A strange tale reaches your ears...
Somewhere in the region of the Screaming Hills stand the Grinning Towers of that most despised of all sorcerer covens, the Lotu Magi. Many times have my brothers and I sought to find and destroy these Towers and their sorcerous occupants. Every such venture has ended in failure. The grinning towers are wrapped around with subtle yet powerful enchantments that I have not yet managed to pierce. Thus the towers remain impossible to locate. They cannot be seen in the daylight hours, and throughout the night, when they are fully visible and therefore more vulnerable, they shift and travel across the landscape, vanishing and reappearing at random. Even a person with no understanding of the complexities of bending the Magic to his will must surely realize the virtuosity required to maintain such an enchantment as this. This itself hints at the terrible power and skill of the Towers dread occupants. Within these Towers reside some of the most feared sorcerers ever to have blighted the lands of men, and all of them are marked by the black evil that reign the underworld.
Although my order has agents and spies watching all the roads for a dozen leagues in every direction around the Screaming Hills, we have not yet had any success in capturing servants or messengers going to and from the Lotu hiding place. Indeed, it is my belief that the order of the Lotu do not put any of their plans to paper, or perhaps even speak, so particular are they about keeping their nefarious plans secret from the prying eyes of the colleges of Magic and the witch hunters of our realm.
The Screaming hills
Black lumps of compact ash and blood-fed dirt, filthy, writhing, thorns of coal sprouting from their crests. The wind is like a sheet of dark sand caught in a furious updraft, only it howls with the pains of the Earth itself. As if the core of our world was being tortured by this unmistakably malign place. It smells of compost and eggs far past their prime. As you push on through the curtain of onyx grit, you can almost see The Grinning Towers, but never in the same place twice. Like a looming toothless skull in the sky, they look down and mock our inability to reach them.
Encounters in The Screaming Hills - There are snaking vines of thorned black coal that slither through horrible grounds of this region. There are also winds that seem to tear at your mind and soul, the banshee-like howl can drive a man mad with prolonged exposure. Finally, it is said that a thousand ghosts call this place home and wisps and lights can be seen sometimes, objects becomes misplaced, and there is always a cold chill on the back of your neck, despite the blasting sand-winds.
The Tower Grounds
As you stare up into the Grinning Tower, and down it's throat into the abyss of a horrifyingly magnificent cathedral, the gaping maw full of colored glass and dull dead plants, you notice a familiar structure. A stone well. Perhaps some water remains? Surely the inhabitants of this place still rely on water? Slowly pulling up the bucket, under what little shelter the rickety little roof provides from the blasting winds. You almost expect a bucket full of blood of other horrors, but it is unclear what it actually is as you raise it. Certainly not water, but you feel a paranoid pressure of time running out as you pull up the bucket, only to reveal it is full of human teeth. You drop the bucket in shock and head for the tower itself.
Encounters on The Tower Grounds - Other than the bucket of teeth, there is little to be found here besides bits of bone and ash,
The Toothless Cathedral
You find yourself in what was once a grand place of worship, now desecrated by by grey vines and blood-red ivy. There are stained glass images of vile acts visible through breaks in the tangles of vines. The disgusting plants intertwine with slack-jawed skeletal figures still sitting in the pews, each as toothless as the next, only the unholy occupants of The Grinning Tower know who they might have been, if anyone, and how long they may have been here. There is a large podium of the purest silver, center stage, the last beacon of sanity in this forsaken place. Surely, where the silver is uncorrupted lies a sliver of hope for salvation? Not so, my friend. As you approach, you realize the false hope you saw glimmering was actually white-washed wood, shining moist with slime of an unknown origin. If you dare look closer, upon it rests a notable holy book, one quite common where you come from, only the words have been twisted into evil mockeries of the once profound teachings. To glance at even a simple sentence is enough to evoke a unsubtle gag and a prayer to whatever Good might still linger in this foul place.
Encounters in The Toothless Cathedral - This large once-church is filled with the fragile bones of dozens of plant-encrusted skeletons, sitting in the pews, some with hymn-books in hand, listening to the silent sermon of their long past priest. If anything is done to disturb the skeletons, such as physically touching one, they all turn to look in the direction of the violation with empty eyes. If further provoked they will send slithering black vines after the offender. If any vine is injured, the skeletons fully animate and attack with thorn-covered hands,
The Serpentine Smoke
Like smoke from a fire, twin spiraling staircases erupt from behind the stage. They serpentine up into darkness above. As you dare the ascent, each step clacks and clatters like the rattling of bones. To your horror, it seems the vine-encrusted figures from the cathedral have become slightly more alert, creaking, and stretching their empty eye sockets to gaze upon you. Your blood runs cold with ideas of smashing them, but you continue to climb, under their dead stares.
Encounters in The Serpentine Smoke - The smoke clings to your body, entering eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Making you cry, sneeze, choke, and hear hissing whispers of burning plant-life. The vital juices sizzling from the touch of fire. The ascent is difficult and especially hard on your lungs, anyone with preexisitng breathing problems may experience sever symptoms.
