The Deserts of the Maraketh
With the souls of Malachai's students recovered and access to Highgate opened, it's time to recover the Dark Embed from the corpse of the dying Beast under the mountain. Unfortunately, you may or may not have caused the mountain to collapse back in Act 4, meaning you'll need to find another way in to the core.
Highgate is a little different from the last time you left it. Dialla has finally succumbed to old age with the power of her Gems drained away, Kira has kidnapped Oyun and vanished, and there's that small matter of all the water being filled with the blood of an ancient thaumaturgical abomination.
The tunnels leading into the mountain are gone, collapsed after the events of Act 4. Fortunately, the ever-resourceful Sin has a plan: find a wound inflicted in the Beast's body by Doryani, the ancient Vaal thaumaturge responsible for the downfall of the Vaal civilization; blast it back open; and return to the Black Core via the Beast's innards. Simple enough.
You've also got a new Master to meet: Jun Ortoi, who is found in Highgate as soon as you arrive. See the page on Jun & the Syndicate for more details on the mechanics she introduces.
From Highgate, head out to the same path you took to climb to the top of Mount Veruso back at the end of Act 4 - but this time, you're going down along The Descent. Find your way down the mountain to enter the Vastiri Desert. In the Desert, complete:
- The Storm Blade (Effectively Mandatory): Find the Storm Blade, an ancient artifact located somewhere in the Vastiri Desert, and return it to Petarus and Vanja in town.
The next bit is one of the most confusing segments for new players. Once you've completed The Storm Blade, you'll need to find the path to the Oasis on the top-right edge of the Vastiri Desert. Unlike other zone transitions, this one does not appear on your map, because it's blocked off by a sandstorm, so proceed carefully and search for a small bridge leading out into the wastes to find it.
Return to town, speak to Sin first and then Petarus and Vanja to get a Bottled Storm that allows you to bypass the Sandstorm (you can only do this once you've actually found it in the Vastiri Desert). Enter the Oasis and complete:
- Queen of the Sands (Effectively Mandatory): Find and kill Shakari, Sin's daughter and minor goddess of the Pantheon. Once she's dead, pick up your new Pantheon power and return to town for a skill point.
Once you've done Shakari, you can move on through the Foothills, located at the northern end of the Vastiri Desert. In the Foothills, you'll find:
- Fastis Fortuna (Optional): Find the Calendar of Fortune, located somewhere within the Foothills, and return it to Petarus and Vanja. They'll reward you with two respec points - useful, but not mandatory unless you need to substantially modify your build in the endgame.
Also in the Foothills, you'll find a path to The Boiling Lake. Before moving on, enter the Boiling Lake and complete the first part of:
- Recurring Nightmare (Mandatory): Find and kill the Basilisk in The Boiling Lake. Recover the Basilisk Acid that it drops; this is one of the two items you'll need to crack open the Beast's rotting corpse later in the act.
Only once you've got the Basilisk done, proceed to the far end of the Foothills and find The Tunnel, an outlying area of the mines you may remember from Act 4. Inside the Tunnel you'll find a Trial of Ascendancy, which you should complete before moving on.
On the other end of the Tunnel, you'll find the Quarry, one of the old Virtue Gem mines of the Eternal Empire. There you'll need to complete two quests:
- The Ruler of Highgate (Effectively Mandatory): Find Kira and Oyun, and kill the goddess Garukhan that has taken Kira as a vessel. Bring the Sekhema Feather that marks the ruler of Highgate back to either Tasuni or Irasha back in town (it does not matter which you give it to in gameplay terms, it's purely a story choice) for a skill point.
- Recurring Nightmare (Mandatory): Find the Refinery, a subzone attached to the Quarry (usually at its northwestern end) and, within it, find the Trarthan Powder, the second of the two items (along with the Basilisk Acid) that you'll need to enter the Beast's corpse.
Once you've got both the Basilisk Acid and Trarthan Poweder, return to the center of the Quarry and speak to Sin to open your way back into the Beast's innards.
Enter the Belly of the Beast, clear your way through the Beast's interior, and reach The Rotting Core, where you dealt the killing blow back in Act 4.
At this point you'll need to subdue the spirits of Doedre, Maligaro, and Shavronne yet again (are you getting tired of these three yet?). Once you've done so, speak to Sin, and get ready to fight the final boss of Act 9 and complete:
- Recurring Nightmare (Mandatory): Defeat Act 9's final boss in the Rotting Core.
Once the boss is dead, it's time to head back to Oriath for your final confrontation with Kitava.