Another body sends the Bohemian Express into a panic. The murderer reveals a shocking message, and Locke realizes just how lucky he really is.

Chapter 12: Murder on the Bohemian Express, Pt. 3
⚡️ THUNDERFANG: Murder on the Bohemian Express, Pt. 2
Locke swears to find the murderer on board the Bohemian Express as internal – and external – whispers try to lead him astray at every turn.

The previous chapter

// Compel

+1 (Heart; Locke is trying to plead Annora to not stop) => 5 vs 4,7. Weak hit.

+1 momentum [7]

"Annora! Annora, wait!"

"Mr. Holmes, I said no! He's dead! DEAD! We are stopping at the next waypoint!"

The selfishness bubbled up and out before I could stop myself. "Annora, I need to get to New Bohemia."

"Are you fucking serious right now, Detective?"

"Very. Look, you get us to New Bohemia, sooner if you have to. We don't want whoever did this to escape. If we stop, you give them that opportunity. I'm going to find our murderer. No one else on this ship will die. I promise you!"

Annora wiped tears from her eyes. Through gritted teeth, she said, "He was my friend, Detective. I... What do I tell his family?"

I did my best to comfort her.

I don't think it worked.

Murder on the Bohemian Express, Pt. 3

Chapter 12

// Tick the travel clock, 2/10

We managed to get Annora to keep heading towards New Bohemia. Things are really tense right now, though.

"I say we search everyone's things!" Blackstone screamed. The dining hall erupted into chaos. I tried my best to diffuse the situation, arms stretched out to either side. "Can't hide with all your shit out in the open. And get that fucking father and his daughter in here!" They were the only two not present.

"Ms. Cranky, please shut up and sit down," Archer moaned. "You're not helping."

Blackstone was swift. I barely saw her move to Archer and yoke him up by his collar. He only smiled.

"I mean, I mostly do men. But you're feisty enough that I might have to reconsider."

"Blackstone!" My voice was thunder. Everyone looked at me, and she finally let Archer go. I'd been told my bark was as bad as my bite. "Everyone," I said, much calmer than before, "just relax. I'll go get Hal. Do not kill each other."

// Gather Information via Sleuth

+2 => 4 vs 3,5,8. => 4 vs 3,5. Weak Hit.

+1 momentum [8]

Story clue, 58: Involves an organism or biological evidence

I loosely interpret this answer. It's related to Sage.

For once, something besides my addiction nagged at me. I couldn't put my finger on it. I was missing something obvious, I just knew it.

Hal opened his door after a few knocks, eyes shifting left and right to fully take in the atrium. "Yes, detective? Y-you're by yourself?"

I stepped back, hands in the air. "Ah, my apologies. We wanted you to join us in the dining hall. We can better keep an eye on everyone when we're all together."

Hal cautiously opened the door fully, and I saw Sage watching cartoons in the living area hooked to her breathing machine. "I can't leave my daughter in here by herself, Detective. The jump interfered with her breathing machine and we did not get much sleep last night."

"Mr. Takara, pardon my questioning, but you had to have known there would be frequent jumps to get to our destination. Why exactly are you traveling on the Bohemian Express?"

He sighed. "I didn't have much of a choice. Sage isn't doing well and Portent does not have the kind of medical facilities that the Salvi Sigil does. We were lucky enough to get bumped up the list and my Sage... She can get the help she needs. There's no other way to get to New Bohemia unless we want to drift through the Salvi Pass for years."


"I'm sorry to hear about your daughter. And that's incredibly lucky. How did you manage to get bumped up the list?"

"The Salvi Medical Institution contacted us about a month ago, letting us know we'd been selected. I have no idea how we managed to jump ahead of everyone else. I never thought we'd make it, to be honest. The stars are definitely in our favor. As long as we don't get murdered first."

We chatted for another fifteen or twenty minutes and he told me about the life he was leaving behind. I left him with a warning and a firm handshake and made my way back to the dining hall.

