1.8 I See A Darkness

[BACK]

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

[SFX: Scrying flame crackles.]

TAU ZAMAN: CARAVAN would not be possible without support from our Lords of Hell!

This week, Lord Ponders was found wandering a museum of fine arts, pondering about whether one should perhaps produce a podcast talking about Art — its “history, biography, social aesthetic, production, and provenance from every angle.”

Lord Bradley, meanwhile, has been toiling all week on evolving the Canyon. On the third day, Lord Bradley invented the Remington Bolt-Action Rifle so that man could fight the dinosaurs. And the heterosexuals. Amen.

Lord Kim has ascended as a new Lord of Hell. When walking into the regular monthly meeting of the Lords of Hell, everyone asked how Lord Kim had attained the title so quickly. It is said Lord Kim simply answered, “what, like it’s hard?”

Lord Joe, another newly ascended Lord of Hell, has spent most of his week shirking lordly demonic duties, instead roaming the Canyon up and down with a phone and trying to catch enough Squirtles to turn them into...candy? And finally evolve his...dream Blastoise…?

We’re so grateful to our Lords of Hell 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 features audible BDSM and intercourse, so, if you’re listening at your dayjob or something, um...just remember, uh, “employees must wash hands before returning to work.” Welcome back to the Canyon; let’s jump right in.

PREVIOUSLY, ON CARAVAN:

MAMA BANG BANG: I knew I couldn’t be the only sonuvabitch awake in this here hick town.

SAMIR: Everybody get your garlic out: we've finally got ourselves a vampire.

SAMIR: I want you to come inside me.

MIGUEL: It's gone, it's really gone...For that, I am eternally grateful.

KERBEROS: (Snorts and wheezes, rolling around.)

VIRGYL: You there, thanks so much for picking up my puppy. Now...can I have him back?

[MUSIC: CARAVAN theme.]

SAMIR: Sure, he's all yours.

[SFX: Releases KERBEROS back to VIRGYL.]

SAMIR (VO): I put down the pug in my arms, and the little thing races across the clearing back to…What was this demon’s name again? I saw him in my dream a couple nights ago, but I can’t quite remember.

SAMIR: Say, you look...familiar. Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

VIRGYL: Hm, I couldn't tell you. Step closer maybe.

ARGEAUX: Leave him alone, Virgyl. He's not bothering anyone.

SAMIR (VO): Virgyl. That was it.

VIRGYL: Am I bothering anyone, then? Why the hostility for your old friend?

DAKOTA: Heh. Friend, my ass! More like the literal devil’s right-hand man.

VIRGYL: Man, woman, these are but costumes for the soul. I only took this humanoid body for fun. Shall I show you my true form?

DAKOTA: We’ll pass, thanks.

VIRGYL: Argeaux here happens to be a fan of it, isn’t that right, love?

ARGEAUX: We’re a little busy here, Virgyl.

VIRGYL: Oh, let me guess, starting up another rebellion are you?

ARGEAUX: And what if we were?

VIRGYL: It falls to me to squelch any such musings before they even come to mind.

ARGEAUX: Well, surely none of us would dare defy your master.

VIRGYL: ... I’m sure. Nonetheless, I’m here to make certain. Trust, but verify — Mother always said.

DAKOTA: And if you did hear the wrong ‘musings’ about rebellion at the wrong time?

VIRGYL: I'll be most impressed if you succeed this time around. Let’s leave it at that.

DAKOTA: Sooner or later that means we’re gonna kill you, you know.

VIRGYL: [Chuckles.] You are certainly welcome to try. So now you've got, what, outsiders in your ranks?

SAMIR: Hey, not any outsider! I'm an evoker, motherfucker!

ARGEAUX: Samir, don't—

VIRGYL: An evoker! You don't say. Not everyday we run into one of those. And, let's see, now you've got a vampire in your midst as well?

MIGUEL: You’re outnumbered, friend. I’d advise a retreat.

VIRGYL: You must truly have fallen on desperate times.

MAMA: No demons allowed! [SFX: Whip crack.]  Houzon Circle rules. Now skedaddle before I start enforcin' 'em.

VIRGYL: Well I'm terribly sorry to bother you all. I've clearly overstayed my welcome. And thank you for your...generous hospitality, I'll be sure to keep word of your next insurrection...quiet from the big man downstairs.

ARGEAUX: [Suspicious.] We...appreciate the favor.

VIRGYL: You can pay me back later, gorgeous. Come along, Kirby.

