1.2 On the Road Again

[BACK]

A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND & STORY, BROUGHT TO LIFE

[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme starts.]

TAU ZAMAN: Before we jump in: a note on our content. CARAVAN is created for adult audiences only. We advise listener and reader discretion for graphic depictions of violence, frank portrayal of sexuality, discussion of mental illness and existential struggle; and some downright filthy language. It gets mighty dangerous in the Canyon, but if you need a breather—we’ve got your back. Whenever you’re feeling ready and able: we hope you’ll join us.

[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme.]

[SFX: Flames crackling in a brazier.]

SAMIR (VO): I know that I'm dreaming. Of that much I'm certain. But damn, everything feels so real. I can feel the ground under my feet. Seems like it's paved with broken bones; they creak as my feet move on them.

[SFX: Creaking floor.]

SAMIR (VO): And the air smells like...wet stone, like a cave or something. And I can feel the heat of a bright green flame in front of me coming out from a brazier at eye level. It just barely lights up the scene around me.

On the other side of the flame stands a man, but I don't even know if I can call him that. He's huge, like eight feet tall. And even in the light of the green flame I can tell his skin is a dark blood red. He's got huge, long eyebrows that extend past his face in long arches, and two devil horns protruding from a mat of slick black hair. And...okay, I'll admit, he's pretty sexy. But I'm definitely dreaming.

The tall devil guy is staring into the flame. It seems like he doesn't notice me. I can't make out whatever he sees in the fire, but it seems like it's upsetting him. His face twists into a snarl and then suddenly he snaps upright. His voice bellows.

BAAL: [Deep voice, Scottish accent.] Virgyl! Virgyl get in here!

SAMIR (VO): A few seconds pass before a second green flame appears almost right next to me.

[SFX: A fiery portal opens.]

SAMIR (VO): I jump away, startled, but the devil guy doesn't seem to notice this either. It's huge, basically my height. The sudden massive gout of flame warms on my face. And then, a second later, the flames die down, but a man is standing there. In a fine tailored suit and tie, and spectacles. It doesn't seem like he notices me either. The suited man bows reverently before the devil.

VIRGYL: [Shimmering voice.] I await my Master's command.

BAAL: Virgyl! What took you so long?

VIRGYL: My sincerest apologies. I was busy putting some of your minions in their place.

BAAL: Their insolence cannot be tolerated! You have to bring them to heel, Virgyl!

VIRGYL: The DADI has submitted a formal complaint—

BAAL: The Daddy?

VIRGYL: Forgive me: The D.A.D.I.?

BAAL: All these acronyms! Which one is that again?

VIRGYL: The Demonic Advisory for Diversity and Inclusion.

BAAL: Right, right, those whiny bastards. What do they want now?

VIRGYL: As I was saying, DADI submitted a formal complaint that the Canyon has inherently racist policies against all non-red demons in your legions.

BAAL: I can't help that the majority of us are red! They can just get over it.

VIRGYL: I...did delicately try to tell them that they should, but...by and large "get over it" is rarely received well in discourse surrounding infernal justice.

BAAL: All demons of any color have equal opportunity in my canyon. Hell, you're not red and you're my right-hand man!

VIRGYL: I am aware of my own color, Master. And yet, your subjects see me as the exception, not the rule.

BAAL: What makes you an exception? Anyone who works hard can be in the inner circle.

VIRGYL: Precisely. And, well, my being enslaved into your employ by a magical contract seems to contradict that premise.

BAAL: Do I sense resentment, Virgyl?

VIRGYL: Not at all, my liege.

BAAL: Then what makes you so different from my ungrateful hordes?

VIRGYL: Isn't it obvious? [Coyly.] I exist solely to serve you.

BAAL: Doesn't sound like you're thrilled to be my servant.

VIRGYL: Naturally, it breaks my heart to bring upsetting news. But I walk a delicate line by still awakening you to the truths that you trust me to bring to your attention.

BAAL: Slippery-tongued as always.

VIRGYL: I've always understood you're rather fond of my tongue.

BAAL: Quiet, bitch. I have business to discuss.

