|“||None can hinder the Masked One.||„|
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 6000 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 spell.
A ten-year-old boy from her clan was buried under rocks. During the dark Souls' Night, Eostra went to the boy's death spot, removed the rocks and resurrected the boy. After that, she could speak with the dead.
Shortly after Eostra's forbidden spell, 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, because she put the insubordinate Narrander in his place by taking from him his eight-year-old son Narik. After the Great Fire ignited by Torak's father, the 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 a Far North mountain called Eye of the Viper that holds many demons. They intend to release the demons, bind them to their will and make all the Clans to submit to them.
Eostra keeps the Fire Opal shard in her possession while the other three Soul Eaters hunt down the predators they require as sacrifices for protective spells against the demons. One of those captives is Wolf, which causes Torak and Renn to follow the Soul Eaters. During the time Torak impersonates as a White Fox boy brought in as the Soul Eaters' acolyte and one of the sacrifices, Eostra appears only a few times.
When Torak, Renn and Wolf confront the Soul Eaters after setting free the still living sacrifices, Torak throws an ax towards Eostra's club that holds the Fire Opal. Renn takes the fallen shard and flees with her friends, but not before Seshru manages to open the portal for a while and release a number of demons. While the other three Soul Eaters set out to reclaim the Fire Opal, Eostra remains behind while having her eagle owl to watch everything happening.
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 shard Renn had taken to repay her debt to Torak's father. Seshru dies while trying to claim another shard, her life used to destroy it. Thiazzi finds the last shard (the one the deceased Tenris had kept) and uses it for his own plans to take over the Forest with Eostra being uninvolved. 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.
The winter is near. Eostra has prepared herself for her own scheme during the previous months. She has taken residence in the sacred Mountain of Ghosts that's situated in the southern side of the High Mountains. Since Soul Eater, she has captured several children from the Mountain Clans and made them tokoroths. She has also made some of their dogs her servants.
Her ultimate goal is to gain as her own Torak's power as a spirit walker. She intends to suck his power from his core, eat his World Soul (as it contains the spirit walker's power) and spit out his Name and Clan Souls, leaving him as a Lost One (a death creature left forever alone in darkness). She herself would spirit walk forever as an immortal and rule the Mountains, the Forest, the Sea and the Ice.
Eostra begins her plans to separate Torak from those closest to him (like Renn and Wolf) so that he would come to her alone during the approaching Souls' Night. She tempts Torak with his father's spirit and traits (his voice, a campfire build like he used to build it and an arrow made in his way), sends grey moths to spread shadow sickness and puts tokoroths to carve markings on trees as messages.
Eostra's eagle owl attacks Wolf's den, killing one of the two cubs and making Wolf's mate Darkfur fall to her apparent death. It steals the remaining cub (Pebble) and drops him to the area around the Mountain of Ghosts. Wolf nearly dies while chasing the eagle owl. While Renn is catching up to Torak, Eostra sends a powerful blizzard that causes great destruction in the Forest and nearly causes Renn's death. However, Torak reunites with Renn and Wolf. They remember their bond and resolve to stop Eostra.
The trio is hosted by the Mountain Clans who reveal the location of the Mountain of Ghosts and Eostra's past (with Renn having a vision of Eostra resurrecting the deceased boy). When everyone sleeps, Renn is visited by Eostra in her dream, and the Eagle Owl Mage reveals how she intends to gain 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 to the Mountain of Ghosts.
One of Eostra's dogs injures Renn's leg, leading Torak to leave her behind. He and Wolf are attacked by Eostra's dogs. While Wolf lures the dogs away, Torak climbs the Mountain and runs into Eostra. He's saved from her by Dark, a young albino boy who has lived in the Mountain for years and has been spared by Eostra only because she views him to be insignificant.
Dark keeps Torak in his cave for two days, until the Souls' Night is almost there. He takes Torak and Wolf to an entrance to the Mountain, but is separated from them by the entrance being sealed. While Torak and Wolf walk through the tunnel, they're separated from each other by a wall made of raw skin that Wolf can't bite.
