I’m currently listening to Panic!’s new song, High Hopes, on repeat, and it kind of feels like a celebration? It certainly made getting out of bed today feel like I was about to conquer the world. (Yes, I’ve literally been listening to it for over an hour straight. No, I’m not going to stop anytime soon.) It feels really appropriate, too, because yesterday was a good goddamn day for Saints at sea.
Like, holy. I did a lot of writing. For the first two Saints, I kept having a moment right around this word count that things were weird, that the story was dragging, that I was having a hard time getting to the point of the story. So, I kept waiting for it to happen now. Where is the struggle? Where is the fight? Why is this coming so easily? Because it is. It’s coming so naturally to write these characters. I don’t feel like I’ve known them all my life, but I feel like they’re really easy to get to know. They’re all so different from one another, but all of them have these unbreakable ties to the ocean and to their ship, the Wolf.
That being said, I haven’t really introduced them to the world yet. So without further ado, here are the crew members of the Wolf, our main characters of Saints at sea.
Meet the crew of the Wolf. 🌙
Julian ☠️ Oyster. Hidden treasures.
Pippa. Zebra. The eccentric one.
Mila. Phoenix. Open to new adventure.
Nathalie. Black egg. Speaker of truth.
Brennen. Lamb. The peaceful prophet.
Nasir. Wolf. The guardian.
Cyrus. Octopus. Yearning to be found.
Henry. Hyena. Seeking balance.
Cole. Horse. Freedom.
Corra. Hawk. The messenger.
Sam. Bee. Steady & found.
Avery 🌊 Fish. Lost in the current.
They bleed salt water and iron, and they’ve all got darkness lurking within.
But who are they really, you ask? They’re very odd, is who they are.
Julian Mallory, captain, lived a normal life on a normal island for the first nine years of his life until his father decided to follow work to the coast, and Julian was introduced to the ocean for the very first time. After nearing drowning (or maybe he actually did), the ocean saved his life, and he was forever in love with her. He hates shoes, can’t stand being on land and indoors for much more than an hour, has a secret crown of driftwood and seaweed that the ocean gave him, has two falcons (Agrona & Kumara), and is often called a sea witch. Ships that he’s on never endure casualties during storms, and are often assisted by the ocean during battles.
Pippa, quartermaster, sailed for most of her young life under the same captain. He was a ruthless man who attacked a small trading ship, took her crew hostage, and killed more than half of them. The other half, he either put to work and kept in chains below. One day, after months and months of his men whispering about the sea witch they’d captured, he unchained Julian and gave him a space on his crew. Pippa was slow to warm to him, but when, eventually, Julian killed that captain and took his ship for his own, she was the first to follow him. She’s been with him ever since, and is the voice of reason when his fury is a little bit uncontrollable.
Mila & Nathalie, navigator & carpenter (respectively), were born and bred on the Vast Sea. After their mother died in childbirth, the captain of the ship they were on decided to raise them as his own, and they’ve spent their entire lives at sea. When they were old enough to strike out on their own, it was Mila who found Julian and convinced their father to let them work under a new captain. They’re always the first to volunteer for wild adventures, and usually up to no good.
Brennen, carpenter, is actually a sea witch, as the pirates call it, and a seer, as our friends on land call it. She has gold eyes and white blonde hair, and it’s said that she can communicate with sea dragons, though no one’s ever seen one (yet) to prove that. She absolutely refuses to go on land, and is almost always in Julian’s shadow, though you’ll never know until it’s too late. She’s quiet around most of the crew, but adores Cyrus and Elijah, and can always be found singing somewhere.
Nasir, master gunner, is basically everyone’s dad. As a young boy, he ran away from home and snuck onto a ship, intending to just sleep curled up on the deck hidden behind a coil of rope until the morning. Unfortunately, when he woke, they were out at sea, and he was forced to stay onboard for the next year. When he eventually returned to his home island, the captain dumped him back with his family, and a week later, realized that Nasir had been hiding in his storeroom so that he could stay at sea. Though he’s not their cook, he often likes to help with their meals, is always checking to make sure everyone’s in good health, and is generally available for any questions one might have.
Cyrus, master gunner, might be able to out-weird Brennen. His story is similar to Julian’s–he was found chained below deck on an enemy ship that the Wolf had attacked, barely consciousness and badly beaten. When Julian freed him, he quietly asked to be saved, and hasn’t left Julian’s side since then. Though he’s not fond of land, he won’t refuse to leave the Wolf like Brennen, though he will walk away if you ask him where he’s from. He loves night sailing, sleeping in the crow’s nest, and being around his people while not actually interacting with them.
And the Wolf herself? Three masts, a sun for her figurehead, stars carved into her hull, midnight blue sail with a crescent moon, a small crew, and built for both smuggling and speed.
That is considerably less people than are listed in the post I made with their tarot cards, I know, but Henry, Cole, and Sam are all characters from Saints, and Avery is still a secret. But Corra?
In Saints 2, Sam asks Corra to come with him on the Wolf, to travel the high seas and find adventure. She agrees, thinking it’s just what she needs. It proabaly was, too, but it wasn’t for me. I don’t know why, but every time I was writing a scene, I would subconsciously forget that Corra was there, and she would disappear from it. When it finally came time for a chapter in her POV, I was stuck for a few days trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to write. So, I reached out to two of my readers, Alex and Jen, and was like, listen, be honest with me, does Corra belong on the Wolf?
The unanimous answer? No. It makes no sense for her to leave her whole life behind for someone she’s barely knows. Thus, I made a decision and cut Corra out of the story. And suddenly, I was writing the last 5k of that 30k like it was nothing. I’m sad that she’s no longer in the story, but feel like it was definitely the right thing to do.
