1.1.6: The Death of Asmodean (a.k.a. The Murder Mystery of DOOM)
[Karl-Johan Norén, Kevin Bartlett, Pam Korda, Leigh Butler]
[Asmodean] pulled open a small door, intending to find his way to the pantry. There should be some decent wine. One step, and he stopped, the blood draining from his face. "You? No!" The word still hung in the air when death took him. [TFOH: 56, Glowing Embers, 682]
Note: Tons of thanks to Karl-Johan Norén and Kevin Bartlett, whose comprehensive analysis of Asmodean's death Pam plundered in order to give this section the thoroughness it deserves.
Did Asmodean really die at the end of TFOH? Did Moridin ("death") take him?
Yes, he's dead. No, Moridin did not kidnap him. First of all, RJ clearly takes this series too seriously to use such a dastardly pun. Secondly, RJ told Yancy Davis at a post-TPOD signing in Northern Virginia that Asmodean is "road kill." "He also used the line, 'He's a cat that tried to cross the tracks and didn't quite make it.' Also, when I said, 'so he won't be back' he responded, 'No, he will not be coming back.'" [Yancy Davis] Third, Aaron Bergman asked this question at a post-TPOD book-signing in New York: "In particular, I asked whether "death" was just a pun on "Moridin". He said "oh, god no" quite disgustedly." Thankfully, that's the end of that theory.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get on to serious discussion. First, we will consider what the general requirements are for Asmodean's murderer. Second, we will round up all the usual suspects (and some unusual ones). Then, we will examine all the general requirements in detail, and see if we can draw any conclusions from them. Next, we will eliminate suspects who couldn't possibly have done it, and those who theoretically could have done it, but who probably didn't. Finally, we will examine the cases for and against the remaining suspects.
Requirements which must be satisfied by the murderer:
- Means: be able to kill Asmo (a channeler) near-instantaneously
- Motive: have a motive
- Opportunity: be able to be in the Caemlyn palace at the time of the murder
- Be a person who Asmodean recognized, who he didn't expect to see, and of whom he was terrified
- Be able to dispose of the body
- Must know Asmodean's fate
- There must be a reason why it's kept a secret, by the author and the killer
- Be "obvious" from the instant he died (and we use the term loosely.)
Suspects (overly-complete list):
- Aran'gar or Osan'gar
- Padan Fain
- Shaidar Haran
- some random minion of the DO (a Gholam, Myrddraal, common DF etc)
Now, on to discussion of particular requirements. We'll start off with the classic three requirements for solving any murder mystery: means, motive, and opportunity. Then, we'll consider other requirements for the particular "case" at hand.
Means: How was he killed?
Any good murder investigation begins with determining how the victim died. We are at a slight disadvantage, because there is no body to examine. The possible murder weapons are: channeling, a gholam (which, from another POV, can also be considered a suspect), the Shadar Logoth dagger, and some purely physical means, such as a knife or sword.
What we do have is a (very short) description of his death: "the word still hung in the air when death took him." This indicates that he died very quickly. He did not get a chance to even try to run away or defend himself, even with the OP.
Given that, the Shadar Logoth dagger as the murder weapon poses a problem. Although once stabbed or scratched with it the victim's death is guaranteed, the victim doesn't die instantaneously. There is enough time for the stabbed one to gasp, fall to the ground, writhe around a bit, and finally die once the Mashadar-taint spreads through his body. See the scene in TFOH where Fain kills the Accepted [TFOH: 19, Memories, 259], and the part in TGH where Mat kills the Seanchan guy [TGH: 45, Blademaster, 538]. While the latter seems to die much faster than the Accepted, he still does some writhing in agony which is not consistent with the quickness of Asmodean's death.
However, it is possible to kill extremely quickly with even a conventional dagger or knife, if you know what you are doing. A stab through the eye, for instance, or in the throat, can cause death in seconds. The problem with this, of course, is that Asmodean was a channeler. Remember, channeling is fast. Rand plucks daggers and spears out of the air in mid-flight; wouldn't Asmodean be similarly able to stop or at least deflect a knife?
Well, perhaps not. Unlike Rand, Asmodean was shielded, a shield that allowed him to channel "only a trickle". The question is whether that trickle would be enough to hold off a determined assailant who took him by surprise. Rand observed that floating a goblet across a room was about the extent of Asmodean's abilities [TFOH: 3, Pale Shadows, 73], and then later, "...wished he could see the shield Lanfear had woven. She had said it would dissipate with time, but Asmodean did not seem able to channel any more strongly now than he had the first day he was in Rand's hands. Perhaps she had lied, to give Asmodean false hope, to make Rand believe the man would grow strong enough to teach him more than he ever would" [TFOH: 52, Choices, 622]. If Asmo could barely lift a goblet, it doesn't seem likely that he would be able to stop a killing knife thrust.
This argument is somewhat contradicted, however, by yet another observation Rand makes after balefiring Rahvin and returning to the fighting outside the Caemlyn palace: "And Asmodean, sword held awkwardly and trying to look every way at once in case any Trolloc decided to turn back. Rand could sense saidin in him, though weakly; he did not think much of Asmodean's fighting had been with that blade" [TFOH: 55, The Threads Burn, 676]. The passage suggests that Asmodean could, in fact, defend himself with the OP. Consider, though, that Asmo's murderer took him completely by surprise, at close quarters, and was evidently someone Asmo was utterly terrified of; it's possible that even if Asmo did have the strength to fight off a non-channeling attacker, his shock could have frozen him for the critical moment needed to kill him with an ordinary weapon. (Note that this debate would not necessarily apply if Asmo's assailant was a gholam, since they are not only super-duper fast, but OP-resistant; however, it's unlikely that he was killed by a gholam, for reasons discussed below.)
So it's possible that Asmodean was killed by ordinary means. The more plausible murder weapon, though, is still channeling. While Asmo may or may not have been able to defend himself against conventional attack, we know he didn't stand a chance against any of the channeling suspects. The absence of a body lends more credence to the idea that the killer was a channeler, and that channeling was used in the murder (see below).
Was Asmodean balefired?
This is definitely a possibility. Certainly, any channeler who could have killed Asmo could have wanted to ensure that his thread was burned out of the Pattern.
When Demandred visits the DO in [LOC: Prologue, The First Message, 13-16], the DO lumps Asmodean in with Rahvin as having "died the final death." In Rahvin's case, this means he was balefired, and the DO cannot "step outside of time" to recycle him. Of course, there are other ways in which Asmo could have died with no possibility of recycling. For one thing, the DO may have the power to recycle Asmo, but chooses not to, because he was a traitor. Also, remember that Rand severed Asmo's link to the DO, and thus the DO might not have had the power to save Asmo's soul even if he'd wanted to.
Another point in favor of the balefire idea is the similarity between RJ's description of Asmo's death and that of Be'lal in [TDR: 55, What is Written in Prophecy, 557]:
Moiraine had not stopped or slowed while he spoke. She was no more than thirty paces from him when he moved his hand, and she raised both of hers as well.
There was an instant of surprise on the Forsaken's face, and he had time to scream `No!' Then a bar of white fire hotter than the sun shot from the Aes Sedai's hands, a glaring rod that banished all shadows. Before it, Be'lal became a shape of shimmering motes, specks dancing in the light for less than a heartbeat, flecks consumed before his cry faded.
In particular, note the similarity between "flecks consumed before his cry faded" with "the word still hung in the air when death took him." This is certainly suggestive.
If Asmodean was killed by channeling, why didn't anybody sense it?
A common argument against the idea that Asmo was killed by channeling is that, if it was a man, Rand would have sensed the channeling, and if it was a woman, Rand or Aviendha would have sensed it. This isn't really a valid objection.
The range at which channeling can be sensed seems to depend on many different things: proximity, amount of OP being channeled, how much attention the senser is paying, the strength and experience of the senser, and any number of other variables (see section 2.3.5 for further analysis). In the case of Asmodean's death, we have many unknowns. We don't know how far he was from Rand and Avi when he died. He'd been walking through the palace, thinking about his situation, and there is no indication of how far he walked before opening that fateful door. It is entirely possible that he was too far away for the channeling to be detected by Rand and/or Aviendha, who were both distracted by other business. We don't know what form of channeling was used to kill him (if channeling it was)-- balefire, fireballs, inverse healing, or something we don't know about, or how easy any of those things are to sense at a distance. There are too many unknowns and uncertainties to eliminate either half of the OP as the murder weapon.
Of course, the True Power cannot be sensed by anybody. As of WH, the only Forsaken who had permission to use the TP was Moridin, but we don't know when that prohibition went into effect, and an exception to the rule could have been made for this particular assassination anyway. So the True Power is also a possibility, though a slim one - the DO seems to be rather stingy with TP permission, and none of the Forsaken other than Ishydin seem very keen on using it.
Motive: "When I know why, I'll know who."
The question of why Asmo was killed is perhaps the most complicated issue related to his death. Indeed, as the saying goes, if we knew why he was murdered, we could very likely figure out who did it. Here are the possible motives:
- Ordered assassination from the DO, as punishment for treachery. All the Forsaken, Slayer, and the different random minions (possibly including Taim) could be acting under this scenario.
- Enterprising person, deciding to kill Asmodean on their own accord, in accordance with some unknown (by us) plan. This requires that the murderer has gained the knowledge that Jasin Natael is really Asmodean.
