Thieves & Kings
Mercenaries and their Companies
“It is true that wealth won’t make a man virtuous, but I notice there ain’t anybody who wants to be poor just for the purpose of being good.”
Some professional soldiers are loners, choosing when and where they fight, adhering to individual codes of honor, and following whatever clarion draws them to battle. They might be motivated by bloodlust, desire for adventure, or a cause. Many of these lone mercenaries can be found throughout the Dominions of Argoth; most mercenaries tend towards chaotic or neutral, and evil alignments.
Hireswords or sellswords are particularly well-suited to raiding, pillaging, and wild charging attacks, activities they enjoy and ones that won’t cause a breakdown in army cohesion or morale, such as standing guard during a siege, or holding a vital pass. Their reputation for unreliability inevitably clings to them in their profession, as they fight for gold, not family, even though their reputation for future employment depends on them fighting well.
Even among mercenaries, there is a rank structure outside normal military lines. Dullblades are the inexperienced, untested or untrusted muscle of any band, sent on the most dangerous tasks and deemed the most expendable. They can expect a cp per day, plus two meals, a blanket and wound-dressing – if needed. Most starting adventurers are deemed dullblades and treated as such. Veterans, can expect 10 sp per day, plus two meals with drink, provision of a tent in bad weather and a new pair of boots each year, plus a bonus of 50 sp for any major tactical point captured (such as a pass or town), and a share of any spoils in battle. The most trusted officers can expect 250 sp per day, along with the aformentioned bonuses. Commanders often take large shares of booty for their unit and use that equipment to pay for replacements, and establishing or maintaining their headquarters.
Few double-cross mercenaries, as they often have formal contracts witnessed by priests, and these funds are kept in the local Mangai offices as a surety of payment of agreed fees and bonuses upon completion. The Mangai profits from the transaction, by having these funds available to invest or otherwise use until they are reclaimed by the mercenaries, or the hiring party is destroyed; in either case, the Mangai wins.
In some realms, it is popular to capture mercenaries, rather than kill them, as their commander might ransom them back for a fee. Often, mercenaries are known to surrender to overwhelming odds, if they know they will not be slaughtered upon capture, and expect their commander to ransom them back in time. In the face of some foes, however, capture means death, so even mercenaries might be forced to refuse surrender and fight honorably to the death.
Some mercenaries band together under regular charters of companies, and operate under military or paramilitary lines. It is these latter mercenaries that are best known in the Dominions. There are two types of mercenary company; standing and recruited. Members of Standing Companies are always together, often with no other occupations, and will do things that keep them available for service on short notice, often professional adventurers on the side. Recruited Companies are only in operation when their leader recruits individuals and groups together to form a large force or army.
Mercenary troops have existed for a long time, from the first appearance of nobility, when they asked someone to fight for them, and they responded with a “What do I get if I help you in this war?”. Military leaders have always had to offer some sort of pay, with land, gold, glory, prestige and power the coin of the task. True mercenaries travel wherever there is conflict, caring only for whomever offers the best terms for their skills. Others have principles and standards, and only fight on the “correct” side.
Mercenary forces do, however, often change the outcome of battles. Over the course of the last century, mercenary groups have become more formal, especially as kingdoms have developed across the frontiers, and often chose colorful names and advertise their locations. Like knights wandering from tournament to tournament, and castle to battles, they have become a regular feature of armed conflict and society.
Formation : Most mercenary groups are formed by the actions of a single, charismatic leader, though often a core of leaders is common. These people gather veterans from battles, train likely prospects, and organize the company. Some form as as extension of adventuring companies and their charters.
Recruited companies operate a little differently, as they are formed anew each time they are needed. The employers often contact various recruiters, offering a fee to assemble troops under the company banner. Word is spread for interested individuals or groups to meet at a certain place in a certain time frame, and the organizers decide at that time and place who can join the company.
Leadership and Organization : Most mercenary companies operate along military lines, with leaders and their subordinates taking military titles and positions. Other companies are more informal, with leadership held as a dictatorship and few, if any, assistants or officers. Some companies are democratic, where members elect their officers, and still others operate the company as a business.
Headquarters : Standing companies are considered the “standard”, and generally operate from a headquarters of some kind, whether it be a castle they have built themselves, or a town where they all live. Those without a headquarters will always have a source of transportation, and when they form together, tend to operate from the same camp or lodgings. Whatever their origin or base, mercenary companies are always recruiting, either to replace losses or expecting losses from a coming contract. They are always looking for a few good soldiers.
