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 very edge of the sea. One of their last strongholds had been built upon a large buttress of rock looming over the southern shore where the Iztani had first landed nearly 300 years before. This was the the Citadel of Khad Zhere and the foundations of its ruin still stand today haunted and avoided by most in Rhaétia.
Just before its fall, Sabrah Ranraki the Golden, Captain of the Paladins of Iztan, stood upon the high walls of glorious Khad Zhere and gazed out at the Hartian-Draechi hord gathered about her great citadel. Her fortress was laid out on the top of the Dagor Hallwah a gargantuan promontory overlooking the dark southern sea. It was secure, but the besieging army of fifty thousand northern warriors far outnumbered the one hundred and eleven defenders inside. Many warriors in the citadel had been wounded, most inside were not warriors at all. So Ranraki sent the last of her ships back to Iztan, requesting that a larger fleet be sent to take all her remaining people to safe refuge.
For hundreds of years the Great Deathless Emperor, from her vast continent in the southern sea, relentlessly pushed the Iztani further and further across the world. They came to Tor Alséa and to the islands of the north and finally to the mouth of the Icén River, gateway to the Realm, and for nearly three hundred years they faught for mastery of the land with the Wyddic peoples who lived there.
But now it seemed the Empire's time was over. Things were disintegrating in Iztan. Rebellion was everywhere and the tide of expansion was beginning to ebb. In the Realm, hatred and retribution was at the doorstep of Khad Zhere and Ranraki knew there would be no mercy at the hands of these warriors from the northern territories and from the far away dreaded plains of Mabon. She also knew it would take months for her message to reach Iztan and at least several more for help to arrive. She had her warriors reinforce their position and wait for an evacuation she suspected may never come.
The siege had just begun.
Weeks passed. The High Captain told the Paladin Zhata to keep a constant eye on the sea's horizon for the peculiar gaff-rigged sails of Iztan while she walked the ramparts seeking to keep her warriors’ morale high. In the night, the troops of northerners 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 and sleep became a distant memory for many; some poured hot wax into their ears to keep the noise out. Even the paladin's’ morale began to fade.
And so, in the dead of night on a new moon in the Month of Bare Branches, Ranraki donned her grey cloak and descended a rope down the crevice of a tower. She slipped her way into the forward camps of the enemy, and with her twin blades Joghâd & Hashtpâh she quickly silenced the trumpeters and made her way back up the tower with the horns in a sack. The Iztani hung them across the main gate’s battlement in the morning: a trophy of silence, and 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 and disease. Ranraki sent her prized eagle, Aethir, out to hunt and though Aethir kept her people fed, she could not keep them from being hungry. The large red and gold feathered bird was a gift from her family on Ranraki's tenth birthday and she had raised it from a hatchling to be a loyal companion and a swift scout as well. It was one of the few things she had to remind her of the warm lands of her home in Iztan, but every day Zhata would report nothing from the sea’s horizon, no sails spotted that might take them home.
After seven months of siege, the snows began to melt. A great doubting in Khad Zhere began to bloom with the flowers of the northern lands; the time of Iztan was over, for no gaff-rigged ships were spotted on the southern sea, dark and endless. No ships would be coming from Iztan.
And then on a day in spring the sorcerers appeared. Draechi sorcerers from the mountain. 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 turned grim and her demeanor fey; she refused to accept the cold stone walls around her would be her people's tomb. When the clouds of morning opened and she felt the sun shine on her once more, her resolve to make a final stand kindled to a roaring flame of hope for the survival of her people. Her paladins would fight and die, and yet perhaps they would save many in doing so. They would call all attention to their charge by the sheer ferocity of a final brilliant onslaught, while Grisla , (who would some day be known as Grisal the Redeemer), with the people of Khad Zhere would slip into the sluices under their great city and follow the leaden waste tunnels into the tide! If they could make it through the refuse and the roaring surf perhaps they could swim unseen back to shore. They would flee along the coast to the forests of the east while Ranraki and the paladins perished.
Ninety paladins rose to make a stand, with twenty-one of the youngest and cleverest ordered to follow Grisla. The ninety 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 took on the appearance of 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 ninety paladins rode forth from the city and straight into the heart of their besieging army.
Less than half of Grisla's folk survived the tide. So many were lost. Those who managed to make it to shore ran to the eastern woodlands, yet one paladin tarried a moment at the edge of the forest and watched the battle from afar. This was Kefi, and he saw the golden figure of High Captain Ranraki charge through the ranks on Kedteer, Aethir soaring above her, riding straight toward a northern 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 barbarian the Paladin had ever seen to stop Ranraki in her onslaught. The huge dreowu must have been a heathen ally of supernatural strength for when Ranraki stabbed out his eye, the massive hulk snapped the shaft from his socket and wrestled both rider and lion to the ground. A mob then descended on the High Capatin in fury and she disappeared from the Kefi's view. The majestic Aethir dove at the dreowu one last time before climbing back into to sky and vanishing, free now that her master was gone. Kefi knew his High Captain had perished. He turned away and fled after his people into the night.
The remaining people of Khad Zhere made their way through many perilous places and peoples before reaching the sanctuary of the Northern Islands where many of their Iztani kinspeople remained. Rejecting the empire that had abandoned them, Grisla's people took up new leadership and formed a House of the Realm under the name of A’quilah, from Grisla's vision of Qui'leth the Plumed: a sigil in shape like Aethir, the soaring eagle of Sabrah Ranraki Il’Labor. Though only thirteen paladins had survived the retreat from Khad Zhere, they reformed in A'quilah-Aden as the Paladins of Justice under the guidance of Grisla’s wisdom.
The A’quilans speak of a redemptive prophecy that Aethir will return one day, and at that time they will know that Ranraki has been born again and will find her people in Aquilah-Aden.