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Epilogue

Two months had passed since the attack on the Gates of Doom. Summer was soon approaching. The kingdom was slowly recovering from twenty years of war. Magic was once again flowing through the land. The rumours of unrest in the Empire across the Sea of Dreams, were soon forgotten in the elation that followed the victory. The dark races had been banished, deep into the Howling Mountains. The only dark spot was that Magdar’s body had disappeared during the commotion that followed the attack. It was said to have been taken by trolls, deep into the mountains. They could dispose of it as well as the King.

Ludger was laying in bed, at home, thinking. Nathalia’s hair formed a dark metallic cloud around her head, resting on the crisp percale pillowcase. His future, in this world, looked bright. In a few weeks a double ceremony would give him the title of Duke of the Mist of Dreams, as well as wed him to Nathalia.

The day to day affairs of this world, now that the excitement of the war was gone, left him wanting for more. He was planning to explore this world in the company of Nathalia. His fiancée stirred on the bed beside him. Thinking of her always brought a smile to his face.

She turned to him, coiling her naked body against his. She rested her cheek on his shoulder and blew a stream of air in his ear. She looked at him with sleepy eyes. With a yawn she said.

“Are you still bored? Does life as to be boring to you if there is no quest to follow or damsel-in-distress to rescue?”

“I am not bored. My hands are full, as it is, of a particular damsel-in-distress that I have rescued. I am no longer in that business. I don’t think that I could handle more.”

She playfully bit one of his nipples and said.

“Do you still plan to go exploring the world? We should stay in Talenthar. The nightlife is much better.”

“How do you know that? When we are out there, we never go out. You always keep me locked up in the bedroom.”

“Do you complain?”

“No…, but I am not getting any younger. You will drain me of all my energy. You still have not told me, how you know about the nightlife.”

“Maria told me. She says it is fantastic. She also showed me many other tricks.” She looked around the room and continued, whispering in his ear. “You would not have, by any chance, any soft butter laying around the room? I would like to show you one of those tricks.”

Ludger thought that he definitively had a lot to look forward to, whether he decided to travel or not.

THE END

For Now

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From 1990: One Way Ticket To Talenthar

The Sass

Remington XP-100 Mk01

Remington XP-100 Mk02

Remington XP-100 Mk03

Remington XP-100 Mk04

Remington XP-100 Mk05

The Remington XP-100 (from eXperimental Pistol number 100) is a bolt action pistol produced by Remington Arms from 1963 to 1998. The XP-100 was one of the first handguns designed for long range shooting, and introduced the .221 Remington Fireball (often called .221 Fireball), which is still the fastest handgun cartridge ever produced by a major ammunition maker. The XP-100 was noted for its accuracy and is still competitive today in the sport of handgun varminting, which it helped create.

Overview

The XP-100 was based on Remington’s short action bolt action carbine, the Remington Model 40X, which influenced the later Remington Model 600 rifle. The XP-100 was initially introduced with a 10¾” barrel set into a nylon stock with an unusual center-mounted grip. Chambered in .222 Remington in early prototypes, the short barrel produced significant noise and muzzle flash. Subsequently the case was shortened to reduce powder capacity to a volume more suited to the shorter barrel of a pistol. The resulting cartridge, the .221 Fireball, produced factory loaded velocities of over 825 m/s (2700 ft/s) from the short barrel, and accuracy rivaling the parent .222 Remington, one of the most accurate cartridges made.

All but the XP-100R model were single shot designs, while the XP-100R had a small internal magazine (holding four rounds), similar to most bolt action rifles. The R model – for “repeater” – was made 1991-1997 in .223 Rem., .250 Savage, 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .35 Rem., and 350 Rem. Mag. It was reintroduced in 1998, this time without sights, in .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .260 Rem., and .35 Rem.

Model History

The XP-100 went through a number of changes during its production run, and many variations were only available through the Remington Custom shop. The most significant changes in the later versions were to barrel length, which went to 14½”, and the grip location, which was moved to the rear of the stock. The calibers changed; with the elimination of the original 10¾” barrel, the reduced powder capacity was no longer such a requirement, and the chamberings switched to standard commercial rifle cartridges. By the time the XP-100 was discontinued, it faced stiff competition from other bolt-action pistols such as the Savage Striker as well as the versatile Thompson Center Arms break-action Contender.

