The crew shares what each of them saw while they fled the bounty hunters.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #4: All According to Plan
⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #3: Hide and Seek
After a confusing bomb drop from Curtis, the crew aboard the Scarlet Adler play hide and seek…

The previous chapter

All According to Plan

Season 3, Chapter 4

A nightmarish grin stretched across his face, or whomever’s face he was wearing, as he nodded in agreement.

This wasn’t a normal vision.

“So glad you’re all caught up.” Malice gestured sharply and my body lurched into the air. The pain of tumbling over and over again against Avam’s dead, rocky surface felt so real. Fuck. I pushed off the ground after finally stopping and took deep breaths to restore the air that had been knocked out of my lungs. I spit dirt out of my mouth and wiped any excess from my face with my now scraped hands.

Malice had no idea who he was dealing with, did he?

“You’re too late, Detective,” Malice said as if he was talking to a student he was keeping out of class, taking a single step towards me. “You’ve already lost.”

I stood and let my lightning crackle. Sparks showered all around before they condensed into lances of lightning that arced all over my arms and body like a dragon formed of pure electricity. I may not have been able to beat a god, but he looked human right now. I’d faced worse. I took off, fist cocked back, ready to place the entire might of my punch and all of my lightning—

…flowed out of me, sapping my strength and making me stumble again. Malice smirked as the electricity flowed around and into him. He was unaffected.

“Tsk, tsk,” he said while wagging a finger. “This is mine!” He splayed his fingers in one sharp motion, sending all of the electricity he’d taken back into me.

I screamed louder than I’d ever screamed before.

“You are a pawn, Detective. You all are. Following orders,” he said with a smirk. “All according to plan. Stay in your place.”

Malice stopped his assault after what felt like an eternity. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to see or hear or feel! My brain must have been scrambled by the electricity because my biggest worry wasn’t that Malice had manipulated my Branding.

I was a pawn?

“I couldn’t have done it without you.” He gestured to the surrounding landscape. I managed a look around between labored breaths and took everything in. It was barren, but… it felt like I was missing something, something important, something right outside of my vision…What was it?

“Now, shoo.” He flung me again and I landed on my back with a snap. Before everything went black, I managed to catch sight of balefires peaking through the clouds…


My eyes snapped open, electrified hands gripping in front of me with the intent to kill the first thing—

Ira was on top of me, both hands pinned to my chest (but not in the good way). I killed the electricity flowing through my fingers. I took a moment to gather my bearings. Seeing his face made me feel safe, and my frantic breathing slowed down to normal.

The lights in the Scarlet Adler were flickering, and there were pops of light coming from somewhere. The rest of the crew stood in the doorway with looks of concern and fear, all eyes on me.

Oh. Those pops of light were coming from me. I was still crackling with electricity. I willed my abilities away and Ira seemed to exhale in relief. I must have lost control of my lightning again in my sleep. Just another bad dream. It wouldn’t have been the first time. He’d had to do this for me a few times before.

“Is he okay?!” Jane asked, fear and worry coating every word.

“Yes, yes! He’s fine! Go help John!”

John? I looked to my crew again, finally noticing that John and Blackstone were missing.

And the Scarlet Adler lurched to one side, causing Ira to topple over. I sat up in bed.

“What’s wrong? Is it Malice?” Was Malice returning to the Forge? Had it actually been a vision, as I had feared? Why—

“No. It’s bounty hunters!” 

// Undertake an Expedition Result

+2 (shadow) => 4 vs 6, 10. Miss.

-heavy breath- I think...this is a good a time as any....

... to tick Fugitive once more.

Making this undertake a Strong Hit. Progress: 6/10

But now... they've found us.

First, what's this waypoint? 52: ..a fucking precursor vault???

Now... I wonder. This foe who has tracked us down. Does Curtis have a tracker on him, which is how they found us? Unlikely, 25-: 32, no.

So, unrelated, at least somewhat.