Strategy and Operations : All companies choose which tasks they will accept based on individual codes and desires. Most are hired to fulfill a specific task and left on their own to fulfill the contract. Most are responsible for their own supply and transport to and during an assignment.
Specialists : Many companies specialize in some fashion, either by task or weapon. These companies sometimes form when they split-off from larger forces or armies, while others are created by charismatic individuals who are experts at some task. Some are often found on maneuver with other formations that require their services; archers, scouts and siege forces are common. Some operate on their own, and do not associate with others as a rule.
Retiring a Company : Mercenary companies cease to exist when certain events occur. Obviously, the death of most, if not all, its members, particularly the leadership, would eliminate the group. Others might break up because of age, while some receive the legitimacy of a permanent assignment in a kingdom’s army.
Adventuring companies often interact with mercenaries; many are virtually small mercenary companies themselves, the difference being that mercenaries are larger and often better organized. Large mercenary companies might sometimes recruit small adventuring bands for special missions, perhaps even keeping them on retainer for extended periods of time. In addition, adventuring companies tend to become “seeds” for mercenary companies, either by growing in size and purpose over time, or through recruitment of other troops into themselves for a specific purpose, such as fighting a personal war against a recurring foe.
Other information regarding adventurers and society is listed under the “Home and Hearth” section, and the concept of Adventuring Charters is mentioned, but no specifics are given. Generally the same laws that apply to mercenary companies, apply to adventuring companies, as they are considered “warbands”, particularly when they grow in size above five (5) members.
In the Forest Knigdom, any large force of more than twenty (20) men are considered to be a “warband”, and subject to being chartered, though in the case of regional Militias, the local nobility have the right to raise larger forces on behalf of the Crown. Any force of company size or larger without such authority, is considered a “hostile mercenary band”, and subject to prosecution by the Crown’s agents. For adventurers, this is often considered to be smaller, typically a “hand” of members, or more formally, a “file”, and also subject to the above laws. In frontier areas, this law is often over-looked, as adventuring bands of even foul reputation, tend to bring some stability to the realm through their activities in the region, though a local nobleman, fearing both his position and their power, might invoke it nonetheless.
Given the peaceful nature of the settled regions of Shem, however, it behooves armed bands to register themselves and achieve a Charter as early as possible to avoid arrest and prosecution by the Crown. Bands of mercenaries (or adventurers) must register themselves through the Mangai offices in either Seville or Mornhaven. At the time of registration, the number of the band must be disclosed, usually in clumps of companies or twenty troopers. Once chartered, the group must wear their badge or patron’s noble shield at all times, as a mark of their allegiance.
Charters cost 1000 gold crowns, with an annual tax of 300 gp more each year, payable by the 15th of Uktar, typically considered the last market day of the year in both Seville and Mornhaven, and the day all nobles are expected to make an accounting of their taxes. If not renewed by this date, the charter is considered revoked, and its members are considered outlaws as long as they continue in operation. It is also within the power of the listed “leader” on a charter to revoke it themselves, and end the company as a formal unit. Also, anyone convicted by the Crown of crimes that revoke their citizenship, also become revoked from the list of any Charter. Lists of charters are updated each year between Mangai offices.
Charters are important documents and thus have a considerable monetary value. They are made of fine vellum, encased in a fine wooden pentagonal case, and in addition to bearing the seal of the issuing office, and the listed names of its original charter members, it also bears the official badge of the chartered organization; typically a heraldic device, but unless the chartered leader is also a nobleman, or otherwise registers it officially, it is considered an unofficial crest by the Herald’s College, and not subject to formal recognition.
Adventuring companies can claim no authority over territory in the crown’s name, nor can they occupy anything (such as trying to claim exclusive rights over a ruin or dungeon site for themselves) without such a charter. Under charter, adventurers can, however, exclusively loot the wealth of a noted “ruin”, but are expected to provide “taxes” back to the Crown for the opportunity; usually taken as coin or any particularly and politically artifacts, like swords of renown or crown jewels from fallen realms or lordships.
Realm blades can prove to be an exception, as ancient laws in Shem grant the holder of such an artifact exclusive rights to the land associated to the blade under the The Great Roll. The Westlaws, for example, are anciently owned by the holder of the blade Angian, presently in the hands of Regent-Thane Charisma Pike, though she has only claimed temporary rulership of the realm. The appearance of these artifacts is rare, but subject even to laws of the Warduke clan.