Model Production by Year

  • XP-100 (1963-1985)
  • XP-100 Varmint Special (1986-1992)
  • XP-100 Silhouette (1980-1997)
  • XP-100 Hunter (1993-1994)
  • XP-100 Custom (1986-1997)
  • XP-100R (1998)
  • XR-100 (2005-Present)

Caliber Production by Year

  • .221 Remington Fireball (1963-1985)
  • 7 mm BR Remington (1980-1985)
  • .223 Remington (1986-1997), (2005-Present in XR-100)
  • .35 Remington (1986-1997)
  • .250 Savage (1990-1992) Custom Shop only
  • 6 mm BR Remington (1990-1992) Custom Shop only
  • .22-250 Remington (1992-1994) Custom Shop only, (2005-Present in XR-100)
  • .308 Winchester (1992-1994) Custom Shop only
  • 7 mm-08 Remington (1993-1994)
  • .204 Ruger (2005-Present in XR-100)

Current Production

The XP-100 action was used as the basis for a new single-shot rifle from Remington called the XR-100 Rangemaster.

While the XP-100 has disappeared from Remington’s lineup (Remington is primarily a maker of rifles and shotguns), the .221 Fireball remains in production. The Model 700 rifle has been available since 2002 in a .221 Fireball chambering; while it lacks the velocity attainable with the vastly more popular .223 Remington, the short .221 Fireball delivers most of the performance with far less noise and flash.

The Sass

Barrett M82 Mk01

Barrett M82 Mk02

Barrett M82 Mk03

The M82, standardized by the US Military as the M107, is a recoil-operated, semi-automatic anti-materiel rifle developed by the American Barrett Firearms Manufacturing company. It is used by many units and armies around the world. Despite its designation as an anti-materiel rifle, it is used by some armed forces as an anti-personnel sniper rifle. It is also called the Light Fifty for its .50 BMG (12.7×99mm NATO) chambering. The weapon is found in two variants, the original M82A1 (and A3) and the bullpup M82A2. The M82A2 is no longer manufactured, though the XM500 can be seen as its successor.

Overview

Barrett Firearms Manufacturing was founded by Ronnie Barrett for the sole purpose of building semi-automatic rifles chambered for the powerful 12.7×99mm NATO (.50 BMG) ammunition, originally developed for and used in M2 Browning machine guns. Barrett began his work in the early 1980s and the first working rifles were available in 1982, hence the designation M82. Barrett designed every single part of the weapon personally and then went on to market the weapon and mass-produce it out of his own pocket. He continued to develop his rifle through the 1980s, and developed the improved M82A1 rifle by 1986.

The first conventional military success was the sale of about 100 M82A1 rifles to the Swedish Army in 1989. Major success followed in 1990, when the United States armed forces purchased significant numbers of the M82A1 during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq. About 125 rifles were initially bought by the United States Marine Corps, and orders from the Army and Air Force soon followed. The M82A1 is known by the US military as the SASR – “Special Applications Scoped Rifle”, and it was and still is used as an anti-materiel rifle and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) tool. The long effective range, over 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) (1.1 miles), along with high energy and availability of highly effective ammunition such as API and Raufoss Mk 211, allows for effective operations against targets like radar cabins, trucks, parked aircraft and the like. The M82 can also be used to defeat human targets from standoff range or against targets behind cover. However, anti-personnel use is not a major application for the M82. There is a widespread misconception that a number of treaties have banned use of the .50 BMG against human targets.

Technical Description

The M82 is a short recoil semi-automatic firearm. When the gun is fired, the barrel initially recoils for a short distance (about 1 in or 25 mm), while being securely locked by the rotating bolt. After the short travel, a post on the bolt engaged in the curved cam track in the receiver turns the bolt to unlock it from the barrel. As soon as the bolt unlocks, the accelerator arm strikes it back, transferring part of the recoil energy of the barrel to the bolt to achieve reliable cycling. Then the barrel is stopped and the bolt continues back, to extract and eject a spent case. On its return stroke, the bolt strips the fresh cartridge from the box magazine and feeds it into the chamber and finally locks itself to the barrel. The striker is also cocked on the return stroke of the bolt. The gun is fed from a large detachable box magazine holding up to 10 rounds, although a rare 12-round magazine was developed for use during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

The receiver is made from two parts (upper and lower), stamped from sheet steel and connected by cross-pins. The heavy barrel is fluted to improve heat dissipation and save weight, and fitted with a large and effective reactive muzzle brake. On the earlier models the muzzle brakes had a round cross-section; later M82 rifles are equipped with two-chamber brakes of rectangular cross-section.