- Asmodean stumbled upon his murderer by chance, i.e. the murderer was in Caemlyn and the Palace for an entirely different reason and eliminated Asmo because he discovered him/her.
- Ordered assassination, in order to allow Taim to show up in Caemlyn. This only works if the Minion Taim theory is true. (See Section 1.5.6.)
- Plot to cause confusion for Rand by killing his minions.
Note that 1, 4 and 5 can all be classified under "ordered by the DO," and 5 could also be a special case of "personal enterprise." Generally, 1, 2, 4, and 5 all involve premeditation, while 3 is just a crime of opportunity.
Any of the Forsaken could have acted under any of these motives. A random minion or Slayer would have been acting under orders, either from a Forsaken, or the DO. Taim could either be acting under orders or on his own, depending on which theory you buy. Fain could only have been acting under 3 or 5. We will now discuss the various motives:
Ordered assassination, as punishment for treachery
Now, it makes perfect sense that the DO and the various Forsaken would want to punish Asmodean for going over to Rand's side. However, if this was the sole motive for the murder, several things don't add up.
In general, people who betray the cause of the Shadow are killed in very visible, painful, messy ways, in order to send a message to others who might consider giving up the Dark Side. Examples of this are Amico and Joiya in TSR, and Ispan in TPOD. Asmodean's remains were not left behind as a lesson. Furthermore, he was killed quickly, with none of the gruesome torture experienced by other failures. The only way the method of the murder makes sense as a punishment is if it was done with balefire-- more than just dying, his thread would have been burned out of the Pattern totally. This still doesn't make perfect sense, because if it was punishment why wasn't the fact that he was balefired shared with the other Forsaken, as a warning?
With this motive, we must also address the issue of timing. Why was Asmodean killed when he was? Given that Asmodean had been "on Rand's side" for at least two months when he was killed, the question of timing must be considered, at least if the murderer is one of the Forsaken. Couldn't he have been killed far earlier? It could be argued that because Asmodean hadn't spent much time in Caemlyn (less than one day) before he was murdered, the murderer wasn't working under a carefully rehearsed plan, but acting more on a sudden opportunity. However, any Forsaken who had set out to kill Asmo would have gone to Cairhien, found out about Rand's raid, and Traveled to Caemlyn. The same applies to Slayer and possibly Taim.
If Asmodean was killed as punishment, why did the DO (or somebody speaking for it) wait so long to give the order? It's possible that changing circumstances forced the DO or a Forsaken to act.
From the DO's or the Forsaken's point of view, the two big events were Lanfear's disappearance and Rahvin's death. The killing of Asmodean is likely connected with one or both of these events. Another possibility is that Asmodean was killed in order to facilitate having Taim join Rand in LOC (this is discussed separately, below). Yet another possibility is that Asmo's death heralds Moridin's resurrection.
Perhaps Asmodean was killed by somebody who had been planning it for a while, and had held off because he was a pet project of Lanfear's. When Lanfear vanished, whoever it was took the opportunity to remove him. (Problem with this: Lanfear claimed to her fellow Chosen that Asmo had gone over to Rand entirely of his own free will, not due to any scheme of hers.) Alternatively, the killer could have had some plan which required Asmodean's removal, and done so. This raises the question of why did they kill him when they did, rather than earlier? (See the discussion of timing, above.)
One possibility is that Asmo was not the specific target of the killer; he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps the killer was/is spying/plotting/etc. from within the court of the Dragon Reborn. Asmodean bumped into him on his way to the wine closet, recognized him, and got killed to protect his secret. Quoting from the relevant passage: "He pulled open a small door, intending to find his way to the pantry. There should be some decent wine." Then we have, "You? No!" He was going to look for wine. He probably opened a door to an empty storeroom or hallway. It was not a wine pantry. He hadn't found it yet. If you reread the passage yourself, it seems that it may have even been an accident he ran into his killer (i.e. the killer wasn't planning on it, but since Asmodean saw him...). This motive fits well with the body being removed/destroyed. If the killing was for punishment, it would have made more sense for the body to be left, and the death widely publicized, to set an example.
So how could the body being discovered disclose something about the killer (to the other characters)? There are 3 possibilities. 1) The killer is part of Rand's entourage, and a dead Asmo could make people suspicious that there was a traitor in the ranks. 2) There is a hole in Rand's security, and a dead Asmo would inspire people to find it and patch it up. 3) The killer is hiding (not necessarily only from Rand - could also be from the Forsaken) and a dead body could start folks thinking the killer was active.
Tie-in to Minion Taim
We now know Taim is not Demandred in disguise (see section 1.1.5), so that is no longer a valid motive for Asmodean's murder. However, if it turns out, as WH suggests, that Taim is Demandred's minion, that could be just as good a motive as the Taimandred theory. If Taim is Dem's protégé, it's not unreasonable to assume that the other Forsaken, including Asmodean, knew who Taim was and probably even had seen him. Thus Asmo would have had to be eliminated to prevent him from betraying Taim's DF status to Rand.
One objection to this is that Demandred was not informed of the supposed plan to kill Asmodean on his lackey's behalf. However, we don't know for sure, if Taim is a DF, if he's working specifically for Demandred. Certainly, he couldn't have been originally (see section 1.5.6). Moridin could have ordered the hit and then only told Demandred (and/or Taim) about it later; Taim could even have killed Asmodean on his own initiative.
Simple plot to cause confusion
The killer may have killed Asmo as part of a plot to annoy or confuse Rand. The problem with this is that there are many better targets for a person with that motive. Why not go after somebody Rand actually cares about, like Mat, Avi, or Egwene? The only way this motive makes sense at all is if the killer knew Asmo's value to Rand as a teacher. In other words, the killer knew "Jasin Natael" was really Asmodean, and all the suspects who would know that have much better motives than causing confusion.
Needless to say, the murderer either was already in Caemlyn when Rand made his surprise raid, or had a way to get there at will. Furthermore, the killer must have been able to get into the Palace (and out again, with the body-- see below). Now, any of the Forsaken could have done that easily, by Traveling. Minion Taim could have done the same. Shaidar Haran could have used the shadow-travel trick to get there. Slayer could have gotten to Caemlyn as easily as any of the Forsaken, via T'A'R. Moiraine could not have Traveled to Caemlyn, but it's possible that she got there via the Finn.
In Fain's case, it is known that he was in Tar Valon (some long way from Caemlyn) about 25 days before Asmo's death. It's not that likely that he could have made it in that time by conventional travel, although he could have used the Ways; there are known Waygates in both TV and Caemlyn. There is a further problem with Fain: if he'd had any actual plan to kill Asmo, he wouldn't have been in Caemlyn; he'd have been in Cairhien. The Caemlyn attack was a snap decision on Rand's part, and could not have been expected by ANY of the suspects. Thus, if the murderer went to the Caemlyn palace with the purpose of killing Asmodean, he/she must have some method of speedy traveling, such as Traveling.
"Then I saw her face..." The Recognition Factor
Recognized by and terrified Asmo: again, any FS would be recognized. The extreme reaction implies it was somebody he never expected to see, like somebody he thought was dead. However, since Asmo was a weaselly coward, it's conceivable that any FS would terrify him, especially if he/she was about to kill him. However, we should ask why a FS would be walking around Rand's stronghold without a disguise. If the killer dropped his/her disguise to show Asmo who was killing him, why bother? Dramatic effect?
There is also reason to believe Asmodean would have recognized and possibly been terrified by both Slayer and Taim, though the case for them is not nearly as strong as for the Forsaken. This is discussed in greater detail further on, as is the case for Moiraine.
"Oh, I ain't got no bodeeee." Where is it?
No body was left behind at the murder scene. This is evidenced by the fact that nobody (except the killer, duh) seems to know he's dead. Rand certainly doesn't. He thinks Asmo ran away: "If they discovered that he had held one of the Forsaken prisoner and allowed him to escape... He would deal with Asmodean himself if the man ever turned up again." [LOC: 3, A Woman's Eyes, 92] In TPOD, Rand still thinks Asmo's alive; he initially thinks that the attack at the end of the book is Asmodean and/or Demandred [TPOD: 29, A Cup of Sleep, 565]. From this, we can conclude that he was either killed in such a way that no recognizable remains were left, or that the body was removed in order to hide the murder.
A channeler would have had no difficulty in either destroying Asmo's remains or taking them away via gateway. To all appearances, Slayer could have easily removed the body as well, by taking it with him into T'A'R. Any of the other suspects, though, would have had more than a little difficulty walking out of the Royal Palace carrying the corpse of the Lord Dragon's gleeman.
We should ask why the body (if there was one) was removed at all. The only possible reason for the corpse to be removed would be to hide the fact that the killer was around. For many of the killers, the supposed motives would have been better served by leaving a recognizable body behind. We've seen that those who betray the Dark are generally killed in ways that serve as examples to others (e.g. Joiya and Amico in TSR, Ispan in TPOD). If the goal was simply to terrify Rand, leaving the body behind would have done a better job than removing it. The "cover-for-Minion Taim" motive does give a possible reason for removing the body - a dead Asmo might make Rand suspicious.
Knowledge of Asmo's fate
Needless to say, the person who killed him must know that he's dead. This condition can be used to eliminate quite a few suspects. Any character whose thoughts indicate that he/she thinks Asmo may still be alive can't be the killer. Likewise for any character who expresses ignorance of his fate in a situation where she/he wouldn't lie.
