He'd been worried about owing Janis some kind of compensation for her meals and hospitality. But after spending an extra day in the Glade, it turned out that the Hippiemancers owed Gobwin Knob six Rands, as the Magic Kingdom's barter currency was called.
Parson had picked up a little bit of an inkling about the Magic Kingdom's economy from talking to Isaac. They were all barbarians here, all responsible for their own upkeep. They had to hire out to sovereign sides (which could be dangerous), or to one another. Uneven demand meant that some types of casters—Thinkamancers, Hat Magicians, Dittomancers and apparently Dirtamancers—were relatively rich, while others—Carnymancers, Croakamancers, Luckamancers, and the Hokey Pokeys—barely scraped by.
Hippiemancers were an in-between case, because the Grand Abbies ran the Glade as a commune. Hippiemancy had three disciplines: Flower Power, Signamancy and Date-a-mancy. Of these, only the Florists had a lucrative niche, growing food and recreationals such as tobacco and wine. The Signamancers could have gotten by on book publishing and cosmetic spells, but the Date-a-mancers had almost no demand for their talents at all, in or out of the Magic Kingdom.
So, they all shared in the wealth of the Florists' gardens, each helping where they could. Collectively, they made a fortune selling produce to the rest of the island, which they used to pay the upkeep of all the Hippiemancers. And they did not hoard their Rands, either; they were generous to the poorer classes of casters when they had a surplus.
The Hippiemancers collectively (ha!) owed Gobwin Knob six Rands because Sizemore had happily put a full turn's worth of his juice into working on their gardens and grounds. Ace had also (less happily) worked on their raiment, tents, and garden tools. This more than paid the meal ticket for Parson and all of his troops.
"What can we spend them on?" he'd asked Janis, when he found out about their positive balance.
They were sitting alone by a little pond, feeding some amusingly eager catfish. Artemis and a handful of stabbers kept them in sight from a distance, but Janis had wanted some time to get to know Parson personally. So they'd left Maggie and the others behind in one of the gardens, helping to shuck the corn and peas. Maggie hadn't been too thrilled about it.
"Almost anything a caster can do," she said. "If you can find one willing to work for you." Her forehead wrinkled sympathetically. "You may have some trouble with that."
"Yeah, I know," sighed Parson, as he waved a bee away from his face. Alienating a majority of the casters in the Magic Kingdom seemed more like a long-term strategic screwup every day. He still didn't regret it but the cost had been too damn high. "Well, I can always just buy some vegetables from you, I guess. Mitigate my troops' upkeep. Or," he grinned, "I could buy some more Erfbräu."
Earlier during his tour of the Glade, a Florist named Rose Bowl (*wince*) had given him a mug of beer to try. It was something like a honey lager or a honey blonde ale. It didn't have a name, so he'd decided to refer to it as "Erfbräu." It was dangerously good stuff.
"You could," smiled Janis, "although remember you'll owe me a Rand or two for my counsel. Whatever you feel the information I give you is worth." She'd told him that many of the Hippiemancers were in the guru business, tutoring and advising as a means of supplementing their income. It sounded like she'd cleared a few appointments for him tonight.
"Cool. I'm looking forward to it." He threw another piece of cornbread to the fish, who thrashed over each other for it.
Janis looked hesitant. "I think you'd benefit most from the session if it were one-on-one," she said.
Parson pursed his lips. He hadn't given it much thought but he supposed he had been counting on having Maggie there to Think-record whatever was said. He also liked having her around to detect if anyone was messing with him magically, especially with his mind. He knew that some forms of Flower Power could do that.
"Nah I'd like Maggie to come," he said after throwing another piece of bread. "I don't have any secrets from her."
"That's very nice," Janis said, smiling again. "Do you think that goes both ways?"
Parson stopped feeding the catfish and looked at her. These days, he was closer to Maggie than anyone, even Jack. He trusted her implicitly. But she did have a history of keeping things from him. He wanted to say yes, but instead said nothing."Come alone," said Janis, putting her hand on his wrist. "It'll be better that way. You'll see."