M82A1 rifles are fitted with scope mount and folding backup iron sights, should the glass scope break. The U.S. military M82 rifles are often equipped with Leupold Mark 4 telescopic sights. The M82A1M (USMC M82A3) rifles have long Picatinny accessory rails mounted and US Optics telescopic sights. Every M82 rifle is equipped with a folding carrying handle and a folding bipod (both are detachable on the M82A3). The M82A3 is also fitted with a detachable rear monopod under the butt. The buttpad is fitted with a soft recoil pad to further decrease the felt recoil. M82A1 and M82A3 rifles could be mounted on the M3 or M122 infantry tripods (originally intended for machine guns) or on vehicles using the special Barrett soft-mount. The M82A1 can be fitted with a carry sling but according to those who carried it in the field, the M82 is too uncomfortable to be carried on a sling due to its excessive length and weight. It is usually carried in a special carry soft or hard case.

The M82A2 differed from M82A1 mostly in its configuration – the pistol grip along with trigger was placed ahead of the magazine, and the buttpad placed below the receiver, just after the magazine. An additional forward grip was added below the receiver, and the scope mount moved forward.

The maximum effective range of the M107 is 1,830 metres (2,000 yd). The maximum range of this weapon (specifically the M107 variant) is 4,000 metres (4,400 yd), as quoted in the owner’s manual. Fifty caliber (and larger) rounds have the potential to travel great distances if fired in an artillery-like fashion, necessitating the observance of large safety margins when firing on a range.

The Sass

History and Schools of Metaphysics

Pre-Socratic Metaphysics in India

Samkhya

Samkhya is an ancient system of Indian philosophy based on a dualism involving the ultimate principles of consciousness and matter. It is described as the rationalist school of Indian philosophy. It is most related to the Yoga school of Hinduism, and its method was most influential on the development of Early Buddhism.

Samkhya is an enumerationist philosophy whose epistemology accepts three of six pramanas (proofs) as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge. These include pratyaksa (perception), anuma?a (inference) and sabda (aptavacana, word/testimony of reliable sources).

Samkhya is strongly dualist. Samkhya philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two realities; purusa (consciousness) and prakrti (matter). Jiva (a living being) is that state in which purusa is bonded to prakrti in some form. This fusion, state the Samkhya scholars, led to the emergence of buddhi (“spiritual awareness”) and ahankara (ego consciousness). The universe is described by this school as one created by purusa-prakrti entities infused with various permutations and combinations of variously enumerated elements, senses, feelings, activity and mind. During the state of imbalance, one of more constituents overwhelm the others, creating a form of bondage, particularly of the mind. The end of this imbalance, bondage is called liberation, or moksha, by the Samkhya school.

The existence of God or supreme being is not directly asserted, nor considered relevant by the Samkhya philosophers. Samkhya denies the final cause of Ishvara (God). While the Samkhya school considers the Vedas as a reliable source of knowledge, it is an atheistic philosophy according to Paul Deussen and other scholars. A key difference between Samkhya and Yoga schools, state scholars, is that Yoga school accepts a “personal, yet essentially inactive, deity” or “personal god”.

Samkhya is known for its theory of gunas (qualities, innate tendencies). Guna, it states, are of three types: sattva being good, compassionate, illuminating, positive, and constructive; rajas is one of activity, chaotic, passion, impulsive, potentially good or bad; and tamas being the quality of darkness, ignorance, destructive, lethargic, negative. Everything, all life forms and human beings, state Samkhya scholars, have these three gunas, but in different proportions. The interplay of these gunas defines the character of someone or something, of nature and determines the progress of life. The Samkhya theory of gunas was widely discussed, developed and refined by various schools of Indian philosophies, including Buddhism. Samkhya’s philosophical treatises also influenced the development of various theories of Hindu ethics.

Luc Paquin

Chapter 15

The going was slow for the first few hours. Soon the surface became more icy and Ludger was able to pick up his pace. By mid-afternoon, after having stopped to refuel, a sprinkle of snow started falling. In the distance, Ludger could see the saw-tooth peaks of the Howling Mountains. Later he decided to make camp in the shadow of an icy ridge. It would protest him from the wind that was gathering strength.

He erected the small one man, Gore-Tex® bivy tent, in the hollow between the ridge and the snowmobile. He stuffed it with his thick, down-filled sleeping bag. He brushed all the snow off his clothes and slid fully dressed in the bag. He dragged behind him some supplies for the night. He laid out his sword and his MAC 10 beside him. He unfolded the small sheet metal stove, letting its chimney exhaust in a vent of the tent, near him. He lit a can of gelled fuel and inserted it into the stove. Soon it was warm enough around his upper body, that he was able to remove his thick mittens and his face mask.

