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  1. We played a Henchman Hardcore and Enforcer Brawl Tournament in San Antonio this past weekend. Dr. Grimwell's crew performed very well. Special note: both starter set crews meet the requirements for a Henchman Hardcore crew. In the Hardcore rounds I got 4th place. Game 1 versus a motley crew of gremlins I won on Turf War VP. Game 2 versus Barbaros and 3 Young Nephilim was different. I should have sat back and let them come to me, but I decided to charge in. Their flying abilities let them split my crew up and I got picked apart. Game 3 was a tense match against Ten Thunders. Jorogumo charged early and killed the Dr. Nurse Heartsbane and an Orderly managed to kill Jorogumo (with Heartsbane doing most of the work.) She then charged at Sidir and had him on the ropes at the end of the round. Game 4 found me fighting Arcanists, the Firestarter, an Oxfordian mage, Willie and a Gunsmith. I charged Willie early with Dr. Grimwell and Orderlies who could survive his fiery demise. Nurse Heartsbane ran interference on the FIrestarter and Mage (whom she killed). Dr. Grimwell and a lone order got Firestarter to 1 WD when the round was called. Game 4 ended in a 3-3 tie on VP. If I'd killed Firestarter I'd have earned 3rd place. In the Enforcer Brawl Nurse Heartsbane pulled out an impressive (and shocking) 3rd place finish against the likes of Cojo, The Whiskey Golem, Bishop, Bete and a Mature Nephilim. Highlights include a one-turn kill on the Whiskey Golem and leaving Bishop with 1 WD in an attempt to get 2nd place. Summary: Dr. Grimwell's crew is tanky. Very tanky. They can also do serious damage very quickly. Good tactical decisions and card management will make them a serious contender in just about any matchup. Even crews with a lot of Black Blood models can be shocked as Dr. Grimwell's crew heals the burns at the end of the turn.
  2. John Sheffield

    Staples

    STAPLES Wherein four freshly-painted models find their way into my army bag. Pic at CMON. Dr. Grimwell woke with the word "staples" on his lips, carried on a spatter of froth. He never remembered his dreams, much to his professional disappointment, but whatever was on his mind must have been exciting. The possibilities made him smile. With some effort, he hauled his head up from where it rested on his chest. He rolled it from one shoulder to the other to work out the kinks. On the recommendation of the great Dr. Smedley himself, Grimwell slept sitting up. This would "allow the brain its natural descent", according to that revered pioneer of their field, and would "resist compression humors". It did guarantee a certain amount of neck trauma, but Grimwell was a pragmatic man: he'd take a hundred uncomfortable mornings over the risk of an undescended brain. This most sensible precaution also made him smile. Of course, almost everything did. Grimwell's smile hardly ever left his face. He smiled down at his sleeping chair, a sturdy wooden one whose straps and electrodes had been removed by a conscientious orderly. His room's scarred walls and ceiling only broadened his grin. The jumble of mysterious patterns -- carved, burned, and bled there by a forgotten settler of Malifaux -- could have been designed to engage a man of the mind with their ever-changing meaning. Today, they depicted the close friendship between Man and several other men; tomorrow, it could be fish. He could not guess. The insights delivered every morning lit up his face and reflected joy straight back at him. To one trained in the science of the brain, mysterious patterns were as good as a mirror. He wasn't sure about the dog. Dogs made almost everyone smile, he knew, but this one made him feel uneasy. It had been dead for two weeks and he wasn't sure what to do about it. Grimwell was a highly educated man and understood a great deal about the world, but he didn't necessarily know how to remove half a dead dog from beneath a desk. "Muh," he called to the dog. It didn't respond, but that was no surprise; he could never speak properly first thing in the morning. He shoved himself to his feet, bent over, and coughed to dislodge the night-phlegm. Wincing, he pressed a finger under the edge of his neuropathoculus, on the right side where the mooring bolt had only glanced bone and the splinters had never quite healed. The bug-eyed brass mask was flush against the skin