Despite RJ's comments to the contrary, it is not at all obvious who did the dirty deed. One question to ask ourselves is, "WHY is RJ keeping it a secret?" The lack of action on this front in the books since TFOH pretty much demonstrates that the murder in and of itself is NOT a major plot thread, so there is no point in keeping it secret for the sake of keeping the reader in suspense. So, why is RJ keeping it secret?
One answer is that Asmo's killing is itself a clue to something else that was going on, which we didn't know about yet. This could be the return of Lanfear, Moiraine being alive, or the Minion Taim idea.
We are not the only ones ignorant of the culprit. All of the characters (except one, obviously) are also ignorant of whodunnit (if they're Forsaken), or of what actually happened (if they're Good Guys or rank-and-file DFs). So, whoever killed Asmo must have a reason for hiding it. After all, it's not like anybody would condemn them for punishing a traitor. For any of the Forsaken, this could be as simple as keeping the other Forsaken on their toes by causing uncertainty.
Obvious to the most casual observer: Say what?
RJ has repeatedly said that we should be able to figure out who the killer is. In fact, at a post-TPOD signing in NYC, he talked to Aaron Bergman about this:
I asked about Asmodean again. He said that yes, we should be able to figure it out the instant he died. He said that he thinks it's obvious now and we should definitely be able to figure it out by the end of [TPOD].
[Aaron Bergman, report from NYC book signing, 20 October 1998]
Well, RJ is obviously using the same definition of "obvious" that physics professors are wont to use. That is, it's obvious if you know the answer, and know which information is useful and which is irrelevant. It isn't "obvious" in the usual meaning of the word. Note that RJ "also claims that very, very few of the fan letters he gets are correct about [who killed Asmo]." [Post-TPOD signing, Northern Virginia, 21 November, 1998, report by John Novak.] This clearly shows that RJ's idea of "obvious" and his readers' idea of "obvious" don't really mix, do they?
However, this statement by RJ is useful in eliminating possibilities. Not even RJ could stretch "being able to figure it out the instant he died" to encompass people or things we didn't know a thing about before the killing, such as Shaidar Haran, Mesaana, or gholam.
Note that RJ's comment implies that something in TPOD should clarify the issue. One thing applicable to the suspects was the appearance of Cyndane, which did nothing but throw more fuel on the fire in the Lanfear vs. Graendal debate (see below); the other possibility is the attack on Rand in Cairhien, which Taim ordered (this is stretching it though, since the significance of the attack was not clarified for us until WH). The comment can also be used as an argument against the likelihood of suspects like Slayer and Fain, who were largely irrelevant to events in TPOD.
Elimination of Suspects
NOTE: The inclusion of Slayer as a prime suspect in Asmodean's murder forces us to re-examine our conclusions about practically every suspect on the list (and a couple of characters who weren't even originally on the list), even some of those which had been previously considered completely eliminated. This, of course, is because we not only have to consider whether Slayer was capable of the murder, but who would have hired him to do it - a role which does not require the same criteria as being the actual killer (this is discussed below).
Therefore, we will first assess, as before, whether each of the suspects could have murdered Asmodean personally, and discuss their possible involvement with Slayer separately.
Which suspects can be eliminated beyond any loony shadow of a doubt?
From [LOC: Prologue, The First Message, 15-16], we see that Demandred doesn't know what happened to Asmodean: "Lanfear has vanished without a trace, just as Asmodean did." Hence, Demandred didn't kill him. Dem would have no reason to lie about such a thing, and it is doubtful whether he could lie outright to the DO, under those circumstances (bathing in the DO's presence at SG).
In [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 141], Semirhage thinks to herself, "Asmodean. A traitor, and so doomed but he really had vanished..." and later, "If the Great Lord moved her here secretly, might he not be moving Moghedien or Lanfear, or even Asmodean?" This indicates that Semirhage doesn't know that Asmodean is dead, and thus, she couldn't have killed him.
She was Nynaeve's prisoner in Salidar-- either forkroot-drugged, or bound by the a'dam, when Asmo was killed. Hence, she couldn't have been in Caemlyn.
They weren't recycled until the beginning of LOC, and thus were busy being dead when Asmo was killed.
Which suspects can be eliminated beyond reasonable doubt?
Mesaana visited the Pit of Doom twice in the period between Asmodean's death and her appearance in LOC, but with the DO never appearing. If she had killed Asmodean, wouldn't she have made some sort of report to the DO, especially since the DO approved of the murder? Also, in conversation with Semirhage, she has expressed doubts about whether Asmodean is really dead [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 143]: "More troubling were the Chosen who had vanished. Demandred insisted they must be dead, but she [Semirhage] and Mesaana were not so sure". She doesn't mention Asmo specifically, and so it is possible that she's only referring to Lanfear and Moggy. However, while it's not conclusive, it is circumstantial evidence against Mesaana being the murderer.
Furthermore, prior to LOC, we had not heard or seen a single thing about Mesaana. Thus, she fails the "obviosity" test--there is no way we could suspect her from the instant he died.
First, there is no reason to think that Asmo would recognize the Superfade. It is a possibility that Shaidar Haran told Asmodean in his dreams that it would come after him, but that would almost require that Ishamael was resurrected as SH, which we know not to be the case (unless you want to get really loony and say that Moridin is Shaidar Haran). We say this since Myrddraal don't dream. Second, his motive would have had to have been a directive from the DO, and the missing body is not consistent with that. He could have gotten to the Palace quickly, using the Fade Shadow-Travel trick, and destroyed the body using the "black fire" trick he used to burn the spear in [ACOS: 40, Spears, 637] (although he'd have no motive for destroying the body-- quite the opposite). However, it doesn't seem likely that a Fade would be wandering around the Palace in broad daylight. He'd hardly be inconspicuous. Again, this suspect fails the "obvious" criterion, because we didn't even know he existed before LOC came out.
We are given very few hints in Sammael's thoughts in LOC and ACOS, and the issue is made even muddier by the game of deception he plays with Graendal. But in [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 133] we have: "Rumors! Lanfear has been aiding al'Thor since the beginning, if you [Graendal] ask me. I would have had his head in the Stone of Tear except that someone sent Myrddraal and Trollocs to save him! That was Lanfear; I am certain. I'm done with her. The next time I see her, I'll kill her! And why would he kill Asmodean? I would if I could find him, but he has gone over to al'Thor. He's teaching him!" This is in a Sammael POV section. He is also trembling with anger, which makes it quite unlikely he's feigning ignorance of Asmo's fate. Thus, it's unlikely that Sammael did the deed.
The only point in favor of this idea is that Asmo probably would have recognized a gholam, and been scared of it. However, there are more problems with this idea than there are conveniences. Firstly, it would have to have been sent by a Forsaken, which means we have to look among them anyway. Secondly, we've seen how gholam kill (Herid Fel), and it is way messier than the quick, clean way Asmo died. Since we didn't know about gholam before LOC, the gholam-as-killer theory fails the "obviosity" requirement. There's also the question of whether Asmo would call a gholam "you."
The basic argument for Fain as the killer is this: He could have been in Caemlyn at the time (via the Ways, if nothing else). He would want to kill any Forsaken because they would interfere with his plans to be Rand's personal hell. However, that presupposes that Fain knew Jasin Natael was a Forsaken, which seems a very unlikely thing for Fain to know, given that he'd never seen Asmo/Natael before supposedly killing him. An alternative motive which has been proposed is that Fain killed Natael because he was trying to cause confusion and stress for Rand by disappearing a member of his retinue. However, this does not fit in with everything else we've seen of Fain's MO, which has mainly involved ingratiating himself with highly-placed people and planting the seeds of Mashadar in their minds. Plus, killing Rand's gleeman and splitting doesn't really make for much of a dastardly plot to undermine Rand's confidence. It would have been much more effective for Fain to try to kill somebody closer to Rand--one of his friends, or even one of his Maiden bodyguards. The "mistake" motive doesn't work for Fain, because we'd have to have a reason for Fain to be in the Palace, and there is zero evidence that he was doing anything in the palace--no reference to anything of the sort in TFOH or any of the following books.
Furthermore, as we discussed in the "means" section, Fain would have had to have killed Asmo with the dagger, and that isn't consistent with the way Asmo died, or the lack of a body.
Which suspects fall in the "loony but won't go away" category?
Included by long demand. What these two theories have in common is that both present initially compelling cases, centered around enigmatic characters who seem to fascinate the readership at large, but which are ultimately deemed loony because each has one or more very large problems that cannot be sufficiently explained away to include them as primary suspects. (Technically, I suppose Lanfear fits in this category more than as a primary suspect since the information we got on her in WH, but seniority gives Lanfear-dunnit pride of place, so she stays where she is.)
This is a theory which has cropped up continuously since TFOH, despite the fact that the evidence in favor of it is entirely circumstantial. Nevertheless, the number of Moiraine-dunnit fans out there means it merits examination.
Moiraine knew Natael was really Asmodean, as she indicates in her letter to Rand; she also says she understands why Rand used him, but "cannot approve" of the idea. Asmodean knew her very well and was at least intimidated by, if not actually frightened of her. He certainly would have been shocked to see her in Caemlyn, since he just saw her "die" on the docks at Cairhien earlier that day. This also provides, as it does for Lanfear's case, the reason why RJ would have wanted to keep the killer a secret (to keep us in suspense about her survival). Moiraine was powerful enough a channeler to take out Asmodean (assuming she wasn't stilled), and she's already balefired another Forsaken, Bel'al. This (circumstantial) establishment of balefire as her weapon of choice would account for why there wasn't a body left behind. Finally, knowing Rand as well as she did, Moiraine could have deduced that he would go to Caemlyn to take out Rahvin, so she would know where to look for Asmo.
