Skip to content
Answering Your Questions About Reactor: Right here.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter. Everything in one handy email.

Reading The Wheel of Time: Everyone Wants a Piece of Nynaeve in Winter’s Heart (Part 9)


Reading The Wheel of Time: Everyone Wants a Piece of Nynaeve in <em>Winter&#8217;s Heart</em> (Part 9)

Home / Reading The Wheel of Time: Everyone Wants a Piece of Nynaeve in Winter’s Heart (Part 9)
Rereads and Rewatches The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Everyone Wants a Piece of Nynaeve in Winter’s Heart (Part 9)

Sylas finishes up chapter 10 and 11 of Winter's Heart.


Published on February 27, 2024

Cover art of Winter's Heart

This week on Reading The Wheel of Time, we’re checking in with what remains of Liandrin’s cohorts and catching up with the woman who calls herself Lady Shiaine as we finish up with Chapter 10, and then moving on to Chapter 11, in which Rand and Min arrive in Caemlyn and Nynaeve has an interesting time of it.

Asne and Chesmal wait in their house in Caemlyn for Eldrith to return. Asne is trying to avoid conversation with Chesmal, because all the other Black Sister wants to do is brag about how important she is, which Asne finds both annoying and dangerous.

When Eldrith arrives, Chesmal upbraids her for losing track of time, despite the fact that Eldrith stands highest among them and was left in charge by Moghedien. Asne finds herself wondering how much of Eldrith’s absent-mindedness is real, and how much is feigned. She doesn’t think someone so seemingly unaware could survive long as a member of the Black Ajah, but she also knows that Eldrith has more than once let the masking on her Warder bond slip, allowing her Warder, Kennit, to track her. Having been ordered by Moghedien to wait in Samara, they remained hidden until Kennit arrived; Eldrith was unwilling to let her sisters kill him, so they fled to Caemlyn. Asne wonders if it’s time for Eldrith to have an accident.

Temaile joins them. Everyone is a little afraid of Temaile after seeing her enthusiasm over Liandrin’s torture. Temaile reports that Elayne and Nynaeve have come back to Caemlyn and are currently in the Palace. They discuss whether or not they can get past the Kin to take Nynaeve, and perhaps Elayne too.

Temaile also reports that there were other spies besides herself—a man, and someone else she did not see.

Asne has let her own masking slip, and she can feel all four of her Warders coming to her. Only one is a Darkfriend, but she knows the others will believe whatever she tells them, and do as she commands.

It would be necessary to keep them concealed from the others unless absolutely necessary, but she wanted armed men close at hand. Muscles and steel were very useful. And if worse came to worst, she could always reveal the long, fluted rod that Moghedien had not hidden so well as she thought she had.

Elsewhere, Lady Shiaine reflects that her former identity as Mili Skane is pretty much forgotten, and that she has now fully become Shiaine. She has Falion working as her servant. Marillin Gemalphin points out the danger of treating an Aes Sedai in such a way, but Shiaine counters that all of this is happening under Moridin’s orders, and asks if she should disobey one of the Chosen. Falion confirms that she is quite happy with her situation and has no desire to be returned to Moridin.

For the same reason, Shiaine would rule her with a very heavy hand. You never knew what one of the Chosen might learn of, and take amiss. She herself thought her own failure was buried deep, but she would take no chances.

Marillin informs Shaine that there’s already a woman in place who can do what Shiaine requires, it will just take time to contact her. Shiaine realizes that this means there is a Black Ajah member in the Palace.

Daved Hanlon is shown in, and reports that everything went exactly as he planned, and that he is now Captain of the Queen’s Bodyguard.

Rand and Min emerge through a gateway in an old storeroom in the Royal Palace. As always, Rand struggles with the taint and the dizzying sickness he feels whenever he wields saidin. Rand has disguised himself using the One Power. Min tries to convince him to talk to Elayne and Aviendha but he refuses; they are there to see Nynaeve and Mat only, and to leave as quickly as possible.

