Tanner was a soldier who was a member of a troop of some fifty Malazan mercenaries under the leadership of "Cap'n" Yusen. This band of mercenaries gave every sign of being composed of experienced veterans of one of the various Imperial Malazan Armies. Tanner, like most of the mercs, was "accoutred as heavy infantry", with a large shield, crossbow, and "short thrusting weapons". Tanner was described as being one of three "big" swordsmen - along with his fellow mercs, Dee and Ostler.
The latest employer of these mercenaries was the sorceress, Spite, who had transported the troop by ship to Jacuruku - specifically to Jacuruku's most northern coast where the ruins of the Dolmens of Tien were situated. Spite had also brought along two mages, Murk and Sour, to help her retrieve something extremely powerful from the center of the Dolmens - Tanner, Ostler and Dee were assigned by Yusen to guard these mages as they worked.