No one can explain the strange things that are happening at the Church of the Three Idols. People report strange lights at night, sounds coming from below the ground, and unexplainable behavior from some of the church-goers. Perhaps it is better to understand the origin of the belief system in the area. The Church of the Three Idols is one of many religions in the area. It is not a widespread system of beliefs, though. It has failed to obtain a following outside of the location of the church.
The Church of the Three Idols owes its name to the three marble statues that adorn its altar. While the original purpose or significance of the three statues is not known, the locals moved them from the place they were found and built a church around them fifty years ago. The three statues depict three humanoid creatures with mostly human appearance. The shape of the noses and ears are different enough that they were perhaps from a different race. But an unknown or forgotten one. The idols are naked except for a loincloth. Each of them features an undecipherable rune on their chests. The arrangement of those three runes has become a kind of seal or emblem for the church nowadays. The first priest, Sir Nammere, declared that each of the idols represented the three ideals of the new church: truth, responsibility, and love. He wrote a sacred text with the help of a scribe and the new religion was born. Due to its proximity to a large town, they eventually attracted the attention of a small group of individuals and the Church of the Three Idols was born
The church became a pillar for the local community over time. They have a small following and have failed to expand but those who attend the church are fierce believers of the idols. They claim that the influence of the three statues has been a positive force in their lives. And that their fervor to the church has given them the resolve they need to work hard and succeed in life. The leader of the church is an old priest named Bennetatte. He is the third person to hold this position.
A year ago, Father Bennetatte commissioned a grave and the gravediggers found an old construction underneath the church. It appeared to be a part of a larger complex built by an earlier civilization and then lost or forgotten. The accessible portion consisted of three main chambers. When Father Bennetatte first explored it, it was empty. Nothing but an abandoned tomb. The only thing of interest lay in the southernmost chamber. The southeast corner wall had collapsed, revealing what appeared the be the petrified head of a large creature. Judging the exposed section of the creature, Father Bennetatte determined that it was a kind of reptilian being, perhaps a kind of giant snake. Father Bennetatte had no way to know that the creature was a fiend from the abyss. The nameless demon remained in the Material Plane after a demonic incursion thousands of years prior. After the portals back to the abyss closed, the fiend lost most of its power and remained petrified and dormant since then.
The demon is petrified. To regain its power, it must absorb the life force of mortals. It used its remaining forces to take control of Father Bennetatte’s mind. Now the poor priest’s conscience is trapped deep within him. It has become the acting hand of the strange petrified figure under the graveyard.
Since then, Father Bennetatte has slowly changed the direction of the church. He announced that the time of reckoning would soon come and that only those willing to emerge victorious by accepting the soul of the three idols would make it out alive. The slow but steady radicalization of some of the church-goers began. They became fanatics of the cause and helped Father Bennetatte choose suitable victims for the new church tradition: human sacrifices to the New Idol under the graveyard.
The dark rituals of the past few months have not gone unnoticed by the local populace. They hear and see things coming from the church. Strange winged creatures come and go as they please. The believers are now intolerant bigots who confront non-believers and look for violent solutions to every problem. Worst of all, people have gone missing and only the bravest dare blame the Church of the Three Idols.
The events of the past few months have caused an ambient of insecurity and distrust toward the church. Local constable, Sir Demois, is worried that the unrest may soon turn into chaos. Sending his own guards to investigate the local church may be misconstrued as an affront against the church and a violation of their autonomy. Constable Demois prefers not to explain himself to his superiors if something goes awry. He is ready to commission a group of adventurers to go, ask questions, and stop any inappropriate activities there. In exchange, he promises a reward of 500 gp. What constitutes as “inappropriate” he leaves for the adventurers to decide. After all “…common sense is a must for traveling adventurers, isn’t it?”
Church of the Three Idols
The following descriptions of areas 1 through 9 correspond to the church and the underground ritual site map.
Terrain. Grassy hills surround the Church of the Three Idols. The church features wood flooring in a good state of conservation. The underground ritual site has stone flooring that is much older than the church. The stone tiles are cracked and eroded.
Doors. All wooden doors are unlocked unless otherwise stated.
Light. The church’s tall stained glass windows were covered with wooden boards by the deranged followers. No light comes in from them now. Torches on sconces with continual flame spells provide bright light in the church nave and the underground areas. Removing any of the torches causes it to lose its magic in 1d6 minutes.
Smells and Sounds. A thick smell of incense and essential herbs pervades the church. A distant low-pitched heartbeat from area 9 is detectable from the church with a passive Perception score of 15 or higher. The pulsing sound is perceivable for anybody in the underground level.
A well-traveled path leads to the church. It is a five-minute walk away from town. Grassy hills surround the one-story church. The church features a squat bell tower, an attached room on the east side, and a graveyard with plenty of space for new tombstones.
