About this Resource
This resource features the general description of an ancient shrine with no known purpose. It includes adventure ideas that are appropriate for mid-level (Levels 1 to 5) adventuring parties. Challenge Rating (CR) is calculated using a party of four as the model.
The DM is free to change or modify any or all the information found here. NPC names and settlement names are the first the DM should consider changing to accommodate any homebrew world lore. To modify the challenge rating of the adventure, the DM must first consider the power level of the party. Considering the PCs’ individual levels and the number of players is crucial to presenting a good challenge. Not all parties are the same, different playing styles and command of the system in the party can increase or decrease their effectiveness in encounters. The DM may adjust the encounters slightly by adding or subtracting monsters. Alternatively, controlling monsters with more intelligence and strategy is often the easiest way to raise the difficulty of an encounter. When monsters are referenced, the creature’s name is noted in bold. Only creatures from the Monster Manual are cited.
The Shrine of the Sun and the Moon is a known structure in Ardennia. The shrine consists of at all bas-relief floor sculpture on top of a platform which features the son and the moon fused together into the same entity. The shrine is located inside what appears to be a natural cave close to the northwest border of the kingdom. It is located inside the forest but the way is well marked by the pilgrimages that visit the shrine from far away several times a year. The hollow hill that houses the cave and shrine features an aperture on its summit. This circular shaft crosses the hill and reaches the cave chamber where the shrine is. Sunlight comes down the shaft at uneven angles throughout the year but it aligns perfectly with the shaft once a year during the summer solstice.
Little is known of the actual purpose of the shrine, or what deities or entities it is supposed to be dedicated to. Erosion and the passage of time have erased away most of what was carved on the platform and shrine itself, but a few passages can still be read. Etched on the ancient stones, the beautiful markings of the elvish alphabet adorn the shrine. Elf scholars have determined that the shrine is at least twenty thousand years old. They know this from the old form of the elvish language on the stones. Very few elves can make sense of the arcane writings these days. The most accurate translations refer to the shrine as a place of healing and growth. A place where the sacred light of the sun can cleanse your very soul and imbue its energy with a sacred bath. It mentions that creatures that emerge from such ritual are not the same as when they entered. It talks about a growth which is not visible because its very nature lies in the souls of those who accept the gift.
Despite these discoveries, not much else is known about the shrine or how it was used. The only thing out of the ordinary is what happens during the summer solstice. Light comes down in a straight line from the sun shaft above and hits the sun and moon effigies on the stone straight on. It is then that the eyes of the sun and moon glow with a reddish hue as if they were reflecting the light back up. But that is the extent of the event.
Not knowing the original purpose of the Shrine of the Sun and the Moon does not mean the location is not celebrated. People from Ardennia and other realms know the shrine well and have given a new meaning to it. People believe that the shrine is a focal point of energy for both celestial bodies. A place where there is a gathering of strength, power, dedication, and other qualities people have assigned to the sun and moon. People come from far away in pilgrimages that come several times a year. When people reach the shrine, they climb the platform and look up through the shaft, to the sky, with their arms wide open. They believe that doing so helps you absorb the energy from the sun and moon. The largest pilgrimage group comes for the summer solstice when sunlight reaches them directly.
The constant arrival of travelers to the area has also caused some troubles. Lately, a group of savage gnolls visits the place often. They rob, scare off, and sometimes kill travelers to take their belongings. These gnolls have no interest in the shrine, nor do they hold any significance for it. They are only here to profit from other people’s unpreparedness.
The Real Purpose
Thousands of years ago, elves from a warring culture which revered strength and combat prowess above all built the shrine. Once a year, when the light of the sun hit the effigy, the light would come down through the eyes into a delicate and complicated arrangement of mirrors and focusing crystals. The focused rays of light would then reach a smaller version of the sun and moon effigy in the lower level of the shrine. The light would then be redirected to three different directions, to curved mirrors in separate chambers. The mirrors refracted that light into many colors and hues which would move to other mirrors and magical runes on the walls of the chambers. When this happened, the sunlight would finally be refracted and concentrated into a new color the eyes had never seen. This ray of light hit the surface of a waist-high pond in the largest chamber of the underground level. The water acquired magical qualities which would be passed onto anyone who bathed on the pond. Only the strongest elf warrior received the honor of bathing in the pond. The ceremony was held by a war priest who sang a six-hour-long lament about the old gods and their untimely deaths. After this, the warrior emerged from the water stronger and more resilient than before. The shrine has not been operational for thousands of years because the mirror in Area 8 is not aligned.
- Cave Entrance
The area immediately outside of the Shrine of the Sun and the Moon is a low-density forest. It is even possible to reach the mouth of the cave on horseback or a horse-drawn cart. This forest is mostly ignored by the forest-dwelling factions of the capital due to it being so far from the capital. The cave is currently the home of a group of gnolls. A passive Perception score of 15 or higher or a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals several sets of footprints of large canine or feline creatures. (gnolls have hyena feet)
- Main Chamber
The platform is 10-feet-tall but the stairs on the south side make the climb an easy thing. The sun and moon stone-effigy is 2-feet tall at its highest point. If characters do not already know the significance of the few elven markings that are visible on the platform, a successful DC 18 Intelligence (Arcana or History) check reveals the information about the original builders and the clue for the shrine’s purpose. PCs would also know that the shrine has no practical purpose throughout the year except for the summer solstice.
