|“||When I was entombed in that… that sarcophagus, I almost lost my mind, Carter. I still have nightmares. And when I tap into Ra’s power, I have the same sense of panic. He feels imprisoned, helpless. Reaching out to him is like… it’s like trying to save somebody who’s drowning. They grab on to you and take you down with them. Maybe that doesn’t make sense. But his power tries to escape through me, and I can barely control it. Every time I black out, it gets worse.||”|
Zia Rashid is a female Arab magician and a powerful scribe of the House of Life. She was the favored one of Ra and hosted Nephthys when Julius Kane freed the five children of Nut. She is also the girlfriend of Carter Kane.
Zia lived in an Egyptian village known as Al-Hamrah Makan (meaning The Place of Red Sands) with her father and mother. Zia's father was an Arab farmer who would search for artifacts in exchange for payment from archaeologists. When she was eight years old, her father brought home a small red statue, unaware that a monster was sealed inside. He unwittingly unleashed it and it destroyed the entire village. The House of Life found her hidden in a fire pit and under some reeds, where her mother had hidden her; she was the only survivor. Chief Lector Iskandar took her in, but found that Zia had no memory of her life. He provided her with the details of what happened to her, as well as photographs of her village and family, something that Zia later included in a shrine to her family.
Zia then began to train as a magician in the First Nome; when she turned thirteen, she was the only one in her age group to remain in Egypt.
When the House of Life begins to suspect that Julius Kane may try to summon a god, Zia and Michel Desjardins begin to tail him. They follow Julius and his two children, Carter and Sadie, to the British Museum, where Julius releases five gods. Unknown to both her and Desjardins, Zia becomes the host for Nephthys. After the explosion, the two find the unconscious bodies of Carter and Sadie. Zia suggests that they be killed, but Desjardins refuses because it is not within their instructions. They return to the First Nome and Iskandar comes to realize that Zia is, in fact, a godling. Fearing for her life, he hides her away and replaces her with a shabti. Not long later, the shabti Zia tracks down the Kane siblings in Brooklyn, where she briefly fights Serqet after Bast, the cat goddess failed in her fight against Serqet. Sadie opens a portal to the First Nome after Zia binds Serqet with the Seven Ribbons. There, Zia brings the siblings to Iskandar, who decides to 'test' them in the morning to see their real godly powers; Zia then shows the siblings to their quarters.
That night, Zia goes to her shrine, but is spotted by Carter, who follows her. While she is praying, he sees a glowing orb lift from her and float away, but when he mentions it, he is met with confusion. Upon studying her shrine, Carter asks about Zia's family and she explains her past to him. Feeling for her, Carter suggests that they go to the mall sometime and have fun, something that Zia assumes is a date. The next morning, Zia teaches Sadie and Carter the basics of magic and has them duel one another. She becomes shocked when she discovers Carter hosts Horus but the training is cut short, however, when Zia hears the news of Iskandar's death and that Desjardins has become the new Chief Lector. Zia advises the siblings to run away, warning them that the next time they met, it would be as enemies.
After their escape, Desjardins, Zia, Mel, and another magician began to search for the Kane siblings, saving a plummeting airplane in the process. Zia was eventually able to contact Carter in his sleep and asked him to meet her in Las Cruces so they could work together to defeat Set. Upon meeting there, however, they were betrayed by Mel and a fight broke out. Due to the efforts of Amos Kane, who had recently joined with the Kane siblings, Zia, Sadie, and Carter were able to escape, but Desjardins summoned Sekhmet to hunt them down; they were eventually able to convert her into Hathor by tricking her into eating salsa. Sekhmet thought that it was blood, and drank so much that it put her to sleep as she turned into the gentler cow-headed Hathor. Zia then helped the siblings animate a coat to drive a car for them and they began to head toward Phoenix until they encounter Amos once again. Zia, knowing that Sadie intends to defeat Set by speaking his Secret Name, seems to sense that Set is possessing Amos. She offered to tell Sadie Set's secret name and asked that she use it against Amos. Sadie, however, refuses, and the group continued on to Phoenix where they confronted Set. In the battle, however, Set attacked Zia, believing that she was Nephthys and unaware that she was, in reality, a shabti. Zia was gravely wounded, but had managed to tell Sadie Set's secret name. Sadie was able to use Set's name to defeat him, but moments later Zia's shabti disintegrates, much to Carter's grief. Desperate to ensure her safety, Carter vowed to find the real Zia.