Sh, I’m never telling about Avery.
Writing this has been different, to say the least, and truly amazing, if I’m being honest. It’s required a lot of research that I was expecting, but that has been way more fun than I thought it would be. I still have plenty of research books that I need to read (thank you for the headstart, Matt!), and I found a ton of cool YA books that take place either at sea or on an island that’ll continue to help set the mood, and I’m finally rewatching Black Sails because of course it’s a little inspiration. If I’m really being honest, though, Nikolai Lantsov is most of my inspiration for this book. Let’s just get that out now. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo is one of my most anticipated books to read, and it doesn’t come out until next year, ugh.
The journey so far, though, has been really, truly wonderful, and I am so grateful to these characters for demanding a story. It was born out of my love for secondary characters who have no business asking for their own story, and now, here we are. We don’t even meet Julian in the first two Saints books. He’s literally just referenced in, like, a four-line bit of dialogue, but somehow, that was enough to spark a series.
Which is an excellent segue-way. This is, at the moment, going to be at least a trilogy. It’s possible that it could be more, but it’s definitely going to be at least three. I’m still considering it a spin-off even though it’s going to be longer than Saints.
And I think that’s quite enough because I’m feeling the pull to go and dash off another quick 5 or 10k. As a thank you for reading more of my rambling thoughts, here’s a little of what I wrote yesterday. Fair warning: it’s full of darkness.
Julian closed his eyes, and let the rage catch fire.
He could hear Elijah calling orders, Mila yelling at Nathalie not to follow Brennen, and the thundering of feet as the rest tried to help, tried to find a way to quench the flame, tried to survive this night.
And beyond that, the ocean caught the scent of Julian’s rage, and started to churn. He could feel sand between his toes and his choked breaths were stained with salt. There was smoke in his lungs as the deck leapt orange and yellow, but there was a strange, dead calm in his bones as the first wave hit the ship, just a small, warning shove that barely rocked her.
Julian opened his eyes, one dark and flickering in the fire and the other black like the bottom of the ocean, like the spaces were nothing lived in light, the milky white gone. He threw a dirty elbow, caught the boy behind him in the groin, and swung up to his feet. He yanked the knife from his ribs, flipped it in his hand, and hit the girl squarely in the temple with it. She staggered, blinking rapidly, surprised at being attacked, so Julian did it again, harder this time so that the steel bit angrily into his hand. She collapsed to the deck. Julian dropped the knife, hit the boy in the face hard enough that bone crunched and blood gushed from his nose, and then strode across the deck in quick, lilting steps. His calf was screaming, and wet warmth was spreading across his side, but Julian ignored it. The other boy was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter. He could hear the fire roaring behind him, leaping happily across his ship, his home, and when his hand caught the rail, Elijah’s voice rang clear through it all, “Cyrus!”
It was shrill and terrified, and Julian closed his eyes to it again. His knuckles went white on the rail as he ducked his cut hand beneath his shirt, smeared it across the wound dripping blood along his ribs, and then flung his hand out over the sea. At the first drop of his blood, something crashed against the bottom of the ship like a whale gone rogue. Julian waited until he felt the spray of a wave building before he opened his eyes again, and the dark one was starting to stain green at the very corner, like veins of seaweed. “Help me,” he whispered, and the ocean answered.
He could feel her twisting through him as he pivoted back to face the chaos. His mouth was dry from the salt water coating his throat, and a cool, whip-fast breeze was slithering through the smoke in his lungs. All around him, his crew was shouting and running. Elijah and a few others were over the edge, hoisting buckets of water up to several men and women leaning against the rail. Mila was throwing soaked blankets onto the sail to try to quench the fire. Nathalie was on the forecastle, jumping up and down nervously as Brennen pressed back against the mast, her chest rising and falling in quick leaps.
To his right, the boy had risen again, and was trying to help the girl to his feet. The rage blossomed like fire in his veins, nearly choking the ocean’s influence, but Julian swallowed past it. There would be time to throw them overboard later, and the world be damned. Instead, Julian rolled his shoulders forward, feet firm on the ship, and let the ocean swell through him.
“Hold onto something!” he heard someone yell, someone that sounded like Nasir, and though many of them were too busy turning to stare in awe as a massive wave rippled toward them, Julian knew that the ocean would carry them safely if they were thrown from the Wolf. He started running just as the first impact struck, the bottom of the wave bucking against the side of the Wolf, and as it cracked over them, he jumped onto the mainmast and started climbing.
The fire never had a chance. The sea drowned the bottom half of the mainmast and much of the mizzenmast. Julian didn’t bother holding his breath. He kept breathing instead, and felt a rush of light and something otherworldly flood through him as his lungs flooded with seawater. He hauled himself up the mast even as the wave began to settle. It hadn’t reached Cyrus, who was stuck in the burning ropes, his screams echoing like bolts of lightning.
Brennen reached the topsail just before Julian did, and the fire wrapped around her even as she ran across the yard, making for where Cyrus was trapped at the other end. She grit her teeth, muscles jumping in her jaw and pain lashing across her face. Julian stayed just below the flames, and called for the ocean again, for something closer and taller and fatal to all other ships but his own.
Distantly, he heard Elijah screaming for them to hold.
Julian pulled himself up onto the yard as Brennen cut Cyrus free, picked him up, and prepared to jump.
A wordless plea fell from her lips, and she dropped onto the yard, holding Cyrus close to her as she curled around him. “Julian!” she cried.
Julian dropped so that his legs fell on either side of the yard, ankles hooking tight and thighs squeezing against the wood, and wrapped his arms around them. “Hold your breath!” he called over the thunder of the ocean. In front of them, a tidal wave had risen and was moments from breaking. Julian let it swallow them whole.