Purgatory Story: Entry One
Purgatory starts in a small cavern - a literal hole in the rock - and in the middle sits a central portal. The portal spits out a pile of goods, and then one dwarf after another atop it. There's hardly room for anyone to move, but as the portal disappears, your seven dwarves begin to realize just how horrible their plight is.
Together, they are The Condemned. The Capital banished them here - a world between the worlds, "Purgatory" - for crimes against the state. If you supply the Capital with the resources they desire, their mages will occasionally send you goods to survive. But in your heart burns a fire that outshines even those of hell: a determination to take revenge on your oppressors.
First order of business, of course, is figuring out a food supply of some sort. The rations that the Capital sent you with will run out quickly, and they know this. While you COULD craft things from stone and ship them back, you hate the idea, and decide to start looking for food instead. As such, you order some of your miners to begin carving out rooms, and a few others to begin some exploratory mining tunnels.
But in this, there lies risk. As mentioned, you're in Purgatory - and through this place run all sorts of vile, wrathful spirits. Ghouls and wraiths are the least of your worries - other creatures such as demogorgons and penanggalans can shift between the dimensions, appearing at random to wreak havoc. You know the stories well enough from the survivors that made it back... and as such, you have the apprentice mage in your party follow along behind the miners, casting blood magic wards upon the ground. Each ward stabilizes the dimension in an aura radius around it - but each ward costs a significant amount of blood. As such... your miners can't explore very far. Your mage quickly begins to grow weak after casting just a few, and is forced to rest, weak from blood loss. The other dwarves could refresh his wards, were they to fade... but only the mage can cast them.
Back at the camp, your mason, Turmor has finished putting together his workshop. While one of the other dwarves hauls stone from the miners to a nearby stockpile, the mason works on carving out tables, chairs, doors and chests. The tables and chairs will serve as places for people to eat, making them happier and keeping them from rioting. In Purgatory, stress levels run high. It's not uncommon for someone to crack - and as might be expected, it wasn't long until someone did. There's always someone.
Kilab, one of our miners, had a particularly nasty disposition. During his mining expeditions he often got into arguments with Melkin, another one of our miners. Eventually it turned into an all-out fistfight. Melkin came out on top - but Kilab held a grudge against him ever since then. When our food stores finally ran out... well... that's when things started to get messy. Other dwarves got sad or listless, but Kilab... he got angry. In a fit of rage, he snatched a sword from the portal-pile and slashed off Melkin's head, then started running after the others in a berserk rage, screaming that he would "end the nightmare". He managed to attack Elsena too, carving her up as she fled for the mason's workshop. Turmor strode out to see what was going on, carrying a stone maul. While hardly a weapon worth swinging, it was better than nothing. He caught sight of Elsena running from Kilab, who was screaming, just before he cut off her leg, sending her crashing to the floor. She reached out her hand to him, crying for help. A trail of blood stretched down the hall, all the way to the portal room.
Turmor himself entered a fit of vengeful rage, and with his stone maul in hand, he charged Kilab, and the two of them locked in combat. Kilab managed to nearly hack off one of Turmor's arms, but not before Turmor broke his leg with a mighty swing. One swing later, and Kilab was lying dead, his head smashed into a pulp.
Limping, Turmor walked back to Elsena, but found she was already dead of blood loss, and soon thereafter collapsed as well.
Our problems with food were gone, but we were down to four dwarves, one of them unable to stand. There was no further trouble with food, but no firewood, so the meat was raw and uncooked, further lowering morale. Our mage-turned-doctor, Azkaban, tended to Turmor where he lay, while one of the other dwarves shouldered the former miners' responsibility: exploratory mining for a cavern. In doing so, he was forced out of the protective area of the runes. We had to simply hope that none of the denizens of the darkness would find him.
Turmor contracted a fever from his wounds, and lie there in the darkness without eating for a full week. Azkaban was hardly able to keep him alive with water, but eventually, his condition began to improve. Iskel, our hauler, decided to kill himself with misery, slitting his wrists with the same sword that had put an end to two of his compatriots. By that point we were too tired to mourn him. It simply meant we had enough food to last another week.
