The Cathedral is packed this morning, with parishioners of every faith in Tuskendale filling the hall and spilling out into the streets. When the young Varisian man steps into the pulpit to speak, he looks entirely too small and too slight to be the man they have come to see. He looks out at them, his eyes shining, threatening to break into tears, but his voice is clear.
He stops and coughs into his fist a few times as cheers erupt from the crowd. Eventually, he waves them down.
Well, if that’s all I had to do to fill the hall… laughter ripples through the crowd and he smiles.
There are so many of you I have not met, so let us begin with an introduction. My name is Gideon Highgate and it is my privilege to serve as Dawnfather to the community of Tuskendale and as a humble servant of the Everlight, the Ascended Archangel, Sarenrae, whose light fills this hall, warms our homes, gives us hope…and brought me back here from beyond the veil that parts this world and the next.
It was, I believe, over a year ago, that my friends and I rode forth to face the risen terror, Vordakai, and end his threat to our lands before it could truly begin. In our first foray into his terrible domain, we were defeated. I only know this from the kind help of those who have shared the story, for it was in Vordakai’s terrible hall that I was killed. The heroes of Ursundova did not surrender, though. Unflinching in the face of terror, they returned to that dark place and smote the terror and cast it down. I am grateful to them, first for carrying forward the cause for which I gladly gave my life, and second, for returning my…my remains to my wife. I am grateful to my wife, who took those remains and traveled long and far to find a church to the Dawnflower, where her intercession could be asked.
When I awoke, I was unsure that I was not still in paradise – surrounded by light and loving faces. In truth, I remember little of my time beyond the veil – the Gods, in their wisdom, shield those memories that we might focus on the tasks at hand. As I have so many times in my life, I stopped to give thanks to the Dawnflower for the many, oftentimes breathtaking, blessings she has granted me. Only the love of my wife, however, takes a higher place in my heart than this moment, right here, right now.
For I am here today to tell you that hope abides! I am here today to tell you that faith abides! Let no one doubt, even for a second, that the Everlight shines in all dark corners and is possessed of a fire that cannot be quenched, in the bitterest darkness or on the coldest night. My friends, I am here today as living testament to the power of hope. A small group of heroes’ hope that they might turn aside an evil ten thousand years old and a lady’s hope that her travels and travails might not end in vain and the hope of a nation that we might rise out of banditry and chaos to become the beacon on the lake – the light that will not be dimmed and says to a dark and cruel world, “Here hope abides.”
My friends, I have stories by the dozen and homilies by the cartload – I have had some time to think about them, after all. But for now, on this day, I ask your indulgence in this brief message, for it is all I can do to hold myself to this lectern this morning. As the light of she who lights the world greets us this glorious morning, won’t you greet her with me in song? May the Light of Sarenrae watch over you all.
The hymn that morning resounds throughout the city.