KERBEROS: Arf! (pant pant)

[SFX: The portal opens.]

VIRGYL: Oh, and, outsider: welcome to the Canyon. I'm sure this won't be the last you see of me.

[SFX: His sinister chuckle echoes long after he steps through the portal and it closes.]

DAKOTA: For future reference, best to keep your mouth shut around that one.

SAMIR: Who is he?

MIGUEL: Ever heard of Baal? The Canyon sits under his control. He's a Lord of Hell, rules over the legions.

DAKOTA: All those demons the caravans go hunting? Baal’s the alpha dog, and Virgyl's his hit man. Person. Thing. Anyway. Supposed to keep them in line.

MIGUEL: Supposed to.

ARGEAUX: He...does what he can. More importantly, he stays out of our way, every time, whenever we rise against him.

DAKOTA: It's his damn fault Baal controls the canyon at all!

ARGEAUX: Virgyl doesn't have a choice in serving him, you know that.

SAMIR: What do you mean he doesn't have a choice? Is this like, the internship from hell? Literally?

MAMA: The Lords of Hell used to war over who got control of the Canyon.

MIGUEL: Then, Baal somehow landed himself a genie.

SAMIR: You mean a djinn.

ARGEAUX: Precisely. You've heard of them then?

SAMIR: Yeah, my mom told me stories about them growing up. They're… not like the Aladdin genie, I'll tell you that. Sorry — movie from outside. Djinn can really fuck you up.

DAKOTA: Exactly. Baal ended up using Virgyl’s power to wrest control of the legions from the other Lords. Last I heard they're still pissed about it. Virgyl keeps them in check for the most part but god is he haughty about it.

SAMIR: So he doesn't wanna serve his master, but he has to? That's kind of sad, don't you think?

MIGUEL: You'll stop feeling sorry for him when you see what he's made of.

MAMA: Something ain't right with that one. He's...twisted.

DAKOTA: But like it or not, we're going to have to deal with him sooner or later.

ARGEAUX: That plan I told you about? Destroying the barriers to the outside world at the source? Virgyl’s the one that keeps that boundary alive.

MAMA: Kiddos, I'm gonna strongly urge you to DROP this pipe dream before it's too late. Y’all’re kids! You haven't seen him do the shit I've seen him do. He'll burn y'all to a crisp so fast you'll be oyster crackers for his chowder!

ARGEAUX: Killing him isn't going to be easy. But...there IS a way.

DAKOTA: I'm with Mama on this one, Auggy, you better have a real ace up your sleeve for this.

ARGEAUX: I do.

[SFX: ARGEAUX pulls out a book from a pack at his waist. DAKOTA and MIGUEL exclaim.]

SAMIR (VO): Argeaux pulls out a tiny book from a pack at his waist, barely the size of my palm; it has a dark blue velvet cover and a block of yellowed pages. On the front are some ruins carved into the cover sloppily, and a golden buckle clamps the book shut.

MAMA: What have you gotten yourself into this time, kid.

DAKOTA: You know what that is?

MIGUEL: Every "monster" in the Canyon knows what that is.

SAMIR: Care to fill the rest of us in?

ARGEAUX: The Book of Hours.

MIGUEL: A codex of the most powerful Mancy in the universe.

MAMA: For. Bidden. Mancy. With good reason.

SAMIR: Kind of like the Unforgivable Curses then?

MIGUEL: Oh this shit is way worse than Avada Kedavra.

SAMIR: Wait a sec, you've read Harry Potter?!

MIGUEL: I fell into the Canyon too. I was an outsider like you, once.

SAMIR: Oh thank God, this is gonna be so much more fun with someone who gets my references. I knew I couldn’t be the only one but it gets kinda lonely being the newbie ya know?

MIGUEL: When time allows I’ll have to regale you with tales of my own adventures here. And my transformation. It was...less amicable than yours.

SAMIR: I’m sorry to hear it.

DAKOTA: Yeah, yeah, you can tell us later. Argeaux, how'd you get ahold of it?

ARGEAUX: You were wondering where I'd been after the caravan broke up? This is what I was up to. Tracking down this thing! Lo and behold I was bequeathed it from our old friend Charisma the Crone.

MAMA: You can't trust anything outta that old coot's mouth!

DAKOTA: Psh, Mama, I'm pretty sure she's younger than you.

SAMIR: Cool name, but who the hell is she?

ARGEAUX: Remember when you asked if we had an evoker last time? We didn’t. But we had Charisma. One of the most powerful Mancers in the Canyon. Maybe the world. She didn't part with the Book of Hours lightly, but let's chalk it up to my...powers of persuasion.

