IK: Rogue's Bounty
A mercenary company is incorporated by a charter, which is a contract between a consenting government and the mercenary commander. Possession of this contract represents ownership of the company and can be passed down to successors. When the contract is burned or otherwise destroyed, the company is disbanded.
Company charters often detail day-to-day operations, including pay shares, ranks, recruitment (which is usually, but not always, voluntary), and length of service. All mercenaries employed by a company must observe its chain of command. Violation of this tenet can result in arrest, disciplinary action, or even execution in the case of severe insubordination or desertion. Company officers are responsible for the behavior of their men. Mercenaries are expected to behave with honor. Looting, torture, and the execution of prisoners is prohibited.
Once contracted, a mercenary company must fulfill its obligations to the letter of the contract. Breaking a contract to switch sides in the midst of battle for reason – such as on offer of better pay – is unlawful and dishonorable. Once a company has fulilled its contract, it is free to depart or negotiate new terms of service. If a contract stipulates a cooling-off period, the hired company cannot accept contracts against its previous employer for a specified period. Furthermore, a company can never take action against the authority that approved their founding charter. It is for this reason many mercenary companies prefer to incorporate their companies in Ord, a historically neutral nation.
Though mercenaries may seem lawless or even immoral to some outsiders, most adhere to a code of behavior referred to as the Charter (as opposed to “a charter”). This is a universally accepted and long-standing code of conduct and warfare that defines the path of the mercenary and illustrates what makes an honorable bond-brother. It was hammered out officially around the same time as the Corvis Treaties but draws on statutes dating back as far as the Thousand Cities Era.
The Charter clarifies how mercenaries are expected to act regarding employers, civilians, militaries, prisoners, and other mercenary companies, and it covers such things as claiming territory or loot, ransoming prisoners, open rebellion, and the unwarranted slaughter of noncombatants. Every company is obliged to follow it in order to preserve the mercenary tradition and to solicit gainful employment. If a company breaks the Charter, all of its members are branded as outlaws to be hunted and brought to justice. Sometimes other mercenaries acting upon government-sanctioned bounties pursue them, but it has happened more than once that entire companies have borne the brunt of direct military action with overwhelming force by Cygnaran and Llaelese battalions for the stain they have brought upon the venerable mercenary tradition. Indeed, it is considered a matter of courtesy—some say it is in fact a Corvis Treaties bylaw—never to employ profaners of the valued mercenary Charter.
Major Tenets of the Charter
A mercenary company is founded by a charter between a sponsoring governing authority and the mercenary commander. Ownership of this charter represents ownership of the company and can be passed down to successors. When the charter is burned or otherwise destroyed, the company is disbanded.
Mercenary companies are hired to conduct honorable contracted combat against enemy soldiers, mercenaries, bandits, criminals, or others who pose a threat. Unarmed or defenseless communities are not eligible objectives regardless of pay.
A company contracted to fight a skirmish is obligated to stay the course. Switching sides on offer of better pay is against the Charter. Once a contracted fight is finished the company is free to depart, or it may negotiate further skirmishes for additional pay.
Companies hired by one authority may not accept contracts against that authority for a period of at least one year after fulfilling their obligations, nor may a company take action against the authority that approved their founding Charter. This prohibition expires with the death of that authority if the company outlasts him, and it does not apply to heirs or usurpers.
All mercenaries must obey their company superiors during the time of their service and can be arrested, disciplined, or executed for insubordination or desertion.
Company leaders are responsible for the behavior of their men. Mercenaries are expected to behave with honor. Looting, rape, torture, and the execution of prisoners or children are disallowed.
Most old companies have outlasted the original authority that signed their Charter and feel justified in serving any kingdom indiscriminately. More honorable companies follow the old rule and refuse contracts against their sponsoring nobles or kingdom.
In addition, each company charter often details its day-to-day rules of operation including such important things as pay-shares, ranks, recruitment policies (usually voluntary, but not always), and terms of obligatory service. Mercenaries who sign on are expected to stay at least a single term which is usually defined as two years although some of the less scrupulous companies never allow anyone to leave—at least not alive. Most companies also have a number of unwritten rules and expectations that can only be learned from experience and are sometimes simply excuses to haze new recruits for vague violations.