Things were beginning to fall into place.

"The plan was to bring him here with the rest of us!"

"Or, he could stay safe in his room."

Blackstone glared at me but I paid her no mind.

"Fine. Then I'm going to my room, too." She grabbed a few bottles from behind the bar. Edris protested but she shoved him away and made her exit.

"So... Buddy system? I've got the handsome detective." Archer forced a laugh. "Sorry. This is how I deal with traumatic events and serial killers on the loose: comedy and lewdness." Archer grabbed two bottles of brown liquor from behind the bar and left. Christa and Talia each grabbed a few pre-packaged meals and left. Booker sat in a corner and threw back a few shots.

I looked around for Edris.

He'd refused to go into the walk-in freezer. It didn't help that the body hadn't been moved. To make matters worse, Booker and Blackstone helped me move Roland there so we could at least slow the decay. It wasn't pretty, but it needed to be done.

I found him in the corner completely out of it. "How are you holding up?"

"Not good but Aunty Nora is losing her mind, and... I saw a dead body, Detective. Two! She's worried about me, but this business means the world to her, and her best friend is dead. She worked so hard and this could ruin her. Detective... please figure out who did this. I'll be fine but she..."

"I will." I took a beat to let his emotions calm. "I have a question to ask. What made you want to work for your aunt?"

"Aunty Nora is a beast." He perked up. "She's so strong, graceful, tough, driven... Everything I want to be. I've always looked up to her, so when she offered to give me a spot here, I jumped at the chance."

I nodded. "And... Brian Kerra. How long had he worked for your aunt?"

"Well, they've been friends since... man, I don't even know. He was practically my Uncle. I always thought they would end up together, even if Aunty Nora and Brian don't like each other that way. They'd be such a power couple." He smiled. I smiled in return and patted him on the shoulder.

"You should get some rest," I said. I helped Edris up off the floor and he gathered a few belongings and went to his quarters.

The vibrant plant life illuminated the center of the atrium with cool blue and green tones. I took in the sight of them before I knocked.

Talia opened her door cautiously. "What do you want, Detective?"

"Checking to see how you're holding up."

"I'm on a flying metal whale, stuck in the middle of space with a serial killer. How do you think I'm doing, Detective?"

Point taken. "I have to ask. What made you choose this ship? The cost to board the Bohemian Express was not cheap by any means, but I'm sure someone of your stature could afford to fly on a private vessel. "

"What exactly are you asking me, Mr. Holmes? I go through enough already, I don't need your insinuations right now."

Was that fear I was sensing?

"Ms. Vega, I can't solve this case if no one here is honest."

She reached out her hand, pulled me into her room, and slammed the door shut. I instinctively tapped into my electricity as she stormed past. Talia grabbed a bottle of vodka off the kitchen counter and took a long gulp, face scrunched as the alcohol bit and snapped on its way down. She sighed satisfactorily.

"I'm being blackmailed." She slammed the bottle down. "Someone caught wind of some shady deals and– I'm so pissed at myself. I should have never agreed to donate to that organization. I got a death threat and decided to go to New Bohemia for security. Now I'm on a death trap."

"This person blackmailing you, did they force you to take this ship?"

// Oracle

For my own amusement, does Talia mention anything related to the Benevolent?

Small chance, 10 or less: 27. No.

‌"No. If I had flown privately, that would have left me alone with a crew I wasn't sure of, and I bet they'd have something against me. Dead for sure. A large ship would draw too much attention and it could be anyone. I chose the family-owned vessel, thinking I'd gotten away." She took another swig.

"So, it's by chance that you're on this ship?"

"What are you getting at, Detective?"

"I'm not sure. Sorry to bother you." Something still didn't add up. I turned to exit.


