What's new

[Lore] A short history of the Mercenary Companies of Avadon

Lenz

Lead Gamemaster
Staff member
#1
A short history of the Mercenary companies (sometimes known as ‘Condottiere’ or ‘Free’ companies) of Avadon, and the famous Dark Banner company.

Written by Cullwych the Venerable, Chronicler of Avadon, in 605AC.
cullwych.jpg


The history of these mercenary companies dates back further in time than many realise. The fame of Landau and his Dark Banner company in recent years has obscured much of that which went before.

The term ‘Condottiere’ is of Cambrian origin, dating back to their first employ under the Cambrian Lord Artemius in 252AC, in his city’s first conflicts with an expanding, militaristic Prevalia. Captain Lorenzo and his band, referred to simply as “The Free Company” had their origins as the crew of a shipwrecked privateer vessel that had for years plied its trade across the eastern archipelago. With their ship destroyed, Lorenzo offered himself & crew as hired swords to Artemius, an offer eagerly accepted - with a Prevalian army at the gates.

The history of these mercenary bands continued with a mostly Cambrian theme for the next 150 years, with bands such as the Iron Hearts and Warriors of the Coast distinguishing themselves in the employ of the Cambrian throne. Operating as part of Avadonian Empire forces under Marshal Emil at the battle of Carse Lake in 383AC, after which the Orcish menace was declared defeated by Emperor Iaric II, the Cambrian contingent of the army was composed predominantly of Condottiere companies, a tradition that continues to this day.

The practice of hiring free companies spread to the Andarian and Prevalian courts during the early years of the Great Avadonian War, sometime around 492. With mounting manpower losses and the throne of an Empire at stake, the feuding noble lines were prepared to shower fortunes upon mercenary captains willing to take up arms in their name. Men flocked to their banners, with wealth and fame promised - something that service in the regular armies could not offer. These companies established field encampments of vast proportions outside the three capitals, almost cities in their own right. Successful Captains were treated as nobility and courted by royalty.

Landau was born sometime around the year 535, in Lower Prevalia. The son of a fisherman, he was expelled from the city at a young age, having killed the son of a powerful member of House Solemn. House Solemn were - at the time - a closely aligned and vital ally of the Emperor.

Landau joined the Dark Banner Free Company, in the service of the Andarian throne. Stories tell of his legendary prowess as soldier, swordsman and tactician, and before his 20th year, he was named the leader of the Dark Banner. Undefeated in one to one combat or at the head of his company, the Dark Banner under Landau the Dread became the most feared and sought after military unit in the history of our lands.

The Dark Banner had for many years operated in the service of the Andarian Lords. In 552, The Cambrian throne was vastly enriched by the discovery of a substantial vein of gold in the Grey Desert. This new found wealth enabled Venriel, King of Cambria, to tempt many of the most famous warriors to his camp.

Landau and the Dark Banner were not among the first bands to swear allegiance to the Cambrian throne in this era, but were eventually tempted to offer fealty by an offer that bestowed great honour upon them - Landau would lead the entire Cambrian army on the field of battle, with his men at the head, not the royal guard and the nobility.

Landau now led the vastly expanded Cambrian armies, alongside his new liege. Victories followed in major pitched battles, and in 558, the undefeated Cambrian army stood at the gates of Prevalia - the first and only time the great capital has been besieged. For two years the city was surrounded. In an attempt to break the siege, the Prevalian Emperor dispatched his Champion, Owaen, to challenge Landau to single combat. Landau dispatched the previously undefeated Owaen with ease.

The siege continued until June of 560, and the city appeared on the brink of starvation. Only the strength of their mighty navy enabled the Prevalians to hold out. Then, inexplicably, Landau betrayed and slaughtered the Cambrian pretender, along with his entire war staff. The reasons for this are still unknown. Condottiere had previously betrayed their rulers for offers of gold with rival powers, but Landau simply broke the siege, and led his band and their followers deep into the western Outlands.

Also in 560, Landau founds the town of Corpse Creek, which quickly attracts a reputation as a haven for bandits and thugs, watched over by their ruler, the now self-proclaimed ‘Lord’ Landau. People begin talking about Landau as the “fourth Emperor” of the war. His company grows into an army.

After almost three years of independent raiding and pillaging, the Dark Banner again become ‘swords for hire’ in the Avadonian civil war, entering the employ of the Andarian Empress, Klara.

The combined forces of the Dark Banner and Andaria march across the land, sweeping all before them. Orcish tribes are defeated and set sail for the western islands in fear. By 585AC, the Cambrians and Prevalians are bottled up in ever decreasing cauldrons. Andarian victory appears inevitable. Klara & Landau are married, and in the summer of 585, Klara gives birth to a son, Luka, Prince of Andaria & heir to the throne.

In this same summer, unbeknownst to Landau and Klara, one of the largest Orcish Armies seen in Avadonian history had arrived in Spirituality bay, only miles from the gates of Andaria. Quickly turning their army around to face this new threat and save their city, Landau and Klara face the Orc Warlord Goth Vultog in the battle of Andaria. Battle rages through the city streets, and the flames over the city can be seen as far away as the Prevalian border forts. Lady Klara is slain in the chaos, but the Andarian forces emerge victorious after a bloody struggle. Landau, in a display of unimaginable cruelty, slaughters every Orc captive, before setting their invasion fleet ablaze. Landau retreats in grief to Corpse Creek, leaving his son in the care of Marius, Grandmaster of the Mages Guild and newly named Regent of Andaria.

Luka grows to become a talented swordsman like his father, but displays a cruel and vicious streak that his tutors struggle to contend with. Marius delays Luka’s coronation as king, and Luka himself seems uninterested in the burdens of rule or the troubles of his subjects, content to spar and hunt with the remnants of his father’s company.
In 604, Luka flees Andaria in the night, taking the remains of the Dark Banner with him. Quickly establishing preeminence over the other companies of Corpse Creek - the ranks of the Dark Banner again swell to that of an army.
 
Last edited:

Lenz

Lead Gamemaster
Staff member
#2
Structure within the mercenary bands of Avadon

Although these may vary, in particular in bands and companies based in the south and west, a common rank structure exists across most.

The majority of the troop are referred to as ‘Banner’ - Derived from ‘under the banner’. In many companies, when a new man is sworn into the band, part of the oath of membership has traditionally involved being asked if he wished to serve ‘under the banner’. Men of this rank are often referred to as ‘Banner’ - sometimes as ‘Bannerman’, or more rarely as ‘Color’ (under the Color). A company of moderate size will usually be headed by a ‘Captain’ (Kapitan in the north, particularly around Andaria). Often a captain will have various support officers, depending upon the size of the band. The most important of these will be the Champion - who will usually carry the company banner (standard) into battle. Usually the finest fighter within a company is chosen for this honour, for the simple reason that losing the standard/banner is considered to the the worst fate that could befall a company. In recent times, the captains of larger companies have begun calling themselves ‘Warlord’. This fits with the increasingly lawless nature of Avadon, as the major cities war amongst themselves and give more ground to the forces of the Outlands.