Finally, when all hope was lost, our miner broke through a rock wall into an open cavern with a lake. Pale mosslight clinging to the rocks reflected the ripples on its surface, and beneath: a bountiful supply of fish. Armed with our spears, we were able to acquire a meager, but steady supply - enough to keep us going. I only hope some more souls materialize here sometime soon to aid our party before we dwindle to extinction, but for now... we live. May the Great Goat in the Sky watch over us.
[Silver]: ... Dorfs have a stress bar and a blood bar. The magicks of purgatory are weird, physical wounds quickly heal, but the blood is still lost. Blood is replenished by the body as normal, but that requires food, without food the dorf cannot produce more blood, and the pain of hunger is stressful, but what would normally cause damage to the body is prevented.
Even a lost limb will be healed in just moments.
But the loss of blood that was in that limb is significant.
Blood wards, as described, keep the REALLY nasty foes away, but they lose power as they repulse them. A dorf can bleed around one to empower it, but must be set by a trained professional. Too much blood lost around a ward will overcharge it, and an overcharged ward is worse than having it collapse from lack of blood. It warps reality in the other direction, causing demons of a different kind to tear through, blood demons..
[Talvieno]: Perhaps instead of bleeding around it overcharging it, perhaps the death of a dwarf could cause such a reaction, if the dwarf dies on or near it. Blood wards could have a radius of 5-10 tiles, and if a dwarf dies too close to a blood ward, the ward absorbs the energies from their death, causing it to rip open a temporary rift in space. You would want to keep your battles away from your wards at all costs. The more dwarves die around a blood ward, exponentially more nasties come through. Although these blood demons are not allied with "true demons" or inhabitants of the nether realms, it could still turn the battle - and not in your favor. Alternatively, a well-placed ward and intentional sacrifice of a number of dwarves could save your life if you were attacked by a significant enemy force.
We were down to three dorfs:
- Palo, our hauler-turned-miner
- Turmor, our recovered mason
- Azkaban, our resident mage
It was hardly enough for survival. The Kilab Incident, as it had come to be called in the records, had taken the lives of three of our dwarves, and the following hunger and misery had caused Iskal to take his own life. It was fortuitous that Palo managed to find a mosslit lake. In its shallow shoreline waters, we found a fishing spot capable of providing our three dwarves with food, provided we kept someone on it. This became Palo's task, and for a time our expansion ceased.
This is dangerous.
If we sit and wait around, eventually demons will find our position. Every second counts. We needed more dorfpower if we wanted to survive, and as such, we had two options: we could sit and wait, hoping the Capital would send us another exile or two... or we could do something about it ourselves. This second option was far more dangerous, but we were desperate.
Dwarves die frequently in the real world. There is no heaven, only Hell, and Purgatory is one stop toward that destination. Some dwarves go straight to hell and become demons, but others stop in Purgatory. The dimension these lost souls inhabit is called the Ether - a dimension possessing an animalistic intelligence, consisting of a mindless network of mazes, layered atop the physical world in Purgatory. Their souls power the Ether, which has evolved to protect from intruding demons - but it also makes their existence misery. Their souls drift aimlessly until the Either exhausts them of their life essence and sends their husks to hell, but - for a price - they can be brought back.
Azkaban, being magically-inclined, was able to detect the existence of a soul floating somewhat close, and set about carving out a room nearby, engraving the floor, and starting the necessary rituals. Some methods use bloodstone powder and tallow candles, but lacking these, our wizard apprentice was forced to use his own blood. This is dangerous: the task of drawing a dwarf back from the Ether spills much blood, leaving the caster(s) greatly shortened of blood, and on some occasions, the soul has already succumbed to insanity. As the caster of the ritual, this would leave Azkaban front and center of the summoned portal - and at great risk of death. In rare instances, you hear of hunting demons making it through the portal, having used the soul as bait to circumvent blood wards. It was a risk we'd have to take.