I stopped and turned back around. Talia took yet another swig and pulled up the video call interface in the space between us. "Call Amanda." She held up a finger to me, and her entire demeanor changed. She smiled and said, "Hey, Amanda. Question. What made you book this wonderful ship? I want to make sure they get rave reviews. Maybe we can hire them for private trips in the future."

"Oh, hello, Ms. Vega. Actually, we were recommended the ship from a donor. Helps that they were one of the only small ships available for this time frame."

"Love it. Can you send me over the details? I want to thank this donor personally."

Amanda agreed and Talia ended the call. "Detective," – her expression shifted from the happy socialite back to the disgruntled potential murder victim – "is that what you wanted to hear?"

I nodded.

"I'll send over the information to you once I have it."

"One final question: why were you looking for Archer?"

"I overheard him talking to Christa about blackmailing Roland. I figured maybe he was blackmailing me, too."

"Look who finally decided to stop by."

I told myself, It's just for the investigation. But I didn't expect my willpower last very long.


I slowed my breath and took a seat on Archer's couch. He handed me a glass of clear liquid. "I love a good shot of tequila silver," he said and sat down next to me with a glass of his own. He was "dressed for bed" – red silk boxer briefs, and nothing else. "To what do I owe this honor, Detective?"

Everything about him was intoxicating. My words were jumbled, but I managed to say, "Just wanted to know what made you choose the Bohemian Express."

"It's in the middle of the ship-night, but ok. I'll play. Bad luck, it seems. My services" – his emerald eyes smiled as he emphasized his words – "have been requested within the Salvi Sigil. Didn't expect to run into Roland Ruiz and a murder. Or you, detective. You are the happy accident in all of this. As for why I chose this vessel, it was recommended to me, and it seemed to fit my tastes. I wanted something intimate. I didn't want to work on this trip. However, I don't mind a little overtime."

"Would you mind" – there was no way he did not hear my gulp – "explaining what you mean by 'services.'"

I knew.

He knew, and he accepted my invitation. He sat his glass down on the small coffee table and leaned in close, one hand pressed against my thigh.

"I make people feel good for a living, Detective Holmes. And I'm very good at what I do. Do you need me to explain further?"



"No, I think I get the gist." I chickened out. I cleared my throat and he leaned back, taking a sip from his glass with that familiar smirk. He knew he was winning. "Mr. Cassidy–"

"Archer, please."

"Archer, what exactly did you find out about Roland Ruiz?"

"The usual. Sins of the past. You run into a lot of buried secrets in my line of work. Everyone has them. Talia, for instance. Full of them, though in her defense she was too stupid to see what she was walking into. Roland, however, knew exactly what he was doing."

"Did you try to blackmail Talia?"

"No, her stuff is minuscule. Barely worthy of a tabloid headline."

"I see..." I let the silence linger for a moment too long and downed my shot. "That's all the questions I have for you, Archer. Thank you. I'll let you get some rest." I leaned forward to place my glass on the coffee table.

He grabbed my hand. "Detective..."


"Locke. Call me Locke."

// Hearten

+1 (Heart) => 6 vs ...

I stopped holding back.

‌His lips met mine. I just wanted to feel! I knew that I would eventually succumb to my urges, so I came here with makeup and a bandage over my brand. It'd been forever since I shared any form of intimacy and damnit I fucking deserved some. I hadn't been with anyone since Avam. Since him. I must have been high on lust because I could smell him. Roses, leaves, flowers. Fragrant. I did my best to focus on the man in front of me now.

We kissed and my hands explored his body. His hands explored mine. I pushed him back onto the cushions and took control. He was more than willing. I ripped off what little clothes he had on. He ripped off mine. I grabbed his hands, interlocking our fingers together. They were smooth, yet scarred and calloused in places. He'd done some kind of physical work with his life at some point. They felt amazing. To be honest, his hands could have been sandpaper and I would have been begging for more.

I could taste his cologne. I could taste his sweat. I could taste the tequila. It was intoxicating. I wanted to listen to the voice that tugged at my soul, telling me to CONSUME. I couldn't have my lightning, but I could have him.

