Wardens and Heralds
You may have driven Irovetti off the streets of his own capital and killed or converted his most prominent citizens (supporters may be a bit of stretch), but now is no time to celebrate. The fight the Pitaxian elite took part in was a trifling affair compared to the power Irovetti has at the ready in his palace. Indeed, his most ardent and dangerous supporters are left for you, alone, to dispose of. As mentioned earlier, you can leave the palace at any time to rest and recover your spells, so don't hold back. Several fights in this palace will require you to be willing to expend any and all replenisable resources at your immediate disposal if you hope to come out of them victorious, so holding anything in reserve for later shouldn't be a top priority.
To undermine this point, the first fight in this area isn't quite representative of what the palace ultimate has in store for you. To the northeast you'll find a statue of Irovetti, behind which you'll find two common opponents in this area: Pitax Wardens and a Pitax Herald.
The latter is a bard who will use both bardsong and spells to hinder you and buff his allies, including such fare as Haste, Good Hope, Hold Person and Hideous Laughter. Fortunately their DCs are low, and a warrior whose level is in the mid-teens and is wearing, say, a Cloak of Resistance should have a better chance of resisting the spells than not. They're persistent, however, and may appear in numbers, so you may have to watch out for them and target them first.
On the other hand, Pitax Wardens have a respectable Armor Class, but an Attack Bonus that'll struggle to hit any tank at this point in the game - they exist mostly to slow you down, protect the Heralds and take advantage of any opponents who fail to resist the Herald's spells.
Both have laughably bad Will Saves, so a single Confusion or Phantasmal Web spell can easily swing a fight in your favor. While none of their saves are high enough to preclude casting certain spells, their Will Saves are, overall, the weakest, and most worthy of targeting.
Defeat these unworthy foes and loot them, as they tend to possess Potions of Cure Moderate Wounds, which may just come in handy in this palace. Once done investigate the statue of Irovetti, passing a [Knowledge (Arcane) 34] check to reveal the apparently-ostentatious statue for the illusion-covered lie that it is. A fitting symbol for the man it represents.
Now that the antechamber has been cleared, take a look around and note three doors. The door to the northeast leads to Irovetti, but it's currently locked. This leaves a doorway to the southeast and one to the northwest.
Battle: Avinash Jurrg
One of the most difficult - but lucrative - fights in this palace can be found beyond the door to the northwest, and since you're presumably in good form you might want to attempt it sooner rather than later. Go through the northwestern door and enter a hallway, where you'll find another door to the northeast. If you can get this door open [Trickery 43] you'll find Pitax's general beyond, attended by three Troll Guard Veterans. Avinash Jurrg is an Ogre that's as adept at magic as he is at melee, although he primarily uses the former to buff himself with illusion spells before wading into combat. The trolls that accompany him are largely there just to buy him the time to do this, and when fully spell-buffed he's much more dangerous.
Note: If you can't pick the lock on Avinash Jurrg, don't fret - he'll show up later on in the palace, in the trap and enemy-lined hall connecting the antechamber to Irovetti's throne room. It's a more difficult fight, but at least you won't miss out because of an insufficient Trickery skill check.
Left to his own devices, Avinash Jurrg will spend several rounds spellbuffing, starting with Displacement, Vampiric Shadow Shield and finally Mirror Image, after which he'll cast Hellfire Ray twice before finally wading into combat. He's also fond of using Prescient Attack, which will repeatedly deny his target's Dexterity bonus to Armor Class. For a lumbering, cumbersome warrior this might not big a big deal, but for characters who depend on their Dexterity more, it could give Avinash enough of an advantage, especially considering that his Attack Bonus is high enough to threaten otherwise high-Armor Class characters.
Did You Know?: In the original Adventure Path, Avinash Jurrg was an Ogre Mage and 10th-level Bard. In this game, he's been given a significant stat boost, including Magus levels.
Your goal for this battle, then - and one of the surest means of obtaining victory - is to prevent Avinash from casting spells for as long as possible while you cut down his troll guards. Neither the trolls nor Avinash should be hard to hit due to their Armor Class, but their Armor Class and Hit Points are high enough to to cause secondary and tertiary attacks to miss and to absorb the odd blow, respectively. This being the case, the idea of rushing in and cutting down Avinash isn't likely to bear fruit.
Fortunately, most enemies have a weakness somewhere, and Avinash is no different. Both he and the trolls only have a moderate Reflex Save, and while the trolls probably will be able to resist a Web spell quickly enough to severely mitigate its usefulness, targeting Avinash with Chains of Light has a great chance of keeping him debilitated while you focus on his trolls. The effectiveness of this strategy will vary considerably depending on the quality of your casters, as Avinash's Reflex save isn't low enough to guarantee he'll remain held for a great duration of time if, say, your spell's DC is only 20 or so. Being a sixth level Cleric/Wizard spell, however, that's the absolute lowest it should be, as Harrim, Tristian, and Octavia all have primary ability score modifiers high enough to boost the DC a bit. If you've been investing extra ability points (gained every 4th level) to those ability scores and have some stat-boosting items equipped, the DC for your Chains of Light spells could be in the mid-twenties, in which case there's a very good chance that not only will a single casting work, but it might debilitate Avinash for several rounds.
Chains of Light may be a viable strategy, but there are some complications. First, there's a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32] just beyond the door, and Avinash is lurking a bit inside the chamber, which can make targeting him somewhat tricky. The trap can be dealt with by sending in a Rogue, as a character with a decent Stealth score can sneak in, disarm the trap and sneak back out. A +20 Stealth skill should suffice, which sounds high, but considering you can bolster this with Greater Invisibility (+20), it should actually be pretty easy.
If you disable the trap, rush in with your warriors and engage your foes while your casters hang back and target Avinash with Chains of Light. Once he's subdued, focus on cutting down his allies, and if he breaks free, hit him with another bout of Chains of Light. During rounds when he's held, focus on whittling down the trolls with your warriors and direct damaging area-of-effect spells like Fire Storm. Spells like Tar Pool or Obsidian flow might also be useful, if properly aimed, as they target Reflex Saves, deal fire damage and can debilitate the trolls and Avinash. Obviously you'll have to spellbuff to the max as much as possible before this fight in addition to the specific tactics suggested above.
