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Reading The Wheel of Time: Mat Is Reunited With Some Aes Sedai in Winter’s Heart (Part 14)


Reading The Wheel of Time: Mat Is Reunited With Some Aes Sedai in <i>Winter’s Heart</i> (Part 14)

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Rereads and Rewatches The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Mat Is Reunited With Some Aes Sedai in Winter’s Heart (Part 14)

Mat's plans to escape Ebou Dar are complicated by Aes Sedai...


Published on April 9, 2024

Reading The Wheel of Time on Winter's Heart

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, we’re covering Chapters 18 and 19 of Winter’s Heart. In these chapters, Mat works to plot his escape from Ebou Dar, only to have those plans complicated, not by Tylin, but by Aes Sedai. How will our hero cope? Let’s hit the recap to find out.

Mat hears stories about a man being killed by wolves just outside the city, but he knows it was the gholam. Thom and Beslan keep going out in the evenings and Mat knows they are up to something, though neither will tell him what. Juilin keeps sneaking into the upper floors, even after he is caught by Suroth and flogged. Mat is convinced that Juilin is meeting with one of the Seanchan noblewomen.

More Seanchan settlers continue to arrive. Mat learns about the strange creatures they brought with them from Seanchan soldiers drinking in taverns and hears rumors from traders about the Dragon Reborn. Mat thinks he would know if Rand died, and is confident that Rand would never willingly go anywhere near the White Tower. The rumors seem to agitate the Seanchan.

Mat visits the Wandering Woman, which he doesn’t normally go to because the rooms are all rented to high-ranking Seanchan officers and lesser lords and ladies. Inside he is greeted by Setalle Anan, who immediately asks after Nynaeve, Elayne, and the Kin. Mat answers that they are all safe, as far as he knows, then says he is looking for a place to store money and supplies.

“You don’t know our ways, that is the trouble,” she said. “Pretties are an old and honored custom in Altara. Many a young man or woman has a final fling as a pretty, pampered and showered with presents, before settling down. But you see, a pretty leaves when she chooses. Tylin shouldn’t be treating you as I hear she is. Still,” she added judiciously, “I must say she dresses you well.”

Setalle’s price for the space Mat needs is for him to do a spin for her, which he reluctantly does. In return, he gets a shelf in her cellar and a hollow under her kitchen floor in which to hide his chest of gold.

Back in the Palace, Nerim and Lopin have discovered where Tylin hid all Mat’s old clothes. Mat gives them instructions to start slowly secreting the clothes and his money to the Wandering Woman. Later, he goes to find the only bellmaker in the city, who is annoyed when Mat asks him questions related to Illuminators. Some kissing and cuddling with Aludra doesn’t get him any answers to her riddle, either.

Tylin begins lacquering the first two fingernails on each hand, and admits that she is planning to shave the sides of her head. Mat doesn’t fault her for adjusting to the reality of the Seanchan, but Beslan disapproves. Tylin and Tuon seem to be becoming friends, and Mat is confused by the relationship between Suroth, Tuon, and Anath. 

Tuon in particular troubles Mat, and he finds he often runs into her. One day he comes into Tylin’s apartments to find Tuon inspecting his ashandarei. She asks what it is and how Mat came to possess it, and he answers cheekily that it’s a spear, and that he bought it. She offers to pay ten times what he did for it.

He almost laughed. He wanted to, and not for pleasure, that was certain sure. No would you think of selling, just I will buy it and here is what I will pay. “The price wasn’t gold, my Lady.” Involuntarily, his hand went to the black scarf to make sure it still hid the ridged scar that encircled his neck. “Only a fool would pay it one time, let alone ten.”

She studies him for a moment with an unreadable expression, then just leaves the room, as if Mat had just ceased to exist.

Mat stays away from the Wandering Woman to avoid attracting Tylin’s notice, but after a while he starts to get nervous about someone discovering his hidden money. He decides to go himself and check, but when he arrives at the inn, he finds that Setalle has gone out, leaving her daughter Marah in charge. Mat makes up a story about missing the food, and decides to wait in the kitchen.