VIRGYL: Certainly. How may I assist you?

BAAL: Look in the scrying flame, Virgyl. What is the meaning of this! A rainstorm in MY Canyon!?

VIRGYL: Surely nothing in the Canyon, not even a raindrop, happens without your command, master.

BAAL: I did not ask for this! And the minions are talking about a vision. They say they saw a white caravan flying through the sky.

VIRGYL: How convenient, the first rain in nearly a decade and people are having visions. I wouldn't think much of it, Master.

BAAL: But what if it's true?

VIRGYL: My liege, what if *what* is true? A story they made up about a jolly caravan jaunting around the sky, finally here to deliver them to paradise? They can keep waiting for all I care.

BAAL: Of course it isn't real. But that doesn't change the fact that people think it is!

VIRGYL: The opinions of ants needn't concern you, master.

BAAL: If people start believing in the caravan, they'll start believing they can leave my Canyon.

VIRGYL: The seal to the outside word is airtight, my liege. Let any imaginary caravan batter itself against the veil. I sustain it with my own power.

BAAL: And when that runs out?

VIRGYL: With respect, you forget I am a being made of pure power. It doesn't run out.

BAAL: Don't get fresh with me. There are mechanisms to undo you.

VIRGYL: So you say. [Flippantly.] But only the very mechanisms made for killing gods.

BAAL: And when they learn those methods?

VIRGYL: When? If. The power in the book of Hours can’t be wielded by mortals. It’s said they’ll go blind if they so much as open it.

BAAL: Your assurances come at the promise of your head, Virgyl. Do not deceive me.

VIRGYL: I mean only that you've nothing to fear. The Canyon gets its hopes up, and then what? Nothing. No one's coming to save them. Despair retakes their spirits. The Engine keeps running. Your hold over the legion is secure. I assure you.

BAAL: Events like these...events that inspire feelings as insipid as HOPE...they're troublesome. They tempt people to step out of line.

VIRGYL: [Menacingly.] And who better than I to punish them when they do?

BAAL: [Relenting] I'm trusting you on this, Virgyl.

VIRGYL: Never has your trust been better placed. Anything else, my Lord of Hell?

BAAL: I need some air. I'm going upside. What're you doing after this?

VIRGYL: [Sighs.] I have a dog to walk.

BAAL: You're so mean to that poor thing.

VIRGYL: Well I never asked for it.

BAAL: Give him to me, he's so cute!

VIRGYL: Absolutely not.

BAAL: [Pleadingly, childish.] Why not?

VIRGYL: He's a handful, that's all. Your time is better spent on better leisure, my...liege.

BAAL: You're gonna give him up sooner or later, I just know it. All right. I'm going to see what I can do about this god awful humidity.

VIRGYL: It is truly a bane upon us! There's nothing our kind hate more than humidity. I look forward to your deliverance.

[SFX: BAAL stands, a flame portal opens, and BAAL vanishes within it before the portal snaps shut.]

BAAL: Later, sluts!

SAMIR (VO): Every time one of those portals opens or closes, the air gets thick with the smell of smoke and brimstone. I can't hold a cough in, and accidentally let it out.

SAMIR: [coughs]

SAMIR (VO): Virgyl's head snaps right in my direction. Shit. He CAN see me. Or...can he? I can't tell. The suited man takes a step closer to me, but it's like he's seeing *through* me, behind me, somehow.

SAMIR: H-hello? Can you see me?

SAMIR (VO): –I ask out loud. No response. Virgyl merely raises his palm toward me and moves it to the side, like pushing a sliding door. Suddenly I feel a giant chain tugging behind my belly button to an anchor somewhere far away. I'm yanked into wakefulness.

[SFX: A magical woosh. A long astral chain uncoiling as it tugs taut. Then: Spurs clang. Fly buzzing, a sunny day in the Canyon.]

SAMIR: [gasping and coughing]

ARGEAUX: Woah there, pardner! Good mornin' to ya. [His booming voice echoes slightly in the vast Canyon.]

