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1.4.09: Who killed Adeleas and Ispan?

[John S. Hamby, Craig Moe, Andrea Leistra, Leigh Butler]

This is an attempt at looking at all the facts concerning the murders of Ispan and Adeleas. Here, we present what is known and what can or cannot be concluded from these facts.

General Considerations

From [TPOD: 28, Crimsonthorn, 545-547], we know that Adeleas had taken Ispan to the small hut the night before. In the morning, Kirstian comes to find Elayne. Lan has found the bodies. So, we have the time frame. It's curious that Lan is the one who found the two. Certainly Vandene as sister and fellow interrogator would have made more sense. Presumably, when Adeleas is dealing with Garenia/Zarya and then Kirstian, Vandene is taking care of Ispan.

Description of the crime scene: "Adeleas lay on her side beside an overturned stool, a cup on the rough wooden floor not far from her outstretched hand. Her eyes stared, and a pool of congealed blood spread out from the deep slash across her throat. Ispan lay on a small cot, staring at the ceiling. Lips drawn back in a rictus bared her teeth, and her bulging eyes seemed full of horror. As well they might have, since a wrist-thick wooden stake stood out from between her breasts. The hammer that had plainly been used to drive it in lay beside the cot, on the edge of a dark stain that ran back under the cot."

Then we get the description of the interior of the hut. "A second three-legged stool, a rough table holding a flickering lamp, a green teapot and a second cup, a rude stone fireplace with cold ash on the hearthstone."

From all this, it certainly seems that the tea was delivered the previous evening. The fire is out; the flickering lamp suggests the oil is running low. That a lamp is burning at all suggests that it was dark outside when the murderer arrived. Though the fact that the two windows are described as tiny might negate this, as a lamp might be needed anytime of the day. However, it seems that the scene is viewed in the light of day and not by the single lamp.

Vandene assumes or directs the line of thought to Ispan being the primary victim. This assumption is presumed because more time was taken to kill Ispan.

Nynaeve makes the assumption that whoever decided to use crimsonthorn did so because they either wanted to make sure that no one came with an antidote or that they wanted one or the other to know who was killing them.

The use of crimsonthorn does indicate two things. First, Adeleas was meant to die. Whether the murder was a hit on Ispan or whether Adeleas' death was the primary goal, a drug is used, in lethal amounts, that Adeleas with her penchant for sweet tea is particularly prone to. This implies that the murderer had prior knowledge of who was guarding Ispan. In fact, it might be that the murderer was waiting for a time when Adeleas was by herself with Ispan. This means that the murder was not spontaneous. There was a bit of planning involved.

The second thing that crimsonthorn indicates is that time was not really of the essence. The murderer took her time. It seems possible she knew no one would disturb her that night. (This is also indicated by the method used in killing Ispan: pounding a stake through the heart is not really the quickest way to kill a person.)

Speaking of the stake, the manner of Ispan's death (being staked through the chest) raises some questions. Even if one or both women were immobilized first, pounding a stake through someone is difficult--there are bones and things in the way, not to mention how messy it would be. If the killer did the job up close and personal, she would have been covered in Ispan's blood. There are three possibilities: 1. The killer could not channel, and used physical means (herbs and physical violence) to kill the victims because that was the only way. 2. The killer could channel, and used channeling to make it look like someone who could not did the deed. 3. (Related to #2) The killer could channel and needed to do so because he/she was physically too weak to carry out the deed in the mundane manner. So, there is at least an even chance that the killer was a channeler, and used the OP in Ispan's murder. Unfortunately, this doesn't help much, since most of the suspects (all the Kin, AS, and Windfinders in the party) can channel. [Genevieve Williams, Dave Rothgery]

Motive: Why kill one or both?

Ispan failed and was captured, and that is what happens to BA who fail and are captured.

This was a precedent set down with the killings of Amico and Joiya, who were murdered by Slayer, undoubtedly under orders. But there are some pretty major differences. Amico and Joiya both actually gave out information. Amico told where Liandrin and crew went. And Joiya told about the BA freeing Taim (although that may have been a lie). Ispan has not revealed anything important, as far as we know.

Joiya's and Amico's deaths were also incidental. Slayer took advantage of the attack on Rand and the Stone to kill them. Chances are had Rand not been attacked, the two would not have been killed when they were. There really was no risk involved. Killing Ispan and Adeleas, though, reveals that there is a DF/BA among them. The killer tipped their hand. So something must have forced them to do this.

