After a week of individual adventures, Kael made contact with a liberator agent in Nighthold. The agent informed Kael that two scouts had gone missing east of the city three days ago, and asked the party to investigate and rescue the agents if possible. The group ventured out to the east of the city and located the tracks of the scouts. After determining that the scouts had been captured and enslaved, the group engaged in a fierce battle with a small band of
lizardmen gnoll slavers, including a gnoll spellcaster, who was in possession of a Quiver of Ehlonna. Although two of the five prisoners were killed during the battle, the party managed to rescue the remaining three – a smelly albino named Dorn, a merchant from Nighthold, and one of the missing liberator scouts. When Darius tried to broach the subject of a reward with the merchant, he became evasive and tried to lie to the party, which resulted in Darius threatening him. Cowed, the merchant promised to reward the party when they returned to Nighthold. The freed scout told the party that his companion, Casey, had escaped from the lizardmen gnolls earlier that day despite being badly wounded, and had fled further to the east. Dorn promised to escort the other prisoners back to Nighthold, and the party quickly set out in search of the remaining scout. Kael quickly located his tracks, and the party set off in hot pursuit.
Not long afterward, the party caught up with the missing scout, only to see him being dragged into a cave by several men dressed in the uniforms of the Darklands Army. Pursuing them into the cave, the group caught a glimpse of someone vanishing behind a large vault-like door. Suddenly, Nightstalker appeared in a towering rage, and demanded to know what the group was doing there. After Kael related the story, Nightstalker became suspicious, and commanded the group to follow him into the vault to investigate.
Entering the vault, the group crossed into a huge, circular stone room, with a squirming figure bound and covered in a black cloth on a central dais. Nightstalker approached the figure, but suddenly four golems appeared in the corners of the room: a flesh golem, a force golem, a stone golem, and a magma golem. Nightstalker used his magical powers to keep the flesh golem imprisoned in a corner of the room, and battled the stone golem on his own for several rounds while the party defeated the force and magma golems. The group then assisted in the destruction of the stone and flesh golems, with Darius’s fiery burst power dealing a large amount of damage, Tomokk dishing out devastating hits on the flesh golem, and Kael finishing it off with some well-placed arrows from his new magical bow.
During the combat, Droverson took the time to analyze the writhing figure on the dais, and discovered an insidious magical trap and illusion. Although Nightstalker at first dismissed Droverson’s warnings, he reconsidered and examined the dais himself, narrowly avoiding being caught in a powerful Magic Circle against Evil trap. Concerned, Nightstalker revealed to the group that a critical binding had been undone here.
According to Nightstalker, a creature had been imprisoned in this room, and its captivity was highly important – the vampire lord hinted that its freedom might mean the world’s destruction. Furthermore, whoever had laid the trap had been attempting to use Nightstalker’s own preparations against him, indicating that they had in-depth knowledge of his methods and resources. Hazerath attempted to implicate Taxx Murgen as the potential traitor, but Nightstalker sensed his deception and used his powers of domination to subjugate Hazerath, forcing him to reveal his heretic’s brand and beg for forgiveness. Nightstalker also read Hazerath’s mind and taunted him with knowledge of his true past.
Teleporting the group back to Nightstalker’s Keep, the vampire lord laid out his plan – he intended to use the group as his cat’s-paws to discern the identity of his enemy. Instructing the group to act as if he had fallen into the trap, he sent them to Sildure, to beg assistance from The Keeper. He also rewarded them with 5,000 gold pieces for their loyalty (as well as to purchase equipment for the journey). Night was falling as the party regrouped to discuss this turn of events…