I deserved him.

. . .

My eyes shot open. "Wait, wait, wait." I placed my hands on his chest, stopping him from going any further. Stopping me from going any further. "Let... let me finish this case first."

"Locke... You're teasing me."

"I'm not being professional right now." I struggled to breathe. All parts of me wanted all parts of him. "Once I wrap this case up."

I stood and got dressed, scolding myself for letting things get this far. I even prepared to let it get this far!

"I'll leave my door open detective, just for you. That means you have to solve the case quickly or I might be next," he teased. He walked me to the door without putting anything back on.

I took one final look at him as he shut the door behind me.

I stared at the flowers in the atrium for far too long, the voice of Annora cutting through my reverie: "All passengers: please prepare yourself for jump. I repeat, please prepare yourself for jump."

I made my way back into my room and slammed the door, emotion after emotion washing over me. I released them but did not let them consume me.

I had a job to do. That was most important.

// Hearten result

6 vs 6, 10. Miss.

-2 Spirit [1]

Endure Stress, +1: 2 vs 4,6. Miss.

-2 momentum [6]

// Progress on murder mystery, 8/10

Hal, Edris, Talia, and Archer – each +1 Progress – provide clues focusing on the murderer, whether they know it or not. There's a recurring thing being stated by almost everyone on board.

// Tick the travel clock, 3/10

And here we are, another jump.

Does the murderer strike again? Unlikely, 25 or less: 91. They all survive the night. Small victories.

// Fulfill your Vow

8 progress vs the challenge dice...

"All passengers, meet in the dining hall immediately. I repeat, all passengers, meet in the dining hall immediately. This is not a request," Annora's voice echoed the next ship-morning. I was already standing in the dining hall with Edris, helping him get a few meals together since he still wouldn't enter the walk-in freezer. Annora eventually joined us.

"Thank you, Mr. Holmes," Edris said. I nodded and welcomed the other passengers as they entered.

"What the hell is going on, Holmes?" Booker asked.

Archer noticed the shift in me. "Something's different about you, Locke."

I was fully dressed for once in contrast to the passengers, hands behind my back. There was a storm brewing within, but I did my best to display confidence.

I have a job to do.

"We all made it through the night," I began. "Seems as if our murderer's appetite has been satiated... But I wouldn't bet on it. They still have their eyes on pretty much everyone on board."

Chaos and confusion. Sage's eyes widened and her father did his best to comfort her. Archer threw out sexual innuendos while he paced. Booker and Blackstone were mostly silent, eyes on everyone inside, ready to pounce at a moment's notice. Christa and Talia stepped further away from everyone else. Annora and Edris stood behind me, observant.

"There's been a recurring theme in all of your stories as to why you're here: luck. Very few of you chose the Bohemian Express. Almost as if guided by the stars." The murmuring quieted down. "I believe you were manipulated into choosing this ship."

"I don't know what you're implying, Mr. Holmes," Annora said, "but I don't like it. My business runs just fine. I don't need to manipulate people into riding with us. We do damn good work here!"

I held up my hands. "I'm sorry. That's not what I was implying, Annora. In fact, you all are probably casualties in all of this."

"What?" Edris said confused.

"Blackstone, why did you choose the Bohemian Express?"

Her body tensed as she met my gaze. "Detective..."

"Just tell them why you're here."

"I'm chasing a bounty. I got a tip that they would be here."

"What's the name of the bounty?"

"... Amari Wade." More murmurs.

"The one who strangles people?" Booker looked at each passenger in turn. "Can't tell if I'm glad or upset they switched from poison. Not sure which one hurts less."

"You think Amari Wade is on this ship?" Christa's voice was low.

"Not sure if it's Amari Wade or a copycat. Regardless, she's here because a tip led her here. Booker," – he flinched – "you're here because Annora's previous guard couldn't make it, right?"

