As the crew connects the strings of fate, Ira informs Locke of a forgotten moment connecting the two even further.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #7: Small Coincidences, in a Vacuum
⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #6: Inevitable Events
A solid lead on Irēn’s whereabouts unearths yet another unexpected twist in Locke’s fate.

The previous chapter

Small Coincidences, in a Vacuum

Season 3, Chapter 7

If I had known what we were walking into, I would have turned my comms off. I would have come in alone, without Jane or even John. I might have told Ira.

But they all heard. There was no pretending like none of it happened, like it was something I could just ignore.

Diogenes had been right. If only she’d known just what she’d found. Two out of our four Branded were symptoms of the coming of Malice. A disease. A plague. Were they just an itchy nose and runny eyes? Or were they the fever, threatening to rise above the body’s thresholds? Was Malice even stoppable at this point? Had we already lost the war?

After we made our way back to the Scarlet Adler, my eyes kept landing on Yelena, Kaisa, Fletcher, and Blackstone—the non-Branded of my crew. I trusted them with my whole Heart. I truly did. I was sure they trusted me, too. Though, my mind couldn’t help but wonder, did this new knowledge undermine that trust? Would they turn on us, reducing as many symptoms as possible? The voice in the back of my mind didn’t help quell those fears, either.

John disappeared into the back of the Scarlet Adler for a few moments before rolling out the crime board, remnants from the previous case in the Ironlands removed. There was a solitary sticky, with bold lettering. It stuck to the top, directly in the middle.

It simply said Malice.

Below that, he added one with my name on it. On the row below, one for each member of the crew. I saw him label one “Akim Salvi” then pause, unsure of what row to assign it. He ended up placing it below my name and his, and connected it to our names with red string.

Then, as if mentally instructed, the crew pitched in, writing in the various oddities we’d faced and small coincidences of our lives that could have been manipulated, especially the ones that each of them saw in their vision.

Was all of this really part of someone’s—something’s—plan at destroying everything?

I took a sticky note and wrote down Amari Wade, placing it under the Bohemian Express sticky note that Blackstone wrote. The things he said in his final moments still haunted me to this day—and still confused me. None of it made sense. I had eventually remembered to talk to Ira about him saying “miss and a match“—Ironlandic terms—when we had our moments of peace on New Bohemia. But I couldn’t find any scrap of evidence saying that he’d ever been to the Ironlands. Why had he said such an Ironlandic phrase, and why with three Challenges?

We eventually ran out of space. There were too many connections. The board looked a mess with strings connecting one event to another.

Lestrade was placed off to the side of my name, a string connecting her to Akim Salvi. Both of them were connected to John and I. Diogenes was connected to every Branded on board except Ira. Regret began to bubble up deep within and I did my best to suppress it. Ira’s only connection was to me. If I hadn’t dragged him into this, he would be safe. Or safer, at the very least.

Jack Moriarty had strings connecting himself to Yelena, Kaisa, and Fletcher, as well as Jane and myself. The madwoman was labelled with a question mark, a solitary string connecting her to my sticky note. What was her reasoning for targeting us? Who else on this board was she connected to? In a vacuum, I thought she was simply mad, but there had to be another connection here, a reason for her despise of me. We were missing something and I could sense that it was on this board.

Dr. Hendrix, Curtis Winter, and Althea Lontoc stickies were in a row with Akim Salvi, along with Juro Mihara connected to Dr. Hendrix and Jane. 

“Why is he connected to me?”

“It’s small, but you were taken to his building. I can only assume that, even though you may not have interacted with him, there was something connecting you two together,” I said.

“I just wish we knew what the Benevolent was planning.” John sighed heavily, eyes glued to the cluttered chaos of paper and strings.

I grabbed Althea’s sticky and held it up. “What if they’re being manipulated? What Curtis told me didn’t make sense, but maybe that’s because he didn’t know the big picture.”

“Manipulated by who, though?” Kaisa asked. “Did the Moriartys create the Benevolent?”

I placed Althea’s sticky back before catching a glimpse of Yelena’s. I looked to her. “Can you pull up Curtis’s location? Maybe that will point us in the right direction—literally.”

Gather Information via Sleuth

Lets see if Curtis's whereabouts can provide some clues

+2 (wits). 4 vs 1, 7, 10 => 4 vs 1, 7. Weak hit. 

+1 momentum [8]

Complicates your quest. How?

Df: 26, 4: Damaged Archive.

I need more. AT: 11, 24: Await Destiny.

