I just read the awesome tale of the succession fort Battlefailed. I want to try my hand at a succession fort someday soon, so I figured what better way to test my mettle and produce a "resume" than to try reclaiming this one. Here's what's happened so far.The records of Kikrost Duralkosoth of the Reclamation of BattlefailedYear 516
Let it be recorded here, for all time, that Tosid Bervor has a Legendary skill at getting lost. We and our five other stout companions set out to found a settlement on the shore of some pleasant ocean, with basking sharks, salmon, cod and longnose gar and other such wonderful things (mussels would likely be a necessary evil I'd just have to put up with). But with Tosid a the reins of the cart... I was awakened one evening from a pleasantly drunken nap by a sudden bump as the cart came to a stop. "I guess we're here," Tosid called out. I climbed out of the little nest I'd made for myself, blinking in bleary-eyed confusion at the sight that confronted me. To this day, none of us - not even Tosid - could tell you how he'd done it.
The cart had come to a stop on the roof of a rough stone structure of some sort a good three stories above the ground. There was literally no way it could have got up there, and more importantly there was no way it could get down. From our vantage point we could immediately see a number of foreboding details of the place we'd found ourselves in. It was a lifeless mess; there were vast quantities of skeletons and junk of every description scattered everywhere
. An abandoned fortress. Recently abandoned too, by the look of it; the structure we were on had an array of windmills that turned in the fetid wind, the gears and axles of a small pump stack still creaking and rattling in a mostly functional manner. Where were
we? Then I saw the answer and my heart sank screaming into the depths to hide. It was hard to recognize when viewed from the back side, but on the end of the structure that hung out over the fortress walls below was an enormous sculpture of a skull built from creepy white blocks.
Battlefailed. The fort was Legendary, but not at all in a good way. I remembered the palpable sense of relief that had circulated through the mountainhomes when word had reached us that it had finally fallen. No longer would anybody have to fear being sent there as migrants by the mad Queen Led. And not even the Queen would have dared suggest a reclaimation party be sent there. Not after the story of its fall.
Well, we were here. And as the leader of this expedition it was my task to ensure our survival, even under the unexpected and absurd conditions we suddenly found ourselves in. I remembered the story of Battlefailed's fall and I immediately seized on its most salient point. Forgotten beasts from the depths and skeletal beasts from the Plains of Ooze. This place was crawling with death. There was only one safe place for a dwarf under such circumstances. "Strike the Earth!"
We each grabbed a single armload of supplies - I was sure risking a second trip would be suicide - and ran down the nearest flight of stairs. It was coated in a gray patina, a mixture of old blood and ichor and powders and other strange substances, but fortunately our sturdy shoes gave us purchase on the slippery surfaces. And even more fortunately, it kept us from getting any of it on our skins. Our pets and draft animals... not so lucky. By the time we reached the ground half of them were already laboring to breathe and bleeding out from every orifice. It was gruesome, but at least it was quick. None of them made it far.
Lesson one of Battlefailed; never ever touch anything
. We checked our clothing to make sure no edges were flapping loose. Little did I realize at the time, but I would have to remain in the clothing I wore then for years to come.
Down at the ground level I spotted a pair of small tunnels carved into the sandy beachside cliff. These looked agricultural, which was exactly what we needed if we were going to hole up for a while until we could come up with a plan. Sure enough, inside were a pair of shallow chambers carved out of the soil. There were stone doors, but I knew that if Forgotten Beasts truly dogged our heels those would barely even slow it down. I ordered Nish Ismas, our stoneworker, to seal the entrances. He grabbed some rough gabbro that was lying nearby and quickly walled us in. I breathed a sigh of relief. Our quarters were a bit small but we had a copper pick, so we could dig out a quick expansion if need be. The important part was that we were safe enough to take the time to do so. The unknown monsters were sealed out. I went to take a quick stock of the resources we had available.
It was then that I saw the monster that we'd sealed in
with us. A troll was lurking in the corner of one of the two rooms. When he finally roused himself I nearly had a heart attack; there was no way we could survive an attack from such a beast, we'd left our axes outside in the mad rush to get down here. But the troll was behaving strangely... it didn't lunge to attack, just sat quietly and regarded us with its beady black eyes. I couldn't imagine what it might be thinking - trolls were incomprehensible beasts at the best of times, and this one had somehow survived in the ruins of Battlefailed. Even monsters had monsters of their own. Who knew what horrors it had endured?