He pulled a canteen filled with water, from under his thick clothing. He filled a small pot with it, them placed it atop the stove. He opened the outer pouch of an MRE. After the water warmed up he placed the sealed, entrée pouch in the hot water. He made himself comfortable while his meal warmed up. When the water reached the boiling point he tore open the plastic pouch and poured his meal on a metal plate. With the hot water he brewed a cup of strong coffee with the packet supplied with the meal.

He rapidly finished the unappetizing meal, while thinking about what laid ahead of him. The temperature outside had dropped to minus 70F. Tomorrow he would reach the level of the western mountains. He would have to negotiate hazardous terrain. He settled himself for the night, as he finished his coffee.

He woke up in the middle of the night. The temperature in the tent was freezing. The little stove had gone out from lack of fuel. With numb fingers he replaced the depleted can with a fresh, lit one. Outside the wind was howling fiercely. He sneaked a peak, out. A blizzard was raging.

By morning his tent and snowmobile were buried under two feet of fresh windblown snow. Ludger could not believe that it could be so cold and still snow. It took a couple of hours of back breaking work before Ludger could get under way again. By midday his pace had slowed to a crawl. He often had to stop his machine and go probe the snow ahead of him for hidden fissures, with his sword. He took the precaution of attaching the end of a long rope to the snowmobile, the other end being looped around his waist. It once prevented a harsh fall, when a narrow snow bridge broke down in front of him.

Later that afternoon, as he was negotiating another bridge, the tightly packed snow collapsed, behind him, under the weight of the sleigh. His snowmobile stood precariously perched at the edge of a deep fissure. He was being pulled backward by the weight of the laden sleigh. Only a quick spurt of power, making the studded track bite the packed snow fiercely, saved him from certain death. After he had reached more stable grounds, he drove at high speed for a few hours, putting as much distance between him and the mountains.

By mid-morning the next day, after another high speed, breathtaking drive, the scenery started to change radically. On his right, stood the ragged peaks of the Howling Mountains. On his left, were the more rounded mountains where the river was dammed. Between them was a narrow canyon, the Valley of Perils. He stopped for lunch at its entrance. The area was more protected from the elements and the weather was slightly better, although still arctic in character.

That night, after a careful trek up the valley, he camped close to the base of the vertical wall he would have to climb in the morning.
Dawn revealed what he had not been able to ascertain last night, in the twilight. The climb would be technically straightforward, but the frigid weather, the heavy explosives and the fact that he was alone would slow him drastically.

Ludger walked to the cliff’s face and was surprised to find the rocky surface well above freezing temperature. He wondered how this was possible. He concentrated on the warm feeling. Soon the aura of white magic showed up inside the rock. It was much brighter in the direction of the lake formed by the dammed river, higher up on the cliff.

He deducted, that the trapped magic in the water was heating the solid rock. This would make his climb much easier. He put the explosives and the detonators in a sturdy pack with some supplies and equipment. He strapped his sword, the MAC 10 and the handrifle, to it. He brought the pack and another one full of climbing gear to the base of the cliff.

He removed his thick arctic clothing and packed it in the sleigh. He pulled a thick, white tarpaulin over the sleigh and the snowmobile. He spent half an hour covering it with snow. After everything was well camouflaged he walked back to the clear area where he had left the bags. He slowly stretched until he was warmed up and limber. He stepped in a full harness, then donned a pair of friction boots. He clipped a karabiner attached to a long rope to his packs. He distributed his climbing gear all over his body. After chalking up his hand he started up the vertical wall. He would use the “Z” system of self-belay. About forty feet up he anchored his rope solidly. He hauled up the heavy bags and secured them to a piton he had hammered in a narrow crack. He rappelled down a separate rope and retrieved his runners on the way back up the hill.

For the rest of the day he would climb a short span, putting runners at short intervals. He would then secure the bags’ rope and himself. He would rappel down a third rope to the bags. After unhooking them from their previous belay, he would climb back up the rope retrieving the runners on the way. Once back up to his higher belay point he would pull up the bags to himself. This time consuming process, would be repeated endlessly.

By nightfall he had reached a fissure protected by a short overhang. He had progressed about two thirds of the way up. He decided to bivouac in the fissure. After hammering many pitons in its walls, he hung up his equipment. From his bags he pulled out a nylon hammock. He installed it between the walls of the fissure. He hung his small stove beside it. After securing himself on a second rope, he slid into the hammock. He was well protected from the outside elements in the fissure and the heat from the rock would keep him warm. All in all his makeshift camp, hanging a thousand feet over the ground, would do.

The long climb had drained all of his energy. He felt very weary. He ate two MREs for dinner, to try to recharge his energy. With his stomach full, hanging gently in the soft breeze, he slowly drifted to sleep. He had a restless night. At first his stomach was protesting at its diet of bland packaged food. Then the overwhelming presence of magic in the surrounding rocks filled his sleep with disturbing dreams.

