Athan, Sarril, Pontus and Delvin decided to go to Nulb to look for Otis. They decided that, instead of taking the high road (the main road), they would take a lesser known "unused road" marked on the map Elmo gave them. This unused road was active when the temple was in operation many years ago, but is now overgrown and little more than a path. And instead of sticking to this path, the party further decided to cut through an unknown forest (they have a Druid with them, after all) and then up over some hills, in the hopes of eventually reconnecting with the road.
During the trek, the magic user's aerial familiars were acting as scouts and found gnolls guarding some caves. They figured this may be where some of the humanoid attacks were coming from, and it would be to dispatch the gnolls and then explore the caves just to be sure. And thus a new side-adventure was started, and it went something like this. . .
The party dispatched 6 gnolls with ease and prevented them from sounding any alarms. They then went into the first of many caves and discovered a sleeping Owlbear, tried to kill it in its sleep, but woke it up instead. It nearly eviscerated Sarril, but Sarril seems tougher than he used to be and took it like a man (or half man, half elf). After dispatching the owlbear, they discovered at the other end of the cave what they figured out to be Gray Ooze. Gray Oozes look like wet stone, so they couldn't be sure, but Pontus wisely threw the dead gnoll bodies into the area and three oozes came up out of a pool of water and down from the ceiling to start eating the gnolls, at which point the party were able to easily kill them without risk to themselves (some bonus exp was distributed for that maneuver).
They then headed into the bugbear cave where they pretty easily dispatched several bugbears, before finding the chieftains room and killing him and his wife. They then moved on to find a common room with a couple of male bugbears and several females and children. After killing the males, they debated for a long time whether they should kill the females and children "for the greater good" or not. They finally decided to free them in exchange for information on their master (because there is a always a "master" required to keep chaotic creatures working together). The master was described as a typical evil cleric, and the bugbears pointed out which cave he was in and then ran off.
After much further debate, the party decided to open one of the two prison cells they previously came across. Inside were some humanoids, including a bugbear, and a wild man. The wild man turned out to be Gareth, the tortured prisoner mentioned in the lieutenant’s journal. After healing him and feeding him, he returned to his senses and explained how he was tortured by Lareth the Beautiful, without ever having been asked questions, before being sent here, where he was locked up, still without ever having been interrogated. Gareth joined the party and agreed to help fight against the master.
Skipping the remaining caves, the party headed straight for the master. Inside his cave it looked like an evil temple, with smooth black and red stone, etc. The party encountered zombies wearing necklaces of Protection from Good, which made them harder to turn, several 1st level clerics in red robes with black hoods, several 2nd level clerics in black robes with red hoods. None of them were carrying obvious holy symbols, but they were definitely clerics.
The party then found a secret door leading to the back entrance of the master's bedroom - allowing them to skip all of the stuff they may have had to encounter on the way. The Master and his zombie guards in plate mail were tough. The Master, a 7th level cleric, was a short bald man in black robes with red underneath. His mouth and chin and upper neck were horribly disfigured, as if burned in a similar way as Lareth. Sarril cast silence on him and Delvin cast heat metal on his plate armor
Pontus kept swinging at the cleric and missing. Gareth, who is a ranger specialized in a long sword, managed to get a long sword off the first zombie killed, which helped turn the tide of the battle for the party. Eventually Pontus even got a hit in. Sarril cast hold person on the master and he failed his save, making him an easy target to finish off.
Note: At this point in the game, we were treating Hold Person as a paralyzation affect, which we later realized was not an appropriate interpretation for such a low-level spell - we have since adjusted and now treat Hold Person as a "root in place" effect.
Gareth, after fighting the cleric, relayed to the party that he has seen men with disfigured faces before. He was in the Gnarley Forest, near Oakvein, when he saw seven men whom he thought at first were Druids, but they wore black cloaks. They were all kneeling in a semi-circle and chanting in a language he did not understand. One man pulled out a box containing a small opaque black gem and placed the gem on the ground. As they chanted, the area around the gem started turning black. And the blackness began to grow and take over everything. One of the men turned and saw him, and that's when he saw the disfigured mouth and neck. He says he was overcome with fear and ran for his life, something he is ashamed of.