When things come too easily, Locke questions if they're still simply doing things according to plan...

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #11: Too Easy
⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #10: A Familiar Voice
The familiar voice of his sister fills Ira with so much joy, while the familiar voice of another fills Locke with anxiety…

The previous chapter

Too Easy

Season 3, Chapter 11

The madwoman. 

The one who claimed I was a plague. 

The one who tried to kill me and everyone on board on more than one occasion.

She was a fucking Moriarty?!

That couldn’t be a coincidence, right?

I had barely formed the words before I remembered to mask my voice. I didn’t want to alarm the team, not yet. For now, we needed to get as far away from Jillian and this building as possible. I’d sift through everything else Watt collected later. 

// Face Danger

+1 (edge) => 4 vs... 9, 9. 

Of. Fucking. COURSE.





10 vs 9, 9.


Progress: 10/10. Clock, 3/4.

Finish the scene:

10 vs 8, 9. SH!

Progress on Althea, water extorter vow.


Progress on how to stop the Moriartys

1/10 (formidable)

What did that match give us?

DF: 23, 65: Contested Reality.

Ah. I think I have an idea.

It was surprisingly easy to escape. A little too easy, actually. There’d been a minor hiccup towards the end as we left the building, but it was handled with ease. I didn’t want to think about what this being “too easy” could mean right now. John, Watt, and I rejoined the others, who’d already left for the Scarlet Adler.

“In and out, with no issues. A good old fashioned stritma,” Irēn said. I knew what the word meant, but I don’t think the crew had encountered all the Ironsworn lingo while in the Ironlands. The most they knew was Bleeding Heart and Sly. Irēn explained the term—a strong hit and a match, a sign of incredible luck—as Watt sent the data to Yelena, who uploaded it to the Scarlet Adler. She printed off photos for us to use for the crime board.

“So, we all know who this is: Akim Salvi.” I slapped a group photo on the board. I couldn’t tell where it was taken, but that was irrelevant. It contained every person of note—another odd coincidence, or just fate. “And our previous distinguished guest, Curtis Winter. Let’s see…John and I met this imposing woman, Dr. Ashely Hendrix—yet another member of the Benevolent—on Shiningstar, just as this man—Juro Mihara—was turned into a Risen and tried to kill us. And then this woman, Althea Lontoc, is who we’re looking for now. She’s an influencer, so her face was never particularly hidden. Just never thought to look her up before.”

“That monster is Jack Moriarty.” Yelena pointed him out. Kaisa, Fletcher, and Jane nodded. 

Irēn took in the details of each of their faces before stepping back. “That’s a lot of enemies.”

“Hey,” John said as he settled into a seat, pointing to a woman who I hadn’t pointed out yet. “That’s that woman we kept seeing, right?”

“This…is Jillian Moriarty.”

“Jillian?” Blackstone recoiled in shock. “How many of them are there?”

“We were that close to another Moriarty,” John said softly.

“To make matters worse…I recognized her voice.” The confusion on their faces was palpable. “She’s the madwoman who tried to have us killed. I didn’t want to say anything until we left the building. It was already a tense situation.”

John stepped closer to the photo, squinting to get a better look. “But, wait, she targeted you before Jack outed us? How did she know who you were?”

“I have no idea. But…the Moriartys are deep in this, much deeper than we anticipated.” I pointed to the last unidentified person in the photo: a tall man who stood out amongst the others. He looked similar to Jack and Jillian in some ways. 

I recognized him as well.

“This,” I said, “is James Moriarty.”

Malice was wearing his body like a well-fitted suit when I’d seen him.

John fiddled with a tablet, looking through the data. “The forty-forth James Moriarty, actually. His father is the forty-third. I didn’t know family’s cared that much about names, but apparently they do.”

“So, a family of evil people with a gang of weirdos to do their bidding? Nice.” Blackstone rolled her eyes. “How do we stop them—all of them?”

“Yeah,” Kaisa said. “Their crew is just as big as ours.”

