With the depths of the strange precursor vault, Locke and his crew hope to find the woman they've been searching for.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #8: Precursor
⚡️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 previous chapter


Season 3, Chapter 8

Set a Course

Locke, John, Jane, and Blackstone. And Watt!

+3 => 9 vs 2, 6. Strong hit. 

+1 momentum [9]

Give me another first look: 95: Surrounded by destruction

What's funny is I was going to use this anyway, because I had an idea.

I had been too preoccupied with dreams of Malice to take in the sight of the precursor vault the first time we were here. I can’t say for sure that if I had, I would have been so willing to come back.

Scattered all around were the remains of other ships. 

Had their pilots and crews been afflicted with visions as well?

I couldn’t help but think we were “lucky.”

“If it’s okay with you three,” Blackstone said, “I’ll stay onboard. I’d rather not get hit with visions again.”

I couldn’t blame her. Given the chance, I would have stayed behind as well, and I got the feeling that John and Jane wished they’d spoken up first. But I knew that I needed to be the one to speak with Irēn if we found her inside.

And if there was anything else waiting for us, I’d need to be there for that, too.

Yay destiny.

John and I donned our Mimic suits. It felt good to be back in it again. I mentally programmed it to be a deep, dark black with streaks of yellow like lightning. John’s, on the other hand, was more of a dark shade of grey, with a light gray pattern that reminded me of a hurricane gale.

Jane stepped out from the back fully changed. This was the first time we’d seen her in the suit we’d gotten for her after we initially arrived on Obon. We’d gotten Ira one, too, but he had no reason to wear it yet.

Jane’s suit was like ours, programmable to change color to suit our likings, as well as some tech to hide our Branded nature—though, that was a bit more difficult to do in Jane’s case. She’d made it a deep black, similar to mine. However, hers had a white stripe going around the waist and around her neck, like a belt and collar. She also preferred for the suit to surround her hands, looking as if she had on white gloves with long sleeves that extended to about a quarter-way to her elbow. Similarly, the suit’s coloration made it seem as if she had on white boots up to about the middle of her calf. 

And for a pop of color, just like her hair, the suit had small accents of a rather spooky shade of green, like ectoplasm or something.

For a moment, I felt like one of those cartoon superheroes in spandex.

If only our bad guys were as easily defeated.

“We’ll radio you if anything goes wrong,” I said with a nod, returning my focus back to reality. Blackstone returned it and bid us farewell. The three of us packed ourselves into an excursion rover, making room for Watt. It was a bit cramped but we made it work.

When was the last time I used this thing, anyway?

The ten or fifteen minute journey was rather silent, our eyes fixated on the wreckage that floated about outside around us and the vault. I don’t know what everyone else was thinking about, but I was expecting the worse. I had to remind myself to breathe. I found myself holding my breath in anticipation of a sudden influx of visions that would shake me to my core.

But…nothing happened. 

Which didn’t help my nerves at all, since I just kept waiting and waiting for the inevitable that never came. I didn’t say it out loud, but I would have preferred it if we actually saw something. The anticipation and expectation was far worse.

Undertake an Expedition

Dangerous expedition within this vault.

+2 (wits) => 3 vs 1, 2. Strong hit.

Progress, 2/10

Inner first look, 47, 40: Impenetrable darkness, Excessive heat

We eventually landed on what appeared to be a loading dock, unassaulted in every sense of the word. No visions, no one in pursuit of us. Nothing but the empty silence of space. Why hadn’t we seen anything this time?

“Maybe we’re immune now?” John said, as if reading my thoughts. Jane nodded in agreement. I forced myself to agree, to believe. If I let my mind wander on the possibilities, I’d end up more of a wreck than I already was. I focused my attention on the vault. This thing wasn’t even alive and it was already doing more damage to my psyche than the mess Akim Salvi caused for me.

The exterior had a soft glow to it, almost like a bioluminescence. The metal undulated softly at our presence. It felt like walking on an extremely firm pillow. Yet it was solid, and a tap of my foot confirmed it was definitely metal, but it was somehow…soft. It seemed malleable, like with enough force I could bend it with my hands, yet somehow strong enough that it would protect me from a bomb.

