1.10 Ring of Fire

[BACK]

A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND STORY – BROUGHT TO LIFE.

[SFX: Scrying flame crackles.]

TAU ZAMAN: CARAVAN is made possible by generous contributions from our patrons and with especial thanks to our Lords of Hell!

After last week’s mysterious designs in the sky, this week Lord Amara was confronted about strange runic designs appearing in mysterious crop circles all around the canyon. When asked what they might mean, Lord Amara simple answered, “It’s a corn penis. What, you’ve never seen one?”

Lord Ash this week departed on a seminal coming of age adventure that all Lords of Hell go on as a rite of passage, a quest with the motto,gotta catch ‘em all. In this case, referring to infernally transmitted diseases.

Lord Bradley and their band of beholders hit the #1 spot in the pop charts this week with their hit single, I Only Have (17) Eyes For You.

Lord Joe this week brought it to the runway, run-run-runway, in a stunning new pageant look, the category being: Caravanza Eleganza dahling.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single demon in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a new master in Lord Kimberly.

It was the horniest of times, it was the chaste-est of times, actually, scratch that, it was just the horniest of times, but Lord Milli needed it towork for the opening of their next novel.

Lord Ponders, after completing a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign, is making the final arrangements to set off on what is sure to be an illuminating and enlightening adventure in search of Home. We can’t wait to see where the journey takes them.

We’re so grateful to our lords for their continued support, and, um, mercy, I guess.

[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme vamping.]

TAU ZAMAN: CARAVAN is created for adult audiences only. Our show notes contain content warnings and other helpful info. As an extra heads-up, this episode involves discussion of depression and self-harm, we do our best to hold these topics with intention and sincerity, and we hope you’ll join us whenever you feel ready and able.

Welcome back to the Canyon, let’s jump right in:

PREVIOUSLY, ON CARAVAN:

MAMA: Without the caravans, Baal’s minions have been getting mighty impolite lately—more and more keep flooding into the upper circles and I’m just one woman, goshdarnit!

ARGEAUX: A spell so powerful it’ll obliterate the commander of Baal’s armies, and shatter the barrier to the outside world once and for all...Make new homes, new lives. There’s a whole new frontier out there. Thousands of them. Just waiting for you. For us.

[SFX: Crowd approving]

SAMIR: [voice gradually shifting] I want it to hurt. I want to taste this deliciousness you speak of. I want to feel something. I want to feel everything.

VIRGYL: You'll do whatever it takes to save his life? You swear it?

CARLYLE: [dark shimmer] Samir, just a little longer now. I'm coming.

[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme.]

SAMIR (VO): I wake up wet.

[SFX: Rain, gradually increasing in intensity.]

SAMIR (VO): Drops of chilly water patter on my face with increasing speed and intensity. The sun hasn’t crested the canyon rim yet, and it’s colder than it’s ever been so far. I’m alone. The campfire’s died out. Argeaux and Dakota aren’t around. Heck, I don’t know if they even came back after they wandered off last night. Betsy’s waking up a couple of feet beside me.

[SFX: low rumble, then hoofbeats; The Wild Caravan approaches.]

SAMIR (VO): The pounding of hoofbeats get louder and louder and I’m still rubbing my eyes to get a better view of what’s coming at us: The Wild Caravan. Right to our front doorstep. The blades of grass in front of us curve away as in fear, as the massive train makes its landing, at least twenty wagons deep.

[SFX: thunder cracks.]

SAMIR (VO): When I first saw them I thought their translucent bodies were an illusion, some kind of light show projected in the fog. Now I can see their ghostly bodies up close and they’re still a spectral white. Their bulls and horses ripple with wisps of sinew that arch in waves as they gallop, coming to a stern stance on the ground at last.

[SFX: The Wild Caravan lands; its horses and bulls and other pulling creatures whinny, grunt and snort impatiently.]

SAMIR (VO): The wagons are several times bigger than our one was, covered in a gossamer canvas so billowy you couldn’t ever find it in the natural world.

Betsy is awfully quiet. I can see she’s groggy and intimidated but trying to keep her cool. A bull up in front lets a huff of white smoke escape from his flared nostrils, and she startles for a second.

The air around them is especially cold; I shudder from it just as much as from sheer exhilaration. My throat catches; it’s hard to even speak when you’re standing in front of something larger than life, something you were never meant to see.

What brings the Wild Caravan to us? Argeaux and Dakota believe it has something to do with getting us all out of the Canyon. Some story they heard about the caravan to unite them all, and ride off to paradise. But whatever paradise this caravan came from—or is headed to—seems like a darker one. That’s the sense I get from their angry eyes and the electric, frenetic air around that frays their manes and tails with an invisible energy.

The reins and wheels and banners all seem to move on their own with no need for a driver. So who decides where the Wild Caravan rides? I see a pair of plated greaves emerge from the front wagon, followed by a dazzling set of armor, a jeweled scabbard, a black cape, and lastly...a face I haven’t seen in what feels like a very long time.

SAMIR: Carlyle?!

SAMIR (VO): I almost choke as I call his name. My head swims trying to make sense of it. He was standing on the cliff’s edge with me when we both saw the Wild Caravan together the other night. How could he be riding in it now? What’s with the outfit? And why does he look so different? His eyes radiate a dark green glow, and they look sunken, like he hasn’t slept in ages. His skin looks taut, his frame looks even more wiry than usual, like he’s been hungry.

[SFX: CARLYLE alights from the wagon and approaches.]

