A solid lead on Irēn's whereabouts unearths yet another unexpected twist in Locke's fate.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #6: Inevitable Events
⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #5: Alternate Personas
While searching for Irēn Adler, John gives a lesson in alternate personas, while someone else reveals their own.

The previous chapter

Inevitable Events

Season 3, Chapter 6

John and I filled everyone in on what we found after we returned to the Scarlet Adler

The show we’d seen being advertised was on its final episode of a mini-series centered on the arrival of the mysterious Iron Rose and all the trouble they’d caused since. According to the show, the Iron Rose had constantly undermined the authorities for several months, but it was clear to us that she (we were confident it was Irēn) was actually defending people, just like her brother was with Legacy. Her deeds had started off small, then eventually escalated to where she liberated an entire group of people. The only clue connecting each event to one person was the insignia spray painted on a wall. 

“Let’s see if we can use what the authorities know to find her,” I said to my crew. “Maybe they have all the information they need, but only someone like Ira can decode it.”

“How, exactly, are we going to do that?” Blackstone questioned.

// Gather Information via Watt and Sleuth

+4 (watt) => 7 vs 3, 5, 10. => 7 vs 3, 5. Strong hit!

+1 momentum from Watt [5]

+2 from SH [7]

I think from what we gather, we discover some leads on the Iron Rose, such as where she's hiding.

Let's say Stella is broken up into Sectors, six of them. Which sector: One.

Going to use Derelict settlement zones. Let's say each sector more or less has each of those zones.

Which zone is she hiding in? 09: community. Makes sense

Around what area? 53: gym or fitness.

What kind of gym/fitness? DF: 74, 28: Pillaged Enclosure.

Ah, so an abandoned gym.

Progress on Irēn vow


It was much simpler than any of us could have imagined, including myself. I took John and Watt into Stella, and used Watt to steal secure data. They really needed to beef up their security. Perhaps if we found Irēn and saved the Forge, we’d send over the details.

“I’m not sure if I should be impressed or scared,” Blackstone said, Fletcher and Kaisa non-verbally agreeing with her. It took all of maybe an hour, and we grabbed cookies on the way back, which seemed to erase some of the concern from their faces.

Allegedly, the Iron Rose had been spotted in Sector One. And with all of the footage and intel we’d gathered, we narrowed down where we thought she might be: an abandoned gym. It was boarded up and had more than enough space to hide Irēn and a team of accomplices according to the floor plans.

Sector One contained a large neighborhood, filled with mostly apartment buildings and the occasional luxury home. A few amenities, such as grocery stores and gyms, provided quality of life for its residents. The domed ceiling above wasn’t currently lit, signaling shipnight, but seemed to have opened like a skylight to showcase the stars all around.

The abandoned building we were looking for sat about twenty minutes from one of the entrances. Yelena held point within the Scarlet Adler, managing the comms and guiding us to our destination. Kaisa and Fletcher were the first to arrive on the scene. They took opposite ends of the street and stood watch, keeping an eye for anyone or anything approaching that could compromise the mission. 

Across the street from our target building, Blackstone sat in a small pub. She kept watch while nursing a beverage, interacting with the locals as needed to maintain her cover. She kept her tone slightly standoffish, which worked in her favor as there were minimal followup questions. Ira sat at a different position in the pub. I noticed he was within line of sight of a few plants within and outside on the road, ready to provide backup as needed.

John and I got into position outside the building. No one would be able to sneak in on us unnoticed. But, for this mission, we were not going to be the ones infiltrating.

We were leaving that up to Jane. 

She was the perfect person for breaking and entering—no breaking required! “Are you sure you’re ready for this, Jane?” I asked softly from a bench near a light rail stop. I kept my eyes on the green-haired woman I’d come to know and love. She had her hands in her pockets and didn’t stand out from the crowd—in fact, she looked just like the others on Stella, the occasional passerby have hair a brighter shade of a different color.

“Yeah, I can handle this. I promise.” She sounded confident, which made me feel better about the whole idea. I promised Diogenes that I would train her, make sure that she could truly stand up to anything. That meant I needed to embrace the inevitable and let her do something solo.

“Alright. On my signal…”

She lingered, looking at a device in her hand like the citizens around her. Most people were heading into the pub or approaching the light rail to get to another sector. As she got to the abandoned gym, she slowed. I looked around, catching sight of Kaisa nodding on my right. 

“All clear here,” John said, followed by confirmation grunts from Blackstone and Ira.