Of course, how she got there is another question entirely. Some people say she escaped from Finnland and has since been lurking behind the scenes doing... stuff, and one of these things might have been killing Asmo. It's pretty obvious why this theory doesn't wash. Besides the evidence we have that she is still stuck in Finnland, waiting for Thom to rescue her (see section 2.2.6), the idea of Moiraine skulking around for five books and apparently making no attempt whatsoever to contact or help Rand or the Supergirls or anyone is absurdly out of character. This theory also begs the question of how she managed to make sure her escape put her in Caemlyn and not, say, the Tower of Ghenjei, or any other random spot. (Remember, Moiraine did not know how to Travel.)
A less loony theory on how Moiraine could have been in Caemlyn is that she only temporarily got out of Finnland. The idea is that she used one of the three wishes she presumably got from the Foxes to go to Caemlyn and kill Asmodean. The problem with arguing either for or against this idea is that it is pure speculation. There is simply no concrete evidence of any kind, at this point, to tell us what happened to Moiraine after she fell through the Foxes' door; Lanfear's information from WH is hardly helpful, and can be viewed as evidence that neither she nor Moiraine got a chance to do any wishing at all, as much as the opposite. There's also nothing to tell us why, of all things she could have wished for, would Moiraine have chosen killing Asmo as a priority? Why not simply wish to get out of Finnland, like Mat did? Of course, one can come up with counters to these questions, but they are also necessarily based on nothing but conjecture.
Lastly, this theory has the same timing problem that the "Lanfear used her wish to the Finn to murder Asmo" theory does (see below). The murder took place on the same day Moiraine and Lanfear fell through the door; if Lanfear was "held" by the Finn, it seems logical to suppose Moiraine got the same treatment, thus leaving neither woman in a position to go whack Asmodean. Once again, though, this is all speculation.
Basically, there's no way to prove or disprove this idea. If Moiraine did kill Asmo, though, this is just about the only way it could have plausibly happened, and there we shall have to leave it.
The Oath Question
The Third Oath states:
Never to use the One Power as a weapon except against Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme defense of her own life or that of her Warder or another Aes Sedai.
The Third Oath has often been used as an argument against Moiraine as the murderer, based on the assumptions that (a) a Forsaken is not Shadowspawn, and (b) a shielded Asmo wandering around looking for wine hardly counts as an imminent threat to a channeler. While the second assumption is probably quite true, unfortunately there are some problems with the first.
The main support for the idea that a Forsaken is not the same thing as a Shadowspawn is Moiraine's encounter with Bel'al in TDR. She doesn't just balefire him off the cuff; first she shouts at him, gaining his attention and thus putting herself in mortal danger. So that seemed to indicate that she needed to invoke the "last extreme defense" clause of the Oath before she could use the OP on the Forsaken. Further supporting this is that she physically tackled Lanfear at the docks, rather than use the Power in an ambush.
However, various quotes elsewhere on the subject indicate that the first part of the Oath applies to Darkfriends as well as what we more traditionally think of as "Shadowspawn", such as Draghkar, Trollocs, etc. Alanna Mosvani, after describing how she felt her Warder Owein die at the hands of Whitecloaks, tells Perrin: "'Had I been there, I could have defended him, and myself, with the Power... the Children are very nearly as vile as men can be, short of Darkfriends, but they are not Darkfriends, and for that reason they are safe from the Power except in self-defense'" [TSR: 31, Assurances, 347]. Rand has similar thoughts about Moiraine's inability to help him fight at the Battle of Cairhien: "He had not asked Moiraine - she could not use the One Power as a weapon against the Shaido, not unless they threatened her or he managed to convince her they were all Darkfriends..." [TFOH: 41, The Craft of Kin Tovere, 462]
If Darkfriends as well as Shadowspawn are fair game under the Third Oath, then certainly the Forsaken are. So Moiraine most likely just wanted to make sure Bel'al's attention was completely off Rand, in the first case, and reasoned that a physical attack was the last thing Lanfear would expect, in the second. Moiraine indicates in her letter that she still considers Asmodean a Forsaken: "Yet be careful of him. He is the same man now that he always was" [TFOH, 53, Fading Words, 638]. Thus, the Third Oath cannot be used as a defense for Moiraine.
So why is this theory loony, then?
There are three main problems with the Moiraine-dunnit scenario. The first is discussed above: all the arguments presenting Moiraine as the murderer are based on nothing more concrete than supposition - theoretical conjecture about what might have happened to Moiraine on the other side of that door. True, this can also be said of the cases for some of the other suspects as well, but the amount of virtually baseless speculation is especially egregious in Moiraine's case. At least for the other candidates we get to see what they do, say, and think after the murder; for Moiraine we have literally nothing.
The second problem with Moiraine is the "obvious" question. As noted above, if Moiraine did it there is a good reason for RJ to keep it a secret, but what exactly makes her intuitively "obvious"? We had just seen her "die" the same day, and even if you didn't really think she was dead you certainly might reasonably suppose that she was kind of busy. The rationale most commonly put forth for the "obvious" problem is that Moiraine had already killed two other Forsaken, Bel'al and Lanfear (well, thought to have killed, in the second case, but anyway). Moiraine is, in fact, the only other character at that point besides Rand and the Green Man to have killed any of the Forsaken on-screen. So here we have another Forsaken who is killed, and Rand didn't do it, and the Green Man certainly didn't do it. Ergo...
Unfortunately, while this reasoning may seem sound, it's not. It's a logical fallacy - a false analogy, to be exact. As Derek Driscoll puts it: "There's a Big Mac, a Whopper, and a Teen Burger in my house. I live with three other people. I eat the Big Mac. I eat the Whopper. The next morning, the Teen Burger is gone. By [that] 'logic', because I ate the Big Mac and the Whopper it is obvious that I also ate the Teen Burger." In other words, the only way this reasoning works is if Moiraine is the only person who could possibly have committed the crime, and as the size of this section indicates, that's hardly the case.
Which brings us to the third and largest problem with Moiraine as the murderer: the question of motive.
Moiraine is unique among the suspects in Asmodean's murder in that she is the only Good Guy in the bunch. So, even given that the Third Oath would not be a hindrance to her, we must necessarily ask why did she suddenly decide, at this point and in this manner, that Asmo had to die?
- Asmo was a Forsaken. Forsaken bad. Aes Sedai good. Therefore, Aes Sedai kill Forsaken whenever opportunity arises. End of story.
While refreshingly simplistic, perhaps, this ignores the fact that Moiraine knew long before that day who and what Asmo was, and yet didn't kill him, because she knew Rand needed him.
- What about the letter? She says she doesn't approve!
The exact quote is "I cannot approve, but I understand. Perhaps it was the only way." It takes a pretty wild stretch of imagination to transform such a mild statement of disapproval into intent to kill.
- Yeah, but she could have changed her mind later.
Why? What made her change her mind?
- Maybe she saw in the rings at Rhuidean that Asmo would be a danger to Rand later on.
Moiraine said the rings showed her nothing after the docks at Cairhien.
- Maybe she thought Asmo had outlived his usefulness.
Conjecture. And how would Moiraine know whether Rand had learned all he could from Asmo yet? It's not like she and Rand compared notes on the subject.
- Maybe she did it by accident, the way Mat got his wishes.
Conjecture. And given what was going on at the time, why would she be thinking about Asmo, anyway?
Well, obviously this could go on forever, but the point is that all of the possible motives ascribed to Moiraine over the years are, again, based on conjecture, and therefore weak. And what's really damning about that is not so much the weakness of Moiraine's supposed motive, but how badly it compares to the strength of the motives for every other suspect.
It plays into the "obviosity" argument. The FS and Slayer all had extremely strong, obvious, intuitive motives for killing Asmodean. Every motive attributed to Moiraine has to play a game of logic dodgeball to get where it wants to go.
Also, one must ask, why would Moiraine do the deed in such a secretive and underhanded way? What in the manner of Asmodean's death benefited the Light more than it did the Shadow? How is generating more confusion and suspicion on Rand's part something Moiraine would want?
Taim as a suspect on his own has not been nearly as popular as the Moiraine theory, mostly because of the prevalence of the now-debunked Taimandred theory (see section 1.1.5) and the fact that most people didn't seriously start to think that he might be working directly for the Forsaken until WH (see section 1.5.6). His case is superficially even more attractive than Moiraine's, but like Moiraine's has some rather large problems as well.
Rand notes in LOC that Taim is very strong in the OP, almost as strong as Rand himself, so he certainly had the means to kill Asmo and get rid of the body. If we assume that the Minion Taim theory is true, a few other things fall into place as well. If, as the theory goes, Taim is working for Moridin, or Demandred, or both, it's reasonable to assume that the other Forsaken knew about him, and possibly had even seen him. So Asmo would probably have recognized Taim. Given that, there's your motive - to get rid of the one guy in Rand's entourage who could rat out Taim's DF status. RJ's motive for keeping the murder a secret would presumably be so he could play his game of silly buggers re: Taimandred.
As for opportunity, if the Minion theory is true Taim knew how to Travel. Or, as some people believe, he was in Caemlyn already. This brings us once again to the timing issue.
