South; “go south,” they said, “plenty of gold” they said – sure as sure they were screwing with us. The lads and I went south as planned and we lost ten of our own to just not wanting to fight so far south where it is ungodly hot – they just disappeared at night and took their gear with them (they should have at least had the decency to say goodbye – I’m not hiring those cunts again). Down to thirty we kept going until grass became sand and the sun was so hot I swear the armor felt less protective than naked skin and loin cloths (I still kept my jerkin on – getting slashed by a good cut means I’ll have no work afterwards).
Some lord calling himself: “the Magistrate” hired us to protect some wagons going to an army camp; and here I was thinking it was a war they were waging (though despite what I said earlier about gold being a lie, he paid a lot). Looking at the Magistrate’s troops all they cared about was drinking and whoring (some soldiers they turned out to be) – nevertheless we were paid to protect so protect we did. Some bandits decided to try their luck and I decided that their heads would fly farther if I cut faster – I lost that bet to me own lads and ended up emptying a purse because of it.
I mean sure I should appreciate the calm guard duties, but I wanted to fight! Here I was guarding who knows what in those wagons and some thirty of us marching alongside another twelve soldiers belonging to the city-lord which I felt were there for show – total overkill for a handful of wagons going to an army camp.
We reached the place and the supposed: “logistics officer” paid us with a chest. Afterwards he offered us more work fighting in a battle that was in a few days; I spoke to the lads and they said “sure” so I said sure.
When we went to “war” it was pitiful – the opposition were a bunch of farmers with pitchforks while our patron fielded enough infantry in heavy armour to make the earth sink a few inches. Those farmers stood no chance and by nightfall we didn’t even bother to look over the dead of the enemy for goods to take home (though the dead on our side were fair game – no one was going to look over corpses so a few helmets, swords, coin purses – the usual goodies).
Good thing we did; the officer decided that because the enemy was no threat that our pay could be less – rather than argue I took the small sack of coin and hurried off to the armoury. Now why would I do that? Simple, we Sellswords need to be paid, and if you don’t pay up, we’ll get paid via supplies – couple of swords, some more helmets, some armour, and of course a pile of food so we can save coin from having to purchase our own.
Hopefully the man didn’t notice – not like their war was going badly so I figured we take our share as: “the good lord’s soldiers” and be on our way.
Sand and cheap paymasters – think I’ll take the lads back up north; they pay better at least.
Aye, I suppose you are asking why I am here again – another talk you suppose about the values of professional soldiers for hire? Sure, but I guess it was high time I did a bit of recalling of my adventures; perhaps one day people might recall the tales of the band of brothers who fought for lord after lord and made a hefty profit.
Earlier some nobleman came to me and the lads and offered up some gold for a campaign he was putting together; our band isn’t much, just some fifty lads who were good at killing but that didn’t matter to the fat plump lord so off we went into his army. When we got there the forces were a mess; half were farm boys who have no combat experience and were armed with makeshift spears, and the other half were knights who seem to be dressed for a tournament and not a battle – “oh dear,” I thought, “this will be another fight we cut our losses.”
Then a surprise came over the horizon – another company of sellswords popped up, this time with two hundred men. Now I must confess I’m not familiar with every sellsword band out there, but these lads seemed familiar – perhaps we fought against one another, perhaps we fought together side-by-side for glory and for the lord and all that nonsense.
Later that night we didn’t drink much – the two hundred seemed to be swallowing ale like it was going to be cut off and that was the last drink for the rest of time; stupid fools. Being hung over is one thing, being hung over and having to fight on a noisy battlefield is another. The lads and I we just ate our meals, cleaned our blades and went to sleep – we would need it come the morning.
Battle took place late in the afternoon the next day; something about a gentlemen’s fight and both sides had to be fed and rested. Whether it takes place early in the morning or at noon matters little – when the arrows start to fly and the steel starts to flash people will die and whoever has the best lads wins, no matter how many eggs and ale they stuffed down prior to the fight.
Battle turned south on his around two hours later; the two hundred ran for the woods though I think they had lost about half their number – must have been the ale, or the fact that they needed to piss and couldn’t do it mid-fight. The lord cursed as he rallied his infantry to make another stand against the rampaging opposition. Never knew a lord so fat to be so courageous – I almost felt sorry for the poor man. Fat lads feel the blades the most when they stab into you, and all that meat and ale doesn’t add to the armour when steel drives itself home. Still, despite that he fought on while we skirmished off to the side, cutting away at – what I presumed to be – some sort of elite guard. Lots of armour these boys had, shame we couldn’t salvage what was left after they had all died – too many dents, and we have no smith to fix them up so we had to leave them.