I inhaled, and nodded to myself. “Go.”

Jane took one final look behind her and phased into the building. 

// Face Danger

+1 (heart, Locke's guidance) => 2 vs 1, 8. Wow, just barely made it to a WH.

I think this'll just put stress on everyone, mainly Locke.

so -1 spirit [3]

Endure Stress

+3 => 8 vs 6, 6. Strong hit + match!

I think we'll just get that +1 spirit back [4]

Progress on training Jane


The next ten minutes were agonizing. What if Irēn shot first while Jane was unphased? Would we be able to get to her in time? What if this had been a trap, and we’d walked right into it? My only solace was that she was speaking to us, so I knew she was still alive. But, typical me, my nerves were on edge thinking about all the possible dangers within. 

// Oracle

What does this match grant us, though?

First, is Irēn there?

Unlikely, 25-: 33. Extreme no. Damn.

This place was never hers, it seems.

Progress on Irēn vow.

We know this is not her location.


Match, DF: 29, 2: Decaying Anomaly.

Ooh, you know what? "Decaying Anomaly" could mean Locke's inner voice. His lightning is almost empty (1/5) and his Spirit is low enough (3/5) that, in the fiction, it would've started affecting him.

On second thought, that can't be the match. But it's good to include a bit in the playthrough.

And to make matters worse, I needed to recharge. Badly.



Nope. I wasn’t dealing with this today. I pushed the voice from my head and—

// Oracle

I need another set of words for the match. AT: 7, 30: Assault Duty.

Decaying Anomaly

Assault Duty.

Combined with "this is *definitely* not Irēn's hideout."

Oh...I think I have an idea.

75-, female: 80, male. First look: 58, 11: plain, aged. Character goal, 95: Roll twice. Yikes 30, 27: Fight injustice, End a conflict

I tend to use “anomaly” to refer to specific things in this story…


“What’s wrong?” A chill ran down my spine, and I could have sworn I heard my inner voice laugh.

“Irēn’s not here but…Locke, you’re not gonna believe this.”

“What is it?” Fear began to bubble up. I shot to my feet. In the distance, I saw Kaisa and Fletcher begin to close in. Blackstone rushed to the door of the pub and the trees around us shook softly. The air stilled in anticipation.


“Someone here wants to speak with you.”

How could someone here want to speak with me? How did they know I would even be here, let alone someone who knew me? The building looked like it hadn’t been touched in years—decades even. 


Shut up, I thought back. That never worked but, for the moment, it made me feel better. 

The others repositioned to better cover us as John and I carefully made our way inside. It felt like a trap. Like we were walking into a carefully constructed rat cage, Irēn as the cheese—and she probably wasn’t even inside. 

 Since we didn’t have the power to walk through walls, it took us much longer to reach her than it took her to find this mysterious person. Fallen beams, dust, debris, and leaking water filled the space, blocking all obvious paths forward. We were right to send Jane in, as she was able to quickly avoid all the obstacles that had presented themselves. We followed her instructions as best as we could, hopping over slabs of concrete and crawling under destroyed walls. 

Jane met us towards the end and led us to a small room. It seemed like it was perhaps ten or fifteen feet on any side, with a small dim electrical lamp in a corner with a pile of rags and not much else.

Other than the one who wanted to speak to me.

“Detective,” the mysterious gentleman said with a smile, setting his sights on me. “I’m so glad you could make it.” He was an old, almost nondescript man, laying on the ground with a tattered blanket thrown over top. Judging by his assumed height and weight, he was malnourished—perhaps he was living here? Homeless? All the evidence pointed to that conclusion.

“How did you know I’d be here?”

“We know.” He smirked. I was very familiar with that usage of “we.”

He was Hivebranded.

That raised internal alarms. This wasn’t a vision—at least, not that I could tell. I’d always experienced the Hivebranded in some sort of visual and auditory hallucination. As far as I could tell, this was real life. Two other people could see him, and from the chatter on the comms, the others could hear him too.

This was real.

“My apologies for…how do I put it…assaulting your current duties,” he said. His emphasis on those two words was odd and unsettling. What was he implying? “I needed a direct way to ask for your help, if things are to proceed as planned.”

I tensed. The chatter on the comms stopped. I felt the air around us still before it shifted into something that felt charged, ready to strike.

“Why did you say that?” John said, his Ripley demeanor—strong, confident, unbreakable—slipping out, with a hint of the fear that drove NEVERMORE.

