1.5 Man in Black
A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND STORY—BROUGHT TO LIFE.
[SFX: Scrying flame crackling.]
TAU ZAMAN: CARAVAN would not be possible without support from our Lords of Hell!
This week we were all quivering in fear of Lord Dave, the Decorative Lord of Hell! Caravans report that Lord Dave was last seen making a Pinterest Board of possible craft projects using flayed corpses for spoopy Halloween decorations.
This week, witnesses also report the ascended Demon Lord T.H. Ponders was seen frolicking in the white fields of the 5th Circle, leaving behind burning footprints in which all life soon withered and decayed.
We’re so grateful for our Lords’ continued patronage and, um, mercy, I guess.
[SFX: Fire fades.]
[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme vamping.]
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.
Oh, and just one more thing: CARAVAN is taking a super short break before our next episode. Episode 6 goes live on April 19th 2019. The second half of CARAVAN Season 1 is just bonkerz; episodes are bigger, longer, stronger and meaner than ever before, so we’re taking a little extra time to make sure it sounds delicious. That being said, we’re not going dark the whole time! We’ll still be chatting with fans and sharing theories, weird articles, and horny banter over on Twitter @CARAVANradio. You can also follow me on Twitter @TauZaman for more musings on how CARAVAN was made behind the scenes and what other podcasts you should definitely give a listen. And remember, you can always reach me by email at email@example.com. So don’t be a stranger!
Let’s get started, shall we? PREVIOUSLY ON CARAVAN:
CARLYLE: Samir, look out, the ledge!
SAMIR (VO): And I fall into the vast and bottomless canyon below.
ARGEAUX: I’m gonna get us all out of here, just you wait. Caravans kinda help keep the peace around the Canyon. But, uh, we hunt...demons, mostly.
DAKOTA: Call me babygirl again, and I’ll shoot your nuts off.
BANSHEE: Your pain is mine now, and mine yours.
SAMIR: Do we run from it?
BANSHEE: Run? Ahahahahahah! Nay, child, we fight!
[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme.]
[SFX: Wind howling through the Canyon.]
ARGEAUX: [calling from above] Samir! Are you alright?
SAMIR: Oh thank god! No it's just my friends!
SAMIR: Heh. You really wanted a fight, huh?
ARGEAUX: We'll be down there soon! I just gotta wrangle Betsy up here and bring 'er down the long way 'round.
SAMIR (VO): A moment later, I see Dakota's hat silhouetted in the moonlight, peeking over the rock face above us.
DAKOTA: Look out below, kid! I'm comin' down!
SAMIR (VO): She jumps aaaalll the way down.
[SFX: Dakota’s clothes rustling in the descent.]
SAMIR (VO): And lands on her feet. I didn't even hear a thud.
DAKOTA: Ta-da! How'd I do?
SAMIR: That is still... freakin' unreal. But actually I can fall without making a sound too, now!
DAKOTA: Whadya mean?
SAMIR: So remember that banshee?
DAKOTA: I figured that's what it was! I’m so glad you're alright. Chase it off, did you?
SAMIR: Uhm, not exactly. I kind of, uh, you know...swallowed her?
SAMIR (VO): Dakota's face twists into a grossed-out frown while she examines the wreckage of the crashed wagon next to us.
DAKOTA: Well, shit-sticks.
SAMIR: I take it you're not a fan of that idea?
DAKOTA: So tell me. You can hear her?
SAMIR: Yeah. She can still talk to me. Like in my head. It's really cold in there. But sometimes when she feels good about something, it's warm. And she helps me float around, too! That's the coolest part! Isn't this one of those adaptations?
DAKOTA: Fuck if I know. I didn't get these quads from swallowin' no spirits. Argeaux would be a better judge o' that. Let's just wait 'til he gets Betsy down here.
SAMIR (VO): We wait for a long while. It's almost dawn by the time Argeaux arrives with Betsy in tow.
[SFX: Betsy neighs.]
SAMIR (VO): She still looks freaked out but at least she's back to lumbering at her old pace. Argeaux seems so happy to be with her. He doesn’t even feel that bad about the wagon being wrecked. Doesn’t he have anything valuable in there?
SAMIR: Aren't you gonna miss anything in that wagon, Argeaux?
ARGEAUX: Eh. I've been lugging those things along for quite a while. Over time people just accumulate things. They get...heavy. Best to offload once in a while. Or...maybe not fight the universe when it unburdens us by surprise.
SAMIR: What about, like, food and stuff?
ARGEAUX: We can restock back in Houzon Circle. Besides, sun's comin' up and the rest o' the way should be safe.