Is it someone we already have interacted with (75-), or someone new, like a bounty hunter?

...78. So someone new. lol

Having slept on it, it makes sense. Someone came to the vault to raid it and ended up finding a different kind of treasure.

Scale, 98: vast site of unfathomable complexity

Form, 87: machine

shape, 96: roll twice. 82, 53: transforming, organic/curved

outer first look, 26: dreadful premonitions.

Oh. Oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh

What is the nature of these premonitions? Descriptor+Focus, 84, 11: Sacred Blockade.

AH. I know what he sees.

It's the only "sacred" thing I really have in this story.

// Author's Note

Small note before I continue. During play, I was planning on writing this scene from John’s POV. I decided against that—Thunderfang is always from Locke’s POV—and decided that this Scene Challenge happens as a story being told. The flow of play is the same, however. The following footnotes are more or less unchanged from my play through.

From what everyone told me, John did a great job navigating away from the bounty hunters.

This didn’t explain the look I saw on their faces, though. They looked as bad as I felt, as if they’d seen my dream. But that was impossible. What had broken them?

“We saw the bounty hunters as we were getting ready for the next jump,” Jane said. “We thought they would ignore us—there was a whole fucking precursor vault to look at!” The way she said “precursor vault” made me nervous. Something in her tone had shifted.

John sat in the corner of the common area outside the cockpit, head buried in his lap. He reminded me of NEVERMORE, the scared little boy I had rescued from the escape pod that had given up on trusting anyone. If he was wearing his NEVERMORE persona, what happened couldn’t have been good.

“John hopped in the pilot seat, no questions,” Jane continued. “Classic John. And Blackstone was the copilot.”

// Face Danger (Scene Challenge)

I think this is a Formidable Scene Challenge.

So, 1 box/progress. Clock, 0/4.

This is gonna drain some resources, I just know it.

In my head, John is piloting this, probably with the help of Blackstone and the others while Ira tries to keep Locke calm.

Maybe on a match somewhere in here, Locke can help out.

Our objective: Flee the bounty hunters.

John's 3rd ability should come in handy here...

Face Danger, +3 (John's health) => 9 vs 3, 4. Strong hit!

Progress: 1/10, Clock: 0/4

+1 momentum [7] from John

Blackstone nodded. “I tried to help out as best I could.” Her voice was much quieter than usual. 

// Face Danger (Scene Challenge)

Also, forgot that Blackstone is a connection. Her Bounty Hunter trait should also help with these moves as we evade her "co-workers".

Face Danger, +4 (john+blackstone) => 9 vs 6, 10. Weak hit.

Progress: 2/10, Clock: 1/4

+2 momentum, one from john, one from Blackstone. [9]

The more the story progressed, the more concerned I got. It wasn’t just John and Blackstone that looked visibly shaken. It was Kaisa, Fletcher, and Ira, too. Even Jane, who seemed the least affected of everyone onboard, was different in ways I couldn’t quite pin down. She was doing her best to play it off, though. 

Something had happened while I was out. Did I do something in my sleep? Had they heard me mention Malice?

“Blackstone told John, ’10 o’clock!’ or something, and John dipped. We swerved this way and that, dodging meteors and other space junk,” Jane continued.

// Oracle

What are they near? I need inspiration. DF: 32, 92: Desolate Subsurface.

Sounds like the precursor vault, actually.

“When I asked him what the plan was, he said he was going to try to get away from the bounty hunters by going past the precursor vault. Made sense to me.

“It was…” She paused, collecting herself. She seemed the least affected, but looking a little harder, I could tell that even she wasn’t the same Jane I had grown accustomed to. She was playing it off. “I’ve never seen a precursor vault. They’re like fairy tales and myths. It was…strange. Like, the surface was…moving? Like it was alive.”

“Undulating is the word you’re looking for,” Kaisa said quietly. She took a swig from a flask and handed it to Fletcher when she was done.

// Face Danger (Scene Challenge)

+3 => 8 vs 2, 9. WH.

