage area under the pile, turning it into an impromptu quantum stockpile.

...well, not really. This will at least keep the dwarves from wasting time hauling all of these things back up into the fortress.

To complete the tidying, I have the dwarves wall off the opening through which enemies may still occasionally be seen.

As the dwarves work to secure the area, a concerning announcement catches my eye.

I'm used to cats dying in the early spring, not the mid-spring.

I zoom to the cat's corpse and scan the surrounding area - but I can't anything that might explain why the feline bled to death.

There's not even a combat report.

I find no explanation, and the cat's death remains a mystery. Odd.

Work continues, blocking off line of sight into the trapped corridor.

I find it necessary to designate high traffic areas that skirt the wall, keeping working dwarves from peering through the doorway they are sealing.

It is slow work - one wall segment at a time, at the fortress' current FPS, with regular accidental job cancellations.

It's hell - and why should I expect otherwise? - but eventually, the work is finished.

Elated, I can finally begin the next stage. I had previously forbidden all items on this level, to ensure the dwarves didn't waste their time running around gathering garbage. Now, I order everything to be reclaimed.

With all foes now safely hidden within the enclosed space to the south, there is no more need for traffic regulation.

I unpause, and once again allow the game to run uninterrupted for several hours. Dragging copper bins around with them, the dwarves gather the weapons and armor from around the area - the littered equipment of those dwarves slain in the initial assult on the citadel.

Curious, I order the constructed walls that blocked the dwarves' pathing to be torn down.

The dwarves arrive, and I watch, patiently hoping...

It works! As the dwarves deconstruct these walls, more items are miraculously teleported from elsewhere - including some of the caged demons.

It hits me. Roomcarnage now has caged demons! The dwarves of the Momentous Dye have captured demons in cages! Perhaps one day these imprisoned fiends will be displayed in a new common area, a befitting decoration for the halls of those who have conquered hell.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The tidying is soon completed, and the area prepared. I've had the dwarves install a door in the wall - something to help make sure whoever volunteers for this task remains in the area and completes it. I've also placed a stockpile of blocks nearby - more than I'll need, but it rarely hurts to be overprepared.

The time has come. I order the dwarves to build a second upward stairwell with the nearby blocks.

The work is soon done, and I designate the slade above it to be carved into a downward stairwell.

I have been working all this time under the assumption that slade cannot be dug out. This is only partially true - slade is impenetrable from the sides, but floors have no such immunity when struck from below.

One-armed Dôbar Sealyawned, the chief medical dwarf, volunteers for the task.

I lock the door behind her. Once the stairwell is complete, there is no telling how much time she will have before the undead notice her presence above them.

I watch, waiting for the moment that the mining is complete.

Without wasting a moment, I order the other stairwell - the one leading down into the trapped corridor - to be covered with a constructed floor.

I follow Dôbar as she walks to the stockpile, grabs the block, carries it upstairs, and successfully finishes the floor.

Success! The demons in the trapped corridor have been closed off, and a new route to the upper levels of the citadel has been built.

It is a small step forward, but it is progress, and I will take it. I order the andesite door to be unlocked, and I give the dwarves - and myself - a few minutes to breath.

I am slightly stunned. To me, just weeks ago, I felt resigned that this story was over for good, that the dwarves of the Momentous Dye would be doomed to be eternally frozen in time, unable to progress towards any resolution at all. I am grateful to have been wrong.

I turn my attention towards the demons that remain, upwards within the citadel. It will be necessary to plan some sort of approach, so that the remaining fiends can be dealt with more efficiently. It would not do to simply make another frontal assault.

As I scan the area, I spot two cats, obliviously exploring the deepest, most unholy passages that exist beneath the Ice of Ghosts.

The felines scamper through the slade fortress, drawing the attention of a group of butterfly demons.

They are caught swiftly, and slain just as fast. Their corpses will soon rise, to annoy the demons as they might have annoyed the dwarves.

Two fewer cats to deal with.

It is the 12th of Timber, in the late autumn of 1298. On the eve of Roomcarnage's 100th birthday, the fortress seems poised like never before to either claim a fantastic victory or be swept into utter oblivion. I have often been wrong in my predictions (and I have never been so grateful to have been, as I have this year) so I will make none here. All I can do is renew my commitment to see this story through to its end - however cold, despairing, and lonely it might be.