Carter finds the real Zia in a hidden tomb under the Nile. He and Bes free her, and she rejects Nephthys. Zia is too shocked to believe that she knew Carter after he tells her that Iskandar was dead. Desjardins and Vladimir Menshikov follow Carter, freezing Bes, and Zia believes she and Carter are enemies. Carter is forced to fight against Desjardins and Vlad, but refuses to majorly hurt anyone. Soon Sadie and Walt appear through a portal and unfreeze Bes. Bes scares Desjardins and Vlad, knocking them out. Zia also faints and the four take her away. Zia and Sadie surprisingly become friends, to Carter's dismay. Together they beat Bes and Walt at a game of Senet. Zia agrees to talk to Carter after burning down two previous hotel rooms.
Later, Zia agrees to protect Brooklyn House from Vlad's attackers by talking them out of it. Talking doesn't work, but the house was safe when Carter and Sadie returned. In the end, Zia and Amos return to the First Nome so Amos could take his rightful place as Chief Lector after Desjardins was killed imprisoning Apophis. Also, it hints that Apophis is unleashed (by her father, who eventually dies) in Zia's village. Carter learns this and tries to warn her about it, but she refuses that it is the truth.
Zia is taking care of Ra and she learns that he has chosen her to be his host. While visiting the House of Rest in the Duat she almost torches the place to the ground before Sadie intervened. Zia also breaks up a lava fight between two senile gods during the story. Zia journeys to the Land of Demons with Carter and Setne, destroying the Apis Bull with the power she channels from Ra and later Bloodstained Blade. She kisses Carter after destroying Bloodstained Blade and admits attraction to him. With the help of Sadie, the two retrieve the shadow of Apophis and are rescued from an army of demons by gods led by Tawaret and the restored Bes. After Ra picks them up in his boat, Zia consents to being his host and Ra is reborn. Zia and Ra battle Apophis but are swallowed by him. However, the Kanes destroy Apophis, and Zia and Ra are saved.
Zia is later taken on a date at the Mall of America by Carter and starts a relationship with him, moving into Brooklyn House to be with him and experiencing what it's like to be a "normal" teenager.
Zia is highly intelligent, and is often harsh, determined, and single-minded, making her an excellent fighter and strategist. She is also, however, passionate, holds her dear ones close to her heart, and possess a warm, soft and more vulnerable side that she rarely allows to show. Carter is likely one of the few to ever have seen it, though indirectly being as it was still only her shabti. Zia may at times become scared, intimidated and frightened. During The Serpent's Shadow, she fears that she is unworthy, not ready, and not strong enough to accept her responsibility as Ra's host. After kissing Carter, she tells him she fears getting close to people as everyone she cared about deeply (Iskandar, her parents) has died, though Carter apparently helps her get past this.
Zia is described as being very beautiful with 'vaguely Arabic' features and straight, jet black hair cut at her jawline, Egyptian-style. By The Serpent's Shadow, Zia grows her hair out down to her shoulders. Her skin is caramel-colored and her eyes are startling amber and lined with kohl. When she is furious, Zia's eyes look like they "might ignite." She wears loose linen clothing and Egyptian perfume. In The Serpent's Shadow, she is often seen wearing white linen and camouflage outfits. She has been described as 'both beautiful and dangerous'. According to Carter, she looks like Queen Nefertiti, with her high cheek bones and bright red lips. After being given the last Khepri beetle by Ra, Zia wears it as a necklace which allows her to channel Ra's power. Even after Ra merges with Khepri and is reborn, Zia is still seen wearing this scarab necklace.
Zia is an extremely skilled magician of the House of Life and specializes in the element of fire. She is skilled in general combat as well and seems to be adept in terms of strategy. Her position in the House of Life is the scribe, meaning she is just beneath the Chief Lector's ranks. Ra, the sun god, recognized her potential and she later became the Eye of Ra, fighting Apophis quite well along with the other gods.
- Fire Magic: This is Zia's specialty. The fact that she can cast the Pillar of Fire, the strongest technique a fire mage could create, to trail Desjardins proves that she is a master of fire. However, Zia collapsed after the incantation, and was powerless the next hours. She can also absorb fire into her staff with a command word. When she fought Serqet, Carter describes that she left a trail of flames wherever she moved. Zia is also strong enough to destroy two hotels shortly after coming out of a three-month coma. Zia can also put greater energy into her fire magic to make her fireballs white-hot and thus, cause greater damage to her opponents.