Taim and timing
As mentioned above, one of the most puzzling aspects of Asmo's murder has always been the timing of it: why was he murdered when he was? Well, the argument goes, if Taim is a DF and killed Asmo to hide that fact, then the timing fits perfectly. This has generally been put forward as the most compelling element of the Taim theory. To bolster it, it's often been pointed out that the scene immediately prior to Asmo's death is the one in which Bashere arrives to inform Rand that Taim has entered Andor.
However, the timing is not nearly as clear-cut as it seems. Asmo dies at the end of TFOH, and Taim appears in Caemlyn in the first chapter of LOC, so from the reader's point of view, the two events happen in quick succession. But this is not the case from the point of view of the characters. According to Steven Cooper's timeline, no less than 37 days pass between the the day Asmodean dies and the day Taim shows up in Caemlyn. That's quite a chunk of time. If Taim had snuck into Caemlyn and killed Asmo, why would he have waited for over a month before showing himself? (The counterargument here is that Taim would have wanted to allow time between the two events to avoid casting suspicion on himself; however, this is flimsy in that Rand would have no reason to think Taim knew anything about Asmo, and in fact doesn't even think Asmo is dead!)
However, it must be admitted that even with the month-plus lag, Taim does make more sense from a timing point of view than almost any of the other suspects.
So why is this theory loony, then?
Compelling as Taim's case may seem, there are two major stumbling blocks which keep him firmly in "loony" territory.
The first, of course, is the "obvious" issue. Prior to LOC, Taim did not appear as anything other than vague rumor; we had absolutely no firsthand information on him at all until after Asmo's death. This puts him in the same "non-obvious" category as Mesaana - even more so, since at least Mesaana has "being a Forsaken" going for her, and at the moment of Asmo's death there's no way we could have had suspicions that Taim was anything more than a random False Dragon run amuck.
The most common item raised to refute this problem is, again, the scene with Bashere and Rand preceding Asmo's death. Taim-dunnit fans point out that Taim is mentioned as being in the area, and immediately thereafter Asmo is toast, and thus it's "intuitively obvious" Taim is the killer. One must ask, though, why Bashere's info is more "obvious" than, say, Asmo thinking about Lanfear seconds before dying, or any of the other elaborate rationales concocted to explain away this problem. And why, exactly, does knowing Taim was in the area instantly lead to the conclusion that not only was he in Andor, but actually in Caemlyn, lurking yards away from both the Dragon Reborn and a man with an army of Saldaeans who want him dead? Why would we have any concrete reason to think at that point that Asmodean would know him, or that he would know Asmo or need him dead?
The second big flaw in the Taim-dunnit theory is the often-overlooked fact that the case for Taim as the murderer is an unproven theory predicated in its entirety upon another unproven theory - namely, the "Minion Taim" idea. If the Minion Taim theory is wrong, then suddenly we have no motive and no reasonable supposition that Taim and Asmo would know each other, and the entire case falls apart. Sure, we have very strong evidence supporting the Minion Taim theory, but then again, we had strong evidence supporting the Taimandred idea, too, didn't we?
Even ignoring the "obviosity" problem with Taim, until we have proof one way or the other on the Minion idea, the case for Taim is on shaky ground and remains in the loony category.
Round up the usual suspects: the viable possibilities
Having eliminated most of the suspects, either by showing that they couldn't possibly have done it, or by showing that there are many arguments against their guilt and only slim evidence for it, we can settle down to the four most likely suspects: Graendal, Lanfear, Ishamael/Moridin, and Slayer. (Note: most of the evidence discussed centers on Graendal, Lanfear, and Slayer (and his possible employers). Moridin is included in the list mainly because we don't know enough to really eliminate him as the actual killer.)
TPOD and WH make it clear that Moridin is Ishamael recycled. At this point, we don't know when he was created, and as far as we know, his first step in regaining control over the Shadow forces could have been killing Asmodean. In any case, there isn't really that much to discuss about him. He definitely satisfies means, motive, and opportunity (provided he wasn't dead at the time). He could have made himself recognized to Asmodean by using a OP disguise, although why would he bother? Body disposal wouldn't be a problem, and we have no way to know if he knows Asmo's fate (although even if he didn't kill him, it's likely that Mr. Nae'blis knows exactly what happened to the fellow). It would make sense for it to be a secret, since Moridin's existence and identity have been unknown by us and by the other Forsaken. Obviosity is not obvious, but it's within the realm of twisted possibility (Moridin is Ishy, who has come back from the "dead" twice before, so we might suspect he did so again).
On the other hand, there is absolutely no evidence in favor of him having done it, either. Note that RJ's rejection of the "pun" theory could encompass Moridin killing Asmo, as well as kidnapping him.
Up until the appearance of Cyndane in TPOD, Lanfear looked like a very good suspect. The case against her is very strong. She's a channeler, so she had the means to kill him, the ability to enter and leave the Palace undetected, and a way to dispose of the body. Since Asmo had just seen her "die" earlier in the day, he would certainly have been shocked and terrified to see her strolling around the Palace.
Lanfear also had the strongest motive to kill Asmo. Lanfear gave Asmo to Rand "to teach him," knowing that Asmo was about the worst (and hence the safest) Forsaken you could pick as a teacher. But he was also the one who she could be sure would react the way she wanted him to once she shielded him. It would seem that she wasn't too interested in giving Rand all the secrets of the AOL. More likely, she just didn't want him gentling or killing himself because of his ignorance (see her reaction when he draws saidin through the sa'angreal in TGH-- though that could simply be fear for her own life). Here's Asmo's take on it:
"Do you think Lanfear really intended me to teach you everything? If she had wanted that, she would have contrived to stay close so she could link us. She wants you to live, Lews Therin, but this time she means to be stronger than you." [TFOH: 3, Pale Shadows, 75].
When she confronted Rand at the docks, it is unlikely that she knew he had an angreal. Although she would certainly be hard pressed to shield him alone, it should have been no problem with an angreal, especially since he is untrained in her opinion, despite whatever he might have gleaned from Asmo. After she picked up the angreal, she attacked Rand, and he resisted. She increased her attempts to shield and hurt Rand, probably to her limit even with the angreal. But Rand (with his own angreal) held his ground. He even believed "He could end it, finish her. He could call down lightning, or wrap her in the fire she herself had used to kill..." [TFOH: 52, Choices, 631]. If Lanfear did not know that he had an angreal (she probably didn't), then she would have taken this as a very bad sign for her. Knowing that Asmodean was still "teaching" him stuff, and that she was the one who put him there, it is very likely that it would be a high priority to remove him, if Rand can foil even her strongest attempts to shield him.
Furthermore, she would have blamed Asmodean's teaching for her defeat and humiliation, and thus she'd have wanted to get revenge. She's that type of gal.
She SAID she was going to kill him
In TSR, in the Stone of Tear, Lanfear comes to Rand as Selene, and reveals herself as a Forsaken . During that conversation, she proposes that Rand allow a male Forsaken to become his teacher. She continues on her old tack of seducing Rand with power (not The Power, just power), by describing how she and he will rule the world once he has knelt to the DO. She describes her entire plan in [TSR: 9, Decisions, 129]:
"Kneel to the Great Lord, and he will set you above all others. He will leave you free to reign as you will, so long as you bend knee to him only once. To acknowledge him. No more than that. He told me this. Asmodean will teach you to wield the Power without it killing you, teach you what you can do with it. Let me help you. We can destroy all the others. The Great Lord will not care. We can destroy all of them, even Asmodean, once he has taught you all you need to know. You and I can rule the world together under the Great Lord, forever." (emphasis added)
The relevance of this quote to the matter at hand is obvious. All along, Lanfear has been planning to kill Asmodean, after he was done teaching Rand. Obviously, after the encounter at the docks, Lanfear has every reason to believe that Asmodean has taught Rand more than enough, more than she really wanted him to. In fact, if Lanfear did kill Asmodean, then this quote means that it really IS obvious who killed him. His fate corresponds exactly with Lanfear's plans for him.
The "You? No!" evidence, and how it points to Lanfear
It is obvious that Asmodean was indeed terrified of the person he saw. There are many people that Asmo would be afraid of, but it seems doubtful that anyone but Lanfear would elicit quite this response from Asmo. Although Asmo may have reason to be afraid of many people, we know that Lanfear is the person he fears the most:
"Even if he manages to convince the others that he has been a prisoner, they would still tear him apart, and he knows it. The weakest dog in the pack often suffers that fate. Besides, I watch his dreams on occasion. He dreams of you triumphing over the Great Lord and putting him up beside you on high. Sometimes he dreams of me." Her smile said those dreams were pleasant for her, but not so for Asmodean. [TFOH: 6, Gateways, 124]
Even though Asmo knows all the Forsaken would rip him to shreds given the chance, the one he has nightmares about is Lanfear.
Furthermore, just before getting whacked, Asmo was just thinking to himself about Lanfear being dead and how glad he was: "He was hardly sorry Lanfear was dead. Rahvin either, but Lanfear especially, for what she had done to him. He would laugh when each of the others died, too, and most for the last." [TFOH: 56, Glowing Embers, 681] Not thirty seconds after these thoughts pass through his mind, he opens the door and sees ... who? And he is shocked/terrified (big surprise). The combination of these things makes it seem likely that Lanfear was indeed the killer. (This scenario also plays into the "obvious" argument.)
