The Chalice Bearers, also known as the Maidens of the Chalice of Tears, are professional mourners. Numbering fewer than 50, they ply their trade of weeping for the deceased, catching their tears in silver, gold, and brass chalices. Once the deceased reaches his final resting place, generally a stone mausoleum, the Chalice Bearers use the tears they have captured to ceremonially wash the sins from the dead and ease their passage into the next life.
The Chalice Bearers originated over 120 years ago after the death of Prince Golta. The Prince was a braggart, thief, and a womanizer; after being stabbed to death by a harlot no one in the city was willing to shed a tear for his soul. Golta's father was suitably upset, not only was his eldest son dead, but everyone almost seemed happy about it. He fixed the problem by hiring a dozen women to drape themselves in white, the funeral color of Ozea, and to follow the Prince's carriage from the Temple of the Departed to the Hill of the Slain, the ceremonial mausoleum of Ozea's nobility.
The procession was a success. The twelve raised enough racket with their wailing, pulling of their hair and beating upon their breast as they mourned for Golta and his soul. The rest was an accident, the cups being carried since they were a symbol of the procession and no one could find a place to put them on the funeral carriage. Improvisation would become tradition.
The next funeral of a noble found the same women, and some of their friends hired again, this time to follow Istir the Salt Merchant on his last trip to the sea. They again made a terrible racket, catching their tears and showing the lament of the living for the passage of the dead. Soon, becoming a Chalice Bearer was good business. The Nobility even passed a sumptuary law governing how many professional mourners a commoner could have (no more than 5) while a middle class artisan, merchant or otherwise burgoise was allowed 6.
The Formation of the Maidens of the Chalice of Tears
The event that prompted the formation of the Mourners Guild was the death procession of Lord Malthas the Cruel. known for his greed as much as his wealth, over 1000 Chalice Bearers appeared, weeping and making a mess of the procession. Each demanded a gold piece for their lamenting, actually the general rate for a mourner. It was discovered that the mourners consisted of at least 200 men dressed in womens clothing, as well as old women, children, and the like. By custom, each was paid a gold piece and the fortune of Malthas was cut neatly in half.
The Ruling Council of Ozea mandated the formation of the Guild to police its members to make sure that only women, and women of suitable age (18 to 30 generally) were allowed to bear the Chalice of Tears. By regulating the mourners, some semblance of order was returned to the stately dignity of the funeral marches. The Mourners could also now be taxed by the crown, since their income was being recorded.
The Chalice of Tears
It is a cup, usually a middling piece of art, but never worth more than a few gold pieces at the most. None of the Chalices are magical, enchanted, or otherwise enhanced.
For Whom the Bell Tolls - The PCs encounter a funeral procession during their visit to the port of Ozea. The pomp and circumstance are formidable, but even moreso is the train of wailing women following the carriage.
Funeral Guard - A leak is found, someone is planning to disrupt the procession of a local lord. The PCs are hired/contracted/tricked into being guards for the Procession. Can they keep their nerve when being trailed by the wailing mob?
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? Responses (8)-9
I love the idea of professional mourners! Prince Golta's dad is a fathers' father, if you know what I mean! very nice story.
Isn't a GP/per mourner a bit steep? Silver would do them good :)
Cry me a river, for one gold a day!
Epically good. Innovative and well presented. You get some usable history, and the group is practically plug and play. Two paws up
Instant chrome and history to add to a city (or a country - they are likely to spread to other cities, too).
Plot hook: somebody started stealing the Chalices used in numerous processions. There are hints that an evil sorcerer wants to try a new ritual, 'that will make all people weep' or something like that. The basically worthless cups gain suddenly epic importance.
This is another wonderful post from you.
Imagine the rivalry amongst the mourners: 'I look more innocent!' calls one. 'My tears are honest!' cries the other...
A great piece of local culture to add depth. I can feel a few ideas forming..
A nice piece for adding colour to a world
*Commented on for the Commenting Challenge