So, Serenes. This being a strategy rpg (and I add 'rpg' because I'm feeling generous with my genre terminology) we weren't given very much information about the culture, and a lot of what we do get only kind of adds up. I'm going to start with obvious stuff and eventually work my way to useless speculation about the structure of the heron clan. And since Lehran is the oldest heron there is, and the biggest troublemaker, I really have to start with him.
Bear with me. It'll be over soon. I swear I won't fangirl that much.
1. Lehran is weird, you guys. And this matters for his descendants.
There's a very Tolkien-esque design sensibility to the herons (their features, coloring, clothing), their language, and the very little bit we see of their artwork (the altar). They remind me very strongly of the elves as depicted in the LOTR movies, specifically, and while I think this is pretty obvious, I've never seen anyone discuss it. The pronunciation of Lehran's katakana name echoes a familiar name, as does his appearance when compared to the other herons, but I'm not reading much into this.
Part of the reason I speculated Lehran was different from other laguz (even other herons) in Call of the Heron is the ambiguity of his timeline. He is ancestor to Rafiel, Reyson, Leanne, and presumably Lorazieh. We don't know how old Lorazieh is, but since Lehran went into seclusion right after Begnion was founded, it seems likely Lorazieh was born before the three heroes got together and fought Yune. Lehran had to be an adult before that point, and must have already had some kind of relationship. Fandom seems pretty squeamish about remarriage (seriously, I recall forum topics where people were like, "but how can Lehran be ancestor of the herons AND the apostle? HE CAN'T HAVE REMARRIED, THAT'S EVIL."), never mind such liberal, sinful things like sex out of wedlock, but I see a few possibilities:
- The script is lying, and Lehran isn't ancestor to Lorazieh. However, I checked the original, and it definitely says 'ancestor' (whereas our version calls Lillia et al 'descendants,' which is a more flexible term) but doesn't specify Lehran as a leader, interestingly. More on that 'white-winged royal' thing later.
- Lehran had a fling. Maybe herons did it that way before the Massacre. Maybe they don't believe in marriage! Maybe he was a headstrong kid and there was an accident.
- Lehran was married before Altina, and his first (or second, or third--) wife parted ways with him - amicably, or I guess he could've gotten tired of being a family man, or maybe she went and died. Or, haha, maybe Lehran liked the idea of having multiple wives. WHO KNOWS.
- Something I'm not thinking of probably goes here.
r_amythest and I had a long discussion about this, and came to the conclusion that he might not be ancient, and that his "madness" after losing his abilities might've been exacerbated by teenage angst, but he would've had to be a busy teenager to father two lines in close succession. Not... totally out of the question, considering my usual heron headcanon.
Other conversations we've had over the last month or so covered the issue of his age, which isn't just ambiguous - it's obnoxious with how inconsistent the information is. Designer Q&A says the bird tribes have a lifespan that tops out at around a thousand years. However, if Lehran is there to meet Ashera four hundred years after the game (though r_amythest argued the theme of the games points at it being 1200 years later instead), and this is after already being more than eight hundred years old (since he had to have time to mature before Altina's era) then he's already breaking records. Add to that whatever time he needed before Altina to father a line of heron royalty, and he's breaking records for the dragon clan (~2000 year life expectancy) too. And if Lehran can live that long, what about his descendants? (How about WHY he can live that long?) How old is Lorazieh? Does this oddness pass down the genetic line, or what?
I've seen fans mention several times that Lehran must not be of royal blood because his wings aren't white, but that's faulty logic. If the royals are descended from him, then the possibility is there; it depends on when you think Serenes became a kingdom (which happened after the founding of Begnion, I think). Maybe people outside of Serenes talk about 'white winged royals' because those are the only ones they know about. I personally think Lehran pre-exists such concerns, and it's his accomplishments and/or Ashera's favor that led to his descendants becoming clan royalty. Lehran sealed the dark goddess, Lehran served Ashera, Lehran might have led the bird tribes before he ran to Goldoa - Lehran did it all.
Somewhere in there, the heron royals turned shiny and blond and white. I'm assuming Lorazieh is also pale, blond, and sporting white wings, but we don't know. I also don't know enough about egret biology to make any claims about how they breed, but breeding seems to be what happened. I recall seeing somewhere in the game text that laguz pushed their race to become strong, while the herons shunned that philosophy in favor of peace and study. However, the herons bred other characteristics into their clan - voice, splintery bird bones, and beauty.
[RD ch.4-1] Nailah: ... Rafiel is everything that herons are expected to be: quiet, elegant, and delicate.</i>
That they're known mostly for their delicacy and beauty - their attractive physical traits - is telling. It's not quite fair, because they are very fragile, but the game never gives an explanation for that. Why just the herons, and not the hawks? All those years of conditioning, of course. So I fall back on 'breeding' as my answer. When it's time to have kids, you look for the frail beauty who can barely lift a book - not the stocky ones with brown hair, goddess no!
(I resent this.)
Okay, so, just to review the facts, herons....
- live up to a thousand years (unless they're Lehran);
- are expected to be delicate, quiet, and elegant (but whose expectations are those?);
- possess the ability to "read hearts" and hear the thoughts of others, sense spiritual corruption, etc.
And then, herons also:
- can only eat fruit and nuts;
- suffer more damage than their targets when they try to hit someone;
- are "optimistic by nature" and get sick when exposed to negative energy;
- are too frail to withstand poison and experimentation;
- die in captivity (Rafiel says he fell ill out of desperation - a last defense?);
- sing galdrar which have magical effect, but cannot use conventional magic;
- can layer their magic to produce stronger galdrar (i.e. Reyson and Leanne together are greater than one alone)
- are paragons of order, unaffected by Ashera's light;
- are "so passive and accepting of their natural fate" (which is vague, Lehran, thanks);
Presumably they also share natural abilities with the hawk and raven tribes: sharp eyesight and hearing, and they can interbreed. One wonders if breeding with stronger clans - which they'll be forced to do now - will overcome some of their excessive frailty. I think Leanne's children are too much of a compromise (a heron girl and a raven boy? Really.) but it's interesting to note that they don't always breed true. Even more reason for them to have strict breeding practices within the clan.
Both Tibarn and Naesala spent a lot of time in Serenes, so there was communication between the clans, but I wonder how much. Aside from things like eating meat, we don't really know what their incompatibilities were. Violence and negative energy, I suppose? Also, Serenes is not a culture of strength, so resolving disputes between herons and hawks could get difficult.
Rafiel and Leanne knew who Lehran was the moment they met him in the tower. Reyson gave no sign that he got it. I used to wonder if this meant they'd met him before (which would make them a bit too old, especially Leanne and Reyson), but since Misaha seemed to know Lehran instantly, and Micaiah had a feeling about it, I suppose they also feel kinship with their own - literally. Shame this didn't come up between say, Micaiah and Rafiel, but I suppose there are too many degrees of separation.
God. All I've accomplished here is an explanation of my own headcanon. I was going to make up crazy things about heron culture, but this is way too damned long. I'll call it "part 1" and just never get to the second part.