|“||What's to stop me putting you on the Rock, and keeping the cure for the Seals? Learn from this, Torak. Never try to lock wills with a Mage. Especially not with me.||„|
|~ Tenris warning Torak not to trifle with him.|
Tenris is a Soul Eater and one of the main antagonists of Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series (which takes place 6,000 years ago in stone-age Europe). He appears in Spirit Walker as the Seal Mage, and he is later revealed to be the creator of the Demon Bear from Wolf Brother as well as the paternal uncle of the main hero Torak.
Before Spirit Walker
Tenris was born roughly 41 years before the beginning of Wolf Brother. His father was from the Wolf Clan and his mother was from the Seal Clan. He was declared a Seal Clan member. He had a brother younger by two years who became a Wolf Clan member. When Tenris was eleven years old and his brother was nine years old, they met the eleven-year-old Fin-Kedinn, the future Raven Clan chieftain. The trio lived for five months as the Wolf Clan's fosters. While Fin-Kedinn was interested about hunting, both of the brothers lived for Magecraft. They still remained as good friends for ten years.
During the eleventh year, Tenris' brother was named the Wolf Clan's mage, but Tenris himself did not become the Seals' mage. No one realized how bitter this setback was before he left to wander, never to meet Fin-Kedinn again. Where he wandered is left unknown, but when the Healers were formed six years later, he joined them with his brother despite not being a clan mage. When his brother eventually ignited the Great Fire and shattered the Soul Eaters' power, Tenris received third-degree burns over his body's left side. He also came into possession of one of the three Fire Opal shards.
After the Soul Eaters scattered and went into hiding for the following 13 years, Tenris returned to the Seal Islands, his clan's home area. He became the new Seal Mage, though it is unknown how that happened. Under his influence, the Seal Clan became more isolated and unwilling to have dealings with the Forest. He also found out that his brother and sister-in-law had survived, so he planned to have his revenge.
Two years before the events of Wolf Brother, Tenris started experimenting on a sickness that makes the victim's souls drift apart, turning them mad until they die. He was not sure what he would use his invention for, only that he needed a weapon. He unleashed his invention upon his clan before he pretended to have found a cure. Four Seals lost their lives, including Bale's little brother and the son of the chieftain Islinn.
Shortly before the start of Wolf Brother, Tenris decided to have his revenge. Posing as a crippled wanderer from the Willow Clan, he visited the Red Deer Clan. He made acquaintance with their foster Hord (Fin-Kedinn's nephew and Renn's brother), tricking him to catch for him a young bear. Using the Fire Opal, Tenris conjured an elemental (the strongest type of demons) and trapped it inside the bear's body. The newly created demon bear went rampage across the Forest while Tenris fled. Tenris' monstrous creation eventually found Tenris' brother and killed him, just as Tenris had planned. Torak, son of Tenris' brother, eventually managed to destroy the bear with the help of Wolf, Renn and Fin-Kedinn. Hearing about the bear's demise, Tenris became determined to locate its killer.
In summertime, six months following the ending of Wolf Brother, Tenris sends his two tokoroths to poison the Forest's juniper berries to spread the sickness he had created. Torak leaves the Raven Clan to find a cure. He ends up at the seashore and unintentionally offends Bale, Detlan and Asrif by using his Forest-made hunting gear to fish in the Sea. The three Seal boys take him to the western Seal Islands to have him punished.
Tenris meets Torak who tells the name of his paternal grandmother and shows the ceremonial knife he received from his father, confirming his identity to Tenris who recognizes his mother's name and the knife his brother made. Torak informs the Seals about the plague and convinces them to help making the cure, sparing himself from receiving a severe punishment for offending the Sea Mother. He seemingly succeeds in this by negotiating with Tenris who adopts a kindly façade and gains Torak's trust.
Tenris lies that the cure can be created only during Midsummer night (which happens to be Torak's birthtime) which is only a few days away. He sends Torak with the Seal boys who captured him to acquire a fabricated ingredient: selik root that grows only on the Eagle Heights. Meanwhile, he hunts down a young orca whale, kills it (which the Sea Clans' laws forbid), and takes its teeth for his spells, leaving the rest of the body to rot (another taboo). This causes one of the whale's kin to cause havoc across the Seal Islands' waters in its search for the young whale's killer.