everywhere else, but just above his cheek, his face tended to collect sores. "Margaret," he said with more fluency. "Margaret! Here, boy!" Nothing. The diagnostic insights provided by his prosthesis indicated neither transformation of character, nor revelation of unconscious mental processes. The dog simply lay there and exposed its ribs at him. He'd have to try again tomorrow. Grimwell shuffled to the hatstand next to the desk, waved away the cloud of flies, and plucked his long white coat from the hook. He might habitually sleep in his clothes ("prevents infestation by pixies of the flesh") but the coat was brushed and hung up every night. It was the symbol of his noble profession, and he'd afford it the proper respect. If he didn't, of course, it would complain. The doctor shook his head fondly. Coats. Huh. He shrugged the garment over his shoulders. Its reassuring weight -- pockets full of wisdom, experience, and a 9-kilogram psychoanalytical chainsaw -- made him smile. Dr. Grimwell unbolted the door and ventured into the corridor of the asylum to find some breakfast. *** "Good morning, Doctor," chirped Nurse Heartsbane, beaming over the serrated rim of her tea cup. "Nurse," he muttered, grinning at the floor. He said the word as if he were reading out an abbreviation, Nrs. As the only woman of his acquaintance, Heartsbane terrified and excited him in equal measure. He met the occasional patient of the female persuasion, but after a short stay in the asylum it was debatable whether they were even human. The Mistress was abundantly female, of course, though it was the femininity of certain cannibalistic arachnids and so one was compelled not to notice. That left Emily Heartsbane: mother figure and sex goddess, in hairy woolen stockings and sensible shoes. She was as feminine as you got at the asylum. He shambled through the doorway and pulled his usual chair out from the table. The staff lounge was furnished with just one shabby table, rather cozy for the five people sitting around it. This was more than offset by two hundred chairs, scavenged by some single-minded obsessive and piled into a tangled hedge around the edge of the room. While elbows might collide in the act of buttering toast, the staff were spoiled for choice when it came to resting their backsides. Grimwell's favorite chair was the one he slept in, but the runner-up was upholstered in black leather and farted like a bloated corpse as it took his weight. Even warmed up, the doctor's voice crawled through gravel. "What've we got today, team?" The chair provided the punctuation. "Ain't any jam left," said a cadaverous orderly around a mouthful of breakfast. He plucked another piece of toast from the stack with thin fingers. "I'll take a walk later on and see what I can scrounge." Grimwell, not entirely engaged in the conversation he'd started, rocked on his buttocks and delighted in the sound. The chair was pure bliss. The orderly continued, crumbs rolling from his mouth down his elderly red smock. "Alternatively, you know, hospital intake's been down lately ..." Nurse Heartsbane paused in mid-pour, a little steam puffing from her cup. Her grey eyes flared. "Manners, Mr. Hutchkiss," she said with the imperious tone she only used with staff. "Dr. Grimwell should not be subject to such crudeness. Please swallow before addressing the table." The doctor's chair farted his appreciation. Hutchkiss raised a hand to his lips and complied. "Beg pardon," he said, eventually. "I've been thinking about our revenue stream, and how we ain't got one. I was reminded of that old tinker round Cacomycotas Street, wossname, something Papadakis. The codger wot's just retired from the steamfitters with all that dosh -- more, you might say, than a bloke diagnosed with a bad case of the batshit might need." He nodded toward his colleague. "Me and Hogg could fix it up." The most generous contributor of elbows at the table, at least by volume, looked up at the sound of his name. The cart horse of a man had been painting a slice of toast with butter and an excessive attention to detail. This morning ritual could take twenty minutes, but eradicating the texture of lean bread was worth it to Mr. Hogg. "It," he said, supportively, and returned to his task. "Grieving brothers shown up just in time," said Hutchkiss. "Concerned for the psychological well-being of their beloved relative, wanting only the