CARLYLE: [dark shimmer] …Samir.

SAMIR: Get over here, you big goof!

SAMIR (VO): I move to hug him, even though his voice sounds so weird.

[SFX: SAMIR hugs CARLYLE.]

SAMIR (VO): He hesitates.

SAMIR: Wow, it’s like hugging a bag of knives or something. Okay, one of us is clearly more excited to see the other. That’s fine.

CARLYLE: No. I’m happy to see you. You have...no idea.

SAMIR: You’ve got a...weird way of showing it. What’s with the get-up? It looks like you started playing this game without me and already went grinding for all the sweet loot on your own. And uh, cool creepy new voice. Like a charisma buff I guess?

CARLYLE: Thanks. How...how long would you say you’ve been in the Canyon?

SAMIR: Same time as you, duh. Like, I think this is day four, maybe? How did you get all this sweet gear in that time? And how are you riding in the Wild Caravan?

CARLYLE: Look, I can explain everything in a minute, but um, do you have a...a book?

SAMIR: Uh... Actually yeah, since you asked. A pretty crazy one at that. Why?

CARLYLE: I, um. Can I have it?

SAMIR: Okay you’re being suuuper weird. And you’re not even like, happy to see me? I’ve been through literal hell the last few days!

CARLYLE: You’ve been through literal hell?! ...Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. Um. Okay, I’m just gonna say it. Virgyl told me to trick you into giving me the book, but you know I’m not gonna do that to you. I really, really, need that book, Samir. For reasons I really wish I could tell you, and I promise are worth it, but...I can’t.

SAMIR: Okay, slow down, just a second. That’s fine. We can talk about this. Just...are you mad at me?

CARLYLE: No, of course not, why would I be?

SAMIR: Because I’m your goddamn best friend and you’re talking to me like I’m...not that.

CARLYLE: You are. I’m sorry. I think it’s… I think part of it is this voice thing. I think I can fix it.

[SFX: CARLYLE clears his throat, and his voice returns to a normal human voice.]

CARLYLE: Better now?

SAMIR: Yeah, I guess…

CARLYLE: I really was worried about you. For so long. Are you okay?

SAMIR: NO! A whole lot of shit happened, alright?! I was really hurt after the fall. And...this Canyon’s full of...shit you’ve obviously already seen. And I missed you and I was worried about you every day and now you’re finally here next to me and I feel like you’re still so far away, or just not the Carlyle I know anymore, and that’s freaking me out! I can tell when something’s not right and you’re being super sketchy with me, Carlyle!

CARLYLE: Yeah, I really never could keep a secret from ya. Okay, how about this, just, come in the wagon, and we’ll talk.

SAMIR: You mean just climb into one of your two dozen billowing doom chariots?! No thanks! I’m standing right here ‘til you tell me what the fuck you’ve been up to!

CARLYLE: What, you think I’m gonna kidnap you or something?

SAMIR: I’m not putting anything past a guy who looks like my best friend multi-classed into a hot death knight!

CARLYLE: Fine then will you tell me what the fuck you were thinking walking off that cliff?!

SAMIR: What do you mean ‘walking off that cliff?’ I fell!

CARLYLE: Yeah, after WALKING off! I saw you! I told you to look out for the ledge! And your face just went blank. And you even turned your head to look back at me. And then you back right off the ledge.

SAMIR: What? No. That’s not true at all. The last thing I remember was the seeing this exact train of wagons in the sky and then...I must’ve hit my head or something.

CARLYLE: Hell no. Don’t try to rewrite this bro, it was the scariest shit I’ve seen in my life. You looked so...fuck, you looked so calm. You knew exactly what you were doing. [Crying.] You...you killed yourself, man!

SAMIR: Well, I mean...obviously not...right? ‘Cause I’m here...right?

[SFX: Thunder.]

CARLYLE: ...You said you’ve been in the Canyon four days?

SAMIR: Yeah. Why, haven’t you?

CARLYLE: Been here for weeks.

SAMIR: How the hell is that possible, we both got here at the same time...?

CARLYLE: Samir…

SAMIR: …Oh. Oh. Ohhhhh. Okay, Wait, I-I-I need to sit down...nope, it’s muddy here, never mind, I’ll just stay standing.

CARLYLE: So...you had no idea that you’re...

SAMIR: ...I’m an echo.

CARLYLE: I don’t know even know what to say.

SAMIR: It’s fine. I guess I knew. Somehow. Maybe. I felt like this wasn’t...Like this was some...version of me, a cooler one, a stronger one, sexier one, maybe.

CARLYLE: You’re always those things to me. You know that.

SAMIR: Psh. Echoes are the Canyon’s impression of you. They’re not really...you. And...they fade. Which means I’m going to, sooner or later.

CARLYLE: Virgyl said you’re different, though. He said, he’d never seen a soul like yours. Something about its...capacity. And he said there’s a way we can bring you back. With that book.

SAMIR: Ha. He would say that. He just wants it because the book has a spell in that can kill him.

CARLYLE: He’s telling the truth. At least, I think he is, because he mentioned that too. But the other spell, the one that can bring you back? He’ll do it if I just give him the book. Something about re-joining an echo with its body–

SAMIR: For gods’ sake, Carlyle! Are you even listening? An echo is an interpretation by the Canyon. It’s not...me! The real me. Even if you put it back in a body it’s never going to be me again. Just what somebody thought of me. If I’m dead, I’m...dead. There is no bringing me back.

CARLYLE: [Tears building.] Why would you do that, man? Why would you walk off that ledge?!