After the root has been recovered and Detlan is crippled by the vengeful orca whale, Tenris arrives to treat his wound. While the others sleep, Torak tells Tenris about his recent experiences which he does not know to be spirit walking. Astonished, Tenris realizes their meaning and explains them to Torak. While Tenris sounds excited about the power Torak has, the boy cannot accept himself to be different.
When it is mere hours to Midsummer night, most of the Seal Clan have left to celebrate it in the island of the Cormorant Clan. Leaving Detlan and Asrif behind, Tenris, Bale and Torak paddle toward the empty Seal Clan's camp. They are caught in a storm that separates Torak from Tenris and Bale. The two Seals arrive to the camp where they encounter Renn who has remained hidden on the island for days. She realizes Tenris' identity as a Soul Eater, but he manipulates Bale and later Torak as well to think that she has been infected by the plague. He puts Bale to guard her and sends her a soup of poisoned juniper berries. While Tenris is going with Torak to prepare the cure at the altar that situates on the Crag, a tokoroth knocks Torak out.
When Torak wakes up, he finds himself tied up on the altar, with the tokoroths building a fire barricade to seal the Crag off the island. Tenris appears with his Soul Eater tattoo bare and reveals all his secrets to the disbelieving boy — the plague, the unexisting cure, the killed orca whale, the demon bear, and his kinship to Torak. Tenris intends to eat Torak's heart in order to take his spirit walker powers for himself and become the most powerful mage to have ever existed.
As Tenris prepares for the incoming ritual, Wolf — who has just prevented Renn from eating the poisoned soup — arrives and leads the tokoroths away from the Crag. While the flames prevent anyone from entering or leaving the Crag, Renn and Bale — who has finally realized the truth — canoe to the Sea from where Renn shoots an arrow in Tenris' palm. As the Soul Eater recovers from the arrow wound, Torak stands up while remaining tied up. Tenris tries to convince Torak to give up and allow Tenris to give him a quick death, but the boy jumps over the cliff to let himself drown. Tenris dives after him and begins taking him back to the shore. Torak manages to grab with his teeth Tenris' amulet that prevents orca whales from finding him and spit it into the Sea. The vengeful orca whale arrives, recognizes its kin's killer, and drags Tenris underwater to his death, leaving Torak unharmed. However, before Tenris is dragged underwater, he tells Torak to demand from Fin-Kedinn the truth about his father's former membership to the Soul Eaters.
With Tenris and his tokoroths gone, the Seal Clan reopens its connections with the Forest. Renn figures out the cause of the plague, and once the poisoned juniper berries are disposed of, the plague passes away. Haunted by Tenris' last words, Torak goes to Fin-Kedinn for answers. The Raven Clan chieftain tells about his past with Tenris and Torak's father, confessing that the latter used to be a Soul Eater.
Before his death, Tenris sends a message to Seshru, saying that "The Wolf lives". The remaining Soul Eaters are unsure what the message means until they face Torak in Soul Eater. The Fire Opal Tenris possessed remains hidden under the Crag's altar until Thiazzi finds it there in the beginning of Oath Breaker. This last remaining piece of the Fire Opal eventually passes from Thiazzi to Eostra to be used in Ghost Hunter.
Tenris' spirit appears briefly in Ghost Hunter when Eostra summons him with the other deceased Soul Eaters. He is under Eostra's control because the Eagle Owl Mage possesses his hair. He vanishes when the spell is broken.
In Viper's Daughter, four years following Tenris' death, it is revealed that after Seshru failed to create a tokoroth out of her newborn daughter Renn, she had an affair with Tenris. She then birthed Naiginn and trapped an ice demon in his body. She then left him to be raised by the Narwal Clan in the Far North. It is unknown if Tenris knew anything about Naiginn's existence.
Tenris is described to be handsome in a sharp-boned way. He has a straight nose, a wide mouth adorned by deep laughter lines, a thick sandy hair, and a dark gold beard cut close to his strong-lined jaw. He is tall and muscular with a tanned skin, long fingers and gray eyes. The Great Fire has left terrible three-degree burns across his body's left side, at least above the belt. His left hand is twisted from burning. His left eye is lashless, and his bare scalp is mottled pink. Only his mouth is unscathed.
