Alas, the area transition doesn’t lead directly to your destination - a bit of a walk over the map is required. It’s a short distance as the crow flies, but you’re no crow and the terrain is less than ideal. Don’t be surprised if you need to rest to ward off fatigue before you reach your destination. Speaking of which, follow these directions:
- Southeast (the southern of the two options)
Escape the Cloudkill Chamber
Rest up, then enter the Vordakai’s Tomb area. From where you arrive, head northeast down a passage to reach a chamber, where you can investigate (via various [Perception] checks) a number of grates and corpses. As you poke about the room, the raven that’s been pestering you - now named Horagnamon - will again make an appearance. Respond as you will, then venture near the northeastern door.
Approaching the northeastern door will prompt it to open, and the southwestern door to close. In case that’s not enough encouragement, the vents in the chamber will expel deadly gasses - the equivalent of several Cloudkill spells. If that’s still not bad enough, several zombie cyclopes will appear, and while they’re not bothered by the gas, you are. Given this unequal playing field, you have only one sensible option; flee through the door to the northeast… likely as intended. Don’t stray too far, as a trap can be found in the hallway beyond the northeastern door. There should, however, be enough room for you to form up and turn to face the cyclopes.
Poisonous Hydra Den
After defeating your foes and escaping the Cloudkill room, disarm the trap behind you and continue northeast and turn down another tunnel to the southeast. Disarm two traps as you go, and when you reach another bend, be wary of a trio of zombie cyclopes that will likely be marching towards you.
Defeat them, then continue southwest until you reach some natural stone chambers, at which point turn south to reach a chamber occupied by three Poisonous Hydras. These beasts, of course, are all too keen to spit poisonous gasses on you, and given the confines and their numbers, there’s no real way to avoid their breath. You’ll just have to hope your warriors have a Fortitude Save high enough to weather the Strength-sapping poison they spit… and perhaps have a few Restoration spells ready, just in case.
Carve the hydras up, then continue to the southern end of their den to find some underwater stairs. Pass an [Athletics 29] check to continue deeper into the dungeon, surfacing… somewhere to the southeast?
Horagnamon’s First Name
When you surface, venture northeast to reach a chamber filled with urns. Loot two containers and press a button along the southeastern wall (just southwest of the door, easily obscured by the foreground) to open a nearby door.
Continue through the door, down some stairs, and into a chamber to the southeast, where Horagnamon again awaits you. Endure the bird’s prattle until it asks you to name one of your companions, aiming to achieve this by various contrivances. Be wary, as this bird is all too eager to learn names, and you may regret revealing one. Fortunately, you can always refuse to answer… but this will just make a random character speak up and blurt out their name. Oops.
When the bird is sated, it’ll fly away, leaving you to deal with the room’s inhabitants - four cyclopes, including a cleric. Their numbers may be slightly higher than usual, but if you can defeat the groups in the Sepulchre of Forgotten Heroes, you can defeat these cyclopes. Once they’re dead - again - continue northeast and search the room for traps, as there are several scattered about. When they’re disarmed, loot some containers to the northwest, then press a button to open the door to the northeast.
Note: For reasons that’ll become clear soon enough, you’ll want to mention the names of your warriors when the bird attempts to goad you.
The Hatch-Roof Chamber
Continue down some more stairs and passages beyond the door you just opened until you reach a large chamber with ominous hatches on the ceiling. Those hatches probably don’t serve any good purpose. Investigate a mural along the northwestern wall [Knowledge (Arcana)], then loot a container to the northeast. Along the eastern corner of the room you’ll find another switch you can activate to open a nearby door… or so it seems, anyways.
Before you activate the switch, sequester your party in the eastern corner of the room so your squishy characters are behind your warriors. Once done, spell buff, then activate the switch with one your trusty tanks. When you interact with the switch, you’ll be treated to an Illustrated Book Episode:
- [Trickery 30] …open the door. or [Perception 26] …find the mechanism to disarm the trap.
Picking the [Strength] option is only marginally better than failing one of the other checks. In fact, it leads to the same dialogue outcome, you just get some experience. If you succeed at the [Trickery] or [Perception] check (you should be capable of easily meeting both of these checks by now), you’ll be done with the book event in one go. If you fail, or pick the [Strength] option, another check must be made: pass an [Intimidate] or [Stealth] check to avoid taking significant damage.
