I took a break from Shrine of Amana to tie up some loose ends.
First another round of Black gulch, bonfire at level 3. With the twinkling titanite of Shrine or Amana I maxed the sunset staff. At +5 it does 290 dark damage. 3 fast cast of dark orb makes short work of the hands. After clearing the poison statues I got it down to less then 3 minutes per round, 10 hands and 2 worms (flame swath kills the worms in 2 hits) I'm now wearing Mastodon chest piece +10, compensating for the low defense on the caster equipment in the rest of the slots. The giants at the bottom dropped another soul of the giant, not sure what that is for. (plus 19.6k souls for killing them)
Next that chest at the end of a fiery path in Iron keep. I raised my fire defense to 718, still died. Then combined everything I had, best fire defense armor, flame quartz ring, used the water pots up the ladder, great magic barrier, flash sweat, all added up to 1018. No more damage at all, immune now I guess. Got the treasure, turned out to be chaos storm, totally worth the effort.
There was still a break away floor in Shaded ruins I had not checked out. The guy in the wheelchair was sitting there next to another portal (previously found in Black gulch and Drangleic castle). He offered me to join the Pilgrims of the dark, which activated the portal he was sitting next to. Awesome side challenge dungeon, unfortunately I was not prepared and died the first time. Turns out you need to offer him a human effigy to try again, I have plenty of them. Being very careful I managed to complete it to gain a rank.
Each location has it's own small dungeon with a variety of enemies. Cleared all three and I got transported to a boss fight. I managed to survive on the first attempt. That gained me rank 2. The portal stayed open so I went back. The enemies were there again but the boss stayed away. Got back out and gained rank 3, a new armor set and Climax hex.
Climax takes 4 spell slots for 3 uses. The description says it uses up all your souls for a devastating dark orb, scales with nr of souls sacrificed. I wonder how much damage it will do.
I wonder if there are more covenants with side challenges like this? Awesome find.