To prepare, we called an end to all other activities. Palo and Turmor came in to the little room we had carved out, backing up Azkaban side by side - Turmor with a stone hammer, and palo with our iron broadsword. They readied themselves, hoped for the best, and Azkaban slit his wrists. The blood spilled, trickling out and filling the shallow channels he had carved into the stone as he called out the incantations. The little room flashed, the portal coalesced - and two dwarves fell through: Saanda and Qwelis. They looked on at first with amazement and bewilderment, and then incredible relief, sobbing with joy that we had rescued them. The other dwarves were able to relax, and Azkaban closed the portal. Two dwarves in a single try was actually a lot better than we expected.
Naturally, after they figured out who had rescued them, they weren't quite as pleased... but at least there's chance of escape. Without our help, they would soon be fueling the fires of Hell.
As it turned out, they were a couple that had perished in their early 20s when a group of elven raiders had attacked their caravan. Saanda was skilled in gathering herbs, and Qwelis was a journeyman armorer. There aren't any herbs underground, but Qwelis was a very welcome addition to the family. After some slight debate, we decided Saanda could help with fishing, while Palo could go back to mining. We still needed to find ore... copper at the very least, if not better. Unfortunately, the mage spells used to create the portal room specifically avoid denser areas of Purgatory, which means the strongest metals - iron, titanium, adamantium and slade - are much more difficult to find, and likely to be farther from the portal.
As Palo mined, Turmor created us our own little rooms in the rock - nothing particularly special, but enough that we each had our own room, with Qwelis and Saanda getting a room of their own together. There's no risk of children: souls cannot form on their own in Purgatory. It would be inadvisable to have children here anyway: their lives would be hell... figuratively speaking. We built doors, a small dining room, and gradually our people became less stressed. With the fish Saanda fished out of our lake, we were well-fed, and eventually Azkaban felt well enough to attempt another summoning. This time, it was a single dwarf, Kethius. He gladly joined our party, aged though he was, providing us with another miner.
Palo had previously suggested we mine around the water's surface, to make sure there wasn't anything lurking on the other side, but Kethius was skilled enough to know that in purgatory, underground lakes often intersected "waterspines" - bands of nearly impregnable rock that required enchanted pickaxes to break through. While we could potentially mine around it looking for an opening, it could take a lengthy amount of time. Our lake would continue to feed our anxiety for some time, as we imagined and dreaded what might lay beyond its nearby shores. However, in its stead, Kethius soon found us a great vein of copper ore, permitting Qwelis to get to work with armorsmithing. Without any dedicated military, we simply crafted armor for everyone to wear - it's safer that way. With some of the spare ore we found, we let Qwelis begin practicing weaponsmithing. He protested this at first, citing the fact that he had no skill... but it's not like we had many other options. In the meantime, we continued keeping a close eye on the lake, keeping its shores well-lit with torches. If anything escaped, Saanda would sound the alarm, and we'd be ready.
It sure took us long enough to find it.
Shadrach pushed the wheelbarrow full of bloodstone into the center of the room. Merlin came over and inspected it carefully. "It is good quality," Merlin said. "It could be richer, perhaps, but it will do." Shadrach beamed - he'd been the one to find the vein of the red and black mineral. Here, he pointed at it. "See that?" Shadrach pointed out. "See the way the firerock smolders in the torchlight? It's good stuff, that!"
Merlin gave him a slightly irritated glare. "Bloodstone, not 'firerock', you buffoon. Bring me more - and assign more miners to the task of extraction. I will need it to work my spells." Shadrach, obediently, left, leaving Merlin alone with the rock... and he immediately called in some dwarves to get started with what they already had. Some of the rock would be converted to charms that would ward away smaller creatures such as hags, imps, and jiglets. Other portions would be ground over many moons into fine bloodstone powder, making it possible to work spells such as revivals. The very finest, largest stones the miners managed to procure would see use in prisms used to create magical equipment, but the modest-sized amounts were the most important - particularly right now. It would be used in extracting essence.