Progress: 3/10, Clock: 2/4

+1 momentum (John) [10]

Time for the rest of them to see this complication.

“Then,” Jane said, her tone suddenly becoming even less excited, "we went under some archway. John said he was trying to get away, get enough room so we could jump and…”

The silence was almost deafening. 

“That was when you started freaking out,” Fletcher finally said. He took a swig.

“I’m sorry. I was having a horrible dream about—”

“I don’t think it was a dream,” John said. He didn’t bother raising his head, his gaze still focused on the floor.

“Anyway,” Jane said reluctantly, “he kept flying after…everything. He was real aggressive. And despite what…what I think we all saw, he wouldn’t stop flying.

// Face Danger (Scene Challenge)

+3 => 9 vs 5, 6. SH

Progress: 4/10, Clock: 2/4

And another: Face Danger (Scene Challenge)

+3 => 7 vs.... 1, 1. Oh wow.

Progress: 6/10, Clock: 2/4

"Blackstone helped him out, pointing him in another direction, and we eventually got away. John parked us here so we could wait it out while we prepped for another jump.”

// Finish the Scene

I don't WANT to risk it, but let's go for it.

6 vs... 2, 7. WH. Not bad.

Let's ding Lightning. Fits what happened narratively.

-1 Lightning [1]

For escaping, I reset fugitive clock and also get 1 Quest tick!

// Undertake an Expedition

+2 (shadow) => 6 vs 6, 9. Miss.

Let's spend some Crew to bump this to a WH.

-1 crew [1]

I think because it's a good story beat, so let's 

-1 crew [0], meaning this counts as an Impact for now

-1 spirit [4]

What's this waypoint? 11, stellar object: 33, burning yellow star.

Progress: 8/10

And now we're all caught up to the fiction.

I wouldn’t wish my visions on anyone. They were so random and detrimental to my psyche at times. I know I was some hero to them and they were rooting for me, but all they seemed to do was cause more confusion. And now I had apparently met Malice?

They all looked like how I felt…like they’d witnessed something they wished they hadn’t. “You all saw something, too?”

What exactly had they seen?

“My dad,” John said, finally looking up. “I had forgotten all about this moment. I think I was so upset by what happened that day that I blocked it out.” He leaned back, head against the wall, his breathing slow and heavy. “I’ve told Locke this, but my family—my own parents—turned me in, got me sent to Avam. These men in black boots came, pounding on the door to get at me. The black boots always stood out to me. They were huge and I swear you could hear them coming from a mile away. When they stormed into the house, I think I fixated on them. I had nightmares for weeks about black boots.

“My parents just stared at me—the abomination they used to consider a son. I was yelling at them, asking them why, over and over and over and over.” He took a deep breath, holding back tears and stopping what looked like a panic attack from striking. The air in the Scarlet Adler shifted an almost imperceptible amount—but I’d been with John long enough to know the telltale signs of his abilities leaking. “I accidentally whipped up a little tornado in our house and I slammed the door in the guards’ faces,” he said between forced laughter. Maybe it was genuine. Maybe he was coping.

“I knocked all of them over—dad, mom, brother. They abandoned me. And…as the men in black boots finally got inside and grabbed me, I looked to my parents to help me. They didn’t do a damn thing. 

“But…I remember my dad saying ‘all according to plan.’”

Blackstone inhaled sharply, and from everyone’s expression, those words triggered something in them.

And then I remembered what Malice said to me.

“Wait, ‘all according to plan’?” I asked. John nodded.

“I come from money,” Kaisa said. “My family’s pretty successful… Well, was successful. One bad move and we essentially fell from greatness. That’s why I even took the job to kidnap Jane in the first place. I remember when I was being hired, though, I had a cab drop me off a few blocks away. Before the driver pulled off, though, she said ‘all according to plan,’ like it was part of a normal conversation and just drove off.”

