He turned his head slightly, and focused on Janis' face in the firelight. Was she worried, or only curious? He couldn't really tell.
"Hey it kinda surprised me when he said you'd want me to bring peace to Erfworld," he said. "I wasn't sure what to make of that."
Janis mouth formed a little flat line. "Well, I suppose I can't deny that dream." She said it like a confession. "I'm sure the Thinkamancers already told you I helped broker the creation of the spell that summoned you."
"Um, no? No, they didn't." He glanced at Maggie, who shook her head to indicate that this was news to her as well. "You what?"
"Oh, I…" Janis' hand went to her chest. "I'm not… well, I had a hand in it. The idea was that if there was a perfect warlord, then he would be able to… to make war obsolete." She tilted her head at him. "Can you do that? Do you think?"
Parson made a little gasp of exasperation and looked at the ground. He was about to say something sarcastic about the ridiculousness of the question, about the impossible scale of the problem she expected him to solve.
Except that if he was being completely honest with himself, this was already something he had spent a lot of time thinking about.
How do you sustain a side without battles? If it were possible to, for example, force every side in the world to sign a binding alliance, what would happen? He had gamed it out with Jack, a few times. He had spent hours with his bracer, doing off-the-wall calculations. It was like trying to come up with a perpetual motion machine. So far, he hadn't been able to come up with a sustainable scenario that didn't involve substantially depopulating the world.
But he couldn't pretend that Peace on Erf hadn't been on his mind, at least as a thought exercise. So he shut his mouth and stared at the sculpture for a while.
Maggie nodded, just once.
"Jojo… wants me to wage a War on Fate. Or failing that, to take my ball and go home. And you," he said, turning to Janis, "want me to wage a War on… War?"
She crinkled her eyebrows, pressed her lips together again, and nodded.
Parson sighed. "Which just takes us back to Jojo's question. What's my prize? What am I playing for? What do I want?"
He looked down at the ground between his feet again. It wasn't the first time he'd confronted the question, of course, and his answer to himself was always that he wanted to do the right thing, as lame as that might sound. Charlie was a bastard; he needed to be taken down. Fate, if it really existed, was something that could stand to have its grip on the world broken. And Erfworld was one gigantic logic puzzle. A solution to the state of constant war might actually exist. (He might also not be smart enough to find that solution.)
So what was the right thing? Which was the right war to fight? What did he want?
"Is there any stew left?" he asked.