SAMIR (VO): I don’t know what that guy did to me but I felt like I got shat through a coffee stirrer into...another dimension. I open my eyes and the sunlight burns through them right away. I'm damp from the rain but it's not raining now. The sun is blinding; I squint to try and block it out, but then the shape of a head in a cowboy hat blocks it out, casting my face in shade.

SAMIR: Who the hell are you?

ARGEAUX: I'm a regular around these parts. You seriously ain't ever heard o' me? You wound me.

SAMIR (VO): I squint some more. My eyes adjust to the shade and I can start to make out some features from the person in front of me. Dark skin, thick bushy eyebrows, and deep-set, piercing brown eyes. The faintest five o'clock shadow lines a lean, angular face. A single droplet of sweat gathers at the point of a long, flat nose.

Holy shit. This might be the most beautiful person I've ever seen.

SAMIR: Uhm, no, sorry, can't say I'm familiar.. You look an awful lot like some old timey movie star out of a western though.

SAMIR (VO): He squints back at me in return.

SAMIR: Oh. Did I say something wrong?

ARGEAUX: M-m-moooovie huh? Moooovies. Moooovie.. I like that. Been a while since I heard that.

SAMIR: So. Are you a model or something?

ARGEAUX: Ha! Nah kid, nothin' like that.

SAMIR: Then why are you dressed up as a cowboy?

ARGEAUX: Someone once told me you should dress for the job you want. Not the job ya got.

SAMIR: Fair enough. So, what's your name, wanna-be cowboy?

ARGEAUX: I'm Argeaux. Delighted to make your acquaintance.

SAMIR (VO): He tips his hat down to me. Dang, talk about old-school cool.

SAMIR: I'm Samir. You can call me Sammi for short.

ARGEAUX: Now why on earth would I do that?

SAMIR: Um. 'Cause my friends do?

ARGEAUX: Samir. I like it. Sounds regal. Can I still call you that and be your friend?

SAMIR: Yeah, sure.

SAMIR (VO): I start trying to sit up and feel a shooting pain down my back. I forgot I took a huge fall to get down here.

SAMIR: Ugh! Fuck!

ARGEAUX: Woah, language!

SAMIR: No I'm serious it really fucking hurts.

ARGEAUX: Did you take a tumble down here, pardner?

SAMIR: No, I just felt like taking a leisurely nap in the middle of a canyon trail.

ARGEAUX: Well pardon me. I missed the memo we were wearing our sassy pants today. Here, let me help you up. [Grunt of effort as he helps him up.]

SAMIR (VO): He struggles for a bit trying to help me sit up, and I keep collapsing in pain every time I have to support my own neck off the ground. Shit. Am I paralyzed or something?

ARGEAUX: You're pretty hurt, my friend. Allow me to carry you to safety.

SAMIR: Whoa!

[SFX: ARGEAUX deftly sweeps SAMIR off his feet and starts carrying him.]

SAMIR (VO): Trust me I am *more* than okay with this. [Sniffs.] Argeaux smells of leather and musk and tobacco. He has no trouble carrying my tubby ass. Argeaux probably lifts more than Carlyle… Oh, shit. Carlyle!

SAMIR: Say, uh, I got separated from my friend when I fell. I should go look for him.

ARGEAUX: Oh? Well, good thing you weren't traveling alone.

SAMIR: Why's that?

ARGEAUX: Canyon gets mighty dangerous at night.

SAMIR: He could be hurt too. I gotta find him.

ARGEAUX: You fell from, uh, just up there, you reckon?

SAMIR: Yeah, I think so. I fell pretty far but that's the only cliff I can see. We had a tent just a few yards away from the edge.

ARGEAUX: Well I got good news and bad news for you friend.

SAMIR: Bad news first. Always.

ARGEAUX: The bad news is. Ain’t no easy way to get back up there.

SAMIR: What?!

ARGEAUX: Look at how steep that drop is. We'd have to go searching for a ramp up to that height and there isn't one for miles and miles. And I'm no rock climber.

SAMIR: Then...What the hell is the good news?

ARGEAUX: If your friend didn't fall down here too, then he's probably safe up there.