Essence, as it is called, is used as "soul food". After a dwarf spends enough time in Purgatory, their body ceases to become pure blood and flesh as it is recognized in the material world, and dwarves need to drink Essence in order to survive, in addition to regular meat. Water simply won't do the job, because it doesn't have the same magical qualities. Bloodstone, on the other hand, is made of the magically petrified remains of former inhabitants of purgatory, and if refined and distilled properly, can be used to create Essence. This magical drink helps dwarves heal faster from their wounds, and, more importantly, keeps their souls bound to their body.
Blood magic is of course one method of procuring essence. Blood from a willing participant is drained into a bowl, runes and sigils are drawn on the floor, lit by tallow candles, and the proper incantations are spoken. The blood will be turned to Essence, as it attracts the essences of soul fragments from the ether into itself. This is known as "Blood Essence" and, while less appetizing than normal bloodstone Essence, does quite the same job.
Merlin examined the patient as he squirmed in the chair. He had already grown blood-crazed and violent, thirsting over the blood of the other dwarves in a berserk rage. He had to be subdued. Angry purple veins bulged from his neck, arms, and forehead as he struggled in the straps. It had taken eight dwarves to subdue him, and two more that were recovering from grievous wounds.
"Day four," Merlin said, scrawling in his journal by torchlight. "Patient showing increased mental stress, and showing fewer signs of lucidity and cognitive associations." Then, cautiously, he took the beaker of Essence and tipped it down the dwarf's throat. The dwarf in the chair struggled, spitting and screaming, but some made it down. Immediately, the veins bulging on his forehead began to return to normal, ever so slightly, and the dwarf stopped struggling quite as much. Merlin took another note in his journal. "Four days not enough to separate the soul from the body following onset of bloodlust," he wrote. "Will return patient to full health and try again for five days."
In Purgatory, Merlin found ethical considerations to be of little use. What was more important, was saving lives.
Andrea took pause.
The beady eyes of the gremlins stared out from the darkness, only faintly visible as bulbous projections in the light of the torch she held. She had come this way many times before - several times daily, in fact. Her task was simple: gather skeleton reeds from around the forbidden lake, to be brought back to the village and pressed for paper. She had a full basket on her back, and was headed home... but normally, they never bothered her. The imps and gremlins always stayed away from her.
One of the gremlins sniffed audibly, and a huge, misshapen nose came into the light, green and hairy. Andrea took a step back. She was near their nest, she knew. But she'd passed this way so many times before. Why would this be any different? Nervously, she fingered her bloodstone amulet - it always kept her safe from the smaller creatures like the gremlins, so why wasn't it doing it now? The girl pulled the necklace from her bosom and held it outwards, trying to ward them away. "I'm protected," her gesture seemed to say. "You can't touch me."
Half a dozen gleaming yellowed eyes begged to differ. They advanced slowly, cautiously forward, their rotted teeth glinting in the light. Andrea backed up further and dropped her reed basket, now thoroughly frightened. She held up the amulet again. "I'm just trying to go home to Mother," she whispered, as though they could understand. "I'm not going to harm any one of you. I have this bloodstone amulet - you can't hurt me! You can't even touch me." They continued to slowly approach. "What's so different about today? Why today? You've always let me pass before!"
It was at that moment that Andrea realized - only too late - that her amulet was no longer emitting the signature smoldering lines of fire. In an instant, she understood: the magic had worn away - had been depleted from overuse. She should've replaced it. She could have, too. Now, though, it was too late.
She hardly had time to scream before they were upon her.
[Silver]: Jiglets! :D Tiny pink bags of contorted flesh and bone. They jiggle as they run at you, then explode in a shower of gore, spraying you with shards of bone.
I was a resident of Newtown-By-The-Lake. We called it Newtown for short. It was yet another attempt at a fortress in Purgatory, directly next to a large underground lake. I suppose our mayor wasn't particularly creative with the name, but he didn't seem to care.
The lake itself was beautiful, though. We'd happened, by complete chance, to enter Purgatory in a small cave fairly near its edge. Our miners didn't take long in discovering it - and the large, convenient cavern right upon its shores. After widening the cavern a bit, going down the edges of the lake until we found the waterspines - the spines of impregnable rock - we began setting up camp, and then a town, building standard reed huts from the thick skeleton reeds ringing the shores near our hospital zone. They had to be harvested and bound first, but once they were, they made excellent building materials.