If you pass one of the checks and thus complete the Illustrated Book Episode without trouble, you’ll appear in a chamber to the north. If not, you’ll be stuck in the large chamber with hatches on the ceiling, along with new friends: five zombie cyclopes. In the former case, head northwest, disarm a trap, then loot two containers. Once done, return back southwest and use an area transition to return to the large hatch-roofed room.
In either case, a fight with zombie cyclopes is unavoidable - you just get a lot more experience, avoid damage, and get a shot at some treasure if you pass the Illustrated Book Episode’s checks. Speaking of the cyclopes, this group of giant, one-eyed deaders includes four warriors and a cleric. If you failed the Illustrated Book Episode checks, you should be snug in your corner, which isn’t ideal, but… it could be worse. If you succeeded, you’ll now find yourself near the mural along the northwestern end of the room. Not a good spot to fight. You can, however, run through the doorway to the southwest, which is a fine spot to fight. Either way, defeat the cyclopes - four warriors and a cleric - then continue to the door along the eastern end of the hatched chamber.
Horagnamon’s Second Name
Well, that’s one ordeal survived. Still plenty left ahead of you, however. Pass through the door on the eastern end of the hatched chamber, go up some stairs, then turn northeast to reach a chamber where another several cyclopes lurk. This time you’ll be fighting against three warriors and two clerics, giving them plenty of spell power with which to harass you, and rushing the casters might not be a feasible strategy here. As much of a bother as it is, form a defensive wall near the entrance of the chamber, cut down the warriors, then deal with the clerics.
Crush your opponents, then head into the room they guarded. To the northwest you’ll spot that damn bird again. Let it flap around on its own for a moment, however, and search to the southeast to find a hidden door. Open it, then descend some stairs and follow a tunnel beyond to the northeast, where you’ll find a small, loot-filled chamber. Plunder three containers to find, among other goodies, a Tower Shield +2 and the Forsaken Edge, an Estoc +2 that has the “Unholy” property.
Return to the chamber where you fought the last five cyclopes and continue down some stairs to the northwest. You will, of course, be pestered by the raven once again, who will fish for another name. If you don’t supply a name, one of your dullard companions will, ensuring the forces at work get the intel they need.
In the depressed chamber beyond the stairs you’ll find a door to the northeast guarded by two statues. On the floor opposite the door is a switch, which you should ignore for now. Instead, continue northwest to find another switch near a door to the west. Loot a container, hit the switch, then go through the western door to find a bound Astradaemon.
Talk to the Astradaemon and before you go being righteous or flippant, know that this beast is quite dangerous. High Armor Class and Damage Reduction are present, as usual, which will hinder the offense of all but the most potent of characters. Unless you have weapon that’s both silver and holy, you’ll be doing ten less damage per hit, although to be fair the divine spell Bless Weapon will take care of one of those conditions. It also has the ability to automatically confirming critical hits, which will likely be your only means of dealing significant damage. If you were thinking of offensive spells like Dismissal, be aware that the fiend’s Spell Resistance is high enough to make such a tactic unlikely to succeed.
It’s defense is bad enough, but what about its offense? Aside from spells like Energy Drain, Finger of Death and Vampiric Touch, its melee attacks are also quite impressive. It attacks fairly fast and has a high enough Attack Bonus to hit your tanks. Granted, not with great regularity, but its attacks also inflict Negative Energy Levels, meaning even the toughest warrior can only take a few hits before dying. The solution to most of its offense? Death Ward.
While a tough fight, if you buff to the max - including Greater Invisibility, Haste, Stoneskin, Prayer and Death Ward - and you have a way to deal damage, you just might win. Granted, there’s a good chance you won’t have a better way of inflicting damage than by using Bless Weapon and hoping for critical hits, but it may just be sufficient.
Failing any of that, you can always just say “Vordakai summoned me. I am here at his request.” for now for a generous experience reward… the same amount you’d get for defeating the Astradaemon, in fact. You will not gain experience for killing the Astradaemon if you get the experience from this dialogue option, however, so keep that in mind.
Note: Given how much more powerful the Astradaemon can be than your party, there’s really no shame in just ignoring it.
Free the Captive Barbarians
However you decide to deal with the Astradaemon, make your way past it to the west, loot two containers, then head down some stairs to the southwest. At the bottom of the stairs you’ll find a room full of captive barbarians, who will tell you their tales of woe and horror if you indulge them.