Images of cave ghouls attacking him filled his mind. He relentlessly parried their thrust, but they kept coming back. Later he was running in slow motion, as it is common in dreams, pursued by a tall black clad man carrying an absurdly long sword. An enormous black bat was perched on the man’s shoulder. Everytime Ludger was able to outdistance the man, he would appear in front of him. Making Ludger’s efforts futile.

*

The next morning, when Ludger started on his climb, it was as if he had never stopped climbing the night before. His body was stiff and tired. It took him at least an hour to limber up. It was past noon when he reached the summit. After he stretched his body on the firm ground, he hid the bulk of his climbing equipment under some rocks. He would survey the area prior to the attack. He retrieved his weapons from the pack of explosives, then slipped the pack on his back. After a short trek on a narrow path, he reached a good vantage point where he could study the surrounding area, without himself be seen. A pair of dark elves were walking away from him in a narrow pass. They had not noticed him. They disappeared in the direction of the dam.

A majestic vista stretched in front of him. Across the canyon, to the southwest, stood the bleak, rugged features of the Howling Mountains. To the southeast were the blackened plains of the Desert of Death. To the north, filling a hidden valley with its waters, was the Magic Lake. Its surface, glowing of white magic, was almost too painful for Ludger eyes to look at. An impressive structure of cut stones and heavy timber, blocked the near end of the valley. Its long, thick, curved wall contained the waters of the lake. The surface of the lake hovered dangerously close to the top edge of the wall. By concentrating on this area, Ludger could see the dark weaving of a black magic spell, preventing the white magic to overflow the dam. Ludger wondered how such a massive spell could be maintained at all time.

He studied the dam with a pair of small, powerful binoculars. At its top edge, centrally located on its span, stood a large intricately carved, rectangular structure. Ludger could barely see a faint seam in the dam’s surface, running up to it. This was the lock holding together both halves of the dam’s gigantic gate. On both side of the valley, in small wooden barracks by the top of the dam, stood guard a lone dark elf soldier.

To the east, on the horizon, Ludger could see Arexis’ troops slowly approaching. The attack was not scheduled until the morning after tomorrow’s. Ludger could not take a chance of planting the explosives until the next evening, for fear of discovery. He would have to remain hidden until then. In the late afternoon’s suns, Magdar’s troops started to arrive from the general direction of the Gates of Doom. The ragged looking, undisciplined troops set camp at the base of the dam. They probably would move out, tomorrow, to meat Arexis’ forces. Ludger had an idea. If he could plant his mines tonight, the explosion and subsequent flow of water would eliminate a good portion of the enemies, before they would have time to move out. If Arexis’ soldiers advanced all night, they would be able to start the attack a day early.

Ludger pulled out a small radio transmitter from his pack. After countless tries he managed to raise Chargoff. The General was enthusiastic about the changes of plans. He looked forward to an earlier start, against reduced forces. Ludger would blow up the lock, tomorrow morning at 05:00, trying to catch the enemy still in its camp. The attack would follow as soon as the troops could arrive to the Gates of Doom.

Ludger laid out the contents of his pack in front of him. He took the two bags of explosives and separated the sticks into seven charges. He unwrapped them and kneaded the sticks into an uniform mass. He chose seven electrical detonators. He buried each one of them, in one of the charges. Using the spool of wire he lengthened the leads to usable length. After checking for continuity with a small tester, he coiled the wires neatly and returned the seven charges of explosives to the bag. He made sure that his timer was operational and that the small lead-acid battery was fully charged. He set the tripping time for 05:00.

At 18:00 the guard was changed on both sides of the dam. The replacements had come from the pass where Ludger had spied the dark elves this afternoon. By the barracks on the near side the two new arrival exchanged pleasantries with the guard for a few minutes. Ludger learned, using his powerful directional sound amplifier, that the next change of the guard would be at midnight. One of the guards walked slowly across the dam to the far side. He changed places with the guard in the second barracks. This one returned to this side and left with the other guard.

Ludger tried to catch some sleep, for a few hours. At the appointed time the guard was changed. Ludger stayed still for another hour. The night was helpfully cloudy. He gathered his equipment and walked silently to a convenient pile of rubble, near the barracks. The guard was standing up, his back to Ludger. He was gazing at the camp bellow. When the moon made a brief appearance through the clouds, Ludger noticed through his binoculars that the guard’s counterpart on the far side was sound asleep in his barracks.

