|“||On Mountain and Ice, in Forest and Lake and Sea, the clans cower in dread before Eostra, who rules the living and the dead… Eostra, who lives for ever.||„|
|~ Eostra envisioning in her thoughts what her reign of terror will be like.|
Eostra, also known as the Masked One, is a major antagonist in Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series (which takes place 6,000 years ago in stone-age Europe). She is the necromantic Eagle Owl Mage and the head of the Soul Eaters. She first appears in Soul Eater and serves as the main antagonist of Ghost Hunter, becoming the final Soul Eater to be vanquished.
Eostra was born to the Eagle Owl Clan. While the Eagle Owls were decent people, Eostra was different. She craved the secrets of the dead. After becoming the new mage of her clan, she carried out a forbidden rite. A ten-year-old boy from her clan had died in a rockfall. On the dark Souls' Night, Eostra went to the cairn where the body lay, removed the rocks, and resurrected the boy. After that, she could talk to the dead.
Shortly after Eostra's forbidden rite, all the remaining Eagle Owls perished out of sickness. Eostra herself disappeared and appeared years later as one of the Healers. She probably founded them and acted as their leader, for when Narrander wanted stubbornly to leave the group, Eostra forced him to stay by taking his eight-year-old son Narik hostage. After Torak's father shattered the Fire Opal into three pieces and ignited the Great Fire, Eostra and the other Soul Eaters went into hiding.
Fourteen years after the Great Fire, Eostra joins forces with Nef, Seshru and Thiazzi to take over the Forest in wintertime. With one of the three Fire Opal pieces in their possession, they locate the Eye of the Viper, a mountain in the Far North. The mountain contains the Door, an underground place where the layer between the mortal realm and the Otherworld is thinnest. The Soul Eaters intend to find the Door and open it to release demons from the Otherworld. They would then bind the demons to their will with the Fire Opal and use them to force all the clans to submit to them.
In order to cast charms to protect themselves from demons, the Soul Eaters require nine predators as sacrifices. While the others hunt down said predators, Eostra has the Fire Opal piece in her possession. One of the captured predators is Wolf, leading Torak and Renn to follow the Soul Eaters to the Eye of the Viper. While Torak impersonates the White Fox boy whom Nef has brought in to serve as the Soul Eaters' apprentice and one of the sacrifices, Eostra appears only a few times.
After the Soul Eaters locate the Door, Torak and Renn free Wolf and the other sacrifices that are still alive. When the three heroes confront the Soul Eaters who are about to open the Door, Eostra stays back with the Fire Opal as Seshru opens the Door for a short period of time and releases a flock of demons. Torak throws an axe at the mace on which Eostra keeps the Fire Opal. The Opal falls to the ground, and the Soul Eaters lose their control over the demons. Renn takes the Fire Opal and flees with her friends. While the other three Soul Eaters give pursuit in order to reclaim the Fire Opal, Eostra remains behind while her eagle owl accompanies the others to observe everything that occurs.
Eostra keeps a low profile for the rest of the Soul Eater as well as during Outcast and Oath Breaker. Nef sacrifices her life to destroy the Fire Opal piece Renn had taken in order to repay her debt to Torak's father. Seshru dies while trying to claim another piece, and her life force is used to destroy its power. Thiazzi finds the last piece (the one Tenris had possessed before dying) and uses it in his own plans to take over the Forest while leaving Eostra out of them. Eostra's eagle owl flies throughout the Forest, gathering information for its mistress. At the end of Oath Breaker, the eagle owl steals the last Fire Opal fragment from Thiazzi (resulting in his death) and flies towards the eastern High Mountains where Eostra is hiding. Most of the children Thiazzi had captured in order to turn them into tokoroths are rescued in time, but one of them has completed the transformation and flees to Eostra.
Moving the chess pieces
Nearly two years after the events of Soul Eater, it is nearly wintertime again, and Eostra has used the passing months to prepare herself for her own schemes. She has taken residence in the sacred Mountain of Ghosts that is situated in the southern side of the High Mountains. She has captured several children from the Mountain clans and turned them into tokoroths. She has also made some of their dogs her savage servants.
Eostra's ultimate goal is to steal Torak's power as a spirit walker for herself. She intends to suck his power from his marrow by eating his world-soul, for it contains the spirit walker's power. She would then spit out his name-soul and clan-soul, making him a Lost One, a creature trapped in eternal darkness and loneliness. She herself would live forever by spirit walking from body to body and rule everything in the Forest, the Sea, the Mountains, and the Far North.
