|“||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!||„|
|~ Seshru gloating to Torak about having his power at her disposal|
Seshru 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 Viper Mage, appearing in Soul Eater and Outcast, serving as the main antagonist of the latter book.✔
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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 and changed her own 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 in Outcast don't recall any of their mages to have become a Soul Eater.
Shortly after the Great Fire, Seshru returned to her mate secretly. She had one of the Fire Opal fragments in her possession, and she needed a child to create her own tokoroth. The six-year-old Hord was too old for that purpose, so Seshru's mate impregnated her. She then left him again. 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, 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, by Fin-Kedinn. Renn was told of her mother's identity after her father's death. Seshru didn't keep tabs on her daughter and didn't know of their relation when they first met during Soul Eater. She realizes it only during the plot of Outcast.
During winter time, Seshru joins up with Eostra, Nef 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 is containing many demons. They intend to release the demons, bind them to their will and make all the Clans to submit to them.
Seshru helps Thiazzi and Nef in hunting down predators they require as sacrifices for protective spells against the demons. They capture Wolf and set out toward Far North with Torak and Renn pursuing them. Seshru also tricks from the Walker — the former Soul Eater Narrander — his claw-like stone he claimed from a cave that held another gate to the netherworld. Whatever Seshru recognized her former fellow Soul Eater or not is never revealed.
Before Tenris died in 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. Seshru also enjoys watching Wolf being tormented by her or Thiazzi.
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 revealing with the others some of the Soul Eaters' plans.
Seshru locates the portal that's keeping the demons sealed by using the Walker's stone. When she finds with Nef the unconscious Torak in the chamber holding most of the sacrifices, she senses spirits without knowing that they belong to Torak who's spirit walking. The Soul Eaters retire afterwards.
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 keeping away the predators' vengeful souls. After Nef raises the alarm over the released sacrifices, a fight ensues between the Soul Eaters and Torak, Renn and Wolf. Renn steals the Fire Opal and flees with Torak and Wolf, but not before Seshru opens the portal for a moment and releases a big herd of demons.
Seshru sets out with Nef 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. They 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.
When they reach Renn, she's about to jump into a crevasse in order to destroy the Fire Opal's power. Having lured a polar bear there with the scent of his blood, Torak spirit walks into it (making Seshru to realize that he's the spirit walker) and battles the Soul Eaters. Wolf herds the released demons there with an arctic wolf pack. Suddenly Nef takes the Fire Opal from Renn and does the sacrifice 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.
Manipulating behind the scenes
Only two months after the end of Soul Eater, Seshru sets in motion her own plans to gain power. She destroys the mark on red deer antlers Aki , the son of the Boar Clan's chief, had made to signal them as his claim. Torak finds the antlers and takes them. Aki chases him for that and ends up accidentally discovering Torak's Soul Eater tattoo. The discovery is revealed, and Torak is branded as an outcast who is permitted to be killed on sight and forbidden to be helped.
For the following two months, Seshru spies on Torak from a distance while using the holy green clay from the Otter Clan's healing spring to conceal herself, making Wolf unable to recognize her through her scent. When Torak performs a tattoo removal ceremony on the Soul Eater tattoo, Seshru tampers with his special drink involved in the ritual. Torak ends up spirit walking into an elk and attacking Renn. Later he sneaks into a clan meeting to take back something he had made for Renn: the rock on which he painted his clan tattoo in perfect detail. He ends up leaving it behind, allowing Seshru to claim it. She uses it to torment Torak through his dreams, worsening his soul-sickness that drives Wolf away from him while they're at Lake Axehead.
By stealing holy green clay from the Otter Clan's healing spring, Seshru causes Lake Axehead to grow sick with deformed fishes, giving hard time for the Otter Clan. The lake's water level lowers as the eastern glacier river doesn't 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 to the lake 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, 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 showdown
|“||This - is not the end.||„|
|~ Seshru's last words|
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 reveals Torak's stone, adorned with a green clay snake, saying that it allows her to control him, not requiring her to take his spirit walker powers for herself. When she finds out from him that he had made the stone for Fin-Kedinn's niece, she finally realizes Renn's relation to her without telling Torak about it. 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 in pursuit. Renn runs to another direction and steals the Viper Mage's boat. Seshru meets her daughter again and reveals her how she intended to make her a tokoroth when Renn had been told only that she was to be sacrificed. Seshru disappears again afterwards.
After the glacier releases a flood in the lake's area and the Clans in that area are saved by taking refuge on a hill, most of them still want to kill Torak. When Torak reveals them the Fire Opal fragment his father had hidden in his ceremonial knife's hilt for all these years, Seshru appears, adorned in the holy clay. The men are too frightened to attack her as she nears Torak, demanding the Fire Opal for herself. Torak readies to smash it under a granite, prompting the Viper Mage to launch for it with a bared knife. Bale takes Renn's bow and shoots Seshru in chest while 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 to draw the deathmarks on her mother while Wolf drives the Viper Mage's souls away.
Torak is accepted back to the Clans and he reconciles with Renn. Seshru's body is buried to the lake by the Otter Clan. Rip and Rek bring Torak back the stone adorned with his clan tattoo, and he drops it to the lake. The Fire Opal fragment destroyed along with Seshru leaves only one to be destroyed.
Seshru'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.
Seshru is a slim woman of deadly beauty. She has askew lynx eyes that are bottomlessly blue. Her beautiful mouth and sharp small tongue are colored black, probably due to some black substance. It is for this reason that Wolf refers to Seshru as "Viper-Tongue". Her long dark hair flows loosely like with her daughter Renn. Pale skin and high cheekbones are other traits the Viper Mage shares with her daughter. Her smiles are usually empty and askew, and her voice reminds Wolf of Renn.
Seshru's supposed clan tattoo is a black abrupt arrowhead on her high forehead, similar to a snake's streak pattern. 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 soft goat pelt dress that's cornered by a snake's pelt.
While not necessarily a born Viper Clan member, Seshru is very much like her supposed totem. Like she does with Torak in Outcast, she bites her venom into her victim and patiently allows it to slowly weaken before she comes back to finish the job. When she changed her name (which is said to mean the same as death), she changed her selfhood for another like a snake changes its pelt. When Eostra summons Seshru's spirit in Ghost Hunter, the Eagle Owl Mage describes her as "subtle as the snake, the seducer".
Seshru has no morals as shown with her many actions. She's not afraid to use her sexuality for 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 confronting Bale, making him unable to attack her.
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 happenings. She repeatedly claims that only the Soul Eaters know the law of the World Spirit and that Torak was led into her clutches in Outcast by the World Spirit. One of her tactics to tempt Torak is her claim that they are similar: two powerful outcasts feared by the Clans and above their laws. She's ecstasied by making the masses to obey her through fear (like with the title of the Soul Eaters) and considers Tenris' demon bear to be 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 when he slept, but instead she chose to make him to use his power to do her bidding. She also had two vipers under her command. They disappear after she dies, not giving the impression of being malevolent.
Seshru has a low opinion about many people. She enjoys tormenting Torak and Wolf in Soul Eater as well as breaking the boy's bond with Renn by revealing Renn's relation to her. She also laughs at Nef's compassion toward Torak. She possibly has an affair with Thiazzi. She views 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.