SAMIR: Yeah, about that. So... I don't think you have to take me there. I think I can maybe just... float up? Like... fly out of the Canyon and go home? Now that I've swallowed a banshee?
SAMIR (VO): Argeaux's face darkens at this.
SAMIR: Damn, neither of you are fans of this, huh?
ARGEAUX: What do you mean you...swallowed one?
SAMIR: It was like swallowing a huge ice cube or something. And now she's inside me. And I float around!
ARGEAUX: Do you think that's all banshees do!?
SAMIR: Um, well, they do scream sometimes.
DAKOTA: And did this banshee ever try to do that?
SAMIR: No! Well, wait, okay, sort of. It was more like...I screamed? But maybe she did too, from inside me, at the same time? It felt weird.
ARGEAUX: Weird, or painful?
SAMIR: I don't really remember. Mostly weird. But maybe it did hurt a little. It was like my throat was gonna explode. And she was so... so angry. There was all this pain inside me and it came just shooting out.
ARGEAUX: That's what I'm worried about, Samir. You haven't just 'swallowed' a banshee. She's a part of you now. And that's very dangerous.
SAMIR: Nah, she can leave anytime she wants! I think? She's not answering right now but that's probably cause she's getting cozy in my, um, soul or whatever.
DAKOTA: Buddy, you can't just go around letting anyone in like that!
SAMIR: I've got a slutty soul, what can I say! ...No, but really, she said it was different. Had a weird aura or something. She doesn't need to feed or anything while she's inside me. So I'm just gonna float on up outta here. Did I mention my back feels a lot better?
ARGEAUX: That's... impossible now.
SAMIR: ...What do you mean impossible. What do you mean impossible now?
DAKOTA: There's this... how do I say this. There's this barrier you crossed when you fell into the Canyon.
SAMIR: Yeah, Argeaux mentioned it. But why can't I just float out past it?
ARGEAUX: Supernatural creatures cannot pass through it. It's what keeps us in here. In the Canyon.
SAMIR: That's what you meant by getting everyone out of here. But I'm not supernatural, I'm just a human!
DAKOTA: Hah. A human with a, what did you call it, a slutty soul?
ARGEAUX: I'm afraid this doesn't make you quite so human anymore. You've absorbed the essence and abilities of a supernatural creature.
SAMIR: So, what does that make me now?
ARGEAUX & DAKOTA: An evoker.
SAMIR: An evoker? Well. Fuck me I guess. Do I at least get Magic Missile?
DAKOTA: Not until you absorb a creature that has it—
SAMIR: Wait. So I can...absorb creatures now?
ARGEAUX: As far as we know. We've only seen you do it with a banshee so far. And actually, we haven't even seen that. That's our best guess as far as we know.
SAMIR: So I can't find Carlisle and get outta here until we remove that barrier. Hm. How are we gonna do it?
ARGEAUX: It's gonna be a longer trip than you planned.
SAMIR: I don't have that long. Carlisle's still waiting for me up there! Probably. I hope. Shit, why did I leave my phone in the tent...
DAKOTA: Doubt you'd get much service down here. Phones ain't much use. Make nice magic batteries for certain spells, sometimes.
SAMIR: Fuck. Okay. So we get rid of this barrier at Houzon Circle.
ARGEAUX: No. It's just the first of many circles. We're gonna have to shut down the barrier at the source.
DAKOTA: Argeaux, you need to let this go.
ARGEAUX: This is it, Dakota. We didn't have an evoker last time. Now we do.
SAMIR: What're you guys talking about? The demon portal at the bottom of the Canyon?
DAKOTA: Okay, Miss Cleo, how in Baphomet's titties did you know that?
SAMIR: Um, Banshee mentioned it.
ARGEAUX: We can't get down there just the three of us.
DAKOTA: Here he goes again.
ARGEAUX: We need...
SAMIR: Lemme guess: a caravan.
ARGEAUX: Exactly. [Ominously.] No one braves the Canyon alone. And its deepest circles? They're swarming with demons. They'd crush us.
SAMIR: So we need to recruit folks.
DAKOTA: Exactly. And we can start at Houzon.
SAMIR: So you guys tried this once already and it failed 'cause...too many demons?
DAKOTA: ...Among other things, yeah.
ARGEAUX: It was a different situation. Entirely. It'll be different this time. If we unite the circles we can survive. We can get everyone out of here.
DAKOTA: Or, you know, just unleash an unending portal o' demons on the rest of the world. That could happen.
ARGEAUX: I won't let it.
SAMIR: Yeah. You've got me this time! Guess it wasn't such a bad idea eating a ghost after all!
