Into the Other World
When you emerge from the narrow cleft you found at the end of the Womb of Lamashtu cavern complex, you’ll find yourself in another world. Or an Other World, as the case may be. This verdant world you find yourselves in is quite a departure from the caves you were in earlier.
Make your way north and kill two small groups of Primal Giant Spiders, then continue north and east to find an iridescent bird on some vines [Perception 0] that clearly has no natural fear of humanoids. If it wasn’t painfully obvious before, this is not a natural environment. Take advantage of the bird’s naivete and pocket the Mysterious Bird.
Next turn your attention to two bluish, swirling clouds of mist on the ground. While this may look uncomfortably similar to the poison mist in the Swamp Witch’s Hut area, it actually has an entirely - mostly benign - function. These serve as area transitions of a sort, although whether the mist is transporting you somewhere magically, or whether you lose yourself in it and emerge somewhere on the other side after an indeterminate period of travel is anyone’s guess. Not that the mechanic matters much - just know that if you walk into the mist, you’ll end up traveling elsewhere.
The mist to the east merely takes you to the western mist, so since that’s a dead-end, just head through the western mist, instead.
A Goddess’s Fall
You’ll appear in another section of the Other World area, where you’ll witness a ghostly image of the Guardian of the Bloom walking through a gauntlet of hostile humanoids who are also ghostly. You saw the origin story of the Stag Lord back in the day, now it looks like this nymph is getting her own. Follow her phantom to the north and you’ll be treated to another scene, this time with her being accosted by some Will-o-Wisps, burdened with the task of "making ruins of kingdoms", apparently to feed the "eldest".
She aided you when you sought to topple the Stag Lord, then turned on you and attempted to destroy your barony immediately after you claimed it. While you’ve known for a long time that the Guardian of the Bloom wanted to keep the Stolen Lands lawless and uncivilized, what you didn’t know was how she’d set up - and then toppled - rulers and strongmen. Also, apparently she’s not working from the understandable motive of defending the natural order of the Stolen Lands, but she’s serving an even more powerful, predatory entity in search of atonement. What this "eldest" entity is and why she needs to atone are a mystery as of yet, but it does suggest that even should you end the threat the Guardian of the Bloom poses to your barony, it may be just the beginning of your troubles.
When the ghostly images vanish, search the oddly-oppressive rock the nymph was standing on [Perception 1], then note the Treant-Enlarged Owlbear on a cliff to the north. You can be sneaky and shoot it with ranged weapons all you want, but it’s unkillable, so don’t waste your time.
Note: You can put the Mysterious Bird on this rock if you wish. Refrain for now - you’ll get around to this later, after properly exploring the area. Or not, it doesn’t really matter, but it won’t be covered until later.
Instead, turn your attention to the mist portals that adorn this section of the Other World, including one to the east and west of the dais you saw the ghostly nymph on, and two (also to the east and west) along the southern end of the area. It’s all an illusion of choice, however, as the southeastern and southwestern mists will take you back to the previous area and the northern mists both lead to the same area, albeit two different parts of said area.
Claim the Magical Lantern
Go through either northern mist to arrive at a section of the Other World unremarkable save for an Old Gnome, his camp, and another oddly-oppressive rock.
Talk to the Old Gnome and exhaust his dialogue options. He’ll ramble on cryptically about the "Goddess" - presumably the Guardian of the Bloom you’re seeking, and give you vague advice for how to escape this place. More importantly, he’ll give you a Magical Lantern, which can be equipped like any weapon (or in this case, torch). While equipped you’ll be able to safely pass through the mist without being transported along the usual routes, allowing you to explore the Other World more freely. You can also rest at the nearby Hearth [Perception 1], which will certainly prove invaluable before long.
To the Everbloom Flower
Equip the Magical Lantern and venture through the mist to the east to engage two Primal Manticores. Unlike previous manticores you fought, these beasts have 20% concealment, a slight amount of Damage Reduction, high HP, and higher Attack bonuses than you’re used to, from Manticores, at least. If you head south from here you’ll find some mist to the west, which leads to the first area of the Other World (where you fought the Primal Giant Spiders).
If, on the other hand, you head west you’ll encounter an Owlbear (no surprising combat stats this time), south of which you’ll find some ruins near a pool of water. Watch a phantasm of the Guardian of the Bloom lament, then interact with the water, if you wish - none of your choices here make a discernible difference.
South of the still pool of bitter water you’ll find two more Owlbears, which offer few surprises. Kill them, then search some mushrooms to the west to find that they’re not exactly benign [Perception 25]. Disarm them [Trickery 25] and work your way west, disabling these hostile plants as you explore to the west and north.
