Season 1 Episode 10: Dunari Junk Mail

In this episode I am officially introduced to the magical substance, lavun.

I also analyze how to normalize magic in your world, and make it more believable.

The Strange but True segment details an unusual ritual that has evolved around Two-Tone-Tam, the skeleton trapped in Ganhook’s dome protection spell.

Key Takeaways

How to introduce magic in your world.

How to think about various levels of magic in your world.

Show Notes

Each show will be summarised in letter form. These are the letters I would have written to my family and friends if I’d been able to do so at the time.

Reading time: 8 minutes.

Dear Everyone

The morning after my escape attempt, I was expecting Ganhook to put some restrictions on my movements to stop me trying to escape again.

Instead, he arrived at my room and announced I’d be ‘officially’ introduced to lavun.

He told me that lavun was discovered by a farmer called Joade Mygge, who realised that some of his crops grew better than others in some newly discovered land west of the Algoth Mountains that he’d claimed.

All Ganhook added to this was to say that lavun evolved from fertilising plants to powering the world. There were two types of lavun. Lavun light, which powers everyday things. And pure lavun, which powers ‘very powerful’ things.

He showed me raw lavun. It resembled a brown peppercorn held within a stabilising mist cocoon.

Oh, he also said that while Mygge wanted to name this new substance after himself, nobody else agreed, and it got named lavun instead.

It’s a good job our ancestors weren’t stupid just because they lived way back in the past.  

I mean, which sounds better. ‘I’m preparing a Mygge spell to . . . ’ or ‘I’m preparing a lavun spell to . . . ’

After this ‘super fascinating’ (blah blah) history lesson, Ganhook led me outside to the bone wall. He then explained that he rarely used the official compound entrance which was located at the fortress.

It was easier to use ‘alternative means’.

When I quizzed him about this, he said that all the relics in the city attracted crowds of curious people, and crowds attracted peddlers, beggars and thieves.

And spies.

He made the compound sound like a tourist attraction.

Without a word of warning, he did something to the wall, and an opening appeared. A flexible door, he said, adding that he could open it anywhere along the wall.

This stunned me. Not because of the concept (which was cool), but because this opening clearly resembled the inter-dimensional gateway I’d opened beneath Keyes Manor.

The darkness was the same. The stench of burned hair was the same.

Now, I hope you realise by now that I’m no coward. But even thought I knew the opening only led into the space between the compound’s walls, it was similar enough to the interdimensional gateway to terrify me.

That gateway had destroyed my life.

I also realised that Ganhook wasn’t just showing me a doorway through a wall. He was challenging me to face my fears of the technology that powers these types of advanced gateways.

How did I know this?

Because he told me. He said that everyone, without exception, was traumatised by their first inter-dimensional gateway experience. They had to conquer that fear. It was, he said, a bit like getting back on a sand flyer after falling off it for the first time.

Sand flyer?

I’d no idea what that was. He really could have used a better example. Bicycle would have sounded better.

Yet, somehow, I passed in through the opening. And while I should have felt good about it (and I did, only later), a storm of eerie voices zoomed in on me from within the darkness of The Space.

Advertising voices!

Yes. You read correctly. Those voices advertised things from fish markets to funeral parlours.

Spell advertising, Ganhook said, powered by lavun light.

Once he’d assured me they were harmless, he ranted about how lavun was being used for all the wrong reasons and that the Lavun Guild were suffering a personnel shortage because the apprentices were leaving to get better money elsewhere.

That was bizarre enough. But when he told me that he was deliberately trapping these spells in The Space so that he could recycle them and extract the lavun from them for his own use, Ganhook earned a whole new level of respect from me.

It was genius. Pure genius.

The purpose of the two walls, Ganhook told me, was protection. While the outer wall let the lavun spells through, they remained trapped in The Space because the inner wall was impenetrable. This 1. Protected the compound. 2. Stopped all these spells building up outside, thus causing instability in the wall structure.

He then added that it would be my job to enter The Space ever fortnight to gather up the loose spells and recycle them.

Initially, I though he was pranking me.

He wasn’t. He’d been performing this task for years, and he was tired of it.

When I asked him why Stein Cat didn’t take over, he said that while the cat was smart, cats weren’t good with lavun. It was a human thing, he claimed.

The only consolation for me was that I would start this task for a while yet.


Advertising spells!

I could never have guessed this would be my first ‘official’ introduction to lavun.

But by exposing me to such an ‘annoying’ thing, Ganhook made lavun slightly less threatening than before. His plan was to make it relatable so I’d better understand it.

It was also nice to know that Ganhook could moan like the rest of us. It made him more human. 

In Dunari, manipulating lavun is seen as just another job. A normalised technology.

Those that use it range from advertisers to master mages.

The more I understood lavun, the more I realised that a magic system could be more interesting if it had different tiers and uses.

If there is a powerful, magical energy source available to your world, why would it not be beneficial to all?

Nuclear weapons give great power. For obvious reasons, this power needs to be strictly controlled. But the same substance powers countless other things for countless ordinary people, too.

What destroys a city can cure cancer.

Like everything else, magic just doesn’t magically ‘appear’ out of nowhere. In order to become useful, magic must be discovered and refined over countless years. That’s how any useful substance becomes useful.

Electricity went from treating pain in ancient Greece to powering the world today.

Along the way, nobody harnessed it and kept it for themselves.

Lavun followed a similar route. While its most powerful uses are strictly controlled, a form of it powers numerous things in Dunari.

Lavun was never meant to power that ‘junk advertising’ I heard. But no great power has ever existed that isn’t evolving or open to exploitation.

A magic system is a continuous process.

To understand lavun, I had to think about how a magic system evolved? Nothing remains static. If so, it fades because the world—every world—constantly moves forwards. Magician’s need to keep up, to innovate.

Ordinary people will always experiment with technology and, for good and bad, create extraordinary things.

Someone will always come up with something new.

Ganhook, a master mage, had plenty to complain about regarding how lavun was used. This gave me a much better picture of him.

It led me, over time, to interview other magic practitioners to discover what they ‘really’ thought of their jobs?

This furthered my lavun knowledge.

Here’s some ‘very cut down’ sample interviews:

Interview 1:

‘What do you do?’ I asked a magic practitioner.

‘I’m a magician,’ the practitioner replies.

‘How exciting,’ I say.

‘It’s not.It’s boring,’ the practitioner replies. ‘I’m stuck in a dead end job. And I’ve another twenty-two years of servicing lavun spells and decommissioning out of date spells before I can retire to the jamodin coast.’

Or it can go like this:

‘What do you do?’ I asked.

‘Oh, well, actually, I’m a magician. Third level.’

‘How exciting.’

‘Not exciting. Exhilarating. I’m in the Lavun Guild’s Research and Development department. We build and test the new stuff. And we’ll both be arrested if I tell you about any of that stuff.’

Naturally, the interview ended there. But all the interviews gave me great insight into how everyone has different views on what lavun is, how it should be used, and how it can be improved, and so on . . .

And also try to find out how these characters are first introduced to magic.

Just ‘giving’ a character some magic ability dilutes the importance of the magic.

They need to learn about it. They need to earn the right to use it.

Anyone can switch on a light-bulb. But if you want to wire a house, you’ll need to train as an electrician first.


Next time, I describe how I ‘partially’ met my ancestors who came here before me. And I examine how art can help with worldbuilding.

Until then, goodbye.

Or as we say in Dunari, Dreavik!