- Heat Resistance: Not only is she a fire mage, Zia is also resistant to heat and this is shown in The Serpent's Shadow, when she was unaffected by the lava thrown on her. This makes her hard to defeat by other fire magicians as well as fire gods. However, Zia can still spontaneously combust during instances when she first channeled Ra's power without experience and Carter was forced to douse her with water.
- Scrying: Zia learned how to scry as an initiate, and communicated with Carter during the six-month gap between The Throne of Fire and The Serpent's Shadow. She can also show something like a video to the person she is talking with, like when showing Carter Jacobi's speech.
- Hieroglyphic Spells: Like the magicians of the House of Life, Zia can use hieroglyphic spells. When the shabti Zia taught Carter and Sadie, she displayed a good knowledge of the principles of magic and hieroglyphs. Zia is also the former scribe of the First Nome so it is presumed that she can write hieroglyphic spells and use them to a proficient extent. She also carries blank scrolls in her magician kit.
- Divine Words: Since she is the former scribe of the First Nome, thus directly beneath the Chief Lector's ranks, Zia can speak a good number of Divine Words. Throughout the books, she has been shown to speak six Divine Words: A'max, W'peh, Sahad, Heqat, Tas, and l'mun. However, it is presumed that Zia can speak more words of power than shown although does not use it, preferring to use fire magic instead.
- Magical Persuasion: By lacing her words with magic, Zia can force her opponents to talk to her. She displays this in the Red Pyramid when she commands Sadie to tell her where Amos was. Sadie described it as an uncomfortable pressure that was building up inside her, similar to a burp trying to get free. Zia displayed it later when she convinced the mortals in Luxor, Egypt, to leave since Carter and Sadie would fight, claiming that mortal minds were very easy to manipulate. This was never seen again in the book.
- Seven Ribbons of Hathor: A very famous spell used by Zia is the Seven Ribbons of Hathor, which she uses to cleanse a human host of gods. She displays this during the Red Pyramid when she forced the scorpion goddess Serqet out of her host. However, she can only do this once an year. Zia is also skilled in manipulating already-created Ribbons of Hathor, such as when she turned them into a leash when she dragged the ghost Setne away.
- Portal Summoning: In The Red Pyramid, Zia shows that she can summon portals and is moderately good at them. She speaks W'peh, the Divine Word for 'Open', so the portals open at their auspicious moment. Zia mentions that there is a calendar with the activation times and that she memorized it after several years, something Sadie found very difficult to believe. Later, Zia created a portal to Luxor for the duel between Sadie and Carter.
- Summoning Spell: After crossing the Sea of Chaos, Zia cast a summoning spell to summon Apophis' sheut. Carter explained that it was similar to summoning a shabti or a minor creature from the Duat. However, since it was Apophis' sheut, Zia's summoning spell only made the shadow reveal itself.
- Healing Magic: Although never shown, Zia remarked that Anne Grissom had taught her this magic. It is unknown as to what extent she is proficient but Zia keeps healing items like the Nefertum's Balm with her for healing, although only has one jar as the balm is rare.
Path of Khepri-Ra
- Comet of Khepri: By channeling the power of Khepri-Ra, Zia can summon a miniature comet of fire at her opponents by thrusting out her hand. It was strong enough to get past an Apis Bull's fire-resistant shell and reduce the creature to ashes. However, because Zia didn't have practice with the Path of Khepri-Ra, she almost exploded the first time she used this spell and Carter had to douse her with water.
- Khepri's Shield: In the battle with the Apis Bull, Zia channels the power of Khepri to produce a shield that resembles a scarab shell, absorbing the Bull's sunfire weapon. The second time she used this was to protect against the Sea of Chaos' magic and it worked despite the others being unable to use divine magic. However, Zia mentions that she exhausted herself by using Khepri's Shield for so long and could not assist in battle.
Eye of Ra Abilities
During the final battle against Apophis, Zia became the Eye of Ra to fight the enormous serpent. Although she retained her powers from the Path of Ra, she also had another attack which she lost after Ra and the other gods left to the Duat:
- Illusions: Zia can influence an enemy, even Apophis, to mistake her location. This was shown when the Serpent attacked her, only for her to disappear and re-appear a few feet back. She can also increase the amount of illusions by influencing the target with heat.