While Renn climbs the Mountain, she stumbles upon a barely living Darkfur who has been allowed by Eostra to reach that point so that Renn would care for her and not reach 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
|“||By power of bone; By power of stone; By power of demon eye; Eostra summons the Unquiet Dead; Eostra binds them to her!||„|
|~ Eostra's chant during her spell to summon the deceased Soul Eaters|
When Eostra is about to summon Narrander's spirit, the still living Otter Mage appears, having 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 and recently sought out by Fin-Kedinn to help Torak against Eostra. He's knocked out by tokoroths, but not before he says something that makes Renn realize that Eostra is keeping the Soul Eaters' souls in her control through their hairs. She yells at Torak to destroy the thread and makes Eostra to lose focus for a while, allowing Torak's spirit to return to his body. As he runs up to do as Renn said, 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. At the altar Torak comes to his senses and grabs Eostra's staff. After the struggle, he manages to pull it to the fire that burns the thread. Then he breaks 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, but not before it delivers Torak's hair to its mistress. Eostra places the hair between her mask's wooden lips and tries to strike Torak with her trident.
|“||'Eostra binds him to her! Eostra lives for ever!'||„|
|~ Eostra's last words|
The Walker recovers and summons the Hidden People of the Mountain to destroy Eostra. A gaping chasm appears, and losing her balance, Eostra topples into the earthly abyss with "an unearthly shriek". However, her trident catches the hem of Torak's robe, 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. The threat to the Forest was finally gone with the last of the Soul Eaters eradicated.
Eostra is tall and very thin. Her voice is chilly, like clatter of dry bones, and her scent resembles that of a corpse. Probably she is undead, as the flames reduce in her presence.
She always wears a high light wooden mask that resembles an owl's face with owl feathers cowering the head and raising from temples like an owl's tufts. The mouth is open, and the penetrating and unblinking orange gaze from the mask's eye slits is like that of an eagle owl.
Eostra wears a feather cape that leaves only her hands bare. Her skin is granularly compact like a granite and has a pale green glint of a rotting flesh. Her nails are hooked and bluish like with a corpse. Her hair is long and ash grey. Apparently her hair was dark in her youth, as shown in a vision Renn has of her.
Eostra is a creature that everyone fears, even all the other Soul Eaters whom she probably leads. She has always been obsessed with the dead, going so far as to perform a forbidden spell to resurrect a deceased boy. In the vision Renn has of her resurrecting the boy, the newly named Eagle Owl Mage exhibits necrophilic vibes: she holds the boy like a lover and licks from his mouth rotten foam.
Eostra is reserved and distant, often referring to herself in third person. It's said that nothing can be hidden from her. Torak's spirit walker abilities are for her not merely a way to gain power (like for most of the other Soul Eaters), but also to live forever. Nothing other than power interests her.
Eostra shows herself to be diabolical with the way she reaches her influence throughout the Forest in Ghost Hunter. Torak describes her as a spider that is weaving her web across the Forest and can sense the tiniest vibration in the farthest fibre. She spares Dark even though she could have killed him anytime, allowing him to keep Torak in his cave for two days until the 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 though her eyes. In her eyes, everything is colored grey except the burning red Fire Opal. Her 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 tools that can be used and then thrown away. As for Torak, he is for her merely the shell of the power she craves.
It's 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 strongest mages to have ever existed. Her greatest ability is necromancy, and in the vision Renn has of her resurrecting a boy, she shows telekinetic abilities, as she removes the big rocks covering the boy's body.
She also 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. Her control when she visits Renn's dream is chillingly powerful.
She seems to have some weather control, as shown with the blizzard and several times with mist. 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 she uses the last Fire Opal fragment to create tokoroths, her eagle owl and dogs seem not to be demon-possessed. While it's unclear how she has corrupted them, it may be some sort of demonic magic.
While the other Soul Eaters used their title to scare people into submission, Eostra is a Soul Eater certainly. She uses in Ghost Hunter a trident, a three-pronged spear that can catch souls. Her scream can tear the souls from one's core. After that she catches the souls with her trident and swallows them.
- Eostra is the only Soul Eater who is depicted wholly in the books' pictures (discounting 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 [Moriarty] 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".