It's also worth noting that you shouldn't underestimate the trolls, as despite the fact that they're most underwhelming meat shields, they do have a lot of Hit Points, can only be put down for good with fire or acid damage, and their Armor Class and fast healing makes them somewhat more durable. Most importantly, their Attack Bonus is only high enough to hit your tanks around half the time (hopefully less if you're buffed with illusions), and even though their damage output isn't great, it can still add up, so don't be surprised if you need to use the odd Heal spell.
If you're finding the above strategy insufficient, you can also try targeting Avinash exclusively after he's debilitated with Chains of Light. Once he falls, you can beat a hasty retreat out of the chamber and bottleneck the trolls at the doorway where they can be cut down one at a time.
Emerge victorious and not only will you get a fair amount of experience, but possibly some of the best loot you've seen so far. Clearly being a general of Pitax has its advantages, as Avinash will leave behind the General's Bedroom Key, Unstoppable Khanda, a Bastard Sword +4 with the "Beguiling", "Impervious", "Unyielding" and "Venomous" abilities, which altogether gives its wielder a +4 bonus on Persuasion checks, DR 5/piercing, a +8 bonus of saving throws made vs mind-affecting effects and forces injured foes to make a (Fort 17) save or take 1d2 Wisdom damage per round for six rounds plus being dazed for one round. In addition he'll yield a suit of Full Plate +4, a Belt of Giant Strength +4, a Headband of Vast Intelligence +2, an Amulet of Natural Armor +3 and a Ring of Protection +3.
If that's not enough plunder for you, good news! You can also loot Avinash's room... just be sure to take care of a pesky trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32] to the east, first. In a chest to the northwest you'll find a Skymetal Cog, while a container on the table holds the Cup of the Victor and some spell scrolls, the rest of the loot being otherwise mundane. Be sure, however, to activate a candle sconce on the northwestern wall to open the door to the northeast, beyond which another room full of treasure awaits.
Note: Be sure to keep ahold of the Cup of the Victor, as you'll need it to solve a puzzle later on.
In this second room you can find Maya's Charm in a crate under a table, a trinket which gives its wearer a +2 bonus to save DCs on spells from the Enchantment and Illusion schools at the cost of a -2 Strength penalty. Given that this will buff up the effects of Hold spells, Mind Fog, Confusion and Phantasmal Web, it's a worthwhile amulet for Octavia or Linzi. Just bear in mind that only good-aligned characters can wear it. More spells can be found on the bookshelves in this chamber, and a Broken Drill with the Technic League's Brand hides in a container on a table.
If you can defeat Avinash and his goons, wonderful, if not, continue down the hallway to the northwest until you find another door to the northeast. Avinash is, after all, merely a diversion, albeit a very lucrative one. The room immediately beyond the door is empty, the a second room to the northeast is... not so empty. Here you'll find a number of Pitax soldiers, including Pitax Wardens, Pitax Heralds and Greater Weretigers, all of whom are led by a wererat named Gaetane.
When you approach, Gaetane's minions will rightfully worry about the unrest happening outside the palace... and fret over some handsome monarch from the east who is nigh unstoppable. Gaetane will try to threaten the wavering Pitaxians into standing their ground, but if you pick the [Chaotic Good] dialogue option, a number of them (five wardens and a herald) will choose to trust in your clemency over Gaetane's threats and abandon the wererat. This is a welcome advantage, as much of the upcoming fight involves isolating Gaetane.
Don't get too cocky, however, as there are more Wererats hiding around, and it should be no surprise that they'll attempt to score sneak attacks, although one (which will probably stay near Gaetane) is an alchemist who will pelt you with explosive bombs. As for the rest of your foes, you should know well enough how Pitax Wardens and Pitax Heralds fight, the former being tanks or archers with dubious offensive potential and the latter preferring to stand back and buff their allies before unleashing a barrage of low-level debilitating spells.
In this case, Gaetane will, much like Avinash Jurrg, stand back and buff himself while you fight through his goons. Specifically he'll cast Blessing of the Salamander, Cat's Grace, Lead Blades and Sense Vitals, most of which serve to improve his offensive capabilities, whereas Avinash focused on defense. The difference in tactics make sense when you understand Gaetane's strengths. He's got an absurdly high Armor Class, a high Attack Bonus, and he attacks lightning quick. Fortunately his damage isn't great... unless he manages to sneak attack anybody, which is great incentive to focus on his goons.
To this end you can use spells like Phantasmal Web or Confusion to debilitate them, after which area-of-effect spells and your warriors should be able to cut through them well enough. Significant spell buffing is, of course, recommended, and adding in spells that mitigate fire damage will allow you to ignore the wererat alchemist for longer.
Unfortunately when it comes to Gaetane himself he's got few glaring weaknesses. Even spellbuffed and flanked your warriors may struggle to hit him regularly, and his Fortitude and Reflex Saves are both high enough to make spell assaults mostly nonviable. Even the most potent of casters you're likely to have will probably have less than a 20% chance to get Baleful Polymorph to stick, although it's always a viable desperation tactic.
His Will Save, on the other hand, isn't terribly low, but it's where he's most vulnerable, as a top-tier caster may have as much as a 50% chance of getting an enchantment to stick. Peppering the area with Phantasmal Web is a fine strategy for his minions, and it may delay Gaetane temporarily, but he'll certainly break out of hold effects sooner rather than later. Insanity, on the other hand, will inflict him with a permanent Confusion effect, and once he's been injured to around half his HP he'll be vulnerable to Power Word: Blind, which will drastically reduce his offensive output. Given that he remains stationary for a few rounds and has a vulnerable Will Save, Mind Fog might also pay off wonderfully here. If it works, subsequent enchantments are all but guaranteed to devastate Gaetane to the point where it becomes feasible to keep him constantly out of the fight with hold spells.
While the short wall dividing the first (unoccupied) room from the room Gaetane occupies is a fine spot for a defensive line, if the battle is proving to be a bit much for you, you may want to approach with only one character while the rest of your party waits in the hallway to the southwest. Start the fight, then retreat back to the rest of your party and bottleneck your foes at the door. This will allow the enemy casters to stand back and work their magic and give Gaetane all the time he needs to buff himself up, but it'll also hopefully keep you from facing more than one or two enemies at once in melee. Plus, it'll allow you to easily target many foes with your area-of-effect debuffs, and if you're clever you can even drop a Mind Fog on an enemy away from the door and hope it affects Gaetane when he finally finishes buffing and comes after you. While he's waiting for his turn in the meat grinder, be sure to target him with spells that force Will Saves so your inevitable battle with Gaetane will be easier.