SAMIR: How's that?

[SFX: ARGEAUX’s spurs clang as he walks.]

ARGEAUX: You see, that cliff is kind of like...an unmarked boundary of sorts. Down here? This is where the real Canyon begins. All those trails up there are really just for tourists. They don't get to see much of the real Canyon.

SAMIR: And this boundary is determined by...level of danger.

ARGEAUX: It's dangerous down here, that's true. If you're alone. Which you were.

SAMIR: As were you.

ARGEAUX: As was I. But now we aren't. Now you're in my caravan. Welcome!

SAMIR: Welcome to your caravan of...one person?

ARGEAUX: You do wound me again, pardner! This is no caravan of one person! You can't have a caravan with one person! We are in fact two people!

SAMIR: Sure we are. What a huge caravan. Just the two of us.

ARGEAUX: The sun at your back, a friend at your side, the country road windin’ out before you. What else could a person need?

SAMIR: I...take it you don't get outta the Canyon much.

ARGEAUX: Hardly any of us do.

SAMIR: Us? There are people who just live in here year round?

ARGEAUX: Of course.

SAMIR: Huh. I always thought the Canyon was a tourist thing. I didn't realize people actually lived here. This must be primo real estate!

ARGEAUX: Beautiful views all the time.

SAMIR: Seriously. I think I might faint in this heat though.

ARGEAUX: It's not the heat, it's the humidity.

SAMIR: Yeah, that wild rainstorm from last night.

ARGEAUX: Unexpected, to be sure. We don't get those down here.

SAMIR: Looked like someone had a whole light show ready to go, though.

ARGEAUX: Hm? Light show?

SAMIR: Uh, yeah, you know, when you project a lot of lights?

ARGEAUX: I’ve heard of this. Like a...movie.

SAMIR: ...Like a movie, yeah. Someone had this light show going during the storm. It was like, the Oregon Trail or something? A whole bunch of wagons and riders traveling over the sky. Woah!

[SFX: SAMIR falling to the ground as ARGEAUX drops him.]

ARGEAUX: Darn! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, are you alright?

SAMIR: Ow. I know I'm heavy but. Maybe you could tell me before you're gonna drop me?

ARGEAUX: You said you saw wagons? Projected in the sky? Like a m-movie?

SAMIR: Yeah, but like, super low quality. They were kinda see-through. Probably because of the rain. It must've projected onto the fog or something. A bunch of white wagons and the horses and bulls...

ARGEAUX: You saw it too then. The Wild Caravan.

SAMIR: Uhm. Is that the name of your light show or something?

ARGEAUX: I wasn't just imagining it. You saw it too. An outsider!

SAMIR: It was hella distracting. I got caught watching it in the rain and then...slipped.

SAMIR (VO): Argeaux's eyes narrow at me. He’s looking at me like just running into an old friend. His lips widen into a slow, incredulous smile.

ARGEAUX: My friend, you took a fateful fall indeed.

SAMIR: Yeah 'cause you dropped me!

ARGEAUX: No, not that. I mean from the cliff. You're here now. In the Canyon. In my caravan.

SAMIR: Uh, yeah, for the time being. You're gonna help me find my friend and get outta here, right?

SAMIR (VO): Argeaux kneels next to me, shoulders square and resolute like a knight. He solemnly takes his hat off and puts it to his breast.

ARGEAUX: Samir. My fellow caravaner. Yes, I'm going to get you out of here. I'm going to get all of us out here. Just you wait.

SAMIR (VO): He says it with so much pride, like he's been waiting his whole life or something.

SAMIR: Cool. Can't wait. So, uh, you gonna carry me all the way up there?

ARGEAUX: Of course not! No caravan is complete without its trusted steed! And we have the most blessed steed of all. I can't wait for you to meet her. Come on. Just a little bit further.

[SFX: ARGEAUX lifts and carries SAMIR again.]

SAMIR: So what makes her so cool? Do we have a cool-ass horse or something?

ARGEAUX: A horse? [Hearty laugh] My friend, did I not say we have the most blessed steed of all?

