1.6 Wayfaring Stranger
A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND STORY—BROUGHT TO LIFE.
[SFX: Scrying flame crackling.]
TAU ZAMAN: CARAVAN would not be possible without the support of our Lords of Hell!
This week Lord Ponders was sighted wandering the 7th Circle, widely known for the most scrumptious delicacies highly sought by foodies the Canyon over. However, witnesses report that upon trying the latest unicorn sausage from Griselda’s Gamey Grubs, Lord Ponders mused, “Hm, this is definitely not Flavortown.”
We’d like to thank Lord Bradley from the hit local band of beholders, Ron Jodrick and the Long Winkers performing their hit single It’s a Disintegration off the album Putting the Gaze to Bed.
We couldn’t possibly forget Lord Dave, our ever-decorative Lord of Hell who sensed a change in the seasons and started laying out some favorite scented candles, including timeless aromas such as Pinterest Oven Disaster, Pawn Shop Grime, and Hospice Miasma.
We’re so grateful for our Lords’ continued patronage and, um, mercy, I guess.
[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme vamping.]
TAU ZAMAN: CARAVAN is created for adult audiences only. Our show notes include content warnings and other helpful info. Welcome back to the Canyon. Let’s jump right in–
PREVIOUSLY ON CARAVAN:
CARLYLE: Samir, look out, the ledge!
SAMIR: 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.
MAMA: I knew I couldn’t be the only sunovabitch awake in this here hick town. Top o’ the noontime to ya, kiddos!
[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme.]
[SFX: Insects chirping, a breeze blowing through Houzon Circle.]
SAMIR (VO): We squint against the blinding sun; our “man” in black nearly eclipses it with the brim of her hat, and in the dark shade cast by it we start making out the details of her form. I have a feeling this isn’t a man in black at all.
DAKOTA: Mama, thank gods it’s you!
MAMA: Oh don’t you be making any thanks just yet young lady. You go off on your own and you leave your Mama all by her old rickety ole’ self. Get me my belt so I can give you a whoopin’!
SAMIR: Dakota, this is your...mom?
DAKOTA: She may as well be.
SAMIR: But she's like, an old white lady.
ARGEAUX: [Arriving from the distance.] Don't let her fool you, kid. That old lady act she puts on? It's just to get your guard down 'fore she sizes you up, aims a stake at your heart, and bang — ‘veeder-zane.
MAMA: Oh no don't mind me, just an "old white lady here."
DAKOTA: Samir, meet Mama Bang Bang. It's okay, you can stand up.
[SFX. SAMIR does so.]
DAKOTA: Mama! You look...good, considering! I'm loving this all black getup. Very masculine.
SAMIR: Uh, nice to meet you, Mama Bang Bang. Sorry, I didn't mean to—
MAMA: No, no, it's alright. A natural question: How does a polar become a mama bear for a brown and black cub. Well I never asked for it, alright?
DAKOTA: Mama rode with us in our last caravan too. Kept us fed, kept our wagons in order, made sure in a canyon full o' demons we still kept our manners.
MAMA: Speaking of which, where are mine these days, oh yes right, like Dakota said: Mama Bang Bang, delighted to make your acquaintance.
SAMIR: Samir. Nice to meet you too, Mama. I keep hearing about this "last" caravan of y'all's, any chance you'll be any less cryptic about what went down with it?
MAMA: Playin' it all mysterious, aren’t they? Not much to say, kiddo. We failed. Baal's got us packed in like sun-dried tomaters, shriveled up in hellfire 'til he's ready to eat us.
SAMIR: Baal...Dakota mentioned him too. She thought I was one his echoes? So he's the Big Bad in the Canyon, right?
MAMA: Oh lordy, I did not sign up to provide exposition today!
DAKOTA: He’s an outsider, Mama. Go easy on him!
MAMA: Alright newbie, I’m sayin’ this once and you let me know if you’ve heard any of it before so I can save any precious few breaths left in this life, you hear?
SAMIR: Sorry? It can wait, I guess. I just figured I’d ask.
MAMA: No, no, it’s fine. Where were we.
SAMIR: Baal. The Big Bad? Echoes?
MAMA: Picture a bratty cat that got too spoiled and started peeing all over the place. If that’s a “Big Bad” for you: sure. Echos: those are the Canyon’s doin’. Freaky shit. Just ain't right.
SAMIR: Speaking of freaky: it's so quiet here. Even Argeaux’s gone silent.
ARGEAUX: When Mama’s talkin’ — I’m listening.