When you defeat Gaetane and his goons, loot the wererat rogue for a Piece of Skymetal, a Corrosive Kukri +2, a Flaming Kukri +2, a Belt of Physical Form +4, an Amulet of Natural Armor +5, a Ring of Protection +5 and Bracers of Armor +8. Well, that certainly explains his high Armor Class, no? He'll forfeit three top-tier defensive items on his own, with the Bracers of Armor +8 being perhaps the most interesting, as they give the same protection a suit of Half-Plate would without any of the pesky encumbrance. Also be sure to loot his minions, as one of the Heralds will drop a Conservatory Key.
Exploring Beyond Gaetane
After defeating Gaetane and his crew, continue through a door to the northeast to find an intersection, where a ghost will briefly appear and whine about some door before vanishing again. Righty-o. Continue northeast to find two doors to the northwest, a sealed door at the northeastern end of the hallway, and, if you're perceptive enough [Perception 35] a secret door to the southeast.
In the southernmost room to the northwest you'll find two chests and a bookshelf you can loot, with the best treasure being a Piece of Skymetal. In the second, northern-most room you'll find some Pitax Wardens in the midst of a bit of robbery. When they realize you're not supposed to be here, either, they suddenly remember their sense of duty to the guy they were robbing just a moment ago and attack. Four Pitax Wardens with no spell support of any kind should be child's play by now, so eradicate them, then loot the chest and two bookshelves in the room for a Token of the Dryad as well as other treasures.
Return to the hallway and, since the door to the northeast is sealed, head through the secret door to the southeast... assuming you spotted it, of course. In the room beyond the secret door you'll find another secret door [Perception 44] along the northeastern wall. Loot the chests in here for various - albeit minor - treasures, then head through the second secret door.
The room beyond may look empty enough, but don't be fooled - within are several Wererats, currently hiding in ambush. Unless you can pass a [Perception 90] check to spot them, you'll need to resort to other methods of revealing them, like Glitterdust. Failing that, you can wade into the room with your most well-protected tank and try to weather the onslaught. Sneak attacks aside, they're not very dangerous opponents. Fittingly, the room they guard isn't full of riches, either. All you'll find is a sealed door to the northeast and a chest with trivial trinkets inside.
Backtrack to the fork just northeast of the room where you slew Gaetane and head down the previously-neglected southeastern hallway and through some doors to reach the palace kitchen. Servants stand about apparently unconcerned by the violence, but other than that all you'll find here is a chest on a table you can loot and some stairs leading down to "the Storage" level of the palace. No need to go exploring different areas just yet, might as well finish exploring this floor, first.
Explore the Southeastern Hallway
There's more to explore in the northwestern wing of the palace, but in that direction lies a puzzle you can't complete yet. That being the case, you might as well explore the southeast until you have the items the puzzle requires. To that end, return to the antechamber and head through the southeastern door. Beyond this door you'll find a hallway running northeast and some stairs leading down to the southeast.
Head up the hallway to the northeast first, keeping an eye out for a ghost as you go. Creepy. Eventually you'll find a door to the northwest, beyond which is a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32]. Disarm the trap to remove it from your list of concerns, then open the door to the northwest. In the room beyond you'll find a foul miasma caused by the rotting flesh of numerous corpses. Seems the rooms occupants - a group of trolls - aren't the cleanly sort.
Teaching them some manners is optional, as there's not much worth looting in the room. If you do decide to pick a fight, however, it should be one of the easier encounters in the palace thus far. The doorway to the room is a natural bottleneck, and these trolls shouldn't individually be capable of dealing with several of your warriors at once. Let these trolls (for in total) feed themselves into the meat grinder your warriors have prepared for them, a task your casters can aid with the use of area-of-effect direct damaging spells like Fireball and Firestorm. When they're dead, loot them and their room, in which you'll find a chest with some measly trinkets.
Return to the hallway and continue heading northeast past where the trap was, stopping to note an area transition to the northwest leading to "the Armory". Ignore it for now and continue northeast until you find two doors to the northwest and one to the southeast. Ignore the latter for now, and explore the former two doors to the northwest. The southern of these two doors [Trickery 25] leads to a room where some servants are hanging out, and they won't trouble you in the slightest as you plunder this room. The only bit of noteworthy loot is a Skymetal Cog in a chest.
In the northern room you'll hear a voice imploring you to open some door or another, but alas, there doesn't seem to be a door to open. You can, however, claim the contents of a chest and two bookshelves.
Make your way back to the hallway yet again and venture up it to the northeast until you reach a chamber occupied by some Pitax Wardens. Wiser than their fellows, they've no taste for combat, and will make some comical excuses to try and avert your wrath. If left to their own devices, they'll flee without causing any trouble, and if you're worried about them absconding with some loot... don't be. They've only got the standard gear. If you want to kill them for the fun of it, however, that's your prerogative.
Another large encounter awaits ahead, but first, you can deal with some smaller affairs. In the wider chamber where you met the cowardly Pitax Wardens you'll find a pair of secret doors long the northwestern wall [Perception 41] [Perception 37]. Both are occupied by stealthy Wererats that you've little hope of spotting. Send in buffed up tanks to absorb their initial onslaughts, or better yet, since you know they're hiding in the backs of these rooms, surprise them with a magical assault. Nothing says "I see you!" quite like a Fireball. Of course, this won't reveal the Wererats or halt their stealthy assault, but there's not much you can do about that aside from absorbing it... or summon some monsters do take the hits for you. Your reward for these victories? You can loot two chests full of junk and marvel at two unyielding sealed doors.
Abandon the secret doors and venture northeast to find some stairs leading down, in front of which is a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32]. There's more to explore on this level, and you've neglected other area transitions before. This one, however, is pretty short, simple, and self-contained, so head down the stairs and take the area transition.
Irovetti's Secret Chamber
When you arrive in this area you'll (hopefully) immediately spot two traps [Perception 36] [Trickery 36], one to the southwest and another near a bed. With those traps out of the way, feel free to loot the room numerous chests and bookshelves, whereupon you should find a Vulgar Statue, a Piece of Skymetal, some Diamond Dust and the Ring of Chaos, a bit of jewelry which will give its wielder a +4 bonus to Armor Class and Freedom of Movement (as per the spell). It can only be worn by chaotic characters.
