Many of the stories at Raven's Lair are written in "shared universes" -- story settings that are shared in common by a large number of writers. Here are some intros to the worlds you'll find here.
In brief: Ordinary folks mutated by an alien virus try to get by in a near-future world.
The place is Earth, but not quite our Earth. The time is the middle of the 21st century. In the late 1990s a rock was found in Antarctica that scientists determined to be from Mars, and within that rock they found evidence of extraterrestrial life. In the world of Tales From the Blind Pig (TBP), this discovery sparked a new burst of space exploration by NASA, culminating in the launch of a probe that would land on Mars and return with soil samples, possibly confirming the existence of life outside Earth.
The mission seemed, at first, to go smoothly. When the Beagle Two returned to Earth in 2002, it was taken immediately to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, in case the samples it had collected were somehow contaminated.
Unfortunately, "contaminated" didn't even begin to describe it.
Though means as-yet unknown, containment was compromised, and something within the Martian samples escaped: an airborne virus with severe flu-like symptoms. Extremely contagious and with a long incubation time, the Martian Flu was soon carried far and wide by unsuspecting air travelers, causing severe outbreaks in every corner of the world. Hundreds of millions died -- six percent of the population in developed countries, far more in poorer regions -- and with even the survivors incapacitated for weeks, the world fell into chaos. Basic services were disrupted, and food failed to reach busy urban centers. (In a classic moment of bad timing, a massive earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, leading to a meltdown at the Palo Alto nuclear plant.) Word got out that the NASA mission was responsible for the outbreak, and the resulting panic did more damage than the Flu itself. Rioters, blaming science for their troubles, attacked universities and research centers across the country, torching libraries and laboratories. Others simply took advantage of the chaos to steal whatever they could.
The Collapse, as it was called, lasted only a short time in the United States -- after a brief period of martial law, order and basic services were restored -- but the incident would change the world. And what happened next would change even more.
Less than a year later, just when things were getting calmed down, some people began to change. Some became animals; others changed sexes; still others became children again, or fell victim to even stranger effects. Some even developed what could only be called superhuman powers. Dr. Robert Stein, who together with some of his associates had kept the CDC intact through the riots, discovered that each of these diverse changes had been brought on by the Martian Flu virus, a secondary effect that manifested in about 8 percent of Flu survivors. The phenomenon was called Stein's Chronic Accelerated Biomorphic Syndrome -- or SCABS, for short. It wasn't long before the victims began to be called Scabs as well.
The discovery of SCABS set off another wave of paranoid hysteria, one that would last for years. Eventually, though, people realized that Scabs weren't going away, and by 2020 things had settled down to a low simmer instead of a boil. Scabs came from all walks of life, all races, all creeds; no one was untouchable. Fortunately, if you hadn't SCABbed over within a year of getting the Flu, you were safe; SCABS itself was not contagious. Discrimination against Scabs was still relatively common, but open violence was more rare. All the same, Scabs found themselves banding together for protection and fellowship, and pockets of community developed across the world where Scabs could come to share the company of others like themselves.
In the City -- an unnamed town in the American "Rust Belt" that runs through Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia -- Scabs have found a relative safe haven. The Blind Pig Gin Mill, a bar and restaurant operated by a Scab named Donnie Sinclair, serves as a rallying point for the Scab community. Here Scabs and Scab-friendly "norms" can sit back and relax, share a drink and a story, play a game of pool, and just enjoy an evening in a place where they are embraced as equals. It's not in the best part of town, and it's not glitzy or high-class, but it's a place where everybody knows your name ... and your species.
In brief: The victims of a magical curse guard the narrow pass between a world that hates them and the mad wizard who would conquer them all.
Since the dawn of humanity, a castle has stood at the center of Metamor Valley, the sole passage between the Giantdowns of the north and the Midlands to the south. Haunted by a spirit, the Lady Kyia, who can change the shapes of rooms and passages at will, Metamor Keep stood empty for centuries, as the great Suielman Empire rose and fell. At last, after the Empire had broken apart and a new patchwork of feudal states had begun to rise in the Midlands, Kyia opened the gates of the keep to noble young Prince Ovid. Ovid's father granted him the title of Duke of Metamor and King of the Northern Midlands, and a new nation was born.
With the death of the Empire, however, a new ruler arose in the Giantdowns: the dark wizard, Nasoj. Granted supernatural power and unnaturally long life by Ba'al, the Prince of Daedra, Nasoj brought the warring humanoid tribes of the Northlands under his control. The short, hardy, green-skinned lutins and the tall, primitive giants were united with Nasoj's human subjects into a great horde, with which he hoped to conquer all the lands of the West. A bottleneck stood between him and the Midlands, however: the land of Metamor.
Nasoj tried to conquer Metamor once, but failed to take the Keep: the destructive magic he depended on was easily deflected by the spell-shields of the Keeper wizards. He withdrew to the Giantdowns to nurse his wounds. When he returned, ten years later, he had a surprise in store.
It was late summer, year 699 of the Cristos Reckoning. The hordes once more invaded the Valley and laid seige to Metamor Keep. As Nasoj and his subordinate mages approached the three gates of the Inner Keep, the Metamor wizards expected another barrage of destructive spells, and raised a shield to counter them. What Nasoj unleashed, however, were spells intended not to harm, but to transform -- and taking the Keeper mages by surprise, they broke through the shield. People at one gate were changed into dumb beasts; at a second, they were reduced to infants; at a third, the defenders were changed into mindless pleasure slaves, blind to anything but sexual desire. At the heart of the Keep, a circle of human mages held off the wave of magic and finally managed to counter it -- but only partially. Those who had been made beasts became humanoid again, but kept their fur, claws, and other animal traits. Those who had been infants grew older, but could not exceed an apparent age of about fourteen. Those who had been pleasure slaves regained their own minds and self-control, but remained members of the opposite gender.
The energies that made up the three spells, the counter-spell, and the inherent magic of the Keep swirled together and spread out across the Valley, blanketing it in a Curse so tangled that no mage could ever unweave it. Now, anyone older than fourteen who stays in Metamor Valley for more than a few days risks falling prey to the Curse, becoming part-animal, a child, or a member of the opposite sex. Transformation spells will work for a time, but inevitably the person changes back again to whatever form the Curse has selected for him.
The Keepers successfully fought back at the Battle of the Three Gates, driving Nasoj and his followers back into the Northlands. But where Metamor had once been the Jewel of the North, now the Keepers found themselves being treated with fear and suspicion by the human lands they had fought to protect. While the rulers of the West were generally pragmatic and continued to deal with Metamor, they would not send ambassadors to live there -- and among the common folk, the beast-people of Metamor were often shunned as monsters and demons.
Our story begins in 706 CR, seven years after the Battle of Three Gates. The Keepers continue to patrol the pass to the Giantdowns, fighting off lutin raiders and keeping a watchful eye for Nasoj's return -- for no one believes that they have heard the last of the dark wizard. And at the same time, other forces are in motion in the western lands -- gods and daedra lords vie for influence, the polytheistic Lightbringers struggle against the monotheistic Ecclesia, and everywhere prophecies are coming to fruition. No one knows what the future holds, but one thing is certain: the fates of many will be decided at Metamor Keep (MK).
In brief: A world where magic and technology have grown up alongside each other -- the future of Metamor Keep brought to life.
The MK2K Project is my vision of the future of the Metamor Keep story universe. You can read more about it here.