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About Dragonfly

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  1. Dragonfly

    Storied Soundtracks

    Were prizes still coming out for this? Or did I some how miss the participation prize? I ask because at the announcement of the winner it was stated that prizes would come out in the next few weeks but I haven't seen anything yet. I just want to make sure I didn't miss it. Thanks in advance!
  2. Dragonfly

    Storied Soundtracks

    Yes, Congratulations Hungryp!!! And thanks Wyrd for the opportunity!
  3. Dragonfly

    Ten Thunders Archer

    If I was going to do any modification to TT Archers it would be to make their bonus to shooting into engagement apply also to shooting at a Target in cover. As long as the target is able to me shot normally (as in not in full cover and obscured) then the the Archer can ignore cover to shoot them. I think that would make them a little more useful but I like playing in heavy terrain boards :-D
  4. I love Misaki! But she is my first master so there's a soft spot there. She has a very direct play style and it's easy to over extend yourself with her but she is also a lot of fun to play. Don't run her too far from support unless you are absolutely certain you can achieve that kill or Crucial VP. Shang can be super useful at keeping her alive but there are other things that can do that as well. I think a key thing when you're getting used to Misaki is knowing that, like a new car, you want to race her forward and get those kills. Accept that you're going to do that. Accept that she is going to die. Just design your list so you can still be successful after she does hahaha. I am also quite happy with how her whole box works together and have run the box straight multiple times. Now all that being said, I have not had a chance to play any GG2017 yet so I am not sure how she has changed this year...
  5. Dragonfly

    Storied Soundtracks

    IN A ROSE TATTOO The wind ripped at his face and clothes as Hugo worked his way across the desolate land. He could tell a storm was coming as the wind was picking up. The sun was setting on the horizon behind him, leaving an echo of light to bounce across the boulder field ahead. In the distance, he could see ancient ruins of some great civilization. To his left was the great craggy mountain he had been circumnavigating for a day. Directly ahead were just more rocks; more rocks and dust and hopefully the woods to which he was travelling. Hugo was heading home. Heading to Her. Nothing felt better in the world, especially with success in his hands. Hugo had succeeded but only just. The Mademoiselle would be pleased with his success and hopefully not too angry about the damage to his body. That cursed Witchling Stalker had gotten lucky with one shot. The Stalker did not get a chance for a second. Hugo had slipped through Malifaux’s south garrison fort and into a back-storage room unnoticed. He had found the statue’s crate and pulled the statue out. Thinking the worst had passed, Hugo had stepped a little too casually out of the storage room door right into the cloaked figure of a Witchling Stalker. The Stalker’s chains rattled with the impact and the thief had nearly dropped the statue. Hugo was shocked by how eerie the Stalker’s glowing eyes were and how dissonant the magical fields coursed around the diminutive figure. The Stalker had reacted first and fired off his Peacekeeper, inaccurately, split seconds before Hugo quick drew his sword through the Stalker’s neck. After that, he had been much more focused in his escape. At first, Hugo hadn’t noticed the wound. Now, hours later, his ribs screamed with pain where the shot had ripped through his side. It wasn’t his first time being shot but it was the first time he had taken a Witchling bullet. The bullet had popped as it touched his skin, almost like a small explosion. The result was a weird burning effect and a craterous hole in his flesh. The damage extended much further than a bullet wound should be but at least it had seared shut. Actively bleeding while out in the wilderness was foolhardy, at best. Thank Fate the shot was only a graze. If it had pierced his body the pop would have been inside his torso. Hugo shuddered at the thought. He would heal, though it would be a painful process. He would heal much quicker if the Mademoiselle graced him with her touch but the Mademoiselle would only do that if she was truly pleased. It did not matter to him; he was entranced with the Mademoiselle. For Her he would endure the pain. For Her he would suffer this and much, much worse without complaint. The Mademoiselle’s beauty was worth all the pain in this world or the last. She was more glorious than any sunrise, more wondrous than a thousand waterfalls, more breathtaking than a million roses. The rose glistened on his arm, almost weeping like the day he got it. It often did when he drew closer to Her. Inked into his skin forever, this tattoo would stay with Hugo till his dying day, just like his devotion to the Mademoiselle. The colors of the tattoo were more vibrant than anything he had seen before, the lines sharp and crisp. The rose was so brilliant it seemed real, as if he could actually smell it. The lines seemed to move as he looked at it, first like the petals were blown in the wind, then definitely as the design itself began to shift. He blinked once and the rose’s true shape reformed before his eyes, filling him with a deep joy and peace. The Mademoiselle’s rose was more precious than any soulstone, more powerful than the magic that the Breach had sparked, and more poignant than anything he had ever known. There was simply no more beautiful thing in the whole world, except of course for the Mademoiselle herself. Hugo realized he had stopped moving and was simply standing and staring at Her rose etched into his arm. He didn’t know how long he had remained there gazing at it. This happened to him often, losing time gazing at Her rose before being abruptly snapped back to the present. He had to move. He was losing the light and was not yet into the lee side of the mountain. Not yet in the woods that would give him the cover he would need. But the rose was just so… “Marvelous Mr. Carlos,” the Ancient One said, shaking Juan into to the present moment, “Time to move on to another path.” Like a distant reverie, the vision faded from his sight. Juan had just watched someone else’s life through someone else’s eyes. He had breathed Hugo’s life, smelt it, felt it and it seemed so tangible. Through this sight, it felt as if Juan was alive again. “That was closer Mr. Carlos.” The Ancient One spoke