Who knew traveling to the Ironlands would bring such distress? What more could possibly happen?

⚡️THUNDERFANG S2 #22: Distress
⚡️THUNDERFANG S2 #21: The Exposition Scenario
The voices in Locke’s head return. And with them, answers to questions he’s been seeking.

The previous chapter


Season 2, Chapter 22

I sat with John in my room after changing out of my sweat-soaked clothes and told him about the dream.

"I'm friends with the chosen one?" John couldn't stop grinning, his emotions shifting between "this is so un-fucking-believable it can't be real" and "this explains why everything goes to shit." I was going through the same, more or less, just internally.

We immediately set out to decipher the dream. Each of my visions with the Branded before had clued me into something important, something I could use in whatever fight they had destined for me. What was I supposed to learn from this one? Just the lineage of the Moriartys? I had learned that Jack was one of the woman's children—and from what Diogenes had told me back on the Interpreter, Jack had older and younger siblings and a twin.

I had learned of the Forty-Fourth, though I still didn't have an actual name for them. I made a mental note to look up the Moriartys later. What else was there? There had to be something I was missing. Something obvious.

"They're right about one thing," John said eventually. "Your words are almost like a second Branding."

It didn't feel that way. Though, if I stopped and took an objective look at myself and what I'd been through, I couldn't help but notice the evidence to support that. Over the last year or so, I'd gotten into a few physical fights, but a lot of my success came from my words and the way I interacted with people.

When I had taken the Roger Usagi case, I had never expected...this.

I'd done enough damage to the Scarlet Adler in my sleep that the rattling noise I had heard before had gotten worse. If we didn't make it to the Ironlands—or literally anywhere else—soon, we'd either starve to death or die of suffocation on board. I wasn't going to get any more sleep, so I made a pot of coffee while the others slept. John joined me in the cockpit.

To help calm my nerves, we performed a quick scan of the area.

// Secure an Advantage

+2 (wits) => 6 vs 3, 8. Weak hit.

+2 momentum [4]

Once again, the coast looked clear. I went over the path we were taking to get to the Ironlands, thoughts of the dream still heavy on my mind. It felt like we weren't making any actual progress—to our destination, or getting to an understanding of what the hell was going on.

But, we pushed on, regardless.

We had to.

// Undertake an Expedition

+2 (shadow) => 3 vs 7, 10. Miss.


Okay, I'm going to give myself a break.

I'm going to create a 4-segment clock, and fill in 1 segment.

When this clock completes, I must Finish the Expedition. It'll represent their lack of resources and such. Finishing the Expedition, regardless of how much progress is filled, will determine the state they're in upon their arrival.

Also, I need a waypoint.

Space sighting, 79: Fiery energy storm.

On a better trip, I'd probably have Locke try to recharge again, but I am not about to press my luck.

The next few days were absolutely miserable.

The rattling turned into a constant noise, making focusing and sleeping difficult. Our food was dangerously low, leading to all kinds of tempers and attitudes. We were hungry and tired, exhausted and frustrated—you name it, we felt it. All the while, I was missing Ira more and more. I hoped he had arrived at the Ironlands by now so I could see his face immediately upon arrival. I turned the black iron coin over in my hands repeatedly as I tried to steady my nerves.

An overly dramatic energy storm suddenly appeared around us as we recharged one day. It somehow aggravated us more. We couldn't pass the time exploring the space around us, and most of us did not want to be bothered by other aggravated people. I didn't sense that any of us were close to killing one another but I didn't want to risk it. I pulled John with me and took him to the supply room. Maybe there was a way we could ration out our resources better and lift our spirits.

// Secure an Advantage

+2 (wits) => 5 vs 3, 5. Weak Hit.

+2 momentum [6]

While the results weren't exactly what I was hoping for, we managed to extend the resources for maybe another week—if we slept most of the time and kept our activities to a minimum.

I hated being on the run.

// Undertake an Expedition

+2 (shadow) => 8 vs...

The next day, as "luck" would have it, we were delayed by a meteoroid storm. We kept our distance, but the runway we needed to accelerate to the next jump was blocked. If we tried to make it through the storm, we would have probably ended up breaking the Scarlet Adler more than she already was and all that suffering up until now would have been for nothing.

So, we waited. Again.

Yelena worked a little more on piecing Watt back together, though without proper supplies, there wasn't much else she could do for him. It was a similar situation with the Scarlet Adler. She managed to get the rattling down just a bit. I was merely grateful that it didn't seem like we'd suddenly lose life support in the void of space.

Kaisa and Fletcher kept Jane company. Jane seemed to have gotten over the fact that she had been kidnapped by the three, and was grateful for the fact that, even for a moment, she could stop worrying about her family. I wished there was more I could do for her. For all of us, really.

And John. He seemed to be getting used to his new reality. Or there was no need to think about it if we were all going to die. Regardless of how he was handling the situation, it seemed like he was...well, handling it. I joined him in the cockpit as he looked over various sensors and scans, parsing the data and making small adjustments to our path.

"Hopefully we can avoid another one of these," he said without taking his eyes off the screens. "We should already be in a jump, but the delay is eating into our food supply. If this doesn't let up within the next few hours, we're going to have to find a way around—or through—it."

I sighed.

Just our "luck."

"That sounds like a good idea. Just hoping we don't randomly sprout a new crew member to feed. I never thought I'd need food for six people."

