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Your father tried to trick us, and we killed him. If you trick me, I shall make sure that you will never be free of me.
~ Seshru threatening Torak.

Seshru is a Soul Eater and one the main 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 Viper Mage and first appears in Soul Eater. She serves as the main antagonist of Outcast, and she is revealed to be the mother of the deuteragonist Renn.

Biography

Before Soul Eater

Most of the life of the woman who would be known as Seshru is unknown. What is known is that she was the mate of the brother of Fin-Kedinn, the Raven Clan chief. She bore him a son named Hord, but when the Healers were formed, she left her mate, changing her name and clan. Everyone except her mate believed her to have died. It is unknown if she truly ever was a member of the Viper Clan, for the clansmen of said clan in Outcast do not recall any of their mages to have become a Soul Eater.

At some point before or after the Great Fire, Seshru returned to her mate secretly. She required a child to create her own tokoroth, but the six-year-old Hord was too old for that purpose. Seshru was impregnated by her mate, but she abandoned him again, breaking his heart. She gave birth to her daughter in secret. Before she could summon an elemental (the strongest type of demons) and bind it in her newborn's body with the Fire Opal, Saeunn the Raven Mage sought her out and saved the child. Seshru disappeared again while her daughter was named Renn and left to be raised by her father, and after his death, Fin-Kedinn. Renn was told of her mother's identity after her father's death. Seshru did not keep tabs on her daughter and did not know of their relation when they first met during Soul Eater. She realizes it only during the plot of Outcast.

Soul Eater

During winter time, Seshru joins up with EostraNef 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.

Requiring predators as sacrifices for protective spells against the demons, Seshru helps Thiazzi and Nef in hunting them down. They capture Wolf and set out toward the Far North, not knowing that Torak and Renn are pursuing them. In the Far North, Seshru uses her herbal knowledge to sedate a polar bear to make it easier to capture. She also tricks from the Walker the claw-like stone he claimed from a cave that held another doorway to the Otherworld. It is never revealed whatever or not Seshru recognized the Walker as the former Soul Eater Narrander.

Before Tenris died during the plot of Spirit Walker, he had sent Seshru a message that said "The Wolf lives". Unsure of its meaning, the Soul Eaters keep Wolf separated from the other sacrifices. At one point, Seshru smears Wolf's pelt with elk blood when he is still defiant. She is revealed to have put something sedative in the blood when Wolf licks it and becomes drowsy. She also finds it amusing that he weakens enough to accept the meat Nef offers him.

When the Soul Eaters have gathered all the nine predators in the Eye of the Viper, Torak takes the place of a White Fox boy brought in by Nef to serve as the Soul Eaters' acolyte and one of the sacrifices. He manages to fool the Soul Eaters who have hardly seen the White Fox boy's face. Seshru acts condescendingly toward Torak while she reveals with the others some of the Soul Eaters' plans.

By using the Walker's stone claw, Seshru locates the Door in a ritual that ends with her falling unconscious. When she and Nef find the unconscious Torak in the chamber holding most of the sacrifices, she senses spirits without knowing that they belong to Torak who is spirit walking. Too tired to investigate the matter more closely, the two Soul Eaters go to rest.

While Torak reunites with Renn and frees Wolf, the Soul Eaters slaughter two more sacrifices: a lynx and a polar bear. Seshru wears the lynx's pelt while she keeps away the predators' vengeful souls with Thiazzi. After Nef raises the alarm over the released sacrifices, a fight ensues between the Soul Eaters and Torak, Renn and Wolf. While Nef and Thiazzi confront the heroes, Seshru opens the Door, releasing a big herd of demons. Before any more can be released, Renn throws a torch in Seshru's back, causing the Door to close. After Eostra drops the Fire Opal, Renn takes it and flees with Torak and Wolf. Without the Fire Opal, the Soul Eaters cannot control the demons they have released.