Note: The Vulgar Statue is another item you'll need for a puzzle later on, so be sure not to lose or sell it. Quite an imagination that Irovetti has, eh?
With the first room plundered, head through a doorway to the southwest to find another, cruder chamber. Search a wall to the northwest to find [Perception 37] a secret door. Unlock it [Trickery 44] to find a generous stash of treasure, but don't let your greed cause you to neglect a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32] in the doorway. The only notable bit of loot in here - aside from some more units of Diamond Dust is Irovetti's Notebook, in which he details his recover - and abuse - of the Briar artifact. Aside from some mostly failed attempts at sexual manipulation, it doesn't appear that Irovetti has found much use for this device, and given his misuse of the artifact it's no wonder Nyrissa sent you after him.
Return back upstairs and head southeast to reach a chamber with doors branching off to the southwest, southeast and northeast. Before opening any door, head southeast and disarm a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32], after which consider the task at hand. In nearly all of the surrounding rooms are lycanthropes - either Wererats or Weretigers, all of which are led by a specimen named Alasen in the room to the north.
If you raise too much of a commotion, the entire area will be alerted, and while none of the enemies are terribly powerful (Alasen excluded), there are quite a number of them. Most are melee warriors or archers, but there are also a few alchemists in their mix. Adding fire resistance to your spell preparations should allow you to ignore them while you focus on cutting down the mob. This task should be made significantly easier with the application of Web, Confusion, Phantasmal Web and similar spells, as their Reflex and Will Saves are generally terrible... not that the rest of their combat stats are much better. In fact, should you form a defensive line before provoking them, be properly spellbuffed, and hit them with some debuffs, this should be a hectic - but easy - fight.
There's no reason you need to give the enemy odds that are anywhere near generous, however, and you can take several steps to tip the balance in your favor even further. All the rooms to the southwest can be explored, their treasures loot and their inhabitants killed without arousing Alasen and his fellows, as well as one of the rooms to the southeast. Some Weretigers in a hallway near Alasen's chamber prevent further exploration, but you can set spell traps like Web in front of the door to Alasen's chamber and in the aforementioned hallway to break up the enemy attack. Once those traps are placed and you're spell-buffed, send a character to provoke the enemy... perhaps one protected with the Freedom of Movement spell (or wearing the Ring of Chaos!) and lure them back to the rest of your party.
If that's still not quite enough of an advantage and you want to reduce this fight to an outright rout, you can also remove Alasen from the equation entirely before the fight even begins. After clearing out the aforementioned rooms you can forego the Web spell in front of the door to Alasen's chamber and simply open it instead. Doing this without provoking Alasen is a bit tricky, but if you keep most of your party out of the way and position a character to the northwest or southeast of the door and simply click on the door, they should run over and open it without giving themselves away. Once done, try to gain a line of sight on the enemies inside the room while also not getting too close to the door. You should be able to reveal Alasen without provoking the lycanthrope, and if you can see your foe, you can target them. Alasen's Saving Throw are, putting it generously, garbage, and any competent caster should be able to easily remove them from the fight with a pre-emptive casting of Baleful Polymorph or Insanity. In this case, simply reposition your caster behind your warriors and carry out the fight with the strategy outlined above... this time without Alasen or several Weretigers.
Worse case scenario, if you end up having to fight Alasen you can always resort to the aforementioned spells to take the beast out. Left unopposed, Alasen will use Dazzling Display in an attempt to demoralize your party, then wade into combat with claw and bite attacks. Alasen's Attack Bonus is decent enough to hit your tanks once in a while, but no more so than the trolls you've been fighting in this area. The lycanthrope also boasts a high - but not Gaetane-like - Armor Class, which is mitigated somewhat by its poor Hit Points. Simply put, cutting Alasen down shouldn't be much trouble even without spells.
Defeat these lycanthropes however you find most convenient, then loot Alasen for a suit of Studded Leather +3, a Belt of Giant Strength +4, an Amulet of Natural Armor +2 and a Ring of Protection +3. In addition, each of the three Alchemists should drop a Bombardier's Vest, while one of the Greater Weretigers will forfeit a Token of the Dryad.
In Alasen's room you'll find a multiple containers to loot, but the small chest on the floor near a chair is the most lucrative, containing Authority, a Heavy Mace +5 that grants its wielder a +5 bonus on Persuasion skill checks and fire immunity. When it strikes a target, that foe must save at a Fortitude 21 save or be immolated for 1d4 rounds (2d6 fire damage) and nauseated for one round. In addition to all that goodness, it has the "Unholy" property, dealing +2d6 damage against good opponents. By comparison, the Piece of Skymetal in the center of the three southeastern rooms is a mere bauble... but one that might as well belong to you, as well.
Trolls and Pitaxians
With Alasen smote and a potent new weapon in your possession, make your way back to the hallway to the northwest, then return down it to the southwest until you're back at the "T" intersection near the antechamber.
Descend the stairs to the southeast and note two staircases to the northeast, between which are some large doors. Numerous enemies await you to the northeast, so form your party up at the base of the stairs to the northwest, spellbuff significantly, then send a lone, speedy character to the second (southeastern-most) staircase. Atop these stairs you'll find some Pitax Wardens. Take a pot-shot at them (or better yet, hit them with an area-of-effect debilitating spell like Confusion of Phantasmal Web) with your bait character, then retreat back to the rest of your party.
Having kicked the hornet's nest your position will be assaulted by a number of foes, including three trolls (a Troll Guard Berserker and two Troll Guard Veterans) who will come through the central door and two groups of Pitax Wardens (both ranged and melee) and a Pitax Herald will descend down each staircase. You know how each of these creatures fight by now, with the only wildcard being the Troll Guard Berserker, who is similar to the Troll Guard Veterans, albeit with higher Attack Bonus, lower Armor Class, and a tid-bit of Damage Reduction.
Most of these foes are highly vulnerable to spells that target Will Saves, so Phantasmal Web and Confusion will serve you well here. None are particularly strong against spells that target Reflex Saves, either, so Web (or similar, higher level variants like Obsidian Flow and Tar Pool) are worth casting, too. In the case of the latter spells, you can set them up around the future battlefield before provoking enemies should you fear being overwhelmed. Casting such spells at the base of each staircase and just inside the door the trolls will emerge out of will definitely slow the accumulation of enemies and penalize any ranged enemies that having a mind to stay inside their areas-of-effect.
