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Chapter: 75

"A sword that is brittle and has no strength is valuable?" Pycleia said, rolling her eyes.

"Yes!" Charlie said, on the ground, his legs crossed as he rubbed his forehead. For twenty minutes there had been constant back and forth between Charlie and the group.

"But you can’t use it in battle?" Pycleia said, doing her best to be polite as she used her tail to the line as she examined several more of the swords that Charlie had found.

"Every time a duke is or duchess, king or queen, becomes the leader of their nation, the Merchant union and empire give them one of these words as a sign of good will. They are only ever made when one of these events happens, and they only ever happen ever thirty to fifty years or so," Charlie said, doing his best to get into the mindsets of the natives.

"Well how many of those oh so important people are there?" Ases asked, being the lead Forger, she had a good idea over what was and wasn’t valuable, and despite the jewels and materials that go into the sword, there was nothing much more that had value in the sword.

"There are about one hundred kingdoms outside of the Empire. There are also thirty Duchies or City-states," Charlie said. The women all frowned simultaneously, with the exception of Nolkonoe.

"So they aren’t that rare?" Pycleia said.

"N…" Charlie wanted to argue, but stopped himself as he began to think, "how many people do you all think there are outside of this realm and region?"

Each woman looked at each other, curiosity painted across their faces. Cluupyte sat up, a smirk on her face.

"Twenty thousand people!" She said triumphantly as if stating her far off opinion as fact.

"No," Charlie muttered, now beginning to understand what was going on.

"Idiot! It is obviously fourth thousand!" Pycleia said, again in the same tone as Cluupyte before her.

"Fools, it is one hundred thousand at most!" Ases said, rolling her eyes at the two women.

"Thirty thousand is the average population for an imperial city," Charlie said, noticing a grin on Nolkonoe’s face. He knew she was one of the few who had travelled out of their homelands, so maybe she was expecting numbers like this.

"I can believe that the cities I went to had far more people than us," Nolkonoe said humbly.

"In the emptier alone there are three million people. In the Kingdoms and Duchies are about one million altogether," Charlie explained, relaxing as he saw the looks of confusion that were quickly overtaking the women.

"How much is that?" Cluupyte said.

"Imagine a million coppers, and this is about the same amount of people," mutters flooded the group as he gave them this example. For a moment the women all sat in silence, contemplating what he said.

"Maybe the sword has a little value," Cluupyte said, refusing the admit defeat, but also willing to acknowledge he may have a point.

"You understand now? See, just give me the benefit of the doubt and allow me to show you what is of value here," For a moment Charlie began to wander around. All artefacts in here were incredibly valuable, but to the stubborn clan leaders, he needed to show them something that they would understand the value of.

Stopping, he stared down at a golden badge in the shape of a shield. Crouching down, he picked up the badge. A large blue circle sat at the centre of the badge. The symbol of a rifle, held by a man in a fur cap, mask of iron, and fur jacket stood with the gun in his arms. The Gelida Vanguard, the first and last defence in the northern realm against the ice orcs. Who descended upon that part of the empire.

These men were on the shield as a way to assure merchants that they had the strongest of the strong on their side, and Charlie knew this could be a perfect example to the leaders as it would be a topic that they could relate to. After all, what would be more relatable to a tribe of mostly warriors than a story about warriors of legend?

"Here," Charlie said, picking up the badge and walking back to the tribe leaders. Staring at the odd bit of metal in his hands, Pycleia frowned.

"That looks like your merchant badge? What value is there in that," Pycleia said.

"It is the same as my Merchant badge, but they are only ever given to the upper echelon of the empire and Merchant Union. They tend to go for about thirty billion coppers. Few have them," the jaws of the women dropped as he spoke, "But it is incredibly illegal to sell them," Charlie continued.

"So where is the value?" Ases commented.

"These badges can open doors for you in many states of government. When we go to the fifth region to buy guns, this badge will allow us to enter the city without question," Pointing to the symbol of The Gelida Vanguard.

