Basil is an ambitious officer of the Byzantine army of George Maniakes. He commands part of the Tagmatic and Guards units sent to Italy by the Emperor, together with som local forces of the Theme of Apulia.
Basil is far more at home in camp with his soldiers than in the lofty social circles he yearns to join. This is all very disappointing to his wife Cybil.
Basil is constantly trying, and failing, to ingratiate himself with his superiors. This is especially damaging in the intrigue-ridden Byzantine political environment, where so much depends on personal relationships with powerful people.
He has so far been saved from the full consequences of social gaffes by sheer military skill. His one real ally is another misfit; Toste the Varangian commander. Other Byzantine commanders are wary of Basil. While skillful in purely military terms, his unpredictable political and social behaviour is deeply suspect.
Basil's goal is to be made Katepan of italy, gaining huge personal prestige. Not to mention financial reward.
He desperatly hopes that if he gains such a lofty position, his wife Cybil will finally stop nagging him. Her recurring theme is that they might as well open a sea-side inn, as his army career obviously isn't going anywhere.
Basil is nominally loyal to George Maniakes, but is perfectly willing to switch sides or strike out on his own.
Toste is literally an old-school Viking who has served in the Varangian Guard for years and risen to command his own unit. Now in his 80s, he is still a formidable fighter, although constantly complaining about the frailties of old age.
He and his men ascribe his survival and success to his spiritual connection with a Valkyrie called Skaugul, from whom he gets his nick-name. Toste is the only one who can actually see and converse with Skaugul, but he claims that he gets advise and encouragement from her in return for sending many enemies to Valhalla.
He and his men are firmly convinced of his supernatural connection with Skaugul. They have seen Toste make too many counter-intuitive but correct decisions in battle to doubt that he really is guided by something. In reality, the something is probably his vast experience, rather than any spirit guide.
Skoglar-Toste's goal is simply to gain glory and riches by sending enemies to Valhalla. He talks frequently of retiring, but probably won't.
During his time in Italy he has befriended the Byzantine commander Basil Faultopoulous. Toste will fight at his friend's side unless Basil does something that Toste regards as dishonorable by the standards of Toste's own peculiar code of honour.
Historical note: Toste is a half-historical, half-mythical person. He is mentioned as a great warrior in Harald Gråfälls Saga, and might have been the ancestor of some later Swedish Kings. He did go on Viking raids and was well known, but there is no record of him ever going East to join the Varangian Guard, even less anything about being active at age 80. Not until now, that is.