Hitting the Mark: Miles Holmes on Mark of Caine

Author Miles Holmes gives us the inside scoop on his forthcoming Iron Kingdoms Chronicles novel, Mark of Caine.

How does your new book, Mark of Caine, continue or expand on the story from your earlier Skull Island novella, "Way of Caine"?

“Way of Caine” was, of course, a prelude to the story of the Caine we know and love from the game itself; at its heart, in fact, it’s an origin story. Over the years, WARMACHINE has chronicled his adventures piecemeal, most notably in his quest to hunt down and kill Vinter’s heir, Julius. The end of that particular narrative was revealed in the pages of Doug Seacat’s book, Blood of Kings. Given that Julius now sits on Cygnar’s throne, it’s no spoiler to say Caine didn’t quite get the job done. Mark of Caine picks up two years later, where we find Caine still dogged by the consequences of that mission and, indeed, by his life choices in general.

For readers not fully aware of Caine's history, what makes him a unique character to follow in this particular story?

To me, Caine has always been one of the Iron Kingdoms’ most accessible characters. The archetype of the rogue anti-hero with a heart of gold has given us classic characters like Han Solo and Wolverine, for example. Caine’s disregard for authority is nearly as enviable as the raw magical power he’s been gifted with, but like us, he makes mistakes. Moreover, Caine is getting older—he’s forty now, and his mistakes are coming back to haunt him, one way or another. For me, that is the heart of this story, something we can all relate to.

The Black 13th feature prominently in this book, too. What do you find engaging about those particular characters when developing their story?

If it’s not already obvious, I love me some gun mages. Always have, always will. I find them to be the perfect blend of sorcerers and cowboys—what more can you say? As a warcaster originally hailing from the Order of the Arcane Tempest, Caine has ever been the pinnacle of a gun mage, but the Black 13th were never far behind, either. As the Order’s “black ops” team, they’ve got some redacted stories of their own to never speak of. Moreover, they are a team, whereas Caine is a loner; there’s a group dynamic there to have fun, one with ties only they could share, when you consider all they’ve been through. And like James Bond, they get to report to their own “Q” whenever faced with a new “mission impossible,” so that was fun to envision as well.

Skull Island will be publishing a short story, "Devil in the Details," in support of Mark of Caine. What can you tell us about that story?

Both “Devil in the Details” and the recent Gavyn Kyle Files (featured in No Quarter magazine #68) give us an inside look at this secretive team, both in terms of how they operate and who they are. Specific to “Devil in the Details,” we’re exploring a significant operation they embarked on about a year before we catch up with them again in Mark of Caine. As an added bonus, I can tell you the story teases at something big coming to the game itself in the not-so-distant future. I’m not saying what it is, but the story is called “Devil in the Details” for a reason…so, pay close attention!

Can you give us any hints of what to expect from the next book in the trilogy?

Skull Island eXpeditions have always represented a place to tell stories like you’ve never seen in the Iron Kingdoms, and of course, to go beyond them as well. As to the Hellslingers Trilogy and book two, this is exactly one of those stories. There is a place little seen and rightly feared on the map of western Immoren, and it is into that heart of darkness Caine has to travel to make right what has gone wrong. I shall say no more for now!

Mark of Caine comes with a bonus: an exciting chapter from your first original novel, Tales of the Invisible Hand. What can you tell us about that book?

First and foremost, Tales of the Invisible Hand is one of those Skull Island eXpeditions stories that goes beyond the Iron Kingdoms, in this case all the way back to our very own distant pre-history. It’s a sort of diesel-punk pulp aviation adventure in the age of Conan, you might say. It’s also an odd-couple buddy adventure, pairing a formidable, dour Neanderthal Inquisitor with a petulant human rookie pilot. The pair uncovers an otherworldly threat out in the savage wilds of a middle-Paleolithic earth and must learn to work together when everything around them starts falling apart. One cool thing about the book is that it serves as both explanation for and a cautionary tale about an actual near-extinction event, something known as the genetic bottleneck. It was during this event that humans were brought to the brink of extinction, with as little as a few thousand in number surviving. Exactly how this event occurred, and the consequences that follow us to this day, is really at the heart of the story!