SAMIR: I...don’t know. I don’t remember. I...think I was trying to imagine life without you, and I...couldn’t. And that’s not your fault. I’ve always had it in me. And I tried telling you about it, but you wouldn’t listen.

CARLYLE: What do you mean I wouldn’t listen?

SAMIR: I tried telling you, ‘even when I’m happy for you, I’m always going to be a little sad.’ It’s that screen that filters everything I say. It’s...a darkness. It’s this...black spot in me. A spot I can’t wash out. So, just, deep and black it’s not even black anymore, Carlyle, it’s just emptiness. It’s a hole I can’t even look at inside me without my head hurting. It’s a void that I cannot fill. AndI’ve tried, god, I’ve tried so fucking much Carlyle! But it’s always been there in me, that awful longing to just want to just...disappear. I used to feel it standing on a railroad track as a train was coming, and suddenly my mind would go blank for whole seconds, maybe even a minute, and I’d just forget where I was. And maybe I don’t remember what happened on that cliff because...it’s easier to forget.

CARLYLE: [Sobbing.] I said I want you in my life for all the good, and all the bad. I meant that, man! I meant that!

SAMIR: Oh please, you’d learn to survive without me.

CARLYLE: No man, I wouldn’t. I really fucking wouldn’t and you can’t decide that for me. Right after graduation, I was having that nervous breakdown. I was gonna go into the army like my brother. And the day before I went off to bootcamp you told me I didn’t have to. God, I was so horrified by everything going on. In the world, in the army. I wanted to change it. And I didn’t think I could. And I was so scared they were going to change me first. But I was nobody in Hicksville, America trying to put two pennies together and...you literally made me apply to schools, man. You told me I had a light upstairs. That I was more than...this body, you know? Ever since we were kids you’ve been making my world so much bigger. Fantasy, dragons, video games. When everyone else in the world was showing me how to put my head down, how to grit my teeth and bear it. How to become some... fuckin’ wrong version of me. How to disappear. You can’t disappear on me, man. That’s not fair!

SAMIR: Nothing about it is fair! And hell, why can’t I disappear If you go ahead and...marry...Camilla? Hmm?

CARLYLE: You’re really gonna blame this on Cammy? That’s bullshit and you know it!

SAMIR: You’re right. It is. I’m sorry. But she didn’t help, okay?!

CARLYLE: Cammy’s different! I love her, yeah, but I feel different things for her! She doesn’t know half the shit about me that you do!

SAMIR: Wow, what a consolation prize…

CARLYLE: Sorry that me confiding in you isn’t...enough? What exactly do you want from me, Samir?

SAMIR: Oh don’t you play stupid with me. You know exactly what I want!

CARLYLE: Consider that maybe I really don’t, man! Like, enlighten me!

SAMIR: You’re so full of shit, do you really wanna lie to me now, Carlyle? You really think you can pull one over on your best friend’s ghost?

CARLYLE: …I mean. I have some idea, but–

SAMIR: OH! Now you suddenly have some idea! What a spark of realization to conveniently have. What is that idea exactly, please tell me.

CARLYLE: Just that, um, I mean obviously we’re really close, so...you know..

SAMIR: No, I don’t know, Carlyle. Say it.

[No response.]

SAMIR: Say it!What exactly do I want from you, if you’ve got “some idea?”

CARLYLE: I...Never mind. Look, I have no clue.

SAMIR: Bullshit! This is exactly what you do. This is why you stay friends with me. This is what straight guys do. Boys like me were made for loving boys like you. Soft boys, boys with too much love to give who never got enough of their own. Boys who will pick you up every time you fall and remind you just how. Freaking. Awesome you are! I mean, the world is your oyster! And you know that! And it’s awfully convenient for you ride that line of plausible deniability all the way til death literally fucking do us part! This is what straight guys do, they marry their girlfriend, and still mind-fuck their guy friend on the side! Ha-ha! We’re just repositories for your feelings, right? All the ones you can’t tell your wife.

CARLYLE: What...absolute horseshit is that?!

SAMIR: You said it yourself! Your and Camilla’s relationship is ”different!” You’re so compatible “physically!” Get your pump and dump from your marriage, but me! Oh, little ole me will be here to perform all the emotional labor whenever you’re unfulfilled in your relationships, or whenever you’re feeling down or emasculated because I know everything there is to know about you, Carlyle!

CARLYLE: Okay, call me out on my shit Samir, but Cammy is a living, breathing person. Not some cum depository, so stop fucking talking about her like that, okay?

SAMIR: I...Okay. You’re right, that was...okay, that was really fucked up of me. I’m sorry. And I didn’t mean to say she’s a sex object, just that...it really sounded like the two of you only have something physical going on and that you use me for literally everything else. And “the DL” is kind of a trope! But that’s not… an excuse to assume what value she brings to your marriage, um… I’m—I’m really sorry.

CARLYLE: ...You’re angry. And...you’re not wrong. Yeah. I do use you for that. For everything emotional. I never needed a therapist ‘cause I had you, you know?

SAMIR: That’s all I wanted you to admit. Is that so hard?

CARLYLE: Well now that you put it that way, of course not. I’m sorry I’ve been so…distant. It’s hard, okay! Like… Like you’re just finding out you’re dead now, but I found out you were dead...that first night in the Canyon! I’ve been mourning you for weeks. I’ve been cutting down demons left and right, taking claws and fangs and fireballs to the face, day after fucking day, crossing five circles of hell just for a chance to see you again. Don’t think for a second I wasn’t thinking about you.