Booker nodded. Annora did, too. "Wait, someone wanted me here?"

"Yes. Just like Hal Takara." The father's eyes grew wide. "I don't think you were purposefully hiding this, but I'm sure only our murderer knows this about you. Mr. Takara, what did you used to do for a living?"

// Oracle

I will now reveal this.

Most of the passengers had easy-to-guess occupations from rolling on the First Look table. I did this when I first rolled up each character, back in chapter 10. For instance, Blackstone was "well-equipped" and "threatening." Clearly a Bounty Hunter. Edris was "ill-equipped" and "friendly." SCREAMED new host.

Hal Takara was simply "accompanied" and "suspicious." Didn't really mean much in terms of his occupation, but I decided there needed to be a parent on board so I made him a father and child. But, I needed them to have a job, too, so I rolled on the Role table for him and a few others (Annora was "graceful" and "hostile," and I rolled Navigator for hers).

I got Investigator for Hal.

"I-I'm a retired detective. I've worked on a few Amari Wade cases, in fact. Elusive bastard. I retired when my wife passed a few years ago and have devoted all of my time to taking care of our daughter."

"I almost caught them back in Portent," Booker said. "Oh, stars, Amari Wade set us up."

"Archer found work. Talia, death threats. Hal and Sage won the lottery for medical treatment. Myself... whisked here by Christa Duval and Roland Ruiz. All by chance."

I looked to Archer. Before he could protest, I continued.

"You were trying to extort Roland, right?"

"I see someone likes to kiss and tell. But yes. I can't expect to sleep with wealthy government officials for the rest of my life. I came across some info about Roland and decided to make a bit of money from my knowledge."

"You bastard," Christa said. "You are the reason he and I were even on this ship. He'd still be alive if it wasn't for you!"

"I'm not sure about that, Christa. I'm fairly sure death would have followed you all regardless of what ship you chose. As would have most of the people you see in this room. Hal, Booker, Blackstone, Archer, and Talia. Wherever Roland went, all of you would have as well."

"Wait, you didn't mention Brian," said Edris.

"Correct. I believe that the Bohemian Express was a casualty in all this. Brian was talking to pretty much everyone, especially Blackstone. My guess is he was killed because Amari Wade thought he overheard or stumbled upon something."

"Amari Wade got bored and decided to kill my best friend?!" I could hear Annora's breaths quicken.

"Also probably because it was easiest to lure him out. Edris, did anyone ask for anything the night Brian was murdered? Food, drinks, toiletries?"

"I... I was too afraid. I didn't even check. I left it up to Brian. I'm the reason he's dead..."

"I need a fucking drink," Annora said.

"Speaking of drinks..." I turned, gaze focused.


"Where did you get the tequila from, Archer?"

"From the bar, of course."

"I told you not to touch my liquor, Mr. Cassidy," Annora said.

"Look, after the second dead body, I needed something to calm my nerves. I'm not the only one who grabbed a few things. Blackstone did, too."

"Fuck off," Blackstone said.

"Well, he's not lying. He did take two bottles after she took some as well. But those were brown." I didn't want to admit that I'd almost slept with him, but... "I didn't notice it then, when I came to your room. Admittedly, I've been so focused on you that I've been distracted by the details. But you took brown liquor. You served me clear. And, I hate to say it, but I've been watching you this entire trip, Archer."

A beat of silence.

"Oh, and also your hands."

"I don't like where this is going, detective," Archer said.

"I'm sure when you strangled Roland, you cut your hand. The thinner fishing wire is, the more likely it is to cut you. You would have been perfectly fine, except you made me want you. And because I fell for you, I felt your hands. And all the little scars on them."

The silence was deafening. Everyone held their breath, waiting for someone to make a move.

Archer sighed and raised his hands. "I've been set up."

‌"Detective, this is not what I had in mind when you said you were going to handcuff me."

Archer – Amari Wade – sat on the ground. His wrists were bound, secured in place around a large metal pole in the dining hall.

