Top of the Mountain
The party approaches the palace at the top of Hinrik among temples dedicated to the local gods, leaving behind the Path of the Titans. Two guards, Mark ‘Tendernutz’ and Michael ‘Baby Spice’, stop the party, ask for credentials, and receive permission from Chrysanthe Xene to enter. She is apparently in the middle of casting a summoning ritual, which worries the party even more than the close cries of the Apocalypse Hydra.
The ritual is being done in a drawn circle of spiraling arms in an altar located in the middle of a coliseum. Two cyclops guard the entrance to the arena, and about 6 others surround the summoning circle. Adjacent to it are Chrysanthe’s best friends and maid, together with Neofytos Panos, commander of the Hinrik troops. In the middle, Chrysanthe reads an old scroll of religious and magical power.
After verbally interrogating Neofytos, it becomes clear that he is hiding something. Chrysanthe intercedes trying to solve the mystery that is the assassination orders. Rad Longhammer feels fear in Chrysanthe even though she appears innocent of association with the murders. On the other hand Neofytos confesses that he, as all city commanders in Chedhurst and with permission from King Maxim Isaak, has used drop-off assassination orders for the benefit of the realm. However, he did not order the assassination of Svetlana Riha.
Chrysanthe, tells the party how she planned on summoning the gift of Andromeda, the constellation she was born under, to help protect Chedhurst from Tremblent invasions. The gift would be diluted equally among all vessels born under the light of Andromeda near Hinrik, so Chrysanthe had used the Hinrik’s resources to trick/bribe all known vessels to relocate far away. This would ensure that as a sole receptor, the gift would be powerful enough in Chrysanthe’s hands to defend against armies and would only be used for good.
Neofytos executed those orders, but quickly found out that curiosity by some of the vessels would complicate things. Greedy and evil beings born under Andromeda were on to something, so to safeguard the secret from them he changed the orders from bribe and trick to assassinate, enlisting the help from the Strike Team.
Jania Goldenflight appears, telling Aishe Malinova that she took her advice and became true to her nature, enlisting her soul under the patroness god of assassins Lolth. Having been a professional assassin, she points out the chain of command is also the chain of guilt, regardless of how orders were executed. Lady Oscar backup her claim, pointing out that Chrysanthe’s orders implicate her in the assassinations, and hence the hydra is also after her. In spirit form, Jania had traveled to Timbermoor were King Maxim Isaak had offered a bounty on those responsible for the hydra attack. Fearig for Chrysanthe, Rad Longhammer attacks Jania, who teleports away. As a favor to Tobin, she will not kill Chrysanthe, but will enjoy seeing the party have to do it.
At this impasse, Aishe Malinova suggests that Neofytos should commit suicide for a chance to save Chrysanthe, since he changed her orders. He flat out refuses, and in blind anger Rad Longhammer attacks him. Neofytos proves to be a formidable soldier worthy of his rank, it will not be easy taking him down, especially with Sandman’s forces yielding ground rapidly to the hydra, almost within reach of the city below.
Seeing the predicament, Aishe finally convinces him, and he apologizes to Chrysanthe, who is still wearing the jasmine flowers he gave her as a token of his affection. He prepares his war armor, and armed to the teeth, uses the palace portal to teleport down into the city. With the power of his awesomeness, Mazith parts the clouds from the top of the mountain to see the battle field below. After several tense minutes, the hydra defeats Neofytos Panos, but continues towards the Path of the Titans in search of Chrysanthe.
Desperate, the Freak Squad return to the temple of Pisces to locate Svetlana Riha. Thelesa Romaine summons Svetlana’s spirit, who forgives Chrysanthe of any wrong doing. The power of this act speeds up the resurrection ritual, bringing Svetlana back to life! However, the shriekds of the Hydra do not stop and the party is at a loss.
The spirit of the Carnival fortune teller materializes in the room, to help fill in the logical gaps. When Lady Oscar demanded information about a gypsy girl born under the light of Andromeda, she recognized her as Aishe Malinova, born under the starlit constellation in the realm of the Shadowfell. To divert the assassin, she sent her looking for an imaginary gypsy girl in Basilisk Mouth. As luck would have it, Svetlana, in the wrong place at the wrong time and never in the original hit list, was consequently murdered by Lady Oscar. The fortune teller reveals that she thought it was a sweet irony that Lady Oscar, as Aishe’s fate sister, was also born under Andromeda, so she herself would be on the hit list.
Chrysanthe Xene tells the second interpretation of the Andromeda ritual, one that demands a single sacrifice from one of the vessels to stop the monster, like in the legends written in the stars. But the ritual must occur now, when the constellation passes over the temples of the Hinrik gods! The three remaining vessels, Aishe Malinova, Lady Oscar and Chrysanthe Xene are not eagerly volunteering now that they all have something to live for.
