Da Phai Nai was born and raised in Grimwaldi Rinns. Her parents ran an inn that was popular with travellers, so from an early age she helped with the needs of business.
Her father knew the ways of plants, and she took great interest in his knowledge, often accompanying him when he went to gather ingredients for his potions. By contrast, her mother was the main cook, and taught her how to
make a many dishes.
The inn was located in a quiet lane just off the main square, and popular with more learned types. One of their frequent guests was the Keeper of Ancient Knowledge, who often stayed there when visiting the capital; his apprentice,
a young man called Lo Si, usually accompanied him.
Although Lo Si was a few years older than Da Phai Nai, the two got along very well together, and often played when not working. As they aged, so their feelings changed to ones of interest in the opposite sex. When Lo Si approached
sixteen years old, he proposed, and she joyfully accepted.
The name Da Phai Nai is how Cantonese would Anglicise the name Daphne.
Outspoken and forthright, Da Phai Nai (DPN) is a contrary, older woman, but one we come to love. She is a dynamic character that brings laughter in her wake, because she is overly feisty, and to the point
of standing up to armed warriors with her trusty broom in hand. Jack realises her true nature, her hard outer shell like that of an oyster, protecting the soft heart inside. A heart that was irrevocably broken when she was but a
teenager. She was betrothed to Lo Si, but upon application to marry, the former Empress disallowed the marriage, decreeing Lo Si must marry Won Long instead. By that time she was already pregnant.
Sun Kist: kitchen maid, head cook, later Shaman's apprentice, High Priestess, and finally Shaman Supplicant.
She was betrothed to the much older Lo Si in her fifteenth year, and they were due to marry when she became sixteen; a love match. When the Empress, Jien Noi's grandmother, heard of their plans, she immediately forbade the
wedding, and decreed Lo Si must marry the Seer instead. This denial of love is something she has never forgiven.
She has harboured bitter feeling ever since, and was already carrying Sun Kist when the then Empress intervened; being a single mother is socially frowned upon. As a result she was technically married to the then Emperor, the Empress
sending her away as a cook, and later as innkeeper of the hot springs travellers rest.
DPN endured by cherishing her daughter, and the only love of her life, in her heart. Outwardly, she formed a rock-hard persona to shield her from the many barbs she received from customers. In time, she learned to get the first
word in, and leave her tormentors suffering instead. Her relationship with Won Long is one of barely disguised open hostility, each having their own valid reasons. Da Phai Nai considers Won Long stole her husband, and blames the
Seer for making her an outcast of society, as an unmarried mother.
Despite her almost hostile nature to everyone, Jack sees through her, and shortly after, so does n'Gnung. They perceive a true heart mortally wounded, and play up to her, becoming her outlet of frustration, her release valve. Over
time, this becomes a game they play, and often the words spoken between them mean the exact opposite.
Jack counts her as one of only two people who can change a moment simply by their physical presence; the other being Owain.
"Sometimes a person’s worth cannot be measured by their unique gifts of intelligence, cunning, fortitude, or physical dexterity; but merely by how they engender team spirit and cohesion within the group—how they make you
n'Gnung agrees, but adds Jack as his number three.
In book two she loses Sun Kist to her new calling in life as the Shaman's Apprentice; it is the proudest, and saddest moment of her life. This is one of the rare times she is at a loss for words. Jack bids her sit with them, and
brings her a bottle of the best wine, which eventually loosens her tongue. n'Gnung fetches Lo Si, who is very proud of his daughter, but understands Da Phai Nai better than anyone. Also present are Dawn and Kay, who add to the empathy
and pathos of the moment, adding a little logos as and where suitable.
Da Phai Nai is outwardly quick to recover, and by the following day is back to her usual self. Later she finds good company with Owain. It is never made clear whether they took their unlikely friendship to a more personal level,
but one should presume so.
Da Phai Nai was never one to stand on ceremony, or respect a person because they had a title. She was a little thrown when at their first meal on the Outlands, Jack as King of the Outlands, helped her cook for their guests. The
barbs they exchanged during the process engendered a far deeper understanding between them, especially after he made her sit and eat with all the guests; something kitchen hands were never supposed to do.
Over time, she grows to think of Jack and n'Gnung as her two naughty boys, maternally adopting them, and dedicates her life to looking after them; not that her words to them would indicate, but it is a fact. She is always their
chef, wherever they might be, mainly as front of house as age begins to take it toll.
Da Phai Nai is a master of potions; one being a cure for hangovers, and another to ease labour, as given to Jien Noi at Ræm's birth. Her daughter learns these tonics also, and becomes fascinated with learning more. There is
another she administers when Jack and Kay are recovering from coma, which is unknown to the Ancestors medicine, and shared with the leading medic.
Da Phai Nai's true heart was revealed in two scenes: when Jack's party toured the slums of the Trolls; and after the final battle on the Island near the end of Book Three. In the latter, too weary to eat, she noticed camp fires
in the distance, and went to assist. The effort almost killed her, but she alone was responsible for finding many missing people, presumed dead by others.
She becomes Jack's first guinea pig for rejuvenation, but her vitriolic tongue belies the great depth of gratitude she feels for his actions. She is one of the few Second to continue to use the regeneration facilities of the