|The Golden Company|
|Banner||The gold-dipped skulls of all past commanders|
"Our word is good as gold"|
"Beneath the gold, the bitter steel"
|Current Commander||Harry Strickland|
The Golden Company is a company of sellswords founded by the Great Bastard, Bittersteel. They are considered the largest, most famous, and most expensive sellsword or mercenary company in the Free Cities. Despite the notorious unreliability of sellswords, the Golden Company is reputed to have never broken a contract. Their motto is "Our word is good as gold." 
It was founded by Aegor Rivers, called "Bittersteel", a legitimized bastard of King Aegon IV, after he fled Westeros with the younger sons of Daemon Blackfyre at the end of the Blackfyre Rebellion. When Aegor saw all the exiled lords and knights signing on with other sellsword companies, such as the Ragged Standard or the Maiden's Men, and saw the support of House Blackfyre ebbing away, he created his own sellsword company.
Since then they have fought mainly in the Disputed Lands. The Golden Company is said to be made up of exiles, and the sons of exiles. The Golden Company were once headed by Maelys the Monstrous, the last of the Blackfyre Pretenders. During the War of the Ninepenny Kings Ser Barristan Selmy cut a bloody path though the Golden Company's ranks to slay Maelys the Monstrous in single combat.
Their war cry, "Beneath the gold, the bitter steel" pays homage to their founder.
Daenerys recalls that her brother Viserys Targaryen once feasted the captains of the Golden Company in the hopes they might take up his cause. They ate his food and heard his pleas and laughed at him. 
As the heirs of Bittersteel discipline is like mother's milk to the men of the Golden Company, able to march quickly after a haphazard and disorganized landing with the chaos that would have inevitably delayed a hastily assembled host of household knights and local levies nowhere in evidence.
The high officers display a rude splendor. Like many in their trade they keep their worldly wealth upon their person: jeweled swords, inlaid armor, heavy torcs, and fine silks are very much in evidence. During their meeting with Jon Connington in Volon Therys he notes that every man wears a lord’s ransom in golden arm rings. Each ring signifies one year’s service with the Golden Company. 
The Golden Skulls
The captain-general’s tent is made of cloth-of-gold and surrounded by a ring of pikes topped with gilded skulls. On his deathbed Ser Aegor Rivers famously commanded that when he was dead, the flesh was to be boiled from his skull and then to be dipped in gold and placed on a standard the company would carry before them when they crossed the narrow sea to retake Westeros. Each of his successors has followed this example, upon their deaths their golden skulls adorn the standard poles of the Golden Company.
When Griff arrives at the company’s encampment near Volon Therys he contemplates those skulls. One skull is larger than the rest – Maelys the Monstrous and his nameless brother. The other skulls have a sameness to them, though several are cracked and splintered by the blows that slew them, and one has filed pointed teeth.
One of them is Myles Toyne’s skull. Griff goes to look at the skull of his old friend. He sees that death has robbed Myles of his ears, his nose and all his warmth. Only his smile remains, transformed into a glittering grin. Griff thinks to himself that all the skulls are grinning, even Bittersteel’s on the tall pike in the center.
A Feast for Crows
Most recently, the Company broke its contract with the city of Myr, despite the looming war with neighboring Lys and Tyrosh. According to sailors in King's Landing, they are making for Volantis. No one can say why they have broken their contract.
Before the Golden Company broke their contract, the Yunkish attempted to contract the Golden Company for their campaign on Slaver's Bay. An envoy offered twice what Myr was paying them, plus a slave for every man in the company, ten for every officer, and a hundred choice maidens for the commander Harry Strickland. Harry told the envoy he would think on his proposal; he thought a blunt refusal might have been unwise as his men would think he had taken leave of his wits. 
In Westeros Arianne Martell tells Ser Arys Oakheart that the Golden Company has broken its contract with Myr. She uses this information in her attempt to convince him to help with her scheme to make Myrcella Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. 