Ludger pulled out a short, double edged, combat knife from his boot. Leaving his pack behind, he stealthily sneaked behind the guard. He covered the elf’s mouth with his open hand and pulled him unto his upturned blade. The sharp metal found its way between two ribs, piercing the heart, while the guard collapsed in Ludger’s arms. He quickly propped the elf up on a chair, making it look like he was sound asleep. Ludger checked and his actions had been unnoticed by the guard on the other side.

He retrieved his pack and made his way to the middle of the dam. The wide stone walkway made him highly visible to anybody who cared watching. Luckily his audience was otherwise indisposed, one was sound asleep and the other one would never wake up again. He hid himself in the shadow of the lock. The large stone structure was inlaid in the top of the dam. An intricate network of spells covered its perimeter. By concentrating Ludger could see spaces, between the lines of power, where he could place his mines. Since the moon was cooperating, by remaining hidden, he decided to proceed as fast as possible.

Ludger pulled a pair of night-vision goggles from his pack and put them on. When he turned them on, the night lit up to an eerie green glow. He placed a small collapsible grappling hook, attached to a rope, at the junction between the wall and the lock. He tested its holding powers and, when satisfied, swung himself into the void. With his grey clothes and the cooperation of the moon, he would remain hidden from any observers. After securing himself on the dangling rope, Ludger started to place his explosive charges. He would first pinpoint a weakness in the black magic field in a strategic area, then carefully mould the pliable putty to the lock. The proximity of the powerful protective spells made his hair stand on end, due to the flow of stray energy. He was very careful not to test the spell’s effectiveness.

After over an hour of painstaking work the seven mines were in place. Ludger assembled all the electrical leads together and checked, for a second time, their continuity. He wired them, in parallel, to the small timer. After checking the tripping time, he taped the battery to the timer. He placed the timer on an unprotected area of the lock and secured it in place. He double checked every connection. When he was satisfied of his work, he threw the arming switch on the timer. He swung himself off the lock. When he stopped swaying on the rope, he pulled himself, hand over hand, back up to the walkway. He swung himself over the low wall and rolled into the shadow of the lock. The guard had not stirred. After retrieving his rope he quietly returned to his hiding place overlooking the dam. He would stand guard and make sure that his work would not be discovered.

Ludger installed himself comfortably. He had about two hours to wait before the explosion. He opened the action of his small handrifle and inserted a cartridge in it. He laid down the specialized single shot handgun on his rolled up nylon bag. Time passed slowly. No amount of looking at his wristwatch would make it flow faster. Around 04:30 the camp, at the base of the dam, started to stir with activity. Ludger was afraid that he might be too late. Suddenly he heard a sharp whistle coming from the barracks on the other side of the dam. The guard, there, was trying to attract the attention of his counterpart. When no response came back the dark elf paced nervously in front of his barracks. Ludger closed the action of his gun, chambering the round. He adjusted the focus of his telescopic sight. If need be, he was confident of making the difficult shot, that was at the extreme limit of the effective range of the handrifle’s calibre.

As the clock grew nearer to the hour, the guard decided to investigate the lack of response of his partner. He stepped on the walkway and made his way to the middle of the dam. Ludger was following him through his scope. The guard noticed something abnormal with the lock. He leaned over it. As he was about to touch one of the protruding wires, Ludger lined up his scope’s cross hairs with the head of the elf and slowly squeezed the trigger. The report was deafening in the still morning air. A red mist exploded from the dark elf’s temple as he collapsed silently forward. The guard gracefully fell down the dizzying height of the dam, bouncing off its rough surface two or three times.

At the same moment that some soldiers, from the camp, arrived at the side of the broken body to investigate, a large ball of orange flames erupted from the lock of the dam. A gargantuan roar accompanied by a heat wave followed, as the ground shook. In his hiding place Ludger was showered by debris and dust. At first he was disappointed to see that the dam was holding, despite a large breach at its top. Then, the irresistible pressure of the water responding to the law of gravity, bulged the wall at its centre. Slowly, at first, water started to trickle out of the breach. As it gathered momentum the masonry exploded outward, liberating a cataract of water and debris.

Thousands upon thousands of enemy soldiers were mercilessly swept to their death by the raging flow of water. A wall of the, magic carrying, liquid was rushing through the old bed of the river.

Ludger was very proud of his work. He watched the destruction wrought by his mines like a proud father watches his child prodigy perform for a large audience. Through his binoculars Ludger noticed that in a few hours his friends would arrive at the Gates of Doom. He wanted to be there to join them. He quickly returned to the edge of the cliff, where he had left his climbing equipment. He tied on to a long doubled rope, that was passed through a piton. He rappelled down the rope to a secure belay and retrieved the rope. It took Ludger three hours to reach the bottom of the hill.

