—The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 56
This is one of the most analyzed mysteries in the entire Wheel of Time series. Since The Fires of Heaven was first published in late 1993, the identity of Asmodean's killer has been fiercely debated among fans. Robert Jordan has said that the identity of the killer was not meant as a deliberate major mystery, but he was so amused by the commotion over it that he refused to answer who was responsible. He hinted that A Memory of Light would resolve the mystery, or if it didn't he would slip it into the paperback release of the final volume in some fashion. Following Jordan's passing, Brandon Sanderson has confirmed that the final book (now the final three books) will answer the mystery and was one of the first things he looked up when he had access to Jordan's notes.
According to Robert Jordan, the identity of Asmodean's killer should be "intuitively obvious" and the character who killed him appeared prior to Asmodean's death. This rules out a certain number of characters. Note that the following lists are not necessarily exhaustive.
Characters ruled out
- Aran'gar - not introduced until Book 6.
- The gholam - not introduced until Book 6.
- Osan'gar - not introduced until Book 6.
- The unknown servants - Rand passes two servants in the royal palace whilst fighting Rahvin, apparently close to the site of Asmodean's later murder. Some have speculated these servants may have been Graendal and Sammael in disguise. Robert Jordan eliminated this possibility saying that "the servants were just servants and were in no way connected to the murder." Source:ComicCon 2004 Wrap-Up, 22-25 July 2004
- Padan Fain - He was known in earlier books. He was in Camelyn at the beginning of the next book. He has been to the Pit of Doom so could conceivably be aware of Asmodean and was clearly known among Darkfriends (as Slayer was sent to kill him and refers to him as "the renegade" to Perrin in T'A'R). He hates the Dark One as much as he hates Rand so has motive. RJ has removed Padan Fain as a suspect. []
- Graendal - had appeared in Book 5. Some evidence she may have been around at the time (see below). Possibly the strongest contender.
- Sammael - introduced in Book 5. Would have recognized Asmodean. Up to a lot of murky schemes with Graendal at the time. Although in LOC 6 Sammael asks Graendal where Asmodean is. This question isn't something Sammael would ask Graendal if they had killed Asmodean together.
- Slayer - introduced in Book 4. Capable of striking anywhere at will in Tel'aran'rihod. Used by Forsaken.
- Moridin - not introduced until Book 7. None of the Forsaken knew who he was at first, so Asmodean wouldn't have recognized him, unless he appeared "disguised" as his former self: Ishamael. It is notable that in the Prologue to TPoD, Moridin thinks to himself that "Only nine people living" remembered Sha'rah, which means he knows Asmodean is dead. He could also have used balefire on him (one of the rare characters willing to use it) using the true power, making it undetectable by Rand or anyone else.
- Demandred - knew who Asmodean was. Not introduced until Book 6 though, despite occasional prior mentions.
- Lanfear - knew Asmodean's identity. However, was imprisoned by the Aelfinn and Eelfinn at the time.
- Mazrim Taim - as a Darkfriend he would likely know who Asmodean was and may have had prior dealings with him. However, he did not appear until Book 6, although he was frequently mentioned prior to that.
- Moiraine - knew Asmodean's true identity. However, was seemingly dead or imprisoned by the Aelfinn and Eelfinn at the time, failing the 'intuitively obvious' requirement.
- Shaidar Haran - initially ruled out as he didn't appear until Book 6. However, RJ later confirmed that Haran did appear prior in a less potent form (as the Myrddraal threatening Jaichim Carridin on several occasions). Seemingly fails the 'intuitively obvious' requirement though, as that Myrddraal was not identified as being notably different to the others at the time. As well, none of the other Forsaken knew who Haran was on their visits to Shayol Ghul until he first identified himself, so it is unlikely that Asmodean would have been able to recognize his murderer at that point.