DAKOTA: You absolute dog, did you boink that old lady?!

ARGEAUX: She takes VERY good care of herself, reducing her to an old lady is awfully rude!

MAMA: I'm with Argeaux on that one, let's dial it back on the ageism shall we?

DAKOTA: Sorry, Mama. If it's forbidden it's gotta be cool stuff, right? What's in it?

ARGEAUX: That's...where we hit a snag.

MIGUEL: The Book of Hours can't be opened by any living creature.

SAMIR: Well aren't you undead?

MIGUEL: I wondered if that might be a loophole, but I think vampires would've opened it long ago if they could. And I’m not inclined to try.

DAKOTA: I mean give it here, what's to stop someone from just crackin' it open—

ARGEAUX: Dakota, don't!

DAKOTA: Jeez, okay, fine.

MAMA: You'll go blind if you open it!

ARGEAUX: I don't think even Baal could open it. But Charisma believes there's a recipe in here for Grand Mancy. "Ars Obliterata." A spell so powerful it could kill a god, let alone a djinn.

MAMA: And anything else in a multi-mile radius. You're crazy, Argeaux. That is old, terrible Mancy in there.

MIGUEL: It's like using an atomic bomb to kill a single insect.

ARGEAUX: Maybe we don't use that one then. But all the spells in here are supposed to be that powerful. Charisma says there's one for going back in time, one for bringing back the dead, one even for...summoning gods.

MIGUEL: Let me see that.

ARGEAUX: She wrote a table of contents on the front.

MIGUEL: Ars Obliterata, Ars Anamnesia, ooh how about this one! Ars Orgiastia! That sounds fun!

SAMIR: Sounds kinky!

DAKOTA: Gimme that ol’ time religion, eh.

SAMIR: I say we try that one!

MAMA: Kids these days, always so worked up about the sex Mancy!

ARGEAUX: It's...as valid a type of Mancy as any other. Some people harvest their power with cards, or tea leaves, and other folks by…

DAKOTA: Blowin' your back out! Imagine that!

MIGUEL: Been a while since I've seen it in action. From what I remember it works best with multiple channelers. Let's get casting, shall we?

SAMIR: Fuck yeah, I could get into this!

ARGEAUX: Well we can't open the book, but my guess is that particular spell is the one for summoning gods. They tend to be a fan of the more...ribald rituals.

MAMA: Sex Mancy brings people into a heightened state of power. The purest kind, the kind that attracts the attention of the divine.

DAKOTA: You sound like a bit of an expert, Mama!

MAMA: Well as Billposter for the upper circles I do what I gotta do to keep the peace, let's leave it at that.

[SAMIR lets out a long sigh.]

ARGEAUX: You alright, pardner?

SAMIR: Yeah, just. This place is so freakin' cool.

MAMA: It'll be less "freaking cool" if we don't build a stable caravan, fast.

ARGEAUX: That's the plan. If we can start recruiting in Houzon, get people excited about it, let ‘em know there's a way we can really stick it to Baal this time, we can spread that to the other circles. Unite them. And there's gotta be someone in the whole canyon that can open this damn book, right?

MAMA: Let's get started. Hey, Mister Fangs, think you're okay with letting these good people wake the hell up now?

MIGUEL: Oh, right. That was, um. One of my stronger casts. I could use some help dispelling it actually. Samir, might you assist me?

MAMA: Now if you're gonna sink those bloody teeth in him again—

MIGUEL: No, nothing like that. My power's already growing inside him. I can feel it.

SAMIR: He's right, Mama. Something's changing. The sunlight even stings a little. That's not gonna be a problem, is it?

MIGUEL: I have no clue. Maybe? We don’t even know if you will be a full-fledged vampire yet or not. I really don’t even know.

SAMIR: So how do I help you dispel this thing?

MIGUEL: Wherever you feel my power inside you, you've got to tap into it. Whenever I'm enchanting or disenchanting people, usually it feels like...remembering something.

SAMIR (VO): I search for the power within me. I’m the kinda person who pictures things literally, so I imagine myself in my own little memory palace. It feels almost like searching through some cluttered room. I’m pushing aside all of these velvety curtains, looking for something, and behind those curtains I see flashes of Banshee and Miguel, but they’re in the corner of my view as I open all these boxes. [SFX: SAMIR rummages through cloths and coffers.] Boxes with ribbons, boxes with latches, and locks. And then I find a dresser, with a drawer. In my hand there’s a jet black key, I put it into the drawer and it opens with a click. [SFX: Click.] I open the drawer and a thick black smoke billows out, and blocks my whole view. [SFX: Fumes billow out of the drawer.] But it’s not a choking kind of smoke. It enters me like fumes; I feel powerful. I open my eyes again.