"Obviosity" and secrecy
As discussed above, if any suspect can be said to be obviously the killer, from the moment he dies, it's Lanfear. She said she'd kill him, and he was (ironically?) thinking of her right before he died. Furthermore, the fact that his killer is still a secret, five books later, makes sense if Lanfear did it. Knowing that she killed Asmo would be a dead giveaway that she was active.
The big problem
Of course, there has to be a stumbling block. With all the great evidence in favor of Lanfear, there is a correspondingly large problem with her. Namely, as far as we know, she was extremely indisposed at the time of Asmo's death. As in trapped in another dimension.
At first we thought she was dead, and busied ourselves coming up with all manner of loony ways to get around that fact. But in WH we find out that she didn't, in fact, die upon falling through the doorway, but instead was "held" in some way by the Finn (see section 1.2.4). We don't know, of course, how long Lanfear was held in Finnland, but the imprisonment, her transformation into Cyndane (however that was accomplished) and subsequent mindtrapping all indicate that she didn't exactly have a lot of free time between the battle at the docks in TFOH and the appearance of Cyndane in TPOD. Since Asmodean was killed the very day she fell through the doorway, it seems virtually impossible that she could have gotten to Caemlyn in time to do the deed.
Old theories die hard, though, and people have come up with new loony ways in which Lanfear could still be the murderer. The most popular is that she used one of her three wishes with the Eelfinn to get to go to Caemlyn and kill Asmo, before she died and was recycled as Cyndane (if that's what happened). We don't know enough about what happened to Lanfear in Finnland to rule this idea out completely, but it seems really improbable. People (or whatever) intent on imprisoning someone don't, as a general rule, let them go traipsing about in areas over which the captors presumably have no control. Of course, we can't know that for sure.
There are (slightly) more plausible variations on this idea, however, which pertain to Lanfear and Slayer. These will be discussed below.
Next we have Graendal. Graendal has some evidence working for her. For one thing, she has tried to assure Sammael that Asmodean is dead, which makes her one of the only Forsaken to express a belief that Asmodean was toasted.
[LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 133]:
"You [Sammael] know as much as I do," Graendal said blithely, pausing for a sip from her goblet. "Myself, I think Lews Therin killed them [Asmodean, Lanfear, Moghedien]. [...] There are rumors out of Cairhien about Lanfear dying at Lews Therin's hands the same day he killed Rahvin."
[LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 134]:
[Graendal speaking] "So many of us have died confronting him. [...] And Lanfear and Asmodean, whatever you believe. Possibly Moghedien."
[LOC: 23, To Understand a Message, 348]:
"Asmodean and Lanfear are dead, and I [Graendal] am sure Moghedien must be, too." She was surprised to hear her own voice, hoarse and unsteady.
On the other hand, it should be noted that Graendal expresses as much certainty about Lanfear's demise as Asmodean's, and she sure didn't kill Lanfear. Her statements that Asmo must be dead could either be simple opinion, or she could have found out the same way that Demandred did-- from the DO.
In fact, we know that Graendal has visited the DO:
[LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 138]:
Only she [Graendal] herself knew that she had made her own journey to Shayol Ghul and down to the lake of fire. Only she knew that the Great Lord had all but promised to name her Nae'blis.
This memory includes no mention of Shaidar Haran, and furthermore, when SH appears to Graendal in [TPOD: 12, New Alliances, 266], she is not familiar with him. Thus, we know that SH was not present when Graendal made this trip to the Pit of Doom, and therefore, this trip might have occurred before the Super-Fade appeared. We first saw SH at the start of LOC, so Graendal's visit could have been before Asmodean's death. The idea is that the DO may have used the reward of Nae'blis to motivate Graendal to kill Asmo.
One thing which doesn't quite fit in with this idea, though, is the bit in [TPOD: 12, New Alliances, 266] when SH talks to her. He tells her, "The Great Lord thought you might not take [Moggy's and Cyndane's] word, Graendal. The time when you could go your own way has passed." This implies that Graendal HAS been going her own way, not rubbing out fellow Forsaken at the DO's order. This leaves personal initiative and accidental meeting as the only motives for her to kill Asmo.
Something Fishy in Caemlyn
[Jonathan Berlinghoff, Jamie Quinn]
One theory along those lines is the one where Graendal killed Asmo, not because she went to Caemlyn specifically for that purpose, but because she happened to be there already, hiding in the Palace, and Asmo stumbled upon her unexpectedly.
The chain of reasoning goes like this: We learn in the Prologue of TFOH that Lanfear, Sammael, Graendal, and Rahvin are plotting together. We get a clearer idea of what the plan is when Birgitte takes Nynaeve to spy on Moggy in T'A'R, who's spying on the other four Forsaken:
[TFOH: 34, A Silver Arrow, 390]:
"That has been the plan from the beginning," said a woman's melodious voice [Lanfear].
"He will concentrate on you, Sammael," the big man said in a deep voice [Rahvin]. "If need be, one close to him will die, plainly at your order. He will come for you. And while he is fixed on you alone, the three of us, linked, will take him."
"The three of us" being Rahvin, Graendal, and Lanfear. Moggy reiterates the plan to Nynaeve after being captured:
[TFOH: 54, To Caemlyn, 658]:
"Do you know they are drawing Rand al'Thor to attack Sammael? But when he does, he will find the others as well, waiting to trap him between them. At least he will find Graendal and Ravhin. I think Lanfear plays another game, one the others know nothing about."
Of course, their grand scheme didn't go quite as expected. Melindhra's assassination attempt on Mat failed, Lanfear went psycho at the Cairhien docks and ended up trapped in Finnland, and Rand went to Andor and killed Rahvin instead of attacking Sammael in Illian.
What does this have to do with Graendal and Asmodean? Well, it's a question of location. At the time Rand went to Caemlyn, we know Rahvin was there, obviously. We know where Lanfear and Moggy were, and we can be 99% positive that Sammael was waiting in Illian for an attack that never came. The only conspirator whose location we don't know, in fact, is Graendal.
So what if Graendal was waiting with Rahvin in Caemlyn for the signal to link up and go to Illian to confront Rand? If so, she could have just run and hid during the Rand-Rahvin showdown, and could have still been lurking about the Palace hours later, waiting for a chance to make good her escape, when Asmodean happens to open the wrong door, and...
The problem with this theory is that while the idea of Graendal and Rahvin waiting together to go to Illian may seem logical and practical, that doesn't mean it was likely to happen that way. Rahvin didn't trust any of his co-conspirators; why would he have wanted any of them hanging out on his turf for any length of time? For that matter, Rahvin was at his home base; from what we've seen of Graendal, she seems to be pretty happy to stay entrenched in Arad Doman, so why is it more logical to suppose Graendal would be with Rahvin instead of at her own center of power? And why would any of them need to be in the same place, anyway? Clearly rapid communication between the plotters was not going to be a problem, otherwise how did they expect to know that Rand was attacking Sammael quickly enough to get there to ambush him? In fact it would have been far more logical to have all four of them waiting in Illian from the beginning, but Rahvin's presence in Caemlyn (and Lanfear's in Cairhien) indicates this was not the way the plan was laid out.
In defense of this theory, it has been suggested that there is evidence that Graendal was not just hiding in the Palace, but actually helping Rahvin out, secretly, during his fight with Rand at the end of TFOH. What is the basis for this supposition?
What fish? The fish in T'A'R which attack Rand. After Rahvin is BFed, Rand still has fish-bites which Nynaeve must Heal [TFOH: 55, The Threads Burn, 673]. Because BF erases somebody backwards, and Rahvin was erased back to before he entered T'A'R, the bites would have been un-created if Rahvin had made the fish. Thus, somebody else must have made the fish. This third party could have been Graendal.
However, this is not how balefire works in T'A'R. Joel Gilmore went to see RJ at a book signing in Australia (21 September, 1999), and here's what he found out:
I got an answer to the Rahvin/balefire/T'A'R question - when someone is BFed, the constructs they make in T'A'R do not disappear, but instead fade away slowly over time. There are lots of weird effects associated with T'A'R and balefire, such as the way the world flickers after balefire is used. I asked him just generally about it, and then he jumped straight in, gave the answer, then used the Rand and the fish example.
So, the fish were created by Rahvin, and this support must be discarded. So while it was certainly possible for Graendal to have been in Caemlyn the day of the murder, there is no evidence that says she was, and the logical reasoning that puts her there is thin at best.
An alternate version of the "Graendal lurking in Caemlyn theory" is the speculation that she wasn't there when Rahvin died, but showed up later - to ascertain he was dead, to pick over the leavings, or even to kill Asmo specifically, or any combination thereof. Note that she has ventured onto Rand's turf at least once for sure, when she had sufficiently strong motivation. After Rand took Illian, she went there to remove evidence which would tie her to Sammael's schemes [TPOD: 12, New Alliances, 262].
The strongest argument in favor of Graendal, though, is that she is the only suspect without any major points against her. The only requirements which she seems to fail are 7 and 8. Namely, there is no reason for RJ to have kept it a secret for almost a decade, and there is no way Graendal is obviously the killer-- the case in her favor is mostly a process of elimination over the books following TFOH.
The Great Chat Debate
As a final note on Graendal, there seems to be a large number of people who believe that RJ has actually confirmed that Graendal killed Asmodean. The basis for this belief is the following exchange from the
on December 12, 2000:
Question from Vercingetorix: Why do you think everyone has a hard time figuring out who killed Asmodean? Graendal killed him.