She nodded and gestured for John to follow. The two made their way to a console and began typing. Moments later, a map of Stella appeared, with a red blip. “He’s in District Five,” John said and pointed.

“No, wait,” Yelena said, typing more. “He was. The tracker is offline; I think it’s been damaged. This was his last known location.”

I cursed. “Maybe we can head there, figure out what he was—”

“We can listen in,” Yelena said, cutting me off. “It was recording audio as well.”

I could not hide the shock and amusement on my face. Yelena looked proud of herself—rightfully so. She pressed a few more buttons and a waveform appeared over the map. 

She hit play.

We sat through moments of him talking to himself, cursing his luck and grumbling, mixed with long breaks of silence where all we could hear was the sounds of the city. Eventually, we heard him speak again, demanding that someone “come outside.” He was more annoyed than threatening; we assumed he was going to meet someone. But who? Who did he know on—

“What are you doing here?” a feminine voice said. Flashbacks to the vision where I learned of the Benevolent, and of the recent water advertisement, played in my head. There was no doubt about it.

Althea Lontoc.

“You’re supposed to be—”

“I know, I know,” Curtis said. “Ran into some issues on Obon. The Lightningbranded and his friends found me. Again. And this time, they fuckin’ kidnapped me!”


“Have you spoken to Hendrix yet?” Curtis sighed heavily. 

Althea made a sound of negation. “Last I heard, she was doing a few more rounds of testing before heading to Reichenbach.”

“Already? Whole fucking place creeps me out. Kinda wish the Salvi never showed us. Speaking of, did he ever say something strange to you, about—”

“Look,” she said, her voice filled with annoyance. “Once I’m done here, I’ll meet you two there, okay? The Ironlanders aren’t biting—annoying fucks—and this is the only place that’s willing to do business with me right now. I need to do a little more pushing; they aren’t quite convinced yet, but I’m sure I can snag them. We’re going to need as much money as we can get.”

Curtis gagged. “I seriously hate going to the same place as you. Glad I saw your ad and figured out you were here before I drank the water…”

Curtis trailed off just as the audio caught sounds of fabric brushing against the microphone of the tracker. “What the hell is this?” Curtis screamed.

“You didn’t check for trackers before coming to see me?”

“MY BAD! I was trying not to be murdered by electrocution or suffocation! Or having my heart ripped out or just fucking shot or spaced!” The tracker shifted hands mid-sentence, Curtis’s voice becoming farther away.

“If this is you, Locke Holmes,” Althea said, her voice crystal clear now. It must have been in her hands. “You’re too late. You cannot stop what is coming. You Branded are a plague upon the stars, and we will stop at nothing to control or eliminate every single one of your kind. It is our destiny.”

The audio squealed and ended abruptly.

Fletcher lowered a glass of water from his lips. “Well, fuck me.”

“Is she going to poison the water supply here? Is that what the plan was for the Ironlands?” Ira asked, standing, his face full of worry. They may have treated him like shit, but that was still his home. I know I’d do the same if something were to happen to Portent or Port Wreck. Innocent people lived there. “I need to warn them, make sure they know to turn down any deals for a while.”

“So, what’s the plan, boss?” Jane asked as Ira rushed off, arms folded across her chest. “Seems like we’re being pulled in two different directions: staying here and stopping Althea, and going to the vault to find Irēn.”

Shit. She was right. And it sounded like Althea’s hands were already stirring the pot here on Stella.

“Why don’t we split up?” John said. “Locke, Ira, myself, and Jane can head to the vault. Blackstone, Kaisa, Fletcher, Yelena, you all can stay here and get more info on Althea.”

“I… I want to stay here, actually.”

Everyone turned to look at Ira. He hadn’t made it very far. There was more than just worry on his face now. There was fear; it was almost palpable. This wasn’t just for the Ironlands. No, It couldn’t have been. Was he afraid for what would happen to the people here of Stella? That didn’t seem right either. We barely knew them, and for the fear for Stella to outweigh the Ironlands just didn’t seem plausible. 

I don’t think I’d ever seen him this scared. The only thing that made sense was…

I walked over to Ira and pulled him further away from the group, just out of earshot of everyone else while John helped formulate the plans for both teams. “What’s wrong?”

He gulped loudly and avoided my gaze. “I don’t want to go back to the vault.”

Part of my suspicion had been confirmed. My eyes narrowed, trying to discern exactly what he was feeling. Why was he afraid of heading back there? Granted, what we all saw last time was pretty fucked—

He never told us what he saw.

“What did you see?”