Carter Kane: Although Carter is immediately attracted to Zia, Zia herself does not seem to pay him much mind. It is not until Carter has proved himself upon their entrance into the hidden city of Heliopolis that Zia truly begins to take note of him. She is later touched by Carter's concern for her and his offer of a date. This causes Zia to feel sympathetic with Carter's plight and this, in addition to Nephthys's influence, may be what brought Zia to ally herself with them. Their affection for one another begins to grow to the romantic stage, however Zia's shabti is destroyed, and Carter is distraught by the idea that the real Zia may not know him. It is probable that she somewhat knows him, as it can be inferred that the blue balls of energy her shabti sent were actually memories to the real Zia, meaning that while she doesn't know Carter, she technically does, though her shabti's memories, and the shabti acting as she would.
In The Throne of Fire, the real Zia is first convinced that Carter and herself are enemies, but after making a fuss, she understands Carter's liking to her but tells him she isn't ready. The first time the real Zia showed her affection for Carter was when they held hands (almost) and feels concerned when she finds out he is ready to give his life to save the world.
At the beginning of The Serpent's Shadow, Carter and Zia haven't seen each other in person in months, but the situation has driven them closer and they communicate through scrying, having become good friends. In the Land of Demons, Carter and Zia have a semi-romantic picnic where Zia opens up to Carter, admitting that while she does like him, she fears losing him like everyone else she's cared for in her life. Carter's compassion ends up causing Zia to kiss him. and later, Carter finally takes Zia on a date to the Mall of America as he'd promised her shabti. Several nearby guys are shown to be jealous of their relationship and Zia reveals that Amos has offered for her to take a break from the First Nome and Sadie has offered for her to stay at Brooklyn House and go to American school and learn to be a real teenager. Zia asks Carter how he feels about this, if it would be awkward and when he stutters out his acceptance, she kisses him, showing an ability to shut him up with no magic necessary.
Iskandar: Zia describes Iskandar as the only family she has ever known. After her village was destroyed and her memory lost, Iskandar took her in and raised her almost as if she were his own. Iskandar seemed to love her like a father would and this affection led him to hiding her away after discovering that she was hosting Nephthys. Zia is later greatly grieved by Iskandar's death.
Sadie Kane: Initially, Zia often clashes with Sadie, with mutual antagonism toward each other. This is caused by Sadie's stubbornness, as well as Zia's short temper (when dealing with Sadie). Sadie still doubted Zia, even after she stood up for them against Desjardins. Only after Carter snaps at her she begins to cooperate. In The Throne of Fire, the real Zia and Sadie become closer as friends (to Carter's dismay). Sadie even invites Zia to stay at Brooklyn House and attend American school so she can experience the life of a real teenager, though Zia doesn't say yes until she checks with Carter first. Sadie also consuls Carter on his relationship with Zia after she lets Ra use her as a host, drawing on her experience with Walt/Anubis, telling him not to let it get awkward between them just because Zia is now a host. When Zia is offered time away from the First Nome, Sadie offers Zia a place at Brooklyn House and the chance to become a regular teenager, showing their growing friendship.
Ra: Zia is Ra's latest former host. He chose her because she is strong. Her affection is similar to Iskandar for Zia. Zia looked after him when he was revived and he gave her the last Khepri beetle to protect her with the last of that god's power. Zia channeled Ra's power several times, notably against the Apis Bull and Bloodstained Blade, but had a hard time controlling it because of Ra's sheer power. After reuniting with Ra on his boat, Zia allowed Ra to take her as a host and it allowed him to be reborn finally, something he attributed to her compassion. Before he leaves again for a very long time, he asks Carter to look after Zia for him, apparently aware of the two's romantic feelings for each other.
- Zia's last name, "Rashid," is the Arabic word (رشيد) meaning, "rightly guided" and is also the Egyptian name of the Rosetta Stone.
- Zia is also the name of the Native American symbol for the Sun.
- Zia speaks fluent Egyptian Arabic, being Egyptian by birth.
- When Ra said Zebras in The Throne of Fire, he meant Zia.
- When Zia was hosting Nephthys, there was a chance she could die due to being a fire elementalist. This risk is gone as Nephthys left her body.
- After she summoned the power of Khepri and passed out, Carter heard her say "Dung balls. Time to roll the dung balls", as scarab beetles are also known as dung beetles.
- Zia is the only known magician to host two gods - Nephthys (The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire) and Ra (The Serpent's Shadow).
- The first time Zia met the Kanes, she wanted to kill them, with Desjardins holding her back. Later, it is the other way around.
- Zia is the first main Arab character in the Riordan universe. The second is Samirah al-Abbas, who appears in Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.