Millennia ago, a powerful nomadic sorcerer of the Inhap Desert called Sumuho arose to become a figure of international renown. Founding an academy of magic, he drew away students of other famous schools. After a hundred years, the wizard made a pronouncement: he had discovered the secret of immortality, and was effectively a god. The school in the desert became a cathedral and worshippers flocked from around the world to see this new god.
This drew the ire of the Cult of Khunam, a fiercely monotheistic faith that worshipped the sun disc and the largest religious sect of the land. Offended by Sumuho’s audacity and sacrilege, they summoned the Oth-Maares, warrior monks avowed to protect the faith until death - and beyond. After ceremoniously breaking contact forever from the high priests to free them from any sins the Oth-Maares might commit, they disappeared into the Inhap. Within a month, Sumuho too disappeared. His own priests either vanished or turned up dead, and his temple was abandoned and forgotten. After a few centuries, it disappeared under the sands of the Inhap. All but a few worshippers vanished, the remaining faithful waiting patiently for Divine Sumuho’s return…
While visiting a city or large town, the party is approached by a trio who claim to be archaeologists. Their apparent spokesman, a young man of around 25, explains that they believe they know the location of the ancient Sanctuary of Sumuho. An excavation is in order, but they would like some physical protection as well as assistance in opening the temple. The temple itself may have a few ancient traps here and there, but the fame alone would make the party rich, not to mention their share of the treasures within. If the party accepts, the trio will lead them out into the desert.
Room 1: Entrance & Guardian
After two days of steady travelling, the archaeologists cheerfully announce that the Sanctuary is but a few miles away. As they top the next dune, however, there is a distressing sight: an encampment of nomadic lizardmen. Notorious bandits native to the Inhap, the lizardmen are no pushover, especially given their ability to dive into and "swim" through the sand, making them difficult to track. As one of the archaeologists - a slender woman with a heavy accent - unhelpfully points out, the encampment is directly over the site of the temple. Unless one of the party is lucky enough to speak Inhapi, the lizardmen will have to be removed by force. Expect strong resistance from the dozen of the tribe, led by a scarred lizard warboss with a disfigured and mutated (yet oddly functional) third arm sticking from her side. Their armament is varied, mostly with simple bronze-headed spears, but a few with steel cutlasses and flails purloined from trader caravans. After the lizardmen are dispersed, a search of their camp finds little of value: a few small gems, a decorative garland of gnome skulls, and a chest filled with desert garments such as turbans.
Following the extinguishing of the lizardmen, another of the archaeologists - an aged but spry man - begins pulling equipment from their packs while the other two explain that, according to their research, the Oth-Maares did not simply abandon the Sanctuary of Sumuho, but hid it. Using Khunamite magics, they caused the temple to sink into the golden sands and vanish. Their research also led them to Oth-Maares texts from which they learned the spells and techniques needed to undo the spell. As they finish explaining, the elder archaeologist dons a white vestment with orange and red embroidery. In his hands is a very tall staff with a tiny relic encased in an orb at one end. The three nod to each other and the old archaeologist begins to chant in a strange tongue. For several minutes, nothing seems to happen. Then, suddenly, the archaeologist slams the base of the staff into the ground. A circular tunnel appears under the staff, spewing out a load of sand in a ripple on the dunes. The tunnel appears to lead down to some sort of structure fifty or so feet beneath the sand.
Room 2: Puzzle or Challenge
Down through the odd sand tunnel, the party comes across what appears to be a solid sandstone door leading into the underground structure. The door is completely smooth and jointless, about twelve feet tall and peaking into an angled arch at the top. The archaeologists seem a bit perplexed by the door and are open to suggestions on how they might enter. As the crew discusses possibilities and theories, at the mention of the word "Sumuho", narrow square slits crack open in the strange door. Pupil-like bits of stone bulge outwards, staring at the crew. Then below the eye-like structures breaks open a wide rectangle. Moving like a mouth, a creaking yet thunderous voice utters a phrase in an unknown language. If any of the party respond to it, the door will answer in the language it hears from the party (e.g., if an elf PC speaks High Elvish to the door, the door will reply in High Elvish). In its odd voice, the door asks: "Who are you that have come to seek enlightenment from Divine Sumuho?"