The tent they'd put Parson up in was little more than a patchwork quilt hanging over a clothesline, with a bedroll on the grass, so they met in Janis' yurt. It was huge, and surprisingly nice inside, adorned with embroidered silk hangings of flowers and insects. They sat on downy pillows placed on the thick oriental rugs which covered the floor.
There was tall brass hookah standing near the latticework wall, and Parson nodded at it after he'd flumphed down on his pillows. "Ah. I was wondering."
"Hm?" said Janis, who was still standing by the open hutch, pouring some tea. She followed his gaze. "Oh, would you like to try it?"
Parson considered it, then shook his head with a regretful smile. He wasn't going to mess with any Flower Power until he understood more about how it worked. "Noooo, college is over," he said. "I just meant I'd been wondering how tobacco and stuff worked here, with the no fires rule. It's magical?"
In more ways than one," said Janis with a little wink. She lifted a bamboo tray with two cups of green tea from the cabinet top, pivoted gracefully, and handed the tray to Parson. Then she also plopped to the pillows in front of him.
"So," she said cheerily. "You want to talk about what you wanted? About Carnymancy? Or do you want to talk about what you really need to know?"
She reached for the tea tray on the carpet where Parson had put it, but he handed her one of the cups. She thanked him.
"What do I need to know?" he asked.
Janis took a healthy slurp of tea and cocked an eyebrow. "Do you know anything about Date-a-mancy?"
"It's… the magic of pairings? Relationships between people? I've never really been clear on it."
"Nobody is," said Janis. "Like many disciplines, we have our secrets. I was popped as a Date-a-mancer, originally. I mastered Flower Power and Signamancy later, but I've always… like, been tuned in to the connections between us all. You know? That's what's really important. I think so, anyway. You've got good Date-a-mancy. You're very attractive."
Parson raised his eyebrows. The number of times he had been called that now numbered one, as far as he could recall. Was Janis… was she hitting on him? "Um…"
"I mean in the Date-a-mancy sense," she added. "You attract connections. It's important. Did you know, for instance, that leadership is natural Date-a-mancy?"
Parson did not. He'd actually thought it was natural Thinkamancy, a transfer of fighting expertise from the warlord to the led units. "How does that work?"
She smiled. "It's in the connection that forms the stack. A stack is a magical cohesion, and the cohesive force is Date-a-mancy. For a warlord, levelling has at least as much to do with learning to connect with the units under your command as it does with learning to fight. I think you'll continue to level easily, because you make connections with people. You attract."
Parson picked the other little cup from the tray and sipped his green tea. It tasted kind of like mown grass. Weird, but not unpleasant. "I'm not a hundred percent sure that's true, Janis. But okay. That's interesting. Not sure it's more interesting than Carnymancy, though."
Janis face was knowing. "Parson, what do you imagine were all about? The Hippiemancers?"
"I guess, uh… peace and love and harmony?" he ventured.
Her eyes went wide in surprise. "Yes," she said. "I mean, exactly yes. Who told you our credo?"
"I, uh…" He didn't think anyone had told him. He'd just made a guess from what he knew of hippies on Earth. "It's in your Signamancy," he said, kind of lamely.
She stared at him for a long moment. "Peace," she said after a while, her voice getting low and serious, "is Flower Power. Harmony and understanding, that's Signamancy; you seem to have a grasp of that. But you can't go fight for peace if you don't know love, Parson. There's no peace without it."
She set down her teacup on the rug, uncrossed her legs, and knelt. Then she leaned very far forward and placed her hands on Parson's knees, staring into his eyes. Hers were those strange monochrome circles, like Maggie's. She looked cartoonish to him, like most Erfworlders did.
But she also looked like a curvaceous blonde woman. And she was smart, and interesting, and very kind. And she was not a unit under his command…"Do you want to know about love?" she asked him softly.