Mat is just finishing his meal when Setalle comes into the kitchen from the stableyard, along with a woman wearing a cloak and hood. Setalle makes everyone but Mat leave the kitchen.

Mat is shocked when the woman removes her cloak and he recognizes Joline’s ageless Aes Sedai face. Suddenly they hear a Seanchan voice demanding to be let into the kitchen. Mat tugs Joline down into his lap and pretends to be kissing her as a stern-faced Seanchan woman comes in, along with a so’jhin who looks familiar to Mat.

“A fellow out front did say he did see the innkeeper going round the back,” the so’jhin announced. He was looking at Setalle, but eyeing Enid warily. “If you be Setalle Anan, then know this do be Captain of the Green Lady Egeanin Tamarath, and she do have an order for rooms signed by the High Lady Suroth Sabelle Meldarath herself.” His tone altered, becoming less a pronouncement and more the voice of a man wanting accommodations. “Your best rooms, mind, with a good bed, a view of the square out there, and a fireplace that no does smoke.”

Mat can’t figure out how an Illianer came to be so’jhin, but Setalle replies calmly that if Captain of the Green outranks those who are currently staying in her best rooms, then that is a matter for the Seanchan to work out among themselves. Egeanin remarks that it is nice to deal with someone who has a little nerve, and admits that she does not outrank many here—however, she has orders from Suroth to remain close to her. Glancing at Mat and Joline, who are still keeping up their act, Egeanin adds that she hopes Mistress Anan doesn’t allow that sort of thing very often. 

The so’jhin is also frowning at Mat but Egeanin tugs his sleeve and he follows her back into the common room. After they’ve left, Joline is too shaken even to get out of Mat’s lap, and he has to carry her down the cellar steps as she cries in his arms.

Once they have Joline settled in the cellar, Mat tells her that he will help her, if she can, and remarks that she is lucky to have been able to evade the Seanchan. Joline counters that she could have escaped except that she was unconscious when the Seanchan attacked—Teslyn drugged her and Joline’s Warders had to carry her away and hide her. She says it serves Teslyn right that she was captured.

Mat repeats that he will help Joline, in payment for his debt for the note she left him. Joline pretends to know what he’s talking about, but Mat realizes that it wasn’t her who left the note in his coat, which means it must have been Teslyn.

Wishing he had never learned the truth, Mat goes back to the Palace and sneaks up into the attic level where the Seanchan have assembled small rooms to hold the damane. He has to look into quite a few to find the right one, but eventually he locates Teslyn. He asks why Teslyn left him the note, and Teslyn answers that she wished to inconvenience Elaida; she even dosed Joline with forkroot so that she couldn’t interfere with Nynaeve and Elayne.

Mat tries to tell himself that Teslyn wasn’t actually trying to help Nynaeve and Elayne, that he doesn’t owe her anything, but now that he has spoken to her he can’t bring himself to leave her. He promises to try to help her escape, and while Teslyn doesn’t believe him at first, she eventually decides that he is serious. She tells Mat that he must also help another sister, Edesina Azzedin, to escape as well. Mat points out that he’s not even sure he can get one sister out, and that he’s seen three or four other Aes Sedai wearing the collar.

“The others do be… changed.” Teslyn’s mouth tightened. “Guisin and Mylen—I did know her as Sheraine Caminelle, but she do answer only to Mylen, now—those two would betray us. Edesina do still be herself. I will no leave her behind, even if she do be a rebel.”

Coming out of the stairwell, Mat runs into Tuon again. She tells him that the damane kennels are forbidden to men, but Mat makes up a quick story about how he was looking for a Windfinder who once did him a favor—he wanted to ask if she would like something nice from the kitchens.

He’s surprised to see Tuon’s normally stern expression melt into a smile, and she remarks that it is good to know that he is kind to damane. Still, she warns him to be careful, since there are some men who like to take damane to their beds, and that he wouldn’t want anyone to think he was perverted. Unsettled, he thanks her for the warning, wondering what kind of man would want to bed a woman on a leash.

