1.3 Ain’t No Grave

[BACK]

A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND 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: A storm of bullets. BETSY neighs, alarmed and frightful.]

SAMIR: Why are we getting shot at?!

ARGEAUX: Hold your fire! I said hold your fire!

SAMIR (VO): Under a hailstorm of bullets, Argeaux leaps out of the wagon and carries me behind a boulder for cover. Okay, I'll give him credit: that's pretty heroic.

ARGEAUX: Goddamnit, Dakota, I said hold it!

[SFX: A momentary reprieve, then yet another shot the moment it begins to feel safe.]

ARGEAUX: Ugh, this is *just* like her.

SAMIR (VO): When I feel like maybe our assailant needs a second to reload, I try to take a peak over the boulder. The trail winds in small arcs a few dozen feet in front of us, bending at a sharp curve around a steep cliff. I trace my eye up along the rock face and a high ways up, from atop a ledge in a cave nestled against the cliff, a silhouetted ranger stands in the open, gun still pointed at us. I duck again.

DAKOTA: (From a distance.) I'll put you to rest, ya Canyon shits!

SAMIR: You weren't kidding about it being dangerous out here.

ARGEAUX: Oh it doesn't get deadlier than my dear Dakota.

SAMIR: How do you know them?

ARGEAUX: Dakota! It's me!

DAKOTA: Fuckin' liar!

ARGEAUX: No it's really me! I swear! Just come down here and we'll sort things out!

DAKOTA: Exactly the kind of thing a Canyon turd *would* say!

ARGEAUX: Dakota, please, I'm so relieved to see you. Don't ruin this by killing me!

DAKOTA: The real Argeaux's dead already.

ARGEAUX: No, I'm right here! Please, just come down here and I'll explain.

DAKOTA: I swear to god if you try to pull anything, I will put a hole through you SO fast—

ARGEAUX: I won't. I promise.

SAMIR (VO): Argeaux turns to me, and through his panic tries to give me a reassuring smile.

ARGEAUX: We'll be fine. Trust me.

SAMIR: You sure about that?

ARGEAUX: Sure I'm sure. Just uh...don't make any sudden movements til she gets down here.

SAMIR: Who is she?

ARGEAUX: An old friend.

SAMIR (VO): With my back shrieking in pain, I will myself to peek over the boulder again. The ranger jumps in a smooth vault straight down from the ledge, I dunno, fifty feet? Like it's nothing. She lands neat on her feet and her hat doesn't even budge.

[SFX: Dakota jumps down from the ledge.]

SAMIR: Uh. An old friend from Cirque du Soleil?

ARGEAUX: Never heard of it. That from the outside?

SAMIR: I mean the jump—never mind.

SAMIR (VO): She strides toward us with smooth, deliberate steps. It's almost like she's gliding over the trail, ignoring all its bends and bumps. But her feet look like they're moving normally. Is this some trick of the light? She's closing the gap in no time. Within seconds, she's only a stone's throw away from us, one hand still poised on the gun in her holster.

DAKOTA: (Closer) I'm givin' you five words 'fore I pull out Sophia again.

ARGEAUX: I made it out alive.

DAKOTA: You ain't the real Argeaux. You're an echo. Just another one of Baal's puppets.

ARGEAUX: Dakota, if I were an echo you would've killed me by now.

DAKOTA: You begged me not to.

ARGEAUX: Have you ever missed a shot? An echo wouldn't be able to dodge that.

DAKOTA: Fair enough. Guess the only way to find out is to try again.

ARGEAUX: Now now now hang on a moment, we've got an outsider here with us. An innocent. You can't involve him.

DAKOTA: You mean another scummy echo.

ARGEAUX: You ever seen this one in the Canyon before?

SAMIR (VO): I watch her dark brown eyes study me from under the rim of her hat. For a moment it feels like she can shoot bullets from her eyes, too.

DAKOTA: Maybe not. It's an awful big place.

ARGEAUX: Dakota, my friend Samir here fell in from the outside.

DAKOTA: Oh lord, not another one. I thought those safety railings were supposed to keep the dipshit tourists outta here!

SAMIR: Hi, I'm Samir, the aforementioned, uh, dipshit tourist. Um, what did you mean by 'the real Argeaux's dead,' exactly?

ARGEAUX: Dakota and I go way back. We uh, we had a caravan together. Before this one.

DAKOTA: And this...is your caravan, now?

ARGEAUX: It is!

