Fate will do whatever it takes to get Locke exactly where he needs to be, using all kinds of signs to do so.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #12: Sharp, Subtle, Mysterious, Clear
⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #11: Too Easy
When things come too easily, Locke questions if they’re still simply doing things according to plan…

The previous chapter

Sharp, Subtle, Mysterious, Clear

Season 3, Chapter 12

What would Althea do now that I’d threatened her? Would she retaliate against us? Expose our location? We’d been a simple nuisance before but I’d—potentially—poked a bear in skirt. So, we fled Stella. Though, there weren’t too many places left for us to run to considering we were still wanted throughout the Salvi Pass. We needed a place where no one would come looking for us. Despite numerous objections, we decided to hide where even we didn’t want to return.

The precursor vault.

For the next few days, we did our best to rest and lay low. Try as I might, I couldn’t escape the looming feeling of something inevitable happening, tugging us in yet another direction. I did my best to not to let it ruin the respite we had, though.

“Seems like Althea is pulling her ads everywhere,” Blackstone said four days into hiding. She’d been checking any news that spread across the Salvi Pass since we left, waiting for something promising. She seemed pleased with the results. I was, too. Despite what we’d gone through and feared, this was a glimmer of hope. One problem solved.

One Benevolent to go.

// Mark Progress

Progress with Blackstone for solving the water extortion case


Also going to advance Fugitive. Grabbing Fugitive #2.

 We were getting restless, but everyone did their best in spite of our situation. Fletcher and Kaisa were sparring with Yelena—she’d wanted to be able to hold her own, just in case. John and Jane were chasing each other through the ship in a slightly annoying game of tag. Watt was deftly avoiding her as well. Despite the commotion, the sight of the three of them brought a smile to my face. Some normalcy amongst the chaos.

As I lounged, Ira took a seat next to me and handed me a small plate cheese and crackers. They were going to go bad soon, so we’d made an effort to consume them before then. I accepted the snack, my back against the wall, looking out a viewport towards the precursor vault. We were at a safe distance, but I could almost feel the alien structure calling out to me. Like it had something else for me.

I rested my head on his shoulders as I watched the vault shift for perhaps the fiftieth time in the last hour. I knew it was a solid metallic structure, but it looked like a living organism from this distance. Why had such a place been built, and what purpose did its defenses serve?

“I feel like we’re still pawns.” The words came out of my mouth before I could stop myself. When Ira didn’t stop me, I kept going. “We just keep following the plans of whoever laid them out for us.”

“But whose? The Moriartys’?”

“No…” I trailed off, thinking of how best to put my fears into words. Malice had been masquerading as James Moriarty, the Forty-Forth, in my vision. And that madwoman—James’s younger sister, Jillian—had said I was a “plague upon their family for generations.” Generations. The words of the old man had confirmed that Malice was manipulating them.

Everything pointed to all of this being machinations of Malice.

But why?

“I’m missing something, Ira.” Had that been the first time I said that out loud? “Something obvious. Like it’s right in my peripheral.”

“I’m sure you’ll see it soon. You always do.”

I smiled and found myself staring into his dark brown eyes. How did I get so fortunate—I wasn’t going to use the L-word—to have this man in my life? The way we met had been like a fairy tale, or some odd fantasy story. Avam’s sky had been practically weeping with balefires the day Ira’s ship fell from the heavens, a metallic stone plummeting to the planet below. It stood out somehow amongst the balefires, and I knew to go to it. There had been a small city’s worth of Branded on board, but he was the only one awoke able to save themself. 

My life had been madness before him with no clear direction of the future or if I would even have one. He was the rose to the thorns of my life. Such a beautiful man, and he was by my side. 

Fuck it. I was lucky

I took these moments to take him in, cherishing the relative peace and the sight of—


Jane’s screaming broke my reverie. John and her rushed passed, his laughter bouncing off the walls as he narrowly slipped out of her grasp. John rounded a corner and she phased through the wall. In response, he double-backed. Jane barely missed grabbing his shirt again. She stuck her face through the wall, snarling and eyes crazed. “WHEN I GET YOU, I’M GONNA TEAR YOU APART LIKE A FUCKING RISEN!”

