In times troubled by returning dead, bereaved survivors often hire professional mourners to sit over the remains. For three days, The Mourner keeps a silent and motionless vigil over the body (and burial if deemed needed) to ensure the dead will not rise.
Each Mourner is a member of the Quiet Guild. The guild trains potential members in their ways, assigns them to areas, and finds them contacts for work. Though few try, only a moderate number of those make it through their training. For those that do, the guild provides a comfortable, but distant and lonely life. The guild fills its ranks from the middle and upper social ranks. While there are a few male Mourners, most are young widows. To a one, each has lost someone to The Shadows; thus converting their sorrow and grief into a needed and noble pursuit.
Upon being hired, a Mourner will wear black mourning wear. (To be honest, they will often dress in black all the time). They will do more than monitor the Dead for signs of unnatural or shadows, they will help the grieving family deal with their loss and help set affairs in order. Their demeanor is always somber, as befits their job. Their voices trained to be quiet and soothing, just above a whisper. Their stride is confident, but measured. They are held to a paragons standard by themselves and others, as Death is a serious business and should never be treated with disrespect. Mourners are expected to be virtuous and conscientious. Most abstain from sexual relations, alcoholic drink, and even excessive eating. This keeps them focused on their calling AND maintains their virtuous image.
During The Watch, a Mourner will stay as still and as silent as possible. Usually they will kneel at the graveside or in the funerary home, camouflaged as a mourning family member as not to disturb others. They will not sleep, nor eat, nor drink, nor even speak a word during The Watch. Should The Dead stir, they will strike decapitating The Risen (or staking as appropriate).
As for the why of their silent vigil, The Shadow is cunning. It is supernaturally aware and will act when anyone watching is distracted or engaged. To avoid missing the moment of emergence, when The Returned is most vulnerable, they stay focused on their task at hand for as long as it takes.
If something escapes they feel honor bound to hunt it down and destroy it. They are nearly as tireless as The Returned, so they continue the hunt. However, they are not usually a Returneds equal in combat, so they are quite at risk. There are Mourners who specialize in hunting down and destroying The Returned. They are called Undertakers.
Mourners continue the traditions of old, remaining respected but shunned members of society.
Skills of a Mourner
Endurance, this is the key to a Mourners abilities. They train themselves to improve their endurance all the time. Tales of standing for days on ends or being constantly drenched by ice cold water are not untrue.
For their vigils, they learn a meditative trance. This allows them to stay aware of their surroundings for their vigils and be ready to strike at the moment of animation.
They are known for their Quick Draw skills with their weapons, as well as their aiming (for the beheading strike). While adequate combatants, they are more duelists, looking for a quick end to the affair.
In addition to their combative skills, The Quiet Guild Members are also skilled in all things related to death. They know funerary rites, anatomy, mortuary science, funerary laws, and some forensics (limited by their cultures knowledge). They also know something of ghosts and other spirits. While they are not mediums, they know all the traditions for binding and dismissing an unruly spirit.
The Quiet Guild is the descendent of The Quiet Order and their knights. In a previous age, plagued by returning dead, the members took on the duty of quieting them. Given peoples unease with them and the painful reminders they are, they were disbanded by Church and State ages ago. Knowing that their skills would be needed in a time to come, they continued on under guild status.
In fact, the legend goes that a young widow came to one of these disenfranchised knights, begging to learn their ways. She was afraid for her loved one to rise as a beast. After that vigil (in which the loved one did rise), the knight took to training her and a few other widows to follow in The Orders footsteps. Indeed this was fortunate. While crowns and crosiers might see knights and a powerful order of priests as a threat to their power, no one would be threatened by a number of widows. So they could take some form of payment for their services, they became a guild.
Because they are descended from a Noble Order, they tend to look towards the upper classes for new members. Those of the upper lines tend to be more distressed at loses than those of the lower (who more practically, move on with life). They also must not have any title and little in the way of means. This keeps the Mourners from being entangled in other things. Also the innate training of those of middle and upper classes allows them to be more proper among their wealthy clients.
Through the World
The Quiet Guild is spread through out the civilized lands, and beyond. They have agreements with other organizations of similar bounds in other lands, allowing them to share information and travel aided through those lands. There is a grand council that meets from time to time, comprised of regional heads of the guild. However, it has little power of its own.
The guild is focused on the regions. Each region could be that, a region, or could be the bounds of a state. The guild is a group of regional organizations, all who trace their origins back to the Silent Order and those first Widows. There might be a coordinator or guildsmaster for a city or populous area, so the regional head does not have to deal with the details of arranging contracts and contacts for them. The membership keeps any politicking or power plays to a minimum, as they are all focused on their work. The Guild Head for a region gives permission to train new members (usually to replace lost ones). The more senior mourners train new ones.