Tuon leaves, and Mat is left with the problem of having three Aes Sedai, one hidden in the cellar and two who wear the damane leashes, all expecting him to save them somehow.

He could not feel the dice in his head, but he could almost hear a clock ticking. And the hour might be struck by a headsman’s axe. Battles he could plan in his sleep, but those old memories did not seem much help here. He needed a schemer, someone used to plotting and crooked ways of thinking. It was time to make Thom sit down and talk. And Juilin.

Okay, Tuon definitely knows that Mat is her future husband, and she is definitely collecting information about him. I imagine that she is taking the ravens about his person—on the signet ring, on the ashandarei—as an omen, even if the Foretelling didn’t name them as a sign of how she would recognize him. Interestingly, I think the penance she assigned herself of wearing the veil is the thing that is preventing him from learning who she is. When she comes on deck in Chapter 14, Anath remarks that the veil makes her “just the High Lady Tuon.” Of course, as Anath also points out, all the Seanchan know who she really is—that’s why Suroth takes her suggestions as orders—but it means that they all behave outwardly as if she is just another High Lady. They greet her as an equal, and they don’t call her by her title. Once that veil comes off, they will defer to her as, and probably address her as, Daughter of the Nine Moons. And then Mat will know exactly who she is.

I was initially inclined to be skeptical of Tuon’s belief in omens, partly because so much of Seanchan’s beliefs feels like propaganda. We know that the Seanchan prophecies say that the Dragon will serve the Crystal Throne, and that they consider other versions of the Karaethon Cycle where the Crystal Throne isn’t mentioned to be corrupted. From where I’m sitting, it seems much more likely that the Seanchan version is corrupted. Or perhaps a better way to put that is to say it has been misinterpreted.

I feel relatively confident that any interpretation of the Karaethon Cycle that says Rand is going to serve or bow to any other ruler, or nation, or Amyrlin Seat, is incorrect. But perhaps there was a part of the Karaethon Cycle that mentions Rand in conjunction with the Seanchan Empress in a way that could not be recognized by the people of this continent. In turn, the Seanchan may have interpreted this connection in a way that suggested Rand would be subservient to the Empress, but might in fact have had another meaning. Perhaps Rand will sign a treaty with her in which they both do something for the other, much like the agreement he has with the Sea Folk. That would count as serving, but would not be submitting or becoming a vassal to her. And we know that at some point Rand is going to have to come to some kind of truce with the Seanchan in order to unite everyone against the Shadow, so the concept seems plausible.

But whether or not the Seanchan version of the Karaethon Cycle has been differently interpreted or even deliberately changed, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Seanchan are fools, or that they are so blinded by propaganda that everything they believe is nonsense. And after all, in a world that is ruled by the Pattern, omens kind of make a lot of sense. So perhaps I was too quick to judge Tuon, especially since her reliance on omens appears to be having such an effect on the unfolding of the plot.

If there’s one thing I’ve picked up on in these books, it’s that whenever a main character gets bad vibes from someone for seemingly no reason, there’s always a reason—and that reason is Darkfriend shenanigans. Anath is a highly suspicious character, narratively speaking. For one, Tuon is afraid of Anath, and deliberately looking for reasons not to listen to her, even though she doesn’t actually seem to have a reason for her fear, and this is not how her family taught her to react to her Truthspeaker. For another, Tuon’s previous Truthspeaker, Neferi, died very mysteriously by randomly falling down the stairs, which reminds me of nothing so much as the “accidents” all of Tamara’s searchers had. And then instead of Neferi being succeeded by the person who was already trained to take her place, the Empress named Anath instead. And then Tuon immediately felt anxious and afraid of the woman.

She pretty much has to be a Darkfriend. She could even be one of the Forsaken in disguise—we know Suroth is a Darkfriend but obviously the Forsaken aren’t going to leave an entire, very powerful Empire in the hands of other Darkfriends. At least one of them is going to take an interest of their own. They also don’t generally tend to be rulers themselves, usually going for a powerful position adjacent to the ruler so that they can manipulate them the most effectively without drawing too much attention, either from good guys or from their fellow Chosen, to themselves.

