The families which comprise the Merchant Guild are called Guilders. Guilders are a closely bound people, intensely loyal to their own kind and insular in tradition. They are secretive about many aspects of their dealings and way of life. To other hivers their style of dress and habits are strange and incomprehensible. Amongst themselves they speak a secret language quite unlike the common tongue of the hive. The Guilders have no territory in the hive. They live wherever their business takes them, sometimes basing themselves in the domain of a single House but more often wandering from one place to another. The strict laws of Hive and House protect itinerant Guilders, their safety is guaranteed by the House itself. The same laws that protect Guilders also forbid them from owning property in the Hive City or the Spire, so warehouses, trading posts, and accommodation are all provided by the House.
Not all Guilders are equally wealthy or important. The more prosperous families live in the Spire and control trading empires which shift vast cargoes between Hive City and the Noble Houses. At the other end of the spectrum are the lone speculators who trade in Underhive, ever hopeful of discovering some new lode of iron slag or a hoard of archeotech. These adventurous individuals are often encountered deep in the hive, either on their own or accompanied by hired guides and protectors. In the Badzones Guilders often hire gang fighters to protect them from outlaws and mutants.
Guilders provide Underhivers with the only secure way of storing large quantities of money. This they do by keeping money secure as Guild credit, a form of deposit account that all Guilders will honour. If a Guilder should die, his debts, accounts and other business arrangements pass to his successor. Guilders also supply Underhivers with their physical currency in the form of Guild bonds and Guild tokens. Bonds are large denominations, oblong chips of ceramite bearing an indelible imprint of value. Smaller token chips are carried as loose change and are used within the settlements as everyday currency. These Guild tokens are often referred to simply as credits.
Guilders wear a distinctive merchant badge of credit suspended upon a heavy chain. The more wealthy a Guilder, the bigger and more ornamental his badge. This serves as a sign of office and identifies the Guilder when he passes through House check points. The merchant badge is also a device, a tool of his trade, imprinted with access codes to his central autoledgers and credit rating. The badge guarantees the Guilder’s trading arrangements on behalf of the Merchant Guild, and is used as a seal, both electronically and physically.