They emerge into an empty corridor, but quickly run into Mistress Harfor. The First Maid recognizes Min, but is confused when Min asks to see Mat Cauthon and Nynaeve al’Meara. She doesn’t know who Mat is, and refers to Nynaeve as Nynaeve Sedai. Min asks Mistress Harfor to escort her companion to Nynaeve Sedai and hurries off; Rand is sure she’s going to try to find Elayne, but there’s nothing he can do in his disguise as a common workman, so he lets Mistress Harfor lead him. He can’t understand why Mat isn’t here, and is surprised to learn that there are only five Aes Sedai in the Palace, a count which includes Nynaeve and Elayne. Whenever he thinks of Mat he sees colors flashing before his eyes.

In another part of the Palace, Nynaeve is taking her turn teaching the Windfinders how to shield during a fight with saidar. Facing off against the apprentice Talaan, she shields the woman easily despite the fact that they are very closely matched in strength, but when one of the Windfinders points out to Talaan that the battle with channeling is much like wrestling, Talaan shields Nynaeve just as easily. Zaida commands her to try again, and this time Talaan is told to hold the shield on Nynaeve, so that the Windfinders can test Aes Sedai’s claim that it is impossible to break out of a shield.

She tells Talaan to prepare to turn Nynaeve upside down on the count of five, and Nynaeve, desperately, tries to assure them that she is telling the truth. But Zaida is unwilling to take the Aes Sedai’s words at face value. Panicked, Nynaeve tries to find a way out of the shield, but is unsuccessful. At the last moment the count is paused, and the Windfinders assure Zaida that Nynaeve’s efforts to break the shielding were genuine.

Nynaeve is released and attempts to regain her dignity as best she can; unfortunately the Sea Folk don’t respect her enough for this to be an easy feat. She is commanded to return the next day for more teaching, and has no choice but to follow the rules and customs of the Sea Folk, lest these women decide that she has broken the terms of the Bargain.

Once she has left, Nynaeve encounters Alivia in the hallway, with a message from Mistress Corly, who would like to see Nynaeve for dinner. Nynaeve demands to know why Alivia doesn’t have an escort—she isn’t supposed to go anywhere on her own.

Alivia shrugged, a slight movement of one shoulder. A few days ago, she had been a bundle of simpers that made Talaan look bold. She did not simper for anybody, now. “There wasn’t anyone free, so I slipped out by myself. Anyway, if you always guard me, you’ll never come to trust me, and I’ll never get to kill sul’dam.” Somehow that sounded even more chilling, delivered in such a casual tone. “You ought to be learning from me. Those Asha’man say they’re weapons, and they aren’t bad, I know for a fact, but I’m better.”

Nynaeve considers that some of the weaves she learned from Moghedien might surprise Alivia, but is fairly sure that the woman could overpower her. She sends Alivia away, regretting her attempts to teach the Kin to show backbone against the Aes Sedai. She’s aware that they might come find her if she doesn’t make an appearance at dinner, and that they most likely want to take her to task for the way the Aes Sedai are allowing “Sea Folk wilders” to behave towards them.

Talaan surprises Nynaeve next, appearing in the hall to beg Nynaeve to take her to the White Tower as a novice. She explains that her family has many strong channelers in it who have risen high in the ranks, which brings honor to their clan but also means that they are sharply watched for signs of favoritism. Talaan’s apprenticeship is much harder and much longer than it should be just to avoid the appearance of favoritism, and she is desperate to become a novice instead. Nynaeve knows that it would be impossible for the White Tower to take Talaan from the Sea Folk, but Talaan is confident that if Nynaeve announces that Talaan is going to the Tower, the Sea Folk will not be able to deny an Aes Sedai. She runs off, headless of Nynaeve’s protests.

When Lan finds Nynaeve, she tells him that she would like him to keep him in their bedroom for a year.