Eostra commences her plans by trying to separate Torak from those closest to him — especially Renn and Wolf — so that he would come alone to her on the approaching Souls' Night. She torments Torak by having him hear his father's voice and leaving for him to find a campfire and an arrow that have been made in his father's style. She also sends grey moths to spread shadow sickness among the clans and puts tokoroths to carve into trees messages for Torak.
Eostra's eagle owl attacks Wolf's den, killing one of the two cubs and causing Wolf's mate Darkfur to fall to her apparent death. It steals the remaining cub Pebble and drops him in the area around the Mountain of Ghosts. Wolf nearly dies while chasing the eagle owl. While Renn tries to catch up with Torak who has set out to confront Eostra, the Eagle Owl Mage summons a powerful blizzard that causes great destruction in the Forest and nearly kills Renn. However, Torak reunites with Renn and Wolf. Rekindling their resolve, they set out to stop Eostra.
The three heroes are hosted by the Mountain clans who reveal the location of the Mountain of Ghosts. While the Mountain Hare Leader Krukoslik tells them about Eostra's past, Renn has a vision which shows her Eostra resurrecting the deceased Eagle Owl boy. When everyone sleeps, Renn is visited in her dream by Eostra. The Eagle Owl Mage tells her how she intends to steal Torak's power as a spirit walker. The next morning, the Mountain clans take Torak, Renn and Wolf to the mouth of the Gorge of the Hidden People from where they can continue their way to the Mountain of Ghosts.
One of Eostra's dogs injures Renn's leg, causing Torak to leave her behind with the Swan Clan. When he and Wolf reach the Mountain, they are attacked by Eostra's dogs. While Wolf lures the dogs away, Torak climbs up the Mountain and runs into Eostra. He is saved from her by Dark, a young albino boy who has for years lived alone in the Mountain and been spared by Eostra only because she does not think he is dangerous enough to be killed.
Dark keeps Torak in his cave for two days until it is almost time for Souls' Night. He takes Torak and Wolf to one of the Mountain's entrances, but he is separated from them when the entrance is sealed. As Torak and Wolf navigate through the tunnel, they are separated from each other by a wall of tough rawhide neither can break through.
As Renn makes her way to the Mountain, she stumbles upon a barely living Darkfur. She realizes that Eostra has allowed Darkfur to come this far so that Renn would treat her and put on hold her chase for Torak. After Darkfur recovers, they continue their way to the Mountain. Dark finds Renn, takes her inside the Mountain through another way in, and guides her through the Mountain's maze.
The final fight
Torak finds his way to the Whispering Cave where Eostra is preparing her spells. Guarded by her tokoroths, dogs and eagle owl, she stands behind an altar on which a fire burns. Once again keeping the Fire Opal at the top of a mace, he winds around it a cord that is twined from the deceased Soul Eaters' hairs. The dogs force Torak to huddle on a perch. He spirit walks in Eostra and tries to take control over her body, only to be trapped by the Eagle Owl Mage's strong will. Eostra then summons the spirits of the deceased Soul Eaters one by one — Tenris, Thiazzi, Nef and Seshru. All of them are under her control thanks to her possessing their hairs. Renn and Dark arrive at the cave, but a chasm prevents them from entering further. They can only kill some of the dogs and tokoroths with arrows and rocks.
When Eostra is about to summon Narrander's spirit, the former Otter Mage — whom Fin-Kedinn has convinced to help Torak against Eostra — appears alive. Without Eostra's knowledge, he has spent the years following the Great Fire as a wandering hermit known as the Walker, driven insane by his son Narik's death in the fire. Tokoroths knock him out, though not before he says something that makes Renn realize how Eostra is controlling the deceased Soul Eaters. She then instructs Torak to cut the hair-cord. Her shouts distract Eostra long enough for Torak's spirit to have a chance to return to his body. As he runs to the altar to destroy the cord, Eostra summons the last deceased Soul Eater — Torak's father.
Longing for his deceased father, Torak runs to the altar, ignoring the eagle owl that steals some of his hair. When his controlled father ignores him, however, he comes to his senses and grabs Eostra's mace. As the Soul Eater and spirit walker struggle with each other, Torak manages to dash the mace into the fire. As the cord burns, he shatters the Fire Opal with a rock. While the shrieking Eostra recovers the shards, the deceased Soul Eaters vanish. The remaining tokoroths and dogs are killed by Torak, Renn, Dark and Wolf who has finally arrived. Wolf also kills the eagle owl, though not before it delivers Torak's stolen hair to its mistress. Eostra places the hair between her mask's wooden lips and tries to stab Torak with her trident.
The Walker recovers and calls on the Hidden People of the Mountain to destroy Eostra. As the Mountain trembles, Eostra loses her balance and falls down the chasm with an unearthly cry. However, her trident catches the hem of Torak's tunic, pulling him down with her. Both Eostra and Torak fall to their deaths, but Torak's spirit is led back to his body by Wolf. With the last Soul Eater and Fire Opal piece eradicated, their threat is finally over.
Eostra is tall and very thin. Her emotionless voice resembles the rattle of dry bones. Her decayed scent resembles that of a corpse. In Soul Eater, flames dip in her presence, making it likely that she is undead.
Eostra wears all the time a tall wooden mask that resembles an owl's face. Its head is cowered by owl feathers that form two sharp owl ears. The mouth is carved open, while the eyeslits show Eostra's penetrating eyes gazing like an eagle owl. The mask is colored grey in Soul Eater, while in Ghost Hunter it is white. It is because of the mask that Wolf calls Eostra the "Stone-Faced One" or "Stone-Face".
Eostra wears a feathered robe that leaves only her hands visible. Her skin has the grainy density of granite and the pale-green sheen of rotting meat. Her hooked nails are tinged with blue like those of a corpse. Her long ashen hair hangs in lank coils. Apparently her hair was dark in her youth, as shown in the vision Renn has of her.
Eostra is a creature that everyone fears, even all the other Soul Eaters. She has always been obsessed with the secrets of the dead, going so far as to perform a forbidden rite to resurrect a deceased boy. In the vision Renn has of said incident, the fresh Eagle Owl Mage exhibits necrophilic vibes by stooping over the boy like a lover and licking decayed froth from his mouth.
Eostra is reserved and distant, often referring to herself in the third person. It is said that nothing can be hidden from her. While most of the Soul Eaters are interested about Torak's spirit walker abilities, Eostra takes that interest further from mere lust for power. She wants to live forever as a spirit walker so that she can rule everything forever. Hunger for power is the only emotion she is not dead to.
Eostra shows herself to be diabolical and meticulous with the way she spreads her influence throughout the Forest in Ghost Hunter. Torak compares her with a spider that weaves her web across the Forest and can sense the tiniest vibration in the furthest thread. She spares Dark even though she could have him killed him anytime, allowing him to keep Torak in his cave for two days until Souls' Night, like a spider that leaves a fly cocooned in her web until she has use for him. She is aware that Torak's friends are of great help to him, so she does everything in her power to ensure that he will face her alone.
When Torak spirit walks inside Eostra, he sees the world through her eyes. In her eyes, everything is colored grey except for the cold red Fire Opal. Her cold will is stronger than anything Torak has spirit walked in before. She feels no pleasure or pain, only the desire for eternal life. For her, tokoroths are not tortured children possessed by demons, but creatures created to enforce her will. Her dogs are in her eyes mere weapons that can be used and then thrown away. As for Torak, he is the husk of the power she craves.
It is unclear how Eostra views the other Soul Eaters, but she probably considers their unique abilities useful. She summons their spirits — even that of Torak's traitorous father — under her control, likely intending to use them as her main underlings.
Powers and Abilities
Eostra is the most powerful Soul Eater and probably one of the most powerful mages to have ever existed. Her greatest ability is necromancy. In the vision Renn has about her deed of resurrecting a boy, she shows telekinetic abilities which she uses to remove the big rocks that cover the boy's corpse.
Eostra seems to be able to teleport with the way she appears and disappears. She may also be mentally connected to her eagle owl and dogs so that she can give them orders and observe things through their eyes. She can also control others in their dreams, like she does with Renn while intruding her dream. She seems to have some level of weather control, as shown with the blizzard and several times with fog. Her grey moths can spread sickness that causes the victims to see demons in their shadows and gouge strange spiky marks everywhere they can, even on their own flesh.
While Eostra uses the last Fire Opal fragment to create tokoroths, her eagle owl and dogs do not seem to be possessed by demons. While it is unclear how she has corrupted them, it may be some sort of demonic magic. The other Soul Eaters used their title to scare people into submission, but Eostra is truly an eater of souls. She wields in Ghost Hunter a three-pronged spear that can snare souls. Her cry tears the souls from one's marrow. She then catches the souls with her trident and swallows them.
|“||Bring it close. (*inspects Torak*) It is well. Take it away.||„|
|~ Eostra meeting Torak for the first time.|
|“||The souls. Give me the souls. (*her request is granted*) It is well.||„|
|~ Eostra demanding from Nef the bound souls of the sacrificed snow owl.|
|“||This is the man. For cruelty.||„|
|~ Eostra chanting about the human sacrifice the Soul Eaters are planning to commit.|
|“||Why has it failed?||„|
|~ Eostra asking why Torak has not brought the remaining sacrifices to the Opening of the Door.|
|“||They hear nothing. They know nothing. Eostra wills it so. (Renn: You're not real.) What Eostra wills shall be. Eostra commands the unquiet dead. Eostra rules Mountain and Forest, Ice and Sea. (*prevents Renn from speaking a charm*) None may hinder Eostra. (Renn: You're not real! I'm not afraid of you!) All fear Eostra. (*comes close to Renn and the sleeping Torak*) (Renn: You can't have him.) The spirit walker is already lost. His time draws near. (Renn: You can't know that for sure.) Eostra knows all. He cannot escape. (*sprinkles ash onto Torak's face*) (Renn: No.) Eostra shall suck the power from his marrow. She shall devour his world-soul and spew what remains into endless night. (Renn: No!) From host to host her souls shall spirit walk down the ages. Eostra shall conquer death. All shall cower before the undying one. Eostra shall live for ever!||„|
|~ Eostra intimidating Renn in the latter's dream.|
|“||By power of bone / By power of stone / By power of demon eye / Eostra summons the Unquiet Dead / Eostra binds them to her!||„|
|~ Eostra chanting during the ritual in which she summons the deceased Soul Eaters.|
|“||Sleek as the seal… the cunning one, Tenris… Come forth!||„|
|~ Eostra summoning the spirit of Tenris.|
|“||Mighty as oak, the strongest one, Thiazzi… Come forth!||„|
|~ Eostra summoning the spirit of Thiazzi.|
|“||Swift as the bat, the twisted one, Nef… Come forth!||„|
|~ Eostra summoning the spirit of Nef.|
|“||Subtle as snake, the seducer… Seshru… Come forth!||„|
|~ Eostra summoning the spirit of Seshru.|
|“||…Narrander… Come forth! (The Walker: Narrander comes. Your spell is flawed. It holds the hair of a living man.) Narrander died. He died in the great fire. (The Walker: Another died! He should have lived! The Walker ends it now!) None can hinder the Masked One.||„|
|~ Eostra being confronted by the Walker.|
|“||Wise as the wolf, the wilful one…||„|
|~ Eostra summoning the spirit of Torak's father.|
|“||Eostra summons the spirit walker / Eostra binds him to her!||„|
|~ Eostra chanting after the Unquiet Dead are dispersed.|
|“||Eostra binds him to her! Eostra lives for ever!||„|
|~ Eostra saying her last words as she gains some of Torak's hair.|
- Eostra is the only Soul Eater and one of the few characters in the series who is wholly depicted in the pictures of the books' pages (discounting the covers).
- Eostra is considered to be the main antagonist of Chronicles of Ancient Darkness because she is the Soul Eaters' leader, the last one of them to be defeated, and the hardest to defeat.
- Torak comparing Eostra with a spider that weaves her web across the Forest and can sense the tiniest vibration in the furthest thread is similar to what Sherlock Holmes says about his archenemy, the also diabolical Professor Moriarty, in The Final Problem: "He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them."
- The forbidden rite Eostra used to raise the dead boy is directly borrowed from a 19th century book on Icelandic folklore. The precise description gathered from older sources says that the sorcerer should lick the "corpse-froth" of mucus that bubbles from the nose and mouth of the dead man as he sits up in his grave. Wondering if anyone was mad enough to try this in the distant past, Paver used the idea with Eostra.
- Eostra's name is inspired by Ēostre (or Ostara), a Germanic pagan goddess of spring and dawn. This is ironic, for Eostra fits better to represent death and darkness.