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Free Cities Mercenaries by Andrew Johanson © Fantasy Flight Games

A mercenary is a soldier who takes temporary assignments fighting for wage. They include sellswords, sellsails, and some freeriders.[1]



Hired Swords by Yann Tisseron © Fantasy Flight Games

A sellsword is a soldier who hires out his services to the highest bidder. Most sellswords are professionals with some experience in fighting.[2] Sellswords are more common in Essos than in Westeros, as Westerosi lords are more likely to raise feudal levies.[1] The mercantile cities of Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh are protected by hired sellswords.[3] Some fighting men or exiles who run out of money become sellswords, such as Ser Jorah Mormont.[4] Many sellswords keep their worldly possessions close at hand, such as expensive weaponry, armor, and silks.[5]

Sellswords are often viewed negatively by others,[6][7][8][9] with some nobles considering them unchivalrous[10] and pitiless.[11] Sellswords are not allowed within the Black Walls of eastern Volantis.[12] Sellswords have a reputation for being willing to betray anyone for enough gold.[13] Sellswords, pirates, and slavers inhabit the Basilisk Isles.[14]

Free Companies

Mercenary Contract by Yulia Startsev © Fantasy Flight Games

Many sellswords are organized into free companies. Some are acclaimed for their loyalty and discipline, such as the Golden Company,[15][12][16] while others are nothing but rabble joined together in search of loot, like the Brave Companions.[17][18] Some captains are alleged to instigate wars during peacetime,[19] and some companies attempt to conquer the Disputed Lands when not under contract.[20] Men of the free companies name themselves as they choose, so some exiles from Westeros might claim the name of extinct Houses.[5]

Known companies


"Freerider" is a broad term, sometimes used to denote a mounted sellsword, but more often referring to other mounted fighters who are not part of a lord's retinue or feudal levy. Most do not collect wages, instead fighting for plunder or a hope to be taken into a lord or knight's service. Freeriders are mostly used as scouts, outriders, foragers, and light cavalry.[1]

Some freeriders are similar to hedge knights, only lacking knighthood.[1] Others are green, untrained recruits and farm boys who have nowhere else to go. While some refugees flee to a larger settlement when war sweeps over villages, others become freeriders for a better chance of being fed and thereby avoid becoming outlaws or broken men.[1]


A sellsail is a hired sailor who engages in naval battles for pay, including seaborne mercenaries and pirates. Most fleets are based in the Stepstones.[20] Sellsails such as Salladhor Saan may work as pirates or smugglers when not employed.[21]

Many ironborn, including Harwyn Hoare and Dalton Greyjoy, have worked as sellsails,[22][23] as have Summer Islanders.[24]


Island Mercenaries by Ian Kirkpatrick © Fantasy Flight Games

Sellswords helped the Golden Empire of Yi Ti conquer Leng centuries ago.[25]

During the coming of the Andals to Westeros, some Andals were hired as mercenaries by First Men to fight their rivals, only to betray their patrons.[26] Andals and sellswords helped to bring down House Greyiron in the Iron Islands.[27] Lord Torrence Teague used wealth raided from the westerlands to hire sellswords from Essos, allowing him to eventually become King of the Trident.[28]

Many free companies were formed during the Century of Blood, the aftermath of the Doom of Valyria.[19] The Free Cities often hired the companies for their endless wars in the Disputed Lands and the Stepstones.[1] Likewise, most sellsail fleets were formed during the wars of Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh.[20]

The Bright Banners and the Second Sons fled instead of facing the khalasar of Khal Temmo, but the Three Thousand of Qohor held off the Dothraki.[29]

Prince Daemon Targaryen hired sellswords for his war for the Stepstones.[30] During the Dance of the Dragons, Ser Perkin the Flea granted knighthood to any sellswords who supported Trystane Truefyre, and mercenaries flocked to support Hugh Hammer.[9] The collapse of the Triarchy greatly increased demand for mercenaries in Essos, causing surplus northmen after the Hour of the Wolf and other Westerosi to found new free companies.[31]

The Golden Company was founded by Ser Aegor Rivers and other Westerosi exiles in the aftermath of the First Blackfyre Rebellion.[32] Ser Lucas Inchfield considered Ser Duncan the Tall and Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield to have been sellswords when they served Ser Eustace Osgrey as sworn swords.[33]

The peace between Braavos and Pentos prohibits the Pentoshi from hiring sellswords or free companies.[34] House Baelish descends from a Braavosi sellsword.[35]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

King Robert I Baratheon ponders abdicating the Iron Throne and fighting as a sellsword.[36] Hiring an army of sellswords is not as expensive as hiring a Faceless Man to kill a merchant.[37]

The sellswords Bronn and Chiggen help Catelyn Stark arrest Tyrion Lannister in hope of reward, and Bronn defends Tyrion in his trial by combat in hope of gold from Casterly Rock.[38]

Sellswords and freeriders flock to the service of Lord Tywin Lannister at the Rock as tensions rise in the Seven Kingdoms.[39] Similar men join the host of Robb Stark.[40]

A Clash of Kings

Stannis Baratheon hires sellswords and sellsails from Lys and Myr in preparation for the War of the Five Kings.[41][42]

Ser Stafford Lannister raises a new host from sellswords, freeriders, and boys from Lannisport.[43] The host is destroyed by Robb in the Battle of Oxcross, however.[44]

Tywin employs the Brave Companions as reavers and foragers in the riverlands.[13] Vargo Hoat betrays the Lannisters, however, and his Bloody Mummers aid in the fall of Harrenhal.[45]