SAMIR: You make it sound like Diablo down there or something!

[They laugh.]

CARLYLE: Dude you have no idea. It’s literally that. It’s like that plus Dynasty Warriors, just mowing down waves and waves of gerblins but it’s actually scary as shit and...fuck, it is exhausting.

SAMIR: I mean, you look gaunt as fuck. Like you’ve really seen some shit, scars and all. But in that, I dunno, sexily damaged way? I didn’t think your cheekbones could stick out anymore, you skinny dick!

CARLYLE: God, of course even your ghost is horny.

SAMIR: Heehee! Okay. Maybe there’s more of the real me in here than I realized.

CARLYLE: Did you finally make all your monsterfucking dreams come true?

SAMIR: Literally in my dreams, yeah. Oh, did I mention I’m turning into some weird mix of a banshee slash...vampire?

CARLYLE: That would explain the hair. And the muscles, man!

SAMIR: Thanks! I’ve been working out! And by that I mean swallowing powers like I’m Kirby up in this bitch! And uh, y’know taking vampire bites... Look, you can actually see the marks!

[SFX: SAMIR pulls his shirt down to reveal the bitemarks on his shoulder.]

CARLYLE: Woah, that is gnarly.

SAMIR: Not as gnarly as your sweet new ride.

CARLYLE: Yeah. Virgyl’s playing both sides, I think. He wants the caravans to win, so he sent this to help. All I gotta do is bring him back the book...

SAMIR: Right, the book...

CARLYLE: So. Now you know. Can I have it?

SAMIR: Well, the book’s not mine, and God, Argeaux would kill me. It’s literally the only thing he has to inspire the rest of the circles to unite against Baal’s armies.

CARLYLE: Oh, no, no, no you cannot be doing that.

SAMIR: Dude you’re not the only one who can lead mythical bands of otherworldly... denizens...whatever–

CARLYLE: You don’t get it, there’s politics down there. Like they’re Baal’s armies but there’s other demon lords too, and they’re all tryna take over this whole place, but... but I’ve seen those armies man. They’re making their way to the upper circles already. You don’t wanna get caught in the middle of that.

SAMIR: Wait, I’m confused, I thought you said Virgyl gave you this caravan to help.

CARLYLE: Yeah, to inspire the caravans, get em riled up so they would fell the demons in one swoop, but not...you! I can’t be losing you in the crossfire. He gave me this to ride ahead of the legions and grab the book from you. The was the deal so he’d bring you back to life.

SAMIR: And what happens to...me? I mean, this me, Echo-Me? Am I even going to remember any of this?

CARLYLE: I have no idea. From what I know about the book, it sounds like it’ll take every chance at a sacrifice it can get, so...probably not.

SAMIR: I don’t want to go. I felt so dead already, I just wanted to...feel something. But now I do, and I want...I want to live! But as me, the me that went through all these things, not some empty reincarnation of me. And the irony is that...this version of me is gonna die pretty soon too. Fucking hell, man…

CARLYLE: Hey, I’ll be there when the real you wakes up. I’ll do the remembering for you.

SAMIR: 50 First Dates style, how romantic.

CARLYLE: Sorry, I can try something more classic. Want me to turn these wagons around and come back playing In Your Eyes from a boombox?

SAMIR: Ha! I mean, hey, I kinda wouldn’t mind seein’ ya turn that thang around... but... nah.

CARLYLE: Samir. I’m really serious. Look at me.

SAMIR: ...Okay.

CARLYLE: Look right into my eyes. Tell me what you want from me.

SAMIR: It’s not about what I want from you. It’s what I’m scared of. You just told me you fought through hell to find me and that’s literally the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard in my life—seriously, don’t get any closer, I’ve got like a +3 longsword going on in my slacks right now—I just...I just wanted to matter that much to you. I want to be worth fighting for. I want to be chosen. And I want to be this version of me, not the one that died. I just couldn’t wait to show you how much I’d changed, I wondered if I’d seem any...cooler to you. I’m scared it won’t be worth it when you bring me back to life, that I’m not this me: the one with the cool hair and the muscles and all that shit. I just want you to know that I’m strong, and magical, and brave. And I just wanted this Canyon to give me a chance to show you that.

CARLYLE: Do you ever think maybe I don’t know how to give you what you want because I’m scared I’ll do the wrong thing? Do you ever think maybe I want the same thing you want?

SAMIR: I’ve wondered, of course. I spent our whole lives wondering. Wishing. Hell, you were my “prom” date, for that...nightmare of an evening. But it’s not right. I can’t ask you for something you can’t give. I can’t ask you for something that’s not in your nature!

CARLYLE: How can you know that it isn’t? Did you ever really ask me? Or did you just pussy out? Like I’ve been doing, my whole life?

SAMIR: Lyle? What...what’re you saying? What’re you trying to tell me?

CARLYLE: I’m trying to tell you I wouldn’t have fought this hard for you if you weren’t already strong, and magical, and brave. I was fighting for the you that I knew, not the one in front of me. The real you is enough. It has been. Always. And I’m not gonna let you go now that I’ve finally found you.

[MUSIC: Hopeful longing.]

SAMIR: Carlyle, I’m terrified. I’m so terrified this is all still some horrible dream but I don’t know if I want to wake up from it either because I still want all of this to be real. And I’m just an echo and I could fade any moment and it’ll kill me—not my body, but really kill me, kill my spirit—if we don’t both make it out of this in one piece.

