Curse

What Is the Curse?

The Curse is the most famous characteristic of Metamor Keep and its surrounding Valley, affecting all humans who live within. The Curse actually consists of three separate curses, which are:

  • The animorph curse ("animal morphs" or just "morphs"): a person is changed into a half-human half-animal creature that can shift into a full animal;
  • The transgender curse ("TG's", "transgender morphs" or Gendermorphs): a person is changed into the opposite gender, and can shift into a more handsome or more beautiful version;
  • The age-regression curse ("AR's", "age-regression morphs" or Pedomorphs): a person is changed into a child, and can shift through a range of ages down to toddlerhood and up to adolescence.

Any person who stays within Metamor Keep long enough (typically 7 days) will be afflicted with one of the three curses. Once the curse takes effect there is no way to stop or reverse it.

How The Curse Came to Be

Nasoj is an evil mage who dreams of conquering the world. He and his forces occupy most of the northern Giantdowns, but the Great Barrier Range prevents them from spreading further south. Only one clear path traverses this mountain range: Metamor Valley.

In 699 CR, Nasoj attacked the Valley, pushing them to a last stand at Metamor Keep. During this battle, known as the Battle of the Three Gates, Nasoj and his wizards cast three spells upon each of the gates, intended to sow chaos amongst the soldiers. One spell transformed its victims into incredibly buxom women or over proportioned men. Another spell made its victims full animals. The third infantilized its victims.

As these spells were being cast, the Keep mages performed a counterspell using the Keep's own inherent mana, but they could only partially reverse the effects of the spell. Both Nasoj's mages and the Keep's mages died from the casting, but it was enough to allow the Keepers to drive Nasoj back to the north. As people returned to the Valley, however, they soon discovered that these spells had a permanent effect on the Keep as well.

Who Is Affected By The Curse

There are two cases when someone would receive the curse. If they were present at the Battle of the Three Gates, then they are cursed. If they reside within the Valley for a long enough time, they are cursed. This length of time varies and can be as short as 5 days for some people, but after 2 weeks it will always take effect.

The source of the three spells remains the Keep's three gates, but the range has rapidly expanded to encompass much of the Valley. It is known that, within a few months, the current boundaries of the Curse had been set to about 12 miles in all directions from the Keep — about one day's ride — including upwards and downwards. These boundaries are tied to the level of mana at the Keep. Nobody knows it yet, but global mana levels are slowly rising — causing the borders of the Curse to very, VERY slowly expand (i.e. 2 feet every year).

Although the curse affects people who stay at the Keep, it doesn't usually take effect for people under the age of 14. Mages theorize that the curse draws its power from the confusing mix of hormonal and psychological changes brought on by puberty. Once a cursed person has reached the age of 14, the change will activate and will take the normal length of time to conclude.

The Change

Once the change activates, the subject's body will slowly change towards their new midform. This changes varies significantly from person to person. Some people have fully changed in a matter of seconds; in rare cases, a few have changed over the course of a month. In most cases, the change takes between a few days to a week to conclude. Some people find it a painful process that confines them to bed; for others, it is as painless as shifting. Mages believe there is some psychological element at play, that the change is as painful as the subject expects it to be.

Cursed children who go through puberty, also go through the change, even if they have left the Valley. AR's show no visible effect of their transformation; it is only by gaining the ability to shift between toddler and 14 that they would notice their curse at all.

Which Curse?

During the Battle of the Three Gates, people received a curse depending on which of the Three Gates they were closest to. Most people in the palace itself were closest to the animal gate. Of the soldiers at the battle, the AR's suffered the most casualties compared to the TF's and TG's. This is why so many members of the court are animal morphs, and why AR's are relatively fewer in number than TG's or TF's.

Since the Battle, the three curses overlap each other enough so that the curse is, more or less, completely random. Contemporary mages theorize that belief or desire, as well as need, may have some impact on the manifestation of the curse; re: Murikeer Khunnas having dog-like legs rather than plantigrade normal to skunks, and that the Sorceress Kozaithy became a skunk after being rescued by one.

Although the vast majority of written characters receive the animal curse, this is purely authorial preference. No official surveys of Metamor have been done, but it is known that there is a higher proportion of animal morphs than child or gender morphs living within the Keep. Some speculate it is because animal morphs are feared and persecuted outside of Metamor, unlike gender or child morphs who can and do travel back south.

