Jason stretched back indolently in his chair, surveying the other diners at the table in the Hall.  He felt quite sleepy after their meal, though he had found everything had been making him sleepy lately.  Jay wondered if his healing powers required that he rest up in between uses.  He rested his elbow on the table and his chin on his hand, fighting to keep his eyes open.  He’d like nothing better than to go to his chambers and rest, but now that the meal was finished he was certain the others would want to talk with Daniel and Alexander, and they’d notice if he slipped away.

            Alex was seated at Neal’s right hand, chatting warmly with his cousin.  The seat to the left of Neal, Genevieve’s chair, was currently occupied by Daniel, as the two men were accorded places of honour after their dangerous journey.  A serving-girl was pouring more wine for Dan, and he was giving her an appreciative look.  Jay didn’t like that look, he had seen it before on Dan’s face, all too often.  A quiet voice in the back of his mind questioned whether political and religious leaders should behave the way Daniel did with women, but Jason figured it wasn’t his place to judge.  After all, Neal was right there, and their leader to boot, and he saw nothing amiss.

            Owen sat across from Jay, eating yet another piece of chicken, the grease shining on his cheeks from the last leg.  Jason wondered how someone as active as Owen was, organizing meetings, visiting local towns as Neal’s emissary, settling disputes and judging in court, could almost double his weight in only seven years.  The friendly diplomat had increased in weight to at least three hundred pounds, and Jay seriously worried about his friend’s health.  There weren’t many doctors anymore, and little technology.

            Evan was beside him, dressed nearly as richly as Neal.  The musician had begun playing his guitar at the request of Mr. Lamb, and was strumming a quiet tune to add to the festive atmosphere of the dinner.  Gold rings were shining on his fingers, and Jason felt another twinge of conscience.  He knew that this dinner, and their finery, had been paid for through the gifts of the church’s congregants, and the taxes the villages paid for protection, but somehow such expensive uses of their funds seemed wrong when he knew children were starving.  Jay knew that all of them worked hard for the betterment of their citizens, but somehow rewarding themselves this way still seemed excessive.

            “Problem, Jay?” Ethan asked.  He was on Jason’s right, while Alex was on Jay’s left.  Jason started, lifting his chin off his hand.  He had forgotten Ethan was there, and was a little embarrassed to be caught half-napping.

            “Um, no, not really.  Just a long day.”  Jay explained.

            “Many healings, I take it?”  Ethan suggested.

            “Yeah.  It seems like more and more all the time.  Everyone has boils, or fevers, weird stuff.  Sometimes the same people come back after a few months, with a whole new problem.  It’s like the world itself is sick, or something…”  Jay shrugged.  “I don’t know if that makes sense.”

            “I trust your judgement.  You are our spiritual leader, even as Neal is our worldly one.”  Ethan clapped him on the shoulder.  “But actually, I wasn’t talking about your tired look.  You seemed disturbed as you looked around the table, my friend.”

            “Well, I just wonder about what we’re doing sometimes.”  Jay looked at the companions again.  “Do we really deserve to live like this?”

            “Well, look at it this way:  are you really going to tell a mother not to give you a gift when you’ve just saved her child’s life?  Are you going to throw money back in the face of a grateful town when Alex or Dan saves them from a bandit invasion?  Can you do that to their pride?”  Ethan asked.  “Will you tell Evan not to dress well, when his whole life he had to wear hand-me-downs from cousins, his brother, and the church?  Can you ask Dan or Alex or Owen to give up the few pleasures this world holds anymore, when they work so hard?”

            “I never really thought of it like that…”  Jay said, smiling sheepishly.  “I guess then we’d be the ungrateful ones, huh?”

            “Exactly.  Have no worries, Jason.  We all get what we deserve.”  Ethan grinned.  “Sooner or later.”

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