SAMIR: Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. Like opening a drawer in your head.

MIGUEL: Excellent. I figured an evoker would pick it up faster than most. Join hands with me, and focus on opening that drawer when you wish to draw on this power. [SFX: They join hands.] Here, let's start walking. As we get to each person, picture...finding them in that drawer each time.

[SFX: They walk around the circle. Deep inhales as each person slowly wakes from slumber.]

ARGEAUX: [At a distance.] It's working!

MAMA: Alright everybody, remain calm! You are in Houzon Circle, and you are safe! If we can all just calmly gather 'round we're happy to explain what's going on. And in the meantime, please disregard the creepy vampire and his child bride walking solemnly among you.

[MUSIC: Inspirational recruiting.]

ARGEAUX: ...And that's where you all come in. I know things haven't been easy since the caravans disbanded, but now more than ever we must unite! The demons from the lower circles have been pushing ever upward into our outposts. Baal's legions have us on the back-foot. With the caravans gone, they know we won't fight back. At least, that's what they think. But now we have a weapon against them that can free us from the Canyon once and for all!

[SFX: He withdraws the book. Surprise and murmurs from the crowd.]

ARGEAUX: What I have in this spell book is a recipe for Grand Mancy. 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. Picture it: a world where we can come and go as we please. No more getting pressed with our backs up against the Canyon walls while the demons from below come at us with their forked spears and tails and tongues. See what the outsiders see. Make new homes, new lives. There's a whole new frontier out there. Thousands of them. Just waiting for you. For us.

[SFX: The crowd seems excited at the prospect. A ways away, SAMIR whispers to the others.]

SAMIR: [Whispering.] He really has a way with people.

DAKOTA: That's super-charisma for you. Who wouldn't wanna save a horse and ride that cowboy...

SAMIR: Oooh, someone's feeling the crush coming baaaack.

DAKOTA: Am not!

MAMA: Sure ye ain't.

MIGUEL: They’re not trained demon killers, though. Uniting the upper circles is one thing; building a forward army is another. We need an actual fighting chance if our caravan wants to get to the lower circles.

ARGEAUX: ...Which is why I am henceforth calling for the reinstatement of the caravans! Beginning here! Tomorrow, at dawn, we begin drafts. Your caravans will be charged with keeping the peace in the upper circles and spreading the good news. My caravan will plunge into the depths of hell and slay his evil genie! Do I have a second for this motion?!

[SFX: The crowd gives a resounding aye, to whooping and applause. We seem to zoom out of the scene as the audio becomes overlaid by the crackling of the green scrying flame; we are now in the place from SAMIR's dream.]

VIRGYL: "Slay his evil genie." Oh, Argeaux, you really know how to break a djinn's heart.

KERBEROS: [Whines.]

VIRGYL: Shut up, I just fed you.

BAAL: I wouldn't take it personally. Just promise me you'll actually extinguish them this time.

VIRGYL: With respect, my Lord of Hell, you're running awfully low on wishes.

BAAL: My wish was that you'd get rid of the caravan!

VIRGYL: And I did. Exactly once. That they've elected to rebuild is no concern of mine, unless you make it so.

BAAL: The portal is brimming with my legions piling through as we speak. Soon they'll be ready to overtake the upper circles by force. When that happens, you'd better make sure they succeed. The upper circles will swear fealty to me once and for all.

VIRGYL: [Scoffs.] How could any dare defy your magnificence.

BAAL: [Growling.] I DO NOT LIKE THE WAY YOU TALK TO ME SOMETIMES.

[SFX: He catches VIRGYL in a chokehold. VIRGYL winces.]

VIRGYL: Perhaps...you'd WISH for a change in tune?

[SFX: The grip tightens. The pug starts barking plaintively.]

VIRGYL: Urgh!

BAAL: I MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO KILL YOU, BUT I CAN MAKE YOU SUFFER.

VIRGYL: Yes...I...welcome...your...wrath...

BAAL: Make light of my wishes again, and your punishment will be less...pleasurable than this one.

[SFX: The grip releases and VIRGYL gasps.]

VIRGYL: There is no greater pleasure than to bear the brunt of your rage, master.