Having two or more curses was possible during the Battle, but they are rare and would have happened under exceptional circumstances. Newcomers to the Keep may also receive more than one aspect of the curse under rare circumstances, for example the papal knight Bryonoth was initially stricken by the gendermorph aspect, becoming a human female, and subsequently stricken by the animorph aspect to become an Assingh mare. Anyone wanting to have a character who mixes 2 or 3 of the changes must get permission from the universe controller and have a reasonable idea to explain why it occurs.

Which Animal?

Any animal form is acceptable. At the present there is a Grasshopper and a spider morph at the keep. Extinct species (like dire wolves) and mythical ones (like griffons) are also allowed, and there is even a tree, Laracin. The only exception to that rule is dragon morphs, which do exist but are very rare. Be creative! If in doubt feel free to ask the universe controller.

Often the animal will have some significance to the person, such as being native to their homeland or having similar behavioral traits. Many scholars and mages believe something within the subject is able to direct the curse somewhat, though what it is and why it can is not known.

How Animal Forms Work

In general animorphs have two aspects of their curse; a bipedal, anthropomorphic "morph" form most familiar within Metamor, and the normal "full" form of their new species. Hands tend to be the most markedly limited; hooved animals such as deer and horses typically have fewer but thicker fingers that terminate in small hoof-like tips. This affects their fine manipulation, but most have learned to manage this shortcoming. Dentition remains within the range of their new form but, oddly, their digestive system is almost unaltered from its human state. Herbivores can consume a varied, omnivorous diet and carnivores are perfectly capable of consuming a very vegetative diet if they desire.

Typically the default normal aspect is this bipedal form, with varied levels of human-like appearance. Some appear to be little more than humans with modest animal traits, while others are little more than animals with enough human traits to get by - hands and speech, typically.

Many animorphed keepers, especially early in the establishment of the curse, could not handle their new changes mentally. Some become trapped in their new form, but retain some semblance of their intelligence and personality, while others are no more than what the curse has made them into, both mind and body. Others are able to assume their bipedal form, but revert to their animal nature under stress.

Changing Forms

The counter-curse is tied into some inherent aspect of the Keep that lies within the voluntary control of all Metamorians. This means that, with practice, even a non-magic user is able to affect how strongly the counter-curse acts against the curse — in effect, allowing them to change towards the baser form of the curse, back towards their default mid-state.

Note that, by changing forms, Keepers can change their size and weight with no ill effects. There seems to be no limit to the variation exhibited by changing, as long as the form reflect the type of curse, and the subject can picture the form in their head and open themselves up to it.

Transgender victims

Transgender victims can change from an average looking person to a bombshell. Most don't find this of any practical use, though some take pride in the extreme proportions they can take on.

The transgender curse, being based on the idea of attractiveness, is quite malleable compared to the other two curses. With practice, victims can alter several aspects of their personal appearance, from the color of their hair and eyes to the shape of their nose to their overall height, weight, and build. Some can even make themselves appear uglier. Maintaining these changes long enough becomes easier over time, and could eventually become part of their default appearance. This ability makes them excellent spies, both for Metamor but also occasionally against it.

With considerable will, effort, and practice, gendermorphs can mimic their original gender's appearance for a short period of time. However, this does not return their biological functions; formerly male victims cannot sire children, and formerly female victims cannot bear children.

Age regression victims

Those who have age-regressed to childhood are, in the norm, stuck between the ages of toddler (3 years) and pubescent age (13 years). They generally have another age to default to, which can be different for every individual, whether due to preference, stress, or trauma. Generally, AR's at work will stay at 13 to indicate their maturity, and shift to a younger age for play. By and large pedomorphs do not have any ability to alter their appearance via the curse.

Some very few who have prodigious wills and through considerable effort are able to push their appearance beyond the bounds of the curse. They can appear to be fully adult for a time. This is an extremely difficult ability to learn, and one that requires utmost concentration to maintain, but it is possible. Likewise, for whatever purpose, they can even take on the aspect of newborns for a time.

Animorph victims

Animalized victims generally have less control over their curse than gendermorphs; they cannot return to their human appearance even temporarily, or give themselves back human fingers if they have lost them. However, their animal instincts help them easily adapt to their fully animal, or 'feral', forms.