He walked to the hidden snowmobile and pulled the cover off it. He stowed it and his climbing equipment in the sleigh. After refuelling he was quickly on his way out of the valley. Parts of the plains were flooded. Ludger was forced to follow the first slopes of the Howling Mountains. After a few hours he noticed the first signs of combat. Dwarves were fighting trolls and goblins in a narrow pass. Ludger’s path was blocked by the skirmish. He pulled out his long sword and, while driving with one hand, rushed the enemy. He inflicted massive wounds as he went through the pass. He continued on his way amidst the cheers of the dwarves.

Ludger crested one last hill and discovered the site of the main battle. There was no snow in the valley in front of him. He parked the snowmobile in a hollow and gathered his weapons. He quickly covered the vehicle with the tarpaulin. He would continue on foot. In a large flat expanse of ground leading to the mountain’s side, a fierce battle was raging. The King’s forces were battling a mob of assailant in front of a gigantic metal gate set in the face of the mountain. Ludger recognized the silhouette of Arexis leading the troops. He drew his sword and marched in the direction of the King, joining the fight only if he had to.

Passing through a group of boulders he was confronted by a mob of trolls. He pointed his submachine gun in their direction and emptied the magazine. The suppressive fire laid carnage in the close quarters of the boulders. Letting the gun drop to the ground, Ludger grabbed his sword and finished the trolls that had not been hit by the devastating spray of lead. He retrieved his MAC 10 from the ground and reloaded it. He exited the area of the boulders carefully. He was surprised to see Balnor, Dregnar and Bacchus fighting at Arexis’ side. They were supposed to be in Elvanor.

When Ludger reached the King, this one had a grim look on his face. He yelled at Ludger over the din of the battle.

“You have done well in restoring the river, but it might be for naught. Magdar has kidnapped Nathalia. She had convinced Balnor, against his best judgment, to follow the elves into battle. Your vehicle, who was driven by Lynor, was ambushed and Nathalia was captured.” He pointed to the large gates. “She is now behind the Gates of Doom.”

Ludger was flabbergasted. He could not envision life in this world, without her. He was determined to save her, but his resolve floundered when he noticed the large portal slowly closing. He rushed to Andrack’s side. The wizard was devastating the enemy with powerful spells. Ludger pointed to the gates and said.

“Can you do anything? Nathalia is in there.”

“I will do my best.”

The large wizard pointed his arms to the sky and chanted an incantation. His newly restored power flowed through his hands. A large shimmering ball of white energy formed over his head. His hair and beard stood like a halo around his face. As the gates were nearly closed, Andrack clapped his hands. The ball of energy leapt to the target. The white bolts of energy enveloped the massive doors, encircling them in a lacework of white lightnings. The doors stopped closing, hesitantly, as if caught by an inner struggle.

Suddenly Andrack’s spell was broken by an internal flow of energy. A deafening roar was followed by a shower of sparks. The Gates of Doom slammed shut with a resounding thud. Its purple protective spell was glowing angrily.

Andrack, his arms limply hanging at his sides, said in a muted voice.

“Now his fortress is impregnable. I put all the energy available to me in this spell and he broke it. I do not know how he can concentrate so much energy. It is as if I was fighting hundreds of wizards using their powers, together.”

Not accepting the defeat, Ludger looked around for Dregnar. He found the troll at Balnor’s side. Ludger ran toward him. Without a glance at the scribe he said to the troll.

“You were once prisoner behind the Gates, is there another way in?”

“Well…, there is the abandoned mine shaft by which I escaped. It is hidden nearby in one of the passes.”

“Show it to me right now. I’m going in after Nathalia.”

“Master, I will accompany you with Bacchus. Without our guidance you will get lost in the many corridors.”

Ludger found Arexis. He told him about his plan. Without waiting for a reply, he left for the pass followed by the troll and his dog.

They skirted the fighting in front of the gates. Dregnar led them to the entrance of the narrow snowy pass. All was still and no traces were found on the fresh snow. They decided to go on. It was very quiet in the pass. The tall walls blocked the sounds of the combat. Shortly after they had entered, Dregnar stopped by a large boulder. He started to rock the large stone gently. As it gained momentum, it rolled aside revealing a dark hole in the ground.

Ludger turned on a small electric torch. He lit the inside of the passage. It sloped gently deeper in the mountain. Dregnar pushed him aside. He went in, followed by Bacchus. Ludger, having no choice, started after them. The troll led him through a complicated series of natural passages.