BAAL: [As if nothing’s happened.] You've nothing else to report?

VIRGYL: Well, I've announced to DADI that you've created a special committee to investigate claims of discrimination among the demonic councils.

BAAL: And who chairs this committee?

VIRGYL: It is a committee of one, master. Myself, of course. The committee's findings will show no record of discord or prejudice among the demonic councils.

BAAL: Excellent. I'm glad you're useful for something.

VIRGYL: Master, there is one more thing.

BAAL: What now?

VIRGYL: If...this is extremely unlikely, but in the event that...Argeaux somehow succeeds.

BAAL: Which he won't.

VIRGYL: Which he won’t. But...if he somehow does...slay me. With the Grand Mancy. There will be no one left to care for Kerberos.

KERBEROS: [Yelp!]

BAAL: Huh. The mighty Virgyl's actually scared of death! A thing like that. I could almost laugh if I didn't have nymph fat injected into my wrinkles an hour ago. Can't be messing up this mug. I love the little guy! And he loves me.

KERBEROS: (Fearful whine…)

BAAL: I'll take great care of him.

VIRGYL: Just...take him on lots of adventures, alright?

BAAL: AFTER I find a way to get the barrier backup without you. Which won’t exactly be an easy thing to do. Do not inconvenience me, Virgyl. I...I forbid you to die.

VIRGYL: I...will honor your...wish.

BAAL: Good. Peace out, jabronies.

[SFX: He summons a portal and exits. Quiet for a short while.]

VIRGYL: I know you’re there. You can come out now.

[SFX: The sound of crackling magma as another demon lord de-cloaks, bubbling and hissing steps as he comes into the space.]

AZMODEUS: A chokehold? How base. That's a new low even for him.

VIRGYL: Oh please, you loved watching it.

AZMODEUS: And you loved having it happen to you.

VIRGYL: You repulse me.

AZMODEUS: Am I wrong? Eh? Don’t lie to me, genie. [Sultrily.] I can smell desire on you...

VIRGYL: ...No use trying to keep it from Azmodeus, the demon lord of Lust.

AZMODEUS: That's right. How's my little brother doing?

VIRGYL: You saw for yourself. He remains confident in his control over the legions coming through the portal. They'll make their advance on the upper circles any day now.

AZMODEUS: And what's your plan to make sure that doesn't happen?

VIRGYL: The caravans will stop them. Hopefully. But they'll need...reinforcements. The more recent demons coming through the portal, they’re...ancient. Going back to Mother’s time, I think. That's why I've arranged for some backup to join them.

AZMODEUS: If the caravans succeed, you know they'll press deeper into the lower circles, and try to kill you.

VIRGYL: We've both seen the scrying flame.

AZMODEUS: And that doesn't bother you?

VIRGYL:Why should it, if our deal remains intact?

AZMODEUS: Your loyalty wins your freedom. You have my promise as Lord of Hell.

VIRGYL: I am just awash with reassurance. Would you like to meet the reinforcements?

AZMODEUS: Ah, so that's what you were doing with your little pet project. A militia from the inside, then?

VIRGYL: I present to you: the first demonic caravan.

[SFX: The scrying flame brightens.]

VIRGYL: They're nearly combat ready.

AZMODEUS: That doesn’t look like any old caravan. That’s…

VIRGYL: The Wild Caravan, yes.

AZMODEUS: And this wild...demonic caravan, you're confident they'll be able to turn the tides against my brother?

VIRGYL: With a little nudging, yes. I'd have gotten it assembled more quickly, but getting their leader up to speed took a little...onboarding. He's an outsider.

AZMODEUS: Getting an awful lot of those, these days.

VIRGYL: Getting an awful lot of peculiar weather lately, too. Rain, especially. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that?

AZMODEUS: Oh right, I forget some of us don't enjoy getting wet. [Coming onto him.] Give it a try, Virgyl. I could show you. It's a lot of fun.

VIRGYL: I'm sure. You'll forgive me for having my mind somewhere other than the gutter from time to time. I need to ensure this outsider is ready to win us this war.

AZMODEUS: Sounds like an awful lot of uncertainties in your plan, Virgyl.

VIRGYL: His power will soon surpass even the demons'. And all the other caravans will fall in line behind this one. The Canyon believes they are the Wild Caravan of old, after all.

AZMODEUS: Hm. Fascinating...who is this outsider?

VIRGYL: They call him...The Lilac Knight.

[MUSIC: Pride, yearning, reflection. SFX: SAMIR scrawling on parchment.]