"Funny how the one-man show is now an ensemble cast." John smirked and elbowed me. I couldn't help but return the gesture. It still surprised me how I had gone from a moody loner with a robot to the leader of a crew of six people. I'd gained a chosen family in Ira and John, and—


I eyed John. We looked at the screen in unison.

A distress call?

Cautiously, I pressed the button to respond. "Um...Hello? This is—"

"Oh thank the stars!" The voice was garbled. A quick look showed me that it was coming from within the meteoroid storm. "My ship can't take much more of this. I thought this would pass but—I'm stuck out here! I'm just trying to make it to the Ironlands in one fucking piece!"

We shared another look between us. Was this a trap?

This had to be a trap, right?

The Bleeding Heart within forced my hand, though. I had to check. If this was a setup of some kind...Well, they would have to deal with six very angry and hungry individuals, three of which could rip them apart just by thinking.

The ship wasn't too far away—it was a blip in the scans that we originally thought was space junk. We moved in as close as we could and sent out a tether to the ship and pulled it back to safety moments later. It was beaten beyond repair. There was no way it was going to be flying anywhere anytime soon.

As the ship docked next to ours, Kaisa and Fletcher armed themselves while Yelena stayed back a safe distance. Jane stood between them while John and I, in our Mimic suits—more for safety than obscurity—were ready to act at a moment's notice. I could feel the air shift—both from John's abilities and the sheer tension of it all.

The person entered the airlock and the sounds of decompression filled the interior. I held my breath, ready for anything.

The door slid open and—

I gasped.

Was not ready for this.


// Undertake an Expedition Result


progress [6/10]

space sighting, 83: chaotic meteoroid storm

spaceborne opportunity, 78: plea for help from a potential benefactor

Is it one of the Oracles from Ira’s story? 50/50: 57, no.

Then, I need a name:

77: … WHAT!?


Um.. I guess I mark progress??? [3/10]

Fulfill Your Vow

3 vs 1, 5. Weak hit.

That was HELLA random.

I want full experience, so I'm going to come back to the new vow later.

But no, seriously, what the fuck is she doing out here?

Action+Theme: 21, 55: Clash Love.

She was having an argument with her lover? No, no...

Being here explains why no one could get in contact with her. That part makes sense.

But why HERE? “Clash love”????

Okay, I need one more Action+Theme

68, 73: Overwhelm Resource.

This is still super vague and fuzzy.

"Detective Holmes!" Blackstone rushed forward and hugged me. John and the rest of the crew stood confused.

"Blackstone. Wh-what are you doing all the way out here? Your sister was looking for you!"

"I was undercover for a while, in the hospital for another chunk, got stranded on a deserted planet only to find out it wasn't fully deserted. After that ran into Talia Vega and agreed to help her uncover some weird water scandal, which led me to the Ironlands. I've, uh...heard the news. Was gonna come and look for you eventually, too." She smiled.

I tensed. The air shifted and I heard everyone behind me sharply inhale. Of course a bounty hunter would come looking for me. I had to be worth a fortune.

"Not to turn you in, of course!" Blackstone seemed to have noticed everyone brace themselves. She held her hands up in surrender and stepped back, an awkward smile plastered on her face. "Not officially, anyway. Look, I'm pretty sure you saved my life and almost everyone else's back on the Bohemian Express; I owe you for that. I don't really care if you're Branded or not. But I don't think you're this violent criminal that Moriarty is saying you are—besides, who the fuck is he, anyway? If I say that I've 'got you'"—she did air quotes with her fingers—"then a few of my friends and associates will ease up on hunting you down for the reward. Gives me time to see if I'm right, and hopefully buys you some time."

I was...speechless.

// Make a Connection

+1 (heart) => 5 vs 1, 10.

Blackstone has already been saved (twice now). I think if we can just get her to the Ironlands so she can go where she wants to, that'll be enough.

Blackstone is a Dangerous Bounty Hunter.

// Resupply

+2 (wits). I'm saying this is more scavenging because we're not really trying to convince Blackstone to give us her resources.

4 vs 6, 9. Miss.

Cool, so it wouldn't have mattered what stat we rolled. lol

I'll make a tick on that clock I made [2/4]

No real peril, except the looming threat of dying in space for one reason or another. -shrug- The us'.

We now had seven people on board the Scarlet Adler.


And to make matters worse, most of Blackstone's supplies had been ruined or damaged in the meteoroid storm, or used up by her. Not her fault, but I was really looking for a win.

I had no other choice but to look on the bright side.

One: presumably, the Bounty Hunters after us would back up if they saw us with Blackstone. We were "claimed." As dirty as it sounded, it meant that we were safer with her around—even if it meant we were hungrier.

Two: Blackstone apparently knew exactly where she was going. Her coordinates to the Ironlands might be better than a secretive set of coordinates we got from Ira. Perhaps she could provide us with a good idea of how to get there faster.

// Secure an Advantage

+2 (wits) + 1 Blackstone = +3 => 6 vs 1, 5. A STRONG HIT!

+2 momentum [8]

+1 Forward

She told us about a slightly longer route that would take us around most other hazards in the sector. "Only reason I got caught in the storm was because I was trynna be quick about it. Knew I should've tried the tried and true route."

We set her up with a few rations—removing at least two days from our survival, according to John's notes—and had her relax with Yelena and the others as John and I prepped for another jump.

Hopefully, we wouldn't randomly spawn another mouth to feed.

An Ironlander decides to pass on his wisdom to Locke as he anxiously awaits his love’s arrival in the Ironlands.

The next chapter

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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