Nutscaves had become almost boring with its almost total lack of accidents and plagues in the year 262.
For the first three seasons in the year 262, we got a wave of migrants "despite the danger". Then in winter, we got a wave of migrants. Not "despite the danger". Just a plain old wave of migrants. "Uh oh!" cried Armok. Armok knew something bad was about to happen. The fortress' 13th year anniversary was just about to dawn.
So fortunately for Nutscaves' reputation as a deathtrap, the year 263 rolled in.
I suppose it all began with the giant hairy alligator and its poisonous secretions. At the very end of the year 262, the alligator finally found a floodgate to knock down in the cavern. This was a trap to alert Armok. Armok directed the soldiers to gather up and prepare to fight the giant hairy alligator and its poisonous secretions, while it knocked down the next layer of traps. The alligator's name was Quazi. Quazi Siga Bora.
Armok also ordered the upright spears in the second trap layer for that cavern to repeat. This is where it all began to go wrong. Dwarves pulled and pulled the lever, but nothing happened. Had Armok simply labeled this lever, and then forgotten to link it up? It certainly wasn't impossible. Armok tries to build too many things at once, and sometimes forgets things like this.
A quota of soldiers had gathered, so Armok ordered the inner floodgate opened, and the brave men and women to charge Quazi Siga Bora. They ran out into the cavern, through the quarantine bathtub, and assaulted Quazi with all manner of weaponry. Two mothers even carried their infants into battle, to show them how it's done.
Quazi Siga Bora, giant hairy alligator, beware its poisonous secretions, was a very powerful opponent. He picked up dwarves in his jaws and threw them left and right, like rag dolls. But the dwarves were determined, and most of them were also slightly seasoned in "battle" (against buck-naked goblin prisoners and the like) by this point. They kept coming back. They kept attacking.
A week later, most of Quazi's body parts were broken, including his spine and skull and all his extremities. One lung was pierced, and about half his organs, and an artery or two were open in his heart. But he felt no pain and fought on, ferociously. Only one dwarf was too wounded to continue fighting--the militia commander himself. He lay in the bottom of the dwarven bathtub, where Quazi had thrown him, miserable and with many broken bones.
Crafters heard about the cavern battle raging on beneath them, and some brave souls tried to come and rescue the wounded militia commander. But they had to approach too close to Quazi, and they ran scared.
Finally, just as Armok feared the soldiers would surely become too tired, hungry, and thirsty to continue, some lucky soul drove their iron morning star into Quazi's brain. Quazi had been doubled over in pain and not able to attack for about a full day by then, but he was darn difficult to kill. Armok quickly released the soldiers from duty, and the wounded commander was promptly carried to the hospital by a fellow soldier.
(And both infants survived unscathed. I hope they learned something about fighting. And, who knew they could go a week without alcohol or food, and no ill effects*?)
((* I later learned this is because dwarven infants draw all sustenance from their mothers, of course.))
Armok felt like celebrating, and the peasant Monom promptly started a fresh party at the statue garden. (Which of course is now pristine and shows no evidence of past carnage.) Armok sent his/her blessings.
Armok dispatched men and women to fix the broken floodgate and the defunct mechanical upright spears trap, and to construct some improvements to the cavern entrance to make it easier to fight the next forgotten beast. Then Armok turned Armok's attention to the magma pumps, the new sub-aquifer plumbing system, and the silk farm.
Armok made some designations and became distracted with working on three projects at once while also proudly monitoring the doctors' work in the hospital. And so Armok designated something incorrectly in the magma pump area. Armok still doesn't know what it was. Armok made an awful lot of designations, and due to the cleanup after the easily-defeated goblin siege from last night, and the soldiers' need for food, drink, and rest--the dwarves didn't get right on the new orders right away. Armok fired-and-forgot so many designations.
And so the year 263 dawned. The fortress turned 13 years old, and the dwarves started up a fresh party to celebrate the new year. The militia commander was still in the hospital, but the doctors were working on him very busily.
At the start of the year 263 Armok concluded that there was a problem at the silk farm, but Armok wasn't sure how to fix it. Weavers kept trying to walk over the hatches and go right into the giant cave spider's side of the room to collect webs, even though there were plenty of webs on their side of the room. Armok feared for both the spider's life, and theirs. (Giant cave spiders have a very poisonous, instantly paralyzing bite, and they're about 2/3 the size of a fully-grown horse, with a lot of legs for kicking.)
Armok was also having some FPS issues and pinpointed pathfinding as the root cause. Armok began distracting Armok, by making long-overdue traffic designations, which helped with the FPS problem immediately. Armok sat and gloated proudly, admiring the masterful traffic designations.
And so the dominoes began to fall.
A few weeks into spring, while Armok was puzzling over the silk farm issue (and foolishly still letting the weavers collect silk, despite the problem), everything came to a sharp standstill and Armok received a puzzling, frightening message.
"Some mason cancels Build Wall: Dangerous Terrain"
Then Armok saw frightfully large clouds of dust in the magma pump area, where dozens of dwarves were working. The mason and subject of the message had fallen into the deep cavern lake several stories below the work area. Apparently he'd gone off a ledge the builders had been sealing off.
Then Armok received another message. "A section of the cavern has collapsed!"
Armok's eyes grew large. Armok gasped. Armok couldn't think of any reason why there would be a collapse. And. What was collapsing?
Armok looked at the moment frozen in time. Dozens of workers were standing in the dust clouds of a truly massive collapse. Oh deities. Had the great magma piston somehow collapsed without Armok designating the lever to be pulled? The fully correctly supported magma piston?
The workers had been constructing a wall to seal off the magma pumps from the open air of the second cavern. The second cavern is mostly open air with a lake at the bottom, and the workers were up above the water level, on a ledge.