We used the oddly natural light to make our way to what we hoped was an entrance, and then beneath a narrow arch about fifty feet high. We were met with two things immediately upon passing the threshold. First, pitch black darkness. The lights from our suits did very little to light the way, only going about five feet ahead of it. It was as if the darkness consumed the light.

And second, sweltering heat. Our suits immediately kicked in, cooling us as much as it could, but it was still uncomfortably warm.

“What the hell?” Jane said. “Why is it so hot?”

“I don’t feel good about this, Locke,” John said.

“The old man said she was here, and this is our only lead,” I said, frustrated at the circumstances. “You two can return to the Scarlet Adler if you want, but…I have to keep going. I need answers and apparently we have to find Irēn to get any.”

They weren’t completely convinced, but they didn’t argue further.

Which, after all we’d been through and learned, worried me more.

With a few simple words, they were willing to follow me into the depths of a precursor vault which presumably claimed the lives of many, many others? Just because I said so?

I thought back to our time in the Ironlands, remembering the power my words held.

I would need to be more careful.

Undertake an Expedition

+2 (wits) => 5 vs 4, 9. WH.

Progress, 4/10

81: Vaulted chamber

Let's just ding Momentum for right now.

-2 momentum [7]

Our steps echoed endlessly as we made our way further into the vault. The heat hadn’t died down yet, and we were still swallowed by the impenetrable darkness. We stayed close to each other, a hand from each of us on the interior wall in a single file. I hoped that this maze tactic would work but…Who was I kidding? I had no prior experience with precursor vaults. I’d heard stories—rumors, fairy tales!—about them, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to ever find one.

What was waiting for us the further we delved?

The weight of this responsibility—leading them, protecting them—began to weigh me down. The voice in the back of my mind returned, though I managed to keep it to a dull whisper. My own anxieties and insecurities were much, much louder anyway. Where was I taking them? What if Irēn wasn’t even here? What if vaults were one-way, trapping us inside like a carnivorous plant eager to devour its curious prey? What if the fairy tales were true, and they could transport people through time and space? I’d never believed that the vaults could deny the truths of the world, but as we continued forward, I couldn’t help but do just that: deny the truth of what I thought I knew. I’d seen and experienced so many things over the last few years. Who knew what else was in store for me?

“I’m so sorry for dragging you all into this.” The words tumbled out before I could decide whether or not it was a good idea to say it out loud.

There was a beat of silence that made me believe they blamed me for it all. I was the reason they were even here. If I hadn’t meddled so much in the affairs of those who were practically royalty, if I had just kept my head down after fleeing Avam, if I— 

“You saved me,” John said from the back of the line, his voice transmitting from his suit to ours. Somehow, some of the sound slipped out, bouncing off the walls. A terrifying endless cacophony of “save me” made a chill run down my spine.

He heard it too, and lowered his voice before continuing. “You found me after the derelict exploded, and you nursed me back to health, even after I tried to attack you and I was an ass to you. You stuck your neck out for me, and you keep doing it, no matter what is thrown our way. I’d follow you to the end of the Forge, Locke. If we face down Malice itself, I will be right there with you.”

“We’ve already done this song and dance,” Jane said. “And I’m going to go ahead and speak for my kidnappers who you also saved because they were more afraid of what Jack Moriarty would do to them. You did it without hesitation, in the middle of my kidnapping!” I could hear John and Jane both supress a chuckle. It did sound crazy in hindsight. 

“Also, you definitely stopped everyone from dying on the Bohemian Express,” Blackstone said over the comms, reminding me that she was listening. “Who knows what Amari Wade would’ve done if you hadn’t of been there?”

Their words should have comforted me.

But after all we’d learned, I was wrestling with whether or not we were simply puppets on a string. What if I had been placed in each of those scenarios just to gather them all and lead them to slaughter? Could I be trusted? The old man said it could go either way with me.

I didn’t want them to know I was still worried. It was one thing to lead them confidently. It was another if I was leading driven by fear.

“Thank you. I needed that,” I said, letting my Shadow take the lead. 

We kept moving.

Undertake an Expedition

+2 (wits) => 8 vs 1, 7. SH

Progress, 6/10


So, first, I was gonna say Interior Feature. Then, I was like, "Nah, let's make it the sanctum!" Then I went, "No, let's do the sanctum on the next roll. Meaning, this is still Interior."