The impasse held for an excruciatingly long time, and then finally the troll grunted something that could almost be called a word. "Frrrrend."
Truly, the troll's mind was broken. It had no desire to attack us. And, not wanting to give it one, we let it sit in its corner undisturbed. And just to be on the safe side, I suggested that Nish take the gabbro mechanism that had fortuitously been lying in the dirt and build a cage trap in the corridor connecting the two earthen chambers. Should the troll snap a second time I hoped that this would be enough to contain it.
While cautiously poking around in the troll's cave I discovered a flight of stairs leading down. The level below was almost as rough as the agricultural caves, but I could tell that this was no crude root cellar; our refuge was connected to Battlefailed directly. Or at least to Upper Battlefailed, which I recalled from the stories was somewhat separate from the more elaborate Lower Battlefailed. I had Nish seal off a few more access points and we claimed this third chamber as part of our "safe zone". Nish was a little panicked at this point, understandably, and in his haste he wound up walling himself up on the wrong side of one of the doors; a moment of tense hilarity there as we sorted that all out. But once he was done that we could finally relax a little. There was some wood lying around, enough for a few beds, and we excavated a little stone to make other furnishings with. And we started tidying up the old half-decayed skeletons that were lying everywhere. We put them with the Friendly Troll, hoping that they would keep him occupied if he decided he wanted a femur to chew on.
With all of our immediate needs and threats dealt with it was time to start thinking about the future. As much as we all wanted to flee Battlefailed and its toxic sludge we also began to realize just what enormous wealth and opportunity lay under our feet. We called a meeting and voted. Battlefailed would be reclaimed. Shortly afterward, almost as if our decision had been heard somehow in the mountainhomes, a group of six fresh migrants arrived and scratched in piteous terror on our door. After confirming that they were dwarves and not monsters mimicking dwarven voices I had Nish briefly break down one of his walls to let them in. They had managed to become coated in ichor too, and none of their pets had made it far past the gates - it seemed that this poison was going to be our constant companion and shape the nature of the fort for some time to come. So be it.
Securing the surface facilities were out of the question for the time being, we didn't have the dwarfpower or the weapons to face whatever beings had doomed the first Battlefailed contingent. So the first order of business would be to drain and secure the chambers of Upper Battlefailed. After examining the lowermost chamber we had access to I soon discovered that a section of the floor was artificial, not carved directly out of native rock, and prying up the stones revealed a staircase. Below was a series of dank chambers running ankle-deep with water, with waist-deep water trapped behind doors in a small room filled with coffins. Stairs leading deeper still were present, but they were filled with swirling water too deep to explore. My first thought was to begin consideration of a pumping system. But the water down there was flowing
, with a distinctive rushing sound thrumming through the floor and walls, and more importantly the water was fresh. It occurred to me that this water must be still coming in from an aquifer breach and draining off somewhere else. Pumps would barely put a dent in it; I had to get the source sealed off.
There was another patch of wall composed of artificial masonry, and breaking through revealed exactly what we needed to do. There was a large chamber beyond with a corridor that was gushing out water, which then swirled down a hole in the floor near the middle. Fortunately, after observing the flow for some minutes, I was able to see that it occasionally ebbed just barely low enough that it would be possible to seal the corridor with a watertight door. I had Tekkud dig us a new access passage (the old one that had been walled up had an impassible hole in the floor between the room and it - presumably how the dwarves of First Battlefailed had held back the flood long enough to get the wall constructed in the first place). Then I sent a brave dwarf in there to seal it off.
The water surged slightly and he came back, reporting that it was too deep. I sighed, patiently explained that he should wait for one of the momentary ebbs to do his work, and sent him back in. He returned immediately and reported "still too deep".
I am a patient dwarf, but there are limits and as leader of this expedition I sometimes have to put my foot down. I had a second door constructed in Tekkud's tunnel into the chamber and the next time someone went in to take a look at sealing off the aquifer I had the door locked behind them. This was probably the most important task in the entire reclaimation process and I'd not see it interrupted. "Try again!" I called through the door.
"Made a little progress... whoops, too deep!"
"Try again! Hello?"
