As Locke tries to nurse Ripley back to health, the winds of fate reveal a surprising truth.

Chapter 8: Or Not
⚡️ THUNDERFANG #7: Believe It
Locke crash lands back on Saffron, and nothing goes the way he expects them to. For once, that’s a good thing.
The previous chapter

Or Not

Chapter 8

// Heal, +2

+2 (wits, providing care) => 6 vs 3,6. Weak hit.

-2 Supply [3]

The storm raged above.

I opened every box of gauze and injected him with probably one too many things. I don't know what worked but something did. He was stable. I was running low on lightning again and the planet whispered – CONSUME ME, LOCKE. TAKE MY ENERGY AND FEED YOUR HUNGER. – for me to refill myself. But, for a moment, I was able to suppress the desire to simply "make myself feel good."

Helping him quieted the voice.

I showered while he rested, then switched into more comfortable clothing. Getting rid of the protective gear made me feel more relaxed, less like I was still fighting for my life. I couldn't banish all of my anxiety, so I grabbed my black tourmaline necklace and put it on. I was never sure if it actually worked or if it was a placebo, but my thoughts began to calm and the storm outside didn't feel as loud.

I could do this. I was strong.

I kept an eye on him all night. I decided it was best to stay put until he woke up and the storm passed. I didn't want to disturb him and undermine everything I had done. I also had Watt keep to another area; I didn't want the sight of it to trigger Ripley.

The guilt tried to consume me more than the hunger did. The kid had almost died. There was no way he could have known the derelict was going to explode. The fact that he was able to get to an escape pod in time was a small blessing.

Amidst the occasional crash of thunder above, the steady sound of his heart beating on the monitors was all I could hear. The longer I watched him breathe, the more I knew I had caused this. And for what? I had proven Akim was guilty but now he was also dead. All I could do now was clear Roger's name. And there was no guarantee that was going to go as planned.

I tried to shove the depression in the same box from before, the same box I shoved my anxiety and contempt into. It was overflowing at this point. I told myself I had done the best job I knew how. I was approached to provide a service, and I did it. I also wanted to protect Karim's legacy and all that he stood for. Akim needed to be stopped. And I had technically done just that: I stopped him. I got the evidence I needed to free Roger; he and his wife would eventually be able to return to some semblance of a life. I did not know the derelict would wipe out the entire SPD crew and Akim. I landed my punches, I caused my harm, I got what I needed, and I left. I didn't kill anyone – not on purpose. I never–

Ripley stirred.

I rushed over. He was finally awake. The voices telling me that I had failed were instantly silenced. I had done something right in all of this. "Thought I lost you there."

Thunder boomed and the Scarlet Adler shook.

We introduced ourselves. I insisted he rest and stay in bed, and handed him a cup of water, which he downed in a single gulp. I asked, "Do you remember what happened?"

"Yeah..." He nodded as if his head weighed a ton. Something didn't feel right. I blamed it on the storm initially, messing with my emotions again, but...

"What's wrong?"

Ripley stared at the ground. He fiddled with one of his bandages. "I needed to make money, and that derelict was really promising. SPD's going to bench me, I know it." Somber, with a hint of bitterness. I was surprised this was on his mind first thing after waking up.

"I know a thing or two about debt." I forced a laugh and tried to cheer him up. He didn't bite. If he was worried about money... "I don't have much, but maybe you can work for me once we get back to Portent."

Something about the air shifted and made my stomach twist. I looked behind me. Watt, are we alone? I masked my words with the hum only Watt could perceive. Watt responded moments later with a similarly-masked confirmation beep.

"How much do you owe?" I asked. He barely looked at me. That sense of victory was beginning to fade. I felt like I had only ruined the boy's life, then forced him to keep living.

The amount he said was astronomical. It almost matched mine.

It... almost matched... mine.

"How long have you had this debt?"

"Few years. Been on my own, and... I needed to survive. They offered, I took it."

