Season 1 Episode 4: Struck Down With Spirit Voice
I had planned to introduce my primary guide in Dunari, Shinytop, in this episode. Unfortunately, I have been struck down with a Dunari throat infection called Spirit Voice. Because of this, I will describe how Spirit Voice affects me, how it can be treated, and what may happen when you tell people you’re sick.
Segment two analyses how using illnesses can add depth to your worldbuilding.
And in the ‘Strange but True’ section, I explain how a ghost can get ill.
The concept of what illnesses are like in other dimensions.
How to create illnesses to use in your world building.
Each show will be summarized in letter form. These are the letters I would have written from Dunari to my parents if I’d been able to do so at the time.
Eight minutes reading time.
Hello again from Dunari.
I had planned to introduce Shinytop, my guide, in this episode. But I have been struck down with a Dunari throat infection called Spirit Voice, so I will tell you about that instead.
But please, please, please, please don’t panic. I will be okay.
Right now, I am so hoarse I sound like someone else. This illness has nothing to do with spirits, though. It’s an ancient name, originating from ancient stories about inhaling loose spirits, and how that spirit then tries to talk through you.
Although this was proved nonsense, the old tales persist. They love their old tales here. And there are plenty of back street ‘quack healers’ who’ll cash in on those tales by promising to ‘exorcise’ the spirt from you.
The first time I caught Spirit Voice, Ganhook gave me no medicine because he wanted me to build immunity.
My throat stayed raw for weeks. Shinytop and Stein Cat took advantage of this. They love talking about themselves. And while I was stuck in bed, they spent much of those weeks blabbing on and on to me about how great they were.
I was a captive audience, you see.
The only peaceful place was the bathroom. Even when I locked myself in there, some of Stein Cat’s ghosts passed through the walls to blab their sob stories to me, too.
The second time I caught Spirit Voice, Ganhook gave me medicine, and the infection cleared up in two days.
The third time I caught it, he packed me off to visit a back street healer. He said I needed to experience these healers as part of my Dunari education.
The healer was a shabby little man based in a shabby little place found on a shabby little backstreet close to the Terflue Docks. This was no surprise. The Mostra Spine fishers tied up at the Terflue, and they were the most superstitious of all, which meant there was almost as many quack healers and spiritualists around there as there was taverns and hostels.
He sat me down in a tiny, windowless room. The walls were lined with shelves, and the shelves were crammed with coloured goblets, each half filled with a noxious smelling liquid that caught in my throat..
The stink was so bad, I was soon ready to claim ‘I’m cured forever’ just to get out of the place.
Before I could leave, he started chanting through the walls. Babbling nonsense. If I hadn’t been focussed so hard on breathing without coughing, I’d have burst out laughing.
On and on, this babbling went. I don’t know how long it lasted. But long after I’d paid the healer and left, that babbling stayed in my head like an earworm.
To distract myself, I decided to treat myself to some sugar chocolate on the way home.
Unfortunately, because my voice was so bad, the shop assistant couldn’t understand what I wanted to buy. Trying to be helpful, I explained my condition.
The instant he heard that I’d lost my voice, his face whitened. He threw his hands in the air and muttered old, nonsensical prayers, which, oddly, sounded similar to the backstreet healer’s chantings.
And when that didn’t drive me off, he pelted fruit at me.
Having a tomato explode in your face is a great motivator to run.
I fled back to the fortress.
Shinytop laughed when I told him about the shop assistant’s reaction.
‘Never, ever, ever tell people you’ve lost a part of yourself,’ he said. ‘Ever! Some of them really believe you’ve lost it, that your voice is off somewhere, loose, and whispering mischief into peoples’ ears.’
While this sounded ridiculous, I was glad I’d found this out now. Who knows what might have happened if I’d ever joked with a stranger that, ‘I’d lost my mind.’
So, Mum and Dad, now I will lecture you about adding illnesses to your worldbuilding.
There’s an old Dunari saying that ‘A sneeze can change a world’.
And it’s true.
This saying is attributed to the legend of a monster slaying archer called Evoir, who fought to save an ancient city from . . . a monster.
As the beast approached the city’s gate, Evoir had a perfect shot at its weak point. But just as she released the arrow, she sneezed, and nailed the beast’s ass instead.
Enraged, the beast destroyed the city.
The ‘sneeze that changed the world’ happened because a virus in the hero’s throat decided to reproduce by spreading countless versions of itself. Perhaps if this virus knew that its actions would cause ‘death by enraged monster’ to its potential hosts, it might have held off the sneeze for a few seconds.
But viruses aren’t known for intelligence, so . . .
And if a sneeze can change a world, what could a more potent illness do?
Adding sickness is a must do in world building.
But how do you find inspiration for your world’s diseases?
From your own experience. Even a common cold can level our mood to misery. Maybe you can use the memory of past illness misery to introduce drama into your world and stories.
But beware. Start small. If you set a plague loose without lots of forward planning, you may inadvertently kill everyone in your world, which could complicate the world building process.
And don’t make your hero to be too sick so they can’t do anything.
Maybe it’s better if your hero is suffering in bed. All she wants is to get sympathy from her friends while getting drunk on hot whiskey. But she’s the hero. When heroic things need doing, she’s got to drag herself from bed to do them.
Not only will memories of past illnesses help your worldbuilding, they will also give you a pleasant feeling that something positive came from your suffering.
Create an illness that will complicate things for people, without complicating the world or story too much. Once you create a few minor illnesses, you might find that, like many viruses, these illnesses will mutate and become something bigger and more interesting.
You will hear more about Dunari illnesses and the health system here in future episodes.
For now, maybe you can just contemplate how to create a ‘Sneeze that Changes the World.’
That’s it for now. As usual, there is a ‘Strange but True’ segment at the end of the podcast.
Goodbye. Or as we say in Dunari, Dreavik!