Reed huts have some advantages and disadvantages over normal stone bedrooms. They're easier to throw up in a hurry, but they also come down much more easily as well, and they lack a lockable, protective stone door. For Newtown, we considered it fine, though. After all, we had breached no further caverns, so where would any foes come from?
We thought we had uncovered a paradise - of a sort. The lake teemed with fish, and we never hungered. We managed to purchase a small breeding herd of cows from the surface world, and it provided us with milk and meat. The moss around the lake illuminated our town like a magical carpet, and the eyeball grass provided an interesting backdrop for our little adventure. The vast, silent lake rippled and twinkled under the light of our torches, and it looked quite serene. Of course, we never questioned why the lake seemed bottomless, or wanted to know what was on the lake's farthest edges... but after all, why should we? We were perfectly safe where we were, and the bloodstone-rich walls provided us with all we needed for continued survival, as well as luxurious gifts from the government back home.
"What could possibly go wrong" - these words have rarely been uttered without something terrible happening later. They are a bad omen - you jinx it if you speak them. When the mayor spoke those words upon my suggestion that we train a militia, I feared the worst... and rightly so.
It started with the disappearances. We'd grown to a throng almost a hundred strong - but when people start to go missing from even a hundred, it's noticed. We never learned what caused them - every couple of weeks, it was someone else - they would go missing, never to return. We set up watches in the affected areas - volunteer patrols, primarily dwarves scared out of their minds more than anything else - and the attacks stopped... only to crop up on the far side of the lake.
But these turned out to be the least of our problems. No one noticed the dark, inky shapes pooling at the disused rear corner of the cavern - where we dumped our garbage and refuse - until it was too late. It had already consumed most of the garbage patch, and seemed to hunger for more.
The "black creep", the mages called it. Bloodstone runes could hold it, for a brief time, but it sucked the life from the runes faster than anything they'd seen, and continued to slowly, slowly creep forwards over the course of days. It soon began to take over the bloodstone mines - the miners were evacuated, and our progress toward our next shipment stopped completely... which the mayor couldn't abide. He tasked a small group of dwarves with combating it - sent them out with picks, shovels, scrapers and torches. They were to lay waste to the area, to keep the inky black void from continuing to creep along the rocks toward us. Unfortunately, the black creep consumed them as well... all save one - Mayce Proudbeard. He managed to tear himself away from it by severing his hand with a knife, barely making it back home before our doctors were able to tend to him. At that, he lapsed into a deep coma.
The mages said, all we had to do was find hematite - iron ore. A ground powder of iron would be effective in killing the creep and sending it back, they said. It's a very simple fix, but unfortunately... we never really explored enough to find it. We had been content with turtling where we were. The mayor sent the miners out to desperately search for more, but he was loath for us to abandon Newtown-by-the-lake. He warned us that anyone speaking of such a thing would be indicted for treason and given to the black creep.
Mayce wasn't doing well. A dark mass was creeping along his body from his severed hand, which never re-formed. When it finally reached his shoulder, his face - went into his mouth, his eye sockets - he soon after died... and we were left with an infection right in the middle of our fortress. The doctors pronounced him dead, and were loath to touch him, but we managed to invent a way to bind Mayce's legs with rocks and bring him to the edge of the lake, tossing him into the deepest point we had access to. His lifeless body sunk deep, deep, deep into the depths.
We knew at once that we'd made a terrible mistake. The waters roiled, as though something deep beneath the surface was furiously angry - bubbles roiled on the water's surface - but then all was silent.
Not for long.
A great writhing mass of thick, slimy, corpse-like tentacles emerged on the side of the lake with our hospital with a deafening roar, grasping and searching for anyone and anything it could destroy. In seconds it had leveled our hospital zones, killed many of our doctors - grabbed them and pulled them into the lake. We couldn't even see the body of the beast - the water roiled, black as ink - the mosslight and torches did nothing. With no army, we couldn't fight it - but the mayor demanded we did, all the same.
