Safe and sound in the Interpreter, Locke meets with Diogenes. Naturally, things get a bit more strange.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S2 #9: Strange
⚡️THUNDERFANG S2 #8: Flight
Locke’s latest conspirator knows too much about him, unleashing new fears—and threats— as he tries to escape.
The previous chapter


Season 2, Chapter 9

I told Ira to be on the lookout for any new people, and be vigilant. The threats of that madwoman had me on edge.

The only solace I took was that she had said Ripley—not John—and never mentioned Ira. Perhaps she didn't know the truth about them, or myself.

I needed every advantage I could get.

John and Lestrade were still doing research and hadn't found out much yet, but I warned John as well and told him to make sure he kept an eye out for Lestrade and Hudson. He was being spread thin, I know, but he was the only one on Saffron I could contact—or trust—with such a message. I knew that he could get the job done.

With my warnings out of the way, I pushed on to Diogenes. I couldn't sleep, and most of my food had been destroyed in the attack. However, turning back would have meant certain death, so I had no choice but to continue to my destination.

I arrived weak and barely together. The Scarlet Adler held it together well, but she would need more repairs than I could possibly afford on my own.

Luckily, I was here to meet with one of the wealthiest women in the Forge.

The Interpreter was an invitation-only deep-space private club. It was constantly on the move—the business card I had always had the most up-to-date coordinates—and evaded almost all the laws of the Salvi Pass and neighboring sectors. It was truly a lawless land with one woman in charge of it all.

"Lawless" as in not governed by the "proper authorities." There were plenty of rules, though. As I limped towards the entrance after docking, I flashed an amethyst-colored business card with a pair of lips in glittery gold, a single finger shushing. One scan of AR lenses revealed to those guarding the entrance that I was allowed in.

Not a single word was exchanged. It was Rule #1 of the Interpreter: no speaking. "Loose lips sink ships," I'd been told. "Can't sink a ship if the lips don't move." It made sense. Wealthy and shady individuals from every corner could be found within the Interpreter, and if no one could talk, no one could accidentally say the wrong thing and get themselves or someone else killed.

The only place that allowed speech within the Interpreter was the Stranger's Room. It was small and dimly lit. Old-school foam panels combined with tech made it soundproof. Additionally, you'd be scanned for tech before entering. All non-life-supporting tech had to be left behind, and everything else was dampened with occasional EMP bursts. They took security and privacy very seriously here.

I had left Watt in the Scarlet Adler so I wouldn't have to leave him at the mercy of the guards.

After being escorted into the room, I took a seat and waited.

// Oracle

How long does he wait? d6 hours: 3 hrs.

"What a wonderful surprise, Mr. Holmes."

Her voice snapped me awake. How long had I been waiting? There wasn't a clock in the room, but, knowing Diogenes, it was at least a few hours. If she wasn't busy, she was taking her time.

"What the hell was that, Diogenes?" I stood up. She was a few inches shorter than me, but that didn't make her any less intimidating. I did my best to hold my composure in her presence. I instantly regretted the aggression.

She walked to a rolling cart that was against one of the walls and poured herself what smelled like tea. I hadn't even noticed it before. "You're quite popular, you know. Your name has gotten around." Cup in hand, she moved past me and sat down.

"Yeah, I know. Some guy named Jack Moriarty is looking for me in Portent."

"Oh, I know. That family is old—might be older than the Founding Clans. They are the only family I know of that has money to rival my own. You'd be best to steer clear of them. Not that you have any luck with avoiding things. What's this I hear about you apprehending Amari Wade and letting him die?"

I told her about my time on the Bohemian Express, leaving out key details about Amari Wade's death. However, this didn't seem to satisfy her.

"This can't be why Jack Moriarty is looking for you. What trouble have you gotten yourself into, and how will this affect my investments?" She took a sip.

I weighed my options. Things were falling into my lap that I was not prepared for at an alarming rate. I was fortunate enough to have John and Lestrade's help, as well as Ira and all of Legacy. And while I couldn't exactly trust Lestrade with the full breadth of details, Diogenes was different. Diogenes knew I was Branded. And she had more resources than I could ever dream of having.

So, I spilled my guts. I amended the story of Amari Wade's death with the oddity that had occurred. I told her all about the Benevolent and Akim's death, and running into Curtis Winter. The "happy accident" of finding Ira. Running into Dr. Hendrix on Shiningstar, and her escape. The attack on the way here. Every oddity I could think of—except my visions—I told her in great detail.

// Oracle

I wonder… does Diogenes know about the Portent? Unlikely, 25-: 31.

So close, but no. This also rules out something else that I originally wanted her to be.