A conversation with the door reveals that this is indeed the lost Sanctuary of Sumuho. The door seems oblivious to the passage of time, unaware that the Sanctuary has been unopened for thousands of years. However, it is terribly stubborn and refuses to open the door. The crew must convince the door guardian that they are indeed worshippers of Sumuho and come to seek his wisdom. At the GM’s discretion, the door may require some proof that they really know who Sumuho is; if only the arhcaeologists answer, the door guardian will refuse entrance of the "barbaric and heathen" PCs, so some knowledge of Sumuho’s history would be valuable. Once the guardian is convinced. The eyes and mouth will recede and the door will crack from its hinges. The solid-looking sandstone will break into blocks, revealing a jointed and fully-articulated stone-jack. The golem will step aside to allow the party to enter the gate. Once all are inside, the -jack will reassume its form as a door. Attempts to speak to or activate it thereafter will be in vain.
Room 3: Setback
Inside the Sanctuary, the party will find themselves in a cavernous room lavishly decorated. The sandstone walls look as though they were painted hours earlier, with bright frescoes depicting Sumuho’s rise to power and his ascent into the realm of the gods. Holding the ceiling above them are dozens of massive marble pillars, each one covered from base to capital in hieroglyphs like a stele monument. The floors are sandstone inlaid with glass, with the center of the room a mosaic of Sumuho subduing an army of demons. Statues litter the edges of the room, mostly of Sumuho in various heroic, majestic, or divine poses. To the west lay two hallways, one ascending and one descending, and to the east is another wider passageway. Despite being underground and without windows, the room seems brightly lit by an unknown light source. The whole effect is a bit breathtaking. Incredible as it appears, however, the sanctuary does show some signs of decay, with piles of sand having leaked in through cracks in the walls, and some of the marble columns looking cracked and frail.
The archaeologists themselves are awestruck, but quickly go to task examining a corner of the room with a large statue of Sumuho holding a golden scepter. The woman speaks in a foreign language to the eldest, who nods approvingly. He smiles broadly, explaining that they were seeking proof of Sumuho’s links to an obscure Inhap culture and this statue may prove their findings. Carefully climbing the statue, the female archaeologist reaches for the scepter. As she pulls it from the statue’s hand, she loses her balance and falls. Clinging to the scepter, her weight breaks the arm of the statue off. With a slow and ominous creak, the five meter tall statue tilts, then falls. It shatters against a nearby column, which itself cracks in half. The ceiling emits a rumble, and soon, other pillars begin to break and smash into each other. Within seconds, chunks of the vaulted ceiling begin to crack and fall, shattering against the floor and letting down a flood of sand.
Archaeologists in tow, the party must rush into one of the adjoining corridors for safety: the ascending hallway or descending hallway to the west, or the wider passageway to the east. As they dive into the passageways, the once-beautiful temple atrium is filled by the sands of the Inhap. Now they must navigate through whichever passageway they stumbled upon.
West ascending - This dark hallway starts as a moderately sloping ramp, but after fifty feet or so it turns a corner and becomes a steep spiral staircase. It is quite a hike up the 200 stone stairs, which end in a narrow and low-ceilinged crawlspace. One of the archaeologists comments that this was probably a aqueduct or secret passageway when the temple was above ground. After a hundred feet of crawlspace, the bottom drops out of the floor in a square meter hole. If something is dropped into the hole, a splash can be heard after a long pause. The only way out seems to be through this hole. One can either drop down into the hole or lower a rope to climb. At the bottom of the hole is a seemingly bottomless pool, with steps leading into it. Climbing the steps leads into the hallway to the tabernacle room.
West descending - The descending pathway snakes in a sloped spiral down several stories. The path is dark, but torchlight reveals a few glyphs on the walls every few meters. The path suddenly end into a thick, undecorated steel door. On close examination, although the door seems to be in perfect condition, its hinges seem to be corroded. Breaking the hinges will allow the door to fall forward, leading into a large chamber. In the center of the room is a large skeleton, a chain draped around what was once a massive neck. Even the archaeologists are unsure what this huge beast may have been. Beyond the skeleton of the creature is a door leading to the tabernacle hallway.
East passageway - The walls of this wide passageway are made of pure white marble, covered in runes and glyphs. The passageway continues for a hundred meters or so before ending in a series of three doors. Two of the doors are filled with collapsed debris and sand, leaving only the door on the left available to travel through. A short hallway leads into what appears to be a sacristy, filled with ancient vestments and liturgical items used to worship Sumuho in his heyday. The colors of the garments are still bright, but the material is weak and mostly threadbare. Most of the other liturgical items, however - braziers, censers, scepters, food dishes, et cetera - are in good shape. All are made from precious metals, and many are gemmed and otherwise decorated. The walls are plainly decorated with a broad purple band stretching across the room. An examination of the bar reveals a loose brick; removing it will reveal the bricks under it are unmortared as well. Behind them is a small crawlspace, wide enough for one person, leading into the hallway of the tabernacle room.
