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Gratitude is a terrible thing. That's why we're here, boy, to make things right with the World Spirit!
~ Nef telling Torak about the Soul Eaters' motives

Nef is a Soul Eater and one the main 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 Bat Mage, making her only significant appearance in Soul Eater.

History

Before Soul Eater

Most of Nef's life before she joined the Healers is unknown. What is known is that she was born to the Bat Clan that resides in the Deep Forest. She had a son who was born one year before Torak. He died out of starvation when the prey disappeared from their part of the Forest. Out of sadness, Nef tried to commit suicide, but the Wolf Mage (Torak's father) prevented it. Whatever this happened before or after the Great Fire is unknown, though the former option is more likely, given that the Soul Eaters went into hiding after the Great Fire.

Soul Eater

During winter time, Nef joins up with Eostra, 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 the Eye of the Viper that contains many demons. They intend to release the demons, bind them to their will and make all the Clans to submit to them.

Nef helps Thiazzi and Seshru in hunting down predators they require as sacrifices for protective spells against the demons. They capture Wolf by using the stench of Nef's bat as a bait. They then set out toward Far North with Torak and Renn pursuing them. Requiring a human as one of the sacrifices, Nef tempts a White Fox boy to serve as the Soul Eaters' acolyte, filling his head with dreams of power.

When the Soul Eaters have gathered all the nine predators in the Eye of the Viper, Torak takes the White Fox boy's place, managing to fool the Soul Eaters who have hardly seen the White Fox boy's face. While Nef makes Torak to help her in feeding the sacrifices, she tells a bit about the Soul Eaters' intentions and her own past before forcing him to sacrifice one of the predators (an owl), claiming it to be a test for becoming a Soul Eater.

While Torak reunites with Renn and frees Wolf, the Soul Eaters slaughter two more sacrifices (a lynx and a polar bear). Torak encounters Nef in the room containing the sacrifices. Aware of the Bat Mage's insecurities, he tries to convince her to change her mind. After that fails, she orders him to bring the remaining sacrifices forth while she goes to fetch Wolf. After she has left, Torak and Renn set free the sacrifices and go to the other Soul Eaters to prevent them from releasing the demons. Nef arrives afterwards to raise the alarm over the released sacrifices. During the ensuing fight, Renn steals the Fire Opal and flees with Torak and Wolf, though not before Seshru manages to release a number of demons.

Nef sets out with Seshru and Thiazzi (along with Eostra's eagle owl) to reclaim the Fire Opal. They catch up Torak who's been separated from Wolf and Renn. Nef recognizes the ceremonial knife Torak's father passed to his son, and the boy's identity finally dawns on the Soul Eaters, making Nef to look him with completely new eyes. Nonetheless, the Soul Eaters force Torak to take them to Renn who has the Fire Opal, but not before Seshru forcefully tattoos the Soul Eaters' mark on his chest. While this happens, Nef stands in watch.

When they reach Renn, Torak is shocked at how the Bat Mage seems to have grown older in one night. Renn, who's about to jump into a crevasse in order to destroy the Fire Opal's power, is cornered. Having lured a polar bear there with the scent of his blood, Torak spirit walks into it and battles the Soul Eaters. Wolf herds the released demons there with an arctic wolf pack. While this happens, Nef reaches Renn, takes the Fire Opal from her and throws her away from the crevasse. With bitter triumph, she yells at Torak to tell his father that her debt is repaid. She then jumps into the crevasse, and the demons follow her and end up being sealed under the ice. The Fire Opal's power drifts away in the process.

The debt is repaid! Tell your father when you meet him! The debt is repaid!'
~ Nef's last words

Legacy

Nef's sacrifice makes Torak to cry for her fate and decide that she's wasn't entirely evil. The remaining Soul Eaters are forced to keep low for a while and seek out the two remaining Fire Opal shards to replace the one Nef destroyed.