The Eyes That See
You come out upon an amazing sight, the maliciously contorted eye sockets of the Grinning Tower. From a dizzying height, you can look down upon the Screaming Hills and hear their horrid moaning louder than before. All is askew with black on black, and you briefly wonder where you would land if you jumped? Best step away from the edge, my friend. Turning to see what horror awaits you next, you glimpse something from the corner of your eye. Was that- Yes... Another Grinning Tower across from this one? How many of these things could there be, you wonder? You may never know.
Encounters within The Eyes That See - Peering out those ocular openings, you may be buffeted by sandy winds aimed in your direction, the sound of rushing sand can make it difficult to hear, or a ghost may decide to give you a chilling fright as it gently send a blood-curdling shiver down your spine.
The Metal Ascent
A single flight of dark metal stairs rises towards a warped wooden door. You can still feel the eyes of the dead on you as you contemplate your next action, and you shudder at the thought of all those plant-covered corpses staring straight up at the ceiling, through it, at you.
Encounters in The Metal Ascent - The walls here are narrow and covered with sickly yellowed, toothless, jawbones. They seem to undulate slightly in the dim light. As you attempt to squeeze past, towards the stuck door, you swear you can feel bony fingers eerily caressing your legs, even beneath layers of clothing. The door is also jammed tightly and will require effort to open.
Beyond The Door
Once past the door of wood, warped into its frame as it may be, you'll discover the blighter's laboratory. Black and twisted plants grow over every inch of this room, forming tables and chairs, only breaking to reveal chalkboards covered in bizarre arcane formulae. As you take in the horrid sights and smells of decaying greenery, you barely noticed the echoing laughter. Like a combination of fingernails on slate and teeth rattling in a glass jar, the sound is most unnerving, and the source is currently unknown. Panicked, you scan the room for whatever monstrosity is emitting that cackling racket. There! In a dark corner of the room is a figure covered in grey vines and blood-red ivy, blending perfectly with the rest of the room. It is seated upon a throne of dirt from which all of the plants of this horrible place emanate. It rises slowly, and you can now see that there are two skulls perched upon the bone-thin frame. It begins to creak and stretch with an air of painfully swollen joints, and it points towards the domed ceiling...
Swinging down from above like a chandelier that suddenly broke loose, you are engulfed by a black mass of writing plant-matter. The massive decaying husk of tree and shrub, with pock marked vines of a grey and blue, latches onto your arm with a maw filled with row after row of rotting teeth and ichor-dripping thorns. The cackling grows louder as you struggle to detach the writhing monster of wood and plant-flesh. The room starts to swim and spin, as if you have lost too much blood or struck your head against something. The laughter is now infectious, as you start to cackle with glee. The monster's grip seems to far away as all you can do is laugh merrily at your own demise.
Encounters Beyond The Door - In this mad laboratory you will find yourself face-to-face with a terrible hanging plant, venomous and full of filed human teeth with which to bite you. The stench of rotting vegetation is overwhelming here. Thankfully, the now-deceased Loki Magi is only a shadow of his former self and will not be a threat, but more of a creepy, animate, ornamentation unless destroyed. This room may very well contain some powerful magic, from strange chemical elixers to staves of unknown wood, this is what you sought. Isn't it?
A History of Torturous Magic
LUNATICS! MADMEN! CRAVEN FOOLS, ALL!
To think you can take and take from The Earth and The Magic without sacrificing ALL of yourself, or even ANY of yourself. They are insane to dabble with such Devil-gifted words, their tongues bind them to a fate most vile! They must be banished, stricken from the books, sent to rot in their own hand-crafted doom! The Lotu Magi are a pox upon The Magic! To openly denounce give-and-take as child;s play, they are up to no good in those Grinning Towers. What could they be plotting in their forsaken homes of dried land and withered plants?
The Secrets of the Lotu Magi -
The Lotu Magi of the Grinning Towers are a powerful and wholly corrupt fusion of once-mortal and once-plant undeath. They were once a sect of cunning, sorcerous, men who, like many others, have fallen to their own power. It is unknown how many Grinning Towers really exist in the blighted Screaming Hills, but it is apparent that some great force sucked the life out of a once lushly forested region and turned it into the horrible desert of black wind that ti is today. When the Lotu Magi were at their peak of their re-known they sought to conquer the physical earth, to feed upon nature and gain strength themselves. To this end, they destroyed a vast swath of rich jungle, exterminating all that ever lived there, and using it to fuel their own profane arts. As they grew in power, their blighted realm grew to what it is now. Some claim it still grows, with each victim it claims, and that it is too deeply rooted to ever be relinquished.
These men of magic died from their greed, their disasterous desire to become more powerful, and now they sit in these Grinning Tower as animate bodies with only a semblance of intelligence. The Lotu Magi are little more than disturbing, skeletal gardeners at this point, who care for their masters, the plants. The decaying vines and masses of dead leaves are the final rulers of these haunted wastelands, they sap the life of any mortal being foolish enough to enter their domain.
Venture forth at your own peril.