The other passengers had left for their quarters with the murderer secured, and Annora assured us we would drop off Amari at a settlement that could handle him.

"Did you really think you were going to kill everyone on board, Amari?"

He shook his head. "Something tells me you've got bigger things to worry about, Locke."

"Mr. Holmes, or Detective. And what's that supposed to mean?"

"As I mentioned earlier, I was set up. Before you protest, I did actually kill Roland and Brian. That was all me. Guilty as charged. Would've probably gotten one more – maybe Blackstone or you, sorry – but you're very astute. Wish we could finish what we started."

I grumbled, and he continued.

"Sorry, lewdness and comedy again. But, don't you find it odd that practically everyone on board is a target of mine? I was hired for the Roland job, and, as you surmised, Brian was a casualty. I flirted with him, got him alone, did the deed. But for Blackstone to be here? And Booker? Hal? Talia? Hell, someone tried to hire me to fucking crash this ship but I turned that one down!"

The gears shifted.

Was I missing something?

"You said that wherever I went, the rest would have followed. Well, I definitely believe that. I didn't stalk Roland here. My employer told me to book passage, and I did."

"You're full of shit."

"Detective, have I withheld the truth? Sure. Racked up two bodies within the span of a day? Punish me. But I've already been caught. And my greatest asset has always been the secrets I carry around. I'm willing to sell out the fucker who hired me if it means I get to spread some of this justice around."

I wanted to believe him, I really did. I was still weak. Who else was I supposed to love? If I fell for someone, I was going to have to tell them about being Branded. If I fell in love with Amari – the serial killer! – at least we'd have something on each other. It'd be an even playing field.

I had to leave while I was strong enough. Any longer and I was going to fall under his spell again.

"Maybe this will cement that I am not lying, and perhaps you should be watching your back. My employer told me that, should I be apprehended – oh, I should've seen this coming – I was to deliver a message. I have no idea what it means but, if you do, then that is proof that this was all orchestrated. For you."

I shook my head. "I don't want to hear–"

"Two. Two. One. Bravo."

Lightning lanced up my arm, and Amari's expression widened.

"Oh. Oooooh. That's an interesting development."

// Fulfill your vow result

8 vs 8,10.

-sigh- I was very upset.

Um... how much progress do we remove?


Is he working alone? 13, yes.
Is he "special"? 66, definitely no?

Fuck me.

So, I decided to reveal a bit more of the grander plot I have in mind for this series.

Enjoy. ❤️

// Author's note

I really did not want Archer to be the murderer. I actually just wanted Locke to be able to have some fun, but noooooo. When I rolled, the dice landed on him. I felt like it'd be super obvious but decided to go with what the dice told me. In the end, I kind of like it.

This big plot reveal at the end? I had to figure out how such a catastrophic miss wouldn't completely derail me. I thought, "Okay, maybe Archer is Branded and holds them hostage." But the dice told me he was definitely not special.

I decided to take my advice and fail forward, especially since this Vow is now ranked as Extreme. Its resolution has got to be amazing.

And "luckily," I had already established that things were a little too perfect to be random. This twist at the end – Archer being set up – comes from what was originally going to be something related to Locke's background vow but I decided against it. I still loved the idea as a whole, though.

And – ACCIDENTALLY! mind you – the chapters around saving NEVERMORE also mentioned lots of luck.

There are bigger forces at play here...

⚡️ THUNDERFANG #13: Door Number 7
Amari Wade asks for a favor, and Locke quickly learns that some decisions are out of his hands.

The next chapter

Want to figure out what assets Locke has, the progress he’s made on his vows, and more game-/lore-related knowledge THUNDERFANG has? Check out this page!

This work is based on Ironsworn: Starforged (found at www.ironswornrpg.com), created by Shawn Tomkin,
and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Want to own Starforged for yourself? Grab it on DriveThruRPG!
(Affilate link)