Our heroes remained at Castle Stormhome, which, while run down a bit, was still serviceable enough to count as shelter. They took cares to merciless torture the captured Paladin Tristan, employing both physical and psychological torture of various sorts. When he began a hunger strike, Darius, the Summoner, responded by equipping him with his Ring of Sustenance.
They also claimed rooms in the large upstairs area of the Castle. During this time, Nissa's childhood friend and bodyguard, Grimjohn Rowe, showed up with a squad of devoted followers to serve Nissa. Some were warriors, but others were craftsmen and disaffected nobles. They set to work on repairing the castle and making it defensible.
Eranah did finally arrive, alerting all of them to this fact through a telepathic announcement. They met her down in the cavern where she had first appeared, and she looked much healthier than her last encounter. Though she still retained the aspect of an beautiful angel, her clothes and armor were still soaked by blood, and she still seemed to cry an endless stream of bloody tears. Eranah stated that she had been quite busy in her absence, and discovered quite a bit of information about how they could further their project of taking down the goddess Lucia.
She presented the adventurers with three main threads to pursue as they saw fit:
1. Weaken Lucia by causing her to lose followers.
Eranah's first mission she gave the adventurers was to try to weaken Lucia's hold by finding some scandalous fact about her history.
"We should have two main goals," Eranah said matter of factly, "strengthen ourselves, and weaken our enemy. And what I've found is that a god's strength is magnified by her worshipers. We must strike a blow against Lucia's worshipers somehow. Obviously, we could just kill a bunch of them. And we will. But our task will become much easier if we can simply eliminate their desire to worship her. It is well-known among the flock that Lucia once walked this earth as a mortal, thousands of years ago. Her exploits in battle are well-known, but much about her life is shrouded in mystery. If you can find a detailed account of her life, from her time as a mortal, we may find some fact we can use. Fine, she's a goddess of purity, but how pure could she really have been?"
Esme observed that they could just make up something and spread it as propaganda, but Darius replied that something that is true is likely to catch on and spread more quickly and solidly, as well as being harder for leaders of the church to reign in. They asked Eranah for some leads on this. The angel shrugged and said, "I have no idea. I'm not all-knowing...yet. Do I have to spoon-feed you everything? You're resourceful, you'll figure something out."
2. Raid the Tomb of a Dead God
For her next task, Eranah gave a much more specific goal: find out how exactly it is that Gods can die by visiting a dead god's tomb.
"I have confirmed that gods can die. I'd heard of it, but now I know for sure. And in fact, I know the location of the site where a god last met his demise, mere hundreds of years ago. I need you to look for an item - the deity would have carried it with him. It's called a Focus. Finding it may unlock the secrets of how to kill them. It's located in the middle of the Forest of Light to the east of here."
3. Overthrow/Conquer/Destroy the town of Grimgate
Eranah's final assignment was to head back to the city the adventurers first gathered in, and find some way to undermine it.
"The town of Grimgate is a problem. It's located too close to the castle. It's got a fairly sizeable militia, an active Temple of Lucia, and good relations with neighboring towns. It could check our power if people start noticing. You need to nip that problem in the bud so that this flower we're growing can flourish. Either destroy it or control it or neutralize it as a threat in some other way. Just be creative. Oh, and have fun."
With their missions supplied, Eranah disappeared again, leaving the party to discuss how best to execute their new assignments. They eventually decided to try and pursue two at a time, and headed to the town of Grimgate to get a better idea of its defenses and to find information about the Temple of Lucia.
The small, walled city of Grimgate was built by a brutal warlord as a place to house his armies. He built a huge keep to live in, and then a tall stone wall. He demanded that the city's main gate be made terrifying, so that his enemies would fear to storm it. Thus, the gate above the portcullis is carved to resemble a great fanged beast, and to enter the city, you must pass through its jaws. Once built, the warlord allowed refugees into the city for an exorbitant fee. Though the city was safe compared to the outside, he still ruled brutally. Still, the town gained a measure of respectability after the warlord's death. Only the gate and the occasionally active arena are remnants of the city's brutal past.
