—The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 56
For many years. this was one of the most analyzed mysteries in the entire Wheel of Time series. Since Towers of Midnight, the solution has been known to readers, but it remains interesting to go over the main arguments for the main fan suspect for the murder, especially since it turned out to be true. The arguments laid out here follow those made on fan sites like WoTmania, Theoryland and the original WoTFAQ on Usenet.
Robert Jordan had said that the identity of the killer was not meant as a deliberate major mystery, but 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 confirmed that the remaining volumes would reveal the mystery and that it was one of the first things he looked up when he had access to Jordan's notes.
Comments by Robert Jordan
Robert Jordan has said (albeit jokingly) that it was "intuitively obvious" who the killer was, but also that it was possible to figure out who did it using the books up until The Fires of Heaven. It can be reasonably be assumed that this restricts the suspects to those who have appeared up until this point. This might be stretched to include those who had merely been mentioned, although this makes any motivation other than wanting one of the Forsaken dead hard to come by. Jordan also makes it clear that his death was instantaneous after the words left his mouth.[verify]
Characters ruled out
- Aran'gar/Osan'gar - not introduced until Book 6 and too busy being dead beforehand.
- The gholam - not introduced/mentioned until Book 6. Also tends to leave a bloody mess where it's victim last was.
- The unknown servants - 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 This theory involved two servants in the royal palace who Rand passes whilst fighting Rahvin, apparently close to the site of Asmodean's later murder. Some had speculated these servants may have been Graendal and Sammael in disguise.
- Padan Fain - RJ has removed Padan Fain as a suspect. [] Circumstantial evidence supporting him as a suspect before that included being in Camelyn in 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 refers to him as "the renegade"). Why he would particularly seek out the Chosen is not explained, however.
- Moridin - not introduced until A Crown of Swords and not named until The Path of Daggers. Since none of the other Forsaken recognised him, there is no possible way Asmodean would have either.
- Demandred - Although mentioned in The Fires of Heaven, doesn't appear until Lord of Chaos. Furthermore, he thinks that The Dark One "knew more of Asmodean than he" when Asmodean's death is mentioned. This would be implausible from Demandred's PoV if he had killed him.
- Mazrim Taim - Did not appear until Lord of Chaos and there was no known link with Asmodean nor any reason why Asmodean might know him.
- Shaidar Haran - Does not appear until Lord of Chaos, and is not named until much later. Could not have been guessed as a killed by the end of book 5.
Ruled out later
- Lanfear - Was one of the five Forsaken that meet in The Fires of Heaven and knows who Asmodean is posing as. Without some unknown way of her being able to escape from the land of the Eelfinn, however, the was no doorway ter'angreal through which she could return to Caemlyn to kill Asmodean. Later it is revealed that Moridin had to rescue Lanfear from the Finn by killing her and having her placed in a new body. Besides, she was the one who wanted Rand to be taught by Asmodean in the first place and, even if she were motivated, would she not have higher priorities to save herself from Sindhol and then wreak revenge on Asmodean once free?
- Moiraine- Before the identity of Asmodean's killer was revealed, we find out that Moiraine is still trapped and needs to be rescued by Mat.
- Graendal - had appeared in The Fires of Heaven. Some evidence she may have been around at the time (see below).
- Sammael - had appeared in The Fires of Heaven. Would have recognized Asmodean and had a clear motivation to not have him teach Rand how to defend himself with saidin.
- Slayer - introduced in The Shadow Rising. Capable of striking anywhere at will in Tel'aran'rihod. Used by Forsaken.
- Sammael - He asks Graendal where Asmodean was and told her to find him. While this could have been a nasty trick on Graendal, Sammael seems equally frustrated in his own PoV and doesn't spend a moment gloating over how smart he must be to pull such a manoeuvre on Graendal.
- Slayer - While Slayer is an assassin used by a Forsaken, this is not known to us until Winter's Heart, so would not have placed him as a suspect as early as The Fires of Heaven. Furthermore, he cannot channel and that would be a both a distinct disadvantage, even against a weakened Asmodean, and make the death scene a lot less abrupt. Lastly, Slayer's MO is to leave bodies at the scene and this doesn't happen with Asmodean.
When the impossible is ruled out, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. There are no great objections to Graendal being the killer that can be made. She seems very confident that Asmodean is, in fact, dead, something which cannot be said of the other Forsaken.
She also 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). Alternatively, she could have been seeking to remove evidence she was ever involved with Rahvin or to find any objects of power he may have had stashed in the palace, just as she later did with Sammael. 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.
The suddenness of Asmodean's death and lack of a body would seem to point to the culprit being a channeler and the fact that he was never reincarnated, whatever his failings, hint strongly at Balefire. This was implied by Brandon Sanderson more than once, although never confirmed outright.[]
Asmodean also knew his killer and did not expect to either see them there or that they would kill him. Graendal is very good at playing alliances until she no longer has need of them. Additionally, Asmodean does actually know where Graendal is hiding and tells Rand she is in Arad Doman. Silencing him would be a good motive for murder.
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.