Ranraki Sabrah Il’labor Sun Ray
Champion of Iztan, First Paladin of A'quilah
After centuries of war, the forces of Iztan were eventually pushed back to the sea. One of their last strongholds, the Citadel of Khad Zhere, had been built upon the very shoulder of the southern shore where they first landed.
Sabrah Ranraki the Golden, High Captain of the Rangers of Iztan, stood upon the high walls of the citadel and gazed out at the Hartian-Draechi horde gathered at her doorstep and all about her great city. High-walled Khad Zhere was laid out on the top of the Dagor Hallwah a gangantuan promontory overlooking the dark southern sea. Over five thousand strong, the besieging army far outnumbered the elven hundred defenders inside Khad Zhere. Many warriors in the citadel had been wounded. But most in the citadel were not warriors at all, so Ranraki sent her last ships south weeks ago before the siege began, back to Iztan, requesting that a larger fleet be sent to take all her remaining people home.
Their time in the new land was over. For hundreds of years the deathless great Emperor from across the southern sea relentlessly pushed her warriors to fight further and further across the world and eventually in the Realm and up from the mouth of the Icén. Never was the Emperor satiated. But now it seemed the Empire's time was ebbing, things were dsintegrating in Iztan, rebellion was ebverywhere and the tide of expansion was not going to flow back. In the Realm, hatred and retribution was at their doorstep of Khad Zhere and Ranraki knew there would be no mercy at the hands of these warriors from the northern territories. If there was even a chance of salvation she knew that it would take months for her message to reach Iztan and months more for help to arrive, so she had her soldiers dig in and wait for a rescue that in the back of her mind she knew would never come. The siege has just begun.
Weeks passed as the High Captain walked the ramparts trying to keep her warrior's’ morale high. She told them to look to the sea for the sails of Iztan. But in the night, the Hartian troops would light enormous bonfires outside the main gate just yards beyond bowshot. And they would blow strange sounding trumpets until the sun came up. People grew restless in Khad Zhere as sleep became a distant memory; some even resorted to pouring hot wax in their ears to try and keep the noise out. The soldiers’ morale began to fade and Ranraki knew something had to be done.
In the dead of the night on a new moon in the Month of Bare Branches, the High Captain descended the walls of Khad Zhere alone and in grey cloak. She slipped her way into the forward camps of the enemy, drew her blade and systematically silenced the trumpeters. Before anyone on either side knew what had happened, she had made her way back up the wall, with the Hartian trumpets in a sack. The Iztani hung them across the main gate’s battlement in the morning: a trophy of silence, a victory much needed.
But weeks turned to months as winter set in. Most of the wounded and elderly of Khad Zhere didn’t make it far into the season. Every third person dropped from cold, famine or disease. Ranraki kept herself occupied by sending out her prized eagle, Aethir, on hunting missions. The large red and gold feathered bird was a gift from her family on her tenth birthday and she raised it from an egg to be a swift scout and loyal companion. It was one of the few things she had to remind her of the warm lands of her home in Iztan. Every day she would watch the sea’s horizon, waiting for the sails that would take them home.
In the seventh month of the siege, the snows began to melt.
With flowers in full bloom came a great doubting in Khad Zhere. The southern sea, dark and endless and still without sails, told them no ships were coming fo rthem. And the Draechi sorcerers from the mountain were on their way.
On a day in spring the sorcerers appeared. Dark and slow they issued from the woods and gathered outside the walls of Khad Zhere. Their chanting was deeper and louder somehow than the trumpets of Fall and the Earth itself began to tremble. Ranraki’s heart broke as she accepted that she would never see home again, never walk on the golden sands of Iztan, never feel the radiance of the Iztani sun against her face. Yet she refused to accept that the cold stone walls around her would be her tomb. She looked to a fellow soldier and saw fear in his eyes, fear and anger, and this lit a spark in her. And the spark kindled to a roaring flame when the clouds of morning opened and she felt the sun shine down on her once more. Her rangers would fight and die and yet perhaps they would save many, as many as they could.
Gathering her rangers to make a final charge, they forged a plan to save many in the city. The rangers would call all attention to their charge by the sheer ferocity of their final onslaught. With Grisla the Redeemer, sun priest, the people of Khad Zhere would slip into the waste tunnels beneath them - the literal bowels of their once great city - and follow the leaden tunnels to the tide! Washed clean in the surf they would flee along the coast to the forests of the east while their Rangers perished for them.
All one hundred of her rangers rose to make the stand, knowing they would not come back. They donned their heavy armor and mounted their destriers. Ranraki came before them on Kedteer, the armored lion, that legendary mount, and Aethir perched on the tip of her golden lance. And the Draechi mages finished their incantations.
The earth below the main gate shook and looked like liquid. And into that soup the mighty walls of Khad Zhere crumbled in fire and soot! The high gate fell forward sending a plume of ash and debris rocketing into the air. And from the plume one hundred rangers rode forth from the city and straight into the heart of their besieging army.
Grisla, who had been tasked by Ranraki to lead their people to safety, stayed a moment at the edge of the forest and watched the battle from afar. She saw the golden figure of High Captain Ranraki charge through the ranks on Kedteer, Aethir soaring above her, straight towards the Hartian commander. When she reached the commander, atop his horse, she pierced his chest with her lance and sent him to the ground. It took the largest Druid Grisla had ever seen to stop Ranraki in her onslaught. She stabbed out his eye, but the massive hulk snapped the lance in half, wrestled with her lion and knocked them both to the ground. A mob descended on her in fury and the majestic Aethir dove at the druid, clawed at him, returned to the air and flew off into the distance. Grisla knew she had perished and turned away with her people fleeing into the night.
Forsaken by an Empire that had forced them to fight in a foreign land, the remaining people of Khad Zhere sought to rebuild themselves. They rejected the Iztani lords that had abandoned them and took up the new name of A’quilah, from the vision of Grisla's of Qui'leth the Plumed - resembling the soaring eagle of Sabrah Ranraki Il’Labor. Though only eight rangers had survived the battle of Khad Zhere, these last Rangers of Iztan reformed themselves as Paladins of justice under the guidance of Grisla’s wisdom. The Paladins of A'quilah swore an oath to uphold the values The High Captain had once showed them that had given them all life.
The A’quilans speak of a prophecy that once Aethir returns, Ranraki will be born again, like the phoenix from ashes, and the people of A’quilah will soar once more.