SAMIR: Okay, so you agree that it's like weirdly small to call a caravan, right?

ARGEAUX: Excuse me but size does not a caravan make!

DAKOTA: (Approaching.) Do enlighten us, Argeaux. If that is your real name. What exactly does make a caravan?

ARGEAUX: It's...it's the spirit of the thing. A moving hearth and home! You of all people should know that.

DAKOTA: I concede caravans have a certain charm. Albeit an outdated one. Hate to break it to ya Auggy, but I've been movin' much faster on my own.

SAMIR: So what happened to your last caravan?

DAKOTA: (Scoffs.) Went tits-up real fast.

ARGEAUX: An *accident,* that's all. It's um, a delicate subject. Like I said, it's real dangerous down here. Tensions got high, lines got crossed, things fell apart. But for what it's worth I never held hard feelings against you Dakota.

DAKOTA: Oh fuck off with your smarmy cult leader bullshit. Auggy here had us believing that we were gonna make a real change here in the canyon.

ARGEAUX: So you do believe I'm the real thing!

SAMIR: A real change about what?

ARGEAUX: Caravans in the Canyon are mostly made up of, uh, bounty hunters. We keep the peace.

DAKOTA: Used to.

SAMIR: Uh, y'all don't have like a, sheriff or something?

DAKOTA: [Laughing for an extended amount of time.] Aw, that's a good one. That’s a good one.

SAMIR (VO): (over top of Dakota) I watch Dakota wipe a tear from her eye from laughing so hard.

SAMIR: Did I say something funny?

ARGEAUX: The Canyon's a lawless country. Let's just leave it at that.

SAMIR: So bounty hunters instead of cops? Sounds like an improvement to be honest.

DAKOTA: We don't exactly chase down shoplifters.

SAMIR: Right, right, you have some Wild West shootouts with bandana'd bandits, right?

ARGEAUX: Sometimes. But usually they've got some other trick up their sleeves.

SAMIR: Like a really fast draw or something?

SAMIR (VO): Dakota shoots me a puzzled look, then looks back to Argeaux.

DAKOTA: Does he know yet?

SAMIR: Do I know what, yet?

ARGEAUX: We only just met, he fell down from way way up high, and not everyone lands like a cat the way you do, alright?

SAMIR: What don't I know?

DAKOTA: Argeaux, if he doesn't know, you gotta get him outta here. Fast. Before dark.


ARGEAUX: I will! I'm gonna get us all outta here.

SAMIR: Uh, guys? Hello?

DAKOTA: What the hell does that mean? 'Get us all outta here?'

ARGEAUX: The Wild Caravan. I saw it last night.

DAKOTA: Oh you've really lost it now—

ARGEAUX: He saw it too!

SAMIR (VO): Dakota crosses her arms and looks back at me again, eyes wide and incredulous. God, every time she turns my way it feels like looking into the sun. I just wanna look away.

DAKOTA: Did he now.

ARGEAUX: Tell her what you saw, Samir.

SAMIR: Um, some weird light show in the rain storm last night. Kinda like our wagon, but a whole bunch of them, and riders, and horses, the whole shebang.

DAKOTA: Just flyin' around in the sky. Just like that?

SAMIR: Uh, yeah, yeah, just like that.

SAMIR (VO): Dakota goes quiet, her hand finally drops from the holster, and she looks down at the ground, arms still crossed.

SAMIR: So, um, is anyone gonna tell me why I gotta get outta here by dark?

ARGEAUX: Gets real dangerous at dark.

SAMIR: Like more guns shooting at us?

ARGEAUX: Worse. A *lot* worse.

DAKOTA: A whole fuckin' lot.

ARGEAUX: Dakota, please! Language.

DAKOTA: Wh-… fine.

SAMIR: I take it that's this...thing, that I don't know about?

ARGEAUX: Listen. There's a way back up to the outside. A nice ramp back up to your tent and your friend with safety rails and everything. And once you go back up there you'll never have to worry about anything down here again.

DAKOTA: You're gonna have to pass through Houzon Circle to get there.

ARGEAUX: You think I don’t know that?

DAKOTA: Are you gonna blindfold him the whole way or something?

SAMIR: Not that I don't enjoy being blindfolded occasionally but uh, why? What am I not supposed to see?

ARGEAUX: Just ride ahead to Houzon Circle and tell everyone to act normal. We'll be in one end and out the other in no time.

SAMIR: Am I being kidnapped? Again, I could be into this sorta thing but I really gotta give informed consent first.

DAKOTA: There's no way you're gonna get him there before nightfall.

SAMIR: HEY! Being talked about like I'm not here is kind of a trigger for me! Can y'all stop ignoring me please?!

DAKOTA: Sorry, sorry.

ARGEAUX: I'm sorry Samir. We didn't mean to do that.

SAMIR: I'm a grownass adult. Whatever you don't think I can handle: I probably can. Just stop treating me like a baby, okay?

ARGEAUX: We will.

SAMIR: Good. Now someone help me stand up!

[SFX: ARGEAUX lifting SAMIR.]

SAMIR (VO): Argeaux wraps his arms around me and pulls me up, leaning me upright against the boulder facing both him and Dakota.

ARGEAUX: It's just. People don't usually take it well when they find out how the Canyon works.

SAMIR: I'm piecing together it's not exactly like the tour guides describe.

ARGEAUX: Really?

SAMIR: I'm not a dumbass.

DAKOTA: So you gonna tell him?

ARGEAUX: Yeah.

SAMIR: It’s about time.

ARGEAUX: So, what we said is true. Caravans kinda help keep the peace around the outposts in the Canyon. But, uh, we don't exactly bounty hunt for petty criminals.

SAMIR: You hunt for...?

ARGEAUX: We hunt...demons, mostly.

SAMIR: Bitch, me too, ever tried Grindr?

SAMIR (VO): Dakota and Argeaux exchange a grave look.

SAMIR: I'm kidding. Okay. When you say demons, you mean like, the Buffy kind of demons?

ARGEAUX: The Buffy kind...?

DAKOTA: No no, Auggy, I've heard of this one! The last outsider brought some runic discs with this name on it. Yes, Samir, like the Buffy demons. She slays vampires, yes? We have vampires down here.

SAMIR: Holy fucking shit!

ARGEAUX: This is not a joke, Samir.

SAMIR: I know, I know, trust me, the hard part isn't believing you, the hard part is NOT being excited about vampires existing!

ARGEAUX: Vampires are terrifying creatures.

SAMIR: You don't get it: every nerd dreams of crossing a magical threshold where they find out all their favorite fantasies are real. Tell me about these vampires. Are they hot? Oh my god, Carlyle would piss himself over this. Are we gonna meet some?

DAKOTA: Most likely, and we're going to kill them. And they're quite cold, actually.

SAMIR: Hell yeah, I'm in! Uh. Once my back gets better.

DAKOTA: Then it's settled. No blindfolding.

ARGEAUX: Meaning you won't need to ride ahead! Safety in numbers.

DAKOTA: Don't think I don't know what you're doing, Argeaux. I'm not rejoining your caravan.

ARGEAUX: Weeeell, you've got a while to think on it.

DAKOTA: I've thought about it already. This is just until we get the outsider out of here.

SAMIR (VO): There's no way they're getting rid of me that easy. I can't wait to see a real vampire up close. This can't be real, can it? Maybe this is all some fever dream I'm still having after my fall. Kinda like how the whole Pokémon series is just Ash dreaming about his adventures after falling into a coma in the first episode.

SAMIR: Woah, that's dark.

DAKOTA: Huh?

SAMIR: Oh, sorry, did I say that out loud? I just meant, um, yeah, let's get moving before it gets dark.

DAKOTA: Good. I'll take point. Argeaux, you drive with Samir in tow. Who's pulling? Oh, my goodness. Well slap my ass and call me Lottie! Is that you Betsy?! Oh baby I didn't mean to scare you! Come here!

[SFX: BETSY whinnies while DAKOTA pets her.]

DAKOTA: What happened to her horn?

ARGEAUX: This one will have to do for now.

DAKOTA: It's cute. I like it. Very you, Betsy. Very you. Very you, Betsy.

[SFX: BETSY brays.]

ARGEAUX: Let's not waste time then. To Houzon Circle!

[MUSIC: Happy trails.]

SAMIR (VO): We spend the rest of the afternoon riding along the Canyon, and to be honest, it's mostly uneventful. Dakota still moves with some kind of superhuman grace I can't really put my finger on yet, and Argeaux keeps his hat low but eyes forward, ever watchful. Betsy looks miserable as usual but maybe a teensy bit happier to see Dakota. I guess they go way back.

From down here, the Canyon looks even bigger than it did during the storm last night. It's way bigger on the inside, some kinda TARDIS biz up in here. I'm not much of a nature person, but holy crap, the Canyon can really make a believer out of anyone. As the sun goes down the horizon melts into this Cadbury egg ooze and the air becomes thick and dusty, but not in a way that makes you choke, more like sitting by a campfire.

Yeah, that's it, I think: The whole place smells...like a campfire.

We've been moving for hours but it feels like we've covered no ground at all. Every time I look down into the Canyon it feels like we've still got miles and miles of trail to go. We see some cool things along the way: a human skeleton along the road — Dakota and Argeaux seem troubled by this but I dunno, it's kinda cool? I feel like the two of them could protect me from anything. I'm not worried. Oh, and speaking of bones, we passed a giant fossil of a mammoth embedded against the rock face on one side of the trail. That’s crazy, right? I didn't even know they had mammoths around here.

God, I’ve got so many questions. I've been quiet most of the trip, taking in the sights, letting Dakota and Argeaux fire saucy banter at each other. Do you think they fucked? I honestly can't tell. Still, that's way low on the list of my questions.

[SFX: The wagon rolls along the trail.]

SAMIR: Hey, Dakota?

SAMIR (VO): She answers without looking back at me, keeping her focus on the trail ahead.

DAKOTA: What is it?

SAMIR: When you said Argeaux and I were both Canyon echoes...what did you mean by that?

SAMIR (VO): She doesn't turn to look at me, but I see her head cock toward Argeaux for a second, and then think better of it, staying forward. I look at Argeaux. He looks nervous, but just puckers his lips like he’s busy taking in the twilight air while he leaves Dakota to answer.

DAKOTA: You ever shout into a canyon before?

SAMIR: Actually, yeah, Carlyle and I were playing the Penis game yesterday!

SAMIR (VO): At *this* Dakota finally turns around. I think she's gonna glare at me for being gross or something but she grins real wide.

DAKOTA: I *love* the Penis game.

ARGEAUX: You two are disgusting and undignified! And, and...and uncouth!

DAKOTA: Well, what happens when you shout into a canyon? It makes an echo right?

SAMIR: Right, but that's a sound, not a person.

DAKOTA: In the Canyon, when someone dies, their spirit echoes throughout the Canyon. Sometimes, the Canyon creates an after-image of them, an impression of the person who just died. It's so lifelike you almost think it's real sometimes. We call them echoes.

SAMIR: Freaky. Basically like life after death.

DAKOTA: Not exactly. Echoes fade eventually, just like shouting into a canyon dies over time. And they're not like the real thing. Not as strong or as smart as the real person—usually. But the more powerful the spirit, the more powerful the echo. Or in Argeaux's case, dangerous.

SAMIR: What would make an echo of Argeaux so dangerous?

ARGEAUX: Aside from, you know, being so dangerously handsome?

SAMIR: Oh come on it's not as cute if you *know* you're cute.

DAKOTA: Well, we were bounty hunters. Trained demon killers.

SAMIR: Yeah, I noticed you kinda move...funny? I don't know how to explain it, it's almost imperceptible, but it's like you float a little bit. Is that like some bounty hunter superpower?

DAKOTA: Hard to say. You spend long enough in the Canyon, you start changing little by little. Becomes tough to parse what about you is natural and what's...you know, supernatural.

SAMIR: Ugh, please never say that word around me again.

DAKOTA: Supernatural?

SAMIR: I said don't!

ARGEAUX: Why?

SAMIR: Don't worry about it. So if I stayed here long enough, I could get superpowers?

ARGEAUX: Please stop calling it that. They're more like, adaptations. And they're hardly worth the danger.

SAMIR: So what's yours?

DAKOTA: Yeah, Auggy, tell him.

ARGEAUX: This really isn't necessary.

SAMIR: Aw, c'mon! Spill.

DAKOTA: Argeaux here has super-charisma. Lemme guess, he swept you off your feet from the moment you met.

SAMIR: Yeah, literally, but that's 'cause my back hurts.

DAKOTA: Handsome stranger riding around in an unmarked white wagon, making all kinds of grand promises if you just hop inside. Dangerous ability, don't you think?

ARGEAUX: Good for forming a caravan. Real strength is in numbers. In family.

DAKOTA: Well let's hope we're enough; it's getting dark. We should set up camp.

[MUSIC: Eerie night.]