Work your way uphill to the northeast once you get past these trapshrooms and witness another ghostly scene play out where an accomplice (or perhaps a manipulated minion) of the Guardian of the Bloom will question her use of the "Everbloom Flower". His concerns are not shared by the Guardian of the Bloom, however, who has no use for inconvenient morality.
Continue north after the ghostly figures vanish, vanquish two Primal Giant Spiders, and beyond them you’ll find another cloud of mist. This time, do not equip the Magical Lantern and pass through the mist to emerge at a clearing where the Everbloom Flower grows. It’s not alone, however, being protected by three Owlbears, who should be fairly easy to cut down. Do so, then interact with the plant and choose to [Destroy the flower]. Alas, such primitive methods aren’t sufficient to eradicate this menace, as the flower will simply grow back! Looks like you’ve got more work to do.
Clear Plane B
Keep the Magical Lantern stashed away and head through some mist to the north to seemingly travel back to where you last saw the ghostly images, near where you killed the last pair of Primal Giant Spiders. This is, in fact, a different version of the Other World than you’ve been traveling through, and here it’ll become apparent how this place works.
There are actually two nearly identical planes that you’ve been traveling between, let’s call them Plane A and Plane B. In Plane A (the one you originally entered) there are two small areas in the center, with the northern one housing the Old Gnome and the southern one (where you initially appeared) being home to Primal Giant Spiders. In Plane B (where you saw two scenes with the Guardian of the Bloom) these two areas are connected. Both have a side area to the east that connects the northern and southern halves, while to the west both have a ruin, the pool of bitter regrets, and the trapshroom-lined hill.
You are now in Plane B, meaning there should be new critters to fight. Sure enough, head downhill to the southwest and you’ll find two groups of Primal Giant Spiders. On the plus side, the trapshrooms aren’t traps anymore, so no line of easy experience for you.
Kill the arachnids, head downhill, turn east and reach the clearing where in Plane A two Owlbears lurked. No such threat is present here now, but if you head north to the pool of bitter regrets you’ll find a pair of Primal Manticores. Lure them south and bottleneck them near the ruins, as they’re much easier to deal with one at a time.
Equip the Magical Lantern again and head north past the pond of bitter regrets, then turn east past some more mist to return to where you saw the will-o-wisps accosting the Guardian of the Bloom. Continue east through some more mist to find some Primal Giant Spiders. More importantly, you can find a secret passage [Perception 25] to the east. This will take you to the ledge where the Treant-Enlarged Owlbear resides… and the treasure it guards.
The Owlbear’s Treasure
While this beast isn’t much stronger than, say, a Greater Enraged Owlbear, it does have the unfortunate perk of being immortal, which demands some preparation. First, note that you cannot use area transitions or loot anything while in combat, and if you don’t have a means for dealing with this owlbear you may find yourself stuck in perpetual combat with it. Discretion may be the better part of valor in this case, so make sure you have a character with a good (10+) Stealth skill score and prepare the Invisibility, Greater spell.
With those preparations complete, ascend through the secret passage you found and when you arrive, hold your position. Cast Invisibility, Greater on your sneakiest character and press the Stealth button. Save your game, then head over to the owlbear, and more importantly, to the chest behind it. In this chest you’ll find a Belt of Physical Perfection +2.
A potential spot of difficulty may arise with the fact that the chest requires a [Perception 15] check to spot, which should be technically passable by any character, but it may require some save/loading if your sneaky character isn’t particularly observant. Failing that, you can attack the owlbear, pass the Perception check in the progress, beat it into submission, retreat and hope combat ends (the further away you can get from the owlbear, the better off you’ll be).
Sneak in, grab the treasure from the chest, then retreat back down to the lower levels. With this, you’ll finally be done exploring and ready to deal with this Everbloom Flower…
Poison the Everbloom Flower
Make sure your Magical Lantern is not equipped, then head through the mist to the west to switch from Plane B to Plane A (where the Old Gnome can be found). Once done, re-equip the Magical Lantern and return to the Old Gnome’s camp and more importantly the oddly-ominous stone. Interact with the stone to [Place the bird on the dais], then use the hearth by the Old Gnome’s tent to rest. After resting, return to the oddly-ominous stone to find that the beautifully singing bird is now gone, and in its place are some Bird Bones. Creepy.
Collect these bones, then head west to return to the pool of bitter regrets near the ruins. When you interact with it, you’ll get a new option, [Throw the bird’s bones into the water.], after which select the option [Collect water from the pond] to obtain a Vial with Poisoned Water. That Everbloom Flower was resistant to brute force, but let’s see how it likes poison, eh?
