Seven years like that was enough to drive a man mad.  Of course it wasn’t every night, just often enough to disrupt Jason’s well-being, and infrequent enough to keep him guessing.  He began having nightmares about that voice, with vivid manifestations of its source as vampires, slavering beasts, pale ghouls and foul creatures of the night.  His already slender frame became gaunt, and he lost much of his hair.  Dark circles ringed his eyes, but no one really noticed.  Jay spent most of his time sleeping, or lounging, immobilized by his fears and guilt.  No one came to the Citadel for healing anymore.

            What use would it be?  The army had an iron grip on the countryside, as Neal and Simon increased their tyrannical control.  People starved or died of diseases all the time, or fell prey to the army.  No one saw the Citadel as a place to seek help any longer.  Instead it was the source of all their sorrows.  Executions took place frequently in the town-square of every village.  Jason remembered history classes and the discussion of feudalism, and he imagined that the Dark Ages could never have been as cruel as their merciless regime.  He was revolted by it all, especially considering they had started as a church to help people.  They had wandered so far from their origins that this future was unrecognizable from the vision shared in their youth.

            Neal styled himself a king, and even sat in a throne with a crown.  He would frequently parade through the city, and crowds cheered him because of Simon’s armed soldiers.  Jason knew his cousin was quite insane by now, for the fool believed that the city prospered and that the applauding crowds were jubilant.  He had been a passionate and driven leader before the Outlander War seven years ago, but he had come back changed.  Now he listened to Simon’s plans and acted on them like a marionette obeying its puppeteer, and Jay knew that this schemer was the real power behind the throne.

            Not that he could do anything about it.  His anxiety had driven him to ulcers, insomnia, weight loss, and shaking.  He couldn’t guess what else might be wrong with him, since doctors had no real diagnostic equipment.  They relied on basic examinations and folk cures, since medical drugs were things of the now distant past.  Jason suspected he might be even worse off than their suspicions, as they had no tests for cancer and he knew something was eating away at him inside, along with his conscience.

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