They go back to Nynaeve’s quarters, where they find the First Maid waiting with a strange ugly man who claims to have something for Nynaeve. Nynaeve and Lan are instantly on guard, but the man speaks up, naming Mistress Thane, the Women’s Circle, and Cenn Buie. Nynaeve dismisses Mistress Harfor, and the man changes suddenly into Rand.

Wondering who taught Rand to disguise himself with the One Power, Nynaeve tells him that they heard about what happened in Cairhien, and that Egwene can help him. Rand is dismissive of the idea until he is informed that Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene are all full Aes Sedai now, and Egwene is the Amyrlin. Rand asks if Mat is with Egwene’s army and then staggers, putting a hand to his head. Nynaeve delves him, finding both the half-healed wound she expects and a new wound.

A different sort of evil, somehow, like a mirror of the other, yet just as virulent. And she could not touch either with the Power. She did not really want to—just thinking of it made her skin crawl!—but she tried. And something unseen held her away. Like a ward. A ward she could not see. A ward of saidin?

Nynaeve steps back, warily holding onto saidar, and Rand produces two ter’angreal from his bag. He asks Nynaeve to keep them safe until he sends for them, and for her. He explains that the ter’angreal will allow them to touch the greatest sa’angreal ever made. He tells Nynaeve that a man and woman using those sa’angreal might be able to challenge the Dark One, but in the meantime, he hopes to use them to cleanse the male half of the Source.

Lan asks why this wasn’t tried during the Age of Legends and points out that Rand could get Nynaeve killed. Rand answers, coldly, that he doesn’t know why and that it has to be tried. Nyneave, meanwhile, has already made her decision, but is uncertain how to implement it. She declares that she thinks that Rand’s idea is a wonderful one, but that she isn’t going to sit and wait for his summons. She is going with him now.

Back in chapter 8 there was some conversation between Elayne, Sareitha, and Birgitte about how many Aes Sedai were in Caemlyn. Sareitha was primarily worried about the threat of sisters working for Elaida, as was Elayne, although she downplayed Sareitha’s concerns. No one raised the specter of the Black Ajah, though it must have been on their minds, if only because they know there is one Black Ajah member in their own party. 

Elayne even spent part of her ride scanning the crowd for the ageless features that would betray a sister, and is secretly having all the Aes Sedai in Caemlyn watched as much as she can. It’s a wise precaution, but since the remainder of Liandrin’s crew (Asne, Eldrith, Chesmal, and Temaile) are already known to be Black, they will have kept themselves well hidden from anyone looking to identify Aes Sedai faces.

I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of a Black Ajah member having a Warder who wasn’t a Darkfriend alongside her. It seems like it would be a difficult secret to keep from someone with whom you share a warder bond. You can’t exactly read each other’s minds through the bond, of course, but I feel like the Black sister would have to keep a bond masked fairly often. But perhaps many of the Aes Sedai do that anyway—we know they all need to do it sometimes, and the only Warder and Aes Sedai pair we actually know well are Moiraine and Lan, who may not have been typical in this area.

I’d be very curious to see a confrontation between a Sister who was Black and a Warder who wasn’t, although I suppose it wouldn’t be very pleasant for the Warder. Kennit is apparently aware that Eldrith is a murderer and probably Black, and is prepared, according to Asne’s narrative, to kill his Aes Sedai, despite what that will do to him. It’s doubtful he could manage to do it on his own, though, especially since she would be able to sense him getting near to her. 

It is interesting that Eldrith refused to allow her sisters to kill Kennit. Of course the shock of his death would be unpleasant for her, but she could also dissolve the bond right before, couldn’t she? It makes me wonder if she actually let the mask on her bond with Kennit slip on purpose. After all, Asne unmasked her bonds on purpose because she feels she needs the services of the Warders, a fact that she is keeping secret from her cohorts. Eldrith may very well have made a similar choice. She is supposed to be in charge of the group both by Aes Sedai hierarchy rules and by Moghedien’s orders, but both Chesmal and Temaile seem to be running the show for the moment. Perhaps Eldrith used Kennit’s arrival to force the move to Caemlyn. There is a suggestion that the thought has crossed Asne’s mind as well: “Then again, Eldrith was the one who had pointed out Caemlyn as their only hope.”

