Man of the Cranes
A Child of Johydee, hippy-bard and old, old man.
The Man of the Cranes is very, very old. He looks perhaps in his early 60’s, with a magnificent mane of silver hair tied back in a long braided ponytail and thronged with silvered leather. He wears simple, coarse brown robes, and his fingers bear no rings. He is a proud 6’ 4", of medium build and he stands upright and regal. The Man of the Crane’s immense Charisma impresses any who see him. He has many magical items, but the one most often associated with him is the simple lantern he usually carries, which has the combined powers of a gem of seeing, a gem of brightness and a helm of brilliance.
His full name is unknown, his nickname comes from an especial love the old man has of the beautiful black and silver winged cranes which nest every spring along the Mikar River and in the Lone Heath marshlands. Some years, if the waters are high in the headwaters, the marshes flood and the nesting sites become sodden; the cranes abandon their eggs. The Man of the Cranes then prowls the marshes rescuing the eggs (druids of Obad-Hai bring them to him, too), and he takes them back to his home in the deep forest of the Grandwood. Using control temperature 10’ radius and delicate hand turning of the eggs round the clock to ensure even warming, the old bard hatches fledglings. Feeding them by hand and stroking the small chicks with an extraordinary gentleness, the time comes when the bard has to teach them to fly (which normally they learn by observing their parents as their own muscles develop). Amused spectators are treated to the spectacle of the old man running around flapping his arms up and down, with a squadron of enthusiastic young cranes doing their clumsy best to follow his example. Any who are close enough might see the hint of a tear in the bard’s eyes as the last bird flies uncertainly into the sky, and then with greater assurance rises into the wide blue beyond.
The Man of the Cranes travels where he wishes in forest and heath, and talks with who he wishes. He knows, and deals with, most leaders of any significance. Without exception, they speak of the man in tones of reverence. Fiorena Goldhand has been known to say that if she had known beforehand what she would feel during the bard’s recounting of The Doorway to the Summer Stars, she would gladly have given ten years of life to hear his words. The Man of the Cranes only offers verse and song (almost always verse in preference) when the mood is upon him, and in truth not everyone always wishes to hear the bard’s declamations. The emotions he can draw forth are so strong as to be painful in their intensity.
Yet, the Man of the Cranes has a playful and light hearted side, too. During his retelling of The Battle of the Trees to an audience of elder treants (hardly fans of levity) he teased an especially old birch he knew was slightly resented by the others on account of its self esteem. He reminded the birch it had been late for that epic struggle with Aerdy axemen, “not from any diffidence, but because of his magnificence.” The subtlety of his intonation left the birch feeling pleased at the compliment, since the Man of the Cranes obviously recognized that the birch simply had to have the right moment for entry into the fray, while the other treants were wryly amused at the jest which the birch could not see because of it’s inflated self esteem.
The Man of the Cranes is a Child of Johydee, of course. He has spent longer in the world than anyone realizes and he has more knowledge than perhaps any man or creature walking the Oerth. There hardly can be a legend, tale or myth which the man does not know. Often, however, he will tell a tale in its original form which he knows mixes truth with inaccuracy because he wishes to test the perceptiveness of the listener or because the mood takes him. He does not lie, he tells the tale as it always has been told, but he does not always tell what he knows to be the real truth.
The Man of the Cranes is a reverer of Beory, although that is putting things too mildly. Rather, what fires his heart and soul and puts the fire, steel and magic into his poems and verse is the intense yearning this old, old soul has for union with that power. All of life’s richness and beauty he sees in Beory’s hands, and once, so many years ago, he walked with Her in the Vale of Summer Stars and understood what life’s end, and the passage of his soul from Oerth would bring. Yet, the old man has no thought of death and no desire for it. Oerth is still a place with intense beauty, magic and wonder to the old bard’s eyes and they still shine as brightly as ever they did.
The Man of the Cranes is above most political concerns. He has seen the rise and fall of the Great Kingdom and the machinations of those working away in its ruins do not concern him. He does not aid the Grandwood or Lone Heath folk by spellcasting or reciting morale boosting declamations prior to battle. The effect he has is far subtler. For days after hearing one of his recitations, the listener feels a sense of heightened energy and perception; colors seem brighter, sounds more pleasing, food and wine taste better, other people seem fairer of face and kinder of expression. That is the bard’s gift to the good folk of forest and heath.
Those who come seeking the Man of the Cranes won’t find him. When they come, he will know of it, and he will choose whether to see them. He will choose the time and manner of his appearance. He will know what they wish of him, but that’s no guarantee they will go away heartened or informed. The bard makes his own choices.
The Man of the Cranes is solitary, but in addition to his usual wanderings he meets with a handful of people in the Flanaess. Mordenkainen has eaten and taken wine with the old man, and indeed the two have many things in common, not least their alignment.
The Circle of Eight have heard the bard’s recitations; even the introverted, conservative and repressed Bigby was shaking when the bard fell silent and Mordenkainen himself was stirred enough not to repeat the experiment. The Man of the Cranes power is unsettling to those who are used to power of their own combined with a firm sense of control. Philidor has been seen laughing with the old man and incredibly enough, light heartedly skipping along paving stones of Greyhawk City with the bard keeping pace.