again, his voice was warm and comforting, “but I need to see more; a face, a name.” Juan’s eyesight was returning to him but the process was arduous. Before him stood a tall, stooped man of exotic heritage. He had a long, draping Fu Manchu and stringy hair tied into a unique top knot. Both the Fu Manchu and topknot seemed white with age but it was hard for Juan to tell because of how his eyes were acting up. The Ancient One wore comfortable looking robes and clung to a staff as though it was the only thing that kept him upright. There was definitely a venerable feel to the man. He had many wrinkles and moved with a slow certainty. The deep mellifluous sound of the Ancient One’s voice and the knowing look behind his eyes gave the impression of wisdom beyond life times. “You need to look deeper into the connection. Do you have another path we can walk?” Juan thought of him only as the Ancient One, though he never used the phrase aloud. He had had better manners instilled while growing up. “Sí Señor,” Juan responded to the Ancient One. “I have met many more of my brothers and sisters of the Senorita before… before…” Juan couldn’t quite say what had happened to him. Not out loud. Juan knew he wasn’t alive anymore but saying it seemed so crazy. The Ancient One stood statuesque before Juan, an unreadable look upon his face. Juan didn’t dare resist the Ancient One. The Ancient One had promised Juan one more chance to see the Señorita. Juan would grab onto that chance with both hands. Even if it meant revealing Her to the Ancient One, Juan would do it. Just for one glimpse at Her face, one touch of Her hand, it was worth whatever the Ancient One would put him through. Juan understood Hugo’s reckless abandon in his devotion to the Señorita, for he felt it too. The Señorita didn’t like meeting new people unless She chose to meet them but Juan was sure the Señorita would make an exception in this case. The Ancient One was nice, almost like the Señorita. Juan knew they would just be perfect together. Then maybe the Ancient One would let him stay longer and be with Her. “Focus again Mr. Carlos,” the Ancient One said to Juan. He must have known that Juan’s eyesight still hadn’t fully returned from viewing Hugo’s life. Everything Juan looked at had an odd rosy tint like he was looking through a bottle of brandy. Also, the edges of his vision distorted and blurred. Juan shook his head a few times but it didn’t seem to help. “Okay Señor,” he said. The Ancient One then outstretched his hand and with a flick of his wrist Juan’s world spun before his eyes before refocusing into a garden scene… Juan could feel cool soil pressing into his knees and see a woman’s hands working a plant in front of him. The air was crisp but pleasant, like an early morning in spring. The woman worked steadily, removing grubs from the tomato plant and dropping them into a bucket. Her hands were moving with the certainty of long practice. “Marcy?” another female’s voice asked in the distance. “Yes Annabelle?” Juan felt his lips answer and then his legs lift him to stand. He looked toward where the voice had come from. “Breakfast is only another hour away,” the first voice answered, the twang of her accent coming through clearer now. “Thanks,” Marcy answered. Juan could feel the gardener was hungry but knew she was used to working for a few hours before breakfast came. Marcy knelt, getting back to her work. The bucket of grubs to her left continued to fill up as she worked through the rows of tomato plants. She hated being here, working this menial task when she should be out serving the Lady. The Lady had put her here, on assignment to watch this farm, but it seemed so mundane compared to what she had done for the Lady before and what she could still do. She should be cutting down guild agents or spying on the Governor General; maybe even sabotaging the secret labs of the guild engineering division. At least Marcy was outside and working with plants. Marcy felt closer to the Lady when she was working with green, growing things. She didn’t remember liking gardening as a child, but she must have for how skilled she was. And after finishing with the tomatoes she got to work with the roses today! Roses had become Marcy’s favorite, ever since she had received her own rose from the Lady. They reminded her of the nice old woman that tried to sell flowers in her neighborhood back in Soho. They also reminded her of the Lady. With that thought the gardener’s eyes drifted down to her arm. The rose glistened on her forearm, the colors shining like a wet leaf. The Lady’s rose was precious to Marcy. There was no more beautiful flower, living or otherwise, than the Lady’s rose. In fact, the rose WAS alive, more alive than anything Marcy had known. She was enchanted by it because it was a part of the Lady. Marcy felt more alive like the flower was growing through her, like the Lady was growing through her. It was a great gift from the Lady and for it the gardener would work long and hard. Hunger didn’t matter, nor fatigue. She could work through anything for the Lady. The Lady had enraptured Marcy, and Juan understood the feeling. He had felt the same before and yearned for that link once more. She caressed her arm where the Lady’s flower was emblazoned; stroking its leaves as though it were a real plant. At the heart of the blossom the colors started to swirl and coalesce into unnatural lines. The lines became shapes and shapes became words. No, not words, but letters that formed a word. More than a word… a statement… a power… The letters “h”, “n”, & “g” stuck out and others started to form. However, before more of it could be read the lines had slipped away and only a rose remained. It didn’t matter to Marcy as she was lost in elation. That flower was so beautiful, so red, a most magnificent rose. “Thank you Mr. Carlos,” the Ancient One chimed in again. It was so startling whenever the Ancient One pulled Juan out, like having cold water thrown on his face while sleeping. “That was closer, but your connection is thinning. We are running out of time.” The Ancient One’s voice was nicer now, like a distant purr of a house cat. His voice was always warm and comforting. It was just unnerving to be abruptly pulled back to his current state when Juan was seeing through someone else's eyes. “Sí Señor. I’m sorry Señor. I will try harder.” Juan was so worried he would displease the Ancient One. Juan didn’t know why he cared so about the Ancient One desires. He just knew the Ancient One was pleasant and he needed Juan’s help. How could Juan say no? Juan’s vision was horribly distorted again. The rosy tincture still colored everything but now there was