They entered the city and walked up the main street to the Temple of Lucia. Voss made sure to cast an Undetectable Alignment spell on himself before entering, and also dressed himself in Tristan's own armor, which was emblazoned with the symbols of Rika. They arrived just as the morning mass was completing, and as worshipers filed out, they walked up to the high priest. She was a gray-haired woman with a sharp nose and kind features, and introduced herself as High Priest Catherine Ginesis. As the adventurers began to inquire about Lucia's origins, the woman invited them to join her for their fellowship feast.
She led them through the large temple's wide halls to a banquet hall, which was dominated by a long table. As the priests gathered around, they bowed their heads in prayer. Catherine herself began to chant, and after a moment the table was suddenly covered with all varieties of delicious food. As Voss and the rest of the party began to inquire about the early history of Lucia's ascension to god-hood, Catherine was forced to admit that knowledge of that time was hard to come by. She revealed that most of the information they possessed came from a man named Lysander, who was an eye-witness to many of the events and knew Lucia quite well. She also revealed that after Lucia's ascension, he had founded a monastery on top of Mt. Myrrine to the North, in the Silver Mountains.
One of the lesser priests, who had been glaring at Voss, whispered something in the high priest's ear. He had recognized Tristan's armor, and Catherine began to question about its source. Voss replied that he had bought it off some merchant, which Catherine appeared to believe. She commented that it once belonged to a half-drow named Tristan, who they had had dealings with in the past, but who had questionable methods for fighting evil. She would be unsurprised to learn he had gotten himself killed.
With the information obtained, the party began to survey the city. It appeared very orderly, with guards on vigilant patrol. Esme was especially drawn to a run-down looking building that was nonetheless guarded by two armed men. She eventually approached to ask them what the building was, but was discouraged by their replies ("Perfectly legitimate business") and demands that she buzz off, and she resolved to find out what was inside. She decided to climb on top of it as stealthily as possible, causing her to be shot at by the guards. She punched through the roof and found a large wardrobe, and another guard inside. She hastily made an escape, but resolved to come back when it was dark.
They then attempted to gather some information on the political climate - what its rulers were like, what weaknesses they might have. After being barred from entering the main gate, they stopped at an upscale establishment in the town square known as the Dark Stallion inn, which was run by an older elven woman. She was very forthcoming with her opinions about the town's leadership, and revealed that the Petrina family did little else but tax them, regulate the guard, and leave them to their own devices. The town council made most decisions about governing themselves beyond that.
They also found out that Lord Petrina was throwing a festival to celebrate his son's birthday next month. They found out that, despite the Lord's attempts to make this exciting, that previous festivals had been disappointing for the young, humorless heir, who was about to reach 19 winters. Nissa's mind began to wander with possibilities of seducing a young, lonely boy.
As the rest of the party enjoyed the luxuries of a very expensive Inn, Esme went back to the mysterious building, only to find the guard has doubled. She attempted to climb a building for a better vantage point, only to be flagged down by a guard with a torch. She attempted to run, and lost the guard after a short time, but others were soon alerted as she ducked behind some crates. As they began to surround her, with blades drawn, she decided to fight her way out with her gauntlet-covered hands.
She pummeled one guard to the ground, but was quickly overwhelmed by five guards with swords. She finally surrendered as she was bleeding from open wounds, but continued to protest loudly as they clapped manacles on her, yelling accusations of rape and brutality. Many people stepped out of their homes to see the loud spectacle. Voss, overhearing some of the commotion, went and healed the fallen guard and let them drag her away before reporting to the others. Nissa elected to stay at the end, as her involvement with Esme's rescue could taint her future political plans.
Darius and Voss, however, observed where they took her - a tower just inside the walls - and stormed it, cutting down many guards along the way. Voss Air Walked to the top of that tower and walked down, obliterating guards with the Sword of Tiernach and his spells. Darius likewise summoned several creatures who caused chaos for the guards. Esme was finally pulled out of her cell, and together they ran from town, with Nissa joining once enough time had passed.
They uncovered several leads, but it's clear it will take some work to pursue them. How will the chaos they've sown affect their plans to overthrow Grimgate? We'll have to find out next time on Pathfinder: Evil Campaign!