Robert Jordan: I don't know why people have a hard time figuring that out. To me it seems intuitively obvious even to the most casual observer. The reason I won't tell people though is that I am enjoying watching them squirm entirely too much. It's probably bad for me.
Sorry, but no. Exciting as this may seem to the wishful thinkers in the crowd, RJ is NOT confirming here that Graendal is the killer.
First of all, if RJ had suddenly decided, after all this time, to spill the beans about Asmo's killer in a chat from the year 2000, then why has he continued to refuse to answer the question at any point since then? Secondly, reread what he is actually saying: "The reason I won't tell people..." Why is he saying he won't answer a question in the same breath he supposedly answers the question?
It's been made very clear that RJ has no intention of ever actually confirming who killed Asmodean, and it's just as clear that in the above quote he is simply ignoring "Vercingetorix"'s attempt at slyness, and giving his stock answer to the actual question asked.
Last but not least, we have Slayer. WH strongly suggests that Slayer is more or less the official hitman for the Shadow. That plus the light his POV sheds on his nature and abilities (see section 1.4.2) has made him a major candidate for Asmodean's killer, perhaps more likely than either Lanfear or Graendal. Let's examine the requirements as they apply to Slayer.
We now know that Slayer is able to move about T'A'R at will, in the flesh, and thus could have easily reached Caemlyn in time to do the deed, almost as quickly as any of the Forsaken.
But how did he know where to be? Like most of the other suspects, the logical place for him to look would be Cairhien. Even though he still could have gotten from Cairhien to Caemlyn quite quickly, how did he know to go there? Moving around in T'A'R gives no indication of where someone is in the real world, and it's clear from Slayer's failure thus far to track down Fain (and his mixup in Far Madding) that he doesn't have any equivalent to Amys' "need walk" to find what he's looking for. (Plus, there's no evidence that the "need walk" could find a person in the real world anyway, since only objects and wild animals are reflected in T'A'R.)
It's been suggested that Slayer may not actually have needed to find someone in the real world this time, what with Rand and Rahvin (not to mention Moggy and Nynaeve) rampaging around the T'A'R version of the Caemlyn palace and blasting the place apart a few hours before. However, this is pretty thin speculation. For one thing, Slayer can't sense channeling, and while it's true that Rahvin and Rand were also manipulating T'A'R as well as channeling, there's no evidence that Slayer or anyone else can detect that kind of thing from a distance.
Of course, the whole question is moot if whoever hired him had simply told him where to look.
Slayer's mastery of the Dreamworld indicates that he would have had no trouble getting rid of the body - all he had to do was pick it up and pop back into T'A'R, and voila. (People have quibbled about this, but really - if he can jump in and out of T'A'R with clothes and knives intact, and Egwene can travel through the Dreamworld in the flesh with a Bela-load of personal belongings [LOC: 34, Journey to Salidar, 465], then Slayer should be able to take a corpse with him into T'A'R.)
A good question to ask here, though, is why he would have done so. The "no body" aspect of the murder is a problem with all the suspects, but it seems especially out of character for Slayer, who appears to specialize in killing his victims as messily as possible, leaving his handiwork behind for others to enjoy - witness how he nailed Amico and Joiya's tongues to a door, and the brutal way he repeatedly stabs the couple he mistook for Rand and Min in WH. Asmodean's swift death and missing corpse do not match Slayer's M.O.
Of course, even shielded and weak as he was, Asmodean was still a Forsaken, and thus a much higher-risk target than your average victim. Slayer may love carnage, but there's considerable indication that he's also cautious, thorough, and intelligent - as a good assassin should be. Any halfway competent assassin would know when the need for haste outweighs personal preference. As for removing the body, again, Slayer is a contract killer. If whoever sent him to kill Asmodean also told Slayer to get rid of the body, then he would have done so. Thus the question of why Asmo's body was not left behind probably has nothing to do with Slayer's tastes and everything to do with the motives of his employer, and will be discussed further on.
Motive, then, is obvious - Slayer would have been acting under orders. To all appearances, Slayer's main purpose in life is to assassinate those who betray or fail the DO. We knew from TSR that he had been sent after Fain for skipping out on his (Fain's) mission, and WH informs us that he had been ordered to take out Amico and Joiya in the Stone as punishment for getting caught. It makes sense, then, that he should be sent to take care of Asmodean, the biggest traitor of them all.
Once again, the supposition that Asmo's death was an assassination brings up the question of timing - why kill him at that point? For Slayer, it could be that he had been looking for Asmodean for some time and that that was just when he happened to finally locate his victim (though that still doesn't answer the question of how he found Asmo). The only other reason that the murder could have happened when it did, if Slayer is the murderer, is because that's when his employer told him to do it. So again, the timing would have nothing to do with Slayer, and will be discussed when we get to who could have hired him.
Slayer's thoughts in [WH: 22, Out of Thin Air, 449] indicate a fair amount of familiarity with the Forsaken. It's been argued that ergo, the Forsaken would all know Slayer as well. More importantly, the argument goes, Slayer's role as Chief Assassin for the Dark means that not only would Asmo recognize him, but he would know why Slayer was there, and be appropriately terrified.
However, that same passage from Slayer's POV also indicates that he has not, in fact, met all of the Forsaken; the exact quote is "...none of the Chosen Luc had met had ever taken such precautions as this." There is no way to know if Asmodean was one of the FS that had met Slayer (though even if he hadn't, Asmodean could still have known who he was). There has also been a lot of contention over whether Slayer would have terrified Asmodean that much.
In short, whether Slayer fulfills the "recognition" criterion seems to depend at this point on personal opinion.
The question of means is a bit more convoluted. As discussed way, way above, many people now think it is possible that Asmodean could have been killed by ordinary means rather than channeling. Slayer is not only a professional assassin and thus, presumably, good with a knife, but [WH: 22, Out of Thin Air, 448] tells us he uses daggers coated in a fast-acting poison, which further ups his chances of taking out a channeler, especially one as weak as a shielded Asmodean.
Not everyone buys this, of course. One objection is that every time (that we're aware of) that Slayer has been sent to take out a channeler, it was only in situations where channeling would not be a factor: Amico was stilled, Joiya was shielded, and Rand was in Far Madding (at the time of the attempt). The implication is that since Slayer cannot channel (see section 1.4.3), his employers know better than to send him after a channeler unless he or she is sufficiently incapacitated. While this may very well be true, it's irrelevant if Asmodean's shield was too strong to allow him to defend himself, for that would simply mean that Asmo's channeling was not a factor to Slayer, just like Amico, Joiya, and Rand in Far Madding. Thus we're back to where we started, with the question of whether Asmo could fend off a non-channeler.
One example raised to prove that Asmo could have defended himself from a conventional weapon is [LOC: 1, Lion on the Hill, 68], where Bashere, without warning, throws a dagger directly at Rand, who stops it with Air. We know Asmo could at least channel flows of Air; why couldn't he have stopped a dagger the same way Rand did?
Well, for one thing, presumably there's a difference between floating a goblet around and stopping a dagger flung with lethal force. And what if the hypothetical dagger wasn't thrown at all? Could Asmo have held an entire person immobile - a powerful and determined assailant, bent on killing him, who took him completely by surprise - with enough strength to stop that attacker from stabbing him directly?
Then again, there's still the passage mentioned earlier, in which Asmo was using the Power to defend himself from Shadowspawn [TFOH: 55, The Threads Burn, 676]. Trollocs are plenty big and powerful. Given that, it appears the only real advantage Slayer would have had over any other non-channeling attacker is surprise. However, surprise is a significant advantage; it's been demonstrated elsewhere that channeling is not a guaranteed defense against conventional ambush (cf. the assault on Demira Sedai in [LOC: 46, Beyond the Gate, 580-581], and the arrow that almost killed Rand in [TPOD: 22, Gathering Clouds, 428]).
A more generalized problem with the means issue is that all our reasoning about how Asmo could have been killed by traditional weapons is essentially retconning. We thought for four books that Asmodean couldn't have been killed except by channeling; it's only with the info we have on Slayer from WH that anyone has made a serious claim that ordinary weapons could have done the job.
Knowledge of Asmo's fate
Does Slayer know that Asmodean is dead? Well, he didn't say anything about it in the one POV we've had from him in ten books, so it's rather hard to say. Of course, that in itself presents something of a problem, since in that POV Slayer is busy gloating over the murders of Amico and Joiya: "[Luc] had especially enjoyed those two Aes Sedai in the Stone of Tear… That had been Isam, not him, but the memories were none the less prized for that. Neither of them got to kill an Aes Sedai very often" [WH: 22, Out of Thin Air, 448]. So if Slayer is so jazzed about killing a mere Aes Sedai, wouldn't it make sense that he would be even more inclined to fondly reminisce over assassinating a Forsaken? Surely offing one of the dreaded Chosen is a bigger prize than a couple of random BA?
Secrecy and "Obviosity"
If Slayer did it, why keep it a secret? This one's pretty puzzling, since revealing Slayer as the killer wouldn't have solved anything - we'd still need to figure out who sent him. One possible answer is that RJ didn't want us to know too much at that point about Slayer's more interesting abilities - but this directly contradicts RJ's assertion that the killer should have been "obvious".
