Hvs.tCF 74:1/Text

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"Jojo, I think if she ultimately burned up at Spacerock, then Fate won. You didn't." Parson said, surprised to find himself on the side of this argument where Wanda usually stood. "Do you ever actually win, in one of these bargains? Is that possible?"

The Carnymancer sat back and straightened his shoulders. "I'm told that you like to gamble, my friend. Or something similar. Is that right? You like to play games with dice."

On the bench beside Jojo, Janis looked at him curiously. Parson didn't think his interest in gaming was known outside of Gobwin Knob, so he frowned a bit as he nodded. It made him wonder how Jojo knew that (through Charlie, probably), and what else them might know. Maybe it was meant to make him wonder. "Sure."

"And how did you come by that affinity? Did you pop with it?"

In fact, he had taken up tabletop gaming at about age 9, when he'd checked out a Monster Manual from the public library. But maybe Jojo didn't know he was from a reality where grown-up people didn't just pop whole.

"It's hard to explain," said Parson. "It was an early interest, yeah."

"Stayed with you, didn't it?" said the Carny. "Your whole life. Even as you leveled."

"Yeah."

Jojo took in a long breath. "When I pulled her from the fire at Powerstone, she was a stabber. An infantry unit. Do you know what that is like?"

Although Parson liked to talk with everyone, it was harder to connect with common soldiers. They had an ingrained military discipline that made them speak only in clipped responses to direct questions, and not much else. Come to think of it, it was kind of weird that Jojo had fallen in love with someone in the ranks.

"I remember being the low man on the totem pole, if that's what you mean," he said. But he knew that his being part-time fry cook or a counter guy wasn't really the same thing.

"A stabber wants to stab enemies," said Jojo. "If they have any ambitions, then of course they'd like to stab more enemies. The really forward-thinking ones might even dream of being promoted to warlord, so that they and the stabbers they are leading can stab lots and lots of enemies. It's an 'early interest' that stays with them. The ultimate good life for a stabber would be to become a warlord, and win great battles for their side, then to croak in action and end up at the City of Heroes."

Parson nodded, beginning to understand what Jojo was getting at. "You're saying that the victory conditions were met. Just delaying her Fate got her all of that, instead of being another dead stabber on the battlefield. You did win, in a sense."

The Carnymancer's eyes went sad. "Well. She won," he said, looking back into the flames. "She must have enjoyed herself very much, in those battles where she couldn't lose. I won that for her: her extra turns of happy life. But I never won, no."

Parson blinked in the purple firelight. "You never won...?"

"Her heart," said Maggie.