[I think this happened on February 24 of 2008. Toby had returned from his travels in Southeast Asia. The players in attendance were Ralph (Dwalor and Telwyn), Jerry (Chingara), Toby (Stirge and Thalin) and Victor (Mandark). This session ran later than most Toby was the last to leave. Experience rewards were given out at the end of the session. Basically this session details the Circus’ trip from Boha-Boha to the city of Shomo, which is about thirdway down the Kalimara River. I’m back posting this for chronological accuracy.]
After discussing the matter with Nkosazana, Hilda managed to convince the high priestess of Araku to sell the Circus the two ghost-touch spears at a third of their value. With these, the Circus set off on a road out of Boha-boha to follow Amonis’ route into the Bida. Dwalor’s recently conscripted guide, Mazi, a Ngohe from a small village in the Western Bida, would help them. The muddy trade road followed the Kalimara river along the border between the kingdoms of Taumau-Boha and Mabwe. Along its length was the Mabwian city of Shomo and it was there that the Circus, following Amonis’ plan, hope to turn into the Wakyambi lands in the Bida.
They knew the pride of ndalawo was still out there–assassins sent to kill them by the Leopard Cult. They knew the shadow cats would return. But they also didn’t want to draw this threat to the city of Boha-boha. About three days into the trip, Mandark spotted some spawn of kyuss waiting in ambush in the dense vegetation beside the road. Thalin’s fireball made quick work of them and the rest of the trip was uneventful until 3 weeks later, a 2 days away from city of Shomo, the ndalawo attacked again.
The Ndalawo Return to Claim a Mortal
Mandark spotted them floating out of the sky and, he, Hilda and Chingara were able to get a few arrow shots off but, Thalin was unable to hurl a fireball before they pounced. But perhaps Molna or Araku was protecting the Circus that day because, the monster’s strength draining power seemed to be less vicious than it was that night in Boha-boha. Even so the party was worried and hard pressed.
Dwalor chanted for Molna’s blessings and drew his ax.
Helga, who had been traveling invisibly for nearly the entire trip, was unseen by the undead and moved sixty or so feet off to one side to line up arrow shots. She new that most physical weapons, even with magical powers, simply passed straight through these monsters half of the time but, she figured, maybe if she could line some in a row, the magical arrows that missed one might have an opportunity to strike adjacent ones. Her theory turned out to be successful! Mandark, Hilda and Chingara, on elephant back, then copied her tactics.
The shadow cats surrounded both Stirge and Dwalor, the reminder surrounded Whirlwind and several broke off to chase down Hilda, Mandark and Hilda.
Stirge drove himself into the rage of berserks and struck several with his leaf spear of ghost-touch. Dwalor attempted to invoke Molna’s power but was struck several times and his spell failed.
Thalin cast a hastening spell; this affected everyone except Mandark and Telwyn. Ojo tried to wheel Whirlwind around and put some distance between the elephant, carrying Thalin, Chingara, Mazi and himself, and the ghost leopards. Telwyn, aiming things carefully, cast a fireball at a massed group of ndalawo. They were not incinerated but scortched nicely!
Facing one opponent each, Hilda, Mandark and Helga, by taking the risk by using missile weapons in melee, fared better than they might have. They steadily retreated or shifted positions to line up shots on groups of ndalawo. Chingara, on Whirlwind, was safe from immediate danger and followed the same tactics. Together they brought down several more of the beasts.
Dwalor was not doing well. His ax, which had been drained of magic in an earlier conflict, was useless against these creatures. Seeing the trouble that Dwalor was having, Stirge tossed the leaf spear to the dwarf. Dwalor was able to catch the leaf spear but, due to the strength he lost, was only able to make some headway. With his magic Axe of Compassion and his hastening, Stirge destroyed two more of the shadows.
The monsters chased after Whirlwind and Ojo lost control. Chingara was bucked off the panicking elephant. He ran to take cover in the brush. Thalin, along with Mazi and Ojo, managed to hang on. Thalin cast slow on the pursuing shadow leopards and then was thrown off Whirlwind.
Mandark, Hilda and Helga, luckily only facing one ndalawo each, were losing strength quickly but not as rapidly as Dwalor and Stirge who faced five a piece. Stirge was additionally protected given his magically enhanced superhuman strength. Normally Dwalor himself would be similarly enhanced but not this time.
Chingara, with superhuman speed, ran up to Whirlwind and used his supernatural rapport with animals to calm the raging elephant. He then vaulted up to the back of the elephant. Thalin unrolled a scroll, read from it and hurled a fireball at the slowed ndalawo hoard that where trying in vain to catch up with Whirlwind. He incinerated most of them. But one escaped by sinking into the ground. Incorporeal creatures were really annoying when they did that! Thalin briefly wondered why the ndalawo did spring up from the ground when they first attacked, like they did in Boha.
Telwyn magically enlarged Stirge and then fled into the trees to hide.
Even without a ghost-touched weapon, the enormous, berserk former orcish pirate was making making steady progress on the ghostly cats. Combined with arrow fire from Helga, Mandark and Hilda, the ndalawo where rapidly diminishing in numbers.
Chingara commanded Whirlwind to return to the others. Thalin cast flight on himself and with his hastening quickly returned to the others.
Telwyn turned himself invisible and, from his hiding place in the brush, worked to fashion a lariat.
The cats attacked and Dwalor was struck down! The shadow leopards raked Stirge a few times as well but, again, his superhuman strength, although rapidly diminishing, protected him. But Stirge was deep in his rage, he was a giant and he was making progress, even without the ghost-touch weapon. He was whirling orcish death!
Hovering above the battle, Thalin sparked a lightening bolt between three of the shades. Hilda, Helga and Mandark, all greatly weakened by the paw strikes of the cats, turned invisible and fled into the bush to hide. Thalin’s lightening strike took care of their pursuers. Telwyn ran out from the brush invisibly and then used his lasso to distract one of the creatures fighting Stirge. The remaining creatures converged on Stirge but they were only a few.
And then something truly horrifying occurred. Only a few moments after the dwarf was drained of all strength, a wraith-like form arose from Dwalor’s corpse. A new ndalawo! This creature struck a few times at Stirge and then disappeared into the ground. Thalin’s scrying for undead could not detect it.
The two remaining creatures were quickly destroyed.
The Road to Shomo
The Circus gathered and assessed their predicament. Dwalor was dead–worse than dead–for his soul had been taken and reshaped into a monster. Many in the party, including Whirlwind, were greatly drained of strength. They knew from their earlier battle with these creatures that their strength would slowly heal and recover but, they knew that would take too long. They needed magical healing. They also needed to consult preists and priestesses to see if something could be done about Dwalor.
They reformed into a marching order and resume their hike to the city of Shomo.