We threw the mayor in the lake... something we should have done long before, but by then it was too late. Our lives fell to pieces as we were attacked from all sides. A demon portal appeared, right in the center of the rune-less creep field. They seemed completely unaffected by the black creep, and their fire imps' thrown fireballs set the reed huts alight, filling the cavern with a choking smoke as I tried to assemble a squadron of dwarves to combat the new threat. There's not much to say there. We managed to drive them back to the portal, but not without very, very heavy losses. It was only a scouting group. There would be more - and soon.
As quickly as they could, our craftsmen assembled reed boats from the last of the skeleton reeds that we'd stockpiled. We couldn't obtain any more - the only place they grew was near the hospital, where the monster was wreaking havoc. Eventually it retreated back into the deep, satisfied with what it had done... but when a few plucky souls went back to try to fetch more reeds, it emerged just long enough to drag them down into the waters.
The black creep was advancing. The combat and reek of half-eaten corpses washed up on shore was seeming to drive it mad with hunger. Its advance was visible - plain as day now. Unfortunately, as we soon discovered... we didn't have enough boats. We could only build nine - enough for a small handful of dwarves at best. As quickly as we could, we loaded them with our most important tools and goods. We almost drew straws for who would leave... but decided that only the most important dwarves should leave. Our mages, miners, crafters - the best only of each - and myself, the only dwarf with any military training of all of us.
Those left behind were given the horrible task of distracting the kraken while we fled over the water, praying there was a cavern on the far side. It was all we had.
Our nine boats sailed across the lake we had once considered a paradise. The kraken, undistracted by those at the water's edge, surrounded us and attacked as we fled - as Newtown-by-the-lake burned - as the demons emerged from the portal - in force this time - as one, two, three, four of our boats were splintered by the kraken's wrath - as I watched my wife die defending us on the water's edge. We were wed only last spring, and she was pregnant with child. I still miss her.
With only five of the boats we originally set out with remaining - a mere fifth of Newtown's peak population - we reached the far shore and disembarked. We were missing many of our tools, but we still had picks and axes, and one of our best blood mages. We were out of bloodstone - it had sank in the capsized ships - but we had survived... and would live, perhaps, a little longer.
Non-sequitur: Cloud Fortress
The name was a misnomer.
Anyone with a lick of sense knows that purgatory isn't exactly somewhere you're gonna be seeing clouds. There's no sky or even sunlight. It's black - black as the darkest pits of Tartarus, and then some. Torches don't light as far as they do back at home, but at least they keep it lit.
Cloud Fortress wasn't a proper town. It was really more of an outpost far from the edge, built to guard Creighton, the nearby colony, from demons. You see... Cloud Fortress was built directly next to a hellbreach. It's like a portal, but instead of being temporary - something mages could easily close - it was permanent - a swath of space permanently - and quite visibly - connected to Hell. Our mages thought they could close it, with a fair bit of research, so naturally we wanted to set up a research station nearby... but a research station would need to be defended. This necessitated a militarized defense. This necessitated Cloud Fortress.
More importantly, however, Cloud Fortress simply protects Creighton from future attacks. The caverns north of Creighton, in the direction of the hellbreach, are a labyrinthine web of interconnected passageways. Demons can, and did, commonly approach from new and different passages every time, trying to trick us and hit weak spots in our defenses.
It started simply enough. Sharpened stakes in the middle of the large cavern, some reed huts for sleeping - easily carted and built - low walls of bagged rock powder for firing over and slowing demon attacks. This was only the beginning, though: stakes wear out quickly and are easily avoided, reed huts are prone to catching fire from hurled fireballs, and bagged rock powder, while useful in a desperate situation, isn't foolproof. The next step then, of course, was to bring crafted stone blocks from Creighton, hauled in great carts, and build a proper fortress. Walls, proper rooms, fortifications, trenches, and more. The trenches, while easily fired over, are almost impassible, greatly slowing movement. The fortifications permitted our marksdorfs to fire bolts and arrows - and our mages to cast spells - with much less worry about fireballs. These were a great step up from the cover of the sandbags - and when we added spikes afterwards too, we felt much better about our situation.
