The Free Company Military Formation in Wyrion | World Anvil

The Free Company

Historical Overview



  House Semillon started as a minor house, a vassal of House Braelea, and controlled only the small territory around Caer Semillon. While this land was as fertile as could be expected in the Vinelands' Blossom Fields, the Semillon valesides were general agricultural land, without any famous vineyards or ciders for export. Thus, to be able to finally stand toe-to-toe with their wealthier and more powerful neighbors, they created the Free Company.   The word "free" comes into play because of the oaths given on Pledge Days to not fight for someone besides their lord. Those who joined the Free Company were released from these oaths by the Lord Semillon, thus freeing him from liability for their action. These men were trained year-round, rather than being called up as needed, giving House Semillon both a highly professional group of soldiers, and one of the few standing armies in the early Age of Rule.  

Gathering Wealth

  As the Free Company was highly professionalized and available throughout the year, they would often be hired by neighboring lords to solve conflicts either with their vassals or which took place during seasons which made calling up soldiers difficult. Through their reputation and availability, the Free Company was able to carve out a niche in the world of mercenaries in both The Vinelands and adjacent Vestral Downs, a highly fractious and violent region.  
"While they would come into power later, their origins cannot be found to contain any divine sanction, notable heroes, or legendary events. Rather they seem to simply be the scions of warriors of the early Vinelands, rewarded for their brutal prowess by House Braelea at some point in the past." - Introduction to Houses Within the Land of Anhara, "The Vinelands: House Semillon"
  With this reputation came income, which allowed House Semillon to set up pensions, support for widows and children, housing, and other benefits for the families of their soldiers. While this helped prop up the discipline of their forces by letting them know they need not fear for their family's well-being, it also made sure that the members of the Free Company knew their lords were well aware of who their families were. Thus, desertions were few and disloyalty minimal, both out of fear and due to the benefits associated with the Free Company.  
"From the coffers of the loyal minor House Semillon, by the pleasure of our mutual lord Salis, we extend to you, council of Reedbury, a loan at the amount requested above, to be repaid with an interest over the next two decades." - Some text from a loan to Reedbury
  Despite the benefits provided and the expense of maintaining a standing army, House Semillon still had vast reserves of wealth. Their reputation amongst their fellow houses of the Vinelands was poor, as they were viewed as undignified mercenaries, without any legendary founder or noble traditions. Thus House Semillon, which always had aspirations for greater territory, began purchasing the loyalty of their neighbors through generous loans, as well as the physical beautification of their lands through urban development and infrastructure throughout their valesides. This had the opposite effect however, and whilst their loans would allow them to rise to greater territorial power, their reputation further suffered.  



1st Usurpation

  The 1st Semillon Usurpation War, also known as the Fall of House Braelea, took place in 450AR. As House Braelea was an ancient house, with a storied and legendary past and control over many vassals, House Semillon was at a disadvantage on paper. However, the professionalism and intimidation of the Free Company, coupled with the webs of loans issued to their neighbors, earned the Semillons, not alliance with, but at least the neutrality of, many Braelea vassals.   
"The banner of my family came tumbling down last week, says messengers who have began trickling south. I am to be the last of our line, as my kin were butchered by those who's oaths our lords once held, the detestable purveyors of sellswords, lowly hawkers of coin, those ill-bred Semillons." - Guy d'Aimonne, Chronicles of Guy d'Aimonne 
  While the reputation of the Free Company was sufficient to deter intervention by other Braelea vassals, it soon grew out of control with the sack of Surlee. A brutal storming of the city saw the destruction of many of its southern neighborhoods, as well as the deaths of the entirety of House Aimonne and many Braelea relatives who did not escape with Raymon II. The taking of Surlee was expected however, and while the deaths of so many nobles was a jolt to the Blossom Fields' ruling class, sieges were understood to be dangerous affairs.   With the escape of Raymon and his family south to Somae, however, the Free Company was now faced with handling irregular warfare.  

Hedge Wars

  The Free Company took one lesson away from their sack of Surlee, leave no heirs alive. Raymon II and his family escaped south, fleeing to their cousins in Somae, and over the next few decades, continued the war from there. The Braelean Hedge Wars are remembered as a romantic battle, with the flowers of the Blossom Fields' chivalry uniting under the young Etien IV Braelea for a heroic struggle against a more numerous, and less dignified, Semillon force. In reality however, they were a brutal conflict, which saw villages and farms burnt, destruction across the valesides, and the Free Company's reputation turn from professionalism to brutality.  
"The loyalty of House Cyrton never wavered throughout the entire conflict, and they resisted even in the waning of our morale during Lord Alain's tragic rule. Our inability to effectively relieve the siege of Septhearth was Lord Etien's greatest regret, and perhaps it is for the best he did not live to see the end of his most noble and gallant vassal in the terrible storm Semillon brought upon them." - Sir Rys Thewisy, CQ, Blood Red Blossoms
  The decentralized nature of the conflict meant the Semillons were quickly moving across fronts, while unaware of who their enemies were. As any house could join up with the Braelea heirs, and any farm could be harboring soldiers, the Free Company took up violent tactics of destruction. While the damage done to the average resident of the Blossom Fields was considerable, the true shock came with the violence done to nobles. House Braehill, House Cyrton, House Perry, and others were torn out by their roots and replaced with Semillon loyalists. This unprecedented violence to their own class had, by the end of the conflict, ended the Free Company's status as a mercenary unit.  

Guard Duty

  With the Semillons' ascension to lords of the Blossom Fields, and later lords of all the Vinelands, the transition of the Free Company from mercenaries generating income to a force of loyal guards may have perhaps happened naturally, regardless of their downturn in popularity. However, it was forced, and the Semillons put their men to work as the stick to secure the loyalty of their new vassals, alongside the carrot of the Bank of Anhara. The bank would formalize the system of loans that helped the Semillons purchase their position, and would in the Age of Men catapult them to still greater heights.  
"An armed force of treasonous southernly merchants, backed up by vagabonds from the Annexes, forced the Lieutenant of the Spill's small band of guards to a halt on the Maven Bridge today. Allegedly in protest of the beautification of the neighborhood, we suspect Braelea infiltrators antagonized this uprising." - The Violet Velum
  The Free Company was a success, and through its success it funded its replacement, the Bank of Anhara. By the Crossing Over, the Free Company had been fully reduced to guards and administrators for Caer Semillon, Surlee, and any wavering vassals. In Surlee in particular they had reinforced their reputation for brutality, with the lieutenants of the Free Company becoming overseers of the various neighborhoods of the city. These lieutenants were, by then, mere patronage positions compared to the professional knights who made up the leadership in the past, but to the residents of Surlee they remain just as much of a threat as when the walls of the city were first breached.
Early Age of Rule
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