If you’ve killed the Astradaemon, you can pick a [Chaotic Good] option to tell them they’re free to flee. If not, be wary what you say, as you may commit yourself to a fight with the Astradaemon. If you say “Hold on, I have to take care of something else first.” you won’t provoke the Astradaemon, but picking the [Lawful Good] or [Chaotic Neutral] options will. Freeing the barbarians will just get you some experience, but you can loot a hidden container on the wall whether you free them or not.
Kill the Greater Cyclops
Return to the larger chamber to the north and turn your attention to the floor switch in the center of the room. If you would have activated this switch first, the one that opened the door to the Astradaemon wouldn’t have worked, hence why you dealt with the Astradaemon first. Now that you’ve given the Astradaemon a try, flip the switch you ignored earlier to open the door to the northeast. Don’t tarry, however, as the statues flanking the door will expel negative energy blasts, dealing damage to living creatures (you, mostly) trying to pass through.
Continue down a hallway to the northeast to find a lower room below you to the northwest, which requires a [Mobility] check to navigate. Climb down, disarm several traps… or more like a dozen. When the traps are dealt with, loot a container, then continue northwest to find two passages, one to the northwest (which leads to a door) and one to the southwest. Head southwest first, loot a container and investigate a pillar, then return to the trap-littered room.
Activate a switch in the northern corner of the chamber to open the door to the northwest, beyond which you’ll find a greater zombie cyclops. A warrior like you’re used to, this one hits harder, strikes truer and has more Hit Points than its smaller kin, and it’s not alone. Since rushing in is a bad idea, you might as well lure them to you, especially since you’re already in a fine position to bottleneck your foes at the doorway. Shoot at the massive cyclops, make sure you’re Hasted, then engage. When it falls and its allies (including more warriors and at least two clerics) show up, retreat to lure them southeast and bottleneck them at the door, too. Don’t rush in the room until no more cyclopes engage you, so you don’t end up fighting on two fronts.
A Dark Chamber
Clear the room of cyclops, then continue north, looting the odd container as you go. Stay away from the door to the northwest, however, as there’s more you can do before you both with the encounter that awaits you there. Make your way to the southeastern end of the chamber to find a doorway leading to a smaller side-chamber. Go through the doorway and disarm four traps on the floor leading to another door.
Before bothering with the door, turn northwest to find two containers you can loot and a mural you can examine. One of the containers will yield the Hand of Damnation, a Scythe +2 with the “Keen” and “Death Reservoir” properties. The former increases the weapon’s Critical Hit Threat Range, which is wonderful, but the latter is somewhat of a liability, as it deals 4d6 negative energy damage to all nearby creatures when the wielder lands a critical hit.
Search another mural to the southeast, then go through the door to the southwest to reach a large, circular room. If Tristian is with you, he’ll express discomfort, giving you the chance to make a moral choice in response. Search the bass relief in the center of the room for some experience, then leave.
Smite the Soul Eaters
Return to the room where you defeated the greater cyclops and finally approach the northwestern edge of the chamber. Here you’ll be ambushed by some Ferocious Soul Eaters, who speak the names of their targets. This is why the raven was seeking out names - it was finding targets for these Soul Eaters. With any luck those targets are all warriors, as whomever has their name called will be locked in single combat with one of the Soul Eaters. Other characters cannot interfere in the fight directly, but the combatants can be aided by other character’s spells.
While not too much trouble for a competent warrior, for a non-warrior they could be troublesome. These Soul Eaters have passable Hit Points, a high Attack Bonus and moderate Armor Class. While their damage isn’t too impressive, they can inflict Wisdom damage when they hit, and unless the warrior they’re fighting is a Paladin, this might be something to keep an eye on.
During the fight with the Ferocious Soul Eaters, secure your archers and casters in the northern corner of the room, as after the Ferocious Soul Eaters are defeated, a group of Ancient Soul Eaters will spawn and attack. These have somewhat higher stats than the ferocious variants, but on the plus side you’re not locked into single combat with them. If your squishy characters are protected in the corner, you should be able to win a straight melee without too much trouble - although Haste will, as usual, help seal the deal.
With that, you’ve conquered this area. Go through the door guarded by the Soul Eaters, then turn southwest and proceed until you find an area transition leading to the second level of Vordakai’s Tomb.