a fuzzy line angled across the center his view, not just on the edges. Juan blinked multiple times trying to get the blurriness to abate, to no avail. “Señor I cannot see so well. Will that pass?” Juan was concerned but tried to put confidence into his voice. “It will, eventually, Mr. Carlos.” The Ancient One was as calm and certain as ever. It was a little peculiar that as a spirit he was talking with someone. When he was alive Juan hadn’t talked to any ghosts. He certainly wasn’t an expert on what happened to a person after they passed but he figured that talking to the living wasn’t a normal option. If it was, then why hadn’t Papi talked to him the past five years? It just didn’t seem right. Really, how could Juan be talking to this Ancient One? “Señor, I know I died…” Juan hesitated, struggling with how to best phrase the question. “Yes Mr. Carlos?” “So how is it I am talking to you Señor? I mean… I don’t think the dead speak? Am I not supposed to be resting peacefully in Paradiso… or something?” “That is a complicated thing to answer and we have so little time left. Suffice it to say life, death and all states in between are split like paths in the woods. Each of those paths are usually separated from each other entirely. I am the woodsman that helps connect those paths, finding the way that was not there before. Unfortunately those paths are not permanent.” With a moment of reflection Juan asks, “Not permanent. So there is no hope for me to stay? This is no second chance?” “No, staying will not be an option. But there is a second chance to see the world and maybe affect it.” There was a pause as the Ancient One gave time for Juan to think. Juan had no interest in leaving his Señorita. He had faithfully served her till death, and now maybe even beyond death if this Ancient One wanted to know Her too. “What about his Path, master?” Juan heard a faint and distant voice say, stretched and echoing as if talking through a tunnel. The voice was female and unfamiliar. It had an accent that Juan couldn’t quite recognize, but English was not the speaker’s first language. Juan could not see where the voice had come from but honestly, he did not want to move. He was too disoriented still from his last vision and every time he tried to look around his eyesight got blurrier. “Only as a last chance,” the Ancient One responded, never turning his head to look toward the speaker. The Ancient One hardly ever moved. “It garners too much risk.” “Risk of what Señor? I thought I was dead but you’ve brought me back and given me a great power. What could be at risk?” The Ancient One looked a little perturbed. “It’s not as simple as that Mr. Carlos. Simply put, the risk is in your connection. Time is of the essence. Are you ready again Mr. Carlos?” “Sí Señor,” Juan responded, a little confused but not wanting to push it. Juan took a deep breath to clear his mind. The old man stretched his fingers out and with a wave Juan was hurled into mystery again. The smell was the first thing to hit him. Hot iron, blasting powder, cut stone, and sweat closely followed by the scent of gas like from a lantern. It was hot and the only light was a dim red glow reflecting all around him. The air felt thin and stifling to Juan but this new life he was experiencing was used to it. This person had been here half the night and still had several hours on his shift. Looking to his left Juan could see the exit down the end of the tunnel; a distant speck of light where gas lanterns at the entrance flickered. Juan felt himself stand up from a low squat and grab a pick axe. He turned to the right and started walking deeper into the tunnel toward a crew he saw working alongside a steel, mechanical golem. The rail golem was hulking in size, standing tall enough to nearly touch the top of the cavern. Through its chest and face the fiery red-orange glow of its steam engine could be seen. This light was the main illumination for the crew. The rail golem’s steam pipes protruded from its back, puffing light white clouds of vapor as it worked steadily with its shovel. The tunnel got hotter as he moved closer to the end and the gas smell was a little thicker near the golem. “Zhang Jing it’s your turn,” Juan felt himself say. Another worker, who had just struck into the cavern wall with his own pick, hoisted the tool onto his shoulder and turned toward Juan. “Xièxiè Li Wei,” the worker said as the two traded places. Juan, now Li Wei, took his position on the line right next to the steam-driven golem. It was pulling hewn rock chunks away from in front the cavern wall with one of the largest coal shovels Juan had ever seen. Li Wei put his pick axe down, resting the handle against his leg, then lifted up his hands to spit into them. The railman’s gaze caught on the bandage around his forearm. Though he couldn’t see it, Li Wei knew what laid beneath the gauzy wrap and it comforted him. The Mistress’ Rose was prized by Li Wei and though he kept it covered, only revealing it when he was alone or in the Mistress’ company, it still reminded him of his true purpose. Li Wei had no interest in being seen as a criminal, his culture held that only criminals wore tattoos, but he was deeply conflicted about hiding the rose. The rail worker was compelled to openly bear his devotion to the Mistress. He was completely bewitched by her loveliness. It was only once the Mistress’ concurred about keeping it covered that Li Wei gave in to wrapping it. At the time, she told him in a sultry way, to keep it as their little secret, which only made the railman fall for her even more. The rose was truly exquisite Li Wei admitted to himself. It always called for his attention even through the wrap that covered it. When Li Wei first received his rose he didn’t really care for the design but he did it out of his devotion to the Mistress. The rose had proven to be no less seductive than his Mistress as it had become his favorite design. It brings to mind the Mistress and there is no place he would rather be than by her side. With effort Li Wei tried to pull his gaze away from the bandage, though honestly it was a screech from the rail golem’s engines that forced him back to the job. Li Wei finally spat into his upraised hands and rubbed them together, then the pick axe was in his hands and he began to swing. The labor was rough on his body but it did serve to distract him from the painful awareness of how far away he was from the Mistress. Hours passed before the shift whistle finally called in the distance. Li Wei stopped his work immediately and started to move up the tunnel, eager to breath fresh air. In the distance Li Wei could see the flicker of the gas lamps at