Kitten Caboodle aka Kit
The team starts making arrangements to get the VDH hoard job done, worried that others in town will beat them to it if they don’t make a move. They get a meeting with Stuck through Ranya Zhong (via Tommy Vermont), and cut a deal, though it’s a dangerous one. They agree to finally get involved with Free Seattle referendum, but instead of just finding out all the info, they agree to throw it towards independence on behalf of Stuck. He makes VERY clear that failure is not an option, and that their deaths will be long, messy and unpleasant if they do fail. However, with this out of the way, he agrees to give them private access to VDH’s vault under his casino, and allow them to keep whatever they find inside in exchange for clearing out the security, whatever it may be. He offers to help them sell anything they need if they wish.
The team stocks up on some B&E gear, including a counterspelling focus for Aradia to try to protect against magical traps. They head to Stuck’s, and get shown in the back by Zhong, who tells them they closed off the small area of hallway outside the vault door but that the team will be responsible should anything “get out” while they are clearing the vault. The team prepares to be cautious. Noticing that VDH upgraded his security since Joygirl IX’s visit, Kit manages to bypass the anti-tamper circuit and sequence the numeric code to get access to the bio-scanner. Kit decides not to mess with the one bit of matrix security visible- a simple “open/closed” switch attached to the door.
Creature warms up the bio-sample of VDH’s remains they got from Tosh Athack, and it scans successfully. Carol then inserts the magical frat ring and twists it, and the vault door hisses and cracks open. A foul stench emerges, which Carol begins analyzing, and then stops after almost puking. The team hauls open the vault door, and finds themselves staring into total dark, with a weird muffled effect on sound. Aradia goes astral and comes under attack from some kind of disturbing web, which manifests and continues attacking her after she drops out of astral. The team manage to kill it without taking much in the way of damage, though Aradia gets some unpleasant psychic feedback.
Almost immediately, Aradia gets tackled by a massive rotten panda, which charges out and mauls her. The team manage to wrestle if off and slay it, before seeing what seems to be an animating spirit leave the body and slip back into the vault. The panda corpse begins liquefying almost immediately, which helps explain the awful odor, further explained when they enter and find that a Sangre del Diablo tree has partially digested a man who seems to have been caught in it’s clutches. Aradia summons a fire spirit and sends it after the spirit they saw, and the team comes under attack from the tree (spitting out it’s previous meal), a floating eye, and a shadow beast. A twisted pile of limbs and organs cruelly kept alive by medical and alchemical technology also reorients itself towards them.
The eye slow most of them down with some sort of magic, and the shadow beast slices at them with claws that leave behind dripping shadowy ichor. Luckily, none of them take major damage as they manage to defeat these threats, though Tabasco is almost swallowed by the tree. The fire spirit reports that is has chased the enemy spirit from a skin suit it inhabited, into a key, and the fight continues, though Aradia has to keep using services to order it to keep fighting as it seems repulsed by the enemy, some sort of toxic spirit that fights back with an astral toxin that harms and disgusts the elemental. However, the fire spirit emerges victorious in the end and a loud crack rings through the vault.
The team carefully checks for further threats, and sensing none, begins to explore. Creature decides to kill the pile of limbs and organs, just in case, first with boiling elemental water in drake form, and then getting in close with the monofil garrotte. It takes a while and is disgusting work, with severed components turning to black sludge almost immediately. TT hauls the rotting panda corpse back into the vault and they seal up the door, not wanting to give any extra time for magical snoops to get a look inside. TT almost immediately starts feeling ill, and Kit is worried he caught something from contacting the panda corpse, however minimally, as he forces himself to vomit foul smelling substances.
Kit patches up Aradia’s armor a bit as the team catalogues the vault and debates what to do. It looks like what happened is that one of Tabasco’s list of missing freelancers, an alchemist, seems to have been trapped in here, seemingly by VDH, and forced to work on various craftings and potions. Unable to escape and without resupply after VDH’s death, he appears to have essentially activated all the security systems as an attempt at revenge from beyond the grave. It looks like much of the valuable alchemical gear, as well as a blood magic “shaman tuxedo”, were destroyed in the fight, but many artifacts, preparations, books and scrolls remain. Kit also just barely manages to gain access to a small floor safe without setting off it’s self destruct, finding a hard-wired burner comm (the vault door, when closed, blocks wireless), the little black book (which they owe to Athack), and 2 Tarot cards, inverted.
The Tarot cards in their presentation seem to back up what the team determines happened here, and also are obviously valuable in their own right, though the team plans to keep them. They check the book to ID some of the other items, and at least get names for many of them, as well as some info about what they fought and where VDH acquired it from, which all implies he had a lot of continental connections. It looks like some of the items in the vault had already been sold, also, though the team agrees not to honor those deals. Realizing they are in way over their head, they debate a few options (selling it all as one batch to AZT or someone else, trying to freelance auction it, etc) before deciding they need help to even know what things are worth, and what is too dangerous to sell.
They call up Fargus Sol and propose a deal: if he will catalogue and price the items present, they will let him set aside anything which seems too dangerous for selling, to either destroy locally and transfer to safekeeping with Arleesh. The team will be compensated for these items, as usual, though probably not as highly as they might have been if they auctioned them, but it gives them a lot more info, maintains a relationship, and is at least reasonably moral. Sol tells them he will bring a local crew called Howard and Phillips INC that specializes in the destruction of dangerous things and data, and will head over ASAP.
A few of the team head out back to receive the newcomers and bring them down to the vault, and check in with Zhong. They spot someone maybe surveilling them but lose sight quickly, and don’t want to chance pursuing, but warn Zhong who says she will have security keep an eye out back. Sol and the H&P team head down, and he begins sorting the items. He convinces the team to transfer the Babr-y-Bayn armor (made of dragonskin) and the Ring of Gyges (madness-inducing invisibility at will) to safekeeping with Arleesh, as he isn’t sure they can be destroyed but believes them to be too dangerous to let loose in the world.
They set aside various toxic, bug, blood etc reagents, a hand of glory and a few blood magic scrolls, as well as some organs harvested from various metavariants and sapient critters for destruction, after some discussion, and also the SDD tree, which looks to be one of the rare HMHVV-infected variety- Tabasco is especially glad it didn’t get through his armor now! Sol also gets TT to drink a delicious elixir to cure the disease he caught from the panda corpse, even though it was very valuable, as it will save his life. The H&P team do some careful initial destruction on-site, in case they are stopped or attacked, to make sure the things they are leaving with are no longer valuable for harvesting or reuse, before heading out.
Sol stays and gets the team some price suggestions for the items he considers safe to sell, and says he/Arleesh would likely be interested in some of them, though probably couldn’t compete at open market prices. He seems especially interested in/concerned about a chunk of the Cornerstone, a mystical object from the Seelie Court that can supposedly control the castle and allow easier movement around it. The team realizes it resembles one of the monolith symbols on the Tarot cards, and Creature sets the card in question on a table next to the Cornerstone with some intention. The card burns up and vanishes, and the Cornerstone vibrates, disappears, and reappears where the card was.
Watching in astral, Sol and Aradia suggest that the card summoned the stone. The team frantically searches through the cards they have to see if they have any others that have unique symbols on them. They destroy a few in experimentation before getting one right, and manage to summon a second chunk of Cornerstone. Both Sol and the team realize the implications of this and get a bit stressed out at what they’ve uncovered: this is essentially priceless info and items, which could make their sale a bit problematic, but this is a major discovery…