When you defeat your foes, loot them for what little of value they possess. There's no great treasure waiting you after this fight, you merely needed to dispose of these opponents to advance further to the northeast. To that end, if you head through the doors to the depressed area occupied by the trolls you can find an area transition leading down to "the Torturer's Chamber". Ignore it for now and instead head up the northwestern-most of the two staircases to the northeast and continue northeast until you find a door.
Note: If you actually end up fighting any enemies in the pit occupied by the trolls, a gargoyle named Gedovius will surface from "the Torturer's Chamber" accompanied by four Ferocious Smilodons". This is a complication you probably don't need, and can avoid by simply following the strategy above and letting the trolls and Pitaxians come to you.
The Zottenropple Brothers
Another fight of some complexity awaits you beyond this door, where you'll find two oddly pale gnomes stealing some books. Interrupt their argument and exhaust their dialogue questions if you wish, and when you're done you'll either need to end the conversation peacefully or pick a fight. In the former case they'll recognize you as the monarch you are... the same monarch who killed their sister, Nyrd Zottenropple, in the Menagerie. The violence may have been justified, but these gnomes will develop an appetite for revenge which can only be sated with blood - yours or theirs.
These two Zottenropples are bothersome enough, as they'll unleash a torrent of spell abuse, casting two spells each per round. They'll start with Phantasmal Putrefaction and Prismatic Spray, while buffing themselves with Mirror Image. After this they'll move on to Weird and Shout, Greater, followed by Displacement. Starting on the third round they dispense with anymore buffs and focus on offense, casting spells like Chain Lightning, Resonating Word, Phantasmal Killer, Shadow Evocation (Fireball), Hellfire Ray (augmented with True Strike). Simply put, they're a nasty pair of buggers that'll spread their attacks out across all possible Saving Throws, so you can't count on many characters to resist them all, especially considering their absurdly high save DCs (mid-twenties for their weaker spells, up to 30 for Weird).
Worse yet, their Saving Throws are all fairly high. A spell with a DC of 20 will have at best a 25% chance of affecting either of them, and while hopefully your DCs for spells like Baleful Polymorph are considerably higher (there's no reason it shouldn't be approaching the mid-20s), the odds still aren't in your favor. This is one of the rare instances where Feeblemind may be a better solution than Baleful Polymorph (especially if you can soften them up with Mind Fog, first) as their Fortitude and Will Saves are actually fairly close, and they'll suffer a penalty to the latter due to the penalty Feeblemind imposes on arcane spellcasters.
The prospects of a melee rush aren't very good, either, as they both have a high Armor Class (high enough to slow you down, at least) and improbably enough, nearly 200 Hit Points each. Worse still, they've got two Golden Golems nearby ready to assist them in melee combat. Being golems, most spells will have little to no effect, so defeating them will be almost entirely upon your melee prowess. That said, your warriors will be taxed to their limits, as these Golden Golems have a decent Armor Class, will shrug off fifteen points of damage from most attacks (DR 15/adamantine), and have an absurdly high Attack Bonus. They'll hit your tanks often, and when they do, expect to see 25+ damage pop up her hit.
The Golden Golems can also use a Prismatic Surge attack, a touch attack (meaning they'll hit your tanks every time) that has one of the following effects: 20 fire damage, 40 acid damage, 80 electrical damage, poison (Fort 21, 1d4 Constitution damage), Flesh to Stone (as spell) or Insanity (as spell). They alternate this Prismatic Surge with their melee attacks, using two melee attacks before resorting to Prismatic Surge. Fortunately, it's not a true ranged attack so any characters out of their melee range will be safe from it.
If you have any adamantine weapons, you'll be well served by bringing the to bear here, as other, perhaps more well-enchanted weapons made of other materials will certainly under-perform. In addition to this there are a few spells you can use to manipulate the Golden Golems. Any spell that deals fire damage will reduce their Damage Reduction to 5/adamantine for several rounds at the cost of also hasting them (as per the spell). Cold damage will, on the other hand, slow them (as per the spell) for several rounds. Both effects are pretty valuable, either limiting them to one attack per round (even the humble Ray of Frost suffices!) or opening them up to damage from your warriors.
Although they're immune to most spells, a few spells do currently seem to affect them. Acid Splash and Acid Arrow will do a paltry amount of damage (although Acidic Spray will not). Aside from the aforementioned Haste effect, most fire spells also won't have any effect (aside from the ones mentioned above), but Obsidian Flow in particular will hinder them, being capable of both entangling them and dealing fire damage... although their high Strength scores means they'll likely break free before too long.
Unfortunately, even that's not enough for these wretched constructs, as when they are dismantled you'll still have to survive their death throes. Upon death they'll release toxic fumes that force nearby characters to save (Fort 21) or suffer 1d4 points of Constitution damage. Your warriors should have a good chance of passing this save, but it's still something worth keeping an eye on.
With all that out of the way, what's the best way to handle this fight? Given the varied strengths of your opponents, there doesn't seem to be any safe, fool-proof way, and some luck is going to be involved no matter what you do. Feeblemind arguably has the best chance of dealing with the Zottenropples outright, but failing that Baleful Polymorph is a fine alternative. A well-developed caster should have around a 50% chance of affecting their target with either of these, and having two such casters in your party at once will make this fight much, much easier.
Divine spellcasters can also contribute with Destruction, which has about as much chance of affecting them as either of the aforementioned spells do. It certainly won't kill them outright, but if they fail their save and take ten points per caster level which should be the vast majority of their Hit Points. The afflicted gnome can then be targeted by your warriors and, assuming the other gnome was dealt with via Feeblemind or Baleful Polymorph, your other casters.
Your caster(s) should focus on nothing else, and with any luck in two turns both gnomes will be neutralized. The longer this process takes, the lower your odds of victory will be. Your warriors should, in the meanwhile, engage and distract the golems, or which ever one of the gnomes you plan to target with Destruction. Vyar seems to have the lower Fortitude Save, which makes him a better target for Destruction/Baleful Polymorph.