the tunnel’s entrance. Like a pair of stars twinkling in an endless night, they helped guide his path to freedom. Only a few steps up the tunnel Li Wei heard the screech of metal tearing through metal followed closely by the whistle of steam from an engine, screaming like a tea kettle left to boil. Li Wei snapped a look behind himself, horrified to see the rail golem convulse stiffly and start to fall. With a visceral flash of fear, Li Wei barely stuttered, “LOOK OUT” before being drowned out by an earthshaking explosion. The rail golem erupted into a conflagration of steel and steam, turning into an expanding fireball the width of the tunnel. Li Wei desperately dove for the ground before the explosion’s shockwave knocked him up the tunnel and into the side wall. Everything went black. “That’s quite enough with that one,” the Ancient One said in the back of Juan’s mind. Juan could sense irritation in the Ancient One’s voice and felt the dream of Li Wei start to pull away. Juan knew he wasn’t done yet and resisted the Ancient One, feeling the tug on his mind like the pull of a dog’s leash. “No Señor, Li Wei is not dead,” Juan responded. “The Señorita may come to him now.” “Very well then.” The Ancient One relinquished his draw on Juan and allowed him to stay in the moment. The darkness of the rail worker’s unconsciousness was thankfully short lived. Li Wei woke; his ears ringing with temporary deafness from a close explosion. Li Wei seemed to be moving slowly, the world shaking around him. Or was that just his eyes? The tunnel was brighter now, lit by dull flames coming mostly from where the rail golem erupted. Looking back, he could see streaks of flame sticking to the tunnel walls and little burning lumps on the ground. He assumed the lines of fire along the cavern walls were just splashes of fuel from the destroyed golem. However, Li Wei dreaded the thought that lumps on the ground were the burning bodies of his former crew. Li Wei tried to push himself to his knees, hoping to move but immediately collapsed to his shoulder. He had no strength in his arms to even crawl. The ringing in his ears was starting to subside, steadily being replaced with the crackle of fire, which made the flames seem even more intense. The railman shoved against the ground again and his whole body shook from the effort. He finally got to his knees and crawled two steps before collapsing again. With this collapse a sharp pain exploded through his body. Li Wei rolled to his back and looked down his body to find a length of twisted steel sticking out of his midsection. The wound was large and horrible looking. He didn’t know how he hadn’t noticed it sooner. The chunk of metal was probably a fragment of the rail golem. The cloth surrounding the wound was charred and hard to distinguish from his flesh. Trying to move must have shifted the steel chunk in his belly as the wound started oozing blood. His side was now throbbing and panic was building. He held his belly in disbelief but didn’t dare touch the steel as he was sure it would only hurt more. Li Wei moaned as the pain increased and hoped someone had heard the blast. Moments later a shrouded figure appeared next to him. The body was female and her heavy cloak flowed around her. The cloak’s hood was drawn up over her head, concealing her face. It did not however conceal her to Li Wei for he knew the Mistress when she was near. The railman stretched out a hand towards her. “Mistress!” he croaked with effort. The figure crouched down to him and looked him over. “Peace” she said to him, her youthful voice sweet as honey. Li Wei knew there was no lovelier sound in the world. The Mistress consoled him, “All things will be better soon.” Li Wei reached towards her again but she shifted from his touch. “Be still,” the Mistress directed. The Mistress’ voice was commanding, with a firmness that portrayed ultimate authority. She pulled back her hood and revealed her face, a face that Li Wei and Juan both knew and loved to their core. The Mistress’ face looked to be made of vines set side by side in tight rows that sculpted the exotic and beautiful visage of a young human female. Her chin had an angular sharpness to it like the point of an acorn. The Mistress’ lips were almost like a pair of purple beans in their pods; plump, full and healthy. Her skin was as green as jade and her cheeks had a slight rouge tincture like ripening apples. Her nose was unobtrusive which only helped to emphasize the wonder of her eyes. They were buds of a vibrant ruby red, the flickering fire light enhancing their magical seductiveness. The Mistress’ rose eyes had no discernable iris but one always knew where she was focusing. She looked into the rail worker’s eyes, piercing his soul. The Mistress smiled at Li Wei and a feeling of subdued peace spread through his chest. The Mistress looked down, her hands digging through a belt pouch. She pulled out a crystalline stone that reflected the tunnel’s flame light. The Mistress’ ruby gaze flicked up to look Li Wei in the eyes again. “BE STILL” she commanded and her voice echoed in Li Wei’s ears like thunder. Li Wei was rigid, unable to move. The Mistress glanced at Li Wei’s gauze wrapped arm and with one quick motion her hands flashed, removing the bandage and sticking the stone to Li Wei’s arm, right in the center of the rose tattoo. The Mistress was careful to not touch Li Wei’s skin but still he felt overwhelming joy at her closeness. The stone felt cool to the touch and Li Wei’s pains started to fade. Suddenly, with a flash of light from the crystal itself, the rail worker felt the pain in his side again, followed closely by a pain in his arm, then his legs, his fingers. “Mistress!” Li Wei looked to the Mistress in disbelief but her smile only spread wider, baring thorn-like teeth beneath her bean lips. It felt like the man was racked with every pain he had ever felt in his life, all at the same time. Li Wei’s back convulsed in spasm and his eyes ached. His mouth snapped open as he started to scream and… “Mr. Carlos!” the Ancient One shouted, Juan finally hearing. “You were screaming Mr. Carlos. Are you harmed?” Juan shook his head, as much to communicate with the Ancient One as to shake off the echoes of Li Wei’s screams. Juan really wished he could shake off the look he saw in the Señorita’s eyes. Juan had never seen a look like that on the Señorita’s face, or really anyone’s. He’d never seen a look of such… such… hunger. “Mr. Carlos?” “I should be fine Señor, thank you Señor.” Juan was dazed and could not deny it but he didn’t want to show weakness to the Ancient One. Juan felt tired and out of breath from the ordeal, which, when he