Seshru sets out with Nef and Thiazzi (along with Eostra's eagle owl) to reclaim the Fire Opal. They catch Torak who has been separated from Wolf and Renn. When Nef finds and recognizes the ceremonial knife Torak's father passed to his son, the boy's identity finally dawns on the Soul Eaters. They force Torak to lead them to Renn who has the Fire Opal, though not before Seshru forcefully tattoos the Soul Eaters' mark on the boy's chest.

By the time Renn is reached, she is about to jump into a crevasse in order to destroy the Fire Opal's power. The Soul Eaters corner her against the crevasse while pointing arrows at her. A polar bear (lured at the place with the scent of Torak's blood) appears, and Torak spirit walks into it. This causes Seshru to realize that the boy is a spirit walker. She is then thrown across the air by the bear and falls unconscious. While Torak continues fighting Thiazzi in the bear's body, Wolf and an arctic wolf pack herd the released demons at the place. Nef takes the Fire Opal from Renn and sacrifices herself to repay her debt to Torak's father. The demons follow her and end up being sealed under the ice, with the Fire Opal's power dying in the process. Seshru and Thiazzi flee to fight another day.

Outcast

Manipulating behind the scenes

After it has been two months since the events of Soul Eater, Seshru sets in motion her own plans to gain power. After Aki , the son of the Boar Clan's chief, finds red deer antlers and marks them as his claim, Seshru destroys the mark. Torak finds the antlers and takes them. Aki chases him for that and ends up accidentally discovering Torak's Soul Eater tattoo. After this is exposed, Torak is branded as an outcast who is permitted to be killed on sight and forbidden to be helped by anyone.

For the following two months, Seshru spies on Torak from a distance. Having stolen holy green clay from the Otter Clan's healing spring, she uses it to conceal herself. This makes Wolf unable to recognize her through her scent, and he refers to her as "Other". When Torak performs a tattoo removal ceremony on his Soul Eater tattoo, Seshru tampers with the special drink involved in the ritual. Torak ends up spirit walking into an elk and attacking Renn. He later sneaks into a clan meeting to take back something he had made for Renn: a stone on which he painted his clan tattoo in perfect detail. He ends up leaving it in a trunk, allowing Seshru to claim it. She uses the stone to torment Torak through his dreams, worsening his soul-sickness that drives Wolf away from him while they are at Lake Axehead.

By stealing holy green clay from the Otter Clan's healing spring, Seshru causes Lake Axehead to turn sick. The lake provides only deformed fishes, making it hard to feed the Otter Clan. The lake's water level lowers as the eastern glacier river does not provide water as usual. Seshru takes credit for all of this, attempting to scare the lake's inhabitants to submit to her.

Renn and Bale arrive at Lake Axehead to help Torak. Eventually Renn is forced to use her gift in Magecraft to send help for the sick Torak. Seshru attempts to prevent this from a distance, but Renn succeeds by sending two ravens — Rip and Rek — to Torak. They set in motion his healing process, allowing him to reconcile with Wolf.

The final confrontation

Eventually Seshru contacts Torak in his dream, posing as Renn. She advises him to go to the healing spring in order to heal his abscessed wound that was left from the removal of the Soul Eater tattoo. Torak climbs to the cliff where the spring is located, drinks water and eats crowberries without realizing that Seshru has poisoned them.

Torak falls asleep and wakes up mostly paralyzed, with Seshru preparing her spells next to him. She heals his abscessed wound, having decided that she no longer needs the boy's cut Soul Eater tattoo to pull her to him. She shows Torak his name-pebble that she has adorned with a green clay snake. She says that it allows her to control him so that she has no need to take his spirit walker powers for herself. When she finds out from his thoughts that he had made the stone for Fin-Kedinn's niece, she finally realizes Renn to be her daughter, though she does not tell this to Torak. The Viper Mage then reveals that she wants to find one of the Fire Opal fragments. She forces Torak to spirit walk into a viper with the orders to kill Renn. Before the snake can bite Renn, Rip and Rek drive it away. Torak returns to his body and tells Seshru that he bit Renn.