DAKOTA: That's cool as hell, trust me, but you gotta watch out, Samir. That pain you felt? When you screamed? That was her pain.
ARGEAUX: Evokers are extremely rare...mainly because they don't live very long.
DAKOTA: Every time you bring someone inside you, you...share a bit o' your lifespan with them.
ARGEAUX: That is, if one lives to old age at all. Most don't.
SAMIR: What happens to us?
DAKOTA: [Mocking, sing-song] They go cuckoo.
ARGEAUX: To put it in... more sensitive terms, they succumb to madness, yes. To feel all one feels in life, and multiply it by the lives of everyone that an evoker contains...it's enough to tear anyone apart.
SAMIR: I take it getting rid of Banshee's not gonna be that easy.
ARGEAUX: If you're a true evoker, as we suspect you might be: it's unlikely. I've never seen a separation happen cleanly. But in time, you'll master her abilities, and develop your own.
SAMIR: My own? Like I have my own superpowers?
DAKOTA: More like... that soul of yours she likes so much?
SAMIR: The slutty one, yeah.
ARGEAUX: You two really love that word.
SAMIR: We do!
DAKOTA: You'd find out how to use it to bring other spirits in. But really you should be careful about that.
SAMIR: Yeah, you mentioned.
ARGEAUX: That settles it then. We rebuild the caravan.
DAKOTA: From... the bottom up. This feels familiar.
ARGEAUX: I thought you'd be happy, Dakota.
DAKOTA: I missed you Auggy. But. I don't know. I thought I'd left this life behind, you know?
ARGEAUX: It'll be different this time.
DAKOTA: It's different every time. But ends the same way.
SAMIR: Uh, not with all of us dying, right?
ARGEAUX: It only gets more dangerous from here, compadre.
SAMIR: Honestly? That sounds like a fun way to go. Let's do it.
DAKOTA: This one's got nuts o' steel. You ain't gonna scare this one so easy, Auggy.
ARGEAUX: I don't have to. The Canyon can test that for us.
SAMIR: What're we waiting for? Let's hit the road!
DAKOTA: Houzon's not far now!
ARGEAUX: Three brave caravaners unto the breach once more!
SAMIR: Hey! You're forgetting someone.
ARGEAUX: And Betsy, of course.
SAMIR: And Banshee!
ARGEAUX: Uhm. Right. Five of us already. Imagine that.
[MUSIC: Happy trails.]
SAMIR (VO): We make our way down the winding paths along the rock face deeper and deeper into the canyon. We skip breakfast; figuring we can probably hit Houzon Circle by noon. Dakota promises there's a great brunch place down there. In a real-ass saloon! With those swinging shutter doors like in the cowboy movies and everything!
The sun's high in the sky and the three of us are really sweaty—really, really sweaty—by the time we make it to the Circle. Dakota lends me an extra hat. At least the three of us sort of match now! Betsy seems to have no problem keeping up with us now that she's not dragging a wagon. I wonder if we're gonna have to get a new one once we get to town. Every caravan needs a wagon, right? Or bunches of them. Oregon Trail style. Otherwise we're just...backpackers. Gross.
[SFX: Wooden archway creaking in the wind.]
SAMIR (VO): The sloping path smooths out to a flat plateau, maybe about half the size of a football field. There's a wooden fence along the front of the outpost with a big arch for an entryway. No sign saying its name or anything. Just beyond the arch we see little houses straight out of a Western or something. They look so real! I have to remind myself they are real. But something's weird. It's awfully silent. I thought when we got here it'd be like getting off the train at Westworld or something; all kinds o' people milling about, some pretty lady comin' up to me saying I must be new—not much of a rind on me yet.
But instead...it's empty. Not even a tumbleweed rolling by at high noon.
SAMIR: [Loudly and the quieting down self-consciously.] I didn't realize it was gonna be so...quiet.
ARGEAUX: Keep your guard up, kid.
SAMIR: Pretty sure we're the same age. Stop talking like a grizzly cowboy.
DAKOTA: Welcome to Houzon Circle; population...us?
SAMIR: Where is everybody?
ARGEAUX: Dakota. You stay here with Samir and Betsy. I'm gonna check one of the storefronts.
SAMIR (VO): We stand under the archway while Argeaux goes into the nearest building: what looks like a saloon with those doors I was so excited about.
[SFX: Argeaux's spurred boots on dirt and sand punctuating the eerie quiet, then the door of a building creaking open as he checks.]
SAMIR (VO): We wait. Dakota keeps a hand on her holster and her eyes scan the view for any movement. I feel like I should be doing something to protect myself. Do I need a gun? It'd look cool but I really don't like guns. And I don't know how to use one. I feel kinda naked out here. Vulnerable. Argeaux comes back out. He looks confused. Nothing. Nobody's there? A saloon at midday?