CARLYLE: [Knowingly.] Samir. I’m gonna give you one more chance. Tell. Me. What. You. Want.

SAMIR: [Sighs.] Kiss me, goddamnit.

CARLYLE: Oh fuck yes.

[SFX: They grab each other and kiss..]

SAMIR: And in that moment, it’s just me and Carlyle back in the tent again. No, even further back. It’s me and Carlyle on prom night, in the mud, in the storm, up to our shins in mud in the high-beams of my car, but body-on-body, and the only warmth either of us could ever need.

I spent so many nights dreaming of Carlyle, wondering what it would be like to kiss him. I told myself if it ever happened, Were the World Mine style, that I’d remember how it felt. The feeling of his lips pressing on mine, his jaw muscles tightening, his hot wet pink tongue, his strong calloused hand on the side of my neck, tilting up my chin. That I’d commit every square centimeter of his touch to memory. But when we finally come up for air, I forget all of it in a moment. I need it again.

We gaze at each other and he gives me this look I’ve never seen before, one that finally mirrors back a decade of longing, and even though we’re both in literal hell I feel so safe and naked in front of someone who sees and knows the darkest parts of me. Finally.

OSPREY: [At a distance.] Ooooh, your wifey’s gonna be mad about that one!

SAMIR (VO): Both our heads snap to three figures peeking out of a wagon further back.

SAMIR: You fucking moron, you didn’t mention we had an audience!

CARLYLE: [To the Caravan.] Don’t make me come back there!

MALF: [distant] Hurry up already ya goofy queers!

FEI: [distant] I do hate to ruin the moment, but Baal could be here any minute!

CARLYLE: [To Samir.] Whadya mean ‘moron’ ? What, you ashamed?

SAMIR: Uh, not ashamed exactly, but...shouldn’t you be?

CARLYLE: Cammy’s got a lot to learn about me. And...I guess I’ve got a lot to learn about me, too. But she’s...a super trusting person, and I trust her, so I’m gonna tell her the truth. When I see her. It’s up to her what happens next. But Samir: I don’t regret it. Not for a second. That felt...right.

SAMIR (VO): He flashes me this little smile, like he’s just realizing something for himself too. I could melt on the spot. Come and get me, Baal’s armies, I’m done!

SAMIR: Are those... demons?

CARLYLE: Yeah! And, like most demons, they’re complete assholes, but...I gotta say I’m totally obsessed with them. They’re the shit. And they were literally gonna pick a fight with Virgyl to back me up so, I kinda owe ‘em. Don’t let on I like them though, I try to be pretty mean to ‘em.

SAMIR: Why? That’s so manipulative!

CARLYLE: Nah, man, that’s just demon culture! That’s how you get their respect, you know?

SAMIR: Fine, Dark Carlyle. What did she mean though? Baal’s coming?

CARLYLE: That’s...kinda why we flew ahead. They’re taking the upper circles slowly, but their advance lines are coming out way ahead. The ones that can fly weren’t that far behind us.

SAMIR: Then what are we waiting for?! Houzon Circle’s in danger!

CARLYLE: You really can’t give me that book?

SAMIR: You really gonna try to fight me for it?

CARLYLE: [Relenting.] No.

SAMIR: They say no living person can open it. Without going blind, or...worse.

CARLYLE: You don’t think...?

SAMIR: …Gimme a second.

CARLYLE: We’re kind of short on time.

SAMIR: Trust me on this. Just wait. [Internal voice.] Hey, Bansh?

BANSHEE: [internal] Hm? What’s that? Oh, has someone finished whoring around with vampires?

SAMIR: Can you really not slut shame me right now! And no one said you had to leave! You could’ve stayed and enjoyed the show maybe.

BANSHEE: If I could actually see anything, I might’ve. Alas. Mouth smacking noises alone disgust me.

SAMIR: Speaking of seeing...Banshee, I have to tell you something.

BANSHEE: Oh? What might that be?

SAMIR: Well, I’m about to do something kind of dangerous, and...I don’t know if it’s going to work, or if there’s even going to be much of me left besides a pile of dust when it’s over, so...I figure I owe you at least one of these. You wanted me to tell you when I see something beautiful.

BANSHEE: You do?! And what might that be? Please, tell me, I’ve been waiting for so, so long.

[MUSIC: Something beautiful.]

SAMIR: I see...a man I love so much. When I met him we were kids. And he was so stupid and rude and boyish then. All frogs and snails and puppy dog tails. And he’s gotten so strong and kind and brave. And I’d like to think part of that is because of me, but part of that is something in him he’s had all along, something that drove him that can’t ever be given. Something that’s made. And you can’t get it, or hold it, or touch it any more than you could the very essence of a man.

[slowly falling into VO accent] And all around him burns a ring of fire, a halo that he can’t even see: all his love and rage and determination brims from him and he doesn’t even realize it. It’s like seeing colors you’ve never seen and trying to tell someone what those colors are. And Banshee, if you could see it. I think you’d call it Beautiful, too.

BANSHEE: I...I think I would agree. Your voice, child. It sounds different. I hear...finality in it. What is this thing you are going to try?

SAMIR: I think I’m gonna open this thing. This Book of Hours. And...I might go blind or I might just turn into a pillar of salt. I felt like you had a right to know.

BANSHEE: This sounds...familiar. I think...something like this might have happened to me, once...

SAMIR: Wait a minute. You think...you think this is how you went blind? You think might’ve opened this book before, Banshee?