After the gnomes are defeated, assuming you're in any condition to continue fighting, retreat through the doorway to the southwest so you can bottleneck the golems and fight them one at a time. Focus on healing and targeting the golems with what few spells effect them and with any luck you'll come out of this fight alive. Even a Pyrrhic victory is acceptable here - so long as you can slink away, rest and recover in a reasonable time frame.
Should you emerge victorious you can loot each Zottenropple for a Belt of Might Constitution +4, a Headband of Vast Intelligence +4, an Amulet of Natural Armor +3, a Ring of Protection +3 and a Cloak of Resistance +4. The Golden Golems, sadly, will drop only semi-precious gems.
Irovetti's Treasure Chambers
Rest up after your hard-fought victory (unless you had two potent arcane casters who pulled off their debuffs, in which case... lucky you!) and when you're good to go again set about looting the room the Zottenropples occupied. The bookshelf they were fussing over has uninteresting trinkets on it, but a hidden [Perception 40] and locked [Trickery 38] chest on a nearby bookshelf has a Belt of Perfect Components, which allows the wearer to cast all 1st and 2nd level spells as if they were Empowered and Extended. Double duration Web, anybody? Or perhaps 150% damage Magic Missile? All in all, it might not succeed at breathing new life into your oldest spells, but it's still a welcome item. The other bookshelves in the room aren't as generous, holding little of value aside from the odd bit of Diamond Dust.
With that out of the way, turn your attention to a door to the southeast. There are, in fact, two doors along the southeastern wall, one of which is hidden [Perception 35] If you open the unhidden door [Trickery 39] an alarm will sound, summoning (after some delay) two Troll Guard Berserkers, two Pitax Wardens and a Pitax Herald. Obtaining victory over such foes should be well within your means by now, especially if you bottleneck them in the northwestern doorway and make use of some debuffs. These enemies will, in fact, come through the previously-sealed northeastern door in the antechamber, which means that the way to Irovetti is now open to you... although there's a bit more killing and looting to be done before you worry about him.
Note: Triggering this alarm will not just open the way to Irovetti, but it'll cause Avinash Jurrg to relocate into the hallway between the antechamber and the throne room... if he's still alive, of course. Suffice to say, if at all possible it's best to face Avinash Jurrg in his own chamber, where he'll have far less support.
Through the southeastern door you'll find a room with several chests along its northeastern wall. Disarm a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32] beyond the doorway, then loot the room. Items of interest include a Silver-Stringed Lute, a Charoite Wyvern and the Arbiter's Robes. The lute is an item you need to solve a puzzle in the northwestern wing of the palace - the last such item you need, in fact - while the Charoite Wyvern summons an ancient wyvern whose power (Hit Dice) scale with the summoner's. Equip it and make it part of your daily arsenal any time you feel the need for some support. The Arbiter's Robe is a bit more class-specific, being wearable only by Monks of a Lawful Neutral alignment. To such rare, fortunate characters it'll bestow a +3 dodge bonus to Armor Class and a +3 bonus to unarmed attack and damage.
The chamber beyond the hidden door is less generous, but you can find a Robe of Eyes in a chest. This bit of cloth will give its wearer a +10 bonus to Perception and the Uncanny Dodge feat, but a -4 penalty to Saving Throws vs. gaze attacks and blindness. It's a worthy trade-off for any high-Perception character who otherwise doesn't need to wear armor.
Golden Golem Puzzle
You should now possess the following items: the Cup of the Victor, the Vulgar Statuette and the Silver-Stringed Lute, the three items you'll need to solve a puzzle in the northwestern end of the palace.
To that end, return back to the antechamber, then continue northwest past the doors that leads to Avinash Jurrg's chambers and Gaetane's chambers. From here you can continue northwest to find some stairs, atop which waits a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32]. After ascending these stairs, turn northwest to spot two pairs of Golden Golems standing guard along the walls ahead. They're dormant now, but they won't remain so for long, turning hostile should you pass the second (northeastern-most) pair... even if you're invisible or sneaking.
If the four of them aren't enough trouble, provoking them will cause an alarm to sound, similar to the one that occurred when you looted the room near the Zottenropple brothers. This alarm will summon two Golden Golems, some Pitax Wardens and a Pitax Herald from the hall between the antechamber and Irovetti's throneroom, opening the door there if it wasn't already opened. This isn't entirely a bad thing, as it means you won't have to fight those foes in said hallway. On the other hand, four Golden Golems was already a tall order, but six is best left to the suicidal.
Fortunately these Golden Golems don't have two high-level gnome spellcasters near them. An obvious way to make this battle easier is to bottleneck the Golden Golems, and you can use the door leading to the room where you fought Gaetane to facilitate such a tactic. Instead of provoking them by running past the second group, just take a pot-shot at one and flee (or better yet, cast Obsidian flow on them!). This serves the added benefit of securing your flank from the reinforcements that will appear.
Even with such protection, six Golden Golems can be an absolute chore to face. On the plus side, since your casters shouldn't have their attention drawn by some gnomes that desperately need some smiting, they can fully focus on the golems. As mentioned earlier, a few spells will harm them, such as Acid Arrow, Obsidian Flow and Greater Shout. In addition, any spell that deals fire damage will reduce their Damage Reduction to DR 5/adamantine at the cost of giving them haste (as per the spell) for several rounds. Cold spells will slow (as per the spell) them instead. Assist your warriors with damage, or by using the aforementioned elements to debuff them.
Alas, despite the expense that goes into crafting such constructs, when defeated they'll leave behind only several semi-precious stones. A pittance considering the work involved in destroying them. But at least it frees up this wing of Irovetti's palace for exploration.
Return to the corner atop the stairs near where you first encountered the Golden Golems and search the wall to the northwest, where you may find [Perception 30] some candles you can manipulate. Do so, then continue northeast past where the second pair of golems stood guard and search the northwestern wall here to find [Perception 30] a second set of candles you can manipulate. Rotate those, too, then make your way northeast to find a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32], then search the northeastern wall to find [Perception 30] a third set of intractable candles near a secret door [Perception 35]. Lots of hidden things in this wing of the castle, eh?