90 is friggin Transition into the Sanctum lol

29: Incongruent space contradicts the nature of this site

Is this "space" well-lit? Unlikely, 25-: 4. HAH lmfao 

Our lamps illuminated the ceiling above for the first time. It began to slant downward, turning our path into something of a corridor. We continued, hands still on the wall, our lamps doing their best to pierce the darkness—

Light filled the area.

As if someone flipped a switch. There wasn’t an ounce of darkness or shadow as far as I could see.

I froze in place, standing tall in preperation for whatever was about to happen.

“Why’d we stop? What’s ahead?” John said from the back.

“Can’t you—” I turned and took a single step towards John and was once again plunged into eternal darkness. My utter disbelief was illuminated within my helmet for John to see.

I stepped forward—bright lights—and back again—nothingness for miles and miles.

Forward, backward. Then I pulled the other two into the light.

“I’m not even going to bother asking what just happened, because I’m pretty sure none of us know,” Jane said, shaking her head in disbelief.


What can they see here?

DF: 55, 17: Immersed Connection

I wonder... An immersed connection could mean someone, lost in thought, is there.

Is it a person? 50/50: 91, no.

So a type of connection that leads them to immersion.

We turned off our lights and looked around, finally able to take in more than just the five feet ahead of us. To my disappointment, there wasn’t much else to see. As I had deduced, we were in a corridor that was no more than twenty feet high and about fifteen feet wide. It stretched on for another forty or so feet.

At the end of the corridor, however, was something I hadn’t expected to see. It seemed so alien amongst the literal alien structure. It looked slightly beyond our current tech, with very polished metal.

But it was still very clearly an elevator.

“I’m assuming we’re supposed to go down, then?” John asked.

The three of us approached with caution, looking around for any visible signs of a trap. We didn’t see anything out of the ordinary—except, well, the elevator.

“Too bad we can’t send Watt down first, take a peek.” Jane sighed, taking a look behind us.

A peek…

“Jane,” I said, “can you phase through the floor and take a look below us? Let us know what we’re walking into?”

Her jaw dropped. “You want me to…” She pulled back her questioning tone and seemed to think it over. “Okay, that actually makes sense.”

We worked through a quick plan before John and I got to our knees. Jane laid on the ground, chest down. She inhaled and exhaled a few times, then nodded. “Okay. I’m ready.”

I grabbed one leg and John grabbed the other. “Are you sure you can just phase your upper body? Would hate to drop you.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure. Just don’t let go!”

John and I looked to each other and tightened our grip. “Ready.”

Secure an Advantage

+2 (wits) => 4 vs 1, 3. SH!

+2 mom [9]

+1 forward

What's the next waypoint?

13: Blasted or wrecked area. Damnit.

Jane took a deep breath and dived into the floor. We gripped her ankles and dipped her down as far as we could take her.

“Guys,” Jane said, her voice coming in clear through the comms. “It’s fucked down here. Like, a complete fucking mess. And it stinks.”

We pulled her back up and got to our feet. I looked at the elevator, contemplating. “It’s just a mess down there, right? No signs of Irēn or anyone else?”

“Not that I can tell, but I couldn’t see all of it. Plus, I was too high up. This thing is deep.”

We only had a slight advantage then. But, an advantage nonetheless. One we wouldn’t have had without her.

“Alright, everyone, stay on alert. Blackstone, get the Scarlet Adler ready just in case we need to make a break for it.” I flexed my fingers, letting the lightning course through them. I had enough juice. I heard John unholster a rifle. Jane unclipped something from her waist and flung it to the side. It made a distinctive sound as it extended to its full length.

I couldn’t help but smile. She was using one of my old staves.

There was a button on the right side of the doors. I carefully approached it, and pressed it. Within seconds, the doors hissed open.

“Let’s go.”

Undertake an Expedition

+3 (wits+1 forward) => 8 vs 3, 8. WH.

Progress, 8/10

The elevator shook and came to a halt, and the doors hissed open.