Room 4: Climax
Finally the party makes it into the tabernacle room. The hallway leads into a very tall chamber. The far wall consists almost entirely of a huge door made of electrum. Intricately detailed, Sumuho’s name is inscribed in several languages. The portal is dotted with gemstones, and in the center of the double doors is an embossment of (presumably) Sumuho’s bearded foreign face. A large brasier sits on either side of the room, burning some unknown fuel and casting an eerie glow on the tabernacle. The archaeologists can hardly contain their excitement. "Finally, after all these years!" the eldest exclaims, "we have found the Tabernacle of Sumuho, which contains the Sacrament!" The archaeologists revel and chatter among themselves until one of the party interrupts them. The archaeologists then get very dark looks on their faces. "The Sacrament is all that is left of Sumuho’s glory," the young man says.
"And," adds the woman, "it is the one thing we must destroy."
Briefly, the archaeologists explain that they are Oth-Maares of the most ancient order. Apparently the destruction of Sumuho was not complete and he has been sensed carving out chaos from his ancient temple. They have been sent to finish the job their ancestors started. Unfortunately, as they are sworn to complete secrecy, the PCs cannot leave the sanctuary. Ever. The golden scepter taken from the statue begins to glow in the archaeologists’ hands and, as though out of nowhere, they produce weapons and advance on the party. The golden scepter - apparently a relic of the old Oth-Maares left to guard the tomb - seems to have transformed the eccentric historians into paladins and clerics of Khunam*. They use advanced levels of magic, both offensive and defensive. Breaking the scepter will greatly weaken their power, but it is enchanted and very durable. After the harrowing battle, the party is left with three dead Oth-Maares and the huge tabernacle.
*For those using variants of d20 D&D rules, Khunam’s domains are Sun and War.
Room 5: Reward/Revelation/Twist
The only place left to go now is the tabernacle. The large electrum doors open easily without so much as a creak from the ancient metal. Peering in the darkness behind them, the PCs can see that this is no ordinary tabernacle. The doors lead into a long, narrow, high-ceilinged room completely gilded in electrum. Embossed and engraved on the walls are row after row of hieroglyphs. The electrum surface reflects the party’s lanterns down the hallway, creating an almost mystical glow. Thirty or so yards down the room ends into a large altar upon which sits another, smaller tabernacle. Opening this tabernacle will reveal a sort of marble thick frame, encased in platinum and marked with runes. From each corner of the square frame is a braided cable of silver; suspended from these cables is a mummified human head. As the PCs peer into the tabernacle, the eyes of the head flash open and the jaw creaks. The gray and shriveled orbs rotate about as the yellowed teeth grind against one another. Finally the head utters something: "So, you have come to hail I, Divine Sumuho!"
Apparently, the legendary wizard really was immortal. Sumuho prattles on, apparently seeing the PCs as worshippers who have come to remove him from this desert grave. The jealous Khunamites, he explains, attempted to murder him and placed his head in this magical case to prevent him from using his supernatural powers. They failed, clearly, as these "loyal clerics" have come to free him from the tomb. So long as Sumuho believes the PCs are his faithful, the wizard-god is happy. He may even reveal hidden rooms with extra treasure. If carried, he will peel away the tabernacle walls with his power and lead them back out into the desert, where he orders them to built a new church, summon the faithful, find a new body for him, and begin anew. If there is any suggestion that the PCs are not, in fact, Sumuho worshippers, he will grow furious and launch an attack from his weird frame. Sumuho fights with high level magic spells, able to cast multiple spells at once if need be. If in the sanctuary still, Sumuho may attempt to destroy it and bring the Inhap down on their heads. Attacks on the head seem fruitless, with the dried torn flesh and broken skull reassembling itself after every blow. Shattering the marble box encasing Sumuho’s head, however, will kill him. Oddly, killing Sumuho causes all the treasures of the sanctuary - the Oth-Maares scepter, the sacristy loot, the electrum walls of the tabernacle - to turn to sand. If the PCs are truly witty, they might be able to trick Sumuho and stash him somewhere while they loot the tomb, leaving the wizard-god alive and content while they make off with the goods.