"Oh no!" cried Armok. Their fate was already sealed.
It wasn't the piston itself that was collapsing. It was most of the piston's support structure. I don't know how Armok messed that up so badly. It was truly...unmasterful?
And so most of the magma pump stack and supporting walls and floors went crashing into the deep cavern lake, taking dozens of dwarves down with it. This was a large number of stories collapsing.
Most of the builders...dozens of them... were hurled into the cavern lake. Most broke a lot of bones in the fall. Some of them mercifully died on impact with the rocky lake bottom. Others were unconscious when they fell, or unconscious from the impact with the water, and they drowned quickly. Two of the miners who'd been heading down the shaft had fallen a shorter distance to the water, and managed to swim to a safe ledge. But they were stranded. The entire support structure above them was gone.
The miners who had been working below this area were thrown dozens of stories down the shaft, into the magma tank. Luckily (?) there wasn't any magma in it at the time. None of them lived; they got hit by too many other falling objects, and the fall was too far anyway. Their severed limbs and heads and other body parts rained down in a heap, all over the bottom of the magma tank, painting it red with blood. Armok was horrified.
A builder was also hurled down the shaft with the force of the collapse, and he somehow managed to land on the piston support bridge. His legs were broken and his arms severed by falling objects, and he could not move. He lay on the bridge, praying someone would come for him. Unfortunately, that whole lower section of the piston was separated from the rest of the fort by the massive collapse.
When Armok was done being horrified and sorting out how to possibly save the three survivors (the two miners who swam to safety, and the broken builder lying on the bridge halfway down the shaft), Armok made designations for rescue.
When Armok was done, not a single dwarf sprang to build Armok's designations.
Armok realized this was because all the builders were either a) dead, or b) the armless dying builder on the bridge.
"You're all builders now!" Armok called out through the fortress, to the living dwarves.
The other dwarves didn't know how to build, and went about their tasks very slowly. Most of the dwarves panicked at the thought of trying something new, and went on break, hiding in the backs of their bedrooms, as far away from the building designations as possible. Armok sighed. The stranded miners and the dying builder began to dehydrate and starve. Armok told the miners to drink cavern water, and prayed it would be safe and that cave fish would not bite (or eat) them. Armok told the miners to start hacking out stones and building a makeshift bridge from their end.
A week later the miners were rescued, and a few days after that the low-quality scaffold extension was completed, to rescue the armless builder on the bridge. He must have made himself an awesome tourniquet with his legs somehow.
And so Armok thought the crisis was averted. Armok made further designations to seal the shaft away from the cavern. During the rescue, Armok had been noticing a lot of messages from the silk farm and the almost-complete well reservoir. Armok had been ignoring them. Who cares about the silk farm or the new water supply when dwarves need rescued?
Now Armok had a look at the silk farm.
A grisly scene had unfolded.
Armok's legendary weaver, who doubled as Armok's best suturer, was lying paralyzed on one of the giant cave spider's pressure plates. The giant cave spider was standing over her. It had injected its deadly paralytic poison into her blood four times, and was working on a fifth. It had her head in its mouth, and was shaking her around by it. So far, it had managed to break some tissue in her neck.
Apparently the weaver had greedily crossed a hatch for no reason, and then been caught by the spider as expected. It had injected her with its toxin to paralyze her immediately. Four other dwarves were in the room, trying to pick up the piece of silk thread she had gathered, and to rescue her. They kept approaching and then running away, frightened by the spider gobbling her head.
Armok put Armok's head in Armok's hands. This was all because of Armok's deficiency in learning ASCII symbols. If Armok understood all the symbols used in the drawing of the Completely Safe(tm) Wild Giant Cave Spider Silk Farm Design, then Armok would have built a safe silk farm instead of a risky one. The risky one is good, and had earned us an absurd amount of the world's best thread, and it had taken months for a real accident to happen--but it's not safe. Now the legendary weaver and creator of our artifact cloth short skirt, menacing with spikes of pig iron and named The Temptation of Monks, was paying the price.
Armok considered how to get the dwarves out of this situation.
Armok could send in soldiers to take out the spider, but the giant cave spiders are legendarily hard to catch and Nutscaves was very, very lucky to have won the lottery by catching this one. And this weaver was already dead--a single injection of the toxin is not survivable. Adding a dead spider to a dead weaver would not help.
Armok ordered the failsafe lever to be pulled. It would open a floodgate leading to a cage trap, to recapture the spider. Armok considered that the lever should also open all the hatches to speed the process, but Armok hadn't done that in the construction. The spider wasn't going anywhere until it was done devouring the weaver, anyway. Armok mourned the loss of the weaver.
Armok forbade the thread and stopped the silk collection process. And then Armok set about learning more ASCII symbols so that Armok could modify the silk farm to be Completely Safe(tm).
Armok now has the knowledge of some more ASCII symbols and knows how to add safety measures to the farm.
But the dwarves are mourning. Many dwarves are miserable. Armok had killed off 1/3 of the population with Armok's mistakes.
So then Armok finally noticed the trapped dwarves in the water reservoir they'd been building. They'd been starving there for weeks while all of this was going on, and Armok hadn't noticed during the chaos. They were all miserable and angry with Armok for leaving them walled up in the reservoir. Armok sighed and let them out. Luckily Armok had forgotten to start the pumps, or they would have drowned.
A few migrants arrived "despite the danger". We can't even blame the plague this time. Nobody got it in 262, and nobody got it in 263 yet either.
At least Armok learned a few things. And once Armok recaptures the spider, Armok is going to have to send some dwarves to the web room for Caging Therapy. The mayor will have to join them--he's getting less and less ecstatic about his delayed punishment for murder as time goes by. He's been making a lot of mandates recently.