This group of women has basically been abandoned, after all. They don’t know why Moghedien hasn’t come back for them, but since she decided the group was hers and now she is disgraced and working for Moridin, that leaves them basically discarded and forgotten about, unless another Forsaken appears to take them up again. Presumably Liandrin was getting her orders from someone high ranking, probably the Supreme Council. It’s not sure who was directing them; Alviarin is the head, but their orders would also ultimately have come from somewhere else. Perhaps it was the Supreme Council we saw at the gathering of Darkfriends back in The Great Hunt, whose serpent rings were spotted by Bors/Carridin.

It seems like most Darkfriends often don’t know who is issuing their orders, unless they received them from Ba’alzamon. Until recently the rest of the Forsaken weren’t revealing themselves to anyone. And now Liandrin is gone, and so is Moghedien, and this group has no orders coming from anywhere, unless you count Moghedien’s instruction to wait for her in Samara.

One can imagine how desperate they must feel at this point. They have no idea what’s going on with the Dark Lord or his plans, or what moves are being made by the other Darkfriends, or what the Forsaken are up to. All they know is that Moghedien really wanted to get her hands on Nynaeve. This doesn’t guarantee that any of the others will want her, but it’s not a bad guess, from this group’s point of view. And Shiaine’s section is an excellent reminder for the reader that every Darkfriend is always only one mistake away from some pretty horrible punishments.

All Liandrin’s followers could very easily end up in Falion’s positionn. It’s interesting to note that while Falion’s punishment is a rough one, it isn’t permanent—Moridin said that the shield on her will wear off, which implies that she’s eventually going to be released from servitude as well, though it’s possible she may still be expected to follow orders from “Lady Shiaine.” It’s hard to say who outranks whom at this point, especially where the Black Aes Sedai are concerned. And we can see that in the way the hierarchy is breaking down among the remnants of Liandrin’s crew, as well. 

Given the way the hierarchy is drilled into the Aes Sedai from the moment they’re raised to the shawl, it makes sense that the Black Ajah would hang onto that system. But being a Darkfriend is all about trying to rise to the top of the mire, so there’s no other reason for them to stick to the Aes Sedai systems other than habit. And it only matters who Moghedien left in charge if Moghedien were to come back, which they’re all confident won’t happen at this point. Chesmal seems to have a somewhat inflated opinion of herself, which is very like a Darkfriend, so of course she’ll push for that recognition. And Temaile is a true friend of the Dark, delighting in violence and cruelty in a way even many of her cohorts find distressing.

I had to check, but Sierin Vayu was the Amyrlin after Tamra, which means the Black Ajah is responsible for murdering two Amyrlins in a row. It’s less clear why, though, and also I’m curious why Chesmal was going to be arrested in the first place. Also she says she “induced the Reds” to murder Sierin, which makes me wonder if the killing was actually sanctioned by the Supreme Council, or if Chesmal went off on her own initiative. Perhaps Sierin was sniffing after Black sisters, since Chesmal claims to have single-handedly saved the Black Ajah by her actions?

Another big question I have is about how Shiaine refers to Moridin as one of the Chosen during her conversation with Marillin, and Marillin doesn’t seem startled or surprised. It’s clear that Moridin’s existence is slowly becoming more widely known now, at least among the higher-ranking Darkfriends, but there’s been no indication that he’s revealed himself as being one of the Forsaken reincarnated. I suppose that his status as Nae’blis might hint at the fact that he’s one of them, though I do wonder if that coveted title is even known to those who aren’t at least theoretically in contention for it.