A Storm of Swords

The Mummers abandon the wounded Vargo almost to a man, allowing Ser Gregor Clegane to easily take Harrenhal.[46]

Following the fall of Astapor to Daenerys Targaryen, Yunkai hires the Second Sons and the Stormcrows.[47] Daario Naharis brings the Stormcrows to Daenerys's side, however, and they are victorious in the battle near Yunkai.[47] Ben Plumm leads the defeated Second Sons who join Daenerys after the battle.[48]

A Feast for Crows

Exiled Westerosi sometimes become mercenaries, screencap from Game of Thrones Bluray

The Golden Company breaks its contract with Myr, the first time it has ever done so.[49]

A Dance with Dragons

After the fall of Meereen to Daenerys, Yunkai hires several free companies to defeat her.[50] Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, sends his son, Prince Quentyn, to Essos to ally with and wed Daenerys.[51] Quentyn and his companions, Ser Gerris Drinkwater and Ser Archibald Yronwood, join the Windblown during their journey.[8]

Ben leads the Seconds Sons from Daenerys's service over to the Yunkai'i.[52] Tyrion and Ser Jorah Mormont join the company during the second siege of Meereen.[53] After Daenerys disappears from Meereen, Quentyn allies with the Tattered Prince in a failed scheme to claim dragons.[54][55]

Supporting Aegon Targaryen, Jon Connington and Harry Strickland lead the landing of the Golden Company in the stormlands.[16] There are reports of sellswords landing throughout southern Westeros.[56]

The Winds of Winter

This information has thus far been released in a sample chapter for The Winds of Winter, and might therefore not be in finalized form. Keep in mind that the content as described below is still subject to change.

Stannis orders Ser Justin Massey to sail to Braavos and use the Iron Bank's gold to hire a reputable company.[57]


Mercenaries from Pyke by Tyler Jacobson © Fantasy Flight Games

A mounted man who fights for pay could be called either a freerider or a sellsword. Both terms carry a certain stigma in Westeros. Sellswords are said to have no loyalty, and freeriders no discipline.[1]

More than once, I have dreamed of giving up the crown. Take ship for the Free Cities with my horse and my hammer, spend my time warring and whoring, that's what I was made for. The sellsword king, how the singers would love me.[36]

The scent of blood or the scent of gold, they smell the same in the end.[6]

A man who fights for coin is loyal only to his purse.[58]

Kevan Lannister to a courier

Loyal sellswords are rare as virgin whores.[59]

There are old sellswords and bold sellswords but there are no old bold sellswords.[48]

Sellswords were seldom the most honorable of men, but they had to have a certain skill at arms to stay alive.[2]

Jaime Lannister's thoughts

Whatever their sires or their grandsires might have been back in Westeros before their exile, the men of the Golden Company were sellswords now, and no sellsword could be trusted.[5]

Jon Connington's thoughts

Wealthy knights from Houses old in honor did not cross the narrow sea to sell their swords, unless exiled for some infamy.[8]

Quentyn Martell's thoughts

Tyrion: In Westeros, the word of a Lannister is considered good as gold.
Tybero: This is not Westeros. On this side of the narrow sea, we put our promises on paper. Debts written on the wind tend to be ... forgotten, shall we say?[53]

Behind the Scenes

Sellsword companies and their captains are reminiscent of the free companies and condottieri.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 So Spake Martin: Mercenaries, May 13, 2000
  2. 2.0 2.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 67, Jaime VIII.
  3. The World of Ice & Fire, The Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh.
  4. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 12, Daenerys I.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.
  6. 6.0 6.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 32, Arya III.
  7. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 41, Tyrion IX.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 25, The Windblown.
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Princess and the Queen.
  10. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 24, Cersei V.
  11. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 32, Cersei VII.
  12. 12.0 12.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 27, Tyrion VII.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 30, Arya VII.
  14. The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Basilisk Isles.
  15. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 2, Daenerys I.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 61, The Griffin Reborn.
  17. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 21, Jaime III.
  18. So Spake Martin: Military Questions, June 21, 2001
  19. 19.0 19.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Doom of Valyria.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: The Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh.
  21. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
  22. The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Black Blood.
  23. The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Red Kraken.
  24. The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Summer Isles.
  25. The World of Ice & Fire, The Bones and Beyond: leng.
  26. The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale.
  27. The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Iron Kings.
  28. The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
  29. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 8, Daenerys I.
  30. The Rogue Prince.
  31. Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - The Hooded Hand.
  32. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II.
  33. The Sworn Sword.
  34. The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Pentos.
  35. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 68, Sansa VI.
  36. 36.0 36.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
  37. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 33, Eddard VIII.
  38. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 42, Tyrion VI.
  39. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 45, Eddard XII.
  40. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn VIII.
  41. A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  42. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
  43. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
  44. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 32, Sansa III.
  45. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 47, Arya IX.
  46. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 62, Jaime VII.
  47. 47.0 47.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 42, Daenerys IV.
  48. 48.0 48.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 57, Daenerys V.
  49. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 13, The Soiled Knight.
  50. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 16, Daenerys III.
  51. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 6, The Merchant's Man.
  52. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 36, Daenerys VI.
  53. 53.0 53.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 66, Tyrion XII.
  54. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 60, The Spurned Suitor.
  55. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 68, The Dragontamer.
  56. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 54, Cersei I.
  57. The Winds of Winter, Theon I
  58. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 69, Tyrion IX.
  59. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 57, Sansa V.