Toggle this third pair of candlesticks and the secret door along the same wall should lower, revealing a chamber full of treasure... and guarded by yet another Golden Golem. There are numerous chests you can loot in this chamber, and if you were expecting the Golden Golem to take umbrage at you pilfering them, you'll be relieved to know that it won't. In one of the eastern chests you'll find a Lost Key and Sovereign, a Heavy Mace +5 that grants its wielder a +1 bonus to Armor Class, attack rolls and Saving Throws until the end of combat
Not a bad bit of loot, but note the three empty chests into which objects can be placed. They're part of a larger puzzle which you should have the items for, if you've been following this walkthrough chronologically. Place the Cup of the Victor in the southern-most chest, the Vulgar Statuette in the central chest and the Silver-Stringed Lute in the northern-most chest. Fortunately you'll see a spell effect every time you correctly place an item.
When that's done, talk to the Golden Golem in the room and it'll ask you several questions, the answers to which are as follows:
Question: "What is my name?" Answer: "Mandalarucio."
Question: "What is my surname?" Answer: "Bellander."
Question: "Where am I from?" Answer: "Hajoth Hakados."
Having answered to the golem's satisfaction, it'll point you towards more treasure and give you a bit of experience.
With that, the first level of the Pitax Royal Palace has been explored, save for the approach to Irovetti... and for the lower levels. While you've defeated most of Irovetti's most powerful minions and plundered a powerful array of magical items, you can still explore the lower levels of the palace.
Royal Palace: Lower Level
Of all the three entrances to the lower levels of the palace, the entrance to "the Storage" area is by far the best. And "best" in this case means "safest", as the area transition leading to "the Armory" will immediately pit you against a host of Wererats, Pitax Wardens and Pitax Heralds, while the entrance to "the Torturer's Chamber" will put you into conflict with... well, the torturer.
That being the case, make your way through the chambers occupied by Gaetane and into the kitchen, where the stairs you're looking for can be found to the southwest. Descend them and you'll reach a cellar, which is mercifully unoccupied by hostiles. This won't last long, as the enemies mentioned in the other paths aren't far off, but you can at least loot some crates and a chest, spot a ghost, then prepare yourself at the mouth of the tunnel leading southeast.
At the end of this tunnel await the aforementioned host of Wererats, Pitax Wardens and Pitax Heralds. They should take little in the way of special tactics to defeat, just ensure you're spellbuffed and that you exploit their poor Saving Throws with debilitating spells. Slaughter your way to the southeast and into a large chamber, where more enemies will likely filter in from the northeast, including an alchemist Wererat who will employ explosive bombs. Nothing you haven't seen repeatedly thus far.
Defeat this batch of foes, then feel free to loot the room - the armory by the look of things - you fought to occupy. Sadly, you may be downright appalled by the paucity of quality loot in the chests, with very little of any real value to find. This is countered somewhat by the bomb-throwing Wererat, who will drop a Bombardier's Vest and a Headband of Vast Intelligence +2, along with some potions.
When you've scraped together what little treasure is worth hauling around, venture down a passage to the southeast, stopping to disarm a trap [Perception 32] [Trickery 32]. Most of the cells lining this hallways are vacant, but in a cell to the northwest along the southeastern end of the hall contains Hannis Drelev. Pay him no mind for now, before you deal with the jailed, you should first turn your attention to the jailer.
Such a being can be found in the chamber to the southeast, which is occupied by Gedovius. At least, you'll find him here assuming you didn't end up fighting in the troll pit along the southern end of the upper floor the palace. If you did, Gedovius would have showed up (along with his Smilodons) and forced you to fight him then. As it stands, Gedovius has nothing friendly in mind for you, and his three Ferocious Smilodons (all of which are currently in stealth) will appear shortly.
The Smilodons are mere nuisances, at best, with an Attack Bonus somewhere between the Troll Guard Veterans and the Pitax Wardens you've been fighting. High enough to hit, but not high enough to be a serious threat to your tanks. Their Armor Class and Hit Points are both fairly low, so they shouldn't challenge your warriors much at all. Since you're attacking from this direction (instead of using the area transition that led directly to "the Torturer's Chamber") you're in a fine position to intercept the Smilodons, which will be your warrior's chief responsibility during this battle.
With them out of the way, it's time to focus on Gedovius, who is the real threat in this fight. His Attack Bonus is significantly higher, and although he doesn't inflict a great amount of damage each hit, it can still wrack up... especially since there's a very good chance he'll hit your tanks when he attacks. He can, however, sneak attack if he flanks you with his Smilodons, which does significantly more damage and can inflict Strength damage on hit. Worse yet is his absurdly high Armor Class, attained in large part by having a Dexterity score fit for a demigod. Since Gedovius's Armor Class is basically unhittable unless you're making critical threat range attack rolls, another strategy is in order.
Fortunately, Gedovius's Will Save is mediocre, and while it's high enough that he'll break free from Chains of Light sooner rather than later, Insanity has a very good chance of affecting him. His Fortitude Save is a bit higher, but not high enough to keep him safe from Baleful Polymorph or Destruction, both of which should have a fair chance of working. In the former case, he'll still have a high Armor Class, but polymorphed into a dog he won't be much of a threat and can be killed at your leisure (albeit slowly) once the Smilodons are put down. In the latter case, you'll dish out a fair bit of damage. Both are useful for ridding you of Gedovius.
Once smote, loot Gedovius's remains for a Belt of Physical Flow +4, Manticore Skin Boots and a Ring of Protection +5, which more than justifies the effort you expended on killing the gargoyle. Search a table to the northeast to find some sacks containing some lackluster loot and some newspaper clippings about the gargoyle's homicidal activities. More interesting, however, is a crumbling wall near the table [Perception 35] which you can attempt force passage through [Athletics 40], but even should you succeed, your work is all for naught. Ah well.
With this last battle, you've cleared the lower level of the palace. Time to pay Irovetti a visit.
Fight to the Throne Room
Make your way back up to the first floor of the palace and return to the antechamber, where the door to the northeast should now be open. What lies ahead may vary depending on your actions earlier in the area although you can expect some Pitax Wardens and Pitax Heralds to be lurking in the hall ahead, especially on the elevated walkway running along the northwestern edge of the hall. Don't be surprised if you can't see them - they prefer to remain in stealth mode until you start fighting the enemies on the lower level of the hall.