Fletcher grabbed her hand and stared deeply in her eyes before turning his attention to the rest of us. “When I was younger, my dads took me to a vigil in remembrance of the victims of the Hivebranded Massacres,” he said. I remembered hearing about that incident. 

About fifty years ago, a bunch of Hivebranded across the Forge went on a massive killing spree one night. It was…horrendous, to say the least. Most of the victims were young children. And to make matters stranger than they already had been, all of the bodies had been stolen afterwards. The Hivebranded never explained why they killed so many and then took their bodies. That incident lead to a harsher crackdown on all Branded. “They’d been young at the time and had friends who died. Well, at the vigil, this man gave a big speech and it upset a lot of people by saying it was ‘all according to plan.’”

“Wait, you were there that night?” Yelena asked. “I was, too. I remember hearing that.”

“Neither of you three remember?” Jane asked. “There were more of you to take me in. I remember—and saw in my vision—one of them radioing to Jack, telling him that everything had gone according to plan.” Kaisa, Fletcher, and Yelena’s faces lit up with remembrance of the event.

“Fucking hell.” Blackstone ran a hand through her hair and let out a small angsty scream. “My first bounty—my very first bounty. Wasn’t on the books, just a spur of the moment thing. I thought he was crazy as hell. When I caught him, he was smiling really stupid, and he…he kept mumbling ‘all according to plan.’”

I looked to Ira, but he didn’t look back. I wasn’t going to press the subject.

I’d never seen my crew look this defeated. We’d been through so much already. And a series of visions had ruined us. Every single last one of us.

“It’s like we’re just…pawns.” Fletcher slammed a fist into the wall. Kaisa placed a hand on his back. I inhaled sharply at his words.

Then I steeled myself. I refused to let Malice’s words ring true.

“Something big is coming,” I said. I don’t know where the words came from, but I said whatever my Heart told me to. “No matter how we all got here, I could not have asked for a better crew—a better group of friends. Something out there is toying with us, expecting us to either crumble and break down, or follow their plan. But they don’t know us like I do. We’re not just going to sit around and wait to be manipulated. We are not pawns. We are…”

What were we?

I scanned the seven people before me. No way… I counted us again, and once more.

Well damn.

A smirk crept onto my face. “Bishops. Rooks. Knights.”

// Bolster Your Crew

+1 heart => 7 vs 6, 7. WH

Decisions, decisions. Could burn momentum, but let's keep it for Undertaking.

+2 command [2]

John perked up. He looked at everyone and…Got ‘em. I smirked when I saw his smile leap from one of them to the next.

“I call Knight!” he said.

“Are those the pieces that move like an L? Me, too!” Jane said, the metaphor finally catching on with the rest of the crew.

// Mark Progress

I kinda think this counts as training Jane. It's giving her some self-worth and confidence.

2/10 now

“I’m gonna sit in the back and be a Bishop,” Fletcher said, fist-bumping Yelena.

Blackstone flexed. “I’m guarding the King.” Kaisa stood next to her and flexed as well.

“What does that make us?” Ira said, stepping closer to me. My words had gotten to him, too.

“I mean, clearly you’re the Queen,” I said, holding my hands up in surrender in front of my chest as Ira scowled. “What? You’re obviously more powerful than me. I just sit and look pretty.”

“Uh huh, sure.” 

// Author's Note

Locke: King

Ira: Queen

Rook 1: Kaisa

Rook 2: Blackstone

Knight 1: John

Knight 2: Jane

Bishop 1: Yelena

Bishop 2: Fletcher

Jane and John are Knights; they can literally move weirdly. Blackstone and probably Kaisa are Rooks, strong and defensive. Fletcher and Yelena, slipping through the cracks, are Bishops.

Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

The crew arrive on Stella in the hunt for Irēn Adler. John gives them a lesson in switching personas, while someone else reveals their own.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #5: Alternate Personas
While searching for Irēn Adler, John gives a lesson in alternate personas, while someone else reveals their own.

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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