SAMIR (VO): Finally, a break. It’s hard to believe tonight is only my third night in the Canyon! I feel like it’s been weeks, somehow. I’ve got a quill and ink now, so I can start writing these crazy things down! I don’t know who I’m writing for. I feel like I want to show all this to Carlyle at some point. When he asks me where I’ve been, I can just show him all this. So I write about it all like a letter to him or something. I smile just thinking about his face when hears about all this shit.

With Houzon Circle populated by actual people again, the place seems so much livelier than when we got here. Lanterns line the narrow alleys that we squeezed through at noontime, and people gather around Eileen’s fountain just to talk even though no one seems to know how to get the water running again. If none of these people can leave the Canyon, I guess it means there’s something fantastical about them too, however small it might be.

We never ended up getting to do brunch at that saloon Dakota was telling me about, mainly because the owners were busy waking up and having it explained to them that they were hypnotized by a vampire, but he’s cool now, and how everyone should band together again to start up the caravans!

Man, Argeaux really got through to them somehow. I guess when life is just trying to eke out a living while warding off demons from sundown to sunup, people are eager to be told there’s something they can do to change it.

We’ve had folks coming up to Argeaux all day asking about getting ready for the drafts tomorrow. Apparently it’s an old caravaner tradition where people can volunteer to join up with a crew and they learn to demon hunt. Even little kids went up to him, which freaks me out a little bit, but I guess you gotta learn...sometime? I don’t think we’re gonna be bringing any young’uns down to the lower circles, though.

Argeaux’s jolly on the outside, but at the corner of the crow’s feet by his eyes I can see he’s anxious. He has to build an actual fighting force against Baal’s armies, and well, these folks are just normal people. Some folks are getting ready to take the nightly watch, which is obviously the most dangerous one. Maybe they’ll keep Houzon Circle safe, but I don’t see another sharpshooter like Dakota among them.

Guess that means I gotta pull my weight, I think, as my hand unconsciously massages my shoulder. The bitemarks there throb every few minutes or so; it feels like something...alive is squirming in the wound. Mama tells me it’s Miguel’s powers taking effect. Nobody seems to know much about Evokers, other than...they feel lots of weird things all the time, and turn out stronger for it?

Sometimes I catch Miguel’s eyes here and there, and he gives me that smirk again. The townsfolk are not happy about him being here but he loves just leaning against a wall and observing. I wonder if he can sense what’s happening in my body now. If he knows how much my shoulder hurts, but also this...weird longing to be near him. I try not to think about it too much. I stay in the shade, though I can’t tell if it’s because I’m actually turning into a vampire, or it’s all in my head. Dakota and Argeaux do not seem happy about it one bit.

I practice floating around the town square with Banshee’s power, and the kids love trying to chase me as I whirl around faster and faster. It feels more natural, now. I definitely have more control over it.

At night time we’ve got a fire going on the outskirts of town and a tent set up. Betsy actually sits down for what seems like the first time in ages, and she rests her head on my lap. She likes me! I give her some pets and make sure not to move her party hat—er, her horn. Betsy actually seems like she’s in a much better mood now. We’ll probably have to get a new wagon tomorrow, but I think with some rest tonight she’ll be raring to pull it in the morning.

I see Argeaux and Dakota drinking and laughing. It’s funny to think how...proper they were when we met. And now they’re like giggling teenagers, drunk and swaying together, singing loud songs. When it gets late, I see the two of them steal away quietly away from the fire to take a…”walk,” I’m sure. I don’t need to pry. They haven’t seen each other in a long time, and I’m sure that comes with a lot of feelings they just haven’t shown yet.

[SFX: Scrawling stops. SAMIR turns the Book of Hours over in his hands.]

I take this time to look at the Book of Hours. It’s heavy for its small size. I turn it over and over in my palm, and I can’t tell if I’m hearing whispers from it or I’m just imagining it. [SFX: Whispers from the book.] Goddamnit, it’s just a spellbook, not the One Ring! I need to stop psyching myself out. It’s just so hard to believe any of this is real. It’s like the fantasy adventures Carlyle and I used to roleplay as kids in the fields.

The fire’s so warm and cozy. And the night sky is so full of stars, and Betsy’s so soft in my lap. And I can feel my eyes getting so, so heavy...and the entire Canyon just feels like a soothing blanket wrapped around me...

[MUSIC: Deep within SAMIR’S heart; a throbbing, jazzy/rock-y electronic guitar.]