He exhaled deeply, as if he had been holding his breath and didn’t realize. I’d hit the nail on the head. He looked down to the floor, one hand caressing the opposite arm as he searched for the words. “I never told you exactly what happened when I crashed to Avam.”

“Yes, you did,” I said. “You said they were torturing you, playing some stupid game. And you instinctively used your Branding and killed them with some seeds, then crashed.” He’d told me the story after we met. I’d seen the remnants of the ship he crashed in. Was there somehow more to it?

Finally, Ira looked me in my eyes. “I only did that because of what they said—what someone before me said.” I was visibly confused. “When they were taunting me, they told the new woman about a Hivebranded they tortured and killed on a previous trip. They told her about all the crazy things the Hivebranded said, predicting their deaths. They just laughed and laughed, not paying much attention to it. I don’t blame them. In a vacuum, it sounds crazy! But, the more I listened, the more I realized the Hivebranded was predicting me. Like, they knew that, even if they died, the message—their words—would travel to its intended target: me.”

“I’m still don’t get it. Are you saying Malice planned for you to get abducted? A Hivebranded before you said—”

“’The seeds will make way for the fangs of thunder to… to destroy all.’”

Well, that was ominous.

“I swear, I didn’t even remember those words when I named you. I had pushed that horrible memory from my mind by then. But…when we saw those visions, when I was with you, trying to calm you down, I was back there, on that ship, hearing them laugh again. And I remembered.

“What if the old man was right? What if they’ve already gotten to you—to us? They planted this…this seed in me. What if because you met me, Malice comes back? None of this would have ever happened if you met me, if I hadn’t of crashed into Avam. What if—”

It was my turn to kiss him deeply. He’d been stressed carrying the weight of that vision. It was my turn to—what did they call it in the Ironlands?—give him a moment of intimacy, a moment of peace, to Hearten. 

I would have been lying if I said I didn’t need the kiss, too. I was still stressed out, my mind racing with the complexities of the chaos that we were drowning in. What if all of that was true? What if our entire relationship, every moment of it, some deeply rooted plot that would spell the end of life as we knew it?

I placed my worries in a box in my mind’s attic and set it aside. For once, I was doing this for someone else. 

Develop Your Relationship

+3 => 4 vs 6, 9. Miss.

(I forgot that I could reroll these dice because of Bonded, but this is a good thematic beat so I didn’t bother changing it later when I realized.)

I pulled back from the kiss. He wasn’t completely calmed, but perhaps at least reassured. “Our love is not some grand scheme. It’s real. You saved me. And we’re going to save the universe, not end it. I promise.” As far as Ira would be concerned, I believed what I was saying.

He was still wrapped up in his worries, and I couldn’t blame him. I wasn’t going to push the subject further. I gave him a soft kiss on his forehead and rejoined the others.

Ira was quieter than usual for the rest of the night. I was too.

But the voice in my head was not.



I held up a finger to Watt, signaling for him to rewind the footage of Akim Salvi’s confession for the fifth time.

“Do you think you helped whatever cause you serve by coming here?” I watched, again, as Akim’s face twisted in agony and delusion. Seeing it reminded me so much of Amari Wade. I was positive the two were unrelated in their madness, but the look on both of their faces, the way their voices sounded…I still felt a spine-chilling sense of deja vu. And I still had that nagging feeling that I was missing something. Something that was right in front of me, yet no matter how hard I looked, I’d never be able to discover it.

Akim stared at the ceiling and spoke with that reverence that I remembered plain as day. “Thank you for this sign,” he said. “I know now our path is just. I have been tested and I have passed! Thank you.”

I paused it, staring at the last footage of Akim Salvi. Something about this moment stood out to me, but I couldn’t pinpoint what. Something else just outside of my peripheral. 

I pressed play and watched the moments leading up to me escorting the young guard who played cards with—and was held captive by—Watt. The one who I would then escort off the ship back to safety. The one who I would then worry for as the derelict exploded into a million pieces, sending an escape pod hurtling towards Saffron. I thought about learning the boy’s name—Ripley Slater—only to find and nurse him back to health, and learn of his real name and all of his secrets.

So many small coincidences. In a vacuum, harmless. Welcome. Benign. Forgettable, even. 

But piling up one by one, I couldn’t help but see patterns in my “luck.”

Something was coming.

Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

The crew splits up, with half of them heading to the precursor vault to find Irēn at the suggestion of the old Hivebranded.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #8: Precursor
With the depths of the strange precursor vault, Locke and his crew hope to find the woman they’ve been searching for.

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.

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