BANSHEE: Now that you mention it, I feel...angry again. I’m...I’m starting to remember things I think had burned away a long time ago, child. I must warn you: be very careful with that book.

SAMIR: I’ll try. And, hey, Banshee?

BANSHEE: Yeeees?

SAMIR: …Thanks for um, not eating my soul I guess. I thought we’d get to go on a lot more adventures before this, but just in case I don’t get to meet you on the other side of whatever this is...you’re a cool lady.

BANSHEE: Don’t speak to me this way, child! We will go on those adventures yet. You must swear it to me.

SAMIR: If I make it out of this alive, I will. But for now...here goes nothing.

SAMIR (VO): I undo the golden latch and I open the book.

[SFX: The Book of Hours flies open, pages flipping.]
[MUSIC: Falling, drifting, settling.]

SAMIR (VO): At first, I think I fucked up, bad. A bolt of lightning crashes right down on me where I stand. I can’t see anything, and everything around is just hot white fire. But then...it fades away. And time seems slow again; I can watch every raindrop make its slow, slow descent. And the book in front of me opens to a page full of markings I can see, but can’t read. But at the same time, I can understand them:

SAMIR & SAMIR (VO): Ars Obliterata.

SAMIR (VO): The recipe burns into my mind. And then the book slams shut.

[SFX: Pages flip; the book slams shut. Crack of thunder. Soft wind.]

SAMIR (VO): It’s not raining anymore. Carlyle’s just looking at me with his jaw dropped. And the demons in Lyle’s Caravan seem just as stunned as he is. Betsy has full on peed herself in terror. And then, I see a snowflake fall between us. And then another. And another. And now: it’s snowing in the Canyon.

CARLYLE: Uh. Samir. Can you still see me?

SAMIR: [Back to external voice again.] Oh. Yeah, I can see alright. And the spell…

CARLYLE: “Got it memorized?”

SAMIR: [grinning] Like PEMDAS, bitch!

CARLYLE: Uhm. Okay. That was really scary just so you know. Can I have the book now?

SAMIR: I’m still running it by Argeaux first. I gotta find him and Dakota, Can Betsy and I hitch a ride back downtown?

CARLYLE: I’d say hop in… we’ve got forty-wheel drive. But uh, is that them now?

BETSY: [whinnies happily]

SAMIR (VO): Betsy perks up all of a sudden. I turn around. Not far from us, I see Argeaux, Dakota, Miguel, and Mama Bang Bang really hauling ass to join us.

[SFX: DAKOTA, ARGEAUX, MIGUEL, MAMA BANG BANG running toward them.]

SAMIR: Hey, everybody. I thought I’d lost ya!

MIGUEL: We meet again, my paramour.

SAMIR: Wait, so does that you mean you do know what happened...last night?

DAKOTA: [Paranoid he means she and ARGEAUX.] Whadya mean? Nothing happened last night. Nothing. What happened just now!

ARGEAUX: You just got hit by lightning, pardner!

MAMA: Bloody hell, you’re still alive!

SAMIR: Yeah, no, actually. That’s the bad news. Turns out I’m an echo, and I’ve been dead the whole time.

[ARGEAUX, DAKOTA, MAMA, MIGUEL make sounds of protest]

SAMIR: I know, I know, “that shit just ain’t right,” sorry Mama, I didn’t have much of a choice in it. But the good news is, that means I can open the book! So I opened it! And now I know the spell. I can’t really tell you what any of it means, but I understand it. It’s kinda like pig latin before you translate it in your head, if that makes any sense?

ARGEAUX: Compadre that is a lot of information to throw at us at once.

DAKOTA: You’re...you’re an echo. Goddamn. I mean, I thought about it, but… it couldn’t be…

SAMIR: Yeah, turns out I’m special! Gonna chalk it up to the slutty soul. I know you said Evokers shorten their lives every time they bring someone in, but...

MIGUEL: ...Maybe shorter lives are better enriched than long ones lived cautiously.

SAMIR: Yeah. That’s exactly it. Also, do y’all think I’m the one who made it snow?!

MAMA: Is that what the hell this is?!

SAMIR: Mama, you’ve never seen snow?!

MAMA: I have never been stupid enough to venture down to the Ninth circle so no, I have not.

SAMIR: Well, lemme tell you, it’s gonna be a breeze getting there now. Argeaux, spread the word. We should start making our way to the lower circles soon. Magic Missile? Ha! I’ve got Power Word: Kill now so bring on the baddies.

[SFX: Two fiery portals open.]
[MUSIC: It’s about to go down]

VIRGYL: We are only most happy to oblige!

BAAL: [cackling] Well hello everyone! How nice of you all to convene here together in one place. In my Canyon. All the easier to exterminate you for good.

MAMA: Oh we are royally screwed.

[SFX: MAMA draws her guns and pulls the hammers back.]

MAMA: Get ready to run, kiddos. And don’t wait up for me.

DAKOTA: No way, Mama. There’s no way we’re leaving you in here.

ARGEAUX: Shit shit shit shit shit. I’m really sorry, y’all. I bungled it big time.

MIGUEL: Sorry for what?

ARGEAUX: Dakota said this would happen and it did. This is exactly like what happened last time.

DAKOTA: No, Auggy, it ain’t. [fondly, half to Samir.] We’ve got Samir this time.

VIRGYL: That’s right, Auggy. You’ve got Samir! And he seems very ready to show off his new tricks. Maybe he could show me? I’d love to teach Kerberos a few.

CARLYLE: Wild—wait, ahem. [Death Knight voice returns.] Wild Caravan, assemble!

