Beyond the Houses
The City Watch
The City Watch is responsible for the safety and security of the city of King's Landing. Watchmen are more colloquially known as "gold cloaks" because of the gold-colored capes they wear. City Watch salaries are paid by the kingdom, and unlike the other organizations in the Seven Kingdoms, these soldiers swear no allegiance.
An elite squad of bodyguards whose origins date back to Aegon the Conqueror, the Kingsguard serves to protect the royal family. Members of the Kingsguard swear an oath that binds them to their position for life and forbids them from marrying, fathering children or holding land. As a young man, Jaime Lannister was sworn into the Kingsguard, but he broke his vow to protect the king when he sided with Robert Baratheon and murdered Aerys II. Like Jaime Lannister, Ser Barristan Selmy was a member of the Kingsguard during the reign of the Mad King Aerys, but he never wavered from duty. Selmy was not only pardoned by Robert Baratheon in recognition of his loyalty, he was also named Lord Commander and keeper of The Book of Brothers, the recorded history of the Kingsguard.
Maesters of the Citadel
Dressed in grey and bedecked in heavy chains, maesters serve as teachers, scientists and healers to the noble houses of the Seven Kingdoms and the Night's Watch. Maesters hold no familial or political allegiances – they are only known by their title and first name. Once they have completed training at the Citadel, they serve the houses they are assigned to, observe the change of seasons and attend to the ravens. Maesters' chains are worn at all times, even during sleep, and are indications of areas of knowledge. There are hundreds of different links, and each is made of a different substance, which signifies expertise in a given field of study.
The Night's Watch
Founded eons ago, the Night's Watch protects the Seven Kingdoms from the wilds of the Far North. Members of the Night's Watch swear an oath of duty, one that binds them to the job for life, and forbids them from marrying, fathering children or holding land. Desertion is a crime punishable by death. They dress entirely in black, hence the nicknames "crows" or "black brothers." Although the Night's Watch was once manned by volunteers from the noble houses, in recent years, the service has fallen on hard times and has lost the interest of the king. Its ranks are now formed of criminals and delinquents avoiding strict punishments, or high-born lords escaping scandal. Once bonded into the Watch, however, past crimes, allegiances and birthrights are forgotten, and each man can rise within its ranks.
The primary duty of the Night's Watch is to maintain and defend the Wall, a 700-foot-high barricade of mostly ice that separates the Seven Kingdoms from the unknown that lies to the north. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont leads the Night's Watch from its stronghold at Castle Black, one of many fortresses that line the Wall. Benjen Stark serves as First Ranger and Mormont's second in command.
The Small Council
The Small Council is an advisory group that serves the reigning king. The head of the council is the Hand of the King, who holds the king's proxy when he is not in attendance. The Small Council of King Robert Baratheon is also comprised of his brother, Renly Baratheon who serves as Master of Laws; Petyr Baelish, Master of the Coin; Varys, a eunuch spymaster known as the court's "Master of Whisperers" and Grand Maester Pycelle.
The Dothraki are a nomadic band of horse lords who live in Essos on the plains beyond the Free Cities. They travel in packs known as khalasars; the leader of each band is known as a khal. Dothraki fulfill their needs by force – raiding parties supply the food and slaves each khalasar requires; there is no word in the Dothraki language for "thank you." A khal's strength can be determined by the length of his hair – khals cut their hair only after defeat. Although the Dothraki travel constantly, they do have one permanent city, Vaes Dothrak. The city exists without walls and is ruled by the dosh khaleen, the widows of fallen khals. Visitors in the city are forbidden to draw swords.
The Dothraki do not trust water their horses cannot drink. For that reason, they have never sailed and are not considered a threat by the Westerosi who live across the Narrow Sea.