The tombstones are rather new. The oldest of them dates back fifty years. In the middle of the graveyard is a large tombstone that has a bas-relief inscription on its front. The tombstone belongs to no one. It appears to be more of a monument to the church. The inscriptions cite a few of the lines from their sacred text. At the end of the inscriptions, there are three inlaid pearl runes inscribed on the stone. They are identical to those on the idols. This fake tombstone was added by father Bennetatte a year ago, after finding the underground complex.
There are two chasme demons hiding on the church’s roof. A passive Perception score of 15 or higher reveals their presence. If the characters attempt to interact with the central tombstone to find the trapdoor, the demons use their Drone ability and attempt to render the characters unconscious. Failing that, they attack. If all adventurers become unconscious from this attack, the chasme demons bring the characters to area 9 where they will become the next sacrifice.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals dragging marks around the central tombstone. Two characters can drag the tombstone with a successful DC 14 Strength (Athletics) check to reveal a metal trapdoor underneath. Below, a hand ladder descends to area 7.
3. Church Nave
The idol statues at the end of the nave dominate the view. Each of the idols is 30-feet-tall. Their alien faces overlook the area with an impassible gaze. There are 3d6 followers at any time in this location. If the adventurers come asking questions, Giara confronts them. She is Father Bennetatte’s second in command but not a priest herself yet. Giara instructs the adventurers to return from whence they came and let the church be. She reminds them that the church serves the community and any accusations of the contrary are met with force.
Should the adventurers choose the way of violence, four followers (cult fanatics) step up to defend Giara (priest) from the invaders. Other followers either run from the church in fear, or stay to root up Giara.
4. Confession Booth
The room contains two curtain-separated booths for ritual confession. The presence of books and a holy symbol on the north booth reveal that the priest would sit here to hear the confession and later pardon the believer. There are spider webs and dust in both booths. The room has not been used in a long time.
5. Storage Room
The room contains several wooden crates and barrels, a small round table and a steel reinforced wooden chest. The crates and barrels contain flour and grains. There are valuables on the table (see below) and a locked chest. A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check.
Treasure. Two gold-plated holy symbols on the table are worth 10 gp each. A leather pouch contains 35 gp. The chest contains two potions of healing and one spell scroll of suggestion.
6. Father Bennetatte’s Room
Father Bennetatte is the only person who lives at the church. The room contains a bed, a desk, and a wardrobe. The wardrobe contains several changes of clothes and two sets of clerical robes for the Church of the Three Idols. The papers on the desk are nothing but buying lists, lists of followers, and a sacred textbook. A desk drawer is locked. A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock with a successful DC 14 Dexterity check.
Treasure. The drawer contains a gold ingot worth 100 gp and several pages with more useless lists and names.
Upon first inspection, the room appears to be meant for the preparation of corpses for burial. There are mortuary implements and tools on the tables. However, some iron tools cannot be mistaken for what they are: torture implements. Some of the tables and floors are stained in red. It appears that whoever works here tries to keep the place clean but the stench of blood is still there.
Treasure. There is a +2 dagger on one of the tables. The dagger is inscribed with ceremonial runes.
Fire Jet Trap. The door to area 8 is locked. A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock to enter this room with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check. Picking the lock and opening the door triggers the trap. Three fire jets emerge from cleverly hidden holes on the floor. Any person standing directly in front of the door must make a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw, taking 35 (10d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
Father Bennetatte studies here since the fiend took over his mind. The close proximity to the petrified demon keeps the priest’s human mind suppressed. The desk contains arcane scrolls that depict evil rituals and strange summoning circles for their demonic ceremonies in area 9. From this room, the low-pitched sound of the fiend’s heart beat makes the floor pulse with it.
Treasure. There is a spell scroll of haste on the desk and three golden figurines in the shape of the three church idols. The collection is worth 120 gp.
9. Ritual Site
A large magic circle at the end of the room glows with magic. Several concentric circles of brilliance surround the main circle, inscribed with runes in Infernal that shine in red and yellow hues. The large head of a saber-tooth petrified reptilian creature protrudes from a collapsed wall. The magic circle shines and a large towering entity emerges from the void of the abyss to defend Father Bennetatte and the strange petrified creature.
Father Bennetatte (mage) stands next to the circle flanked by two of his followers (cult fanatics). A barlgura demon appears on the circle and obeys Father Bennetatte’s commands. They all fight to the death.
Treasure. There are four wooden chests in the area. Collectively, they contain 1050 gp, 560 sp, 2564 cp, two potions of healing, a +1 longsword, and three gold ingots worth 100 gp each.
After Father Bennetatte is defeated, the ancient petrified fiend becomes unresponsive once more. Mortals cannot damage the fiend in its current form. At best, they can secure the area so that no one ever approaches it again and leaves it where it lays. A way to destroy this petrified fiend or a new cult that worships it remain possible as future adventures but this is left to the DM’s discretion.
It is possible that Father Bennetatte and some of the deluded cultists and common followers survive the encounter. If the adventurers spare Father Bennetatte, he has no recollection of the events of the past year. Upon learning what happened, he turns himself in to the guard and is imprisoned. After this, the Church of the Three Idols disbands and the building is abandoned.