The Free Companies of Khatovar were 12 mysterious groups of armed cultists loyal to the goddess Kina which originated in the ancient city of Khatovar in what would later be known as the Voroshk world. The Companies were sent through their world's shadowgate, crossed the glittering plain using relics like the Lance of Passion for safety, and entered into the homeworld via its own shadowgate about 400 years before Croaker's Annals. Their goal was to choose a location to bring about the Year of the Skulls, an event which would free their imprisoned goddess, Kina.
Only the Black Company, the last of the Free Companies, was identified by name in the Annals. By Croaker's lifetime, the phrase "Free Companies of Khatovar" had long lost its meaning, and he was even uncertain what "Khatovar" referred to. Facts about these mysteries were finally revealed in the later Books of Glittering Stone.
There were ostensibly 12 Free Companies in total, each using a magic lance as their shadowgate key. Each of their entries into the homeworld was recorded by the librarians of Kiaulune, who also recorded the subsequent exit of all but one. The Black Company had lost its original mission over the centuries and remained in the homeworld. They forgot their goddess Kina and that their Lance of Passion was actually a shadowgate key, and became simply a band of mercenaries that migrated slowly northward for generations. In a twist of irony, this Company would eventually fight to prevent the Year of the Skulls, and would become Kina's most dangerous adversary.
All the other Companies, the ones which returned to Khatovar, were disbanded or otherwise wiped out by the unnamed, hostile, rival kingdom which reduced the city of Khatovar to ruins. This occurred before the Voroshk family of sorcerers created their ruling dynasty in that world.