Also, Jordan loves his dramatic irony and the idea of Suroth demanding that Tuon have Anath flogged, and Anath turns out to be Semirhage. I’m pretty sure Semirhage is the only female Forsaken whose secret identity is still unaccounted for, unless Cyndane isn’t Lanfear after all. Though I suppose Moridin could be having Moghedien pose as Tuon’s new Truthspeaker. Or Graendal, for that matter. It seems unlikely that Mesaana would have left the White Tower, and obviously we know where Aran’gar has been.

There is a moment in Chapter 14 when Tuon is considering the fact that she wants to resist the advice of her Soe’feia that felt very important to me:

Wanted not to listen to her at all. As Selucia said, she always had been headstrong. Refusing to listen to your Truthspeaker was abominable. Perhaps she should accept after all, to redress that balance. Three long gray porpoises rose beside the ship and sounded. Three, and they did not rise again. Hold to your chosen course.

This moment affects whether or not Tuon arrives in Ebou Dar presenting herself as High Lady Tuon instead of Tuon, Daughter of the Nine Moons, heir to the Empress May She Live Forever (or however she would be officially announced). If she knows who Mat is destined to be and he doesn’t know her, Tuon has a chance to get to know him without complication, as she is clearly attempting to. Since the Seanchan are the antagonists against this continent, against Rand and his friends, any chance of Tuon becoming fond of Mat might make a big difference in how willing she is to compromise and make some kind of truce with Rand when the time comes.

This is still speculation on my part, of course, but I think the logic makes sense. The encounter after Mat left the damane’s rooms seemed particularly significant, when Tuon said “It is good that you are kind to damane.” She is clearly relieved to find kindness in the man who is going to be her husband. The moment would almost be cute, except for the fact that kindness to damane means two very different things to these two people.

I’m hoping that setting Tuon up in the narrative as a “kind” slave owner is a prelude to her learning to change the way she thinks of channelers, because if not, there’s no real way to redeem her character, especially since she herself is a potential channeler, capable of “training” and controlling damane. I imagine that she will learn the truth about what being a sul’dam means, resulting in the evolution of how the Seanchan think of sul’dam and channelers coming from the top of the social order as well as from the middle. But right now, when she says it is good that Mat is kind to damane, from her perspective that is the same as saying that it is good her future husband is kind to dogs.

And when she says that men who want to bed damane are perverted, she is thinking of it as closer to bestiality, while Mat is disturbed by the idea of sleeping with a collared slave who, by virtue of that status, can’t consent. Of course, Mat wouldn’t have put it in anything like those terms to himself, but in many ways that makes his reaction even more moral—he simply can’t wrap his head around experiencing desire in such circumstances. The narrative has already been very clear about Mat’s attitude towards the idea of pursuing a woman who doesn’t want to be pursued.

Mat’s reaction to finally speaking with Teslyn also shows what kind of person he is. Mat’s a very interesting character in this respect; he talks a big game, even to himself, about worrying primarily about his own safety and telling Beslan that there’s nothing they can do about the Seanchan, and yet here he is trying to come up with ways of using the Illuminator fireworks as weapons against the Seanchan and volunteering to try to help Teslyn escape. What was it that Thom predicted about Mat in Chapter 16? Oh right;

“You say you won’t take risks, but you will. And when you do, you’ll make anything Beslan and I might try look like an evening stroll in the garden.”*

It sure didn’t take very long for Thom to be proven right.