It seemed that the rushing water and treacherous footing had combined to flush the poor worker down that hole in the floor. Most unfortunate. Still, this was very
important, and some progress had
been made. I still had eleven more dwarves I could send in there. I called for another.
It was a long, tedious process. In the end only six dwarves were swept away. Before you call me a monster, however, it turns out that we didn't lose any of them. Three floors down, right next to where the hole in the floor deposited the clumsy-footed dwarves, was a doorway that had protected a chamber from the flood. True, the chamber was not a pleasant place - its architecture was eerily foreboding and it was filled with coffins - but they had each other to keep themselves company.
I can just imagine how each new arrival was greeted by the others. "Ah, I see you got Door Duty after me, eh Urist?" "Yeah. I didn't finish, so make room. More probably coming."
Once the aquifer was properly sealed the water levels began to drop. The dwarves below, not wanting to wait any longer, took the door that had protected them off of its hinges and in one fell swoop much of the water gushed through their refuge and down the staircase still deeper. In short order the entirety of Upper Battlefailed was, if not dry, at least traversible. There was now plenty of room for us to move into.
After a tentative exploration of the staircase that had served as Upper Battlefailed's drain we discovered that it went a long way down, all the way to the vast caverns below. At a level halfway between the surface and the caverns was a dense network of mineshafts carved through marble; I decided to use this space as a boneyard and to seal off any deeper passages for now. We had more than enough room for our current population and much work ahead of us in getting it back to liveable condition.
As the end of the year approached things were actually going quite well, all things considered. Mountainhome sent more migrants; I begin to wonder if they ever really cared whether Battlefailed was alive or not, and dread to think of how many may have died out there on the Plains of Ooze between Battlefailed's fall and resurrection. And then a trading caravan arrived, too. It was small, but we were short on food and rich in finished goods so that gave me the impetus I needed to begin the next step in my plan; secure the surface.
If there turned out to still be living Forgotten Beasts lurking around up there at least the caravan guards might keep them busy long enough for us to re-seal the place.
It turned out that there weren't. Securing the surface turned out to be almost anticlimactic after a year of cowering underground. The barrier walls were breached, a trade depot was built in a perfectly-sized niche in the sand that seemed to have been used for that purpose a long time ago, and I declared that all of the refuse within the walls of Surface Battlefailed were now fair game to be hauled into proper storage places.
Oh, and since we were unable to locate a lever that was clearly marked as operating Battlefailed's main drawbridge gate, I had a new lever constructed down in the room I'd claimed as the fort's administrative office. Here it is:
Seems like an important thing to remember so I'm making a note of it here.
Oh, in the meantime, I sent a brave scout down the large spiral ramp we discovered. It seemed like a far more important passage downward than the simple staircase that had served as Upper Battlefailed's drain, and sure enough, it appears to lead directly down to Lower Battlefailed. Surprisingly, most of it appears to be muddy but otherwise dry; only isolated rooms are still full of water, most of which should be easy enough to reclaim simply by taking a door off its hinges. Still, we don't have enough dwarves to begin work down there yet, and who knows what dangers still lurk there. We'll stick to the surface and Upper Battlefailed for now.Year 517
The first half of 517 was uneventful.
Yes, truly, half a year passed with no significant events to report. Oh, there was one; during the summer a kobold ambush squad snuck in through the main gates after we opened them to allow a trade caravan inside. They slipped adroitly past the traps, of course, but they weren't prepared for Battlefailed's real
hazards; they weren't wearing shoes. Most of them didn't make it through the gatehouse before collapsing, their feet rotting and lungs mercifully paralyzed.
Not much of an ambush. Note to all denizens of Battlefailed; never ever take your shoes off. Ever.
But then an event we'd been fearing for our entire time here finally came to pass. Sama Ilethefotha, a huge noseless bull with three tails and curly lavender fur, was spotted just outside the fortress' walls. And it was moving fast! The gate was closed, but Battlefailed's surface fortifications have a fatal weakness - there are no seaward-facing defenses. The bull hopped in the ocean and easily swam around the end of the wall.