Okay, what assistance can Diogenes provide? Action+Theme: 98 17: Uphold Cure.

I mean, I guess money solves everything, right?

"And you potentially led a maniac directly to us? You should be banned just for that." She stood, leaving her cup on the table. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but her emotions seemed to have shifted. She walked past me once more, head down, as if in thought. What was she thinking about? "I'm not sure what else I can offer you except money, Mr. Holmes. And I've already lent you a sizeable amount."

"That'd be better than what I have now. If your pockets rival Jack's, I might stand a chance against whatever he's planning."

// Compel

+1 (heart): 4 vs 8, 10. Miss.

I figured. -sigh- No real cost but his pride. lol

Oh, I have another idea though. Uphold Cure could potentially hold another meaning…

Stick with me. It's vague as hell.

“That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.” She practically spat it at me. “You want me to spend all of my resources just to oust one person in power? Mr. Holmes, you're smarter than that. That family is more than just one man. Jack Moriarty has a twin, as well as older and younger siblings. Not to mention their father is still alive and holds a considerable amount of power. Any amount of money spent to deal with the Moriartys might as well be burned. It'd have the same effect—the latter would at least keep me warm.”

"I can't see a path forward then, Diogenes. Something doesn't feel right. There are too many coincidences, too many 'just so happens.' I feel like something is coming. Something big. And...I'm at the center of it, it seems."

She turned to face me, and for the first time ever, I saw concern on her face. "What kind of Branding did you say your boyfriend possessed again?"

The question took me by surprise. "What? Why?"

"Just answer the question, Mr. Holmes. You want my help? You answer my questions."

"...Thornbranded. Ira is Thornbranded."

"I've never heard of that type of Branding." Her eyes were locked on to mine, as if waiting for the next line in a script.

Once I realized she wasn't continuing, I added, "He had to name himself. As far as we know, he's the only one."

She closed her eyes and sighed. "I was afraid of that."

"I'm confused."

She pulled out a tablet and began scrolling through something. I was going to question the use of tech in the Stranger's Room, but she did own the place. She made the rules and could change them as she saw fit.

"Mr. Holmes, your keen eye for details is right. Something is coming, but I'm unsure of what. As you know, I help out as many Branded as possible. Just because we are Branded does not mean that we are of Malice. We have freewill, and we are not inherently evil."


Diogenes was Branded, too? I opened my mouth to speak, but she continued.

"I keep my eyes on everyone and I've noticed something...strange over the last decade or so. We've been growing at an alarming rate, Mr. Holmes. Faster and faster. The number of Branded has almost tripled in the last thirty years. Thirty years, Mr. Holmes. You are 221B. Your new companion, John, is 666R. Do you realize the timespan between you two getting your brands?"

I had still been on Avam when John's batch arrived, but I couldn't remember the specific timeframes. Time had blurred together there. Plus, I had been too obsessed with Ira.

"Two years. Two. Years. In two years, over 400 of us were brought to Avam. This is simply counting the batch number itself. I haven't even factored in how many of us were in each batch. My data shows that fifty years ago, we were only on batch 122. There was a rate of about one batch for every five years. There are now multiple batches—hundreds!—a year. Use your deductive powers: tell me, what is the current batch number?"

I remembered having a similar discussion with John, back when he was still healing. I had noticed we were growing fast but it hadn't clicked that something was off about it.

What did Diogenes know?

"If John was 666 five years ago, maybe...1800?"

"Very good. 1887. The number should be higher, but they started adding two letters instead of just the one. There are that many Branded in each batch now. And with this fast growth comes something...strange. New types of Branding are showing up. The first recorded Lightningbranded was over six hundred years ago—around batch 56. You showed up on Avam 165 batches after that. Quakebranding was the latest edition, and that was two hundred years ago around batch 95. "

"How do we know that they weren't just well hidden? How do we know that they just haven't gotten better at rounding us up." I didn't like where this was going.

"Even if that's the case—which it isn't—it does not explain why once a new Branding was discovered, there was a sudden influx of them being brought to Avam. I highly doubt they were suddenly targeting the new Branded types.

"Mr. Holmes, you don't need to be Hivebranded to predict what I'm about to tell you. You and your boyfriend are correct: Ira is the only recorded 'Thornbranded'—or any Branded who exclusively controlled plants—in history."

// Author's Note

This is a bit of lore I came up with some time ago. This felt like a good time to divulge that nugget of info, and what better person to do so than Diogenes.

// Oracle

Ticking the John and Lestrade clock up one more. 2/4

⚡️THUNDERFANG S2 #10: Missing
Diogenes tells Locke to find a missing Branded woman who can walk through walls. Nothing strange about that at all.
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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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