This innocuous town of seven hundred some odd souls, comprised of six dozen families and clans, sits at the confluence of a river delta, marking the invisible border between the sea-water and sediment filled rills of the coast, and the gently cambering canals of the inland Wieber Flats, a spongy, loamy, and most of all flat terrain, stretching for two score miles west, until the hills and highlands of Stonlemmer, finally come into view.
The town, interestingly enough, is laid out in a sophisticated grid, much like the cosmopolitan cities of the north, yet thatch, mud-brick, and peat, are the order of the day, casting a peculiar pall over the town, at once both ramshackle and yet elegantly structured. Poles, dowels and stilts are everywhere, erupting from the flat, mucky terrain like a forest of smoothened wood. These vertical wooden beams and supports hold up countless octagonal-shaped houses and tents of wood, pitch, and mud, and reeds. The overwhelming colors of Wieberburl are drab olive greens, grays, and sepias.
The townsfolk of Wieberburl are a dichotomy. On one hand, the Burls, as they call themselves, are an assiduous and hardworking lot, one the other, a people much given to superstition and frivolity. By day, the populace plies the salt flats and ankle-breaking rills of their surrounding homeland, harvesting salt, and navigating the fens, bogs, and shallow, slow moving rivers of their peculiar locale. By night, the Burls are often found celebrating numerous local festivals, and engaging in strange customs and rituals.
Many tales and anecdotes from the less rustic towns and cities north of Wieberburl often disparage and chide the Burls, much like other cultures and lands pour scorn on a certain, selected peoples, with all the usual implies concerning the backwards, colloquial, and rural, ‘Salt-Eaters’. For their part, the Burls equally dislike the ‘Drywalkers’ of parts north and west. At the same time, Burls can often be found making their way among the markets and bazaars of distant cities, selling and bartering their prized pouches of salt, and their unmatched cured and salted fish husks.
All in all, Wieberburl is not an unusual place, except for one fantastic note of interest and mystery.
The scrolls include the legend of the Book-Fish, and two possible mini-scenarios for investigating PCs.
Additional Ideas (3)
Professor Mulcan Amayre of Nimz said it best when he exclaimed in jest, "Have you heard of the Wieberburl Anomaly? Apparently in their waters, there swims the fabled Ichthyobibleophagyklept!".
"Gesundheit", a student replied.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe what this phenomenon entails, may be to describe what it doesnt entail. Thousands of unconfirmed rumors, misconceptions, and theories exist. The farther one travels from Wieberburl, the more fantastic the tales become.
The book-fish is not a talking fish. This needs to be stated before all else. Neither is it an animate, waterproof, swimming book, which can take on the shape of a fish. These two ridiculous notions, are actually believed in far away courts and countries, as the rumors increase in lunacy, the farther one travels from Wieberburl.
In truth, it all began three hundred years ago, when Nollis the mid-wife, discovered a sextidecimo tome, buried inside the belly of a river carp. A great commotion occured, and somehow, the actual book was lost in the excitement of the town dwellers, stolen away perhaps, no one could know. To this day, no one can truly say what words were written on the pages of the bizarre Ichthyic folio.
For several centuries, going back to the Time of Gatherings, the Burls have been occasionally finding bizarre sextodecimo books, wrapped cleverly in stretched sailcloth, inside the stomachs of actual fish!
Countless theories have been put forth over the years, explaining the origins and existence of the original fish book.
Some say that the very earth erodes beneath the salty rivers of Wieber Flats, sometimes exposing sinkholes in the muddy banks and river bottoms of the normally shallow waterways. Buried, stone-encased bibliocrypts of the now extinct river people known only as the ‘Binders’, may have been displaced from beneath the river floor, and the books, sealed in specialized, fully waterproof sailcloth, may have inadvertently dislodged during these collapses. Large, river carp swimming by on occasion swallow whole, these protected treatises. Or so the theory goes. The Binders themselves were according to local lore, a race ‘enlightened’, but wiped out long ago by crusading hammers of the One True Faith. They had hidden their knowledge it is said, in this peculiar way, squirreling their wisdoms and teachings, beneath the muddy banks of the once deeper rivers, entombed in stone casks and wrapped in (unknown to the current population) an incredibly resilient form of nylon, a material the Binders had invented long ago. The secrets behind the making of this substance are now lost.
There are more tomes to be found! What inexplicable secrets may be discovered in the pages of these books cannot be known.
Kebby Latrine- the noseless river guide, who hires himself out to any one with coin, and swears to take them to the ‘best spots’ to try and catch a legendary book-fish. Where once a proud proboscis grew, now hangs a half-inch of gnarled, flapping flesh, quivering whenever Kebby breathes in and out through his bare nostrils. He lost his nose to an insidious ‘jumping gar’, a malodorous species of fish found in the brackish waterways of the Wieber Flats. Kebby is an unpleasant but loyal henchman. If paid, he sees the job through.
Sister Pautiyna- a wiry, pate-shaven leader of a small, harmless cult of Gnostics, in search of the ‘wisdoms’ of the ‘Riverbinders’, the proper name for the Binders, she will tell anyone who asks. She will go on to say that her cult is here to investigate the legend of the book-fish, and compare it to another grimoire, which she possesses. If indulged, she will tell the PCs that the Riverbinders ultimate philosophy, involved the human race's evolution. The Riverbinders believed that Man would return to the seas once more as fish, as they had emerged eons ago in reverse. She will show the curious, tablets with strange etchings, depicting men, fish, and cephalopods in various poses of co-joining combinations.
Tiyo and the Gull despise each other in public, pitting their respective clans against one another in ever increasing feuds over salt-farm acres and rights. In private however, they are co-perpetrators of an ongoing con, involving the spread and dissemination of the myriad tales, myths, and legends surrounding the famous book-fish, which in and of itself was no miracle nor great magic in truth, but a surreptitious serendipitous event, involving the once infamous monk, Eighledis, who upon being captured and temporarily imprisoned inside a fish cellar, somehow managed to stuff and hide a court-banned folio of axioms and prayers, inside the carcass of a gutted carp, seconds before the inquisitors came to gut Eighledis himself.
This was the very tome, which Nollis the mid-wife had discovered, putting Wieberburl on the map for the first time, three hundred years ago. Tiyo and the Gull are this generations opportunists. By engendering interest in the Great Mystery, the pair of rapscallions enlivens Wieberburls tourism industry, which in turn peppers the town with coin. For the last three hundred years, the discoveries of books, inside dead and some inside even living (!) fish, have all been hoaxes and forgeries! The only thing worse for investigating PCs, would be to discover a book of their own, while on expedition in the fens, deep inside the bowels of a huge, red-scaled...herring.
Lesher Tiyo- known only as Tiyo, or Granfather is the suthcundsman of Wieberburls Lesher clan. A stodgy, waterlogged, bushy-browed, otter of a man, Tiyo is the mayor and settler of disputes. The Leshers are a prominent family, controlling numerous salt farms (nothing more than vast fields of piled, drying salt mounds, well defended by hired guards), and owners of at least a half dozen river barges.
Gulbert Mysk- the Gull, Mysk is the suthcundsman of the Mysk clan, barge rovers, merchants, and traditional rivals of the Lesher clan. A wan, salacious man of fifty, the Gull can often be found shrieking about the constantly changing prices of a gram of salt.
(Despite Gulberts nickname, few Burls have ever seen an actual gull in their lifetime, as the sea birds rarely fly inland into the Wieber Flats.)