thought about it was laughable. Juan had been dead for some time. He didn’t have a body and he didn’t need to breath. He was a spirit or an unbound soul or a ghost. He didn’t know what to label his current state of… existence, but there really was nothing about it that should let him feel tired. Even after a few moments Juan couldn't believe what he'd seen. The Señorita’s blatant disregard for the devoted rail worker was overloading. Not his Señorita. Couldn’t be. Juan could not account for who he had seen. His head pounded, or would have if he was corporeal. All the same, a headache-like throb was there. To make it worse his eyesight was getting even fuzzier with another line of blur on his right side. "Mr. Carlos, I need you to focus once more. One last time. The work is almost done and we don’t have much time." Time. Time is what Juan needed. Time away from the thoughts bombarding him now, away from this pain. At least through someone else’s life the sensations of this current moment faded. Juan ached at the idea of seeing more of the Señorita but the Ancient One needed his help. Juan had to do what he could. He couldn't think now. He just needed to make the most out of every moment he had. "Uh, Si Señor." With the words barely put of his mouth the Ancient One's hand flicked again in that all too familiar hand motion and Juan was whisked through the vortex of power that brought him to someone else's life. The trill of a distant guitar was the first thing to cut through the darkness. It was a simple fingering piece that repeated after only a few notes. It reminded Juan of something his Papi would play, usually just after supper as the family rested by the fire. The music was lovely to hear and brought happy memories to mind. The scene that opened before Juan was a farm with tall grass, an adobe style hacienda with a small livestock pen attached, and a rickety looking barn. It looked like a farm very similar to those where Juan grew up. This of course brought more feelings of nostalgia. Juan started to walk toward the hacienda, the tall grass of the field battering his hands as he went. Juan could just see the dark outline of a mountain range behind the farmstead as the last of the day’s light slipped below the horizon. As he strode closer, the dusty smell of horses gradually overcame the smells of the field. The guitar had grown slightly louder and was now accompanied by the low crackle of fire. Juan felt a smile crease his lips. If he didn’t know better this would be just like walking into the home of his childhood, right after dinner. Juan rounded the corner of the house, moving towards the firelight, and was struck by the inviting odor of fresh tortillas and grilled peppers. Around the fire, he saw a few adults leaning back in their chairs smoking or sipping drinks. There was a young boy and a slightly older girl laying on the floor playing a game with rocks and sticks. Juan’s eyes scanned across the fire and froze as he saw the man picking at his guitar. The guitarist was his Papi. Juan’s eyes flicked down to the little girl and realized she was his cousin Alejandra; he did not recognize the boy. His eyes flicked to the other adults and he recognized his uncle and two aunts. At that moment, a voice called from inside the hacienda, “When is your boy supposed to be back Carlos?” It was Juan’s mother. She always referred to Juan as ‘your boy’ or ‘your son’ whenever he did something she did not like. “Soon Verónica,” Juan’s father called back, never missing a cord. Juan had no doubt that instead of looking through someone else’s eyes, he was looking through his own, just many years past. “This is too far back,” the Ancient One rumbled in the back of Juan’s mind. Juan resisted the tug from the Ancient One; he hated to leave. This was such a peaceful time in Juan’s life. The music, the smells, the presence of family. There really was nothing else that could replace the feeling of coming home, especially since he had not seen his home in over five years. No, this was better than coming home. If he came home now nothing would be the same. Papi and his music had long since been gone, his cousin had grown older and his mother had remarried. Papi’s death was why Juan left for America and the Breach. Juan could not bear to stay home when after his father had passed. With that thought all the pain of his father’s death welled up once again in Juan. “Why did you bring me here? Why am looking at my own life?” Juan could feel the anxiety rising in his voice. “This was always part of the plan Mr. Carlos but I didn’t intend for it to go back this far. My deepest apologies for the recollections it stirred.” After a pause, he continued, “We must look further on.” The Ancient One’s voice was kind but insistent. Juan knew he could not stay. In fact, he did not want to; not anymore. The pain of it was too great. As if reading Juan’s thoughts, the Ancient One snapped the vision of home from him. The whir of colors and light that always happened when he entered a vision flashed once more. The smell of wet leaves quickly pulled Juan into another world. The air was chill with the crisp feeling of fall and a light breeze rustled dry leaves above his head. He looked up to see fading afternoon sunlight piercing the canopy above him. Juan knew exactly where he was – the far eastern stretch of the Señorita’s woods. Juan even knew when he was. He had only just received his invitation to meet the Señorita the day before… At that time, Juan had worked the stables at Rancho Ortega but had greater aspirations. Unfortunately, those aspirations had just been crushed as the previous afternoon he had failed again on qualifying as one of the Ortega’s pistoleros. Juan hated himself for it, half for the shame he felt of only being a stable boy and half for the fear that his lot in life would never change. The Ortegas treated the young stable boy well enough but he knew the true glory was in riding with them, fighting beside them, and proving his worth. Juan had found the invitation on his pillow in the workman’s house right after he was released from that day’s duties. The invitation was made of crudely formed paper, green in tint, that seemed to have bark and foliage still visible in its pressing. The ink was a vivid cranberry red. The letter invited Juan to come to a forbidden section of woods 10 miles from the bunkhouse. Juan knew it was forbidden because all the maps he’d seen that included the area marked it only as “do not enter”. The invitation promised Juan another chance to become a pistolero, greater than all other gunmen that had come before him. He could only assume that this was a special chance that one