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Grey Shields

by BoBoII

One company of mercenaries I used in my campaign for years was the following:

One of the longest lasting and well known companies of mercenaries to operate in Eastern Brun and the Isle of Dawn region are The Grey Shields. Modern legends say they got their name when a minor noble in the company's ranks found himself facing his own countrymen across the plain of battle. Fearing repercussions for his family, he slathered his coat of arms with greyish clay to prevent recognition. Since then, many company members either paint their shields a greyish white, or leave them unadorned to show bare steel and iron. The legend reinforces the reputation that the members of the "Shields" will honour their employer over national/racial loyalties (or enmities). There are a few Thyatians who would dispute this, but so be it.

The 'Shields' have taken service all over Brun, but it seems that whenever there is a choice between contracts, and one involves fighting against Thyatian interests, the Shields will be there. This hasn't stopped the Empire from occasionally hiring them to perform an especially nasty or far off job, or kept ambitious Thyatian expatriates from joining up from time to time. It's said that some individual Thyatian generals neither like nor trust the group's leader, The Grey Captain, and it seems the feeling is mutual. Many rumours circulate that the Captain is indeed a Thyatian exile, a nobleman who fled his home for heinous crimes/ of a broken heart/ betrayed by his fellow nobleman/ branded a coward/ for worshipping dark gods . . . .take you pick. The man's studied anonymity and resistance to scrying or telepathy helps to fuel the bard's rumour mill.

The Captain is actually Cyril Ivlinescu, of old Traldar descent, from pre-occupation days. He was a soldier killed in the fighting between two Marlinev factions. His body was raised after one particularly nasty battle by a necromancer using the "Create Undead" spell. He came back as a nosferatu bodyguard for the wizard, until the wizard's death freed him from service. He had been away from his homeland for some time, and was disturbed to find it now in the hands of the Empire. He then embarked upon a period of wandering and adventure, and fell into mercenary work almost by accident. While he proved a lacklustre bodyguard, he turned out to be a military tactician of high ability. His natural talents have now been supplemented by decades of experience and an extensive library of military works; including The Mighty Works of al-Kalim, as told to his Disciples, the seminal Tebbronius in the Hinterlands, and Isle of Dawn, Isle of War by Siprimir of Sundsvall. He also often uses his undead abilities to scout out enemy positions at night, and to charm intelligence of the enemy's plans before a given battle. Many enemy camps have fallen prey to wolf attack in wilderness situations, or had supplies ruined by rat infestation.

So while the individual Shield's are not fearsome warriors of heroic proportion in themselves, their long history of more wins than losses and their proven ability to best larger forces against long odds are due chiefly to The Grey Captain's gifts and leadership. A winning tradition keeps moral high and has been known to cause fear in the minds of the opposition in some cases. The men are loyal, and while some come and go, the Shields endure. In fact, some soldiers are second generation, having been born to camp followers and grown up with one hundred "uncles." The Captain makes sure that any troublemakers in the ranks either have a change of heart or disappear.

The men know that if they survive, they will be given good care, as the Captain has a few Rings of Regeneration he hoards, and has distributed to the worst cases after each engagement. (The men believe these rings are the root of his own regenerative abilities and his seeming agelessness. ) They also know he carries a Horn of blasting for breaking up pockets of resistance and helping sieges.

There have been several adventurer-level lieutenants over the years serving on the command staff, only the most trusted of which are brought into the inner circle who know the Captain's dirty secret. The most recent is an Alphatian warrior priest who wasn't home for the sinking, and the leader of a bellicose group of Alfheimers who signed on while the Shield's were pulling duty for the Republic on the Orc Land and Canolbarth borders.

The Grey Shields themselves typically consist of medium infantry with light missile and magical support. Their numbers and composition have varied over the decades. During the Wrath war, and during major call ups, the ranks have swollen to include some cavalry and other units such as skirmishers, etc, but most employers these days realise that they are paying for the Captain, and get the Shields as a bonus.