The Qwis-109* Parhelia
is a mid-tonnage civilian freighter, formerly the property of Umtalla merchant clan.
She came into being when Quantol Mercantile Concerns contracted the Aanrar shipyards to construct seventeen Timely Sirocco
-class freighters. The Quantol clan was audited not long after by the secular government of their homeworld, and the resulting fines nearly bankrupted the clan. The Aanrar shipbuilders halted construction on the Quantol order, and when it was clear that further payments would not be received from Q-M-C, all but one of the airframes was scrapped. The last one, nearly completed, languished in a corner of the shipyard for six years (Sanghelios calendar) before it caught the eye of a scion of the Umtalla clan.
An apt epithet for the Umtalla clan would be "merchant princes", and Rael 'Umtalla was no exception. He was, in fact, an exemplar. He had a heart full of wanderlust and a love for fine living unmatched by most of his kin. He loved sports more than he loved profits; a hunter, a racer, and a diver. It was only his talent for bringing home more profit than he'd spent that saved him from the clan elders' censure. And in the abandoned airframe, Rael saw the potential for something unconventional.
Due to their open-frame design, Timely Sirocco
-class freighters weigh only an eighth of the lightship tonnage typical for a vessel of their length and beam. Yet they can mount engines larger than would be typical of their tonnage. This marriage of light weight and powerful engines makes the Timely Sirocco
class a popular choice for blockade runners, and Rael resolved to build a runner par excellence.
At his direction, the Aanrar shipbuilders trimmed the airframe, lengthened it, and then laid it into a very robust keel. He acquired the best engines and the finest reactor that money could buy in the twentieth Age of Discovery. Better than that even; it's not known for sure how Rael 'Umtalla got his hands on engines meant for a Ministry courrier ship, but his paperwork was evidently in order and the artisans of Aanrar dutifully installed them. The Parhelia
was to be a very fast vessel indeed.
When it came to armament and defense, Rael was faced with hard decisions. It is utterly unthinkable for a Sangheili noble to travel unarmed, but Rael loathe to install the four batteries of fleet but heavy plasma cannons typical of the Timely Sirocco
vessels owned by the Umtalla clan. Instead, he opted for a pair of plasma cannons designed for bomber craft. These are well-suited for fending off strike craft and blasting apart incoming asteroids, passable for a mid-sized freighter in a well-policed region of the Covenant empire, but laughably inadequate for the personal vessel of an Umtalla scion. Rael's heirs would later mount the weapons on a retractable armature, reasoning that the Parhelia
would be better off apparently disarmed instead of conspicuously underarmed.
Rael was less sanguine about the shield systems. He knew that any compromise in weight would be a compromise in the shield's strength or the structural integrity of the mounts. He also planned to race the Parhelia
in the Grand Cup of the Rhything Fjords, a low-atmosphere airship race on Skagit known for its foul weather and precarious rock formations. Any sacrifice of shield strength was out of the question. And what good is a strong shield if the hullplate beneath it will buckle from the first impact?
The final piece was taken from Rael's past. It was a slipspace engine taken from the heart of The Pugilist, a pirate ship that had plagued the Umtalla's freighters. The pirates' fortunes came to an end the day they attacked Rael's convoy, though it took all of Rael's considerable skill to run the pirates to ground in his convoy escort. To his dying days, he would tell anyone who listened of the harrowing chase through the rocky plains of a lifeless world, and the spectacular crash when the pirates, in desperation, swung their ship around to bring their weapons to bear on their pursuer and plowed into a cliff. There was only one survivor: the second mate who crawled from the wreckage and challenged Rael to a duel. It was a good chase, he remembered, and a good fight.
The consternation of the Umtalla elders cannot be overstated when he returned from Sanghelios with a racing yacht instead of a proper freighter, but Rael had paid for the construction with his own account, and with the Parhelia's
considerable cargo space, his expeditions could conceivably be written off as business trips. Rael 'Umtalla was soon winning one race after another in the Parhelia
, which is no small feat considering that it was often the largest contender. To this day, the rust-red Timely Sirocco
is legendary in the racing circles of the Kantuon Edict Primary Domain, and to this day a number of racers attempt to recreate the Parhelia's
success. Such freighters-turned-racers are colloquially known as "Secondhand-Sundogs".
Rael 'Umtalla's long life utterly defies any expectations one might draw from his lifestyle or his love of near-death experiences, but with him died the Parhelia's
winning streak. The freighter is a beast to handle at high speeds, and the engine booms tend to wobble during tight turns. Rael spent years of effort to master the Parhelia
, and he eventually learned how to squeeze even more agility out of the flexing airframe. But he was alone in this endeavor, and to this day he is the only one to race the Parhelia
in atmosphere. His heirs were content to drive it in deep space races, but eventually they moved on to other ships. The Parhelia
spent much of its time in storage aboard High Charity, waiting for a scion to unlock its potential or for a buyer to meet the Umtalla clan's high demands.
But the legend lives on. The Parhelia
should have been lost with High Charity at the outbreak of the Great Schism, when the Parasite took the mendicant city and corrupted it to the core. But several years later, the old racer limped down the Pleiades Corridor and returned to the territory of the Covenant empire. It was battered and worn, captained by a common-born Kig-Yar shipmaster who commands the most unlikely assortment of the lower castes. How this came to happen, and why the Umtalla clan have not reclaimed their property, is as yet a mystery.