best for him and his shiny, shiny estate." He tapped the surgical mask hanging loosely around his neck. "They ain't seen our faces in that street, far as I recall. And you know we could use the scrip. The last time I remember the Guild dropping off a wages packet was when old Dr. Gibbs was still in charge." He waved in the direction of the wards. "You know, if you want Hogg and me to drag Gibbs out of his cell to ask him his secret, just say the word." Grimwell, gnawing a tube of breakfast gristle with every sign of enjoyment, considered the word and saw that it was good. "Jam," he rumbled. "Mmm. Jam. Can't run a madhouse without it. Gives you something to wash the knives in!" He slapped a hand on the table. At Nurse Heartsbane's frown of disapproval, he winced and withdrew the hand. Hogg turned his toast and started buttering the other side. "In," he said. "Well, I concur with Dr. Grimwell," said Heartsbane, forgiving the doctor his outburst with a lipstick-toothed grin that made him feel dizzy. "If I might elaborate on his behalf, the stratagem you suggest, Mr. Hutchkiss, is not without substantial risk. It is an unfortunate truth that keeping our department in funds has not been a Guild priority for some time. Still, caution must be our watchword when making up the shortfall. 'Retired steamfitter' has a lucrative ring to it, but also suggests ties to Arcanist criminals. We should allow that this Mr. Papadakis may be a person of interest to our colleagues in the Yellow Chamber, and take care to avoid the risk of immolation from on high should we track mud through their needful business." "Er," said the doctor. "I'll keep me ear to the street, then," said Hutchkiss. "Good thinking." Nurse shook her head. "Thank you, Mr. Hutchkiss, but don't trouble yourself. There are ways of asking without telling. I will call upon my contact at the Office of Records. Perhaps we may revisit the issue in a day or two." "Er," repeated the doctor. Something was on his mind. Hutchkiss flapped a napkin at his lips. "Works for me," he said. "For," agreed Hogg. With some urgency, Grimwell stabbed a finger across the table. "Er. I'm loath to point out the obvious," he said, a trace of the Princeton academic emerging through his usual aspect of a distracted hyena, "but that is a patient." Heartsbane, Hutchkiss and Hogg regarded the fifth presence at the table. A silent man, his jaw firm but his eyes vacant, he wore yellowish inmate's pajamas. His scalp was shaved and scabbed. He sat squashed between Hutchkiss's armchair and Hogg's broad shoulders like the mortar between two bricks. "Him?" said Hutchkiss. "Didn't get his name. He's got his marbles but was piss-drunk and celebrating his new job with the aforementioned fitters-du-steam when the night shift brought him in. Nothing special, just a hired gun," he added, with a nod to Heartsbane. "Might be interesting to find out what the socialist underbelly hired him for though, yeah?" The doctor grimaced through his smile. The visible half of his face was an unexpectedly versatile organ. "But why," he asked, "is he having breakfast with us?" Nurse Heartsbane emitted a delicate harrumph and cast just a note of glare toward Mr. Hogg. "Whoops. Reminds me," said Hutchkiss. He dropped his toast and sucked the fat off his fingers. A shiny steel syringe lay next to his breakfast plate, a bead of yellowish fluid just dripped from the tip to enhance the table's variously stained appearance. The orderly took up the syringe and jabbed the listless patient in the neck. "Do you remember," he said, carefully applying pressure to the plunger, "that load of super secret truth serum wot fell off a cart on the way out of the Enclave? Turns out the secret part was that it's a bad batch, basically poison. They were sending it to those creeps at the Morgue to use as embalming fluid, on account of it'll transmute a stiff's organs to rubber while you wait." "Hah! Plug 'em up and they won't do it again!" barked the asylum's sole PhD. Something squeaked behind the patient's lips. "Probably. Me and the lads figured it out last night. The upshot is, we've got ourselves a spanking toy pigeon at a savings. On the other hand, the eternal question, 'so you're a bird; what's that like?' will remain unanswered. Bit of a blow." "To the point, please, Mr. Hutchkiss." "Sorry, Nurse. Anyway, helpful Mr. Hogg here didn't get the memo, on account of he