Fortunately we'd remained on a hair trigger, and by the time Sama got into Battlefailed we'd retreated back underground and sealed off the doors with masonry again. We could hear the sounds of Sama's rampage through even that, though. It went up the stairs of the central structure of Battlefailed, smashing doors and screw pumps as it went, and then when it reached the top it tore down the windmills and gears that had powered them. No great loss, really. The pumps had been part of a system called FAILCANNON that the previous denizens of Battlefailed had apparently depended on as an "ultimate weapon" for defense, but it was really just an oversized water sprinkler. The enormous skull sculpture mounted on its overhanging tip seemed far more useful.
And then, seemingly satisfied with the "terrible blow" it had wrought against the defenses of Battlefailed, Sama sat down and waited smugly in its lofty perch. Perhaps it was expecting us to come rushing out in a rage so that it could slaughter us.
We resumed reclamation work below, ignoring the beast. We now had plenty of food and plenty of farming space to get more. I was willing to let the next caravan's guards test their mettle against Sama.
A group of migrants arrived first. I was faced with a dilemma. Leave them up there to die? Or open the gates, breach the masonry plug, and hope they could run past Sama without the creature seeing them from its vantage point on the roof? If Sama got inside it would likely doom Battlefailed again, since we had no military of any kind to even attempt to challenge it (assigning a dwarf to military duty would result in that dwarf trying to change clothing, which would result in near-instant death). But I hadn't lost a single dwarf yet in the course of reclaiming Battlefailed, and more dwarfpower to haul Battlefailed's garbage was always in highest demand, so I decided to risk it.
Almost all of them made it. The last stragglers were spotted, however, and Sama roared down from his perch to tear them limb from limb. It spat terrible poison (the same lung-paralyzing stuff that was already spread everywhere), killing at great range. I ordered the masons to re-plug the door but they didn't make it in time; Sama burst inside, into the southern tree farm chamber that had served as our own first refuge. There was much screaming and running as my dwarves fell back, and although I designated a whole series of masonry plugs throughout the fort in hopes of saving at least someone
it seemed like Sama was moving just too damned fast. It charged toward the northern tree farm chamber, headed for the main staircase that threaded through most of Upper Battlefailed.
The friendly troll who'd spent almost two years crouched quietly in the corner looked up sharply at the commotion. "Frrrrend?" It grunted at the dwarves running past, just as it always did. We'd almost forgotten about him at this point, in fact - we largely just ignored the poor broken-minded thing. Then Sama burst in on their heels, snorting noselessly and spitting its venom. The troll's eyes lit with a terrible fire. "NOT FREND!" The troll roared, surging to its feet and charging.
The troll was mercilessly slaughtered. But miraculously, its heroism did save Battlefailed. In the course of its futile struggle, it seems that a small quantity of the vile poison Sama spewed all over it somehow got smeared onto Sama itself. And, like the proverbial scorpion, Sama was not immune. The beast was paralyzed, and soon died.
That poison is nasty stuff
. Never ever take your shoes off. Sadly, nobody ever found out the troll's name - if such creatures actually have names - so its passing will go unmemorialized. Except by this journal, and by the fact that Battlefailed still stands.
As we tentatively slunk back up to the surface, the terror of our close call still fresh in our minds, we were immediately beset by a new threat. A goblin ambush party had followed the migrants inside (seems I was none too soon in opening the gates for them!). The goblins wore boots, thus thwarting Battlefailed's toxic defenses, but when they too entered via the old tree farm chamber we were able to lock the doors at both ends and trap them in there with Sama and the troll's corpses.
That gave us time to build enough cage traps to contain them all, after which I unlocked the door and let them back out into said cage traps.
Crisis over. Whew.
Certainly, we were very fortunate in how these events played out. In the end only two of the migrants died and Sama was defeated more by its own lethality than anything else. But it gave us all a dose of confidence, and also a shot of urgency; we were ready to finish claiming the rest of Battlefailed and seal it off from the rest of these horrors. I ordered the large spiral ramp unsealed and began moving us all down into Lower Battlefailed.Year 518
After all the time we spent squatting in the relatively small and barren ruins of Upper Battlefailed, Lower Battlefailed is an awe-inspiring place. The large size and confusing layout make it easy to get lost in the many chambers down here, and there are so many nooks and crannies to explore that it's hard to tell what to do with it all. And Armok, is there a lot of junk lying around! Fortunately many of the coffins already built into the alcoves lining the grand ramp leading down here were unoccupied, so the first order of business - clearing the honored dead - went pretty quickly. The rest of the cleanup is going to be a years-long tedious task.
