Surrender a piece of your soul to the inebriating influence of the yellow lotus’ extract. Only then shall you achieve a higher state of mind and ascendance.
High Priest Xarkelt
Delve Level 2 (1,500 XP)
2 cult fanatics
Theologians and scholars ponder the secrets of divine entities trying to find a way to truly understand their motivations and their power. Others rationalize the eschatological concept of their otherworldly realms and the relationship between mortals and them. It is a boundless search for meaning for some, and a mission to achieve redemption or might for others. Those that truly become linked with the greater minds beyond the fabric of the planes can acquire great power.
The Fallen Priest
A decade ago, a rising member of the clergy in the Church of the Sun God named Xarkelt, sought a way to tune his mind and soul with the frequency of the Sun God’s existence. To achieve this state, Xarkelt would imbibe strange substances and concoctions that produced hallucinatory or numbing effects. His peers believed his efforts were dangerous and nonsensical. But, worst of all, they believed that public knowledge of the Xarkelt’s actions would tarnish the clergy’s image with the peasantry. But he refused to stop and was excommunicated and banished from the region in disgrace.
Xarkelt became a vagrant. An aimless wanderer that looked for exotic herbs and roots to consume or smoke. Wherever he went, the locals thought little of the man as he wore tattered clothes, spoke few words, and was often seen rummaging through gardens to steal herbs.
One day in the forest, Xarkelt came across a rare breed of yellow lotus flowers. He brewed the petals and drank the thick potion. It opened his mind to a higher state of conscience. An extraplanar entity spoke to him and convinced Xarkelt it was the Sun God. The voice guided Xarkelt to an ancient ruin in the forest dedicated to a strange, obscure deity. Xarkelt, enraptured with the voice’s several promises of power, accepted the entity’s deal. The Yellow Lotus Cult earned its first member.
A Growing Faith
High Priest Xarkelt, as he names himself now, offers power and a sense of belonging to vagrants, criminals, and misfits in nearby towns. He grows in magical power as new members join his small cult and drink the yellow lotus potion. The cult is ten-strong as of now.
Duke Persillon’s daughter, Valerie, was convinced to join the cult after she ran away from home ten days ago. The duke’s spies have tracked the lass’s whereabouts to the forest, where she meets with a band of misfits. The duke offers 600 gp for bringing Valerie back.
Features of the Vault
Light. The sconces in the mausoleum feature continual flame spells. The magic fades in 1 minute if removed.
Locks. All doors are made of soapstone slabs with medium-quality locking devices (DC 14 Thieves’ Tools).
Secret Doors. Pulling well-hidden levers or buttons causes the walls to shift inward and reveal narrow passages to secret chambers (DC 14 Investigation).
Chamber Ceilings. All areas have 20-foot-tall, domed ceilings decorated with ancient draconic runes.
1. Grand Entrance Hall
A half-crumbling, stone construction in the forest features a cave-like entrance that slants down into uncharted depths. Boot prints are visible around it.
There was once a chapel-like structure here but it has been swallowed by nature. The compound underneath is mostly unscathed and serves as the cult’s lair.
2. Grand Entrance Hall
No cultists guard this chamber. The standing sarcophagi contain the remains of zealous warriors loyal to the entity that Xarkelt follows. The lids display their likenesses.
The four floor-tiles in the center are a cleverly hidden pitfall trap. Creatures that step on them trigger it. The floor opens and drops them 40 feet to the acid pit in area 5. They take 3d6 acid damage (DC 16 Constitution).
The chamber contains a stone surface crowded with scattered papers, tomes, and scrolls that the cultists slowly study and categorize. Two cultists and a cult fanatic named Argan, the second-in-command, work here.
In their blind zealotry, they fight to the death trying to impede the characters’ passage into the lower levels. Upon inspection, the documents are written in Draconic and speak of an evil entity that inhabits the abyss. It is revealed that the dungeon is dedicated to this being.
4. The Demon’s Effigy
An indescribable, root-like, tentacled entity is represented in detail, in stone. It has seven green eyes.
Theologians recognize the eerie effigy as that of Aardhuss, a demon that tempts the minds of mortals and brings about chaos and destruction (DC 16 Religion).
Treasure. Each of the seven eyes is an emerald worth 50 gp. Removing at least one of them affects the encounter with Xarkelt in area 12 for the carrier(s).