“We can’t just turn them over to the authorities.” Kaisa sat back in her seat, exhaling. “How do we stop people when the law won’t?”

“Well, if the rumors are true, you took out Akim Salvi,” Irēn said. “I’m guessing you’re above killing anyone else?”

“I didn’t kill him—not purposefully, anyway. I left the ship and it exploded shortly after.”

“Well, if we’re not going to kill them, and we can’t turn them in, what the hell do we do? Do we talk to them and get them to join the crew?” Jane asked.


“Okay, that last part was clearly a joke.”

“But,” Fletcher said, raising a finger, “you make a good point. What if we talk to them? Well, not us, clearly. I’m not sure any of us are as convincing as Locke.”

“They wouldn’t join us if their lives depended on it,” John said.

“True,” Fletcher said. “Maybe they’d turn on each other, though. Might clean themselves up like Akim did.”

“I really hate that idea.” They were terrible, terrible people, but I didn’t want them to die. All I could think of was Amari. And what exactly had Akim gone through in his last moments? “Besides, what would I even say to someone like Althea, or Dr. Hendrix? Or Jillian? I tried talking her down the first time.”

“Just yell at them to stop. It’s mostly worked so far,” Jane said.

“No, wait,” Yelena said, sitting up in her seat. “What if you ruin whatever they’re planning? There’s no telling if ruining Akim’s plans would’ve worked, but that was the original plan, right? Expose them, like they exposed you.”

All eyes fell on our typically quiet ship mechanic. She seemed to shrink back once she realized she had everyone’s attention, but Kaisa propped her back up, gesturing for her to keep going.

“She’s an influencer,” she continued, a little more confident in herself. “She works off of public opinion. If we ruin that, we can stop her without having to literally stop her. We can do the same to the others, too. Once we have enough evidence of what they’ve done wrong, we can tell everyone in the Forge.”

“The court of public opinion…” I sat with the thought for a moment, letting it roll around. “That’s brilliant, Yelena.”

The crew congratulated Yelena and then broke off to begin compiling any and all evidence we could find on Althea Lontoc.

// Secure an Advantage

+2 wits?

Is this a wits roll? Yes, they are gathering intel.

5 vs... 1, 1. Well DAMN. SH+Match.

+2 momentum [4]

+1 forward

Hmmmmmmm. What's the details of the match?

DF: 2, 71: Abundant Route.

Paper trail?

Like...she's super bad at hiding her shit?

Progress on water vow.


Which, now that we had a goal and a mission, flowed. Althea was apparently terrible at hiding things. There was a massive paper trail in the documents that Watt acquired for us, but also publicly available to anyone who bothered to look.

“She’s…a bad villain,” Jane said. “Like, not evil bad. Terrible bad. I’m a little embarrassed. You guys were better at this than she was,” she said in the direction of her former captors. Fletcher stuck up a middle finger at her and blew a raspberry.

“So, she had tons of funding from Mihara, contributed to a few publications published by Dr. Hendrix—hell, there’s even a date on her calendar about when she’s meeting up with ‘the copycats.’ How cryptic.” John rolled his eyes.

“It’s like she’s trying to get caught,” Blackstone said.

It did feel that way. Almost like it was too easy.

As if according to plan.

“It works in our favor, though,” I said, doing my best to sound confident, tapping into my Shadow to promote my Iron, even though I believed the worst. 

“So what’s the plan now?” John asked.

“I’m going to approach her tonight, and end this.”

“You’re not just going to expose her?” Irēn asked. “Be done with it?”

“She deserves a chance…I think.” I looked to my crew. If I had simply “ended” some of them, then we wouldn’t be where we were today. “We’re the good guys.”

Irēn looked to her brother and smirked. “He really is a Bleeding Heart.”

Stella was much more quiet than Portent was at night. There were no factories making ship parts and rowdy factory workers in the pubs. No violent electrical storms thundered above, and no ships came or went from the various shipyards. By comparison, Stella was deathly silent.

Which made the creepy feeling I had much, much worse.