can't read and I forgot to tell him, so now I have to dose this bloke with the counteragent every couple minutes or his brain starts to bounce." "Dreadful, said Heartsbane. "In future, may I suggest--" A long, even buzz interrupted her. Everyone but the patient, whose nervous system was preoccupied with the struggle for existence, glanced reflexively toward a brass mechanism set high in the wall. "I'll see who it is," said Hutchkiss, rising. He pointed to the syringe on his way out. "Hogg, count to ten twelve times, then hit him again. Remember the trick I taught you with the fingers." Hogg picked up the syringe and held it gingerly between forefinger and thumb. He looked at it, then his toast, then to the sound of footsteps receding up a staircase. "Taught?" All sat quietly for a long moment. The nurse gazed serenely into her empty tea cup. Grimwell watched Hogg staring intently at his own fingers, wondering, as did Hogg, what was supposed to happen next. Eventually Heartsbane cleared her throat and spoke. "Doctor Grimwell, there was something I wished to discuss with you." The parchment voice and tannin breath sent tingles down Grimwell's spine. His neuropathoculus was never so helpful as he'd like when it came to dealing with Heartsbane. It would analyze her words, tone of voice, body language, context, and saved data, and invariably conclude she held her mother responsible for the precise configuration of her genitalia. That was no doubt true, but it was rarely useful in conversation. "Reprimand or intercourse, I accept your terms!" He instantly realized his blunder and was quick to recover. "You're hysterical," he said. Much better. Heartsbane, whose expertise included managing violent patients and putting up with Dr. Grimwell, inclined her head. "Of course, Doctor. Doctor, I understand your regular meeting with the Mistress is upcoming." "Criid," Grimwell barked, pulled back to the vicinity of reality. "Mmm. Yes. Day after tomorrow." The corners of his mouth drooped slightly. Of the things that made him smile, his responsibility to make personal appearances in the magus's lair almost didn't qualify. While she did not seem to care how perfunctory his official reports were, even a minute in the Mistress's presence made him profoundly uncomfortable. Nurse Heartsbane's depths were like dew on cobblestone compared to the bottomless fire roaring behind Sonnia Criid's eyes. Her eye-holes, anyway. The fact that she also wore a mask all the time somehow failed to endear her to him. The nurse continued. "When you do, Doctor, I hope to encourage you to suggest a more active role for our, ah, little 'crew.'" The skin around her eyes crinkled with amusement at the word. "I know you share my pride in the excellent service we provide to the citizens of Malifaux." She gestured at the patient, whose innards had not been nearly so elastic before he was admitted into their care. "But I believe such excellence should always aspire to greater responsibilities. We have the potential to become the Mistress's right hand, to realize her mission more effectively than any of the tools she has now at her disposal." She frowned at something distasteful in the middle distance. "Witchlings, Doctor. Witchlings! Those wretched things are her troops in the struggle against criminals of the mind and of magic? Surely she deserves better than such vermin. We are more than capable to help root out the enemies of our city, to extract their vile plans, and perhaps even destroy them where they stand." She gestured to the patient once more, this time with a marked lack of magnanimity. "The battle our Mistress wages is an important one, Doctor. It matters. We of the Institute should be at the forefront of that battle." Heartsbane tapped the gilded edge of her cup, as ragged as the saw blade under the doctor's coat. "Besides, it would be nice to be paid once in awhile." Grimwell studied the nurse while she gazed firmly into a ruby reflection of herself. Tiny gears labored behind the lenses of the neuropathoculus. The device reported nothing novel -- "profoundly debilitating feelings of inferiority; recommend prefrontal intervention" -- but to the rhythm of the gears' labored cranking, Grimwell thrilled with an unaccustomed sense of ambition. "Interesting," he said. "More jam for everyone, then. She'll melt all the faces. Margaret remains unresponsive." A dull thunk sounded across