MAMA: Now that’s what I call maturity! Look at you, finally wised up.
ARGEAUX: Any clue what’s goin on in town, Mama?
MAMA: That's what I'm here to find out. Without the caravans, Baal’s minions have been getting mighty impolite lately — more and more are flooding into the upper circles and I’m just one woman goshdarnit!
SAMIR: So you're another vigilante, just like Dakota.
[ARGEAUX and DAKOTA chuckle.]
MAMA: May as well be.
DAKOTA: Seems like it, right? It’s a good look on you, Mama! You see, Samir, back when Caravaners kept the peace 'round the Canyon, we used to liaise with the Billposters. They're the ones who actually post the bounties for which demons were givin' people trouble and askin' for a beating. The caravans would hunt the bounties, bring them back to the Billposters for a sweet reward, and usually the outposts would tolerate the caravans a little better as thanks.
SAMIR: But the caravans aren’t around anymore, right? So Mama’s been dealing with all these demons on her own?
ARGEAUX: With the caravans disbanded for the most part, most of the peacekeepin' fell back to the Billposters, yes. Lot of the Billposters traveled with the caravans in our last push back against Baal, but...well, he killed 'em.
MAMA: Good folks, those people.
ARGEAUX: Mama Bang Bang survived, so now she's the Billposter for all four of the Upper Circles.
SAMIR: So you're a bounty hunter on steroids, basically? Post your own bounties and then hunt them yourself, across every circle?
MAMA: Until we get some goddamn sensible people keeping order in the outposts again, I suppose it's something like that. Can we discuss this later? I've got something I need to show y'all.
[SFX: The party moving through narrow alleys, wooden ramps creak, crates buckle as they move over them.]
SAMIR (VO): Mama leads us away from the town square through some roughshod alleys in Houzon Circle; peeking in through glassless windows I find most of the huts and lean-to's pretty spare on the inside. Hardly a cozy place to be. Still no people in sight.
SAMIR: So if Argeaux and Dakota are X-Men, you're basically Professor X, tracking down aaalll the bad shit that happened.
ARGEAUX: One of those movies they've got outside.
SAMIR: And comic books, first!
MAMA: Oh, how delightful.
ARGEAUX: So what do you think, Mama? Still think the caravaners keeping the peace was a mistake?
MAMA: Compared to keepin' the horrors of hell at bay all alone...yeah, anything's better. If you happen to like things run by mobs and pirates. Let me guess, Samir, my cubs got you convinced caravans are a friendly neighborhood watch, eh?
SAMIR: Ya know, call it a leap of logic, but I'm SOMEHOW getting the impression that caravaning is more dangerous than it sounds!
MAMA: So Argeaux, fine, yes: I would take the return of caravans over Baal's...bacchanalian...bedlam, whatever the hell we've got now!
[ARGEAUX and DAKOTA laugh again.]
ARGEAUX: Count on Mama to see the shit she's seen and STILL act like she's somehow scandalized!
SAMIR: Excuse me, weren’t you the one calling us...[doing an impression of Argeaux’s voice] ‘undignified, and...and uncouth!’
DAKOTA: Next to Mama, even Argeaux’s a bad boy. What's the matter Mama, too many succubi rub their boobies in your face?!
MAMA: Now see! This is what I call sexual harassment! Caravans are brigands, all o' you!
SAMIR: Bacchanalian, huh? Sounds like my kinda party.
DAKOTA: Third Rule of the Canyon: pretty much everyone's horny.
SAMIR: Are you serious?!
MAMA: With rare exceptions, I'm sad to say yes.
DAKOTA: That includes Mama!
MAMA: Oh hush!
DAKOTA: Hey everybody's gotta get their fix.
SAMIR: I think it's rather progressive!
ARGEAUX: Cuts down on violence to say the least. Maybe a troublesome demon comes along and you could cut his head off. But why do that if all he needs is just a good deep poundin' to let those frustrations of living in hell out? Who am I—as a keeper of the peace—to deny that?
SAMIR: And to think you were hung up on my ‘slutty’ soul! And here you are givin’ out ‘good deep poundin’s?!’
DAKOTA: See, Samir? This is the Argeaux you’re gonna get to know once you get past all that chivalrous grandstanding nonsense.
SAMIR: I get it, back then you put up a front ‘cause you thought you were getting rid of me a lot sooner, eh? So y'all don't just hunt demons, you...bang 'em?! Even Lawful Good Argeaux?!