Like with the other Seal men, Tenris' clan tattoos are blue wavy seaweeds traveling across his arms. Like the other Soul Eaters, he has a three-pronged black fork tattooed over his heart. His everyday clothing does not differ from the rest of his clan (breeches and a jerkin made of gray seal skin), except that he wears a magnificent two-hand wide belt that made of braided hide and fringed with puffin beaks. He wears a scrunched red wreath hanging from a leather string as an amulet that keeps his presence hidden from orca whales. He sometimes smokes aromatic leaves with a pipe made out of a crab-claw. When Tenris prepares to steal Torak's power, he wears an ashen mask (that is used during one's mourning period) and chews a foul-smelling paste that colors his tongue black and scleras yellow.
Tenris' voice is one of his more striking features. It is described to be like the Sea: smooth-flowing and low-pitched, yet with an undertow of great power.nIt is a voice that anyone wants to hear and helps Tenris with his manipulations.
Since his youth, Tenris has been proud and craved power and control before anything else. This contrasted with his younger brother who was eager to learn the ways of trees, prey and hunters as well as help people with his talents. The fact that he did not become the Seal Clan's mage even though his brother became the Wolf Clan's mage was embittering to him so much that he isolated himself from others. He reveals all his bitterness when he shows Torak his true colors.
Tenris is very persuasive as he became a member of the Healers despite not being a clan mage. For years, he kept his clan in his charismatic grip, isolating them from outside influences and being the unofficial leader despite not being the chieftain. His façade of a wandering cripple from the Willow Clan was so convincing that the Red Deer Clan (that tends to have the best mages) did not discover his true identity before it was too late. He had his entire clan's trust, including the old and experienced chieftain Islinn. He wins Torak's trust with his façade that reminds the boy of a more friendly and less distant Fin-Kedinn. He even manages to briefly make the sharp-witted Renn inclined to believe him to be benevolent. When Eostra summons Tenris' spirit in Ghost Hunter, she describes him as "sleek as the seal, the cunning one".
His hunger for power is so great that he cares nothing for the lives of others and secretly breaks clan laws. He breaks an ancient pact by creating the demon bear that kills without purpose. He kills a young orca whale without proper respect and creates two tokoroths out of two children, treating them cruelly as underlings. He allowed four members of his clan (of whom at least one was a child) to die so that he could see the effects of his newly created sickness, and he did not even have a clear purpose for it at the time. He even tries to kill his own nephew to gain his spirit walker powers, considering it a waste for Torak to be gifted with such power. He wants to become the most powerful mage to have ever existed by becoming a spirit walker, even more powerful than his fellow Soul Eaters who consider his demon bear to be a mad creation.
Powers and Abilities
Tenris is a talented mage, well-versed in the customs and ways of the Sea. He also knows the ways of the Forest better than the other Seals in Spirit Walker, thanks to having partially grown up there. This helped him with his cover identity as a crippled wanderer from the Willow Clan.
Tenris is physically strong, overpowering Torak easily, and he swims faster than an eel. Like his clansmen, he is an expert paddler and harpooner. He claims that he cannot climb because of his lungs having burned. oHw much this actually hinders him is unclarified. His demon-son Naiginn claims in Viper's Daughter that he was the best hunter the Seal Clan ever had, which is why Naiginn is the best hunter of the Far North.
Tenris also knows a lot about poisons. He used this knowledge to create a sickness that tears the victim's souls apart, driving them to paranoia, madness and eventual death. It is spread by poisoning juniper berries that are used as nutriment.
Tenris' special talent as a Soul Eater is said to be his interest in controlling demons. He used the Fire Opal to create two tokoroths and the demon bear by trapping an elemental (the strongest type of demons) inside a bear's body. While he has the tokoroths under his control, he could not control the demon bear. He also created an amulet that conceals him from orca whales as long as he wears it.
