The Bloody Wolves
Regardless of what the spin doctors of the Empire of Turelion say, Kelbonnar remains a dangerous place. Bandits, monsters and all manner of foul, unspeakable creatures can threaten those on the outskirts of civilisation, or those travelling through the wilderness. Where such dangers exist, those who wish to profit from them also exist. The Bloody Wolves are one such group, as the predominant mercenary group in Kelbonnar, they provide some semblance of safety, for a price of course, to merchants and travellers making their way through the world, and also act as garrisons in places that the Empire have neither the will, nor resource to garrison themselves.
As it was founded as a militarised organisation, it is not surprising that the Bloody Wolves’ structure is very martial in its composition: Wolf General – Head of the entire organisation and seen as a successor of Harmax Wolfson, the Wolf General controls everything from their base in the city of Allerium . They are directly appointed by their predecessor, with the idea being that succession happens as it would in a noble or royal family. Wolf Captains – Control the Wolves’ bases in large towns and cities, ensuring that wages are paid fairly and on time, payments from clients are collected on time and in full, assigning Wolves in their territory to specific jobs and dealing with disciplinary matters. They have a staff of administrators and handpicked enforcers to help them in their duties. Wolf Sergeants – Trusted deputies of the Wolf Captains who are charged with leading mercenary contingents on their jobs.
As well as having a very martial structure, where deference to those of a higher rank is expected, on pain of docked wages or much crueller forms of punishment, the Bloody Wolves also have a strong culture of solidarity and secrecy. All those on its books are expected to keep their mouths shut with regards to any Wolves’ business that they see or hear, whether that be their next job, or insalubrious activities that they may have been paid to do, or done off their own back. Bloody Wolves who are discovered divulging secrets to outsiders will like as not be killed on the spot if they’re lucky, or be handed over to an officer who will ensure that a much more excruciating and equally fatal form of punishment is made available. On the plus side, Bloody Wolves are expected to fiercely defend their brothers and sisters at arms against those from the outside who would wish them harm, and in general if you pick a fight with one of the Bloody Wolves, you should expect to have to take on all of the others in the area as well.
The Bloody Wolves as an organisation have a public agenda little different to the mercenaries that make up its ranks – to make as much money for themselves as possible.
As with many aspects of their operation, the Bloody Wolves keep their financial records a closely guarded secret, but they are thought to have an enormous amount of coin stored away, some have even suggested that they have so much monetary wealth, thanks to the rather one sided contracts they have managed to negotiate with the Imperial Bureau, that they may even be richer than several provinces. In addition to their monetary wealth, the Bloody Wolves also maintain property in most major towns and cities across Kelbonnar, which function as both contact points for people to hire the mercenaries on their books, mustering stations for their mercenaries to assemble at, and get paid on the completion of a job, and barracks like accommodation for their mercenaries to stay in between jobs.
The Bloody Wolves trace their history back to the early years of the Empire of Turelion, where, after Machestaro I had conquered most of the known world that he was interested in, he undertook a widespread programme of demobilising the hundreds of thousands of troops that had comprised his armies, as part of his consolidation of the Empire’s military into the system of the Provincial Armies and his personal defence force, the Imperial Drakes which exists to this day. Whilst many of the demobilised soldiers were happy to return to their homes, families and the livelihoods they had left behind, there were many who were either career soldiers, or whose appetite for the campaigning lifestyle had been wetted, who did not want to go back, but who wanted to remain in their martial lifestyle; there were also many who no longer had a home or life to go back to. Norgantho Province, with its constant incursions by the Exiled Tribes from the Spiny Mountains proved to be a popular destination for these wandering souls. Though many different, semipermanent bands of mercenaries popped up across the province, the band of one man in particular, Harmax Wolfson swiftly became the largest and the most well-known. Not only was Wolfson a master tactician and prize fighter in his own right, he also had an excellent sense for business, and soon his mercenary band was not only the most highly sought after to hire, but was the most popular for mercenaries to try and join. In honour of their leader, his mercenaries began calling themselves the Bloody Wolves, a name which not only stuck, but endured down the centuries. As a Human Wolfson’s relatively short life meant that he only led the Bloody Wolves in the field for around twenty years, before retiring to a sumptuous residence he was able to afford in Norgantho's capital, Allerium, but despite his retirement from active duty, the demand for the services of the Wolves meant that Wolfson dedicated the rest of his life to turning mercenary work into a lucrative business. The strict, army-like command structure that Wolfson put in place meant that the Bloody Wolves have been able to endure to the present day, well over 500 years since Harmax Wolfson’s death. Over the intervening years, the Wolves have grown to have a monopoly over the mercenary scene, making concessions to let anyone with their own equipment into the organisation, whereas Wolfson had only allowed in proved and trusted fighters, in exchange for even more bloated profits.
The exact number of men and women who are on the Bloody Wolves’ books, their level of training and the standard of their equipment is only known to the most high-ranking of the Bloody Wolves officials and those that work within the records room in the Wolves’ headquarters in Allerium. Conservative estimates place the number of mercenaries on the Wolves’ payroll in the tens of thousands, which would make them a formidable fighting force should they ever be mustered in the same place at the same time. However, it is common knowledge that many of these mercenaries are lacking quite severely in skill and experience, with a common perception being that they are little more than leashed bandits. Many traders will mutter darkly after they have had a few cups that when you pay for Bloody Wolves to protect a caravan, you are really paying for a deterrent, rather than a defence force, and that you’d better hope that you hired enough to put off any attacks from rogues or monstrosities, because if push comes to shove, the Bloody Wolves will like as not abandon their charge, or even turn against it for a portion of the spoils, should the battle turn ill. Having said that, there are many good and some might even go so far to say honourable or honest warriors in the ranks of the Bloody Wolves. The upper echelons of the Wolves are very careful to place their best and most trustworthy troops in strategic places, generally at key Imperial installations, where they can be seen to do an exemplary job, and thereby assuage the minds of the worriers in the Imperial Court or Imperial Bureau, who may be concerned by the stories of Bloody Wolves mercenaries acting dishonestly or treacherously.