Mourners of the Quiet Guild
From the outlook of my new and inexpensive flat, I could see her. She was kneeling in the graveyard across the cobblestoned way in front of a fresh grave. She was in dark mourning gear, complete with those large black hats that were the fashion. A lost lamb I supposed, recently wed, recently widowed, crying for the loss of a loved one. She had been there two days that I noticed, as well as their nights. She never seemed to move, so locked she was in her grief. As I drank a lonely nightcap, I caught the glimpse that changed me. In the pale moon light, I saw the grave buckle. In a foul corruption of Athenean birth, some spawn sprang forth. Not taking my eyes off the horrid scene, I reached over to the weapon I had been cleaning. Before I could grasp it fully, the petite young widow of my imagination cleared a saber concealed under her over cape and removed its loathsome head. After checking her kill, she looked up at me; backlit I assumed by the lamp in the room. She was not just a simple widow, she was Mourner. I held up my glass in a true salute from one professional to another. At that point I knew two new things: That the Unnatural truly had become more active as I had been hearing in the back alleys and I needed to move far from that graveyard.
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.
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? Responses (13)
Has one of them ever risen as an Undead?
Yes, they probably have. And their own folks have cut them down.
Limit them to one region or put into the whole world; make them a priestly sect or a secular organization, the basic idea stands unharmed, perfectly scalable. You get the plot hooks, you get the drama, and the undead become a tangible threat in this world. Worth using any day.
I like to keep them a secular organization that was religious roots. That keeps them out of the power struggles that religions and knightly organizations (like this one was) are always involved with or drawn into.
I really like this one. I'm going to have to check to see if I can squeeze this into a campaign world somewhere.
I agree with manfred completely.
Is there a post on the Shadow somewhere else? This is an awesome post by itself, but it would be even better if we could reade up on the other elments of the struggle between the living and the undead.
The Shadow is an old metaphor for Evil or The Devil. You could think of it as any demiurge tormenting reality.
Yes, but there is still the question of their philosophy about 'The Shadow', or however they call it. Some core tenets can be spied from the post:
- The Shadow does not like to be looked upon. It hides, or it attacks, but it cannot tolerate a determined look.
- The Shadow lacks true patience. Its wickedness can be outlasted by a tenacious mind.
- One steady blow at the right moment saves battles between armies later.
And so on.
Excellent! Take one of your golf claps. I agree with the keeping them secular thing. This group can be embroiled in all kinds of intrigue!
You can attach them to Ye Olde Arcane Word Challenge if you like, as an example of a more complex (and great!) version of Jemmie Duffs.
I will do it soon (or you can do it, I am easy)
and after almost 4 years, i finally did it!
Wow - this one is quite good! Definitely one for the 'keep' pile!
Takes a level in badass, an interesting idea and one that has alot of use. Nice work.