The Free Companies are the loose alliance of mercenary bands that separated from the Mercenaries Guild in 795 OTK. Comprising 33 companies, the Free Companies command a total of roughly 115,000 fighting men, only slightly smaller than their Guild foes.
For much of the Guild's history, there have been numerous companies that have chafed under its authority, resenting the loss of the freedom to run their business as they please or angered by what they see as limits set on their profits by Guild price-fixing. This tension finally boiled over in 795 OTK when the Guild drastically increased membership dues, outraging many captains and their men. Captain Galen Black of the Red Coursers shortly after gathered support among his fellow captains and split from the Guild, demanding immediate redress of grievances.
Negotiations fell through quickly, with the Guild being largely unwilling to budge, and the two sides descended into open warfare quickly. The conflict became popularly known as the Sellswords War, and wracked all of Enland with fighting. Both sides engaged in widespread looting and pillaging to sustain their war efforts, and only the Halyan Empire, thanks to its unparalleled standing army, was able to successfully bar them from their borders. After the Halyan border village of Lys was extorted for its grain by Guild forces, an enraged Emperor Miron revoked the letter patent that Emperor Maksym had granted the Guild in 631 OTK, and seized all Guild assets within the Empire's borders. This was a particularly devastating blow to the Hounds of Halya, who had long held their base of operations in the city of Janek. Seeking to avoid similar retaliation from the Halyan Empire, Captain Black has not attempted to operate within their borders.
The Free Companies are composed of 33 allied companies, ranging from 800 men at the smallest to 12,000 at the largest, with most averaging between 2 and 3 thousand.
The Free Companies' war efforts are led and coordinated by Captain Galen Black of the Red Coursers, whom they have deferred to on the basis of his renowned strategic and tactical expertise, as well as his prestige as the leader of one of the most successful companies in all of Enland. The Red Coursers and their captain are thus regarded as the first among equals. The Red Coursers boast ≈12,000 men.
Other notable companies include:
- The Misfits (≈3,300)
- The Scarlet Fists (≈3,600)
- The Dragons of Heawick (≈3,900)
- The Iron Covenant (≈5,500)
- The Sisters of Murder (≈1,300)
- The Sportsmen (≈800)
- The Legion of Ghouls (≈6,000)
- The Lightning Lords (≈3,600)
- The Union of the Snake (2,400)
- The Whoresons (≈7,600)
- The Wreckers (≈3,800)
- The Black Mountain Clan (≈3,300)
- The Crow's Nest (≈6,600)
- Those the Gods Detest (999)