The two chased each other further, their laughter diminishing as they ran, though I could still hear Jane’s sharp words as she pursued him.

Something clicked. A missing piece.

I gripped Ira’s thigh tightly. “Risen.”

// Author's Note

This was not a planned revelation/connection. During play through, I was wondering what would come next and it suddenly hit me about the commonality between the three.


“There were Risen in the vault. Risen on Shiningstar. Risen on New Bohemia.”

“Wait, you think they’re connected?”

“We know the Benevolent were behind Shiningstar. And Risen don’t pop up all over New Bohemia, just primarily around the Salvi Sigil—directly on top of the underground facility. And I have to assume that the vault is connected somehow; that old man on Stella pointed us here after literally telling us that all of this was connected. I still feel like I’ m missing something though, something definitive.” I needed more information. But from where?

No, not “where.”


“We need to find Dr. Hendrix and get her to talk.” I planted a huge kiss on Ira and rushed off to do as much research as I could. 

// Gather Information

+2 (wits) => 7 vs…

Ira brought more snacks as I entered the fifth hour of deeply focused research. Blackstone and John stepped in to help shortly after, though once we entered ship night a couple hours later, I Slyly pushed them to get some rest. Only one of us needed to stay up stressed with finding the elusive Doctor.

Besides, I had Watt’s company. Like the old times.

Dr. Hendrix was somewhere. I could find her if I just kept—

A ping.

I sat up in my seat, looking over the data with Watt. We’d stumbled across coordinates to…well, nowhere. Best I knew, that place was a pocket of deep space. Maybe there was something else there that wasn’t recorded? 

They’d slept enough, right? I could always take the first few flying shifts anyway. I took a sip of the now-cold coffee left by Ira some hours ago and let myself exhale. I needed answers from Dr. Hendrix ASAP. I stood and stretched, then headed to the kitchen to get fresh coffee. Answers could wait a few minutes for fresh coffee. 

As I sipped it on the way back to my seat, letting some of the bitterness shock my nerves awake, I heard another ping. This one was different, though. Not one of the ones that alerted to new information.

Through the ship speakers—

“Well, hello again, Detective.”

// Gather Information Result

Gather Information Result

+2 (wits) => 7 vs 8, 10. Miss.

I think it's time.

Let's use up the last Fugitive segment, bumping this to a SH

+2 momentum [8]

I think it makes the most sense for her to be on New Bohemia, within the Salvi Sigil.

Is she there? Likely, 75-: ... um..... 99?

So... extreme no?

Where is she? DF: 8, 19: Automated Creation.

This is giving me settlement or planet that is run entirely by machines, perhaps?

Within the Salvi Pass? Unlikely, 25-: 16, yes.

I wonder... is it Shiningstar? 50/50: 59, no.

Okay, so some place we've never been to. Cool.

But first!

The madwoman. Jillian Moriarty.

I dropped the coffee mug, pieces shattering and coffee splattering everywhere. I flew back to my seat and immediately began preparing for us to get as far away from her as possible.

This was getting old, fast.

// Face Danger

Scene challenge


1 box per progress

Progress: 0/10. Clock: 0/4

+2 (edge+Fugitive 2) => 7 vs 2, 6. SH

fugitive, +1 momentum [9]

Progress: 1/10. Clock: 0/4

How had she found us here, by the precursor vault? What made her look here? If I had a little more time, I would have questioned how she found us the previous two times as well. Something else I was missing, I was quite sure. I flipped controls and pulled levers, then jetted off. We needed enough runway to jump—a constant problem we were always having, it seemed.

It wasn’t a smooth take off, causing a few things that weren’t secured to crash to the floor. Blackstone stumbled out of a sleeping quarter, rubbing crust from her eyes. “What the hell, Holmes?”

“Jillian Moriarty!” I said. “She found us, again.”

Blackstone swore and suddenly a person was sitting next to me in the co-pilot seat: a very groggy John. He cracked his neck and wiped his face with his hand. In less than a second, he was Ripley Slater, a sleepy S.P.D. agent somehow ready to face whatever came his way even after an 18-hour shift on watch.

