The Crimson Skulls Company is a mercenary company of some repute. It has been campaigning for over fifty years as a Medium Infantry unit, with the the ability to do “unorthodox” missions (infiltration mission, stealth missions, and so on). Their numbers run from 100 to 200 men with 30 or so in field support. They have a keep in the West Marches that is their winter base. There is two or three villages there that does nothing but support the Company, but has little to do with the soldiers themselves.
The unit is unorthodox in its tactics and is known not to follow the “polite” rules of war on the battle field. It does not stand on tradition or status. In fact, they will more likely take surrender from a solid fighting peasant than from a ill tempered lord (the Crimson Skulls are not known for taking prisoners). The company is known to get the job it was hired for. It does so with great success.
Its reputation for success has been sullied by the history of the unit. They take on prisoners and captives. While on the field of battle their discipline is high, it is quite lax off the field. They are known to be a bit more rowdy than any mercenary company known to the ranks. Rowdy is perhaps an understatement. In many cases, some have quipped that the invading army might of done less damage.
They will accept soldiers from any level of society, then tend to accept desperate men… poor men, thieves, murders, and disinherited (nobles without grant). They also recruit from other companies. Soldiers here leave their past behind them. They take on new names and nobody asks any questions. The company trains them up in the way of arms.
This is true of their officers as well. The officers train up new officers from the Sergeants and Captains. Since birth ranks counts for nothing, it is all determined by merit.
The company’s soldiers have many “exotic skills”. These skills get “passed around” between members. A noble might learn lockpicking, a thief might learn heraldry, both might learn metal smithing and card sharping from others still. They have also picked up exotic weapon skills such as the bolo and battle chain. Many are quite proficient in the odd weapons.
There is no magic or clerical arm to this unit. This allows them to operate in countries where that could be a delicate subject. (Several of the officers (or their aides) are said to have “the sight”, but that is hearsay).
The Company has more Esprit de Corps than most units. The mercenaries are loyal to their company and their officers. In many ways, the unit is their family and their lives, as most have no other live outside the company. While most mercenary companies do not have “uniforms” as most gamers know them; Note: Militaries with uniforms that consisted of more than a tabard, a feathered cap, or a bandana worn around the neck or arm, did not occur until the very late 1600 to early 1700s in Europe. Most armies in the early Euro Ren period were mercenary. The unit wears mostly black and red. Anyone using a shield will normally pain it black with a red skill, and many scabbards are similarly colored. Everyone supplies their own equipment from their pay and is expected to keep it in good order. They just tend to keep the colors.
The Crimson Skulls has been a mercenary company for nearly 55 years. Its origins are as a prisoner unit, desperate men freed from captivity on the promise to fight. Their First Captain (their name for general) was a old school military man of some rank who had fallen out of grace with his General and on to some hard times. In the few days he had, he managed to drill and motivate his unit into a somewhat effective force. He had them dye all their clothes black (as they were dead men to the world). He also treated them all equal despite their birth ranks (a tradition maintained to this day), after all… they were all prisoners now.
They were covered in blood (the red) and survived the engagement. The company then left the employ of the city that had birthed them the next day and became a mercenary band. The band became a company in short order, recruiting members as they went (and to tell the story, freeing prisoners of cities they “visted”). They were harassed by the various cities and states they visited, yet each one was willing enough to employ their services.
Eventually they captured a keep in the West Marches. When their employer was unable to come up with the other half of their pay, they simply took the keep they had “liberated” and became tenants of their then employer. The keep is not too far from a good sized town (GoodHaven) and is surrounded by villages. The Mercenaries winter either in the Keep or GoodHaven.
The Company’s reputation for crime, corruption, and destruction far exceeds the reality. However, the stigma of being a penal unit has stuck with them since then. They have been outcast by “good society” so they sometimes revel in their outcast status.
The unit has been well led for over fifty years now. It is going on its fifth First Captain.
They will go about their mission in odd ways, confounding your average military commander… as they don’t seem to play by the same “play book” as other military commanders.
In fact, the company has a tradition of going out of its way to free prisoners while on missions.
The Company is quite loyal to its member and its members loyal to the Company. Each man in the unit is dead to their old life, born again as a soldier of the Company.