Most of the bedchambers in the two apartment stacks were unflooded, I've designated them all for individual use. Everyone in Battlefailed has their own room. The legendary dining hall was only missing a few tables and chairs, easily filled from what was already lying around. The enormous room at the lower end of the spiral ramp made for an excellent stockpile space to gather and sort Battlefailed's goods.
All is not entirely without obstacle, however. Below the enormous chamber's level, the spiral ramp descends to levels still filled with water. The records we've recovered indicate that Battlefailed's magma forges are down there, as well as much of the fort's metals and other riches, but draining it won't be as easy as just dismounting a few doors or digging a hole through a wall. We'll need to use screw pumps for this one. But also down there are no less than three Forgotten Beasts, lurking in a water-filled side tunnel partway down the flooded section of the ramp. I'm certain that any attempt to drain the ramp will disturb them, so I'm reluctantly putting off this final stage of reclamation for another day and instead have had the flooded part of the ramp walled off.
In the meantime I have begun to give some thought to the question of how to deal with the poison that pervades Battlefailed. This is a challenge I've never heard a good solution for, at least not for dealing with a situation of this scale. My plan, ultimately, is twofold:
1 - once the fort's goods have been sorted into stockpiles, allow a large portion of the fort's population to go idle. This should give time for cleaning tasks to be undertaken.
2 - dig a series of "cleaning troughs" across the busiest thoroughfares to ensure that contaminants aren't tracked back into cleaned areas.
I have already established the first cleaning troughs at what seems to be the central nexus of traffic in Battlefailed right now, the base of the spiral ramp where it enters the giant chamber I'm using for stockpiling. The following diagram shows this:
Each cleaning trough contains 3/7 water, deposited via bucket brigade. Over top is a retractable bridge, just in case the troughs need to be sealed off for whatever reason. Dwarves path through the troughs just fine at that depth. Even though the troughs quickly became a mire of the most disgusting stuff imaginable, whenever a dwarf passes through one he comes out with nothing but a coating of clean, pure water covering him. Amazing.
I'll put a trough at the entrance to the dining hall, too. Perhaps once all the armor littering the fort has been gathered in one place I'll be able to put one at the entrance to that stockpile's chamber and dwarves will be able to safely suit up for military duty. We'll have to see how things go, if most of Battlefailed can be cleaned up it may not be necessary to worry about it.
I must make a note to buy some cats from traders at the next opportunity and see if I can chain up a breeding pair someplace clean. Having kittens wandering the hallways will be a good way of identifying patches of paralytic poison that still need to be taken care of. We're a completely pet-free fort at the moment but I'm actually starting to miss the wretched things. They're a good emergency source of meat, if nothing else.
Not that we'll need it. A somewhat disturbing fact I have learned is that a butcher can recover a usable amount of fat even from a years-old skeleton. Our food stockpiles are overflowing with masterful tallow-based roasts made from the remains of the animals that perished in Battlefailed's fall. As long as you don't think too hard about that, the taste is fantastic...Year 519
The surface fort is pretty much cleaned up now. We haven't made much progress in cleaning up the stuff littering the landscape outside, though. Goblins remain as the one really serious threat we still haven't got a handle on thanks to our complete lack of military. Several caravans and migrant waves have fallen victim to them out there; we've had no choice but to keep the main gate sealed and watch helplessly as they were slaughtered. In the lulls between ambushes we've managed to at least recover the corpses. Old Battlefailed's coffins are now all occupied, so I had the cages and ropes removed from what seemed to be either a zoo or prison and have turned that into a new catacomb.
Old Battlefailed has been completely drained now except for the magma forges. I had to have some drainage tunnels dug underneath the northern block of apartments; the "living pod" design is an efficient one but the stairwells are vulnerable to getting blocked off by standing water. I considered rushing the drainage of the magma forge chamber when one of our weaponsmiths, Stukos Zatamzuntor, fell into a fey mood and wouldn't accept a regular forge to work at. But I doubted we could have done it safely or in time so I had a small and temporary magma forge dug out beside the old one for now. He produced an artifact steel crossbow and then I had him get to work forging silver warhammers and steel axes for the day when it's safe to change our shoes.