It was probably Graendal, though there is a chance that none of the Forsaken killed Asmodean. In Lord of Chaos, the Forsaken seem uncertain whether Asmodean is dead. However, Graendal repeatedly says he is even when offering doubt about others, but never offers more than the bald assertion Asmodean is dead, making it difficult to evaluate how she can be so certain. In any event, she had reason to be in Caemlyn (i.e., to rendezvous with Rahvin and Lanfear as part of their plan to goad Rand into attacking Sammael, with three of them to take him by surprise). She could also have been seeking to remove evidence she was ever involved with him or to find any objects of power Rahvin may have had stashed in the palace. The circumstantial evidence would seem to support the theory that it was Graendal, as it suggests that the killer was one of the female Forsaken. First of all, the fact that no body was ever found points to balefire as having been the method used to kill Asmodean, as there is seemingly no reason for the killer to have made an effort to hide the body if there was one. The fact that he was never reincarnated also suggests this, although it's likely the Dark One wouldn't have reincarnated him regardless due to his betrayal, despite it having been against his will. Assuming Asmodean was killed by balefire, the murderer would've had to have been a channeler. Secondly, Asmodean's reaction to seeing his killer ("You? No!") makes it clear that the killer was A) someone he recognized, B) someone he was surprised to see, and C) someone he had reason to fear (i.e., one of the Forsaken and not a random Black Ajah member). Finally, it appears that his killer was female. "The word still hung in the air when death took him." RJ makes it clear that his death was instantaneous after the words left his mouth, which would suggest that the killer was holding the Power already when Asmodean saw her. Had the killer been male, Asmodean should've sensed him holding the Power immediately, possibly before even opening the door. That would've tipped Asmodean off before he ever saw his killer, especially since at that point Rand was the only male channeler known to have been in the vicinity. However if the killer was female, Asmodean may not have sensed her holding the Power, and even if he had (The "goosebumps" that male channelers feel when a female is channeling) he may not have found it suspicious, as there were female channelers in the area at the time.
Mazrim Taim was mentioned as being in Andor during the discussion between Rand and Davram Bashere immediately before Asmodean was killed. Aside from that, there is virtually no evidence he killed Asmodean as it had not even been hinted at that Taim was a Darkfriend.
Because Asmodean was shielded and only allowed a small flow of the Power, the culprit need not necessarily have been a channeler. In the prologue of Lord of Chaos, the Dark One mentions that those who betray him die the final death, which is ambiguous. The person who killed Asmodean may not have needed to wield balefire: the Dark One may have just chosen not to reincarnate Asmodean.
Slayer does not seem too likely a candidate. First, Robert Jordan said that the crime was a crime of opportunity more than a crime motive, which seems to mean that the killer was already in Camelyn. While this doesn't rule out Slayer, absolutely no rationale has been given for why he'd be skulking about the palace. Second, BS seems to imply on more than one occasion that Asmodean was killed by balefire, although he refuses to say it outright.[]
The gholam was almost certainly not the murderer as it did not appear until Book 6, failing the 'intuitively obvious' requirement as well as RJ's assertion we had met the killer in Book 5 or earlier.
The clue from The Gathering Storm?
Brandon Sanderson stated that there would be a clue in The Gathering Storm about who killed Asmodean, he did not say what it was so we really have no idea. So at this point we can only guess, but here is a passage that backs up that Graendal is Asmodeans killer:
—Graendal thinking to herself when the Forsaken meet after Semirhage has been captured.
Graendal mentions eight Forsaken:
- Demandred - with whom she is frustrated with because she does not know his plans.
- Mesaana - she knows she is in the White Tower.
- Cyndane - Moridin's servant via mind-trap.
- Moghedien - also mind-trapped.
- Aran'gar -told Graendal she was with the Rebel Aes Sedai.
- Osan'gar - knew he was Dashiva.
- Semirhage - just found out she was among the Seanchan
- Moridin - as Nae'blis he is marshaling the Dark One's forces in the Blight.
First, Graendal counts Asmodean among the dead Chosen; he doesn't even cross her mind. However, it has also been established that the Dark One knew of Asmodean's death almost immediatly after it occurred, and that he let Demandred know. It is also very strongly implied that Moridin knows of Asmodean's fate. Thus it may be the case that Asmodean's death is common knowledge to the remaining Forsaken.
Second it's seems a little suspicious writing on Brandon's part that he would say "the remaining seven chosen" so pointedly instead of just saying the "remaining Chosen."
An answer in Towers of Midnight
The Glossary of Towers of Midnight says of Graendal: "A ruthless killer, she was responsible for the deaths of Aran'gar and Asmodean and for the destruction of Mesaana." In the book itself, Shaidar Haran states that Graendal's actions have led to the deaths of three Chosen: "Three Chosen, destroyed by your actions." Towers of Midnight makes it clear that two of these are Aran'gar and Mesaana. As no other Forsaken's deaths are attributable to her, this can most reasonably be taken as confirmation that she did in fact kill Asmodean.
In a chat interview here, it looks as if Jordan has answered the big question. However, it seems very unlikely that after all the time he spent not answering the question he would suddenly answer it in an off-handed way. Also, in the interview he states "The reason I won't tell people though is that I am enjoying watching them squirm entirely too much." Why would he tell us the answer and then in the same breath tell us he won't answer the question.