After their fruitful visit to the Vault of Lore, the team gears up to attempt to gain access to the first cache, not knowing if their opponents in the chal’han will be after the same prize or not! They smuggle back into Cara’Sir via Technicolor Wings, and link up with Chem, who has sourced some local supplies and drugs for the mission. They make some connections with local Klamath people, for whom Crater Lake is a sacred site. They find that there is some considerable dissatisfaction amongst the Klamath at the Tir’s refusal to allow them full access to the site. They also discover that the crater rim is only accessible by Klamath people for religious purposes, and that otherwise the military has cordoned the whole place off since the 2050’s (Frosty Jane had told them that this was after a Horror had breached their world, and been subsequently sent packing at great cost).
Toff gets ahold of some Koshari who offer to trade them fake “religious purposes” documents for some reagents that the runners could gather in the area. However, they decide to social hack their way in through the military instead. They make a deal to trade travel passes for reagents with Evan Parris again. Toast stays behind in Cara’Sir to finish sourcing supplies for the actual infiltration, while the rest of the team heads for Medford. They find a recruiting station for Fentin to hack to gain access to personnel lists and whatever else he can find, and discover that the Crater Lake base’s 3rd in command (a Captain) is on leave currently, at a cabin nearby, and after some digging, that he was recently divorced from a dwarf man and seems lonely.
Love announces he will buy drinks for any service members at a local military bar to lure the Captain down from his cabin, which works, and Toff prepares to further explore his budding sexuality, playing the vixen. With some careful hacking of the Capt’s ‘link, Fentin gets him good and jealous by faking a text from his ex, and Toff manages to keep it together while playing it coy, well enough to get invited back to the Capt’s cabin.
The rest of the team tails them at a discreet distance, and Toff ko’s the Capt with laced lipstick as they kiss upon entering the cabin, after watching the Capt put in the alarm code. He scans his brain real quick as the rest of the team arrives, to get useful blackmail and also info about base security, and finds a good amount! There are e-critters in the woods surrounding the crater, to discourage tech-based infiltration, and trained rocs and abrams lobsters above and below the base to deal with any who make it through the woods. There are also warform chimeras based on basilisks used as facility security, and mana barriers with self-sealing trap rooms to contain any unapproved intruders.
The Capt has also been hunting/fishing illegally for trophies, and has a sizable collection. They harvest some reagents from his specimens for Parris, and also know this is good blackmail, given the protectionist stance in the Tir. Also, it means the Capt has the authority they need to sign off on sending a large box (containing the team) onto the base. They find a hidden floor safe, with some more trophies, and also a wireless-disabled ‘link. Unfortunately, Fentin fails to get past the data bomb, and bricks it. They threaten him and rough him up a little, and get him to sign the requisite forms, before erasing his memory with Laes. They take the bricked comm, telling him it’s “insurance” (though he won’t remember). They stage the scene a bit to make it look like a wild party got out of control, and Fentin erases and loops the security footage.
With all that info, they head back to the recruiter’s, where Gethin goes in to sign up for their mandatory service, posing as a would-be citizen. Fentin hacks in and plants one of the forms they had the Capt approve, attesting to Gethin’s previous military record elsewhere, and allowing them to skip basic, as well as getting them assigned to a nearby transport depot. Fentin also finds a memo about Crater Lake that new personnel are not to be assigned there, as there is some sort of magical mist that causes people to act strangely if not well-trained/prepared. Toff and Love scope it out astrally, but flee as it speaks their true names and starts to envelop them.
The team gets Frosty and a Draco Foundation team to come to Medford and set up a safehouse to receive the cache, and also purchase some astrally-shielded camo blankets to get them onto Wizard Island safely- they’ll likely have to infiltrate through the facility and up to the Witches’ Cauldron (and down inside) themselves. Unfortunately, Toff touches the Piri Reis Map and falls into a psychometric trance, so he won’t be going on the mission. He has a days-long vision of ancient history: flying fortresses combating dragons in the sky, a city sinking beneath the waves as it’s magical defenses falter while a sphynx statue watches over it, humans scattering from the island across the lands and trying to imbue temples and objects with what faded magic they can, and the composition of the map itself, late in the last age, by some of the survivors.
The rest of the team (+ Gethin’s gear) load into the prepared crate, and get shipped to the military supply depot, where Gethin has managed to get themselves assigned to the shipment to Crater Lake, as kind of a rookie “hazing”, according to the CO. He warns them of the mist, but says to follow the SGT’s lead, and it should be fine. The SGT makes Gething drive while he sleeps, which luckily Gethin sort of knows how to do from watching teammates recently. They get there with no trouble, reaching the bridge to Phantom Ship Island after a long drive through some spooky woods. However, Gethin realizes they don’t have a plan to get themselves into the crate, so quickly improvises, and pops it open before it can get loaded, KO’s the SGT and doses him with Laes, before propping him up in the truck cab, figuring he will be too embarassed to admit that he doesn’t remember arriving there when he is awoken by the loading crew shortly. And hopefully they won’t mark Gethin down as missing until the truck is back to the depot in a few hours, giving the team some time to complete their mission before anyone gets unusually suspicious.