A passive Perception score of 16 or higher or a successful DC 16 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals the presence of a locked secret passage on the eastern side of the platform. A successful DC 16 Dexterity (Thieves Tools) check allows a character to open the door and reach the underground level.
- Raised Ledges
A pair of gnoll scouts is hiding on the uppermost ledge. They are immediately aware of any creatures that enter the cave. They choose the best moment to ambush any visitors from their hiding place with their longbows. After they reveal their presence, one of them blows a horn to alert their allies in Area 5.
- West Side Cave
The cave is empty but for some markings on the northern wall. They appear to be the work of early human civilizations. The use of magic to translate and a successful DC 10 Intelligence (History) check reveals the meaning of some of the writing. The early human settlers knew the purpose of the shrine but envied the elves who used it. After a war, a group of human warlords went to the underground level and moved a mirror to throw the whole apparatus out of shape.
- North Side Cave
Farsu (gnoll pack lord) is the leader of the gnoll brigands. He is camping in the cave with 4 gnolls. He attacks any visitors on sight or after he hears the horn of the scouts in Area 3. He values his own life more than any treasures he may come across so he attempts to flee if things go bad for him and his gnolls.
- Effigy Replica
The smaller replica of the effigy above is made of reflective material. Its surface is jagged and uneven as all areas are supposed to reflect the light coming from above to different places. Covering, damaging, or reshaping any part of the replica would make the shrine useless. The effigy replica has a high sale value if a right buyer is found. It is fixed to the floor and very difficult to remove without damaging it. A successful DC 22 Dexterity (Thieves Tools and Masonry Tools) check allows a group of six people to safely remove the replica for transportation. Failure causes a chain effect of fissures that breaks the whole thing into many pieces, rendering it valueless.
- West Mirror
The westernmost chamber of the underground level of the shrine features an 8-feet-wide curved mirror by the west wall. It is meant to refract light into many smaller rays that hit magical runes on the walls.
- East Mirror
This chamber is a mirror image of Area 7 except for one thing. The mirror is not in its original position. It was moved by saboteurs a long time ago. So long as the mirror is not returned to its original position, the shrine will not work as intended. Positioning the mirror as intended requires an uncanny level of precision. A successful DC 18 Dexterity check allows a character to properly align the mirror.
- Forgotten Library
A small library was left behind by the old elven civilization. All texts are in an old form of elvish which is not readable by today’s elves. An expert elf scholar can translate any texts found here. Otherwise, a spell such as comprehend languages reveals that most reference material is about the purpose of the shrine, past people who received the shrine’s gift and their deeds, and a few poem books. Any or all of the texts found in the library can be sold to the right collector in a big city.
- Resting Place
The unresting spirits of the four original elf builders (ghosts, shadows, or wraiths) still remain in their sarcophagi in this chamber. Their purpose is not to guard the place but their spirits returned from the afterlife unable to find peace so long as the shrine is not returned to functioning status. The four of them are currently unable to behave rationally due to being consumed by anger and desires of revenge. They emerge from their burial boxes and attack any creature that accesses the underground level of the crypt. After being destroyed, they reform in 1d10 minutes and approach the visitors once again, now reasonable and in control of their actions. They explain their conundrum and ask the visitors to rearrange the mirror in Area 8.
- Pond of the Sun and Moon
A stone pond filled with crystalline liquid dominates this large chamber. Two small pedestals with strange runes flank the pond. Other than that, the only other thing in the chamber are the scores of runes on the walls and ceiling.
During the summer solstice, if the mirror of Area 8 is back to its intended position, all runes in the chamber shine and shoot a ray of light to the pond. The rays of light make the water shine like liquid gold. One creature per year may enter the pond nude and stay there for five minutes to absorb the energy of the sun. It is not within the scope of this module to specify the particular benefit of receiving this gift but a blessing from a god is recommended. The rules for supernatural gifts such as this one are in the DMG p. 227.
These are the general features of the Shrine of the Sun and the Moon. It is located in the northwest border of the Ardennian Kingdom. It is half a day north of Arden Mines and five days from the capital.
Terrain. The known section of the shrine is inside what appears to be a natural cave. The floor is rough and unworked but uncannily even. The squares with rocks and debris on the floor are considered difficult terrain for the purposes of tactical movement.
Secret Doors. A secret passage hides the only way to access the underground part of the shrine. Each end of the passage features a secret door. A successful DC 16 Dexterity (Thieves Tools) check allows a character to open the door.
Light. The sun shaft on the ceiling of the cave lets some light in during the day. The area is considered to be in dim-light. The underground section is in complete darkness except on the summer solstice when light reaches the mirrors.
Smells and Sounds. The ground level smells of damp soil and old vegetation. The dungeon has a sterile smell to it.