It has been argued, and quite rightly, that war has no true winners. The cost of war is astronomical and can never fully be understood. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, cousins, and so on down the line, are lost. Whatever they might contribute to the Land will never be known.
The one exception is the Guild of Grave Diggers, Embalmers, and Cemetery Workers. They make out like bandits. To be fair, few people want to deal with corpses. With a compassionate demeanor, they make folks feel better about their loss and cope with the effluvia. Which everyone agrees is a pretty good deal.
Vanosh the Cadaver Wrangler gazed at the body of what seemed to be a Dwarf. Pulling his goggles over his eyes, words hovered over the body, Rumnek, Warrior of the Ruby Keep. These magic goggles could identify anyone with a glance and was the most closely guarded secret of the Guild. Most folk assumed they were to keep nasty goop out of their eyes. That was more of a side benefit.
With the help of two apprentices, he placed the body in a plain wooden but very well-made casket. Vanosh wrote the name on the square of parchment and glued it to the top. If the family wanted to spring for something fancier, they were free to browse the catalog.
Looking out on the battlefield, he felt moment’s sorrow for all those who were never coming home again, then glee for all the gold this would bring in. Let us stress that Vanosh was not an inherently bad person, he just provided a service for a reasonable price.
Vanosh was about to move on to the next body when the sky parted and trumpets sounded forth and many, massive armored figures emerged and floated above the battlefield.
“BEHOLD MORTALS, IT IS I, SONTOR, GOD OF THE SKY! YOUR PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED! I BRING A HEAVENLY HOST TO FIGHT FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE LAND! SOON, ALL ABOMINATIONS WILL BE STUCK DOWN AND YOU WILL KNOW PEACE ONCE MORE!” bellows a figure in bright blue and white armor.
While this guild had a very strong work ethic, seeing many, many gods descend was worth taking a break for. So they pushed up their goggles and looked up.
Aside from the wind, no sound was heard.
“IS THIS THE RIGHT PLACE?” asked Sontar who honestly expected a lot more cheering and supplication.
A goddess with three eyes looked at a gilded map and replied, “IT IS.”
“THEN WHERE IS EVERYBODY?” he asked rather petulantly.
There was a great tumult of godly voices, each shouting over the other. This went on for a bit, getting louder and louder until a shrill whistle silenced them all. This whistler was Equatia, the goddess of symmetry.
“LET’S JUST ASK THESE MORTALS,” she declared with no small amount of exasperation.
“AN EXCELLENT SUGGESTION, I WAS JUST ABOUT TO SAY THAT,” insisted the Sky God.
Pointing at Vanosh, Sontar spake, “YOU, MORTAL, WHAT IS YOUR NAME?”
Taking off his cap, because it’s not every day you meet a god, he replied, “I am called Vanosh, the Corpse Wrangler, Lord.”
“ARE YOU NOW?” rumbled Sontar.
“THAT’S AN ODD NAME,” mused Sontar.
“If you say so, Lord.”
“WERE YOU NAMED THAT BY YOUR SIRES?”
Smiling, the undertaker said, “It’s actually sort of a funny story Lord. My uncle, for whom I was named was a notorious-”
Just then, Equatia shoved Sontar out of the way, saying, “WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR IDLE CHIT CHAT! YOU, VANOSH, THE CORPSE WRANGLER, WHERE ARE ALL THE ABOMINATIONS?”
“They were defeated, Lady.”
He thought for a moment and replied, “About three days ago Lady.”
“ALL OF THEM?” asked SONTAR.
“That is what I was told.”
“SO YOU DID NOT SEE THIS?” asked Sontar in an aha tone.
“No Lord, my work is post-battle as it were,” admitted Vanosh.
“SO THERE COULD STILL BE SOME LURKING ABOUT?”
“I can’t rightly say, Lord.”
Sontar pointed to the goddesses and gods behind him and announced, “WE WILL SCOWER THE LAND FOR ABOMINATIONS THAT RIGHTLY HIDE FROM OUR DIVINE WRATH! GO FORTH AND SEARCH!”
“WE MISSED THE BATTLE!” shouted Equatia.
“HOW COULD THAT BE?” asked Sontar.
“BECAUSE YOU INSISTED ON A PRE-BATTLE FEAST THAT LASTED FOUR DAYS!”
“PRE-BATTLE FEASTS ARE A TRADITION, LIKE THE POST-BATTLE FEAST. YOU CAN’T NOT HAVE THEM, IT’S JUST NOT DONE.” countered the sky god with confidence that he perhaps didn’t feel.
“YOU ARE A MORON,” she spat.
“THAT’S UNFAIR! AND BESIDES, IT ALL WORKED OUT DIDN’T IT? THOSE MORTALS ARE QUITE SCRAPPY, WOULDN’T YOU SAY?”
Equatia looked at him as if he was something sticky and unpleasant you found on the bottom of your boot. With a swirl of black and white sparkles, she vanished. Perhaps to break something and then another thing of equal size and value.
“SINCE WE ARE AMONGST YOU LITTLE MORTAL, IS THERE ANY BOON YOU MIGHT ASK OF THE GODS?”
Scratching his chin, Vanosh pondered this. Then he spoke.
“Would you care to help us out with all these bodies? We need to sort them all out.”
“INDEED, I CAN SEND THEM TO THEIR FAMILIES WITH A WAVE OF MY HAND.”
“Very generous Lord, but that might be traumatizing. A dead body popping in out of nowhere.”
“HMMM… I SEE YOUR POINT.”
“If you all want to help us out, on the ground as it were, it would be a big help.”
And all at once, there was a great hemming and hawing from the heavenly hosts. Excuses were made, previous commitments were remembered, and so on.
“NAY LITTLE MORTAL, WE WOULD NOT ROB YOU OF THE DIGNITY OF HONEST WORK! GO ON AND KNOW THAT GODS WATCH OVER YOU!” pronounced Sontar as he and the rest of the gods ascended to their divine realm.
One of the apprentices walked up to Vanosh and asked him, “Boss, how did you know they wouldn’t help out?”
“Well, gods and lofty types, they aren’t much getting down in the muck.”
“I guess not.”
“Besides, they’re not in the guild. I won’t tolerate a scab, divine or mortal. All right, let’s get back to it, we’ve got work to do.”