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The term “mercenary” was once used as a slur among fighting men. In certain kingdoms, notably Khador, the term is still used as a disdainful appellation for those who have no attachment to their homeland. Nevertheless, where war and wages thrive mercenaries inevitably follow; with the occupation of Llael, mercenary bands have cropped up all over the kingdoms.
Mercenaries are so common in the Iron Kingdoms that some speculate it was mercenaries who helped bring them about and ultimately are hindering their solidarity. After all a mercenary’s wage comes from war, and conflicts keep mercenaries in business. For example, the once-powerful Thunderhelm Irregulars, recently laid low by Khadoran forces, were practically permanent occupants of Llael, and the Blackshields are so closely tied to Cygnar that they have become an official branch of the army in all but name.
There is perhaps no greater display of material wealth and military might than the ability to hire mercenaries. Some leaders hire mercenaries as political and fiscal displays of power to intimidate their enemies. Battles have been won by the mere presence of an overwhelming force, and mercenaries can help pad a weak army. A mercenary force can turn a rich man into a dangerous one.
Conversely, mercenaries make for expensive friends. Unpopular dictators gladly pay for fighting men they feel they can trust. Since mercenaries have no political affiliation, they are viewed by some as the ultimate neutral force and a means of “fighting bitterly while keeping the peace” as King Leto once said of Khadoran mercenaries on the north borders of Cygnar and Ord. It goes without saying that this parasitic relationship can quickly turn predatory if an employer fails to keep his mercenaries well paid.