The demon attacks continued unabated - although, this time, we were able to kill them fairly quickly. Camping a hellbreach can prove somewhat profitable - demon corpses may turn to ash, dust and vapor, but the weapons they leave behind do not. While typically crude compared to the standards set forth by our artisans, they nevertheless could be reforged into much better weapons. Once or twice we found a legendary enchanted weapon - and these, we wouldn't reforge. The reforging process can upgrade crude weapons, but they never let an artisan reach his true potential... which means that a legendary artifact would simply be ruined.
Something to note - something we didn't realize before it happened. Demonic attacks do not "steadily increase". There is no "wave of 15 demons" followed by a wave of 20, then 25, then 30 and so on. Rather, they stay at 25 for several attacks... and then, without prior warning, they send 40. This sharp, marked increase is probably designed to give the highest chance of wiping out unprepared defenders - and by the gods, it nearly worked.
We heard a thunderous roar - an ensemble of demons had broken through the portal. Our watches rang the bells to awaken the sleepers, and everyone rushed from their beds to man their posts. What they beheld terrified them - six slade golems, a throng of lesser demons (some riding on bonebeasts), a small pack of firewargs and a Balrog. On the bonebeasts, the demons easily leaped over the trenches we had dug and were in our midst almost before the archers could begin to fire, halting the raising of the portcullis so the rest of the demons could pour in. Commander Artok led the defense, sending our axdwarves at the invaders from all sides, just as the firewargs entered the fray, searing the flesh of anyone they touched and biting off entire limbs. The bonebeasts themselves could trample unwary dwarves, and our entire army was hardly enough to hold them back - but that's without even taking the slade golems into account. They went ahead of the Balrog, slowly trampling and filling in the trenches so their captain, the Balrog, could pass. Meanwhile, we were busy with the demons and firewargs.
The firewargs were dispatched - but not without a great fight. Tougher than normal demons, they have incredible agility and were able to evade nearly all but our archers' arrows - at least until they were maimed or crippled - although the archers took great casualties as well from the fireballs of the fire imps. Commander Artok was also quick enough to strike them, and after he was done with them, we set to work on the bonebeasts and demons that had penetrated farther into the fortress, looking for the mages. Fortunately, we had concealed them behind multiple sets of doorways. Bonebeasts are less quick in narrow passages, which gave us an advantage - we hacked apart their legs and faces with great effort, and felled the enemies that rode them... only to hear a mighty crash behind us.
Commander Artok remained in the courtyard throughout the chase through the fortress, commanding the remaining archers. Their bolts did little good against the slade golems - those would require the work of hammers, of which we were in short supply. Commander Artok shouted for a small squad of the elite soldiers to grab hammers, while he mustered the surviving force to do battle with the Balrog - and, hopefully, if at all possible... salvage the operation.
There were many more deaths before the balrog was slain... but fortunately, the slade golems weren't overly difficult to destroy after the hammers were retrieved. Commander Artok lost his life during the battle, crushed to death under the balrog's foot, and many of our outer (and inner) walls were torn down, partly by the balrog, but mostly by the golems. We weren't at all prepared for this attack... but we made sure to be better prepared for the next one.
First on the list: rebuilding the walls. This time we built them of stone blocks and reinforced them with iron plating. We set out traps in front of the walls as well - great mechanical crushing traps for if a golem happened to walk beneath. In front of the entrance we set iron spikes on the floor as caltrops - no longer skeleton reed stake barricades - to prevent bonebeasts from charging inside. We re-dug the trenches, but this time routed magma from a nearby lake to churn though them, ensuring a quick death to any slade golems that attempted to fill them. We even had our engineers install a ballista - an incredibly advanced, expensive piece of equipment - set to fire directly at the hellbreach upon emergence of another balrog. As for the wargs and demons, retracting spike traps seemed to fit the bill, with a new corridor just inside where our archers could fill them with arrows as they attempted to pass through to the fortress interior - and two layers of portcullis. As a last-ditch resort, we now have sandbag walls in place in the center for our archers to hide behind, just in case they somehow manage to get through.
The next time they come... Cloud Fortress will be ready.