Season 1 Episode 5: Magic Words Won’t Cure Me

Because I am still suffering from Spirit Voice, Shinytop has banned me from formally introducing him. He says it’s disrespectful to announce him to the world when I sound like a creaky door.

He has a point.

Instead, I will describe my first encounter with Clyvel, the magic language of Dunari, and how it could have killed me.


Segment two analyses how to get ideas about building a basic magic system for your world.

And in the ‘Strange but True’ section, I describe one of the curious side effects of using a Lavun magic protection spell.

Key Takeaways.

Should your magic be considered ‘magic’ or technology.

How to build a foundation for your magic system.

Show summary:

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.

Dear Mum and Dad,

Still hoarse. Getting annoyed with it now. Every time the Spirit Voice seems to go away, back it comes. Maybe they should rename it Spirit Voice ‘Echo’.

Or maybe it’s just targeting me because I’m not from here.

I’ve never fully been inoculated against all the Dunari illness, so my immune system is a bit wonky, I think.

Today I was going to write about my fourth day in Dunari, the day I was formally introduced to Shinytop. He’s banned me from doing this, says it’s disrespectful when I sound like a creaky door.

‘Would a king a allow a mouse to announce his presence?’ he said. ‘No! A king would have a warrior announce it. And, right now, you’re more mouse than warrior.’

He had a point.

But I won’t take any lip from him. You’ll be glad to hear that I’m not as shy as I used to be. I’ll stand my corner—even against spirits. Admittedly, though, it’s easier to deal with a ghost imprisoned in a stick than some of the things I’ve encountered here.

Shinytop might not think me worthy to introduce him, but that doesn’t prevent me from saying things ‘about’ him— like when he gave me his first bit of ‘official’ guidance.

That happened shortly after Ganhook officially assigned him to me. That morning, I’d expected Ganhook to just hand me Shinytop, and tell me how he’d be my guide. Instead, he performed a ceremony.

As he handed me Shinytop, Ganhook went on a bit about protection, loyalty, mutual respect, and other stuff.

All I remembered were the magic words he finished with. While they sounded different to Number Five’s magic words, the sentences were simple vocalisations, and easy to remember.

If I found out what they meant, they could contribute to my escape.

Or so I hoped.

The pronunciation went: Doh-Ven-Doh-Val-Chek-Vext-Doh-Ven-Doh-Val.

Sounds easy, right?


When I pronounced them later, what emerged from my mouth was, ‘Warning! Do not attempt to replicate Ganhook’s spell.’

That’s when Shinytop’s first ‘official’ guidance emerged.

‘You fool!’ he hissed. ‘Have you a death wish?’

He proceeded to tell me that the words were Clyvel, the language used to manipulate lavun. It’s an ancient, sacred language, only accessible to skilled practitioners. Nobody knows all of it. They say that if one person learned the entire Clyvel vocabulary, that person could control the world. 

‘You’re lucky Ganhook built a simple warning into the spell chant,’ Shinytop continued. ‘He normally protects them with second level killing spells to stop others using them.’

This rattled me. I was also bitterly disappointed. It tuned out that Ghost Cat Number Five’s words were common words that everyone knew, and they were unconnected to Clyvel

Shinytop still teases me about my first Clyvel efforts.

I suspect he is jealous. He could use Clyvel to help him escape from the stick. But all the Clyvel words he knows are about as useful to him as a shotgun to a wasp, because he’s unable to pronounce a single one of them.

This doesn’t stop him practicing. I’ve woken on many a night to hear him babbling away, trying to ‘tune’ his vocals to use Clyvel.

I have learned a few minor Clyvel spells over the years. I cannot use any of them while I’m hoarse. They wouldn’t work.

It’s a shame. The most useful of these spells is one that can shut Shinytop up when he talks too much.


Dear folks, I have thought a lot about how to explain the ‘magic’ of Dunari to people. And how it could help people create magic for their worlds.

Firstly, magic must come from somewhere.

Otherwise, it’s appearance would be ‘truly’ magical.

But not believable.

While you may never need to explain where your magic originated, it’s essential to know some background.

Where do you begin creating magic?

Perhaps use a natural resource.

Dunari Lavun is a rare natural resource with properties that, over time, were recognised as useful. It’s powerful, recyclable, and valuable.

But if you found a nugget of lavun in your back garden, you’d be hard put to do anything with it.

Or even know what it was.

For inspiration, think about electricity. Go into your room zero, turn off the light, imagine it’s a cave, and you are a caveman sheltering from a thunderstorm. The world trembles. Lightning flashes. The cave is illuminated with cold, terrifying light. Your pulse races.

What is this monstrous force in the sky, you wonder?


To a caveman, it is.

When you’ve had enough terror, or you get bored playing caveman, turn on the light.

The lightbulb fills the room with warm, relaxing light.


Depends on your perspective.

Over thousands of years, we’ve learned how to tame lightning and put it in a light bulb.

So, how could you do something similar in your world to explain how magic could evolve?

How did the ancients in your world first experiment with what they considered magic? Maybe think about how today’s ‘lightning in a lightbulb’ evolved from the Ancient Greeks practice of using electric eels for pain relief.

And how can you manipulate it?

Words and pronunciations control lavun.

When you think about it, it’s not much different from telling Alexa to play some music. You say some words, and something happens. Ok. Alexa can’t turn a princess into a frog. Not yet anyway. But I hope you get my meaning. 

Like everything everywhere, magic evolves over time. It needs at least some basic background to increase your world’s authenticity.

I will explore ‘magic’ in future letters.

In the meantime, think about magic like this. Without a solid foundation, your magic could well stay as wild, mysterious, and unpredictable to your audience, as lightning is to a caveman.


One way or another, Shinytop will be introduced in the next episode.

Until then . . . Goodbye!

Or as we say in Dunari, ‘Dreavik!’