5. The Acid and the Statues
The 5-foot-deep acid pond is surrounded by three stone representations of Aardhuss. The statues hold a vase marked with the ‘acid’ rune to their mouths, as if drinking. Theologians recall that the demon is said to douse his victims in acid before eating them. Thus the creature’s imagery commonly depicts this foul fact.
6. A Trap for the Greedy
The stone chest features a high-quality lock (DC 20 thieves’ Tools) but it is empty. It is meant to distract an intruder to lower their guard. When a creature steps on the central floor tiles (see map). A pitfall trap triggers and drops them to the spikes in area 10. They take 4d6 piercing damage (DC 16 Dexterity / half).
7. The Ancient Archive
Six alcoves with lightning bolt traps line the hallway to the archive. They have been deactivated by the cult. A spellcaster can turn them on by spending a spell slot on any of them. They deal 6d6 damage (DC 14 Dexterity).
Four cultists work in area seven categorizing the documents therein. Three of them fight to the death while the last one attempts to climb down to warn Xarkelt.
Treasure. The cultists carry 30 gp, a potion of healing, and a spell scroll of bless. The bookcase contains a spellbook with four, random, level-2, wizard spells.
8. Immortal Guardians
Five stone sarcophagi await surrounded by countless human bones scattered across the cracked floor.
Aardhuss has gifted Xarkelt the power to summon and control undead. When trespassers come here, the bones rise and coalesce into six skeletons under Xarkelt’s command. Each of the skulls is marked with Aardhuss’s sigil. The abominate undead fight mercilessly until slain.
9. Northern Eldritch Figurine
The chamber contains two ornate, standing sarcophagi, two braziers, and four, intricately-detailed floor tiles with a silver and gold-inlaid draconic rune.
The sarcophagi are empty; their contents reanimated and scattered across area 8. The runes read ‘ascend’ in Draconic. However, they are pitfall traps that drop whoever stands on them to the ponds in area 11. Creatures that fall take 3d6 acid damage (DC 16 Constitution).
10. The Cells and the Prisoner
An array of sharp spikes in the center of this chamber is flanked by two cells. The grim remains of at least six humanoids lie beyond the cells’ iron bars.
Customarily, victims of the pitfall trap in area 2 would be moved to the cells to agonize and die. The bone remains have been in the cells for centuries (DC 12 Medicine).
A man named Chagg sits in a cell. He drank the yellow lotus potion but turned out to be naturally immune to its effects. Chagg (guard) knows too much so he was imprisoned here. Chagg shares his story without reserve. If freed, he joins the characters and tells them that the cult must be stopped as it is an evil abomination.
11. Circle of Summoning
Four acid ponds surround an ancient, stone circle that bears the sigil and runes of the demon Aardhuss. A clever spellcaster may infer from the runes that snuffing the lives of twelve individuals in the acid while performing a summoning ritual, the demon can physically come to the Material Plane (DC 19 Arcana). Given time, Xarkelt attempts this. He doesn’t understand the circle’s runes yet.
12. Aardhuss’s Worship Chamber
A row of wooden pews gives way to a raised dais. A hooded man in dark attire holds a golden goblet that contains a bubbling, vaporous, yellow substance.
Xarkelt (cult fanatic), two cultists, and two skeletons stand in ceremony as the high priest communes with the demon and drinks the strange potion. One of the cultists is Valerie, Duke Persillon’s daughter. She is under the influence of the yellow lotus and cannot be reasoned with.
The characters’ intrusion into this sacred ritual is seen as a terrible insult. Xarkelt orders his forces to attack and uses his demonic-infused spells to paralyze a character (hold person) and wield a foul blade (spiritual weapon).
Treasure. Xarkelt carries 75 gp, a golden necklace (36 gp), a potion of healing, and a wand of detect magic.
13. The Vault
The unlocked vault contains the valuables all members carried when they joined the Yellow Lotus Cult.
Treasure. The open vault contains 630 gp, 2,850 sp, two potions of heroism, and a +1 mithral dagger.
The characters reach the end of this adventure. They must face the consequences of their deeds.
If Valerie survives the fight, the effects of the yellow lotus wear off after a few hours. After seeing the outcome of her rash actions, she humbly returns to her family’s estate. What the characters decide to do with the yellow lotus concoction, any surviving cultists, and the cryptic deity’s dungeon are adventures for another day…