Torak escapes while Seshru sleeps and finally reunites with Renn and Bale. However, when they discover that the wolf pack that has limited Seshru's movements is gone, Seshru confronts them. Unarmed, she renders Bale and Torak reluctant to attack her. She then reveals in sadistic delight Renn's relation to her. Shocked and feeling betrayed, Torak runs away with Bale pursuing him. Renn runs to another direction and steals the Viper Mage's boat. Seshru appears at the shore and trades words with her daughter. She reveals that she intended to make her infant a tokoroth, shocking Renn who has only been told that Seshru intended to sacrifice her. Warning that Renn is powerless against her, Seshru disappears.

The glacier releases a flood in the lake's area, and the clans there are saved when they take refuge on a hill. Though they were warned of the threat by Torak, most of the clansmen still want to kill him. When he reveals them the Fire Opal fragment he has discovered in the hilt of his father's knife, Seshru appears, adorned in the green clay. The men are too frightened to attack her as she closes on Torak, demanding the Fire Opal for herself. As if relenting, Torak places it on a boulder, and Seshru smiles triumphantly. To her horror, however, Torak raises a granite to smash the Fire Opal. This prompts the Viper Mage to draw a knife and leap toward him. Bale takes Renn's bow and shoots an arrow in Seshru's chest as Torak smashes the Fire Opal. Renn ties the shards in Seshru's fist, allowing the Opal's power to die along with her. Torak helps Renn in drawing the Death Marks on her mother while Wolf drives the Viper Mage's souls away.

Legacy

With Seshru dead, Torak is accepted back to the clans, and he reconciles with Renn. Seshru's body is buried in Lake Axehead by the Otter Clan. Rip and Rek return to Torak his name-pebble, and he lets it sink in the lake. The Fire Opal fragment destroyed along with Seshru leaves only one to be destroyed.

Seshru's spirit appears briefly in Ghost Hunter when Eostra summons her with the other deceased Soul Eaters. She is under Eostra's control because the Eagle Owl Mage possesses her hair. She vanishes when the spell is broken.

Appearance

Seshru is a slender and attractive woman. She has slanting lynx eyes that are fathomlessly blue. Her beautiful mouth and small, pointed tongue are colored black, probably due to some black dye. It is for this reason that Wolf refers to Seshru as "Viper-Tongue". Her long dark hair flows loosely like with her daughter Renn. Other traits she shares with her daughter are pale skin and high-boned, regular features. Her smiles are either empty or threatening, and her soft voice reminds Wolf of that of Renn.

Seshru's supposed clan tattoo situates on her high brow. It is a stark black line of arrowheads that resemble the markings of a snake. Like the other Soul Eaters, she has a three-pronged black fork tattooed on her chest. In Soul Eater, she wears a seal pelt jacket. In Outcast, she wears a tunic that is made of supple buckskin and cornered by snakeskin from her sleeves and hem.

Personality

While not necessarily a born Viper Clan member, Seshru is very much like her supposed totem. She injects her venom into her victim and patiently allows it to slowly weaken before she comes back to finish the job, like she does with Torak in Outcast. When she changed her name (which is said to mean the same as death), she changed her selfhood for another like a snake sheds its skin. When Eostra summons Seshru's spirit in Ghost Hunter, the Eagle Owl Mage calls her a seducer who is subtle as snake.

Seshru has no morals as shown with her many actions. She is not afraid to use her sexuality to her advantage. She broke the heart of her mate twice after he was of no use to her anymore. She uses her beauty in trying to lure Torak under her charms. She also sports the image of an helpless woman when she confronts Bale, using his reluctance to attack an unarmed woman against him.

Seshru is capable of lying about her actions and take credit for actions that are not her own, like she does with some of Lake Axehead's events. Like the other Soul Eaters, she claims that they alone know the law of the World Spirit and considers herself above the laws of the clans. She claims in Outcast that Torak was led into her clutches by the World Spirit's will and that they are not different due to being outcasts whom the clans fear because of their power. Making the masses obey her through fear — like with the title of a Soul Eater — ecstasies her, but she considers Tenris' Demon Bear to have been a piece of magnificent madness.