DAKOTA: Well when you put it that way it sounds more hostile than it is. Argeaux's famous for being one of the more...uh, amorous bounty hunters in the Canyon. Me? I believe in a happy balance o' shootin' just as much as splooshin'.
SAMIR: Hold on a minute. When I asked if the vampires were hot, you said we’re gonna have to kill ‘em!
DAKOTA: Well that’s ‘cause vampires suck your blood! In addition to being terrible in the sack!
SAMIR: Holy shit, y'all are FREAKS. Hypocritical ones at that!
ARGEAUX: We contain multitudes.
DAKOTA: Sue us!
SAMIR: This sounds dangerous. Like, these are deadly monsters, right? What about STDs? And consent with evil demons has GOTTA be murky at BEST.
ARGEAUX: Can't say we've run into too many problems that way. Think of propositioning a demon much like... challenging them to a duel. We lay out the terms, and if they're agreeable to all, we engage. And every party can change their terms at any time.
SAMIR: Yeah you might just get like Cthulhu's Chlamydia or whatever.
DAKOTA: It's...a risk, yeah! I came down with Infernally Transmitted Hell-Crabs a ways back and it almost made me swear myself into a nunnery.
SAMIR: But...y'all...still hook up with baddies?
ARGEAUX: If it keeps the peace, we do what needs doin'. That answer your question?
SAMIR: Yeah! Sounds, um, kinda hot actually. Does this mean if I'm riding along with y'all I'll...have to bang demons too?
ARGEAUX: Only the ones you want to. There's always more than one way to banish the evils of the world.
SAMIR: Yeah, I think I'm gonna be a slayer of the more traditional style. Get me some holy water and a whip so I can fuck bitches up classic Belmont style.
DAKOTA: If you want! I take it you're the shy type then?
SAMIR: Eh, more like the, uh...deeply unfit type. This muffin-top doesn't exactly bring all the boys to the yard upside, I highly doubt insanely hot demons are gonna wanna get a bite of this down in hell.
ARGEAUX: Ha! That's where you're in for an awakening, I think.
SAMIR: Please, look at me. I know I'm cute! With the right Snapchat filters and angles. But...next to you guys, I'm kinda the...'And Peggy' of the group you know? Like, Argeaux, I could literally grate cheese on the peaks and valleys of your back muscles.
ARGEAUX: Hahaha! You've got such a way with words. You make me blush, pardner.
SAMIR: And let's talk about Dakota over here; she could literally crush my head between her thighs and I would thank her for it.
DAKOTA: I always thought I had more of a lean and graceful thing going on. I couldn't do that...Then again I'm not sure, would you wanna try and find out?
SAMIR: And don't get me STARTED on Mama Bang Bang! Hustling around all the upper circles kickin' demons to the curb. Peep that butt! She keeps it tight! — Sorry, is it okay if I say that? I'm really sorry if that's not cool. — But come on! Do you even see a wrinkle on her?!
MAMA: Oh bless; I can't remember the last time someone under 750 years old told me that I was attractive.
SAMIR: And then we've got MY fat ass here who gets winded from like, yanking on Betsy's harness for more than twenty minutes!
ARGEAUX: I take it upside people are much pickier about the, uh, meat suits their partners occupy.
DAKOTA: Makes sense. Short lives up there; they probably won't settle for anything less than statues, it sounds like.
ARGEAUX: Breaks my heart. Can you imagine all the beautiful escapades they're missing out on over things so trivial as...as curves?
SAMIR: Eh. Curves is for hot fatties. Some of us just have chunks and rolls. At least demon hunting will get me in shape. Maybe.
ARGEAUX: Well, word of advice on the creatures down here in the Canyon. They're not like your peers upside. They're all...manifestations of certain aspects of the world. Rage, envy, lust, loss...They're powerful avatars representing the whole spectrum of life. Naturally drawn to other people with purity of persona.
SAMIR: Purity of...persona?
MAMA: What he means is...they could care less about your meat suit and more what kinds of power you wield. All of you, the memories of your life, the experiences you carry in your bones, the sum of your self actualization and confidence — they can smell it on us. All the things we feel with our short lives...our mortality is like...
ARGEAUX: ...An aphrodisiac to them.
DAKOTA: So spend less time agonizing over your love handles. Plus, they're so cute. Can I squeeze 'em?
SAMIR: Uh, sure—woah! You meant like immediately, okay!
DAKOTA: Just as I thought. So squishy! I love it! Revel in your body bucko. The more fun you have in it, the more fun Canyon denizens are gonna find it.
ARGEAUX: Which, dangerous as it is, is only gonna help us in our line of work.
