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Asked by Anonymous


In its most literal interpretation, it is a reference to the Golden Company itself. Under the golden banner, there stands Bittersteel, continuing his crusade to sit the Blackfyre kings on the Iron Throne. That same mission is shared by the exiles that formed the Golden Company, so beneath the gold, there stands Bittersteel.

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In its more symbolic representation, it is a promise of worth that reflects the Golden Company’s professionalism without losing their status as excellent warriors. They are a professional company, and the arm bands that they wear mark them as truly wealthy, but being rich has not made them soft. They are still warriors born and bred, they are still committed to the mission. Beneath the gold, there is still bitter steel.

Bittersteel is defined in his later years by his mission, that drive remains in the Golden Company even as Bittersteel perished from the earth. He might not be there in flesh, but he remains in the drive and determination of the Golden Company. His skull was dipped in gold, but his spirit remains. Beneath the gold of every man and woman in the company, there remains the bitter steel.

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Thanks for the question, Anon.

SomethingLikeALawyer, Hand of the King

To add to these (excellent) points:

I think the phrase also speaks to the founding of the Golden Company. The Golden Company might be a sellsword company, but its roots were in the exiles of the Blackfyre cause; Bittersteel founded the group to keep the Blackfyre spirit alive and united among the exiles, to remind them that they were still Westerosi, temporarily stuck in Essos but destined to return to their homeland under a Blackfyre king. These men had lost or stood to lose lands, castles, and titles by going into exile with the sons of Daemon Blackfyre; they had sacrificed their positions in Westeros to stay loyal to what they believed to be the righteous Blackfyre cause. Theirs was the “bitter steel”, always ready beneath the gold they were paid for their temporary contracts; they had accepted the bitter fate of exile because they were ready to return to Westeros, steel in hand, to take the Iron Throne for the Blackfyres.