Seshru enjoys making others to do her bidding. She could have eaten Torak's heart to gain his spirit walker powers while he slept, but instead she chose to take control of him and force him to use his power for her own ends. She also has two vipers under her command. They disappear after she dies, though, not giving the impression of being malevolent. While nightshade is favored by the Soul Eaters, Seshru likes using the toxic plant even more so.

Seshru has a low opinion about many people. She often taunts and mocks Torak and Wolf as well as sneers at Nef's compassion toward Torak and the sacrifices. When she reveals Torak Renn's secret of being the Viper Mage's daughter, Seshru takes delight in driving a wedge between them this way. She is implied to have a relationship with Thiazzi, and she is shown to get along well with him. She considers Renn to be weak for having her father's heart, but she does acknowledge Renn's skill in Magecraft, saying that perhaps she should be proud of her.

Powers and Abilities

Seshru's special ability as a Soul Eater is her extensive knowledge about herbs and remedies. She can sense spirits around her, like when Torak spirit walks. She can communicate with others on a psychic level, like she does with Renn and Torak (with the latter in a dream). She is also a master of illusions. While having Torak at her mercy in Outcast, she demonstrates the ability to get tips of information from his thoughts, like Renn's name.

Quotes

The mistake others made in the past was to overreach themselves. Our brother who is lost summoned an elemental and trapped it in a great bear. Of course he couldn't control it. It was a magnificent madness.
~ Seshru talking about Tenris' demon bear.
The Door — is — found!
~ Seshru upon finding the Door.
"The Wolf lives." So that's what it means. What a disappointment.
~ Seshru upon discovering Torak's identity.
This mark will be like the harpoon head beneath the skin of the seal. One twitch, and it will draw you, no matter how hard you struggle...
~ Seshru upon tattooing Torak with the Soul Eater's symbol.
I feel your purpose... You shall not succeed. You shall not succeed.
~ Seshru confronting Renn mentally.
I knew I'd find you too. How you've grown since last we met! (Torak: The crowberries. You poisoned them.) But I'm not going to hurt you. (Torak: Why would I believe that?) Because I would have done it by now. I could have cut out your heart and eaten it. Not even your wolves could have reached you up here. But I want you alive!
~ Seshru having Torak at her mercy.
All the tiny creatures. The wolves, the frightened little Otter people. They belong to me now. They must submit — or I will empty the Lake. (*touches the green clay on her arm*) This — this has power! When I wear it, those I meet see only a woman masked in green: sick, frightened, like them. Not even your wolf knows my scent. (*hears Wolf's howl and smiles*) Now he knows me! I've shed my mask. He knows who has defeated him!
~ Seshru gloating to Torak.
Ah, we're so alike, you and I! Both outcasts, both unimaginably strong. That's why the clans hunt us. The weak will always fear the strong. So alike. Why fight it? Why not accept it? (Torak: No. We're not alike. You've killed people. You've broken clan law.) But that's all it is, the law of the clans. Only the Soul-Eaters know the law of the World Spirit. That's why it delivered the spirit walker to me.
~ Seshru gloating further.
Do not imagine you can hide from me. You cannot defy me! Not while I have this! (*reveals Torak's name-pebble*) Have you any idea of the power this gives me? With this I blighted your souls! You have no will of your own. You belong to me!
~ Seshru threatening Torak with his name-pebble.
Your body can't move, but your souls can. Your souls will go wherever I command. Your souls will do whatever I want.
~ Seshru upon making Torak spirit walk into a viper.
Until now, not even I understood the strength of the spirit walker. Think what I can do with such power! I can learn the darkest secrets. I can bend all, all to my will! This is the will of the World Spirit! This is why it sent such a gift to me! With the spirit walker and fire-opal I shall rule! All creatures, all demons will fear me and obey! Great power is bought with suffering, I know. But now you understand. You belong to me. Say it. Say that you belong to me!