During Cersei’s small council meeting Aurane Waters reveals that the Golden Company has broken its contract with Myr. He has heard many men say that Lord Stannis has hired them and is bringing them across the sea. Orton Merryweather scoffs at this and asks, what would he pay them with, Snow? Cersei then tells the council that Lord Qyburn heard from a Myrish galley that the Golden Company are making their way to Volantis, so if they mean to cross to Westeros they are marching the wrong way. 
A Dance with Dragons
While traveling on the Valyrian road with Illyrio, on the way to meet Griff and company, Tyrion questions Illyrio as to how he managed to get the Golden Company to break their contract with Myr. Illyrio wriggles his fat fingers and says:
Some contracts are writ in ink, and some in blood. I say no more.
Tyrion then points out to Illyrio that the Golden Company have spent so much of their history fighting against the Targaryens. He asks how Illyrio managed to convince the Golden Company to take up Daenerys’s cause, Illyrio brushes away the objection as if it were a fly, replying:
It is revealed that the Golden Company initially abandoned the contract because they expected to meet and join Queen Daenerys Targaryen when she sailed from Meereen to Volantis. Once at Volon Therys the men of the company finally become fed up with Illyrio Mopatis’s constantly changing plans when they learn that Dany has stayed in Meereen. In a meeting about their next move Tristan Rivers stated,
Which plan? ... The fat man’s plan? The one that changes every time the moon turns? First Viserys Targaryen was to join us with fifty thousand Dothraki screamers at his back. Then the Beggar King was dead, and it was to be his sister, a pliable young child queen who was on her way to Pentos with three new-hatched dragons. Instead the girl turns up on Slaver's Bay and leaves a string of burning cities in her wake, and the fat man decides we should meet her by Volantis. Now that plan is in ruins as well. I have had enough of Illyrio’s plans. Robert Baratheon won the Iron Throne without the benefit of dragons. We can do the same.
They decide to swear allegiance to Aegon Targaryen and join him in an invasion of Westeros.  Soon thereafter the company sailed for Westeros with Aegon and successfully landed in Westeros, claiming several victories already and taking several castles. Their next plan is to take Storm's End. 
A partial breakdown:
- 500 knights, each having three horses.
- 500 squires, each having one horse.
- 1,000 archers, a third of these archers are listed as crossbowmen while another third are said to be using double-curved horn-and-sinew bows of the east. The final part of the archers consist of men with Westerosi blood who use big yew long bows, and fifty summer islanders using great bows of goldenheart. 
- Ser Aegor Rivers, called Bittersteel, founder and first captain-general.
- Maelys Blackfyre, last of the Blackfyre pretenders.
- Ser Myles Toyne, called Blackheart.
- Ser Harry Strickland, called Homeless Harry is the current company commander.
- Black Balaq, commander of the company archers.
- Ser Brendel Byrne, serjeant.
- Chains, serjeant.
- Dick Cole, serjeant.
- Will Cole, serjeant.
- Ser Jon Connington, served five years in the company.
- Rolly Duckfield, served in the company as smith and squire.
- Gorys Edoryen, company paymaster.
- Ser Franklyn Flowers, the Bastard of Cider Hall.
- Caspor Hill, serjeant.
- Malo Jayn, serjeant.
- Jon Lothston, serjeant.
- Lysono Maar, company spymaster.
- Ser Marq Mandrake, exile.
- Lorimas Mudd, serjeant.
- Young John Mudd, serjeant.
- Ser Laswell Peake, exile lord.
- Pykewood Peake, brother of Ser Laswell Peake.
- Torman Peake, brother of Ser Laswell Peake.
- Lymond Pease, serjeant.
- Ser Tristan Rivers, bastard, outlaw and exile.
- Denys Strong, serjeant.
- Duncan Strong, serjeant.
- Humfrey Stone, serjeant.
- Watkyn, Harry Strickland's squire and cupbearer.
Ghosts and liars…Revenants from forgotten wars, lost causes, failed rebellions, a brotherhood of the failed and the fallen, the disgraced and the disinherited. This is my army. This is our best hope. 
References and Notes
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 13, The Soiled Knight.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
- A Game of Thrones RPG and Resource Book, Guardians of Order
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 16, Daenerys III, page 210.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 61, The Griffin Reborn.