Grudgingly envied by even the most haughty and disdainful of high paladins, the Leering Skulls Company is famed for its seemingly crude yet brutal efficiency on the battle-field. Familiar and at home with various kinds of terrain that range from thick forests to the steep peaks of stony mountains, they are able to conduct successful operations in extremely inhospitable locations that would test the endurance of a conventional army. Noted too, is their ability to pursue elusive and shadowy foes right into the heart of the latter's domain and emerge from the confrontation more victorious than not. Many a savage tribe of orcs or trolls have found themselves stunned by the relentless skill and aggression that these hired warriors display so readily in battle. In fact, the steadily increasing human dominance over previously non-human lands, is in a great part, owed to the triumphs they have notched up on the battle-field.
But for all those grand plaudits, the Company of Leering Skulls often finds itself obliged to maintain a respectful distance from the rest of the army that they are currently serving with. The king's soldiers complain about their stench and routinely grumble to their officers about having to share the glory and fruits of their success with a ''murder band of savage animals'' as the Skulls are so often disparagingly named. No welcome will they find among the folk of any town, these fearsome enforcers of humanity's will against it less empowered neighbors. No titles of honor will ever garner their reputations. And no king will ever tolerate one of them ever stepping forth into his castle.
For the fighters of the Company are drawn from the very peoples they often aid in exterminating. Despised outcastes and felons among their own people, each and everyone of the Company's fighters has escaped the brutal justice awaiting him back among his folk, seeking the one organization willing to extend a protecting hand to desperate non-human fugitives escaping bounty hunters dispatched by their tribes to bring them back to face the punishment that they did not have the courage to face.
The Skulls ask no question, gladly accepting any renegade eager to serve in their ranks. All they demand in return, is that the new enlistee unquestioningly obeys any order put to him. Failure to do so, results in the disobedient one being turned over to whatever cruel and blood-curdling form of amusement that his aggrieved kindred can devise for him. Wild as they are, this is usually a powerful tool of persuasion when it comes to maintaining discipline among the ranks.
The Company is comprised mostly of orcs and mountain trolls, but a motely assortment of other species can sometimes be found among them. It is not unknown for minotours that are fleeing failed coup attempts that they have had the misfortune to participate in, join them, as does the occasional bug-bear that seeks richer pickings after having grown weary of having to scrounge a living from the occasional traveler that passes though its patch of forest. There have even been rumours of disgraced mid-level demons in the employ of the Skulls, though this is probably no more than the fearful imagination of a human soldier eager for his nation not to tarnish its reputation by paying a horde of filthy, bestial savage primitives to do its work.
The heads of the Company are a small cabal of fallen witch-doctors and shamans from various races and tribes that is led by an old,one-eyed orc by the name of Shayol. He like the rest of his co-founders, was expelled by his people for using his sorcery to embroil the tribe in a vicious fatricidial struggle aimed at unseating the legitimate ruler. Since there is no crime more shameful and unforgivable for a shaman then to abuse his powers in a selfish cause instead of employing them for the benefit of the tribe as the ancient laws had bound him to, there was no hope of redemption for Shayol. After some thinking, he was shrewd enough to come up with the idea of a horde made up of those that though hated and alienated by their own, would be able to enjoy the considerable largesse of humans that had no compunction against seeing non-humans slay one another. Capitalizing on this, he linked up with other exiled shamans and set up the Leering Skulls with the aid of the wealth they had brought with them on the outset of their flight.
Holding onto most of the gold that passes into their hands ,these leaders would be considered greedy and exploitive by the standards of any human mercenary company, but their troops seem agreeable enough with serving under them. Simple beings that they are , their needs and wants do not extend beyond regular supplies of copious food and drink, with the occasional wench thrown in for carnal amusement. Improvished and ill-shod they may be, but for the most part, they are content. And anyone of the Skulls who harbours the thought of mutiny over some percieved injustice, quickly find his ardour for revolt cooling when his mind touches upon the terrible curse that the witch-doctors threaten to inflict on any that might seek to betray them. It does not pay to slay one who has the spirit of darkness, on his side.
The Leering Skulls are usually arranged into small units numbering ten or fifteen that are built along racial lines, so as to minimize friction between the various groups of the company. Armed with crude spears and bows, they rely on heavy hide bucklers for protection, since whatever armor they can scavenge from foes is in a terrible state of disrepair. Well experienced in combating elusive guerillas, they are often sent to raid enemy camps in the wilderness, penetrating deep into places where most human troops are loath to tread. The more kills of the enemy he chalks up, the better chance a warrior stands of being made a unit captain. These are often signified by their polished decorated helmets carved from the skulls of their foes, that gives this company its name.

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