of the heads of the Ortega family was offering him; a challenge to prove himself beyond what the other pistolero hopefuls had received. Early the next morning, before the sun rose, he quietly dressed and slipped out of the workman’s house. He slipped over to the store room, grabbed a few biscuits and one of the practice pistols. Juan had gotten up so early that he able to make it a couple miles toward his destination before the first rays of dawn broke through the dark morning sky. Now, hours later, Juan crunched through the leaves as quietly as he could; hand on his holstered pistol and eyes still peeled. He had walked deep into the woods, like the invitation had instructed, but he had trudged for so long that he had lost track of time. Juan was starting to feel uncertain about being able to find his way back out of the woodlands. His younger self looked back behind him, along the direction he thought he had come from. It all just looked like more woods. When he turned his head back he saw a cloaked figure kneeling not far ahead. The unexpected appearance made him squeak embarrassingly and jolt to an abrupt stop. The figure was looking down but Juan had no doubt the character before him knew he was there. The two stayed motionless for a beat before the cloaked figure stood up. Juan felt himself called out to the figure just as he had that day, “Um, hola? Can I help you?” It was strange to feel himself speak while he watched his past unfold again. It was even stranger than feeling someone else speak mostly because Juan knew exactly what he was about to say, what was about happen. The cloaked figure’s head raised to look at him and of course he knew it would be the Señorita, but the zeitgeist of himself still took a step back in surprise. Juan saw the all too familiar verdant face staring straight at him; the vine-lined skin, bean lips, rouge cheeks and rosy eyes. Juan remembered being so enamored with the sight of Her that day. Looking at her again, through this vision she did not look as pretty. Something looked… off, for lack of a better word. The Señorita started walking toward young Juan. At first her legs moved like any human but as she got closer Juan noticed that her legs looked more like vine-covered sapling stumps. Her feet were the sapling’s roots that burrowed and unburrowed with every step. Her face too was different. It flickered between an attractive, seductive, and harrowing wildness. The wild version of the Señorita had generally the same rosette eyes but everything else about Her was feral. Her eye sockets had thorns growing in and around them and her nose hooked like a knot in a pine tree. Her plump bean lips now looked dried and twisted and her mouth dripped a lurid bright green sap that had to be poisonous. The vines that made up her countenance were not smooth, thin vines of a healthy plant but snarled, twisted and partially decaying things that squirmed like snakes in a nest. Juan of the past couldn’t move and showed no intention to. He was fully engrossed in the Señorita’s spell, seeing only her sensual side, lost in a euphoria that Juan of the present recognized. Older Juan was screaming out to his younger self to run but could not change the scene playing out before him. Then, to the surprise of his older self, the Señorita snapped out an arm of twisted vines, coiling like a whip around young Juan’s arm. Her whip arm stretched Juan toward her, stiff as a board. The Señorita then lifted her other arm and, from within its bundle of vines, a spikey cluster of long nettles unfurled. She started running her nettle fingers across his skin. Each nettle poked him quickly over and over again and each stab burned like a bee’s sting. Juan didn’t remember this happening before. He remembered the Señorita walking toward him, them talking and Juan pledging his service. It wasn’t until he had been on many missions and had proven his devotion that he received his rose. Even then it wasn’t by the Señorita’s hand. Juan had received his tattoo in the back room of a tea house in Little Kingdom in Malifaux… or was it in the barber shop of that mining town… no, it was back in Boston, dockside, right after he ran down a freikorpsmen that knew the Señorita’s secret. Juan couldn’t remember precisely but he had been certain he got it in some legitimate tattoo parlor. Present Juan could feel the pain of the tattoo and it hurt, bad, but his younger self wasn’t even flinching let alone pulling away. Soon the Señorita was done and she let his arm go. Past Juan looked down at the rose design with an elated smile, but present Juan could not see past the oozing blood and putrid green slop. Looking at the rose now, Juan was puzzled to see that it did not flicker or swirl at all. He had always thought the rose had moved but now he saw only a static design. At the heart of the rose was a name: Sheela-Na-Gig. He realized her had always known the name but seeing it now, through the vision sight, brought clarity like never before. That poor gardener Marcy had almost figured out the Señorita’s name on her own, though no other servant ever had. No wonder the Señorita kept her tucked away. Sheela-Na-Gig, the Green Lady. Juan had heard a fable from an old Irish sailor on his boat ride to the Americas. The sailor talked about a Lady of the woods, clothed only in loose and revealing foliage. The old seaman’s story told of how she enthralled men’s minds and warned about walking alone in dense forest. Juan had written the story off as pure fiction but before him, in writing, was the truth of it. Malifaux had an odd way of turning tall tales into terrible truths. Juan looked up to the Señorita, her image still fluctuating between beautiful and baleful. Her scarlet eyes peered at Juan intensely and her mouth moved to speak, “Now GO!!!” Her voice sounded like the scratching of tree branches on a shale roof. With the command, Juan’s mind was filled with many directions and a new mission to fulfill. He turned to walk unnervingly back out of the woods and straight into a logger’s camp. His pistola was in his hands and murder was on his mind. “Well done,” the Ancient One pulled Juan back and he was relieved to be free of that memory. Seeing the truly horrendous sight of the Señorita was even more startling then seeing her suck the essence out of poor Li Wei. Her horrid visage had shaken Juan’s faith and confirmed his earlier fears about her wickedness. This Señorita was not a marvel. Juan saw her now for what she truly was; a twisted demon neverborn. It was a startling realization to come to but not as startling as it should be. In truth, Juan already knew. It was as if he had always known but his mind had