Make your way back to the Everbloom Flower and before you interact with it, you should be warned of what comes next. Sure, slightly spoilerific, but you’ll probably want to be prepared. After dealing with the Everbloom Flower, you’ll have to split up your party, and while it’s a short duration, both half-parties will have to win a battle while divided before they’re allowed to regroup. That being the case, you may want to buff up everybody, as depending how you split the party, you might not be able to do so later. Sticking to the longer-lasting buffs (Bless, Bull’s Strength, Blur, Shield of Faith, Stoneskin) should be sufficient.
When you’re ready, interact with the Everbloom Flower and select the option [Drop the poison from the lake on the petals] to finally hinder the Everbloom Flower. This will cause portals to open, out of which will emerge three Primal Manticores. Dropping a Haste here to preserve your other buffs (like Stoneskin) is a fine idea. Win this fight and you’ll find out that the battle may have been won, but the war isn’t won yet, as the Old Gnome will show up to tell you (cryptically, as usual) what comes next.
Respond to the gnome when he questions your motivations - a rare full-spectrum moral choice - however best suits your protagonist, then after some ominous, fatalistic commentary from the gnome, ask "I’ve solved your riddle. But what do I do next?"… or if you need to prepare first (last chance to do so!) select the option "I still have some business to take care of here. We’ll talk later.".
When you make the former of the two responses, the gnome will tell you that you must destroy the Everbloom Flower with fire… in both the Other World and your own world. Both must be destroyed at the same time, but violence begets violence, and you can expect your attack on the flower to be met with equal wrath in the form of summoned monsters. This plant isn’t going down without a fight.
A few fights, as it turns out. When you get the chance to respond again, pick the dialogue option "It’s time to get to it, then. Let’s split up and destroy the flower in both worlds simultaneously." After this you’ll have to split up your party. Whomever stays with your protagonist will remain in the Other World and have the harder fight - three Owlbears - while the party you send away will fight a Giant Flytrap. Neither are easy foes, but the offensive power of three Owlbears easily surpasses the Giant Flytrap. If you have two tanks, split them up, otherwise keep your tank for the Owlbear fight. Of secondary importance is your arcane spellcaster(s), as any side which gets Haste will likely have more offensive power than the other.
Battle: Everbloom Flower
Split your party and wait. The wait time will likely be long enough for any shorter buffs (like Haste) to expire, but after a moment more portals will open up, out of which three Owlbears will emerge. Lure them to your tank, concentrate your fire, and flank them one at a time if at all safe or possible. When the last Owlbear falls you’ll immediately shift focus to the other party.
The second, non-protagonist party will appear in a vine-covered cave. Venture northwest, then north to spot the Giant Fly Trap and engage with your tank. Even un-Hasted, lesser warriors should have little trouble cutting this weed down to size.
When the Giant Fly Trap is defeated, your party will reunite only to be immediately accosted by a Primal Manticore and a Primal Hydra. These two foes should be no match for your combined party, after which turn your attention to the Everbloom Flower.
Without its animal defenders, the plant can do little but die, which surprisingly prompts debate on what to do with the vegetation. Good and pragmatic characters will argue for destroying it without further delay, while evil and sentimental characters will well, they don’t really offer much suggestion, just express regret at having to destroy such a beautiful - and useful - plant.
Either pick the option to [Take a part of the flower’s root.] to gain a Root of the Everbloom Flower then/or opt to [Burn the flower]. Whether you take a souvenir or not, you’ll gain a hefty experience reward once the plant is dead and burned.
|Reward: For destroying the Everbloom Flower|
Before you leave via either the area transition to the south or southeast, loot a chest near the plant [Perception 28] [Trickery 29] to score 403 GP, some masterwork weapons and a potion. A rock [Perception 19] to the southeast of this chest, well-hidden by foliage, contains a Taldan Warrior’s Dog Tag. Another chest [Perception 32] can be found on the western edge of the chamber. Unlock [Trickery 30] this chest to obtain Graceful End, an Estoc +1 with the "Agile" property. Another chest to the south is less well-hidden, and it contains more masterwork weapons and a potion. Finally, pick up the Cypress Queen’s Crown the Primal Manticore dropped.
With that, either use the southeastern exit to return to the previously-explored vine-covered chambers, or the southern one to reach the passage to the south, which connects to the chamber where you met Kesten. Whether he’s alive or dead, ignore Kesten, as he has nothing new to say. Leave the dungeon and return to the world map and check your kingdom tab to find the new event "Honor the Fallen". Looks like it’s time to return to Tuskdale, lick your wounds, bury the fallen, and start rebuilding.