Phinneas Ja’aster: Man for All Purposes

Hello from Virginia!

I’m writing this blog in a hotel room in Norfolk. I flew here over a week ago to take care of my grandsons for a couple of days because my son was underway on his ship and his wife had a work trip. The original plan was to fly back on Tuesday, but my son ended up coming home early, and I couldn’t turn down the chance to spend some time with him. If I’d gone home as planned, it might be another year or more before I could see him again since he’ll be deployed sometime fairly soon.


In any case, by the time you read this, I’ll be home again, ready to finish up The Heart of the Goddess and get back to work on Soultainted.

Well, just as soon as I get caught up on client work…

A few months ago, I started a series about side characters, and one of the side characters I mentioned was The Wizard Guide. I want to dive into the characteristics of the Wizard Guide in more detail next week, but first, I’m offering up this profile of The Taurin Chronicles’ very own magical guide: Phinneas Ja’aster.

Character Profile: Phinneas Ja’Aster

The Basics

Phinneas was born nearly 700 years before the events of Ravenmarked in an unspecified village in the mountains of the east. These mountains have long been contested territory in the endless battles between Tal’Amun and Dal’Imur, and with so much time passed since his birth, it’s hard to say which empire held control over the area where he spent his childhood. I think that in some sense, Phinneas had much the same childhood that so many children in volatile regions in the modern world experience–one marked by brutal raids punctuated by an effort to eke out survival before the next warlord tries to take territory.

When Phinneas was probably around eight or ten years old, a very old man visited his family and tested him for latent magical gifts. Phinneas demonstrated a connection to the arcane, even though his gifts hadn’t manifested yet, and the man offered to take him in as apprentice in the Tal’Aster sect. Because his parents could not have given him anything like the future that this old man promised, they allowed him to go. He entered his training in the magical arts, and he never saw his parents again.


But wait–it gets better.

Defining Quotes

“I seek only to help you.” – Ravenmarked, Chapter 31

“When I was very young, men recognized my gifted mind. They took me to the Zh’asta Temple. I was set apart for a very specific purpose—to meet you and your raven and help you defeat those who would control the world. When you have no more need of me, I may be released from my vow. But I will know that the price I paid was worth it.” – Bloodbonded, Chapter 26

“It is my pleasure to bring my skills and training to the aid of Duke Mac Niall. I hope that you and I will work together to further his efforts for many years.” – Unquickened, Chapter 7

How It Started

You are all probably getting used to me admitting to my ways as a pantser now, so it should come as absolutely no surprise that Phinneas was somewhat unplanned. When he showed up in Ravenmarked to rescue Mairead from the slaver by purchasing her, I didn’t really know that he’d come to have a big role in the entire series. In the early drafts of that scene, I was only trying to find a way to get her out of the house that didn’t look like Connor just muscling his way in and out, and I wanted to find some way to show her mettle as a heroine.

So when Phinneas told her that he wanted to test her by having her kill the slaver, my brain went, “well, of course that makes sense. She’s clearly an assassin.”


When Phinneas first encountered Mairead, he saw a woman who had the primitive capacity to become an assassin. I think he saw her ties to the warriorspirit–the ones she discovers later when she joins the lion tribe.

However, the moment he saw Connor and Mairead together, he realized that he’d finally stumbled upon the couple he’d been seeking for hundreds of years–the raven and the ravenmaster, the two people who would finally bring stability to the kingdoms of the west. In that moment, Phinneas decided that he would be attached to one or both of them until some external force separated them.

And voila–I had a magical guide.

Let’s Back Up a Minute…

I think it’s important to describe a bit about Phinneas’ training with the Tal’Aster sect before reviewing his role in the books, because his experiences in the Zh’asta Mountains shaped much of who he eventually became.

The Tal’Aster sect is a mysterious religious order in the Tal’Amuni territory of the Zh’asta Mountains. The magician-priests who run the order swear allegiance to a god they call the All-Seeing Lord, which is their version of the One Hand or Alshada. For thousands of years, the men in charge have sought gifted children to take in and train in rare arts–magic, yes, but also the necessary evils required in a brutal world. To balance those assassins and warriors they produced, they also trained artists, musicians, and writers–people to restore beauty to the world.


At first, the sect only recruited from its own people, though occasionally people from outside Tal’Amun managed to find their way to the order’s headquarters. Under the direction of the last several Tal’Amuni emperors, the sect expanded its reach into the lands of the west, disguised as slave traders. The emperors have long wanted to have a connection to the west, and they saw an opportunity to be involved in saving the Three Lands by helping the couple that would deliver those lands.

It’s interesting that, after thousands of years of essentially ignoring the Tal’Aster sect, these emperors would suddenly listen to the magician-priests, isn’t it?

Phinneas may have had something to do with that.

Man of Many Roles

When Phinneas had been in the Tal’Aster sect for a few hundred years, he had a vision of finding the ravenmaster in a slave camp in Culidar. The previous leader of the Tal’Aster sect had hoped that Phinneas would take over for him when he was ready to step down, but when Phinneas told him of the vision, they decided that he would be better serve the All-Seeing Lord in the outside world.

As a high-ranking magician-priest, Phinneas found it easy to gain access to the emperor, and he asked to enter the emperor’s service. The emperor, flattered that one of the magician-priests would humble himself to be a mere servant, readily agreed. He then allowed Phinneas to essentially run an operation to rescue women and children from western slavers under the guise of buying them for the emperor’s service.


In his role as chief eunuch, Phinneas was always loyal to his emperor, and he oversaw the entire royal household and many of the administrative duties of the country overall. Over time, he built up a staff of magician-priests–young men trained and educated in the Tal’Aster sect who could bring their skills to the palace and become part of the operation to find the ravenmaster. While they were known as “eunuchs,” the perception was largely due to a mistranslation; the men were not physical eunuchs, but rather dedicated celibates. Phinneas never bothered to correct the misperception in the west since being thought of as a physical eunuch gave the men some advantages.

And speaking of his operations in the west…

How It’s Going

At this point in the series, Phinneas has been operating in and out of Connor and Mairead’s world for some time. Connor trusted him almost from the beginning (somewhat inexplicably, in Mairead’s view), and when Phinneas simply slipped into the role of Connor’s steward, Connor didn’t question it.

Phinneas has a wide network of ears and voices across the world, and because of his ability to travel in and out of space and time quickly, he can maintain his networks even as he serves on Connor’s estate. He’s loyal to Connor and Mairead, but he does tell them that he is loyal to his emperor first. And even that isn’t entirely true since, ultimately, Phinneas is absolutely devoted to seeing the ultimate purpose of the All-Seeing Lord achieved. If those purposes come in conflict with the emperor, the raven, or any other earthly force, Phinneas will side with the All-Seeing Lord.

This may or may not cause problems in the future…


Next week, I’ll take a deeper look at the Magical Guide trope and how Phinneas fits into it. And hopefully, if the stars align, I’ll have another update on The Heart of the Goddess…

See you then!


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