I approached the hotel where Althea was allegedly staying. Typical of a person of means, she was staying at a hotel within Stella only those of true affluence could afford: the Midnight Oasis. This was where the Salvis and every elected official chose to lay there head when visiting. On Portent it would have been a tall, multistoried building that dared to touch the sky. From our planning, we’d learned that the Midnight Oasis spanned three floors, and we were on the uppermost one. Here, like the Golden Tower on Obon, it took up multiple floors, stretching throughout the entirety of the settlement, going from ceiling to ceiling.

I had attempted to come alone, doing my best to convince everyone that I did not want to raise the alarms any further. If I was caught, it would be only myself, giving the others ample time to escape. Naturally, John and Jane didn’t listen. They couldn’t have been more different from each other, but they both had a knack for being the annoying—yet lovably loyal—younger siblings that I never asked for.

“You give the signal, we’ll fucking bust in there and get you out, okay?” Jane said.

“And I can position myself by the windows so if you need a quick escape, I can catch you.”

I nodded to them. I hadn’t wanted them to come but I was secretly glad they had. It was so much easier to go through these challenges with them, a thought I would have never considered two years ago.

We checked our comms—letting the others know back on the Scarlet Adler that we’d made it safely—and I approached a side entrance. The cleaning staff would have used one of these to easily come and go as needed. With a bit of subterfuge, I slipped inside and made my way to where Althea was staying.

// Face Danger

+3 (shadow+infiltrator) => 7 vs 6,8! WH

-1 spirit [3]

Endure stress

+3 => 8 vs 1,6. SH!

+1 momentum [5]

I ducked past roaming security and hid my face from the gaze of cameras as I made my way up several flights of stairs. Ira gave directions, helping me navigate the maze of floors of the Midnight Oasis. His voice was a calming presence that I so desperately needed right now. My thoughts were beginning to go in unwanted directions. I kept thinking of how much this felt like a trap, how surprisingly easy it was that we found her.

What if this was the plan the entire time?

I slowed my pace as my thoughts caught up with me. Maybe I should turn around…

“And after this next right turn, she should be four doors down on the left. Room 3014,” Ira said and my peace returned. Trap or not, we had to keep going. And if I had my crew—if I had Ira—then everything was going to be okay.

I approached room 3014 with caution, and just as easily as I had slipped into the Midnight Oasis, I was inside. I softly shut the door behind me.

Lavish wasn’t the word to describe Althea’s current living quarters. I had stepped into what looked to be a lounge area, filled with plush furnishings and lavish accents of gold, red, and silver.  A chandelier hung above the entryway, though it wasn’t lit so I couldn’t take in its full opulence. It spanned about the entire size of the area within the Scarlet Adler that we used for meetings, though I was pretty sure it was much larger. I couldn’t see the kitchen or sleeping quarters, meaning it had to be much farther back.

I quietly stepped through the space. She’d been here recently, a champagne flute on a table still bubbling. A soft—fake—fire burned in a fireplace, giving the room a dim light and a feeling of warmth and comfort.

Movement in the back alerted me the presence of, who I hoped would be, the woman I was seeking. I tucked myself in a shadowy corner and waited. I was awarded with confirmation: Althea was home. She walked down a long hallway from the back and picked up her champagne before sitting down on one of the three couches by the fire. She waved her hand, a video stream displaying before her.

I inhaled quietly and stepped out from the shadows, just outside of her peripheral. 

“Althea Lontoc.”

The champagne flute shattered as it hit the ground. She stood to her feet, backing up against a wall by the fireplace. “Who the hell are you?”

“My name is Locke Holmes,” I said as I approached her slowly, letting the light from the fire illuminate my features. “I trust you know the name.”

I dug into my pocket—she inhaled sharply—and I pulled out a small data stick. I tossed it onto the couch she was sitting on previously.

“What is that?”

“Information that I hope is not news to you, but would be to anyone who saw it. Information that I don’t think you want getting out to the public.”