Fight ended near early eve, and surprise we actually won. Turns out after we had ended the elite guard-looking boys the knights that the other lord brought turned out to be sellswords as well – they ran after our lord rallied his own knights who were sitting off to the side like frightened little girls and smashed into what was left of the infantry before taking the head of his opponent and seizing the day.
That night we drank a little; ale was our own and we had already collected our coin. Nice heavy chest of gold for me and the remaining forty lads – we lost ten of our own sadly. Down the road I plan to recruit some more to bring us back to fifty but if we keep getting more and more contracts like these then we might end up with a hundred or so mouths to feed. Next up it’s off to the south – away from the cold of the north and perhaps another fight; I hear some free city down there is looking for help in a war they are waging with another city.
Yes Sell Swords will leave you if you are losing a war and are about to march into certain defeat all to save face – anyone who isn’t blindly loyal might consider leaving you. However when it comes to war, have you ever known sell-swords to turn from a winning battle because they were just: “tired of fighting?”
The Sell-Sword principle; the idea that they are loyal to you – and yes they are paid – and they will never back-stab you but they will not follow you into death all because you are utterly incapable of seeing defeat when it sat in front of you and you kept on going. See sell-swords are only able to sell their swords if they are alive to apply their trade – dead men cannot collect coin.
Stannis Baratheon cursed when 500 sell-swords left him in the night on his march to Winterfell because they knew his campaign was a lost cause. Indeed he was mad to the point where he would march into certain defeat hoping to snatch victory – a foolish notion at best a death sentence at worst (and it was his end).
Same goes for professional armies: these soldiers are loyal to you but they are not blindly loyal to you. Soldiers are people and people just want to have a job and a happy life; forget death or glory and forget the flag, soldiers fight for home and hearth. The individual soldier’s motivation can differ from one man to another (or woman), and ultimately they are there to make a living (though it is a vocation rather than a job – the mindset is needed to do such work).
Sure nobles in ancient times scoffed at the idea of sell-swords, but have you ever known sell-swords to turn on their customers or fail to show up for work when asked to do so? These soldiers are professionals, and they cannot get work if they are incompetent; they also cannot get work if they are dead – war isn’t a profession that is forgiving of accidents.
Ultimately the point to all of this is a sell-sword mindset is one of self-preservation and professionalism; scoff at it all you like but being an unpaid levy/conscript who is blindly loyal is not the path to take – professional soldiers will not turn on you but they will not simply die for you either.
“…we encourage you to continue to apply to positions of interest to you. Thank you for choosing (insert company name here).”
Poison, falsehood – lies that spit forth from automated messaging systems to calm the seeker who desires to be employed. Aching is the head from having to read numerous lies, yet the machine grinds on – the lies continue.
They shoved our names into the pot and left it there to rot – forgetting that people deserve to be considered. Often these companies have a sense of superiority, a sense of entitlement – that labour and workers are their due rights, and that the common folk should beg for the meager wages they put forth. When complaints of lack of benefits and pay spark up, the aristocrats among them shall spit forth: “peasants rejoice for you have work! Service to the rich is a gift; many out there simply lack work and are lost – no purpose in life, nor a drive to go on. Be thankful, be humble my servants!”
They know full well that a starving workforce is an unhappy workforce; in the past they hired crooked guns to silence the voices for equality and fairness. Fake police forces existed to cater to their whims as the bullets sank deep into the bodies of workers who wanted safe conditions in factories which claimed life and limb of many.
Rejection, false hopes, and low pay are the reality many of us live in – jobless, hopeless, and watching the world shun us as we fight to better ourselves. They shun us, because in their hearts it makes them feel better about the meager wages they pull in, the multiple sources of employment they must suffer through to pay rent and get cheap food on the table. They shun us because in the end they know their fates will be the same as machines court the rich and promise them loyal servants to work their factories and businesses – they grow fat and rich while the rest must fight for scraps.
We have come full circle, a new feudal age will begin – hail to the king.
Bayonet is fixed,
The lug is locked and it will not move.
Heart is pounding,
The mood is sour.
The meal is half-eaten,
The stew still steaming.
“Going over the top,” they said, “you will need to be speedy.”
At least give us our last meal before sending us over.
Officers are fat and well-fed,
Their plump bellies barely fitting into their uniforms.
“For France!” One of them cries.
As if France can hear our voices cry.
Off goes the whistle.
Time to do some work,
Over the top we go,
Where we end up, no one knows.