~ Seshru gloating to Torak when she thinks she has him under her full control.
The wolves are gone. I sent them all away. (Renn: Don't listen to her.) Why, what harm can I do? It's three against one, and I have no weapons. No weapons, not even a knife. Not even a knife. You lied to me. You deceived me and run away. I thought you were braver than that. (Torak: You can't make me go with you.) Ah, but I can. (Renn: Don't listen to her.) So this is Renn. What a little vixen! It was you who helped him resist me, wasn't it? You must have some small talent for Magecraft. But of course you do! And we both know why. (*Renn raises her bow as Torak and Bale's protest, amusing Seshru) Oh, she won't shoot! She can't. Can you, Renn? (*Renn lowers her bow*) I knew she wouldn't.
~ Seshru confronting Torak, Renn and Bale at the empty wolf den.
To kill a weaponless woman... who could do such a thing? Could you? (*Bale drops his axe*) I didn't think so. That would be the mark of a weak man, and you're not weak. You're a Seal Clan hunter. You're strong.
~ Seshru charming Bale not to attack her.
You see, I can make you leave your friends — I can cut you out from your safe little herd — just as easily as snapping my fingers. (Torak: No) (Renn: She's lying. That's what she does, Torak, she lies! She takes credit for things she didn't do; she denies the crimes she did. You can't believe anything she says!) Some things you can. We both know that, don't we, Renn? Although I must say, I'm surprised that you never told him. If he's your friend — if you care for him as much as he cares for you — and he does care, he really does... Not to have told him! Such a mistake! But then, you already know it was a mistake. Don't you, Renn? (*Renn pales*) (Torak: Renn? What's wrong) (Renn: I was going to tell you. But I could never... It was never the right time.) (Torak: Tell me what?) Haven't you guessed? (Torak: Guessed what? Renn, what is it?) Tell him, Renn. Tell him! (Torak: What?) She is my daughter!
~ Seshru revealing Torak that she's Renn's mother.
You disappoint me, daughter. I'd hoped for less passion. More control. (Renn: I hurt him. I hurt my best friend.) What a pity, you have your father's heart! Although — you have your mother's courage. (Renn: I have nothing of yours!) Ah, but we both know that isn't true. You have my talent for Magecraft. You did well to help the spirit walker resist me. Perhaps I should be proud of you.
~ Seshru having a private confrontation with Renn.
He belongs to me, daughter. He is my reward for the long winters of waiting. (Renn: He belongs to no-one but himself.) Don't fight me. It would be fatal to pit your power against mine. (Renn: Maybe. But you're not invincible. Saeunn's power was less than yours, and yet she triumphed over you once.) Not in Magecraft. She was nothing but a thief. She stole you from me. (Renn: She saved me! I was a baby and you were going to sacrifice me!) Is that what she told you? Why would I carry you for nine long moons, if only to kill you? No, you were destined for greater things. You were to have been my finest creation — you were to have been my tokoroth! I could have done it. The fire-opal would have drawn the mightiest demon — a very elemental — and I would have trapped it in my newborn child! My thing, my creature! With such power, what could we not have achieved! Instead, the old crone "saved" you. And there you sit: weak, powerless, wondering if you have the courage to kill me. (Renn: I could. I could shoot you right now.) (*Seshru laughs*) Never make a threat you can't carry out, daughter! Against me you have no power. You cannot vanquish me and you cannot kill me! Remember that.
~ Seshru revealing Renn why she birthed her in the first place.
I see you... I know the limits of your power... I am the reed and the storm, the thunder and the wind... You cannot prevail...
~ Seshru confronting Renn mentally again.
Give it me. Stay back. Death shall come to any who attempt to harm me. Give it me.
~ Seshru demanding the Fire Opal fragment from Torak while warning the terrified clansmen to keep away from her.
This — is not the end.
~ Seshru's last words.

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