SAMIR: …Dude are you serious?

CARLYLE: Yeah I’m serious!

SAMIR (VO): Everyone in the scene blinks for a few seconds, startled, while the three figures from Carlyle’s wagon hustle over to our showdown. Looks like a faerie woman, some kind of tiny imp dude, and a girl who kinda looks like she’s just...cosplaying as a demon?

[SFX: FEI swoops up, followed closely by MALF and then, more slowly, OSPREY.]

OSPREY: [Panting.] The Wild Caravan, reporting for duty, Lilac Knight!

BAAL: [laughing] I’m sorry, give me a sec…This is your Caravan?

MALF: You know, I never liked being on the bad guys’ side anyway! How come us demons always gotta be the bad guys, huh?

FEI: And let’s face it, dear, you never really were going to let me rebuild the Seelie Court here, were you?

BAAL: What a merry band of traitors! Your heads will make fine trophies.

CARLYLE: Get ready to eat shit, asshole. We can take you.

BAAL: Pah! Virgyl, break to them the bad news, will you?

VIRGYL: Oh? Pardon, master, but what bad news?

BAAL: Aye, ya idjit! My armies are advancing on Houzon Circle from the depths of hell as we speak! And Mother will pass through the portal any moment now.

VIRGYL: Oooh, yes, about that...Um, well, I’ve a bit of a snag to report on that front.

BAAL: A snag? Virgyl, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do...

VIRGYL: Ah yes, you see, I did try to unite the demons in your legions to ascend to the upper circles, unfortunately, the DADI...

BAAL: The DADI?!

THE GOOD GUYS (Argeaux, Dakota, Mama, Miguel & Samir): [In unison] The Daddy?

VIRGYL: Apologies—the Demonic Advisory for Diversity and Inclusion. They have passed a unanimous resolution to unseat me as chair of the investigative committee. Furthermore, they’ve staged an all-out revolt! It turns out the majority of your forces, the red demons, seem to be hamstringed by traps and guerilla warfare on all circles mounted by mutinous demons of color!

BAAL: [Bellowing.] Demons of color? Demons of color!? RED IS A COLOR!

VIRGYL: That’s what I tried to tell them, but apparently no one cares when red’s the default. Anyway, it turns out they may have gotten wind of you trying to keep certain operations out of their view. They were particularly annoyed to hear you once said “DADI doesn’t need to know.”

BAAL: And I wonder who told them that. I’d obviously have to torture them.

VIRGYL: Indeed. What would you do? Choke them again?

BAAL: [snarling] It matters not! Whatever foolish machinations you’re up to, Virgyl, and believe me, I’ve had my suspicions, they don’t matter anymore. I may not know how to destroy you, but Mother will be in the Canyon any moment now, and when she finally returns to this Earth, I can guarantee she will know how to crush you into the slime you really are!

CARLYLE: Oh, shut up you two! We’ve got you outnumbered! Samir! This is it! Use the spell on Baal and put and end to this!

ARGEAUX: Samir, no! You have to use it on Virgyl! We need that barrier gone!

VIRGYL: Yes, Samir, you must do what Argeaux says. Never mind that I’m happy to take down the barrier anyway, my plan has already failed and at least that way I’ll be dead.

DAKOTA: Hell, couldn’t you do it on both of ‘em?

SAMIR: Uh, I think there might be a refractory period, I’m not too clear on the details.

[SFX: AZMODEUS speaks from nowhere, stepping through a portal.]

AZMODEUS: Let’s see… A Wild Caravan against only two creatures of the depths? Why don’t we level the playing field a little?

SAMIR (VO): After that creepy voice comes out of nowhere, we see a wall of portals open up between us and Virgyl and Baal. I count maybe six, seven, ten, holy crap twelve portals? Demons comes through every single one of them, some I recognize—a gargoyle, a chimera—and some look like Lovecraftian horrors: A blob, a tentacle-y mass, a writhing sphere of smoke and snakes. The demons surround us in an encroaching semicirle that backs us all up into each other.

[SFX: A wall of portals, demons seething and grunting. The party steps back.]

VIRGYL: Azmodeus, I believe we had a deal?

AZMODEUS: Let’s see, keep a deal with a weasely little genie, or save my darling brother in his time of need, just before Mother gets home?

BAAL: Hah. Nice to see ya, bro.

MALF: Listen, I am super down to go "down with the cause” as one of the good guys now, but uh, have none of y’all considered maybe running to fight another day?

OSPREY: Shut up you shrimp-sized man-meat! You said you were on borrowed time! If you could fight a genie before, what’s another demon, or...twelve.

MIGUEL: I will admit I grasped the concept of the heroic crusade into the depths of hell...and I was theoretically in favor of it, but I’ve become rather accustomed to eternal life

DAKOTA: If we can run from this we can regroup. We can come back when we at least have a tactical advantage.

ARGEAUX: Dakota’s right. We’re on the back foot here.

MAMA: Argeaux, you need to get the little ones out of here. Let me handle this.

ARGEAUX: Where does that leave you, Virgyl?

VIRGYL: Lonely is the path of the traitor, I suppose. I chose it for myself. Samir, you really may as well kill me. My gambit has failed. With Mother’s arrival eminent, the world, as you know it, is...essentially doomed.

BAAL: Do it! Who needs the barrier anymore? My armies are complete. They will flood into the outside world and reclaim the earth that is our birthright...right after my brother’s demons put all your heads on spikes! And that includes yours, Virgyl. None if you will escape my wrath, once Mother gets home.

SAMIR: Okay, now just who in the Hell is Mother?

[SFX: A boom echoes throughout the canyon. And then another. The whole canyon shakes. The demons fall silent.]

MOTHER: [Omnipresent.] Fear not, my children. Mother is here. And my, what a mess you’ve left me.

AZMODEUS: [Madly, gleefully.] It’s happened! She’s finally here! Race you back to Nine, brother! Ahahahahahaha!

[SFX: His shrill cackling echoes as a portal transports him away.]

BAAL: Oh no you don’t, punk! The rest of you: kill them all. Bring me back their corpses. They’ll make a nice dinner for Mother. Later, rebel scum!

[SFX: Portal exit. The hordes teem.]
[MUSIC: An ol’-fashioned showdown.]

CARLYLE: This actually evens our odds pretty nicely. Hey guys, ready to plow through some more demons?

OSPREY: I’m with you ‘til the bitter end, luv. You know that.

MALF: Uh, b-b-boss, I dunno if you’ve noticed, but these baddies look way bigger and stronger than anything we’ve gone up against before...

SAMIR: Yeah, Lyle, we should back up.

ARGEAUX: Samir! Are you going to use the spell or not?!

SAMIR: I mean...I guess, but...everybody should really back the hell up!

[SFX: The party backs up.]

MAMA: You can’t use it here you stupid boy! You’ll kill everyone in the whole Circle!

MIGUEL: I know I sound like a broken record here, but: perhaps we entertain that exit strategy, then...

FEI: I can fly at least one of us out of here.

DAKOTA: No time, look out!

[SFX: The demon horde pounces.]]

The demons leap on us in unison. One of those blob things move toward the faerie lady, a chimera leaps at Carlyle, a tentacle monster slithers at Dakota at an alarmingly fast speed, and the other demons are close behind them.

SAMIR: Okay this is really bad!

CAMMY: ERRYBODY DUCK YOUR HEADS!

[SFX: Machine gun fire, demons screaming, dissipating into ash.]

SAMIR (VO): We duck our heads just barely in time. I feel some hair on my head whoosh around as a deluge of bullets unload on the demons in front of us. They writhe and squeal and stagger before dissipating into clouds of dust. My heart’s pounding. I think I might’ve peed a little bit. Have I mentioned I really don’t like guns?

When the dust settles and the echoing of bullets stops ringing in my head, I slowly make my way to my feet. Carlyle gets up too, and it’s the second time I’ve seen his jaw drop today. I trace his line of vision to the woman standing there, looking straight up like GI Jane with a cigar hanging out of her mouth and giant automatic gun cocked at her side.

CARLYLE: CAMMY?!

SAMIR: CAMILLA?!

CAMMY: You know, in my wildest imagination I thought maybe you boys eloped! Like a Brokeback Mountain thing. That, I would’ve understood. But demons? Man. Glad I brought my machine gun after all.

DAKOTA: Oooh. Oh yes. I like her. I mean I...really, really like her.

[MUSIC: Guitar swells to a final chord.]
[MUSIC: “Ring of Fire (Strobe Light Literature)”]

Love is a burnin' thing
Makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire

The taste of love is sweet
When hearts like ours meet
I fell for you like a child
Oh, but the fire went wild

I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

TAU ZAMAN: CARAVAN was created by me — Tau Zaman — and produced by Mischa Stanton and me. This episode was written and directed by yours truly, and features performances by our ENTIRE cast, starring:

Sushant Adlakha as Samir
Briggon Snow as Carlyle, The Lilac Knight
Giancarlo Herrera as Argeaux
Danielle Shemaiah as Dakota
Lisette Alvarez as Banshee
Mama Bang Bang as herself
Bernardo Cubría as Miguel
Lucille Valentine as Osprey
Reyn Beeler as Malfeazant the Benevolent
Tina Huang as Fei
Kristen DiMercurio as Cammy
Josh Rubino as Baal
Ian McQuown as Azmodeus
Jordan Cobb as Mother
And Tau Zaman as Virgyl

Sound editing by Tau Zaman, Danielle Shemaiah, and Mischa Stanton. Sound Design by Mischa Stanton and Anna Rodriguez. Visual Art by Marina Vermilion. Press Kit by Kyle Boyce. Our theme music is by Evan Cunningham. Episode music by Travis Reaves.

Our credits music is a tribute to the 1963 recording of Ring of Fire, lyrics by June Carter, remix by Mischa Stanton, vocals by Travis Reaves. Backing by Eno Freedman-Brodmann, titled “Strobe Light Literature” and found at EnoMusic.bandcamp.com.

We’re beyond grateful to everyone for their support; it’s thanks to you we’re starting work on Season 2, coming in 2020. As a personal note, I just want to especially thank everyone who’s names you just heard; it means the world to me they came together to make this wild, horny dream come true. Please check out our sister shows such as StarTripper!! The Far Meridian and ars PARADOXICA.

Don’t be a stranger in the off-season, you’ll still find us on Twitter and Instagram @caravanradio, where we’ll still be sharing fanart, theories, and crude memes. Also, all of our patrons are also going to be getting regular bonus content before Season 2 comes out. I literally just finished recording it and I’m so excited to share it with y’all starting next month. If you don’t wanna miss it, you can chip in at patreon.com/caravanradio at any level. Lastly, please consider leaving us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts. Remember you can reach me anytime at caravan@whisperforge.orgThanks for riding with us. [VIRGYL voice.] Stay alive for me, will you?