A mercenary was an individual skilled in fighting, usually a soldier, who was paid to fight on behalf of an individual, group, country, organization, or other military force. Mercenaries were located all throughout Faerûn.
People who had the funds to hire mercenaries usually did it because they were already using their most trusted and able warriors as generals or personal bodyguards, so they needed professional warriors to serve as the bulk of their fighting force. They usually hired mercenaries to pillage, raid, and other similar activities normal armies usually couldn't or wouldn't do.
Mercenaries were also hired by merchants as bodyguards, cargo loaders and unloaders, and guards for warehouses, shops, cargo, and wagons.
Standard mercenary rates were around 1 gp per day per soldier, plus three meals, tents, and boots, and a bonus (usually 5 gp) for every major battle won. Employers could expect to pay as much as 25 gp per day per soldier. Mercenary leaders were also paid a large negotiated amount for expenses upon hiring, a 1,000 gp bonus for the achievement of agreed-upon objectives, and a large negotiated fulfillment fee when the ultimate objective of their campaign was achieved.
Such payments were made to surviving mercenaries and never to the kin of the fallen, unless a fellow mercenary wanted to help the surviving relatives of a comrade-in-arms. This was different in some regions, such as in Chessenta and east and south of Raurin, as mercenaries from there had a ransom price that their families or treasuries could pay if they were captured. Heralds and gods frowned upon and publicly denounced those who collected a ransom and then delivered a mistreated, near-death captive, or freed the victim far from home in dangerous territory so that he or she could well be recaptured and ransomed again.
Heralds and priests of Tempus always witnessed the signing of and retained copies of agreements between a mercenary and their patrons, to make both parties uphold their part of the agreements. If employers didn't fulfill their agreement, or if they failed or purposefully didn't pay the mercenaries, the heralds and priests would publicly announce their treachery, staining the reputation of such patrons forever (meaning no mercenary company would ever work for them again), and even Tempus himself would frown on their battle fortune.
Mercenaries that betrayed their oaths and agreements were known as "dullblades" (as also were inexperienced mercenaries). Dullblades were considered expendable and if hired, they were usually assigned the most dangerous works, with a bottom-rate payment: 1 cp a day plus two daily meals, a bed blanket, and a wound-dressing (a wash and bandages).
Mercenaries working for merchants had cheaper rates, as merchants usually paid 3 sp per day, plus two meals, a secure and private room with a bed, and a period of vacation, usually of two days every tenday. This payment was a common fee among many merchants.
Mercenaries had an everlasting reputation for unreliability, because they were fighting for gold instead of for a cause, and many believed mercenaries would put their own needs—such as saving their own lives in a battle—over those of their patrons. For those reasons, some people preferred to hire professional adventurers over mercenaries.
However, most of the people who needed a fighting force liked to hire mercenaries for those same reasons. Mercenaries had to be neutral in conflicts or, as said by older mercenaries, be "bloodsworn" to one side, and thus could not dare switch sides during a conflict for fear of damaging their reputation as trustworthy mercenaries. Mercenaries also dared not switch sides because Heralds and priests of Tempus would proclaim their deeds to everyone, so no one would hire them thereafter.
Around the 1350s DR onward, most large mercenary companies began to dwindle and disappear. By the mid-1360s DR, only a handful of companies remained. This situation didn't changed in the 15th century DR, with large mercenary companies being uncommon by the late 1480s DR.
- In Common, mercenaries that demonstrably lacked principles or loyalty to the patrons that hired them were often referred to by the slang term "Darkblade".
- Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 89. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- Ed Greenwood (October 2012). Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 106. ISBN 0786960345.
- Ed Greenwood (October 2012). Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 108. ISBN 0786960345.
- Ed Greenwood (October 2012). Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 107. ISBN 0786960345.
- Ed Greenwood (October 2012). Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 107–108. ISBN 0786960345.
- Ed Greenwood (October 2012). Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 106–107. ISBN 0786960345.
- Ed Greenwood, The Hooded One (2004-05-09). Questions for Ed Greenwood (2004). Candlekeep Forum. Retrieved on 2020-11-22.