The Hegèmon's Surprise Address Upon the Lighting of the Yule Tree
AE2599-AE2600; The Temple of The Dragon (rebuilt), Alexandria Wastes
As your Hegèmon, I look on the upcoming Rites of Passage for AE2599 with an especial importance, not only because we are entering a new aeon. This year has, for all Empyraen Citizens, as well as out neighbours - of both the Federated People's Nations, of the noble Ippon Empire, the far-sighted of the Land of Dream, our silent Aztomek brothers and sisters, the stargazers of the Maradaran jungles - been one of much difficulty and challenge.
War, sickness, hardship, the death of so many loved ones. I cannot express deeply enough how my heart breaks for each and every one of you. I have failed to protect you as I swore I would. I have let you, my people, down quite seriously. I am sorry.
I promised you an end to war. I was wrong. Gaia has suffered wars I failed to foresee. You have suffered the iron hand of a monster while I was absent for so long. So many of the dead sent down to Hades in those long years will never have a marker, had no coins placed under their tongue as is their right. I have brought war to your door and, I fear, was followed upon my unexpectedly pilgrimage by those who will bring yet more war.
Though we enter a new era, and burn all of our hurts here in the ruins of what was once the greatest city on all Gaia, leave behind in its ashes our shattered hopes, I am afraid I must ask more from all citizens of our Empyraeum.
Of you all, from the smallest to the greatest, I first ask forgiveness.
I fear, it is not right of me to ask that which AE2600 will likely demand of us. If only I could face it alone as it is my failure which led to it. I hesitate to even ask my depleted Kalshodar to join me yet they volunteered to a man. I am humbled! More humbled still am I that the noble men and women of our great Empyraen Army and Navy came to me and demanded - demanded! - to stand with us.
It eased my heart to witness the dedication and determination of these men and women - no! These heroes! These heroes greater than Achilles, than Odysseus, than Gilgamesh, greater than the sons of the gods themselves! For these men and women are the sons and daughters of everyday Empyrean citizens, not gods or dragons!
They are braver than me! I honour and am humbled - humbled as I have never been before - by their resolve and quality! I dreamed of an Empyraeum of greatness but you, you citizens, have made my dreams small and insignificant! You have shown me that I aimed too low, that I underestimated you!
As I light the fires of the Yule Tree, casting the year of AE2599 behind us and calling out to AE2600 - the new aeon! - I say to you this; if I, your Hegèmon, can underestimate your strength, your resolve, your greatness then so too will They!
They are coming here thinking They will have an easy fight on their hands, like They did with the poor people They murdered in Sol Drakoni system but They are wrong!
This is our home. This is our Gaia. This is our Empyraeum.
This is your Empyraeum. Your Gaia. Your home.
This land is humankind's by right - dwarf's by right, goblin's by right. Empyraeum. People of the Plains and Ice. Walking Dreamers. Riders of the Amazon. Builders of the Pyramid....sons and daughters of Gaia in her many faces one and all!
We are of Gaia and Gaia is of us; we can never be separated. They will fail in the attempt and pay a great deal more than They can afford!
This will be the year to show just how great we are.
Set in the interregnum between Books One and Two of the Empyraeum Cycle. Be aware, no spoilers given, hints maybe, several thereof...