Nef's soul appears briefly in Ghost Hunter, summoned by Eostra and under her control through her hair the Eagle Owl Mage possesses. She vanishes when the spell is broken.

Appearance

Nef is described to be a thickset woman with bend legs. Her legs give her a bow-legged appearance and make her sway while walking. The cause of her legs' condition is never discussed. When she has a hood over her head, she can be easily mistaken for a big man. Her voice lets Torak to mistake her for a man before he sees her.

Nef's facial traits are oddly in contrast with the rest of her appearance. She has a sharp jaw and small twinkling eyes. Her pointed ears remind Torak of a bat. Her clan tattoo is a spike made on her cheek. Like the other Soul Eaters, she has a three-pronged black fork tattooed on her chest. She also wears as a necklace a bone amulet with the same mark carved on it.

Curiously, while most people have some part (usually skin) of their totem tied in their anoraks, Nef has a living bat residing on her shoulder. It is because of the stench of this bat that Wolf refers to Nef as "Stinkfur". She sets it free before sacrificing herself.

Personality

Sometimes the innocent must suffer for the good of the many.
~ Nef explaining her life philosophy

Nef is described to be one of the smarter and more observant Soul Eaters. Her thoughts are said to fly faster than a bat. According to Fin-Kedinn, she loved to enchant small animals to do her bidding. She even has a living bat residing on her shoulder as her clan totem, treating it affectionately.

Nef acts gruffly in Soul Eater, but she ultimately turns out to be more merciful than most of her fellow Soul Eaters. Unlike the others, who seek power for their own personal gains, Nef wants power in order to unite the Clans for a better future. She considers the World Spirit's unpredictability in providing prey unevenly and letting one child to die (like her own son) and another live to be a sign that the Clans are unable to live like they should. She believes that the Soul Eaters can set the Clans on the right path with fear. She says that the title "Soul Eater" is foolish, but she uses it as a way to gain power over others.

Nef thinks that sometimes some have to suffer for the good of others and is ready to sacrifice predators (which is forbidden by the Clans' laws) in order to gain power to control the Forest. However, she despises needless cruelty and repeatedly stands up to the sadistic Thiazzi when he tortures the sacrifices and Torak. She also doesn't seem to agree in much with Thiazzi and Seshru. She's the one shown to be handling the sacrifices' feeding, but gives only water to the polar bear so that it couldn't escape.

Both Wolf and Torak become aware of Nef's inner uncertainties. After slaughtering the lynx and the polar bear, she mutters to herself that she must be strong, as if trying to banish her doubts. She also regrets that she can't repay her debt to Torak's father for saving her life until at the end of Soul Eater. For Torak she develops some motherly feelings as he reminds her of her deceased son. After learning him to be the Wolf Mage's son, she asks his name and repeats it after him, seeing him in a completely new light.

Eventually her kind side wins over, and she takes Renn's place in order to destroy the Fire Opal and repay her debt to Torak's father. She places the Wolf Mage's knife in Renn's belt so that she can return it to Torak before tossing her away from the crevasse. She even sends away her beloved bat so that it wouldn't die with her.

Powers and abilities

Nef was a talented mage who apparently could enchant small animals to do her bidding. The bat that serves as her clan totem is a prove of this. Her most known ability is her cleverness — her thoughts are said to move faster than a bat flies. Despite her legs being bent, she moves swiftly. She's also physically strong and has decent survival skills. When Eostra summons Nef's spirit in Ghost Hunter, the Eagle Owl Mage describes her as "swift as the bat, the twisted one".

Trivia

  • Members of Nef's clan, the Bat Clan, appear in Oath Breaker. Their clan tattoos are described to be black and angular, and they're situated in their legs. This is somewhat contradictional with Nef's tattoo being a spike on her cheek. However, it's possible that Bat women are tattooed like Nef, and the Bat Clan members shown in Oath Breaker are men. It's also possible that the tattoo on Nef's cheek is for some other purpose than to brand her as a member of the Bat clan.