blocked that from consciousness. The Señorita was a neverborn monster that preyed on humans; that had preyed on him. No matter how he had loved Her, he knew She had to be stopped. What he had loved was a lie and that lie would keep on beguiling and killing, unless he could do something. “Señor we must stop her!” The words rushed from his mouth and it felt freeing to say aloud. “I’m sorry Señor. I know you wanted to meet her but you really couldn’t want to meet her now, not after the horribleness we’ve seen together. We must stop her! She is evil! You must help me stop her!” A smile quirked the corner of the Ancient One’s grin, only for a second as his eyes flicked down, then back to look at Juan, “Mr. Carlos, you could not be more right. I have one more thing we can do but it will be quite taxing on you.” The feeling of a question lingered behind his statement. “It does not matter Señor. We must make it right. I must to something to atone for things I have done at her command.” Juan’s resolve was unshaken by the Ancient One’s warning. If he could do nothing else in this afterlife he would help the Ancient One learn the Señorita’s secrets and stop her. “Steady yourself Mr. Carlos.” The Ancient One extended his hand and Juan nodded to in acceptance. The Ancient One flicked his wrist and Juan’s view flashed with a prism of colors. The taste of steak filled Juan’s mouth as his vision started to clear. The sound of a slightly mistuned piano plinked in the background and the smell of a burning cigarillo caressed his nostrils. Juan was looking at a stage where an automated pianola was performing an upbeat arrangement. The pianola was an upright, placed off to one side. It’s keeps depressed in time with the notes of the song as if an unseen pianist stroked its keys. The stage was much too big for it to be the only source of entertainment but no one else was visible and nothing else accompanied it. Juan scanned the room with his eyes. To stage left was an extensive bar. It was solidly built and its deep cherry and brown color was polished to a shine. The bar only had two patrons, both with long trench coats and tattered hats, sitting far enough apart to look like they weren’t together and weren’t there on duty. A smile cracked Juan’s lips. It was always amusing to see the Guard trying to blend in. Behind the counter was a tall Abyssinian man with a nice blue vest over his eggshell shirt. The bartender was organizing bottles on the shelves above the rows of glasses. A mirror behind the shelves reflected his face. He was middle aged, clean shaven, and nervously focused on his task. Behind Juan were the double doors of the entrance. He was always aware of his exits. As he scanned back to the left Juan saw a barmaid walk from behind the bar, pass in front of the stage, and continue out towards another table to left. Juan watched her walk by, her movement directing his gaze back to his own table and directly into his dinner companion. Across the table sat the Señorita. She wore a gorgeous green evening dress complimented by a silken green scarf that shrouded her shoulders and draped over her head. Amazingly her skin looked smooth and almost human in hue, though its ashen pallor was undeniable. The Señorita’s eyes were still vibrant red buds that both fascinated and intimidated Juan. She had just finished slicing through a piece of steak. Juan knew exactly where he was. This was the Merry Man Saloon on the day he died. Juan looked down to his own plate, a nice array of small potatoes and broccoli florets flanking a juicy T-bone. Juan could feel his past-self delight in the bounty before him but Juan of the present only cringed at the realization of where he was. Past Juan picked up the cigarillo from its ash tray, took a drag and placed it back. He looked up to the Señorita. She was reaching for her glass of wine. The Señorita smiled at him and with the smile her face flickered from gorgeous to ghastly as the countenance of the Sheela-Na-Gig from Juan’s last vision flickered before him. “Is everything to your liking Juan?” the Señorita asked him. “Oh most certainly Señorita!” Juan felt his lips say. He wanted to vomit at the exuberance of his former self. “Thank you for this blessing!” “Is anything bothering you?” she asked in her special way that had always compelled Juan to be overwhelmingly truthful. Juan smirked and replied “I only wish some of the company was better.” He made a head nod over his shoulder to express his unease with the Guild guardsmen at the bar. The Señorita nodded in understanding. “You’ll handle them fine,” she said comfortingly. She placed her wine glass down and looked back to her plate. Juan picked up his own glass, lightly rolling the liquid inside, and he brought it to his nose to sniff before taking a sip. Juan looked to the Señorita and said, “It’s good we take time to enjoy the small things; good for the soul I think.” She smiled politely but then her eyes shifted to look at something behind Juan and her smile widened. “All right that’s enough,” a voice said behind Juan. The voice had tried to take on a tone of authority which was laughable because the only true authority here was sitting across the table from him. “You’re going to have come with us.” “I was just going to say we were having a nice dinner.” Juan held back no irritation from his voice. He slowly turned in his chair, as if bored, and looked up at the intruding individual. It was one of the trench-coated men from the bar standing within arm’s reach. His trench coat had flipped open revealing a Guild uniform and his hand rested on the peacekeeper hanging from his belt. Present-day Juan knew this moment was coming but remembered feeling angrier about it; or at the least less giddy. “Why, exactly” Juan spoke that word with painfully drawn-out emphasis, “are we supposed to go with you?” The Guild Guard’s eyes rolled away from the Señorita’s face to look down at him. The larger man paused before responding, a look of contempt wrinkling his face. As the Guardsman opened his mouth to speak Juan threw his wine into the man’s face, glass and all. Juan’s question was a simple distraction and it worked stunningly. The Guard was caught completely by surprise as the glass tipped off his nose and smashed into his cheek and eye. Juan was out of his seat before the first drop of wine hit the ground, bringing up his fist into the guard’s unprotected throat. Juan’s boot snapped into the Guard’s knee, crumpling him to the ground as Juan brought his pistola out and leveled it at the second guard now standing at the bar. The second guard was struggling to bring up a rifle from under his jacket but was just as flatfooted as