Maybe people think Moridin is someone who has newly been appointed to the ranks of the Chosen, but we’ve never heard about anyone from this Age being given such a rank, and we saw how disbelieving, and then utterly shocked, Graendal was when she heard the news. Granted, Shiaine’s very much aware of the danger of speaking about the Chosen, so perhaps most Darkfriends just keep their curiosity to themselves.

My curiosity, however, would like to know very much more.

But in the meantime, I’ve finally gotten my wish to have a Nynaeve section. It wasn’t as much fun as I was hoping, though; in fact, it was kind of hard to read. Knowing Rand and Min were in Caemlyn to see her, I was already thinking about how perfect it was that she would soon have an important project that would take her away from Caemlyn and all these burdens that I honestly don’t think she should have to be subjected to.

When we first met the Aiel, their culture was so much harsher and more demanding than those our protagonists knew; even the discipline of the Aes Sedai couldn’t compare. But the Sea Folk are even stricter, and it seems they’ll happily bring on harsher punishments for smaller infractions. Nynaeve concludes that this is because of the danger of lax rules on a ship, which makes sense; one can’t help thinking of the English and European navies of our age when you read about sailors being flogged and the strict codes of behavior that must be followed by even the highest-ranking members.

It’s interesting to consider, too, that the Sea Folk living almost entirely on ships means that everyone, even cooks and clothing makers and blacksmiths and anyone else who holds a job that isn’t the actually handling of the ship is still a sailor, in the sense that they live and work on a ship, and are subject to the same rules and discipline as a result. The hanging by the ankles punishment isn’t described for us in detail, but it is bad enough that Nynaeve was flung into an absolute panic at the threat of it, and left enough of a physical impression that Nynaeve had to tell Lan that she tripped on the stairs. When Talaan was explaining how strict her training is and how she will be hung by her ankles for not being fast enough in her lessons, my mind kept flashing to one of my other favorite series, the Horatio Hornblower books, which spend a good deal of time on the discipline kept on British naval ships in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, including the intense corporeal punishment used to keep sailors in line. The very strict discipline, coupled with the keeping of a very specific sense of duty, loyalty, and morale, was necessary because of the terrible conditions faced by these sailors and because many of those in the lower ranks were not there willingly; during times of war, press gangs were employed to take up any men with relevant skills and forcibly placed into service on the ships, often with no pay and always with no hope of returning home unless peace was declared. Convicts and other captives were also sometimes put to work as sailors.

Being born into Sea Folk culture wouldn’t be quite so bad as being a kidnapped English fisherman or someone facing imprisonment, but it is true that you wouldn’t be able to choose whether or not to be part of ship’s life and ship’s discipline. And of course, channelers in every culture are not afforded a choice in what they become. The Aes Sedai take all the potential novices they find, keeping everyone who is strong enough and ensuring that all those who aren’t are not allowed to be channelers outside the Tower. All Aiel women channelers are required to become Wise Ones, even if, like Aviendha, they don’t want to. We can infer that this is true, also, for Windfinders.

So Talaan is someone whose life path is incredibly prescribed for her, and who knows she will experience a great deal of suffering for no other reason than her family name. Until very recently, she probably would never have considered another option of herself. Even if she did dream of running away to become an Aes Sedai, it would have only been a daydream until the Aes Sedai learned the truth about the Windfinders, and the Sea Folk began interacting with them more regularly.

And of course, I should note that this analysis could be based on incomplete, or even faulty, information. We haven’t really seen any Sea Folk children or even, say, low ranking sailors, other than in passing, and we don’t know the culture of the Atha’an Miere that well yet, especially what might exist in private relationships outside of the discipline of the actual working of the ships. Talaan clocks this in Nynaeve when the latter is confused about Talaan’s relationship to her mother; she explains that they are very affectionate in private, but must maintain the expected discipline in public. The consequences for showing favoritism are clearly very severe.