What exactly had they been training the S.P.D. for?

“Barely awake but I’m here! Let’s go! What’s the plan?” He made a few more adjustments that I hadn’t had the chance to make.

“Just survive! Everyone,” I screamed out, “brace yourselves! We’re going to duck near the vault again!”

Off we were, ducking and turning through the odd structures of the vault. I heard the rest of the crew behind me begin to settle in to their seats. They strapped in, preparing for the worst. A radar showed us Jillian’s position: she was in close proximity. Hopefully this plan would work.

// Face Danger

+3 (shadow+fugitive 2) => 8 vs 1, 10. WH

fugitive, +1 momentum [10]

Progress: 2/10. Clock: 1/4

What does Locke see, because I like that this place does this lol

DF: 29, 77: decaying shortcut.

I think....this could work...

(Author’s Note #1)

When we’d come back to get Irēn, we hadn’t faced any odd visions of past events—and things that had never happened—so we had the upper hand here, unless this also wasn’t Jillian’s first time. Regardless, it was our best shot. But on the off chance that we were forced to see things against our will, I made sure to preset my course—


I was back on Avam.

And hell was breaking loose. Literal hell. Risen were swarming my friends and I, while James Moriarty stood with wide eyes and a sadistic grin. Another event that hadn’t happened. I saw my friends—my new friends: Kaisa, Fletcher, Jane, Blackstone, Yelena, and Irēn—fall and…others that I couldn’t place. Not that I could see them through my tears and the bright lights surrounding me. 

Bright lights?

My electricity crackled uncontrollably, as if I was becoming living lightning. But…it was too strong. I saw—and felt and heard and smelled and tasted!—my skin peeling off. The lump in my throat suppressed a scream. Why was my power doing this? What the hell was going on? 

Where was Ira? I couldn’t see or hear him through the howling of the wind and the cracks of lightning. Yet I somehow heard John screaming in agony. It sent a chill down my spine. I couldn’t scream. My tears stung my fleshless face and—

I was sitting in a bar. 

The carnage felt distant, but still present, superimposed over the calm and serene bar with its patrons going about their life as if what I had seen before didn’t exist. Then, the sounds of death and the visions of everyone dying were gone—yet I could still feel its presence, a whisper in the background. Almost like a subtle reminder, a possibility.

Thick smoke from cheap cigars made me focus on what was happening now. I had been talking to the bartender, apparently. His words were suddenly incomprehensible, my senses muffled, not all together in the moment at the bar and still trying to block out the scene on Avam.

What the fuck was going on?

And where was I?

Before I could take in more of the scene, I was moving. I could see the black iron ring on my hand. But what was I doing here? What had happened on Avam?

I was walking out of the bar after someone, then down a familiar looking street, pops of lightning illuminating the darkness overhead.


Yes, definitely Portent. Somehow. But the bar didn’t seem familiar. Was this the future?

I was following someone down a dark road—the same person I’d apparently followed out of the bar. A few others were going in the same direction as us. Their movements were purposeful as they followed the one in front at a distance.

Were they following the one in front? Was I following them?

Down a dark alley, the one in front spun, gun pointed towards the two that had been following them. They didn’t seem to take notice of me—


My vision began to swirl just as Lestrade’s muffled voice shouted out something. I couldn’t make it out. But I did hear the gunshot clearly. It broke through, hints of the death and screaming slipping through with it.

Lestrade fell to the ground just as the vision was swallowed by darkness—

—just in time for me to avoid hitting a portion of the vault. I took a look back to see most of the crew with odd expressions on their face. 

As if they all saw something, too.

“We’ll discuss the weirdness later!” I pulled back on the throttle, bursting farther, faster.

// Face Danger

Face Danger

+2 (edge+fugitive2) => 3 vs 8, 8. NOPE.

Burning this 10 momentum, so 10 vs 8, 8. SH+match!

fugitive, +1 momentum [3]

Progress twice.

Progress: 4/10. Clock: 1/4


Shit. So she’d seen something too then?