SAMIR (VO): That night, in my dreams I wonder if I’ll go back to that place with the fiery green pit, and Virgyl, and the super tall demon dude whom I’ve pieced together is probably Baal. But I don’t end up there at all. Instead, I’m back in the wagon, before it crashed. It’s so much bigger than it ever was in real life though; it feels closer to a train cabin or something. And the wagon’s moving! Outside I still hear the sounds of the Canyon at night. This wagon’s even got fancy windows for me to look outside, but it’s pretty dark right now.

Just like the last time I was in the wagon, Banshee’s in here with me. But she’s not alone, either. Her wispy white head is floating around...Miguel, who’s in here too? He’s sitting on a stool and dealing a deck of tarot cards onto a box with a cloth draped over it. [SFX: MIGUEL deals cards.] Miguel looks up at me, and smiles, crossing his arms and his legs as he leans back against a stack of crates.

MIGUEL: Ah, you’re finally home.

BANSHEE: Of course he’d get here eventually.

SAMIR: I see you two are getting along swimmingly in...the wagon?

BANSHEE: This is your heart, darling.

SAMIR: Aw, it’s a dusty old wagon!

MIGUEL: It takes the shape of whatever it’s preoccupied with at the moment, I suppose.

SAMIR: Kinda like my memory palace, then.

BANSHEE: Think of this as a safe place to retreat to in your dreams.

MIGUEL: As an Evoker, your heart populates it to fill it with people with whom you’ve bonded.

SAMIR: Ooh, so it’s something similar to my own personal Velvet Room?

MIGUEL: Something like that, yes.

SAMIR: So Miguel, if you’re in here, does that mean Miguel is dreaming about me right now too? I thought vampires were nocturnal.

MIGUEL: Not exactly. I’m the Miguel in your heart. More precisely: I’m the impression Miguel has left on you. I’m the sum of your understanding and feelings about him. In some ways, I’m not like the real Miguel at all, but in many ways, I know more about Miguel than even he could ever realize.

SAMIR: Oh, phew, so it’s not like with Banshee where everything I feel, she feels, and vice versa?

BANSHEE: Not quite, since the real me is actually living in here. But anyone you bond with could appear in here, in time.

MIGUEL: One of the perks of being an evoker, I suppose. Is that a problem?

SAMIR: I mean, it’s fine,I just wanted to make sure real life Miguel doesn’t find out how badly I wanna bang him!

MIGUEL: Ha! Your secret is safe with me. Though, I suspect he already has some idea. You know, you could always ask.

SAMIR: It’s hardly a good time; there’s so much going on! Argeaux’s busy assembling a caravan to plunge into the lower circles and it doesn’t leave much free time if you’re tryna nut!

MIGUEL: Quel dommage. At least I’ll be here whenever you have a moment’s shut-eye.

SAMIR: Oh yeah? And, uh, you’d be down for, like, sexytimes?

BANSHEE:Ugh. I’ll be trying to sleep elsewhere in this body then. Try not to wake me, alright? [SFX: She vanishes with a sigh.]

MIGUEL: Couldn’t hurt. Where’s the harm? It’s only in your head, of course.

[MUSIC: Deep within SAMIR’S heart, reversed.]

SAMIR: So it’s basically not real.

MIGUEL: Oh, I definitely did not say that.

SAMIR: At least my shoulder hurts less in here.

MIGUEL: Oh yes, how is that healing up?

SAMIR: Pretty good! Wanna see? Here.

SAMIR (VO): I remove my shirt and show him the wound. [SFX: He removes his shirt.] I look down at my body and see it’s been changing. Little tufts of chest hair are grey now too like the hair on my head. And...am I even getting a little jacked now? Is this that vampire bod coming in? Miguel uncrosses his legs, drops the rest of the cards on the box in front of him, and saunters over to me. [SFX: MIGUEL takes purposeful steps, then looms over SAMIR.] He towers over me, drinking in the sight of me first with that evil grin. Then, he leans in closely to inspect the bite mark, almost too closely, like he’s taking in the scent of it.

SAMIR: I thought you said you weren’t hungry anymore.

MIGUEL: [Hungrily.] In the real world, I am not. But this is in your heart. You invited me in here when you let me bite you, and am I really supposed to be able to resist at the nexus for both your blood and emotions?

SAMIR: Didn’t you say you fell into the Canyon too? Where the hell are you from, talking like that?

MIGUEL: Truthfully? It’s an affectation. I developed it here in the Canyon after I fell inside.

SAMIR: That’s...refreshingly honest.