the first. Juan’s shot took him in the chest before he could bring his weapon to bear and the rifle fired off anyway in a spasm from the falling guard. It went too wide to harm anything other than a bar stool. Juan cocked his gun and dropped the muzzle to the head laying at his feet. He fired without flinching. Juan of the present recoiled at the manic joy he felt flood his past-self. How could he delight in destroying the already subdued man? Hearing the Señorita scream behind him, he jerked around to look at Her, pulling the hammer back once more. Past and present Juan’s saw a man in a nice grey suit and top hat. The Suited Man had just slashed through the Señorita’s arm with a cane sword and the Señorita was clasping her arm in pain as she dropped to her knees. Juan saw Her image flash to the wilder version of Herself but his past-self didn’t seem to register the change. The Suited Man’s cane sword rippled with flames as he pivoted towards Juan, extending the sword point and dropping into an en garde stance. Juan tried to train his gun on the Suited Man, but before he could squeeze the trigger the cane sword flicked and Juan’s gun was out his hand, skittering across the stage. Present Juan screamed at himself to dodge but to no avail. Juan’s old self still lunged towards his pistola and right into the Suited Man’s lunging blade. Juan’s shoulder caught the blade, spinning him hard into a table and onto the ground. Juan rolled over, blood spurt from his shoulder. As Juan of the present knew he would be, the Suited Man was standing over Juan of the past, his sword reversed and raised for a downward stab. Juan brought up his arm in defense against the attack but the stab never came. The man’s face started to become gaunt and his jaw dropped open. His skin paled and he convulsed in pain, his arms dropping weakly to his sides and the sword clattering to the floor. The Suited Man seemed to be rapidly dehydrating. Juan looked down at the man’s ankles and saw the Señorita had slid her hand just under his pantleg and around his ankle. The man collapsed to the ground, banging off of a nearby chair. The Señorita looked exhausted but her arm had already sealed itself. There was a burn mark where the cane sword slashed her and a green liquid oozed from it but it was clearly useable. Juan of past still felt compelled to rush to the Señorita’s aid and used his good arm to prop himself up. Juan of the present screamed out “STAY DOWN!!!” forcing as much will as he could into the statement though he knew it would not matter. Juan had his feet under him now and stood without hesitation. He took one step toward the Señorita and heard the click clack of a rifle lever. Young Juan turned to look toward the source of the sound, seeing the Guard at the bar, shirt soaked in blood but with the rifle trained on Juan’s chest. In all the stories Juan heard of men dying people said in their last seconds, everything slowed down. That, in a moment like this, a person would almost see the muzzle flash and the bullet in the air speeding toward him. A man would see the all the moments of his life flash before his eyes like the pages of a picture book. If Juan could go back to all the people that told these tales and slap them, he would. Juan hit the ground before he registered the rifle’s report. Juan of the present could do nothing to change it. He knew this was what happened and that in seconds his world would fade to black. However, that was not how it played out today. Juan laid on the wooden saloon floor feeling the warm flow of his life flooding out across it. He could only stare up at the ceiling. From behind him he heard the screech of wood on wood as a flash of green hurdled over him. He heard a man’s scream followed by the sickening squish of meat and bone. The Señorita had avenged him. Before three heart beats passed the Señorita was standing over him in full vegetal Sheela-Na-Gig glory. Her body was entirely made of plants, vines, and foliage, all of them writhing and slithering as if she was made of snakes. Her red eyes looked him over as she knelt next to him. The vines that made up her right arm dug into her body, like fishing in a pocket, while her left arm’s vines reached out for Juan. Juan tried to speak but nothing came out. He tasted the copper tang of blood and struggled to breath. The Sheela-Na-Gig clasped his sleeve and tore it off with a jerk that tugged Juan closer to Her. Present Juan kept trying to speak, to scream, to do anything but his zeitgeist was unresponsive. The Sheela-Na-Gig’s right hand pulled out a crystalline stone. She held it up to examine it in the light. Juan of the Present knew what came next but could only watch helplessly. At least now he knew how the Señorita truly cared for him. Sheela-Na-Gig looked down to Juan, her rosy eyes staring into his in their uniquely eerie way. She lowered the stone to his rose tattoo and grinned wickedly; verdant sappy ooze dripping from her nettled smile. Juan felt agony rushing through him replacing the blood in his veins. His mouth snapped open and he tried to scream… The antechamber of the abandoned factory echoed with Juan’s howl. An old, robed man stood in the middle of the room. He held a small crystalline stone in one hand and his other was wrapped around a long staff. He peered at the crystal as the light it cast faded to nothing. Many cracks stretched across the side of the gem he gazed into, though other sides were certainly smoother. To his right sat a young lady in a pale fuchsia kimono. A mask adorned her forehead and a bamboo flute was laid across her lap. “And that is the tragedy of Mister Juan Carlos,” the man said, lowering the stone and turning toward the young lady. “What shall I tell McCabe?” she asked him. The elderly man handed the exhausted soul stone to her and smiled, “Bring fire,” He turned and walked out of the room adding over his shoulder, “And maybe a few Ortegas.” “As you say, Master Yan Lo,” she responded. Her eyes fell to the stone in her hand, a frown peeling her lips down. She slid it into one of her sleeves and turned to follow the Ancient One out of the room.
  6. Dragonfly

    Gaining Grounds 2017

    Changes look exciting! Thanks for the early peak! I love that Carver is a Killjoy proxy!!!
  7. Dragonfly

    Mei Feng as TT

    Not trying to derail this thread, but instead a minor jackelope trail... I also never take more than 4 or 5 SS for Misaki. Does anyone else take more? I'm not saying a bigger cache doesn't have it's uses but if I take more usually I end up finishing the match with a few SS unused; and unused SS at the end of game feels like wasted points and maybe bad planning. Thoughts?