They finally reached a manmade tunnel. Footsteps and voices echoed from one end. Dregnar put a long digit to his lips and pulled Ludger by his sleeve to the other end. They discreetly travelled, making sure that they were not discovered. They hid in a small alcove. Dregnar said in a whisper.

“We are about to reach the prison area. I doubt that there will be any guards. There was none before. On the other side are Magdar’s quarters.”

They tiptoed through a large open area. When they heard steps coming from a narrow corridor, they rapidly scrambled behind an unlocked door. An eerie glow lit the room. Oblong, green, glowing shapes were lined up beside each other, as far as the eyes could see. Purple, neon like, tubes exited the nebulous forms and collected in a tall cylindrical, purple cloud.

When the footsteps disappeared down the corridor, Ludger turned on his penlight. An incredible sight was revealed. Glass cocoons were lined up on the floor of a cavernous room.They were linked by thin glass tubes to a tall glowing cylinder. The floor under the cocoons was made of black obsidian. Each cocoon was host to a human body. In the middle of the green glow, dressed in long silk robes, laid the emaciated shape of one of the lost wizards. Ludger guessed that he had found the secret of Magdar’s powers. This was how he was able to maintain his spell on the Magic Dam over a long period of time, and was able to defeat Andrack’s spell on the door. His black magic was amplified, using the wizards as conduits, and stored in the large vertical tube. It worked similarly to the way that Andrack had used him on the river.

Ludger pulled his sword. Its handle was throbbing heavily in his strong grip. Ludger scored the glass of the first cocoon with his sword tip. He rapped at the score with the sword’s handle. The glass enclosure neatly split in half. The hollow cheeked wizard slowly stirred. Ludger said.

“Do you know how to open the gates?”

The man replied in a thin, dry voice.

“Yes, there is a control in a rotunda by the doors.” He looked around, dazed. “Will you liberate my friends? There are more of us in the next room. Magdar rotates us on a weekly basis, so not to drain us entirely.”

Ludger instructed Dregnar to see to the other wizards, while he cut the remaining cocoons open. When the last of the sorcerers was released, Dregnar escorted them to the gates. Ludger scored the large container of black magic. It burst open from inner pressure. Ludger was bathed in a purple glow. His chainmail grew rigid and he was helpless to move. The red aura of his mail glowed angrily while the black magic flowed aimlessly back into the obsidian floor. When the last remnants of black magic disappeared in the floor, Ludger slowly regained his freedom. His chainmail had protected him from the sudden onslaught of power. He quietly exited the room, sword in hand. He walked toward Magdar’s quarters.

As he passed in front of an elegantly carved wooden door, Ludger heard the sounds of a violent argument. He could swear that one of the voices was Nathalia’s. Sounds of a struggle followed. When he heard the crash of glass on the door, he kicked it with the sole of his boot. The lock broke and the door crashed open into the wall.

Nathalia was wrestling with a tall, black haired man. He was doing his best to prevent his eyes from being gouged out. He slapped the young woman with his forearm. She flew against the wall. The tall man turned toward Ludger. He pulled a long black sword from the scabbard hanging at his side. Without a pause he attacked. When their swords touched, they were showered by sparks. A gruelling battle followed under the incredulous stare of Nathalia. Both men thrust and parried until they slowed down, exhausted. They were of even strength and their swords were a match for each others. Ludger had a few close calls but his chainmail saved his day. He was gaining the upper hand when he tripped over a broken vase. He rolled quickly to his back, just in time to deflect Magdar’s deadly sword.

Magdar, hitting Ludger’s hands with the flat of his blade, disarmed him neatly. The wizard put a foot on Ludger’s chest. Holding his blade underhand, he said.
“You do not belong here and I will make sure that you will not meddle with my affairs.”

As the man was about to thrust his sword into Ludger’s forehead, Bacchus -who had just come in the room- jumped at his arm. Ludger managed to deflect the blade. While Bacchus was being brushed away by the man, Ludger pulled his Glock from the small of his back. He emptied the entire thirteen rounds into Magdar’s body. The dark wizard collapsed into a bloody heap. Just then Arexis walked in the room, sword in hand.

Bacchus came to him and licked his face. Ludger could see Nathalia struggling back to her feet looking at him with love and concern in her eyes. Bacchus communicated silently to him.

“I told you we would have fun in this world. There is nothing like a good war to stir up the blood.” She looked toward Nathalia and continued. “And remember the fringe benefits I had told you about…. Now its time for me to find a fire, I need a rest.”

Ludger let his head fall back onto the cold, stone floor. He closed his eyes and sighed.

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From 1990: One Way Ticket To Talenthar

The Sass

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