Several years after the Curse, Misha got caught in a spell tampering with the curse itself, which changed his form into a mix of anthro and full morph, combining the four legs and body of a fox with the arms and torso of his anthro self — he had become a foxtaur. Although he was soon able to change back, other animal morphs began experimenting with this possibility, and found that it was possible for themselves to shift into this form without magic. (This is purely a matter of author's preference — if an author wants their characters able to change into a taur then the characters can. If not, then the characters can't change to that form.)

Only animal morphs can become taurs, not Gender or Age morphs. Foxtaur, skunktaur, rat-taur are cool but no humantaurs. Mind you it might make a really good (& strange) TF story. As to why some can and some cannot change into a taur, who knows? The curse is a strange thing.

If a person can change, mastering the new form and the methods to achieve it is not easy. It takes a long time to fully master the form. Walking and moving is easily mastered, but other, harder things take practice. It will take a lot of practice before Matt has fully adapted and can use the Sondeck as a rat-taur, or Misanthe to speak in her feral fox form. The biggest advantage and disadvantage is size. Being big is great in combat but a real problem in the tight hallways of the Keep.

Non-Humans and the Curse

The curse was only cast against the human inhabitants of the Keep, so only creatures that have human blood can be affected by the curse. This means that half-blood lutins, were-creatures, and other human 'cousins' are vulnerable to the curse. Topo is an example of this happening. The weremouse tarried too long at Metamor Keep and picked up the characteristics of a falcon as a result.

It should be noted that the curse will only affect the human part of a hybrid species. Elves are though to be immune to the effects, as legend has it that they are descendants of the fey folk, though this has not been tested as elves are hardly seen outside their forests in these times.

Pregnancy, Offspring, and the Curse

Authors are free to choose whether or not their characters can produce offspring or become pregnant. The rules, as they stand, allow anyone of the three Curses to procreate with an untransformed human. In any case, having children, or revealing an unknown child, is ALWAYS considered a major interaction, and can only be done with the express permission of the characters' owners.

Most offspring for any of the below will result in uncursed human children. If they reside in the Valley long enough, they will receive the curse just as any other pre-pubescent child would. However, if they are born away from Metamor, or removed within the grace period after birth, they do not typically manifest the curse upon reaching puberty. Apparently the period of pregnancy is immune to the touch of the curse.

Age-regression victims

When a person receives the age curse, they can shift in age from 3 to 13, and have a default age that they become when not actively shifting. This age varies by individual, but is usually about 9. Most ARs tend to lose their sexual libido, and thus do not procreate. But if an AR is capable of and willing to shift to 13, they can engage in intercourse and produce offspring.

If an AR woman becomes pregnant, they lose the ability to shift out of puberty, until the child is born or lost.

An untransformed pregnant woman who receives the AR curse will shift down to the offset of puberty, and remain there until the child is born or lost.

Transgender victims

A man who becomes a woman will typically gain the ability to become pregnant, and lose the ability to impregnate regardless of their ability to master their manifestation of the Curse. The reverse is true for woman who become men. If a character was impotent before the Curse, however, that will be healed by the curse as all other infirmities are healed, insofar as their new gender allows.

An untransformed pregnant woman can still receive the gender curse, but the effects will not appear until after the child is born or lost. Once their womb is empty, they will immediately transform, even if the woman has long left the Valley.

Animorph victims

An uncursed human, or an AR/TG human (provided the above circumstances), can still produce offspring with an animal morph. There is no rule that prevents this from happening even with non-mammalian morphs. Since Metamor Keep is a PG-13-rated universe, we politely ask that you refrain from describing the equipment or mechanics involved.

A person who is trapped in full morph can also produce offspring with humans and morphs — again, and with greater emphasis, we ask that you refrain from describing details. Most people in MK will react to this with as much disgust as with an untransformed animal.

Animal morphs cannot produce offspring with untransformed animals, even if they are the same species, and even if the morph is in full animal form. This is also very poorly received by the populace, if not moreso than a mere un-cursed human practicing such.

On rare occasions, especially if the parents are of the same species and same breed, the child will be born with the animal curse, taking the same species as their parents (i.e. Lord and Lady Avery). Even if they are not exactly the same, they could be born with the same form as either their mother or the father. If the female is considerably smaller than the male, the fetus will adapt to her physical norms regardless of the size of the sire. If one member is an un-cursed human the resulting fetus will also be an un-cursed human.

Health and the Curse

One unexpected, though welcome, side-effect of the change is that injuries and illnesses sustained in the original body, excluding amputations or pre-existing conditions, are removed as a result of the body reshaping itself. Some describe it as akin to a slight age-regression, putting them in the prime of their life. Although this is appealing to the elderly, it does not usually significantly extend their lifespan — their current health issues may be fixed, but it won't stop other age-related issues from following.