“I’m not going to kill anyone, Jillian Moriarty!” Perhaps if I let her know that I knew her identity, she’d back off. 

“The great Detective finally knows my name, huh? Good! Now you’ll know exactly who’s going to kill you and everyone on board that FUCKING ship!

“Look, bitch,” Jane shouted. “What the hell did he do to you? Get a life!”

“Did your friend tell you that he killed my mother!?”

Something between a groan and a sigh escaped my mouth. “I didn’t kill your mother! That was your father! I saw his hands around—”

"DO YOU THINK I'M STUPID, DETECTIVE? Of COURSE, I know my mother was put out of her misery by my father. YOU, however, are the reason she died. She was helping YOU. She was infected by YOU!”

Well…that was unexpected. 

She knew, but still blamed me? Was I ever going to be able to get through to her?

“For five days and five nights, my mother’s body sat there rotting—a lesson her soul had to learn. My father cried the entire time—he never cries. That miserable moment is what made my brother shun all of his emotion. He refused to be taken advantage of by someone cloaked in demons like our mother. And now, we, the Moriartys, will eliminate you and everyone you’ve infected from existence.” 

She cackled—fucking cackled.

While she was engrossed in her psychotic monologue, I gestured to John. He nodded and performed a scan to get a pinpoint on her exact location. Maybe, just maybe, we could strand her out here. Let her add her ship to the wreckage surrounding the vault.

// Secure an Advantage

Secure an Advantage

+2 => 4 vs 7, 9. Miss.

Leeeettss.... use some Command.

-1 command [1]

Let's grab +2 momentum [5]

The Scarlet Adler lurched as Jillian rammed into us. John and I gripped the controls to steady ourselves, so Jane and Ira rushed forth. She instinctively knew what we were planning. She pointed out Jillian’s location to me and I nodded to her in thanks. Jillian was close, but not close enough. I slowed down just a hair to let her align herself with us once again. Not enough for her to notice; she would think she’d simply overtaken us, perhaps.

I whispered a masked command to Watt, who floated to the rest of the crew, letting them know via a message on his screen to brace themselves.

Then I rammed her.

// Face Danger

+3 => 5 vs 2, 3. SH!

Progress: 5/10. Clock: 1/4

“Oooh, someone’s getting feisty. Good. It’ll make this all the more enjoyable!”

Using the opening, I tried to speed off again, hoping this would provide us the runway we needed to escape her.

// Face Danger

+2 (edge+fugitive2) => 7 vs 1, 6. SH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Progress: 6/10. Clock: 1/4

fugitive, +1 momentum [6]

It wasn’t, but we’d made significant headway.

Just a little further…

I needed to distract her, get her to drop her guard. The only option I had left was the weapon that everyone said I possessed.

I talked to her.

“Jillian, I am not your enemy! I just want to live life! It’s not my fault that you hired a group of Mimics to come after me and people just like me!”

She scoffed. “We didn’t hire them, idiot.”

A felt a small chill down my spine.

“They came to us, led by that dumb and dead Salvi, promising to cleanse the universe. Hah. What a great job they’ve done. No matter. I prefer to get my hands dirty.”

Akim gathered the Benevolent, and involved the Moriartys?

What was I missing?

Sadly, I didn’t have time to ponder all the implications of this news. It would have to wait until we were in the clear. I flipped the final switch needed for FTL, and attempted to use the runway we’d gotten to leave this space. Once we were gone, it’d be near impossible to find us again.

// Finish the Scene

Bah. I feel like I have to roll this now. I can't think of anything else for this scene challenge.

6 vs... 1, 10. WH

Let's do -1 integrity [3] representing the damage to the Scarlet Adler

1 tick on quest legacy from Fugitive

I hoped.


Why did the precursor vault originally shown us moments where our free will had been removed, forcing us to follow someone else’s plan? Most of the crew experienced similar scenes, though a few of us had notably different visions. Ira had relived crashing to Avam. And I had spoken with Malice, something that had never happened to me before.

Why did the vault’s internal defenses only affect the Branded—Jane, John, and I? 