The ceiling was high—at least hundred feet. And just as Jane said, destruction was scattered all about. Countless pieces of tech from machines I couldn’t place, all burnt and bent and destroyed. It felt oddly similar to the destruction outside the vault, the mess before us mimicking the broken ships stuck in the vault’s orbit.

“Does that mean someone’s been down here?” Jane asked as we stepped off into the space.

John stepped in front of us, gun trained forward. He was fully invoking his training as an S.P.D. Agent. I stood angled off to his left side, keeping my eyes peeled there while Jane did the same to his right. Watt hovered above the three of us, spinning slowly to watch from all sides.

“Coast is clear,” John said, lowering the gun and turning to face us. “There’s no dust anywhere, but something tells me that’s typical for a precursor vault.”

The area we’d arrived in was oblong shaped, and narrowed into another corridor ahead of us. John led us through.


What peril? 

Sanctum peril, 100. Yikes.

Roll twice. UUGGGHHHH.

91, 79: 

- You are marked by physical corruption or mutation

- Spawning or swarming foes surround you

I felt…strange. I couldn’t place it. We continued through the corridor another fifteen feet before it opened up into another large oddly shaped room.

Something was off. I heard John breathing heavily, and Jane winced visibly.

I took another few steps forward—

And collapsed in pain. 

All three of us were on the ground, writhing. 

“What the hell!” Jane screamed out.

It felt like I had to throw up, and I had a fever, and I had been hit by a truck. The pain was sudden and intense.

And it smelled like death all of a sudden. Horrible, rotting, death. The stench made my stomach lurch more than it already was.

I forced myself to stand, looking for the source of the disturbance. Did the vault have some sort of defense mechanism? Perhaps I could—


I stared forward, mostly in horror, partly in shock. 

And oddly comforted by knowing how my “luck” would manifest itself here.

Some thirty feet away, Risen rose to their feet ahead of us and caught us within their undead sights.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Jane groaned and stood to her feet moments after John had done the same, using her staff to help keep her upright.

“Par for the course, it seems,” John said, stabilizing himself.

We had no choice. So, we fought.


+1 (heart) => 2 vs 3, 5. Miss. Let's burn momentum.

9 vs 3, 5. SH

+2 momentum [4]

I charged as fast as I could, right into the throes of chaos, letting my fists disconnect barely connected heads from bodies. Jane swatted at a few, and stabbed others with the staff, using her Branding to avoid getting grabbed and bitten. We occasionally stumbled to the ground, leaving ourselves open for an assault from the Risen, the odd sensation from the vault making handicapping us severely.

John took advantage of those moments to turn the tide, taking the opening to fire shot after shot towards the Risen who chose to capitalize on our sickness, downing them with ease.

In the end, we’d taken care of any Risen that were compelled to attack us. I still felt horrible, the energy from the vault twisting my insides and making me want to just lay down.

Perhaps that’s how the Risen got here…Those who just gave up and died.

Finish an Expedition

8 vs ... 4, 9. WH. Damn.

Well, 1 tick.

Progress on Irēn Vow


Is Irēn down here? Likely, 75-: 61, yes.

Let's... Fulfill my vow.

6 vs... 3, 3!!!!!!!!! STRONG HIT AND A MATCH!

WHat's the vault's purpose?

65: Protection of a sacred artifact

This could be that tool.

What's this match about?

Sanctum Opportunity, 68: Environment adjusts to better suit you

I shook off the thought and pressed on, gesturing to the others to do the—

Watt beeped, loudly. I gestured for us to halt and looked at him. Then, in the helmets of the suits displayed an alert.

The air…was breathable?

“Why is there air down here?” John questioned. “And…the temperature is dropping.” He held up a finger to us and took a deep breath, then retracted his helmet. There were no immediate signs of a false reading, and he exhaled…and breathed in.

He gagged. “Still smells like shit, but…” He shrugged. Jane and I retracted our helmets as well.

And then we heard a click from further down.

The three of us spun—John’s gun trained, Jane’s staff off to the side, ready, and my fists raised—and gasped loudly.

A woman stood before us in front of a large statue, her own weapon trained on us.

I recognized her immediately.


Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

Finally, at long last. Irēn Adler.

Fitting that they met her with a Match, too.

What will they be "lucky" enough to uncover?

They’ve finally found her: Irēn Adler.

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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