Shortly afterward Stukos was caught on the surface by two goblin ambush parties. I sadly wrote him off as doomed the moment I heard word, and ordered the gates shut. But it seems Stukos was a hunter before he became a weaponsmith, and he was still carrying his old bronze crossbow and silver bolts (no wonder he crafted a crossbow - the dwarf knows his ranged weapons!). With a combination of bolts and bludgeoning, Stukos actually managed to send both ambush parties fleeing with several kills to his name. Mark well the name of Stukos - I'm sure this dwarf is destined for greatness.
Now that I had such a legendary metalworker in Battlefailed and the time pressure of his mood was passed, I decided to make the attempt at draining the magma forge chamber. The pumps were put in place and a narrow slit was carved into the chamber from the side, too small for Forgotten Beasts to come through if the disturbance caused them to come down there. Indeed, once the pumping started, one did - a towering fire-breathing pterosaur named Fetho. The beast went absolutely nuts, in fact, running back and forth throughout the sealed-off section of the spiral ramp frantically searching for something to kill.
Battlefailed's luck with Forgotten Beasts remained solid, however. Fetho ultimately came to rest in a chamber some distance away from the spiral ramp, whose purpose is unclear. It is a five-by-five chamber, two levels tall, with four pillars supporting the roof. It lies directly underneath the arena. Once it seemed to have settled down there, I cautiously ordered the spiral ramp unsealed and then had a mason run down to wall Fetho up in its new abode. Once that was done I had the tunnel that Fetho had entered the spiral ramp through walled off as well, leaving the magma forge chamber completely secure. As soon as the water level was down to 4/7 I gave my dwarves the go-ahead to begin sorting through the items down there.
Such treasure! It seemed that much of the fort's loose items had been washed down there, to the lowest point in the fort, as the flood waters had drained away. There were also many, many skeletons. As my stout dwarves waded around waist-deep in the filthy, cluttered water, the skeletons tangled their feet and threatened to drown them. I told them to stop being such ninnies. Skeletons are harmless-
HOLY ARMOK! One of the skeletons, a huge muskox that looked no different from the rest of the charnal pit's denizens, rose up from the water under its own power and struck down several of my dwarves. Half of the fort's population must have been down there in that mess, the panic was indescribable. But fortunately with that many dwarves packed together against just a single beast of modest size, no matter how unnatural, the battle was brief. The muskox was torn apart and settled back into the muck to rest.
Needless to say, I had several additional butchers' shops constructed to speed up the processing of skeletons. Best to get them all safely dismantled before another incident like this occurred.
Once the room was cleared, I set about restoring the magma workshops themselves. A new magma channel had to be dug, the old one had of course been quenched by the water. The new forge seemed to inspire another of my weaponsmiths, who claimed the workshop and constructed... another artifact steel crossbow. Let it be known that the legendary weaponsmith Zefon Tunomiltast is a copycat, and not nearly as cool as Stukos! Though of course it is always good to have backup talent.
Also during this year, no less than three new Forgotten Beasts showed up in the undercaverns and made an attempt to invade Battlefailed. A crocodile-beast, a lobster-beast, and a giant tick-beast. All three of them never made it out of the old central staircase - they all stumbled to a halt, paralyzed on rotting feet, and then slowly bled to death from every orifice. I begin to wonder if perhaps we shouldn't clean up all
of this poison... though I fear the day a beast composed of nonliving matter tries to come in via that route. I've ordered hatches constructed to seal off this entrance when needed.
In related news, we had a lot of kobold ambushes show up this year, all of them with bows. The solution to their annoying sniping of dwarves on Battlefailed's walls was to open the front gate and let them in. There were no survivors (a handful managed to get back out of the gates again but they all bled to death or asphyxiated within a few steps).
In the last months of 519 I noted that the cleanup of items within Battlefailed is nearly complete. There is a woeful lack of bins here and I've been having our carpenters churn them out as fast as they can, and now most of the hauling activity consists of packing already-salvaged stuff into the new bins. So I launched the first major foray outside of the walls of Battlefailed, claiming a swath of the stuff and marking it all to be dumped right inside the gates. I estimate that we got about one third of the stuff inside before a goblin siege arrived and I had the gates sealed once more. We have just shy of 100 dwarves to our number, so it should be just a few more months to sort and store that salvage.
It seems that Battlefailed's business is well in hand.