Cautiously, she reached over and picked up the data stick, looking it over in her hands before taking out a small device and inserting it. The video stream she had been viewing was replaced by the data on the drive. Her eyes narrowed and her nose flared.

“I’m giving you an out, Althea. Stop what you’re doing, now, and undo any of the harm you’ve already caused, or I’ll turn the entire Forge against you.”

“So, the infamous Lightningbranded has resorted to blackmailing the blackmailer. Nice.”

“Are you going to comply or not?”

// Fulfill Your Vow

I think the time has to be now…

8 vs...1, 7. SH!

And I have an idea for how to play this, since it seems so anticlimactic.

“Why don’t you just kill me like you did Akim Salvi, hm?” She took a defiant step forward.

“I didn’t kill Akim—”

She raised a hand to silence me and rolled her eyes, moving cautiously around the shattered champagne flute. She stepped to an ice bucket that was chilling an already open bottle of something pink, and she pulled two flutes from under the bar. Althea poured two half-glasses of the bubbly liquid and moved to take a seat back on the couch, setting the second flute on the table in front of her. She gestured for me to sit on the opposite couch.

“You do realize you’re in over your head, right?” she said, taking a sip.

I didn’t move from my spot, unsure of what was going on.

“Oh, I give up, if that wasn’t clear.”

Too easy.

“I can only assume you’re thinking that this was ‘too easy,’ and honestly, I can’t blame you.” She sighed heavily. “I feel like that’s why Akim hired me: I was low hanging fruit. I don’t think he ever took me seriously, if we’re being honest. I was a Mimic in theme only, using water to control the Forge. I thought it was clever, really.”

I scanned the room for cameras. Nothing stood out. What was she doing? What was her end goal?

“What is the goal of the Benevolent?” I asked.

“I shouldn’t be surprised you know that name, Locke. After all, you’re standing in my hotel room after having held Curtis captive. Like, they did nothing to prepare me for the likes of you. But to answer your question, I have no idea. Control, I guess? Akim seems to have hired us all for different reasons. Ugh, do you know what this was like for me, Locke? It’s like…I was some pawn, following orders exactly.

Her words made me cringe. She wasn’t speaking as if she knew it would trigger something within me, as if she was in on the entire plot and was toying with my mental.

No. It was scarier that she seemed to have no idea that she was doing this to me. This was what she actually felt and thought. That made it terrifying, knowing that—even without intention—she was doing exactly what she feared.

“I was told to cause chaos amongst the sectors. Do things here, influence that. Had clear directions once, which—surprise—you also thwarted.”

I stopped her plans once before?

“What was the name of that ship?” She snapped her fingers, gazing off to the side as she tried to remember. “Bohemian something. Just had to do a little blackmail on another influencer. Didn’t know people would die from that trip, yikes.”

You blackmailed Talia Vega?”

// Author’s Note

This detail was not planned until just now, but in hindsight makes SO much sense.

“Ah! That was her name. Yes. Quite simple, actually. She was already working with some less-than-noble people. Other than that incident, though, I was told to be loud and reckless. It paid nicely and I got to look pretty while doing it.” 

Almost like a diversion…

She finished her drink and grabbed the one intended for me.

“Who hired you?” I said, a little more forceful than I had intended.

“That poor Salvi.”

“What does—”

Something clicked behind me.

“Oh, right. I called for security the moment I saw you. Button by the ice bucket. Took them long enough.”

I had so many more questions that needed answers. How deep did this go? Why would Akim hire her to create diversions? How did the Moriartys fit into this?

But I wouldn’t get answers from her. Not today, probably not ever.

I hid myself in the shadows by the door as security burst through, and, in the confusion, slipped out unnoticed.

// Face Danger


+2 (shadow) => 6 vs 2, 5. SH!

+1 momentum [6]

Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

Despite questioning the ease of their escape and their defeat of Althea, the crew of the Scarlet Adler prefer that over the confusion and chaos.

The plans laid out for them are many things, all at once: sharp and subtle, mysterious and clear.

But all roads lead to the inevitable end.

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!
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