|“||Poor little Torak. You don't know what you're agreeing to. You don't even know where you are.||„|
|~ Tenris when Torak swears to help him in preparing the cure.|
|“||Listen to me. What you did so easily — without even trying — is something the cleverest Mages strive their whole lives to achieve! Why, once I knew a Mage — a good one — who tried for six winters on end. Six winters of trances and potions and fasting. Then finally, for a few heartbeats — he succeeded. And he counted himself the luckiest of men! (Torak: I don't want it. I never —) But Torak, this is the very purpose of Magecraft! We do not learn Magecraft merely to trick fools with coloured fire! We do it to delve deeper! To know the hearts of others! Think what you could do if you learned to use this! You could discover such secrets! You could know the speech of hunters and prey. You could gain such power…||„|
|~ Tenris alluding to his true nature while explaining Torak what being a spirit walker is about.|
|“||You've gone very pale. (Renn: I'm — I just need to find Torak.) So do I. Come. Let's go and get something to eat. (*turns his attention to a scab in Renn's hand*) Oh, my poor child, what's this? Look, Bale. The poor little thing has the sickness. (Renn: No I don't. It's not the sickness, it's a —) You mustn't worry any more. From now on, I will look after you.||„|
|~ Tenris falsely proclaiming Renn to be infected before she can expose him as a Soul Eater.|
|“||(Torak: You. A Soul-Eater.) One of the seven, Torak. But with your help, I shall rise above the others. I shall become the greatest of them all. (Torak: I won't help you do that.) (*smiles*) You don't have a choice.||„|
|~ Tenris revealing his true colors to the captured Torak.|
|“||Your friends can't help you. One of them is guarding the other. There's a kind of beauty in that, don't you think? (Torak: The sickness. You were the one who sent it.) I din't send it. I created it. My tokoroth have the demon skill for creeping into shelters. And I… Well, I'm very good at poisons. (Torak: But — why?) That's the interesting part. When I began three summers ago, I had no idea how I'd use it; I simply knew that I needed a weapon. Sometimes not even I can tell all that the future holds. (Torak: So Bale's little brother…) (*Tenris shrugs*) I just wanted to know if it worked. (Torak: And this summer. The clans. Why?) To smoke you out. To find out what you can do. And it worked, although not in the way I expected. You see, I didn't know who you were. All I knew was that there was someone in the Forest with power. I thought that whoever it was would perform some great feat of Magecraft to rid his people of the sickness. Instead what did you do? You came to me — me! Begging me to make the cure! Oh, it was meant to be!||„|
|~ Tenris telling Torak about his plans and the sickness.|
|“||Sometimes being a Mage is almost too easy. All it takes is a little colored fire.||„|
|~ Tenris commenting about his tokoroths being fascinated by purple fire.|
|“||When I found out what you could do, I could not believe it. That a boy should have such power. Power to tame hunters and trammel prey. Power to rule the clans… What a waste. Soon, that power will be mine. I will take it for myself, and become the spirit walker. I will be the greatest Mage who ever lived… (Torak: How? What are you going to do?) Midsummer. The most potent night for Magecraft — and it's your birthnight! Oh, it is perfect! All the signs point to this, all telling me to do it! Do you remember what I told you about Midsummer night? That it's all about change? Tree into leaf, boy into man. I'm going to eat your heart.||„|
|~ Tenris revealing how he intends to steal Torak's spirit walker abilities.|
|“||(Torak: You said you thought I was "the one". What did you mean?) The one who destroyed the bear. (Torak: The bear.) I created it. I caught the demon. I trapped it in the body of the bear. You destroyed it. (Torak: You're lying. Whoever made the bear was crippled. A crippled wanderer. (*Tenris laughs and walks with a fake limp*) Easy, isn't it? Although I confess I did get very bored. (*Torak starts crying*) What's this? Tears?||„|
|~ Tenris revealing himself to be the creator of the demon bear that killed Torak's father.|
|“||Ah, you're just like him! Always wanting to know why. Why, why, why. He betrayed me. He was weak. Worthless. And yet he thought that he could — (Torak: He wasn't worthless.) What do you know? (Torak: He was my father.) He was my brother.||„|
|~ Tenris revealing himself to be Torak's uncle when the boy asks why Tenris had his father murdered.|
|“||Give up, Torak. It's over! (*hears Wolf's howling*) He's far away. He can't help you any more. (Torak: He's' helped enough.) You're on your own now, Torak. Your friends can't try another shot at me, or they'd risk hitting you. Give up, Torak. You've done well, but it's time to pass your power to one who knows how to use it. I'll make it quick. I promise. You have no choice. You know that.||„|
|~ Tenris trying to convince Torak to let himself be killed.|
|“||Ask Fin-Kedinn about your father! Make him tell you the truth —||„|
|~ Tenris saying his last words to Torak before he is killed by the vengeful orca whale.|
- Tenris' puffin beak-belt is inspired by Paver's research of ancient cultures. Shamans and witch doctors have worn ceremonial belts that are to help them in reaching the spirit world, healing the sick, and foretelling the prey's movements and weather. Among Inuit, a medicine man called angakkuq would wear a belt that can be adorned with talismans such as beaks and bones.