The Counting House itself is an artificial space habitat constructed from the hulls of retired capital freighters. These hulls (with engines still operational for station-keeping) were attached together and their interior spaces converted to labs, storage, and housing.
The station was placed in a seven-year eliptical orbit around a black hole, with starships only able to dock at its highest altitude. Any change in elevation will result in the station falling into the black hole. However, the station does include a G.A.T.E.-point interface, so access to it by G.A.T.E. is available at all times.
The Counting House began almost as early as the Gudersnipe Army began its campaign, though records do not exist of it before B.G.A. System 197. It was originally formed as an umbrella organization for a large array of projects, mostly having to do with the control and weaponization of various magical things captured by the troops. The experiments that led to the Unicorn Trials were carried out under the protection of the Counting House.
The name derives from the original nature of the program. Very few records were kept, and all projects were highly secretive. The term "Counting House" refers to the centralized administration and 'counting' of these programs, and the name itself purposely vague and misleading. It was first organized under the financial services branch of Gudersnipe War Machine, and remained under its administration well into the Foundation era.
Purpose and History
As the Mage Wars drew to a close and the Golden Age began, only projects of the utmost secrecy were placed under the auspicies of the House, which itself disapeared from all public view. The only official record of its existance after A.Y. 57 is a single budget report entitled "House Expenses", which includes only a single line item and a very large budget.
Officially, the Counting House did not exist after the dawn of the Golden Age. Unofficially, it carried out a series of dark and cruel experiments, primarilly in the control and weaponization of vampires. This was their primary function, though they occasionally conducted experiments on other non-human magical beings. Most notably, a series of experiments on Unicorns, which lasted for much of the early part of the Golden Age. At the time, Unicorns were not believed sapient; but the remarkably vicious nature of the experiments caused over 500 scientists to be put to death. While officially all data gathered on Unicorns during this time was destroyed, a backup copy remained at the Counting House's headquarters.
As their methods were perfected, the Counting House's rôle changed from study to manufacture of enslaved vampires. These were eventually released in a "minor catastrophe" in the late Sixth Age, including the destruction of the Counting House headquarters and the deaths of many of its best scientists.
Whether or not the Counting House continued to exist after these events remains unknown; but knowing the Foundation, it has probably been renamed "The Office of Sewage Affairs" and relocated to some other desolate corner of the verse.
The Counting House deploys weaponized Vampires and other monsters; hence the title 'Count' is the House's euphemism for any monster catalogued by its members. On some worlds this is conflated with the homonymous landholder's title.