Long ago, a great temple was raised to honor Carielle, a goddess of justice and beauty. Priests, mages, and mechanists worked together to creat a holy place that would not merely serve as a testament to their deity, but which would serve as a conduit for her divine power into the world. As her power reached the surrounding lands, the weary found new delight in the world around them, which sustained and invigorated them; the oppressed found new strength and solidarity, to overthrow the corrupt who would exploit them. And as many people recognized this as Carielle's influence, many became her devotees. New worshippers flocked to the temple, and built a grand city around it, using the same mechanisms and sacred architecture that had been used in the temple. And so, Carielle's influence spread like no other god's before, reshaping entire civilizations and ushering in a new golden age. Things were never perfect, but for a century, the world grew fairer and kinder with each passing year.
And then, some four hundred years ago, Carielle seemed to vanish. Her priests could no longer feel her guidance or draw on her power, and the holy city ceased to to spread her influence across the land. Some said she had decided her work was done; others, that for all her accomplishments she had grown frustrated with those evils that stubbornly lingered in the world. Some proposed that Carielle had become horrified at how her power had stripped people of their free will, and many the tale that the goddess had fallen in love, and chosen to live out her life as a mortal. Then, of course, there was the notion that Carielle had turned her attention to some evil beyond the scope of mortals, and lost--or at least, that victory had cost her her life, or all of her power. But whatever the reason, the godess' influence on the world abruptly ceased, and although a century of progress did not collapse overnight, little by little corruption and cruelty began to flourish again. Still, even without the godess influencing the people directly, her lessons and legacy were not easily erased, and the world never became as miserable as it had been before Carielle.
Not until about fifty years ago, when the holy city--all but abandoned at this point--was overrun by devotees of Athaniel, an primordial deity of madness and desire. Sacrificing Carielle's priests at the altars meant to honor her, they corrupted the power of the holy city to spread the profane power of their of their dark god. His taint spreads into the minds of men and beasts, enkindling madness and weakening their resolve against their darkest impulses. It seeps into the land itself, blighting forests and withering crops. Some feel the call of Athaniel, and abandon their lives to enter the city and join his service. Sometimes, armed raiding parties emerge from the city, accompanied by corrupted beasts, undead abominations, or things more unthinkable still, to claim food, captives, and corpses from the nearest settlements.
A call has gone out for heroes, willing to enter the holy city, seek out the corrupted altars, and purify them--weakening Athaniel's influence on the world and clearing a path the the great temple, where perhaps the madness can be stopped once and for all. For fifty years, it has been all that we could do to slow the advance of Athaniel's corruption, but perhaps you will be the ones to turn the tides against the dark god.
Silvergate was the largest settlement left near the holy city. That wasn't saying much. Scarcely a hundred people lived in the town proper, with another hundred and fifty scattered across the surrounding farm lands. There were crumbling walls around the town, scarcely eight feet high, which appeared to have been repaired in many places with cobblestones pried from the streets. Still, the armed men standing at the gates were dutifully on-guard. Merchants' wares were inspected, weapons were taken for safekeeping, and newcomers were directed to the mayor's mansion. It could only be called a mansion in that it was bigger than any other humble building in Silvergate, and even then not by much. But there was space enough that the mayor had begun running an inn out of his home; the only place to rent lodgings in town, although the brothel down the street did offer its patrons beds.
The mayor was also responsible for coordinating the efforts to cleanse the holy city, and kept numerous maps and charts to aid would-be heroes in their efforts. It wasn't clear how much they would help; there were rumors that around the corrupted altars, in the heart of Athaniel's influence, the world twisted and rearranged itself. The city depicted on the maps may not have been what awaited the heroes who sought to cleanse it.