Lady Oscar speaks with Tobin, who reiterates the feelings she poured out on her letter to Oscar. Lady Oscar is willing to sacrifice herself, but not to have Tobin lose her life in response. Tobin therefore does not want to sacrifice Oscar, someone she loves, especially after she got forgiven for her actions, so under heavy criticism from Aishe, Lady Oscar refuses to go.
All eyes are now on Chrysanthe.
Chrysanthe Xene confesses to Rad Longhammer that she is willing to sacrifice herself, but there would still be a price to pay. The main reason why Tremblent had not invaded in the past couple of decades was because of a treaty that King Maxim Isaak signed with Triant Tombfury, the vampire king of Tremblent. This pact benefited the economy of both regions, Tremblent would get a merchant inflow on agricultural and lumber goods, while Chedhurst would get access to Tremblent’s legendary mines of metal and minerals. A key aspect of the pact was the betrothal of Chrysanthe, then a child of royal bloodline, to the un-aging Triant Tombfury per his request.
She believes that her sacrifice would save Hinrik from the hydra, but would doom Chedhurst to unending invasions from Tremblent due to not fulfilling the treaty’s clause, the very same thing that she was trying to use Andromeda’s gift to defend against. She thought that with the gift, given to just her, it would be powerful enough to defend the realm and annul the betrothal. She asks Rad for guidance on what to do.
Rad Longhammer consults the feeling inside him on what to do, looking for advice from gods who remain silent, as if indicating they approve of any decision he made. To reinforce this notion, the voice of Amon, founder of House Lancaster and now recognized as the guardian of the Libra temple, enters Rad’s head. After hearing Rad’s decision to not sacrifice Chrysanthe Xene, he supports his decision and tells him that his group has already earned the approval of the gods, and that without any sacrifices, the light of Andromeda would be distributed among Aishe, Oscar and Chrysanthe, but that together they might be able to defeat the hydra.
Chrysanthe finishes the ritual with the three ladies in the circle, and a beam of pure light descends upon them, empowering their weapons and bodies. Some of the leftover light splashes onto Mazith, Rad Longhammer and Tobin, making the items they earned along the Path of the Titans glow with power. But alas, there is no way to get down to the city in time! To make things worse, Sandman’s wizards have been defeated and are now looking for cover. But out of the sky drops a familiar Roc that Amadeus the Satyr has sent to help the party.
Tobin, Aishe, Mazith, and Rad, accompanied by Lady Oscar and Crysanthe, fly to the edge of the city where the hydra is attacking. Rad Longhammer leaps down 40 feet, transferring his momentum into a hammer attack which softens the scaly armor of the hydra. Not wanting to be left behind, Mazith dives and sinks his sword in the soft patch. Aishe Malinova jumps next and drives her Andromeda spiked chain down the gap already made, trying to find the creature’s hearts. Lady Oscar aids in distracting the attacks from the six heads, which viciously bite the party at each move. Meanwhile, Tobin uses the power of her Starlit Bow of Sagittarius to summon a magical rope from the trail of her arrow shot. She then gives directions to Chrysanthe to circle the roc around the hydra’s heads to impair them.
Rad takes heavy bites from the head and falls unconscious, sliding off the hydra. Mazith jumps in at grabs him before he falls and gets trampled. Horrified, Chrysanthe finds her new found Andromeda power, and a flying healing kiss returns Rad to consciousness. An insubstantial Aishe attacks the remaining hearts of the beast. Having choked a hydra head with her rope, Tobin jumps onto the beast, holds hands with Lady Oscar, and together they drive the final arrows and crossbows into the apocalyptic monster once and for all. Aishe explodes out of the corpse and the whole party escapes before the corpse collapses and is returned to the ground!
Andromeda Strain: Chapter Epilogue
Chrysanthe Xene and Rad reunite, two pure hearts finally together. Their embrace is somewhat bittersweet because of her still looming betrothal to Triant Tombfury, though, but they’ll forget about that today.
Hazmat congratulates his son Mazith on defeating the monster with a single blow (edit by: Mazith). His pride makes his spirit ignore the unrest of undeath. Somewhere, Hazmat’s unknown son holds the key to his eternal rest.
Lady Oscar is finally free of any guilt, bounty or death sentence, and free to spend time with Tobin. While they chat about locating Tobin’s family, Jania Goldenflight’s spirit appears, congratulates them, warns Tobin that she will repay the death debt to Aishe, and dissapears.
Svetlana Riha celebrates with Aishe gyspy style, their music a natural fit for the celebration.
In the distance, Rodrik the bard, smiles at his perfect timing of this orchestra of love and blood. He might not get Aishe in the end, but he will get to write a ballad to be remembered for ages to come.