At the risk of taking this off-topic (topic being nice things from RaF) . . .
Those Rajaat chose to admit into his inner circle were already considered accomplished in psionics.
Sidenote: this is also the reason why I think Qwith should definitely have levels in Psion or whatever: she was part of Rajaat’s inner circle of noble psions trained in defiling, except she wasn’t chosen to become a champion, heading up his transplant experiments, instead.
However, one of the artifacts of 2e thinking is that humans (who were basically chosen to be the race of champions because in 2e only humans could both dual-class and had unlimited advancement as wizards—muls could dual-class, but couldn’t be wizards) who dual-class had to finish and never return to advance in their initial class. This meant that, mechanically, the champions all HAD to be 20th level psions BEFORE they ever started learning magic from Rajaat.
With 3E we suddenly had freedom from that concept, and I definitely think it was a step in the right direction. Hand-in-hand with that, I really don’t believe that the champions and advanced beings in general SHOULD be maxed out psions. I don’t remember exactly what my reasoning was (and don’t have access to my computer files to check my notes), but I think I ultimately went with something like 12 levels of psion or something. Being able to manifest 6th level powers. Their primary forte is magic, and yes they use a weird application of psionic power to boost their spells, but they’re primarily SORCERER-monarchs, not sorcerer-psion-monarchs.
Anyway, going to what you said, redking, I would say that yeah, Manu got slapped with a template and was “encouraged” by the benefits of said template to advance in magic and psionic classes (as the template would make it comparatively easy and attractive to learn and utilize magic and psionics) and did so over the course of his (in context INCREDIBLY quick and efficient) campaign against the trolls.
As for the other champions, I would see them as accomplished psions who took up the study of magic, became at least as accomplished in magic, got their champion templates from Rajaat, and proceeded to level up as they saw fit over the course of the Cleansing Wars. I really appreciate how this is better represented in the crunch of 3E.
Outside of the RAW, I ultimately went full-bore with the home-brew route: 3 base classes, with magic/psionics/divine/etc being feat- and skill-based, with a franken-almagamation of saga edition star wars force powers for psionics and a similar abomination of the magic from monte cook’s world of darkness rpg. As a result, Hamanu could be a Soldier 9 who got slapped with a template that granted feats or pseudo-feats that provided access to magic and psionics, and either keep advancing as a soldier or take levels in Scholar or Survivor, benefitting from the inherent benefits of those classes (which are applicable regardless of whether you’re playing a spellslinger, a sneaky-type, or a tank).
Anyway, what I really feel is the best take-away from RaF is just having Hamanu’s perspective on things. Even if you can’t take it all as gospel truth, it has a lot of interesting potential. I really like the idea of Kalak as NOT being a champion, and just an over-accomplished but non-dragon non-champion psion and wizard (the original boxed set characterized him as one of the more powerful sorcerer-kings, noted for his pragmatism, which made his crazy behavior over the ziggurat more puzzling to everyone). I like the characterization of all the champions being uppity nobility snobs. I like how Sadira is painted as too upjumped for her own good, wielding more power than common sense. I like how Rajaat was finally brought down and defeated for good by his own hubris, underestimating Hamanu just like everyone else did (all the champions looked down on him because he was a peasant, but he not only turned the massive embarrassment of Myron’s campaign around and eliminated the trolls crazy fast, he’s also the only champion to have repeatedly taken down and killed other champions as well as created arguably the strongest and most successful city-state that could actually stand on its own without a sorcerer-king.)
I also like the Spirit of Urik, Hamanu as a farmer, and how that all ties together.