The level of disdain the Sea Folk have towards the Aes Sedai confuses me a little. I can understand to a certain extent that they view the cultures of “the shorebound” as inferior to their own—less disciplined, less moral, etc. We see the same attitude from the Aiel, for example, though the occasional “wetlander” can measure up to their standards. But in the case of the Aes Sedai, both the Aiel/Wise Ones and the Kin had an almost mythic idea of who and what the Aes Sedai were, and part of their current attitude towards the Aes Sedai is about the fact that the Aes Sedai fell very short of that particular elevated idea they had of them.

In the case of the Sea Folk, however, it doesn’t appear that they ever held a particular reverence for the Aes Sedai. This means that the Aes Sedai never had a pedestal to fall from, but it also makes me wonder where their intense dislike of the Aes Sedai comes from. It seems like it is more intense than their feelings towards the shorebound in general.

Perhaps the hatred comes from having to hide from the Aes Sedai for so long. The Atha’an Miere clearly anticipated a conflict if Aes Sedai ever learned that they had their own powerful channelers, and perhaps they even feared that the Aes Sedai might choose, and be able, to take their girls by force.

I suppose there’s also the possibility that the Wavemistresses and Windfinders don’t hate the Aes Sedai as much as they seem to. After all, it doesn’t seem like they did anything to Nynaeve that they wouldn’t do to one of their own; they merely see her as being of very low rank in comparison to themselves. And although I’m sure they don’t have any great love for the Aes Sedai or the shorebound in general, part of the stiff attitude they present might be as much performance as anything, meant to keep everyone in their proper place. Just as Talaan and Caire act very differently towards each other in public from how they do in private, it may be that the Windfinders’ harsh attitude has to do with prescribed social rules and with keeping the power they gained in their Bargain with the Aes Sedai. Personally some of them may feel more neutrally towards Nynaeve, or even have some (very small) amount of respect for her. Zaida did say that Nynaeve’s instruction was more edifying than the other Aes Sedai’s, after all.

I was tickled by the metal image of Sea Folk luring people to come teach on ships with big purses of gold. You might be treated like the lowest ranking person on ship while you’re there, but if you’re paid well, you’re doing better than most of the teachers in the modern U.S., who get treated like that and get paid nothing at all. I’m really curious what skills the Sea Folk might look to “shorebound” teachers for, and how common such an occurrence is.

All this really adds up to me wanting to learn more about the Sea Folk and their culture. I’m not sure how much we will get to know them in the coming books, but perhaps Talaan will become a more regular character. She seems determined to become a novice, and as Nynaeve says, the Tower would certainly love to have her. I can’t see how that would come about, but stranger things have happened, and Rand is supposed to be breaking all bonds of fealty just by existing. Why not Talaan’s?

In any case, I really want Nynaeve to get out of there. I don’t particularly want Elayne to lose Nynaeve’s support, especially knowing that Daved Hanlon is now the captain of her bodyguards—nothing at all good is going to come of that. But other than Elayne needing all the allies and protection she can get, especially from skeptics like Nynaeve, it really does feel like she is wasted here teaching the Sea Folk and tangling with the Kin. I want more from her, and honestly, I think she deserves more respect than what she’s getting.

The power-based hierarchy of the Aes Sedai is very problematic, and while it’s served Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene well, I do think that they would do well to alter the system eventually. However, if Nynaeve helps Rand cleanse saidin, she will be due a great deal of respect. Not directly because of her power (although that will have been a factor) but because of what she has accomplished. Just as she was the first person to figure out how to heal stilling, she will be part of the team that accomplishes an even more impossible feat. And I can’t wait to see it.

I have more thoughts about Nynaeve and her journey, which I will talk about in an essay next week. In the meantime I hope all of you have a good week full of peace and rest. Our heroes need that, and so do I. icon-paragraph-end

About the Author

Sylas K Barrett


Sylas K Barrett is a queer writer and creative based in Brooklyn. A fan of nature, character work, and long flowery descriptions, Sylas has been heading up Reading the Wheel of Time since 2018. You can (occasionally) find him on social media on Bluesky ( and Instagram (@thatsyguy)
Learn More About
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments