|“||What Eostra wills shall be. Eostra commands the unquiet dead. Eostra rules Mountain and Forest, Ice and Sea.||„|
|~ Eostra asserting herself.|
Eostra, also known as the Masked One, is the head of the Soul Eaters, the primary antagonists of Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series (which takes place 6,000 years ago in prehistoric Europe during the Stone Age). She is the Eagle Owl Mage and appears in Soul Eater and Ghost Hunter, serving as the main antagonist of the latter book.
Eostra was born to the Eagle Owl clan. While the Eagle Owls were decent people, Eostra was different. She craved for the secrets of the dead. After becoming the new mage of her clan, she performed a forbidden rite. A ten-year-old boy from her clan died in a rockfall. During the dark Souls' Night, Eostra went to the boy's cairn, removed the rocks and resurrected the boy. After that, she could speak with 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 was their leader, for when Narrander wanted stubbornly to leave the group, Eostra forced him to stay by taking hostage his eight-year-old son Narik. 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.
During winter time, Eostra joins up with Nef, Seshru and Thiazzi in a new plot to take over the Forest. With one of the three Fire Opal shards in their possession, they locate the Eye of the Viper, a mountain in the Far North. The mountain contains a Door, an underground place where the layer between the mortal world and the Otherworld is thinnest. The Soul Eaters intend to find and open the Door 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.
Eostra keeps the Fire Opal shard in her possession while the other three Soul Eaters hunt down predators as sacrifices for protective spells against the demons. One of the captured predators is Wolf, which prompts Torak and Renn to follow the Soul Eaters. While Torak impersonates as the White Fox boy whom Nef has brought in as the Soul Eaters' acolyte 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 living sacrifices. When the three heroes confront the Soul Eaters who are about to open the Door, Eostra stays back with the Fire Opal as Seshru temporarily opens the Door and releases a number of demons. Torak throws an axe toward Eostra's mace in which she keeps the Fire Opal. The Opal falls to the ground, and the Soul Eaters cannot control the demons without it. Renn takes the Fire Opal and flees with her friends. While the other three Soul Eaters set out to reclaim the Fire Opal, Eostra remains behind while her eagle owl accompanies the others to observe everything that occurs.
Eostra keeps 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 to repay her debt to Torak's father. Seshru dies while trying to claim another shard, with her life-force used to destroy its power. Thiazzi finds the last shard (the one Tenris had possessed before dying) and uses it in his own plans to take over the Forest while keeping Eostra out of it. Eostra's eagle owl flies throughout the Forest, gathering information for Eostra. At the end of Oath Breaker, the eagle owl steals the last Fire Opal fragment from Thiazzi (resulting in his death) and flies toward the eastern High Mountains where Eostra is hiding.
Moving the chess pieces
The winter is near and Eostra has used the last 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. Since the events of Soul Eater, she has captured several children from the Mountain clans and turned them into tokoroths. She has also corrupted some of their dogs into 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 core and eat his world-soul, as it contains the spirit walker's power. She would then spit out his name-soul and clan-soul, making him a Lost One, a dead creature left forever alone in darkness. She herself would spirit walk forever as an immortal and rule everything in the Forest, the Sea, the Mountains and the Far North.
Eostra initiates her plans by trying to separate Torak from those closest to him — especially Renn and Wolf — so that he would come to her alone for the approaching Souls' Night. She torments Torak with his father's spirit by having him hear his voice and leaving for him to find a campfire and an arrow that have been made in the style of Torak's father. She also sends grey moths to spread shadow sickness among the clans and puts tokorots to carve on trees markings for Torak to see.
Eostra's eagle owl attacks Wolf's den, killing one of the two cubs and causing Wolf's mate Darkfur fall to her apparent death. It steals the remaining cub Pebble and leaves him in the area around the Mountain of Ghosts. Wolf nearly dies while chasing the eagle owl. While Renn is trying to catch up with Torak, Eostra summons a powerful blizzard that causes great destruction in the Forest and nearly kills Renn. However, Torak reunites with Renn and Wolf. Rekindling their bonds, they resolve to stop Eostra.
The trio is hosted by the Mountain clans who reveal the location of the Mountain of Ghosts. While being told about Eostra's past, Renn has a vision of Eostra resurrecting the deceased Eagle Owl boy. When everyone sleeps, Renn is visited by Eostra in her dream. 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 there they can continue to the Mountain of Ghosts.
One of Eostra's dogs injures Renn's leg, leading Torak to leave her behind. 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 lived in the Mountain for years and been spared by Eostra only because she considers him to be insignificant.
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 seals itself off. While Torak and Wolf navigate through the tunnel, they are separated from each other by a wall of tough rawhide that Wolf cannot bite.
While Renn climbs up the Mountain, she stumbles upon a barely living Darkfur. She realizes that Eostra has allowed Darkfur to come so far so that Renn would care for her and abandon her chase for Torak. After Darkfur recovers, they continue the climb. Dark finds Renn, leads her inside the Mountain through another path and guides her through the Mountain's caverns.
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. She winds around the Fire Opal a cord twined of the deceased Soul Eaters' hairs. The dogs force Torak to hang from a perch. He spirit walks into Eostra, 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 under her control — Tenris, Thiazzi, Nef and Seshru. Renn and Dark arrive to 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 destroy the hair-cord. Her first shouts distract Eostra enough to give Torak's spirit 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. He comes to his senses when his controlled father ignores him and grabs Eostra's mace. After the Soul Eater and spirit walker struggle over the mace, Torak manages to dash it into the fire. As the cord burns, he shatters the Fire Opal with a rock. As 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 strike Torak with her trident.
The Walker recovers and pleads the Hidden People of the Mountain to destroy Eostra. As the Mountain trembles, Eostra loses her balance and topples into a chasm with an unearthly cry. However, her trident catches the hem of Torak's tunic, pulling him down with her. Eostra and Torak both fall to their deaths, but Torak's spirits are lead back into 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 more likely that she is undead.
Eostra wears always 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 refers to Eostra as the "Stone-Faced One".
Eostra wears a feather robe that leaves only her hands bare. Her skin has the grainy density of granite and the pale-green sheen of rotting flesh. 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 whom she leads. 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 the incident, the fresh Eagle Owl Mage exhibits necrophilic vibes by holding 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 farther 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 feeling she is not dead to.
Eostra shows herself to be diabolical with the way she reaches her influence throughout the Forest in Ghost Hunter. Torak compares her to a spider that weaves her web across the Forest and can sense the tiniest vibration in the farthest thread. She spares Dark even though she could have killed him anytime, allowing him to keep Torak in his cave for two days until Souls' Night, like a spider that stores a fly in its web until the time is right. She allows the weakened Darkfur to cross paths with Renn so that Torak's friend would abandon her race for him.
When Torak spirit walks into 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 into before. She feels no pleasure or pain, only the desire for eternal life. For her, tokoroths are not children possessed by demons, but creatures created as enforcers of her will. Her dogs are in her eyes mere weapons that can be used and then thrown away. As for Torak, he is for her 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 father — under her control, probably to have 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 of her 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 connected mentally to her eagle owl and dogs so that she can give them instructions and observe things. She can also control others in their dreams, as she does with Renn while intruding her dream. She seems to possess 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 claw strange angular patterns everywhere they can, even 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 scream tears the souls from one's core. 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 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 to the Soul Eaters the remaining sacrifices.|
|“||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 Renn and 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 her 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 willful 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 who is depicted wholly in the books' pictures (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's thoughts about Eostra being a spider that weaves her web across the Forest and can sense the tiniest vibration in the farthest fibre 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 centre 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 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.
- Eostra's name is similar to Ēostre, a Germanic pagan goddess of spring, fertility and light. This is ironic, for Eostra fits better to represent death and darkness.