"But besides that, what value does this badge hold beyond this!" Cluupyte said, almost outraged by how such a badge that acted as more of a key than a badge could be so valuable.

"The value is held from the legend that comes from the badge, and the protection that comes with that legend," Charlie began to relay the legend of The Gelida Vanguard.

The northern realm is ice. That is, it, that is all that can reasonably dwell in such a cold and desolate area. To divide the area of the northern Realm into Regions would be a fool’s game as there are no indications of where one area begins and another end. Anyone who has ever tried to place a marker or build a building to show where a region may begin, and end have always been in vain as the constant downpour of snow quickly rids them from the map.

There were few who still though dared to call this place home. Eight thousand men were told to hold what little they had that resembled a wall between them and the wastelands deeper north. Orcs in great numbers come from that direction. They are beasts about eight-foot-tall, their skin can stop most melee weapons, while also being able to stop bullets of most calibres. The only way to be able to kill one of these beasts is to shoot it directly under the chin and up into the brain.

Besides this, there is no other way other than high explosive airily shells to even scratch the orcs. Yearly, the orcs come across a bridge made of scrap iron, metals of all sorts, twisted war machines, corpses, and anything they can get grubby paws on. They throw these things in what they like to call ‘the great bridge’ that leads them from their covenant to that of Charlie’s.

Usually, there are only about two to three hundred orcs that pass through there each year, so the eight thousand soldiers stationed there can usually last. But one year, one horrifying year that changed. Fifteen thousand orcs were making their way across the bridge. The scouts sent to warn the men were slaughtered, leaving the front line unprepared.

The front line, about two hundred years ago

Trenches were dug deep, but this did little to hide the men from the cold. Over them sat an iron overhand that acted as a bunker and a poor defence against the snow. Several men sat alone in this dug in. Their fur caps were dyed white by snow and frost. Their armour and fur coats were also a similar shade of deathly white.

"Fucking hell!" A man yelled. In one hand he held a lighter, the other hand he held a cigar. The second he had sparked aflame with the lighter, the cold winds that somehow managed to reach them even seven feet down in the trench blew out the temporary warmth.

"Dumb ass," A man standing upon an elevated level above him said. The elevated platform was to help stare out through the small slots of their shelter.

From this point, the man was able to aim his rifles out of the bunker. The rifle had a magazine of ten large, 8-inch rounds. A scope was fixed on the top of the rifle. There was no special magic, or technology that allowed them to see through the snow, so a lot of the time it was guessing where the target was when they fired.

They were simply a last line of defence. It was up to the artillery to take out the majority of the orcs before they reached the front lines.

"Well, I’m sorry if I want warmth! The heat packs sent to us by the Union magicians are shit!" the first man said, glaring up at the rifleman.

"Fucking idiot," the rifleman muttered. Turning away, he stared back down his scope.

"I’m not an idiot! Those fucks are the idiots for not doing their job properly!" the man with the cigar said, again trying in vain to light it.

Rubbing his forehead, one of the men stood up and walked over to the man with the cigar. Ripping the cigar from his hand, he climbed onto the elevated platform. Throwing the cigar out into the snow. The second it left the safety of the bunker; it was overtaken by snow and ice.

"Bastard!" the man said, scowling slightly as he leapt up to try and see if it was possible to retrieve his cigar. Seeing the cigar was too far away, he snarled before turning and moving back to his seat on the ground.

"The shovelling teams should be through here soon. Maybe it will show up and they might try to thaw it out and give it back to you!" another of the thirty or so men in the bunker teased.

"What did you say cunt!" the first man yelled towards the guy at the back.

Laughs went up from the group. Silently, a young man towards the front of the crowd chuckled. His hair was pitch-black, his eyes a monotonous brown. His rifle lay disassembled on the floor as he slowly cleaned it. He hadn’t been paying attention to what had just happened, but also not wanting to be left out had laughed along with the soldiers.