[SFX: Argeaux returns.]
DAKOTA: Argeaux. Switch with me. I'll check a house.
SAMIR: I'm coming with you. I don't like standing out here in the open.
ARGEAUX: It's safer with me.
SAMIR: Well I'm gonna have to fight whatever's down in this Canyon sooner or later, right?
DAKOTA: Fine. Come on.
[MUSIC: Deserted landscape.]
SAMIR (VO): We start walking into the town square and immediately I regret this. Now there are alleys and blind spots on all sides, and I think I would've felt safer out front by the entrance to Houzon Circle after all. In the town square we've got a big statue of some...woman? She's on top of—or rather in the middle of—some fountain. She's holding her hands to her sides kind of like Jesus in the Last Supper or something, and she's got long, long, really curly hair down to her waist. It's beautiful how much details went into carving those curls out of stone.
But there's no water. The basin of the fountain seems dusty like it hasn't run water in ages.
SAMIR: [Quietly.] Who is that?
DAKOTA: [Loudly.] Where? Someone here?
SAMIR: No, I mean. Her. At the fountain.
DAKOTA: Oh. Um. We call her Eileen.
SAMIR: What's she got a statue for?
DAKOTA: I mean, who knows. But the story goes that she set up the first outpost in the Canyon for the earthly creatures to make a home. That's how we got Houzon Circle.
SAMIR: Banshee mentioned earthly creatures too...so: no demons allowed?
DAKOTA: She drove ‘em out. How, I have no idea. More likely she had a crew.
SAMIR: A caravan.
DAKOTA: Auggy's really rubbing off on you ain't he.
SAMIR: God, I wish. He is a total stud.
SAMIR: You don't think so? I mean look at him.
DAKOTA: No, no, you're right. Just. No matter how pretty someone is, get to know him long enough and they start to drive you crazy. I could never look at Argeaux that way. Auggy? My Auggy? Please.
SAMIR: Funny. I thought you two might've...boned.
DAKOTA: Well I! Never in my…!
SAMIR: Ah, so not never-never!
DAKOTA: Now hold on a minute here!
[SFX: A bullet catches the ground near their feet.]
DAKOTA: Woah! Get down!
SAMIR (VO): I duck but there's really nowhere to get cover.
[SFX: DAKOTA and SAMIR diving behind the fountain lip.]
SAMIR (VO): Dakota grabs me by the shoulder and leaps into the fountain, dragging me with her. I roll into the fountain and peek my head over the lip.
SAMIR: Where the hell did that come from?
DAKOTA: Up there. Look.
SAMIR (VO): I look up above one of the houses. I have to squint 'cause the sun's right in my eye at this point. There's a figure standing at the top with a billowy coat in the wind and a gun in hand. A man in black. Or at least a silhouette of one.
SAMIR: Okay I know we're in danger but can I at least he looks badass as fuck?
DAKOTA: Hush! He's coming!
SAMIR (VO): The man in black doesn't have Dakota's level of grace but he hops down a series of ledges and edges without losing his balance before finally landing on the ground. The sun's so bright I can't even make out much of him on the ground. He keeps his gun by his waist and even though he's not pointing at us anymore, I don't feel any more...settled.
[SFX: Deliberate, confident footsteps.]
SAMIR (VO): He saunters toward us like he's got all the time in the world. Finally, when he's basically an arm's reach away from us, he towers over us as we kneel in the fountain. Finally a face comes into view. And it's no “man” in black at all.
MAMA BANG BANG: I knew I couldn't be the only sonuvabitch awake in this here hick town! Top o' the noontime to ya kiddos!
[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme.]
TAU SAMAN: 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
Lisette Alvarez as Banshee
And Mama Bang Bang, as herself.
Sound editing by Daniel Manning. Sound design by Mischa Stanton & Anna Rodriguez. Our theme music is by Evan Cunningham. Additional music by Mischa Stanton. Visual art by Marina Vermillion. Press kit by Kyle Boyce.
If you’d like to make sure the wagons keep on rolling, you can help us out by spreading the word and leaving us a 5 star-rating and review on Apple Podcasts. 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, like our patrons-only Discord channel (which is up and running), 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 every episode.
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.
If you send us something really funny, memorable, or just downright thirsty, we might even give it a read in the credits.
This week our favorite message was from Alex Welch, who wrote to us in a tweet: “I relate to Samir because I’d let Banshee get inside of me too.”
Thanks for riding with us. Once again, Episode 6 goes live April 19th 2019. So y’all come back soon now. :)