SAMIR: So let's say I do meet a smokin' hot incubus or something, what if I don't wanna catch Gonorrhea Gorgonitis?
ARGEAUX: Well, it's a dangerous job! [SFX: Record scratch. Argeaux’s voice changes to that of old timey instructional videos.] There's no real 100% protection but abstinence. [SFX: Record scratch as Argeaux’s voice returns to normal.] But some of us would rather live shorter, more memorable lives.
SAMIR: Figures. I guess condoms would just melt on some hot demon dong or something.
MAMA: Feels good to not always be the one giving the whole “The Baal and the Balls” talk.
DAKOTA: Look at us, Mama Bang Bang, all grown up. Teachin' wittle ole Samir how to use his 'demon-slayer.'
ARGEAUX: To answer your concerns, there ARE some preventative measures you can take, but they're not always full-proof...
SAMIR: Oh this I GOTTA hear about.
DAKOTA: Just find yourself someone who can whip you up some powerful Mancy!
ARGEAUX: Some call it magic.
DAKOTA: I mean I'll try to get ahold of some if we've got something like a cyclops on our hands but honestly I don't love barrier protection. Just doesn't feel as good, ya know?
SAMIR: TELL me about it! Upside we kinda gotta use it though; some shit you can get for life. And it's not always a death sentence, but for folks who don't have access to the right resources or treatment...it can be.
DAKOTA: Bummer. Mancy isn't always the answer either. It can be finicky unless you REALLY know what you're doing.
SAMIR: So when Banshee lets me float around, that's Mancy too, right?
MAMA: What does he mean, ‘Banshee lets him float around?’
SAMIR: Oh yeah, like this! [Takes a deep breath.]
SAMIR (VO): I start floating up into the air a few feet, but Mama hardly seems impressed.
ARGEAUX: Mama Bang Bang, we should tell you: Samir here is a veritable Evoker!
MAMA: Well boink me, that explains why you'd be so nice to an outsider and carryin' him all around the Canyon.
SAMIR: Yup, that's me. The Evoker. Basically the Chosen One, right. Ever seen the Matrix?
DAKOTA: Less of a Chosen One and more of a...Glass Cannon.
ARGEAUX: Remember Samir, you may be able to pick up Mancy just from absorbing people's souls, but you don't have the training to safely use it. One bad cast could shatter you.
SAMIR: Do people just get born with magic powers? Can you go to a school and learn it?
ARGEAUX: Everybody's source is different. An Evoker like you can get it naturally from forming bonds with other Mancied creatures. Others spend their lives trying everything but can't build a functioning Mancy circuitry in their bodies.
SAMIR: Circuitry...So it becomes its own organ system, almost. It can change your body that way?
ARGEAUX: Ha! Have you taken a look in a mirror lately friend?
SAMIR: Haven't come across one yet. Wait, why, do I have an...unsightly growth or something?!
SAMIR (VO): I look around the narrow alleyway we’re in trying to find something, anything I can catch my reflection on. I settle for a rusty tin bucket a few steps behind us; I’m tempted to drop to my feet and run over to it, but instead I try to will myself to float over to it instead. I lean over the cloudy water inside it and try to use it as a mirror. [SFX: Water sloshes in a bucket as SAMIR tilts it.]
SAMIR: Hey, my hair's going grey.
DAKOTA: Really fast I might add.
ARGEAUX: Probably Banshee's doing.
SAMIR: Oh! Shit, yeah. I mean, that I can live with. Basically I just need to avoid bonding with anyone who'd give me some kind of un-sexy adaptation, right?
ARGEAUX: [Chuckles.] Sounds so simple when you put it that way.
SAMIR: Don't swallow any ugly ghosts! What's so hard about that?
MAMA: Bonds tend to be unexpected and inevitable, in most cases.
SAMIR: Sounds like y'all know a lot about them. I thought you said y'all didn't have an Evoker in your last Caravan?
ARGEAUX: Not an Evoker as such. We had a real powerful Mancer with us though. Just wasn't enough against Baal's armies though. We got overrun. Goddamnit, we could've had him!
MAMA: No, we weren't even close. You're deluding yourself; we all would've died if we stayed a minute longer.
ARGEAUX: This time we've got an Evoker though! There's nothing we can't get him to do, in time.
SAMIR: Hey guys? I'm right here.
ARGEAUX: Right, right, sorry.
MAMA: Who spit in his grits?
DAKOTA: He doesn't like people talking about him like he's not here. It's a...trigger of sorts.