SAMIR: Uh, okay, the Pope's horse? I'm really not an equestrian, what makes a good-ass mount?

ARGEAUX: We have been blessed with a *unicorn.*

SAMIR: You know unicorns aren't real, right?

ARGEAUX: This one is. Look, just around this corner, and...There. Just a few yards ahead. Isn't she beautiful!?

SAMIR (VO): Argeaux nods in the direction ahead. I turn my head to look at...what looks to be a really sad donkey?

[SFX: BETSY whines.]

SAMIR (VO): Like, a really really sad donkey. I think Eeyore would look like a ray of sunshine next to this poor thing.

SAMIR: Uh, Argeaux, can I be real with you for a sec?

ARGEAUX: Of course! Speak plainly, pardner.

SAMIR: So, I think we have different definitions of what constitutes a unicorn. To most people a unicorn is a...horse...with a horn on its head. It's a magical creature.

ARGEAUX: [Gasps.] You are absolutely correct! My apologies. Oh, the indignity of not having a horn! My poor Betsy here must be humiliated in her current state. Not to worry Betsy, I will horn you, anon!

SAMIR (VO): Argeaux picks up our pace, and lays me down a few paces away from Betsy the really sad donkey. Behind Betsy a ramshackle wagon leans against a rock wall. Argeaux runs to the wagon and disappears into it. [SFX: Junk rattles in the wagon.] It's a tiny wagon, but somehow I've lost complete sight of it. After a minute of rummaging Argeaux re-emerges, with something in their hand, and approaches Betsy.

ARGEAUX: Now now, my beloved steed, I'm so sorry, truly. But here: a horn finally befitting your stature.

[SFX: He affixes an elastic stringed paper cone party hat on BETSY’s head.]

SAMIR (VO): And with that...Argeaux put a party hat on her head. Like, one of those cheap paper cone-shaped party hats from kids' birthday parties. Why the fuck did he stock that in the wagon? At the very least, Betsy does look a bit happier. A bit happier.

ARGEAUX: Our unicorn is assembled. Our caravan is complete. My dear new friend, perhaps you can point me in the way you saw this Wild Caravan?

SAMIR: But aren't you gonna take me back up to my tent?

ARGEAUX: Of course of course! I promised I'm going to get us all out of here, didn't I? Here, let me put you at the front of the wagon to navigate.

[SFX: ARGEAUX moving SAMIR and strapping him in.]

ARGEAUX: There you go. Comfortable?

SAMIR: Uh, alright. I think it was...some way...that way?

ARGEAUX: We haven't a moment to lose. Betsy! Onward! To the Wild Caravan!

[SFX: BETSY slowly, slowly dragging the wagon with ARGEAX and SAMIR in tow. The caravan makes an awful lot of ruckus as miscellaneous and mysterious items rattle within the wagon, far more than should fit in there.]

[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme starts.]

SAMIR (VO): And so, here I am. Had a freaky dream, met a super sexy cowboy and his..."unicorn," which is really just a depressed donkey in a party hat. And slowly, together, we're gonna find our way outta here. As a...caravan.

[SFX: A gunshot whizzes by Samir's head. MUSIC stops.]

ARGEAUX: DUCK YOUR HEAD!

SAMIR: WHAT THE FUCK?!

[SFX: MUSIC begins again but this time in earnest volume.]

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, with performances by:

Sushant Adlakha as Samir
Giancarlo Herrera as Argeaux
Josh Rubino as Baal
And me (I guess) as Virgyl.

Sound design by Mischa Stanton & Anna Rodriguez. Our theme music is by Evan Cunningham. Additional music by Mischa Stanton.

Our home on the web is whisperforge.org/caravan, where we’ll have transcripts for each episode, links to subscribe to the show wherever you like to listen, and ways to review us on your listening app of choice. You can also email us at caravan@whisperforge.org, or find us on social media @CaravanRadio. And if you’d like to help the caravan resupply, you can visit our Patreon page, patreon.com/caravanradio.

Thanks for riding with us. Y’all come back soon now. :)