Or, worst come to worst, they may just think Gethin wandered off into the mist, and distract the base with some searching. The team feels the boat that the crate is loaded onto start to move, off towards Wizard Island, and are greatly distrubed when the mist starts to whisper to them. Love once again manages to intimidate the team into holding it together through the mist, and they safely reach the other side, where they are offloaded into a warehouse alongside the base. They wait til the warehouse is mostly depopulated, and Gethin sneaks out to incapacitate the guard (accidentally killing him). Gethin manages to take the guards biomonitor off and get it on herself before it registers his death, and Fentin plans to cover their tracks once in the host. Gethin stashes the body in their crate under one of the astrally shielded blankets. Meanwhile Fentin plugs into the sec cameras to gain access to the host. He manages to get both the interior and exterior security doors open, as well as loop the necessary cameras, before he almost gets noticed and bails.
Now it’s up to Toast and Love, to bring the team safely through the astral barriers without triggering the traps. Toast and Gethin pass through first, safely, and take out the lone guard nearby inside the base, hauling his body into the next checkpoint to hide him on the mountainside. Love brings Chem and Fentin through, just barely bypassing the security. On the other side, Toast and Gethin once again clear it, but Love has some trouble. Luckily, they manage to dive through as the security portal slams shut, but the man’s body they were bringing with is caught under it. Maybe for the best? It could offer up at least a temporary explanation as to what set if off, if no-one notices the arrow wound in his foot.
The team sneaks up the mountain to the Witches Cauldron, and ambushes 2 military scientists there, killing one and incapacitating the other. They descend the oddly smooth shaft of the cauldron, with Toast leading the way while Love levitates the main group down. They find a strange, enormous fused-together object at the bottom of the tunnel, which seems to be the remains of the spirit prison that crashed to the Earth some thousands of years ago. It seems to have been partially excavated around the time that the Horror broke free, and merely monitored since then. However, Love can detect a powerful magical signature buried partially inside it- perhaps the cache?
Love manages to bribe 5 of the spirits bound into the fused prison to allow him to approach closely enough to read their true names, where they are carved into the binding stones in ancient runes. Luckliy, Love picked up enough knowledge of the various known ancient languages at the Vault of Lore to attempt a pronunciation, and frees the spirits, all of which seem quite powerful. Not feeling that they have time to pause and consider the potential for trouble with doing that, they continue. However, Love has run out of reagents, and the team is forced to collectively volunteer up some of their life essence to free the final spirit which block their path to the cache. They do so, and are glad that they didn’t leave it to only 1 member to volunteer, as it likely would have killed them.
They grab the cache, which is cracked but seems intact, and levitate back up the shaft as the sounds of klaxons and combat grow above them. They emerge to find the ko’ed scientist totally drained of all fluids and energy, a husk sucked dry, and look out over a horrifying scene. As promised, there is a detail of about 12 milspec armored soldiers on staff, locked in frantic combat with some extremely powerful spirits, who seem to be currently distracted from their attempted escape by a desire for vengeance against their perceived captors. The guards are using repeating lasers as well as FAB III sprayers, which terrifies the magic users on the team, so they decide to clear out.
Using the fight as a distraction, they sneak to an quiet part of the inner base wall, barely avoiding detection, and Love levitates them over the wall, with him and Toast collaborating to push them through the mana barrier undetected. They return to their hiding crate, disposing of the body of the warehouse guard in the lake and hoping that the abrams lobsters will make quick work of him while everyone else is distracted. They all huddle under their shielded blankets, and wait to be shipped off the island. Love has to hold the team together, as it takes 1.5 days (apparently they caused a little too much of a distraction), but they are eventually shipped off, once again avoiding succumbing to the whispers of the fog.
Fentin tries to hijack the transport truck they end up, but sets off a matrix alarm, so Love uses levitation and powerful illusions to conceal their mid-trip exit from the truck, arranging a pickup from Frosty. She seems quite happy with their performance, and tells them they’ll be headed next to Lagos to search for clues to the next cache. She pays them as promised, and divvies up the treasures within the crate: a blood fetish and 2 blood charms, and promises to teach Love a “safe” blood spell once she has a chance to review the ancient knowledge contained in the cache. She says that it seems to be a history, of sorts, as well as some practical spellcraft and other useful things. Toff emerges from his trance state shortly after the team returns, and they prepare to head for Lagos, though Love may stay behind for a bit to learn some new magic.