[SFX: Canyon nighttime sounds: insects buzzing, a bird of prey hooting.]

SAMIR (VO): Nighttime in the Canyon again. I'm curled up in the wagon. Similar to the Canyon, it's a got a bigger-on-the-inside thing going on. Still, it's stuffed with so many weird knick knacks and artifacts I can't quite make out in the dark that I don't really have much room to stretch out and sleep.

Argeaux is keeping watch on top of the wagon, Dakota in the driver's seat, trying to get some shut-eye but tense enough that I see her doing a quiet 360-perimeter check from time to time. I'm still too excited to fall asleep, though. What if a vampire attacks tonight? Or some kind of echo?

[SFX: An otherworldly shriek.]

SAMIR (VO): Seems like I don't have to wait long.

[SFX: ARGEAUX's boots against the top of the wagon as he stands up.]

SAMIR (VO): Argeaux heard it too; I can hear him above me. Dakota's body is perfectly still except for her hand on her gun.

[SFX: The shriek again. A thump against the dirt as ARGEAUX deftly hops off the wagon.]

SAMIR (VO): She and Argeaux exchange another look. We're all still and quiet again.

[SFX: The wind howls through the Canyon.]

SAMIR (VO): Finally, Dakota speaks up in a hushed whisper.

DAKOTA: (Whispering.) We need to start moving. Now.

ARGEAUX: (Whispering.) No. We stay and fight it. We can't outrun it.

DAKOTA: And we can't kill it, either. How the hell are we supposed to shoot a thing without a body?

ARGEAUX: Oh come on, don't act like we've never been up against formless creatures before. You lost your touch babygirl?

DAKOTA: Call me babygirl again and I'll shoot your nuts off. Remember I don't miss.

ARGEAUX: Often, anyway.

DAKOTA: Ooooh I really hate your ass right now.

SAMIR: Um, guys? What is it?

SAMIR (VO): The moment I ask, I regret it.

[SFX: The water vapor in the air turning into ice.]

SAMIR (VO): The air turns deathly cold around me. Suddenly I feel an icy hand on my shoulder as something leans into my ear.

BANSHEE: [An otherworldly, trilly voice] Just a banshee, darling.

SAMIR (VO): Dakota and Argeaux are still looking around outside the wagon. Can't they hear this?

BANSHEE: Don't worry. I'll make your death fast and quiet.

SAMIR (VO): I scream. (Chokes.) Or, at least, I try to. But the moment I open my mouth, all the air gets sucked out of me. My throat won't make a sound. I try to breathe in and try again, but it's like someone's holding a vacuum to my lips. Argeaux and Dakota have ventured even further from the wagon now, bickering over how to track down a monster right next to me inside. With my last ounce of strength I manage to gasp one last cry.

SAMIR: [Barely audible] Help.

[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme]

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
Danielle Shemaiah as Dakota
And Lisette Alvarez as the Banshee

Sound design by Mischa Stanton & Anna Rodriguez. Our theme music is by Evan Cunningham. Additional music by Mischa Stanton. Visual art by Marina Vermilion, and press kit by Kyle Boyce.

CARAVAN would *not* be possible without support from our Lords of Hell! We want to give a shout-out to the eccentric Lord Bridge, rumor has it Lord Bridge once washed in on mysterious Tides, and ruled over this dust bowl ever since. Canyoneers would also do well to steer clear of Lord Dave, the decorative Lord of Hell who collects the bones of fallen Canyoneers and puts them in cute little mason jars. We’re so grateful for our Lords’ continued patronage and, um, mercy, I guess.

Jokes aside: We’ve been blown away by the support we’ve received in our first few weeks, and we’d love to keep those wagons rolling. If you’d like to make sure they do, you can help us out by spreading the word and leaving us a 5 star-rating on Apple podcasts, plus submitting a review. It’s a huge help in getting us noticed on the charts.

And, if you can spare it, you can pledge on our Patreon page: patreon.com/caravanradio. We’ve got great rewards for patrons, including a discord channel launching this month for fans to hang out in for as little as $1. We’ve got DOPE pledge rewards at other tiers like custom CARAVAN themed spells and monster stat blocks for your 5th edition D&D game, and even a transformation into a Lord of Hell who gets shouted out in the credits.

Our home on the web is whisperforge.org/caravan, where you can find 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 Twitter and Instagram @CARAVANradio. If you send us something really funny, memorable, or just downright thirsty -- we might even give it a read in the credits.

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