I love that Mat, the trickster, needs “a schemer” or two to help him plot out this plan. I do think that between the three of them, Mat, Thom, and Juilin can probably come up with a pretty clever plan, although the dangers here are very great. I expect that forkroot is probably going to feature in this escape. Joline was not detected by any of the damane while she was dosed, which suggests that being temporarily cut off from the ability to channel by the herb also makes one undetectable to other female channelers. Which makes sense, of course, but this would also mean that the a’dam wouldn’t work on a woman who has consumed forkroot. Not that it would really matter, I suppose, since it would render her unconscious anyway. The a’dam itself isn’t secured by any special means—the latch is merely cleverly hidden, and surely Mat or one of his friends could figure that part out. But the damane and the sul’dam they are attached to can still sense a woman who can channel if she is nearby, so forkroot seems the way to go.

Ironic, isn’t it, that Joline assumes that she would have been able to escape the city if she hadn’t been dosed with forkroot and unconscious, when in fact it is the very thing that saved her from being caught and collared as Teslyn was. Joline clearly doesn’t know that it was forkroot, so she doesn’t realize that her ability to channel had been blocked; she probably assumes it was just some kind of sleeping draught. 

Fortunately, Mat has most of his things ready for escape, so all he has to do is figure out how to free Teslyn and Edesina and how to disguise all three women long enough to get them to Valen Luca. And then convince Luca to leave earlier than he planned. Maybe Aludra can help? She seems to really like Mat, even if she won’t tell him the answer to her riddle. Men do gossip, after all.

Speaking of gossip, I’m not as sure as Mat is that Juilin is seeing a woman. I certainly don’t see him being interested in a Seanchan noblewoman, given Juilin’s feelings about the nobility and the way the Seanchan view it. I think Mat’s right that a noblewoman might fool around in secret with someone below her station, but I do not think Juilin would stand for that hypocrisy for one second. And even a servant or a da’covale seems unlikely, unless perhaps he found someone who didn’t like her life with the Seanchan and shared more values with Juilin than she does with her native country. 

Or someone who was taken prisoner, maybe, and isn’t Seanchan at all. That seems to be what’s happened to Bayle Domon, after all, and we know that it has happened to other people in the lands the Seanchan have conquered. Although if that’s the case, I can’t imagine Juilin being willing to leave without her. Which would be hilarious, watching Mat figure out how to accommodate rescuing yet another woman from the clutches of the Seanchan in Ebou Dar.

I am, of course, assuming that there’s no chance of Juilin having met a nice so’jhin man or something. Gay guys don’t seem to exist in Wheel of Time. And I still wouldn’t be at all surprised if Juilin is up to something else entirely, something that has nothing to do with romance—but like Mat, I can’t think of what that might be.

But there is a so’jhin man of some significance to us in these Chapters, and that man is most definitely Bayle Domon. We last saw him And Egeanin sailing off with the bracelets that Liandrin and co. were looking for, which would be capable of chaining a male channeler to two female handlers, much like a damane to a sul’dam. They were supposed to drop the things into the ocean, and Bayle was going to try to take his ship somewhere safe, away from the Seanchan. Clearly at least the latter part of that plan didn’t go quite as they hoped, and something tells me that means the former didn’t, either. But we’ll be seeing more of Bayle and Egeanin next week, so I’ll leave speculation until then.

It’s interesting to consider how the different folk in Ebou Dar are adjusting to the presence of Seanchan occupation. For Tylin, there really isn’t any material loss—in fact there is some material gain—so in many ways her comparatively easy adjustment to her new situation makes sense. But making her one of the Blood is a much more insidious type of occupation than taking her throne and giving it to the Seanchan, just as the settlers who are beginning their new life as Altaran soldiers will be much harder to remove than an occupying army. It’s very clever of the Seanchan, really—but if there one thing their society knows how to do, it’s how to break someone to a new way of life and make them think that they prefer it. Those who are taken as damane are, of course, experiencing the most intense and horrible version of this. Teslyn can see it happening to herself in real time, and has seen it happen to some of her Aes Sedai sisters.

We’ll see more of this next week in Chapters 20 and 21, as we get to catch up with Bethamin, of all people, as well as Egeanin and Bayle. Chapter 20 is a particularly rough read, but it does present us with some interesting information on how the truth about the sul’dam is starting to affect every Seanchan who has learned of it. 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)
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