Noticing he was an easy target from his shorter frame and brittle appearance, the far taller and well build man decided it was best to let his anger out on him.

"You think it is funny mate?" he lifted his heavy boot into the air. Grinning, it came crashing down onto the face of the unexpecting boy.

Falling back, he stared up at the man in disgust and confusion.

"What the fuck!" The words didn’t come from the boy who was attacked. Bones cracking filled the ears of the men in the bunker. Turning, they stared at the man who stood guard. A large, blue hand was wrapped around his head. For a moment they only stared, trying to contemplate what they were staring at.

The hand of an orc was wrapped around the head of one of their own. Blood splattered onto the floor as the creature tightened its grip. Fragments of bone fell as a pool of blood began to move across the floor towards them. A growl shook the bunker as the stone began to crack. The orcs were breaking in. 

They stormed through, slaughtering the soldiers with ease as many were still cleaning their guns and unable to respond. Even as they tore and rampaged through the bunker, not a single orc made even the slightest noise. As if they were mocking the dead by showing off their skills in such an unnecessary fashion.

"Oi hummes! Wanna fight?" An orc bellowed in a mocking laugh as he casually ripped a man in half with his bare hands.

With a flash of stone and burst of cries the stone that made up the front of the bunker was stripped away. Stone crumbled as orcs began to flood into the bunker. From that point on there were mixed reports. Some say there were simply screams and flashes of blood as the other soldiers from the rest of the bunker came to reinforce this first group.

Some say that those reinforcements arrived and found nothing to save. All that was known that night was that something spoke to a member of that unit, one of the men who should have been slaughtered. His charcoal-coloured hair turned a ghostly white. His eyes were an unholy red, and his skin a deadly pale colour.

Taking the lighter of the cigarette smoking man, he dove it deep into the eyes of an orc. Tumbling it to the ground, he took his bayonet and drove it under the jaw of the orc and into its brain. The very ground he stood on froze as he marched on, into the horde of orcs. I should say, each bunker along the front had at least one hundred men in it.

There were eighty bunkers with one hundred men in each. That night, each bunker had one of these men created, a man blessed by ice and chosen by their god to hold their line. Through icy weather that would usually freeze a normal person to death within minutes of being out there too long, these chosen men marched. The snow seemed to ignore them with its icy touch as the men somehow ripped and tore through the far stronger orc.

Their hands bled, and their blood seeped into the snow.

"Do you wish to die?" the voice would ring in their ears as they fought. The orcs were stronger, but they were faster, and the snow seemed to be with them as it wrapped around the feat of the orcs. The frost claimed these orcs and dragged them to their knees. For hours the men marched, the ice and frost lending themselves to the battle.

Imperial iron hulls (tank-like machines powered by steam and magic) and soldiers soon found the men. On the edge of the region, at the iron bridge, they stared out towards what was left of the orc army. They had driven them to the edge of the northern realm and back towards their lands.

On that day, eight hundred men remained. These eight hundred were named by the Empire the Gelida Vanguard. They are one of the most esteemed units in the entire Empire. The symbol upon the badge is a warning to those who dare to harm those who hold the golden merchant badge. Their legend and influence are only reinforced by the that after being blessed by the ice, the second they touch someone with their bare skin, they can turn that person to ice.

Their training again is something that enforces their strength. Alone they must stand in the coldest part of the northern realm, staring out towards the lands of the orcs. The ice would freeze them, but their duty was to stand and stare. The second one of them buckled, a soldier placed a gun against the back of their head and kill them.

Breaking the symbol upon the golden badge would bring upon a storm like no other, and then this vanguard would appear to temporarily serve the person who had summoned them. To serve the union is to serve humankind. If you serve the union, they serve you, that is what brings such value to the golden merchant badge.

1Hey there! Hope you have enjoyed the chapter! have a nice day/night 

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