This is as good a place as any to note that at least a few of the things that WH "revealed" about Slayer are really only confirmations of traits we should have known about from hints in TSR. The most relevant one of these is his ability to move around T'A'R in the flesh. Perrin's observations about Slayer's cold, inhuman scent, combined with Amys' warnings to Egwene about traveling in the Dreamworld in the flesh and what it does to you, should have prompted the connection between the two and led us to realize that Slayer could have gotten to Caemlyn as easily as any of the channeling suspects (see section 1.4.3 for a more detailed discussion of why we were confused).
(To be fair, there is a difference between having reason to suspect Slayer might have special abilities (and people have) and having reason to be sure he does. Prior to WH, we had reason to suspect, but no reason to say for sure that he did, and thus, no grounds for reasonably basing a theory on those suspicions.)
That said, the "obvious" criterion is still the biggest problem with the Slayerdunnit scenario. That is to say, since almost no one seriously considered him as the culprit until WH, Slayer is clearly not obviously the killer at all.
However, we're using RJ's definition of "obvious" here, so who knows. Maybe RJ thought the knowledge from TSR that Slayer had been sent after Fain would make the connection between that and another assassination immediately apparent. Maybe the name, "Slayer", was supposed to be enough of a clue [Young Blandford].
If Slayer did it, who REALLY did it?
Ultimately, Slayer can be considered no more than the weapon that killed Asmodean. If Slayer is the culprit, we still have to answer the question of who hired him.
As noted earlier, the requirements for being Slayer's employer are not the same as those for being the actual killer. For one thing, it seems clear that if we assume, for the sake of argument, that Slayer was obviously the killer, that does not mean his employer had to be obvious at the time as well. In other words, we cannot legitimately argue against, for example, Mesaana or Shaidar Haran having sent Slayer to kill Asmo on the grounds that we didn't know about them at the time (though we can argue against them for other reasons).
Secondly, whoever ordered Slayer to kill Asmo could have told him to do so at any point prior to Rand's battle with Rahvin. Therefore, we cannot necessarily eliminate anyone who was incapacitated or even dead at the time of the actual murder. This means that Lanfear and Moghedien are back in the running, and that we must now add Rahvin to the list.
(It does not, however, mean we must include Aginor, Balthamel, or Be'lal. The 'gars were not recycled until the beginning of LOC, as pointed out above, and more importantly had been dead since TEOTW. Be'lal has been dead since the end of TDR, long before Rand had acquired Asmodean as a teacher, and ain't coming back at all.)
With regard to body disposal, as mentioned earlier, the only probable reason Slayer would have removed Asmodean's body is if his employer told him to. The only candidate that we think might have a plausible reason for removing the body is Taim (see below), but given the unknowns, we can't really use this as a reason to discount the other candidates.
Another point worth considering, again mentioned above, is that the likeliest way for Slayer to have known where to find Asmodean (barring special T'A'R-disturbance-sensing powers, which we have no evidence Slayer possesses) is for his employer to have told him Asmo was in Caemlyn. There are a limited number of people who could have known where to send him. However, since we can't be positive that Slayer didn't find Asmo on his own, this argument cannot be used to eliminate candidates either, only to argue more strongly for or against them.
Factors like means and recognition are irrelevant. Thus the considerations we are left with are motive, timing, knowledge of Asmo's fate and whereabouts, and the ability to hire Slayer in the first place.
Any of the Forsaken (besides Be'lal and the 'gars) could have hired him, as Slayer's POV in WH makes clear. Shaidar Haran is also a possibility, as well as Taim (assuming he is a DF). Fain (for hopefully obvious reasons) could not be his employer, nor could a random minion of the DO. One last possibility, also indicated by Slayer's POV, is that he could have been hired by the Dark One himself.
The "knowledge" criterion does let us narrow down the list a bit. Demandred and Semirhage can be eliminated, as they have expressed ignorance of what happened to Asmodean. Sammael and Mesaana are very unlikely candidates for much the same reason (see above). That leaves us with Rahvin, Moghedien, Lanfear, Graendal, Moridin, Taim, Shaidar Haran, and the DO. We will consider the remaining possibilities one by one.
- Moghedien: She could have set it up prior to being captured by Nynaeve, and it's been suggested that hiring an assassin fits with her basic cowardice, but it doesn't seem to make much sense otherwise. Asmodean posed no direct threat to Moggy, who generally only tended to take action when she saw a benefit for herself personally (before she was mindtrapped, anyway). Not to mention, sending someone to kill another Forsaken seems like an awfully proactive thing to do for a woman whose M.O. has always been to skulk about and hide when the shit hits the fan.
- Rahvin: Like Moggy, he could have called in the hit before the battle, and his motive would have been the same as any of the Forsaken (punishment for desertion), but having Rahvin as the employer seems kind of pointless. He's dead and gone, and won't be back, so why keep it a secret all this time? Plus we had no indication that Rahvin cared enough about Asmodean's defection to go through the trouble of hiring an assassin when he had much bigger fish to fry (like planning Rand's demise, for instance). In addition to this is the fact that Rahvin was shocked to see Rand in Caemlyn, and so obviously could not have told Slayer beforehand to look for Asmo there. However, this alone is not sufficient to completely eliminate him, since again, we don't know for sure that Slayer didn't find Asmo on his own.
- Taim: As noted above, Taim would have a strong motive for having Asmodean removed if we assume that the "Taim as Forsaken minion" theory is correct. The timing of the assassination would fit perfectly, and as mentioned above, it would be to his benefit not to have a body confirming that Asmo had been murdered (that might make Rand suspicious). He gains additional support as a candidate because there is a strong possibility that he is Slayer's current employer, the one who hired him to kill Rand (see section 1.4.4). Of course, the problem is that we don't know for sure whether Taim actually is a Darkfriend, or that he is the mystery employer in WH. So the case for him is mostly speculation.
- Shaidar Haran: There's nothing to say that he didn't order the assassination, really, but then there's nothing to say he did, either, and the prologue of LOC seems to indicate that he had been occupied with other matters up to that point (namely, the resurrection of the 'gars). And since he is more or less the mouthpiece of the DO (or the DO's avatar), any orders he might have given Slayer can probably be considered to come directly from the DO anyway.
- Graendal: As usual, there's nothing that really argues against Graendal. Motive is the usual, and the timing may have been inspired by Rahvin's death; if so, she would have known where to send Slayer. Also lending support to Graendal's case is the fact that, again, she is the only FS to express certainty that Asmo is dead, and also her thoughts about having no intention of challenging Rand - directly, that is. The only thing Graendal really has against her is that the DO, Moridin and Lanfear are overall more likely candidates.
- The Dark One: Well, the DO definitely knows Asmo is dead, but then as Lord of the Grave that's kind of his job, whether he had anything (directly) to do with the murder or not. The evidence for the idea that the DO gave this order directly to Slayer is that such a thing was apparently standard procedure before the FS were released: "[Slayer's] services were always begged, except by the Great Lord himself, and more recently by the Chosen…" [WH: 22, Out of Thin Air, 449]. It seems somewhat out of character for the DO to get this directly involved in the matter, but then a renegade Forsaken is a pretty big deal, so it's not completely unreasonable to assume Asmo's assassination required his personal attention (plus Slayer's thoughts indicate the DO has done so before, as well).
- Moridin: Assuming he was active by the end of TFOH, one of his first acts in his campaign of corralling the Forsaken could have reasonably been sending Slayer to off the traitorous one. The case for him is further strengthened by the fact that WH implies that Moridin is the one behind Slayer's standing order to kill Fain [WH: 13, Wonderful News, 316]. Without more specific knowledge of when exactly he was resurrected and what he was doing between that and his first on-screen appearance in ACOS, there is not much else to say about him, for or against.
- Lanfear: Many people liked Lanfear for Slayer's employer, and it's still true that of all the candidates she has the strongest motive. Further strengthening her case, as Tim Biddulph points out, is the fact that she was the only one of the FS who knew Asmodean was shielded, and thus (presumably) weak enough for Slayer to take out safely. (Remember, she told the other FS that Asmo went over to Rand of his own free will, so as far as they knew he was still at full strength.)
However, there is a timing problem with the idea that Lanfear hired Slayer. When would she have told Slayer to kill Asmodean, and why? As discussed earlier, the thing that was most likely to have triggered her decision to kill Asmo would be Rand holding his own against her at the docks; since she mentions to Kadere that she had not been keeping tabs on Rand lately [TFOH: 52, Choices, 627], it's very unlikely that she would have made any such decision to off Asmodean before then. But if that's the case, what with all the going psycho and falling through the door and being held by the Finn, there was no time for her to send any kind of order to Slayer. One possible answer to this is that she had some kind of "kill him if you don't hear from me" standing order with Slayer [Matt Hackell], but it doesn't seem much like someone as arrogant as Lanfear to have set up contingencies for her possible demise. Another possibility is that Slayer actually met up with her in Finnland; remember that Perrin chased Slayer into the Tower of Ghenjei in TSR, which Birgitte said led to Finnland. This idea, though intriguing, seems kind of wonky (the Finn allowed her visitors? Did she get a phone call and a lawyer too?), but we don't know enough about what happened to Lanfear in Finnland to refute it. Another more minor problem with Lanfear hiring Slayer is that it seems rather out of character - the crazy gal we all know and love would have wanted to whack Asmo personally.
Hardly any of this is terribly conclusive, because there is very little information to work with. It seems, though, that the most likely candidate for Slayer's employer is Lanfear, despite the evidence against her.