Why was it not able to exert its control over Irēn?

Why where there Risen within its wall? I knew people had visited the vault previously—that’s where all the wreckage outside of it came from, unlucky visitors not knowing it was the last place they’d ever visit. But why had they turned into Risen? I only knew of one place—the Salvi Sigil on New Bohemia—to randomly create Risen. And, I guess, Shiningstar. Were they connected?

And why did it show something new this time?

We settled into another pocket of safe space amongst the stars. Jillian hadn’t chased us further after we jumped, so we took a moment to breath.

And shared stories about what we’d just seen.

// Oracle

Actually...I don't know what they saw.

AT: 17, 48: Capture Innocence

This goes in line with a thought I had.

(Author’s Note #2)

“Risen…ripping someone apart.” Yelena gazed blankly downward. She wasn’t talking to me, thankfully, though I still didn’t like what I was piecing together. She managed a look to everyone on board—except Blackstone, who flinched at the smallest sounds, her nerves on edge.

“I couldn’t do anything.” Fletcher gripped Kaisa, as if he never wanted to let her go. “They just…took her.” Kaisa didn’t say anything, but her tears confirmed that she’d seen something similar.

I sat with my back against the wall, Ira between my legs and his head on my chest, the fingers on our left hands locked together.

“I thought I saw that James guy,” Irēn said. “He was bloody and…cruel-looking. The wind was ripping out the trees, like a hurricane was coming through. Lightning and fire and rain and earthquakes. It was…hell.”

“I didn’t see…anything.” Jane had her arms wrapped around her legs as she sat on the floor, looking off to the side. “At first, I saw what Irēn did—the wind and lightning and Risen—and then…I fell. Locke, I think I fell through the planet. I couldn’t stop it. It was dark and scary and I couldn’t breath and…” She sniffled and swallowed hard.

“Why would the vault show us that?” John said. His tone was sharp. “I hate to break it to you, but I think we were all on Avam.” John had long since let his Ripley demeanor fade, NEVERMORE, consumed with fear and anger, taking his place.

Ira and I nodded in agreement. “We’re the only three that’s been there and that was definitely  Avam.”

“I thought Avam was a dead planet?” Irēn asked. “In what I saw, it had trees that looked like they’d been there for ages.”

Ira and John shared a look.

It suddenly hit me. Jane said she fell through the planet. I’d lost control of my powers. 

They had, too.

“I think it was us,” John said quietly, as if ashamed. He curled further into himself. “I think we lost control of our powers and…it was killing us.”

There was a long moment of silence—another moment where I questioned what the non-Branded among us would do with this information. First we’d been the symptoms of Malice’s return, now we were ticking time bombs?

“What did you see this time, Locke?” Yelena asked suddenly.

“I saw some of that hell, with the Risen. With us losing control of ourselves…and then it shifted to Lestrade, of all people. In Portent. She was being followed? And I think she got shot.”

“You had two visions?” Ira’s voice dripped with concern.

“It was almost like what we saw was being pushed into the background…Maybe that means we can change it? Make sure the hell we saw never has to happen.” I groaned loudly. “There’s too much going on. We still need to find Dr. Hendrix. And we need to find the Adlers.”

“They’ve been missing all these years,” Ira said. Irēn nodded. “I’m sure they can wait. It seems like the universe is finding ‘polite’ mysterious ways to ask you to save it.”

“How do we stop any of this?” Fletcher asked.

“I have no idea when what we saw will come to pass. What is clear is that I saw Lestrade in Portent, someone we know and where they are for sure. We could head there first, make sure she’s safe. Then figure out what to do after.”

“That’s risky,” Blackstone said. “You’re wanted everywhere.”

“Then we’ll just have to be careful.”

Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

Against all odds, Locke and the crew of the Scarlet Adler always persevere. Even when an ancient malevolent force conspires to end it all, they dare to defy any and all expectations.

Having ice cream helps.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #13: Dare to Defy
The fear of death and chaos and conspiracy and more loom around every corner. Good thing Locke found ice cream.

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.

Want to own Starforged for yourself? Grab it on DriveThruRPG!
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