the table. "Thank you, Doctor. Mr. Hogg," she added, finally turning to the orderly and tapping a finger on her own neck. "The carotid, please. That gauge of needle will not penetrate the skull." "Gauge," said the orderly, grateful for the correction. Hutchkiss's footsteps began to clatter back down the stairs. Heartsbane tested the weight of the cracked teapot, then poured herself a last lukewarm cup. Hogg took aim for a second attempt. Grimwell smiled. The patient, for his part, jolted in his chair as most of his thoracic cavity went 'boing'. "I'm your man," he cried. His voice was the squeak of a man with rubber lungs. "Best gun in Malifaux. I'll keep him alive. Your tinker will be safe. Papadakis. Arcanist." Nurse Heartsbane gasped at the word. She and Grimwell rose from their chairs. "I know the place," the man hissed. "Guarded hundreds of folks on the road to Ridley. Like a shepherd. The old sheep will be safe." The animation drained from his face with the dregs of his life, a drowning man letting the water take him. As he faded, one hand fumbled slowly up his pajama top, fingers dragging at the coarse fabric on the way to his bare throat. When he was admitted, he'd worn a necklace there, made from string and a twist of leather around a tiny chunk of soulstone. Now it was in the top drawer of Hutchkiss's bureau. "Take this," he said. His voice was high and thin. "Take this to ... my ... ssss ..." Hogg caught him before he collapsed onto the table and upset the remains of breakfast. With a grunt, the orderly heaved the carcass out of its chair and laid it on the floor. Grimwell and Heartsbane shuffled around for a better look. Hutchkiss burst into the room. "He's dead?" he demanded, wheezing. His hair was wild, as if he'd been tearing at it all the way downstairs. "What did he say just before he died? He said something, right? Just now?" Hogg looked up from the body and shrugged. "Sheep." "That's all? Sheep?" squeaked Hutchkiss. "Look, there's a bloody handler at the front door -- a witching handler! Sent by the Mistress! -- who says she's here to 'collect the intelligence just extracted from the prisoner.' That's as creepy as anything that happens on this side of the Breach, but if I have to go upstairs and tell her she came all this way for 'sheep', the creepy part will be what happens to me five seconds later." The orderly's expression turned to outrage at the sound of gentle laughter. "Oh, I do apologize," said Heartsbane, covering her mouth. It took but a moment to collect herself. "Mr. Hutchkiss, the Arcanists have hired mercenaries to escort your retired steamfitter to Ridley. Our friend did not say when. He did not say why. Even so, I believe a valuable piece of information has fallen into our hands." She beamed at Grimwell. "Very valuable indeed." Grimwell stood tall. Princeton surged back into his voice and he addressed the room as if every one of the salvaged chairs was occupied. "Well done, team! I'll go with the handler and deliver the message to Criid personally. The time has come for Smedley's Institute for the Irreversibly Abstruse to take a proactive role in our Mistress's very important work. I will insist upon it." The nurse's crooked grin and tea-stained teeth were like sunlight on Dr. Grimwell's already rather sunny soul. He could see everything in that light. Primarily, of course, he could read the neuropathoculus's diagnosis that she was about to deliver him a vicious bite, but decided to disregard it. He could see that her mouth was a warm red incision. A fresh one, opening a patient's head to the secrets and the darkness inside. At the same time, her teeth were staples, bleached silver in the soft focus of his imagination, clutching skin, dragging it together, ready to heal and become perfect and new. "Staples," he whispered. Suddenly, he remembered. Goodness. It certainly had been an exciting dream. He was pleased to have narrowed it down, but to be fair, all his other dreams were probably about sex too. Dr. Grimwell returned Nurse Heartsbane's wonderful, terrifying smile, and went out to meet the handler.
  3. I've recently completed the Guild half of the starter set, too. Despite Guild is one of the factions I'm less interested into, I truly love the sinister vibe of this crew. Also, the two orderlies look like Lorenz and Lindemann from Rammstein! =)
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