Speaking of which, if you triggered the magical traps elsewhere in this area (near the Golden Golems and in the treasure room near the Zottenropple brothers) you'll have provoked some of the potential foes here. If you tripped the alarm near the Golden Golems, two Golden Golems, some Pitax Wardens and a Pitax Herald will have emptied out of this hallway, if not you'll have to fight them here. If you activated the alarm in the room near the Zottenropple brothers you would have been attacked by some Troll Guard Berserkers, Pitax Wardens and a Pitax Herald, who otherwise will still be lurking in this hallway. Most importantly, if you didn't kill Avinash Jurrg earlier he'll appear near the end of his hallway as well. Two Golden Golems, Troll Guard Berserkers, Avinash Jurrg and around a half-dozen Pitax Wardens and Pitax Heralds is not a trivial amount of opposition, and your life will be much easier if you don't have to fight them all here.
However many foes lie in the hallway ahead, you're better off not charging on in and fighting your foes in the hall itself, not in the least because of the traps [Perception 32] [Trickery 32] that lie near the entrance. A stealthy character (perhaps further boosted by Greater Invisibility) can probably safely disarm these traps, after which you should provoke your opponents by casting Fireball, Fire Storm or some other area-of-effect spell at the walkway running along the hall. This will rile up the Pitax Wardens and Pitax Heralds on the walkway and perhaps some enemies on the ground, whom you can intercept and bottleneck at the doorway. As your foes crowd in on you, have your casters target them with debilitating spells while your warriors chop up any foes that make it to the doorway. Fire Storm is also a great cast here, as its damage over time can end up doing terrible things to your foes. This should be a trivial enough battle if you lured out as many foes as possible earlier, and if you killed Avinash Jurrg.
Once the hall is cleared, make sure you're fully rested and you've got spells prepared, then down the hall to the northeast. Follow the red carpet until you find Irovetti waiting for you with his last few loyal guards. When you approach (which you should do with only one character, leaving the rest of your party somewhat behind) he'll strike up a conversation where you can ask about Tartuccio's mission and make a moral choice. What you say here doesn't matter, however, as a fight is inevitable.
Irovetti is joined by two Pitax Warden and two Troll Guard Veterans, none of which are anything more than meat shields, there to distract you from Irovetti and take advantage of his spells. Don't be fooled, focus on Irovetti.
Left to his own devices, Irovetti will start out combat casting Overwhelming Presence and Displacement, after which he'll stand back and cast Dominate Person followed by two rounds of Storm of Razors (30-foot cone, 20d6 damage, Reflex 27 for half damage). He'll repeat this routine twice before finally casting Good Hope and wading into melee, where he'll prove to be a mediocre opponent, at best. Surviving his spell onslaught is the trick here, and fortunately he's not very discriminating with his Storm of Razors spells, content to mutilate friend and foe alike. That said, those trolls can probably soak up more damage than you can, and if any of your characters get dominated, the battle's going to be a whole lot more difficult.
You can prevent Dominate Person with spells like Mind Blank, if you have them, otherwise you'll just have to hope your saves are up to snuff. If not, you'll need to use Break Enchantment to remove the spell as quickly as possible. Speaking of which, if the character that approached Irovetti was afflicted with Overwhelming Presence you'll need to make use of Break Enchantment sooner rather than later. Another preparation you should make is to cast True Sight on each of your warriors to negate Irovetti's Displacement. His Armor Class is decent, but nowhere near what Gaetane or Gedovius had, and if you can keep Displacement off of him your warriors should be able to deal damage to him quickly, especially if they rush him.
As for your casters, use Phantasmal Web to hopefully delay Irovetti's goons, then focus on Irovetti with direct damage dealing spells. Irovetti's Saving Throws are universally good and he seems to be immune to necromancy (or at least, Destruction), but he'll readily take damage from other sources. Even a humble Magic Missile can have nice damage returns, especially if Empowered with with the Belt of Perfect Component and Quickened with a rod of metamagic. 50+ damage from two 1st level spells against a boss foe with around 200 Hit Points isn't a bad deal, especially since Irovetti has no defense against it.
Once you've dealt enough damage to defeat Irovetti, a cutscene will play where he'll summon Engelidis, a naga whose first course of action is to heal (as per the spell) Irovetti. Once restored, Irovetti will start the fight anew, using the old tactics lined above. Yes, that means another bout of Overwhelming Presence, Displacement and the like. Engelidis' will also join the fray, buffing herself up with Seamantle before making a nuisance of herself by supporting her allies with spells like Heal and Baleful Polymorph.
Keep your warriors focused on Irovetti, as Engelidis' Armor Class is simply too high to bother with. No, seriously, with Seamantle she's got an Armor Class of well over 50, which is just a joke nobody's laughing along with anymore. Fortunately her saves are merely moderate, so immediately shift the focus of your casters to her and attempt to swiftly eliminate her with Insanity, Baleful Polymorph or Feeblemind. Once she's been neutralized, focus on dispatching Irovetti again, much the same as you did the first time.
When his Hit Points are depleted a second time the fight will mercifully end, with Irovetti striking up conversation again. Make whatever moral choice you want, the end result is the same. Finish off Engelidis, if she needs more attention, then get to looting.
Irovetti fittingly drops treasures... well, fit for a king. These treasures include a Gilded Key, the artifact Briar, the Rod of Razors, an adamantine Halberd +5 with the "Keen" property which can be used to cast Storm of Razors five times per day. He'll also forfeit a Lesser Quicken Metamagic Rod, a Singing Steel Breastplate, a Breastplate +5 which acts as light armor, has lower weight, armor check penalty and spell failure and a higher maximum Dexterity than normal. It can also improve the speed at which a bard starts their bardsong. Next up is a Belt of Physical Perfection +6, a Headband of Mental Perfection +6 an Amulet of Natural Armor +5, a Ring of Protection +5, a Ring of Luck and a Cloak of Resistance +5.
Engelidis will also drop a Headband of Alluring Charisma +6 and a Charm of Deep Waters, an amulet which gives its wearer a +6 bonus to Constitution and a +5 bonus to Armor Class.
After that, you need merely leave Irovetti's palace and return to your capital to see the end of this chapter. Surprisingly, the citizens of Pitax seem to have little to say in the immediate aftermath of Irovetti's death. If you've been keeping up with Linzi's quest A Bard's Calling that'll update now, with Eobald the Insightful drawing your attention to a riot at the Academy, which you should resolve before you leave. Otherwise, however, return to your capital, sell off excess loot, and rest up. Irovetti may be dead, but Nyrissa needs one more grain of sand, one more fallen kingdom, and you're the last one standing in the Stolen Lands.