The gears began turning in my head. He would have been... No... Impossible...

"Where are you from, Ripley? I can drop you off after." I looked to the airlock; I had felt a breeze. Watt didn't signal me that there was a breach, so I pushed it aside.

"Nowhere important." It was quick. Almost rehearsed.

I stood, looking through my supplies for new bandages. "You don't have to tell me. I understand. I can drop you off in Portent, and you can be on your way. Just wanted to make sure you were safe." I approached him, slowly, bandages in hand.

If I was right...

"Can you show me your back? Want to make sure everything is fine there. I couldn't get to it before because of your environment suit, but you're awake now so this should be easier."

The air stilled. "U-uh, I'm fine. Thank you, Mr. Holmes. You've already done enough."

"No, I insist." I faked a smile. I reached for his shirt.

Ripley scrambled to the ground. The bed he was on flipped over. He tangled himself in the web of cords and wires he was attached to. His eyes widened. I held up my hands, dropping the bandages. He began inching back as far away as he could from me. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I– I had a suspicion but... I guess this confirms it. Your debt is from Diogenes, right? And you've had this debt for maybe five years?" Ripley's eyes widened.

"And you don't want to show me your back because... that's where you're branded."

The Scarlet Adler became oddly still and silent. Nothing moved. Then, a gust of hurricane-force wind struck me and threw me back into a wall. I heard Ripley scramble to his feet.


"Ripley!" I held out my hand and made lightning dance between my fingertips. I needed him to know he was not alone.

// Make a connection, +1

+1 (Heart; convince Ripley he's not alone) => 2 vs 6,8. Miss.

Yeah, there was zero chance of that working. But this is okay in the long run.

Combining the PtP, because there was only a single line before the next roll and it broke up the fiction too much.

// Face Danger, +3
+3 (iron; withstand the wind attack) => 7 vs 2,4. Strong hit. Damn right!

+1 momentum [5]

He couldn't see me. Instead, he sent another hurricane in my direction. I raised my arm and stood my ground, stepping forward. Now that I knew what I was dealing with, I was ready. He wasn't the first Cyclonebranded I had dealt with.

He had a lot to learn.

"You're in no condition to fight me" – I heard how that sounded and made sure to make my intentions clear – "and I'm only trying to help. I'm not going to turn you in."

When the wind stopped, he was on the ground. His face was twisted in terror, tears overflowing. I stepped toward him slowly and knelt to the ground.

"Ripley, believe it or not, I'm on your side." I tilted, moving the collars of my shirt and jacket out of the way so he could see my brand.

// Compel, +1

+1 (Heart) => 3 vs 1,1. Strong hit + match!

+1 momentum

Not sure what the match will do, so we'll pocket it for now.

Does Ripley know anything about Locke's brand? 50/50: 75, no.

I felt the air calm and his expression changed to that of recognition and understanding. I stood, a nervous smile making its way onto my face. I held out my hand to him. "Nice to meet you. They called me THUNDERFANG."

His smile was genuine. "I'm NEVERMORE."

// Oracle Rolls

I moved this to the bottom because it's SUCH a major spoiler for this chapter. When I rolled all of this, I was legitimately shocked. I did not expect this and this was not planned.


Let’s try the revealed character aspect for how Ripley’s behaves once he wakes up. 09: bitter.

Why the hell is he bitter? Let’s Action + Theme this.
08, 20: Attack Debt.

Probably the same reason Locke is bitter. 


Does Ripley have debt with Diogenes!?
Unlikely, 25-: 11.


I have a list of 8 Branded types in my doc. I didn't want to limit it to only what I had written, so I rolled a d10.

d10, 1 - 8 are as listed, 9 - 10 i’ll make up something else: 3.

3 is Cyclonebranded.

⚡️ THUNDERFANG #9: Thing of Evil
As Locke learns more about NEVERMORE, the history of their names makes him question his motives and convictions. Should he keep pursuing the Benevolent?
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.

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