MIGUEL: This is your heart after all. You’d see through me if I lied to you. We are both naked, before each other, in its all-knowing walls.

SAMIR: Poetic, but we’re not exactly naked.

MIGUEL: Yet.

SAMIR: You can do it. Feeding on me, I mean. If you want.

MIGUEL: You’re still healing. Are you sure?

SAMIR: Hey, it’s all in my head, slash...heart, right? So what do you even feed on? My actual blood? My actual feelings?

MIGUEL: Your spirit. The one Banshee wants her fill of so badly. Oh, she’s going to hate me for this.

SAMIR: It’s not actually going to hurt, right?

MIGUEL: Letting someone into your very soul? Oh, it will hurt deliciously.

SAMIR: And is the real Miguel gonna feel this?

MIGUEL: I do not know. Consider it practice for next time you see him. You’re an odd one, you know. Not every day you meet someone who so gamely takes in everything in the Canyon. From banshees, to vampires.

SAMIR: [Coyly.] Ha. I’ve got a lot of awkward teenage years to make up for in promiscuity.

MIGUEL: Did I not just warn this would hurt?

SAMIR: I know. But...I want to know what that feels like. I guess that’s why I took you in. And Banshee, too. I want to...feel. Something.

SAMIR (VO): And then the words start coming out of me before I can even filter myself. It’s like there’s another me inside me, a real me. One that can do and say whatever he wants in this space.

SAMIR: I want it to hurt. I want to taste this deliciousness you speak of. [Voice beginning to shimmer.] I want to feel something. I want to feel everything.

SAMIR (VO): Something’s changed in me; this must have been what the Dark Phoenix felt like: I feel hot and breathless and powerful and fucking sexy for once. My thighs close firmly around Miguel and he looks into my eyes with awe, and even a flash of fear, but then it narrows into a rakish leer.

MIGUEL: I’m biting your neck this time.

SAMIR: Then shut up and do it—ungh! [MUSIC: Deep within SAMIR’S heart, redux. SFX: CHOMP. MIGUEL pushes Samir onto his back and climbs on top of him. Sounds of the two of their clothes rustling while MIGUEL groans hungrily.]

SAMIR (VO): As he pushes me back against the crates in the wagon and climbs on top of me, I turn my head to the side to give him an easier time with my neck. If I thought it felt good the first time he bit me, biting into me here is like...god, I don’t know, how do I even describe it without sounding like some smutty romance novel? There’s no romance here though, any facade of propriety this guy had around me drops the second he sinks his teeth into me. He greedily slips one hand under my shirt and another into the waistband of my pants, and he stops right there, and comes up for air to meet my gaze again.

MIGUEL: [Coming up for air.] Is this alright?

SAMIR: Don’t you fucking stop.

[SFX: He resumes.]

SAMIR: I feel my blood rushing to all these different places in my body at once, my head starts spinning. His skin on mine feels cold and hot at the same time. It makes me shiver, I try to keep my trembling a secret though. He feels it right away and it only eggs him on.

I keep reminding myself this isn’t real but is something any less real if it’s not happening in meatspace? Miguel’s body feels real alright, if this is a dream it’s the most tactile dream I’ve ever had. He’s toned and hard in all the right places.

[SAMIR and MIGUEL moan in ecstasy.]

My eyes lock on a face-up card that fell to the floor away from the rest of the deck on the box. It looks like a tarot card. It’s an arcana I’ve never seen before, though, one they must only have in the Canyon: The Vampire.

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;

Mama Bang Bang as herself;

Lisette Alvarez as Banshee;

Bernardo Cubría as Miguel;

Ian McQuown as Azmodeus,

Josh Rubino as Baal;

and me as Virgyl.

Sound editing by Kyle Boyce. Sound Design by Mischa Stanton. Our theme music is by Evan Cunningham. Additional music by Travis Reaves. Visual art by Marina Vermilion. 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 just over two thirds of the way to funding Season Two! 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 favorite listening app.

Remember, you can always send me your thoughts about the show, thirsty comments, crude jokes, fan art, and more at caravan@whisperforge.org.

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 tweet was from Amanda, who sent us the cover of one of those old pulpy erotica novels simply titled — [laughing and losing composure] — simply titled: TOUCH MY HOLE, a Hole-Hungry Work of Sexual Fiction, by Douglas Nipps, author of PET MY LEG. He’s awfully demanding, huh.

Episode 9 goes live in two weeks on May 31st. Thanks for riding with us. Y’all come back soon now. :)