MAMA: Fair enough. That's hardly a dealbreaker. Everybody's got their bag.
SAMIR: And I signed up to punch and/or screw a couple of demons 'til I get outta here. So this time it'll be different. With me.
DAKOTA: Argeaux. You said you were gonna get us out of here. All of us.
ARGEAUX: And I will, goddamnit!
DAKOTA: But you're gonna have to use Samir to do it. Are we gonna risk him just 'cause he's our ace in the hole?
SAMIR: Oh heeeelll no; I've read the Harry Potter books, y'all are NOT gonna pull an Albus Dumbledore on me!
ARGEAUX: Samir, no one’s pulling an Alla-damn-bazam on anyone! There's a safer way to break the veil. Without fighting Baal directly, or even his army. But we need a bigger caravan. We can recruit from Houzon Circle, right here...as soon as we find out where the hell everybody went. Mama, you gonna show us where they went or what?
MAMA: 'Mama are we there yet,' lords, fine, yes, almost! Here.
[MUSIC: Creepy Houzon Circle.]
SAMIR (VO): After a long winding route through the smaller dirt paths of Houzon Circle we find ourselves at a steep wooden ramp descending deeper into the canyon, down onto a plateau tucked between tall rock faces on either side. The ground here starts to get muddy and our feet sink into it; looks like the rainstorm from the night before last still hasn't dried up here. We finally arrive at a shady open clearing with some sparse patches of long-dead grass. At first glance it looks the right size for growing crops, but nobody's planted any. The canyon walls are so tall on all sides around this alcove I don't think it'd get enough light. Plus, rain seems pretty rare in the Canyon. For a moment I wonder what people even eat here. It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust to the low light, but when they do, what I see is horrifying. Some of the patches I thought were grass earlier are actually...bodies? They’re people, just lying on the ground. A few dozen of them.
Oooookay. I'm officially freaked the fuck out. I'd like to leave please. They don't seem dead, at least, they don't have wounds. But they're all sprawled on the ground arranged in a loose circle, unconscious.
ARGEAUX: Well, shit.
DAKOTA: Auggy, is this what I think it is?
SAMIR: Someone wanna fill in the newbie?
MAMA: This is some dark as hell Mancy.
SAMIR: Gee, I couldn't tell.
MAMA: Hey, no need to get fresh with Mama, mister!
SAMIR: Fine, sorr—
MAMA: You know, not every kind of Mancy is all doom and gloom!
SAMIR: Right, but we should probably worry about these bodies on the groun—
MAMA: There's smaller Mancy out there than the flashy stuff like fireballs and shit!
SAMIR: Don't you think these peop—
MAMA: My sister Mabel, you know she had this knack for making popcorn and never burning a single kernel when she did it! And you know what I called that?
SAMIR: An irrelevant anecdote?
MAMA: Popcorn-Mancy! Isn't that a hoot!
SAMIR: Geez, she can really go off, huh.
ARGEAUX: Never interrupt Mama. She'll make you regret it.
MAMA: That's right. Now where was I.
SAMIR: There are all these bodies lying around.
MAMA: Oh yes, I call this dark as hell Mancy.
SAMIR (VO): Dakota moves closer to some of the bodies and examines them.
DAKOTA: These are Houzon residents, alright. What the heck puts them all to sleep in the middle of the day?
ARGEAUX: Sustained Mancy without a caster in sight. Creepy stuff, wouldn't you say?
MAMA: Look closer at their faces. They don't even look like they're dreaming.
SAMIR: Dreamless sleep. Common, but everybody all at once, in the daytime? Not that common. And they all came here to this one spot on the outskirts of town, willingly, apparently.
DAKOTA: Whoever put this Mancy on everyone doesn't want to be seen. At least not now.
SAMIR: And they picked a low-light alcove with minimal sunlight. Are you guys thinking what I'm thinking?
DAKOTA: What's on your mind?
SAMIR: Everybody get your garlic out: we've finally got ourselves a vampire.
[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme.]
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 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 and Travis Reaves. Visual art by Marina Vermillion. Press kit by Kyle Boyce.
If you like what you hear, we hope you’ll help us fund a second season of CARAVAN! We’re nearly halfway to our goal in order to be able to make season 2, and you can track our progress or chip in on patreon.com/caravanradio.
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 Madelyn Grace, who sent to us in a tweet: “Tomorrow is not promised. Be a hoe today!”
Episode 7 goes live in two weeks, on May 3rd. Thanks for riding with us. y’all come back soon now. :)