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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 prehistoric Europe during the Stone Age). 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.

Biography

Before Spirit Walker

Tenris was born roughly 38 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 as a Seal Clan member. He had a brother younger by 2 years who became a Wolf Clan member. When Tenris was 11 years old and his brother was 9 years old, they met the 11-year-old Fin-Kedinn, the future Raven Clan chieftain. The trio lived for 5 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 10 years.

During the 11th year, while Tenris' brother was appointed as the Wolf Clan's mage, 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 6 years later, he joined them with is 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 officially the new Seal Mage, probably having something to do with his predecessor's replacement. 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 and planned to have his revenge.

2 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 how he would use his invention, only that he needed a weapon. He let four Seals to be infected by his invention and die, including Bale's little brother and chief Islinn's son. Then he drew the sickness away, claiming to have found a cure.

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 summoned an elemental (the strongest type of demons) and bound it in the bear's body. The newly created demon bear went rampage across the Forest and Tenris fled. Tenris' monstrous creation eventually found Tenris' brother and killed him, just as Tenris had planned. Torak, son of Tenris' brother and Tenris' nephew, 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.

Spirit Walker

In summertime, 6 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 mixing his Forest-made hunting gear with the Sea. They take him to the western Seal Islands to have him punished.

Tenris meets Torak and gets a confirmation of his identity when he recognizes the ceremonial knife his brother passed to his son. Torak informs the Seals about the plague and convinces them to help him in 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 facade and gains Torak's trust.

Tenris lies that the cure to the plague can be created only during the nearing Midsummer Night (which happens to be Torak's birth time). He sends Torak with the Seal boys who captured him to acquire a supposed ingredient: a selik root that grows only in the Eagle Heights. Meanwhile, he hunts down a young orca whale, kills it (which is forbidden by the Sea clans' laws) and takes its teeth for his spells, leaving the rest of the body to rot (another forbidden taboo). This causes the whale's mother to cause havoc across the Seal Islands' waters in its search for its offspring's killer.

After the root has been picked up and Detlan is crippled by the orca whale, Tenris arrives to treat his wound. While the others sleep, Torak tells Tenris about his recent spirit walking experiences he does not recognize. 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 in 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 goes with Torak to make the cure at the altar that situates on the Crag, a tokoroth knocks Torak out.

When Torak wakes up, he finds himself tied up to 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 relation to Torak. Tenris intends to eat Torak's heart to take his spirit walker powers and become the most powerful mage to have ever existed.

As Tenris prepares for the incoming ritual, Wolf — who has just prevented Renn from gaining the sickness by knocking the poisoned soup over — arrives and leads the tokoroths away from the Crag. While the fire wall prevents anyone from entering 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, the tied up Torak stands 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 offspring's killer and drags Tenris underwater to his death, leaving Torak alone. 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.

Legacy

With Tenris and his tokoroths gone, the Seal Clan reopens its connections to the Forest. Renn figures out the cause of the plague, and it passes when the poisoned juniper berries are disposed of. 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 of the message's meaning 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 the last book.

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.

Appearance

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 sand-colored 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 other Seal men, Tenris' clan tattoos are blue weaving seaweeds traveling across his arms. Like with the other Soul Eaters, he has a three-pronged black fork tattooed on his chest. His everyday clothing does not differ from the rest of his clan (trousers and a sleeveless skirt made of gray seal skin), except that he wears an elaborate two-hand-wide leather belt that is cornered by puffin beaks. He wears a scrunched red wreath hanging in a leather string as an amulet that keeps his presence hidden from orca whales. He sometimes smokes aromatic leaves with a pipe made of a crab-claw. When Tenris prepares to gain Torak's power, he wears an ashen mask (that is used during one's mourning period) and chews stinking paste that colors his tongue black and eye whites yellow.

Tenris' voice is one of his more striking features. It is even and low, yet it has an overtone reminding of power similar to the Sea. It is a voice everyone wants to hear and helps Tenris in his manipulations.

Personality

Since his youth, Tenris has been proud and craved power and control before anything else. This contrasted 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 while 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 after showing Torak his true colors.

Tenris can be very convincing 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 having the power despite not being the chief. His facade 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 identity as a Soul Eater until it was too late. He had his entire clan's trust, including the old and experienced chief Islinn. He wins Torak's trust with his facade that reminds the boy of a more friendly and less distant Fin-Kedinn. He even manages to convince the sharp-witted Renn for a short moment of his benevolence. When Eostra summons Tenris' spirit in Ghost Hunter, she describes him as "sleek as the seal, the cunning one".

His hunger for power was so great that he cared nothing for the lives of others and secretly broke clan laws. He broke an ancient pact by creating a creature that kills needlessly. He killed a young orca whale without proper respect and created 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, when 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 other Seals, he is an expert paddler and harpoon user. He claims that he cannot climb because of his lungs having burned. How much this actually hinders him is unclarified.

According to Tenris, there is not much what he would not know about poisons. He used this knowledge to create a sickness that tears the victim's souls apart, driving them to 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 indeed 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 possesses it.

Quotes

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 his intentions for Torak.


(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 as 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 his relation to Torak 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's killed by an orca whale.


Gallery

Trivia

  • Tenris' puffin beak belt is a reference to Paver's research about ancient cultures. Shamans or witch doctors have worn ceremonial belts that would help them in reaching the spirit world, healing the sick and foretelling the prey's movements and weather. Among the Inuits, an angakkuq would wear a belt that could be adorned with talismans, like beaks and bones.