The curse does not prevent aging. AR's will naturally appear young and feel youthful, but underneath the curse, their body will continue to age and eventually fall apart. Most animal morphs age similarly to humans; in some cases, the animal influence will affect their aging process, giving them a slightly shorter or longer natural lifespan.

After a person dies, they do not revert to their default form, or to their original uncursed self. Their body remains as it was at the moment of death.

Decorum and Manners Among the Cursed

The people at Metamor Keep are facing a great evil together. They have learned to live and let live, and be peaceful towards each other.

Although plenty of Cursed victims retain their original mind, all three curses can affect the mind or personality to reflect their new form, especially under stress. In light of this, social norms are a bit more relaxed at the Keep, compared to the Midlands. Rodent morphs, for example, are often seen carrying chewing sticks to gnaw on.

Metamor is, and has been, a far more egalitarian culture in respect to gender roles and that has become even more apparent since the curses. Both women and men can be seen working in jobs typified by the other gender. However, some TG's are very attached to their gender, and find it hard to adjust and comport themselves as they did before the curse. Others have problems with their new intimate urges; they still desire the gender that they preferred before the curse. Crossdressing is not unusual among TG's, and is tolerated a great deal more than it would to the south.

There is a divide among animorphs concerning the acceptability of public nudity in morph form. Some Keepers are known to never wear clothing. Others still hold onto their modesty, even when their equipment isn't highly visible. Although there does exist clothing and armor that can magically shift with an animal morph's form, it tends to be too rare and expensive for most people.

In particular to animorphs: When assuming a 'feral' form, they often adorn themselves to indicate that they are more than a random, purely normal, animal. Typically it will be a scarf, beads, braids, fur dye, or bells that mark them as 'touched by an intelligent hand' as a farmer might a domesticated deer or wolf.

The Curses and Faith

This is a complicated and tricky situation for both of the dominant faiths within Metamor; the Ecclesia and the Lightbringers.

Pedomorphs are able to practice their faith, intimate, and familial situations, relatively without limitation. They are able to marry, though it is preferred that the marry others are likewise cursed with this aspect; but they are not barred from marrying those with other aspects of the curse. Animorphs face a good bit of complexity in their social situations, but species are not barred from mixing with humans when it comes to intimate and family situations.

The transgenders, however, run into a formidable barrier. Due to the fact that the curse affects the body but not the mind, many transgenders still find themselves leaning toward the gender they preferred before the curse. This has caused the established religions to balk rather profoundly at these now commonplace same-sex relationships. The Lightbringers are rather egalitarian; although such familial arrangements are not preferred, they are accepted. The Ecclesia, to date, acknowledges unions established before or beyond the bounds of the curse, but will not officiate over any subsequent matrimony between members of the same gender.

None are denied entry into either faith as long as they meet the requirements of that faith. The new Pontiff of the Ecclesia is even willing to accept child and non-human Clergy - but only for the Metamor diocese. The only requirement is that they are male when ordained (to date, no ordained priest or religious in the Ecclesia has received the transgender curse if they were ordained prior to being cursed).

How Outsiders See The Curse

Animorphs have the greatest difficulties beyond the immediate region of Metamor and kingdoms that border it because they are no longer able to appear human whatsoever. While some are able to travel abroad, they generally do so under their full form either to blend in with the wilderness (and unfortunately expose themselves to unknowing hunters), or with humans who act as their 'handlers'. However, just as many, if not more, are enslaved by their handlers and forced to accompany them. Due to the limitations of their appearance, far more animorphs remain within Metamor's borders than any other aspect of the curse.

Those who have been changed from the gender of their birth to the opposite gender (and gorgeous representative thereof) are most easily able to blend into the current human world. It is therefore one of the most desirable of the curses, in particular among women who come to Metamor from more male dominated cultures.

Magic and the Curse

Since this is a magical universe, it is possible to affect transformations other than the normal ones. But such magic can only be used in addition to the Keep transformation, and is unable to restore the original form or general species of the person. Extremely powerful transformations are forbidden. Attempting to modify the curse will only result in exacerbating it or worsening it. Mere exposure to powerful magic can be damaging.

The only people who have some ability to remove the curse are mages who work under Nasoj. Such cases should be very rare and should be approved this with the universe controller.

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