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Daja is a Tsaw'ha, or Trader, a group of people who travel by caravan or ship and buy and sell things of value and look down upon craftspeople; unfortunately, Daja was fascinated with blacksmiths, yet thought she would never be able to get near one. There are many prejudices against the Traders who are sometimes thought of as arrogant. When Daja was ten, her family's ship, Third Ship Kisubo, sank in a storm and she was the only survivor. Because of the bad luck associated with a lone survivor, Daja was made trangshi, an outcast from all Traders. In Daja's Book, the third book in the Circle of Magic quartet, she is reinstated as a Trader in gratitude for rescuing a Trader caravan from a forest fire.
Her family includes an unnamed father and mother as well as an older brother Uneny, all of whom were on the Third Ship Kisubo. In Tris's Book there is mention of a Fifth Ship Kisubo, its crew including her Uncle Tiwolu and Aunt Zayda (deceased). After her arrival at the Winding Circle temple community, orphaned Daja is informally adopted into a group of mage misfits with Dedicates Lark and Rosethorn as the authority figures and Briar, Tris, and Sandry as her brother and sisters.
In The Will of the Empress, Daja reunites with her three foster-siblings to protect Sandry from the powerful Empress Berenene of Namorn. She comes to know that she is a nisamohi because of falling in love with the Empress's Mistress of Wardrobe, Rizuka fa Dalach. This is the primary romantic subplot in the book, and one of the first in the Emelan canon, a notable contrast to the Tortall canon.
Daja is an ambient smith mage. This means she draws on the power of the metal or the fire instead of from inside of herself. After Daja is rescued from the ocean, Niklaren Goldeye (known familiarly as "Niko" to his friends), a powerful mage, takes her to Winding Circle Temple, where she later discovers her gift in metalworking. Daja's teacher while she is at Winding Circle, and later when she is a fully accredited mage, is Dedicate Frostpine, another smith-mage. Her mage medallion (which proves her completion of training) shows a picture of a hammer over flames as a symbol of her magic, and a spiral representing Winding Circle on the reverse, to show where she studied.
Daja can weave fire, call it to her and hold it in her bare hands. If she has to walk into a burning building, she has clothes, made by her friend Sandry, that are fire resistant. She can also breath smoke without it killing her but too much can hurt her throat.
Daja can shape metal expertly both with and without magic; she is both a blacksmith and a whitesmith. She can identify metal by touch and smell and sense metals at a distance with concentration. By accident in Daja's Book, she created a metal tree out of iron that was supposed to be used for nails. It absorbed other metals, like copper and iron, to grow.
As a result of her magic and a forest fire in Daja's Book, the brass from the cap of her signature staff melted on her left hand, creating a "living metal" glove. This living metal grows on her hand like a second skin, and must be removed every so often or it grows all over her body; Daja can then use it for her trade. Living metal is something entirely unique to Daja and so a lot of her research and time is devoted to the properties of living metal and what she can do/make with it. The first thing she made was a living metal rose plant, which absorbed anything metallic in order to grow. She has made a living metal leg for a Trader who lost her natural leg. She can also make more living metal by adding some of her blood to regular metal. Her living metal creations are how she makes the majority of her income.
In Cold Fire, Daja discovers ambient magic in twins Niamara Bancanor(Nia) and Jorality Bancanor(Jory): carpentry in Nia, and cooking in Jory. Daja finds experienced mages in each field to teach the two girls their magic, though, so she only has to teach and hold meditation sessions. She teaches Nia meditation the regular way (sitting and relaxing), because she's calmer, but teaches Jory by fighting with staves due to her restlessness.