In Wendar, there is a specialized branch of natural science that has made the discovery that the skins of all snakes can be read like books. As they grow, the animals continually revise and expand themselves, shedding old knowledge for new. The most common and convenient method of reading a snake is to have it slither through an ivory serpent-reader, (a sphere with ornately carved orifices and channels). Common snakes are usually fairly uninteresting works – garter snakes tend to be cookbooks, corn snakes are generally works of adventure fiction with cliché characters or too-convenient endings. Rarer breeds – 100’ anacondas, albino cobras – often contain long-forgotten secrets or comprise unique works of poetry or philosophy.
Giant snakes are typically encyclopedias or great multi-volume sagas representing the myths and theogonies of entire cultures. Nagas are linguistic texts, translating from the languages of snakes to the languages of humans. The snakes growing from the heads of medusae are generally reference works and the medusae themselves are often cataloguers – tending private libraries containing nothing but caged snakes, selectively breeding exotic and daring new works. These librarians also catalogue and breed books, though in a far less dilettantish and casual fashion – they believe that careful control of cross-species breeding can and will one day unveil a Great Glistening Book containing all the secrets of creation.
It is said that beneath the city is a cabal of wizard-scholars tending to a chained Lernean Hydra. These scholars carefully transcribe and translate the information gleaned from the beast’s skin before pruning off each head in turn and reading what grows in its place, thereby nurturing a constantly updated stream of knowledge.
Dragons are books of magic spells. Owing to the difficulty of reading them while alive, complete dragon hides will almost always fetch a higher price from the right sorcerer or alchemist than from any armorer. Pseudodragons are helpful but incomplete summaries of the contents of their larger brethren. Scholars disagree: the amphisbaena is either a palindrome or a work which reveals an entirely different (yet equally coherent) narrative when read backwards. The skins of snake-demons contain horrible secrets and blasphemies…