Even before I’d started writing the Blood Skies series, I’d always envisioned it being about an elite mercenary team…a sort of “A-Team in a post-apocalyptic vampire controlled wastelands”. (Seriously, that was the exact phrase I wrote down when I started the Nanowrimo project that became Blood Skies a few years back). The idea was that this team would work exclusively for the Southern Claw but would not actually be a part of the military. They’d specialize in the jobs the army didn’t want to waste soldiers on or else needed added expertise for, like exceedingly deadly rescue missions, covert strikes against vampire outposts, etc.
I played around with how I’d start the series for quite a while, and eventually I decided against jumping right in with the team in Book 1. The world that the story took place in was so bizarre, and Eric Cross’s back story was so riddled with turmoil, I came to the conclusion I needed a book just to get everything set up. (And, hence, you have Blood Skies.)
When I sat down to start the sequel (Black Scars), I decided that since I’d given Eric an intro novel, I also needed to do a story about how the team actually got together, which would also be a perfect opportunity to introduce The Sleeper and The Black Circle. Even though I had the core of the group already in place (Cross, Danica and Kane), I knew as I was getting ready to write Book 3 (Soulrazor) that I had to come up with the rest of the roster, which was, as they say, easier said than done. I came up with a small group of characters, realizing that since I planned on having a passage of time of about two years between Book 2 and Book 3 it would make sense for some of the crew to have come and gone, and eventually decided on the group that made it into Soulrazor: Cross, Black, Kane, Ronan, Ash, Grissom, and Maur.
Here’s a quick glimpse at everyone who’s been on Cross’s elite mercenary team, in the order they joined. Not all of these characters actually appeared in the books, but they all deserve a mention in the brief history of Cross’s unnamed band of heroes.
(Note: All entries are written in past tense, but I’ve avoided spoilers regarding the fates of characters who actually appear in the novels for those who may not have read that far.)
Cross: The leader and founder of the team. A former warlock with both Wolf Company and the elite Hunter unit called Viper Squad, Cross bore an uncanny proficiency with magic, and was noted as the only warlock to have ever lost his arcane spirit and somehow been granted a new one. Protective of his teammates to a fault, Cross’s concern was always for the lives of others, in part due to the guilt he felt over people he’d lost in the past who’d been so important to him.
Black: The second-in-command of the team, Danica was a powerful war witch with a dark past. After a brief stint in the military, Danica spent years as a member of the Revengers, masters of the diabolic Black Scar prison. While not as level-headed as Cross and sometimes finding herself at odds with Kane due their shared history with the prison, Danica’s tactical knowledge, field experience and underworld contacts proved invaluable to the group on many occasions.
Kane: A former criminal and inmate at both Black Scar prison and the vampire city-state of Krul, Kane was a natural warrior and a loyal friend. Kane’s flippant personality, excessively sarcastic nature and recklessness in combat often got him into more than his fair share of trouble, but his hand-to-hand and melee prowess and his physical resilience allowed him to claw his way out most every situation. Kane partially blamed Danica for the death of his lover Ekko.
Frye: A former Talon Company sniper, Frye was injured during his first tour of duty in Blackmarsh and spent several years regaining the use of his legs, during which time he became an expert with the rifle. A care-free individual who always tried to see the best in people, Frye was friends with everyone on the team. He was killed by vampire shock troops on a mission in Blackmarsh, ironically enough, the same place he’d begun his fighting career.
Tayanna: A healer witch, seer and peerless swordswoman, Tayanna was a proud but stoic woman with little sense of humor and a strong sense of duty. Raised by the mysterious Lith, Tayanna was briefly a member of the militaristic Raza, a band of deadly and feared arcane monks, but she and her lover/partner Kendrick eventually wound up with Cross’s team. Both were killed by rival mercenaries on a mission in an abandoned military compound near the city-state of Dusk.
Kendrick: Scarred and mutilated by Vuul raiders at a very young age, Kendrick was raised by the deadly arcane monks called the Raza to become an enforcer and hired gun. While in their care that he met Tayanna, who became his lover and mentor. It was Kendrick’s idea for them to leave the Raza and join Eric Cross’s mercenary team, where the quick-witted and acid-tongued Kendrick and Tayanna served for almost a year before they were ambushed and slain by rival mercenaries near the city-state of Dusk.
Ash: A half-Doj healer witch and seer, Ash and her half-brother Grissom joined Cross’s group shortly after the deaths of Tayanna and Kendrick. Ash appeared much younger than she was, and soon fell into an almost matronly advising role to the group, though her formidable arcane powers were invaluable in combat, as well. Ash’s knowledge of magic and her ability to think straight in almost any situation gave the group a much-needed voice of reason.
Grissom: Ash’s half-brother and a full-blooded Doj, Grissom was kind-hearted off the field of battle and frightening to behold when on it. Specializing in heavy weapons, Grissom was always the first to lend himself as a line of defense or point-man in deadly situations, a fact that always put his half-sister Ash ill-at-ease. Grissom also had an affinity for lost animals, and was known to bring home strays to stay at the team’s mansion headquarters in Thornn without telling anyone else about it.
Hewer: A former Southern Claw airship pilot who got himself into a great deal of trouble by trafficking drugs between missions, Hewer was given a chance with Cross’s team in spite of a dishonorable discharge from the military because of his heroic efforts at the Battle of Bloodnight. A sullen and spiteful man, Hewer nevertheless served the team loyally, and his skill behind the controls of a Bloodhawk were unparalleled. Unfortunately, Hewer was killed along with Lorne during a mission in the Ebonsand Sea.
Lorne: A former thief, Lorne acquired his considerable skills as a gunman and brawler from years spent in unsavory fringe city-states like Blacksand and Dagger. An adrenaline junkie who joined Cross’s team more for the thrill of combat than for any altruistic desire to save humankind, Lorne’s collection of antique weaponry was as legendary as his ability to make impossible shots. Both Lorne and Hewer, alas, were killed on a rescue mission in the Ebonsand Sea by an Ebon Cities strike force.
Maur: Maur was a Gol pilot and engineer who became the team’s new pilot after spending some years working with arms and equipment caravans. Maur always referred to himself in the third person — no one knew why, and every time he was asked about it Maur genuinely seemed to be unaware of the fact that he even did it. In spite of his odd nature, Maur was fiercely loyal to the team, especially Grissom and Ronan, and his skills as a mechanic and pilot saved the rest of the team many times.
Zane: Zane was a promising young warlock raised in the fringe city-state of Night, where he was recruited into Cross’s team by Kane. Cocky and arrogant but also relentlessly likable, Zane was very popular with the rest of the team, and his raw power more than made up for his inexperience. Zane was also extremely popular with the ladies due to his boyish good looks and innocent charm. Zane, unfortunately, was caught off guard and killed in a battle with Gorgoloth bandits in the Skull Plains.
Ronan: The newest member of the team, Ronan escaped from the cruel hand of the Crimson Triangle, under whose tutelage he’d undergone barbarous training to become an assassin and killer. After years spent as a criminal refugee, Ronan eventually wound up with Cross’s team, where in spite of being viewed with no small amount of suspicion and fear he soon proved an invaluable and loyal teammate. Ronan was an expert swordsman and marksman, with extensive training in the art of killing mages.