“One by one, inevitable events demand their place.” The old man coughed. It sounded wet and sickly. “If we are to win this war, we need you, Detective. At least… At least that’s what we’ve been led to believe, those of us connected to all things.”

“A war?” And they needed me?

“You are a weapon that both sides can use—have used, are using, will use. You will either save us all…or end everything.”

“A weapon?” Blackstone said over the comms.

He simply ignored our questions, proceeding with his ramblings. “Among those like me, a few have rebelled, fighting back against the mission that we were tasked with. Others have…” He sighed heavily. “…embraced it. Detective, how much do you know of Old Earth, and why humans fled to the Forge?”

I was never great in school, especially after Michael disappeared. And history was never my thing. But being Branded meant I was forced to learn this particular portion of human history—Branded history, my history. I knew that Malice had appeared on Old Earth a long, long time ago, and the destruction forced humans to flee. They got on generation ships and made the long trek from Old Earth to our new home in the Forge. Not everyone on Old Earth could make it, sadly, and many were left behind.

There were five large generation ships. Four were planned but—I learned this bit from Ira—the Ironlands managed their own, saving almost all of their people. Those five ships made the generations-long trip to the Forge, and each ship took control over a sector.

The old man nodded to what I had recounted. “Mostly correct. You see—”, he coughed, then continued, ”Malice did more than just that. He infected humans. Some of the humans he infected lay dormant with his virus, and those humans managed to escape. This is how we,” he said, gesturing to us before him, “came to be.”


I heard the madwoman’s voice in my mind, calling me a plague. Had she been right?

“But!” He mustered up enough energy to raise a hand in excitement. “One man—the earliest of us connected to the Hive that we can see—had a vision. He fought back, as hard as he could, against all of the miseries. His prophecy said that one day, you would undo all that Malice has set in place. 

“However, Malice used—uses—that same prophecy against him and has corrupted it—infected it as well. If he can use you—the hope that we have for the future—to bring about endless misery, then he’ll be unstoppable.”

This was entirely too much. And still made no sense.


Shut up!

“What do I have to do?” I began pacing, trying to take in everything the old man was saying.

“Malice has influenced many minds, so I’m afraid you have your work cut out for you. The good news is he can only directly influence those of us who are also infected, though it’s easiest to influence the Hive. But…he can use us to influence everyone else. People in power, entire sectors, influential families…such as the Moriartys.”

“As in Jack Moriarty?” John said.

A chill ran down my spine, and time seemed to stand still. The Moriartys were…agents of Malice? 

The old man coughed once more. When he moved his hand, I saw it for the first time. Blood. He was more than just sick…

“There’s not much time,” he said, ignoring John’s question. “You will know when the time is near, when you will be forced to live up to your destiny and undo all that Malice has set forth.”

“How? How will I know?”

“When we who are touched by Malice begin displaying new, strange abilities. It is a sign that his influence is growing.”

I found myself staring at Jane. John, too. Her eyes widened and fear settled in.

“Like…walking through walls?” Jane said. The man coughed again and nodded.

“And controlling plants?” I said.

It was his turn to look afraid, realizing what we were implying. “My stars…you’ve already encountered such things?”

“How do we stop Malice?” I ran up to him as he began a coughing fit that would not stop. While his face didn’t change, I saw someone else in my grasp: Amari Wade. I remembered all to well the sight of him dying right in front of me, in my arms.

It would be just my luck that this man did as well.

“The woman…you seek…She—” Endless coughs, more blood.

// Oracle

Okay, what I need to know now is how is Stella connected to Ira's parents?

AT: 48, 90. Follow Tool.

What kind of tool?

DF: 49, 27: Grim Ecosystem.

That grim ecosystem? The vault. There is some kind of tool there.

“Do you know where she is?!” I couldn’t tell if this was anger or fear spilling out of me. Perhaps it was both. I was tired of being yanked around, left with more questions than answers.

“Precursor…vault…” His coughing slowed, but the dribble of blood from his lips did not.

And in an uncanny moment of de ja vu, he said, “We are rooting for you,” before the life left his eyes.

// Progress

Progress on Irēn vow.


Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

The crew of the Scarlet Adler start trying to piece together the various oddities of their lives to see just how they are all intertwined.

They should leave some room. This season is only just beginning.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #7: Small Coincidences, in a Vacuum
As the crew connects the strings of fate, Ira informs Locke of a forgotten moment connecting the two even further.

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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