: list of available mercenaries?
Mercenaries are independent troops that any nation can hire for three months by paying a one-off fee of gold.
There are dozens of unique, named mercenary groups in the game, but only a small random selection will be available at any given time.
Mercenaries always have a commander, which usually have troops accompanying them, although there are some mercenary companies with only the leader - for example, you can find mages or healers for hire, who come alone.
To gain control of a company of mercenaries, select a province and hit the Mercenaries button on the strategic overview. You will see a list of available companies, as well as those already on someone's payroll, which is indicated by that nation's flag. You can only bid on mercenaries if they are free or if they are on their last month of service for a nation.
Hiring mercenaries is not immediate; first you need to bid an amount of gold. All groups have a minimum hire fee based on the number/quality of the available troops; this will decrease if the company takes casualties.
At the end of the turn, all nations' bids are compared; whoever bid the most will gain control of the company. A nation bidding on their own mercenary group whose contract is about to expire will have their bid count for double, so it's easier to retain control once you've already hired a group.
Once hired, the mercenary group will appear in the province that was originally selected, ready to receive orders.
Mercenary groups are persistent; if they take casualties, those troops do not come back. This can make them cheaper to hire in future, but likewise, reduces how much they bring to the table.
If a mercenary group suffers too many casualties (: how many?), they will disband at the end of their contract, making them no longer available to hire as they disappear from the world forever.