Joiya and Amico also were on their way to the Tower. Certainly the risk of revealing anything of import ran much higher if those two actually made it there. So removing them when the chance presented itself certainly makes sense.

But if Ispan was the main target why at that point? Why not before if she is a threat? Also consider that if the killer is BA herself, then she would certainly know how much a threat Ispan is and how much a threat she is not. There certainly has been time before this to kill Ispan.

Also look at Katerine and Falion. Katerine is allowed to escape and live. Shiaine reflects in WH that she has the power to kill Falion (and Marillin), but it's at her discretion to do so. So death is not the automatic sentence for BA who screw up. Certainly Ispan's escape could have been managed as easily as Katerine's. After all, Katerine's escape pretty much reveals her to be BA, whereas Ispan is already known to be. Her escape certainly poses no risks to the killer that killing her did not.

So was Ispan the prime victim? Perhaps not. Adeleas could have been the one intended to die all along. Suppose whoever did it wants Adeleas dead. The killer knows Adeleas will be alone with Ispan, so takes tea laced with a poison specifically chosen for Adeleas' liking for sweet tea. Of course once Adeleas is down Ispan is killed. Regardless of being a fellow Darkfriend, the killer has revealed her identity to another. So Ispan takes a stake through the heart. The killer eliminates a witness, a possible rival and throws off the scent that Adeleas was the intended victim. Note that this line of reasoning could be applied the other way around: Adeleas could have been killed because she was a witness.

So why kill Adeleas? Well, Adeleas discovered two former novices. One is Garenia, who was in the Tower seventy years ago. She was a novice with Careane. Also seventy years ago both Namelle sisters were present. From Joline's comment about Merilille being an instructor, it is highly likely that she too was in the Tower at the time. Kirstian, on the other hand, left the Tower three hundred years ago. It seems a bit of a stretch that she would possess any knowledge that could reveal one of the sisters to be a liar and/or BA.

One thing that seems to indicate Adeleas as the intended victim is that even if Vandene is not the killer, someone went to a bit of trouble to get rid of Adeleas. The poison was designed for her in a sense. It was her watch. And if Ispan was a threat, then surely if Vandene was not the killer she could pose a threat as well. If Ispan was the victim then both Adeleas and Vandene should be removed just in case. This strengthens the case against Vandene. More on Vandene as a suspect later.

Could a non-channeler have done the deed?

The use of poison as well as the use of physical weapons to kill the two women suggests that a non-channeler was the culprit. However, a closer examination of the facts leads to the conclusion that, while possible, it is unlikely a non-channeler could have been responsible for the murders.

We will assume for now that crimsonthorn either deadens the ability to channel, like forkroot, or (more likely) that Adeleas was so far gone under the influence of the drug by the time the murders actually occurred that channeling was impossible. (There's also the argument that even if the ability was there despite the crimsonthorn, the common belief shared by most Aes Sedai concerning the connections between channeling and gesturing would mean that once paralyzed Adeleas could not channel, since she could not move.)

Given that, the only way a non-channeler could have committed the murder is if Ispan also drank the tea, and therefore was also unable to channel. Otherwise, how would a non-channeler have been able to overpower Ispan once a drugged Adeleas's shield disappeared?

Did Ispan drink the tea?

Adeleas has a cup near her hand. Her body position and the fact she has her throat cut is a definite sign that she fell victim to the tea. But is there anything that really points to Ispan having drunk any of it?

  1. Ispan is Black Ajah. It seems very improbable that Adeleas would sit down and share a cup of tea with her. (Consider the vehemence with which the other Aes Sedai in the series react to the idea of the BA.)

  2. We have two cups, yes. But one fell from Adeleas' hand as she presumably fell to the floor. The second cup is on the table still. The reason this sticks out is that the hammer used on Ispan is left by the cot. Yet the cup is on the table by another stool. (Note that this can be explained by positing that the killer moved Ispan to the cot in order to stake her more easily.)

  3. The effect of the crimsonthorn, as described by Nynaeve: "A little kills pain. This much... This much kills, but slowly. Even a few sips would be enough. They might have remained conscious for hours. Not able to move, but aware." This suggests that Ispan did not drink any tea. Why?

    Adeleas was definitely under the influence of the drug, yet Ispan's countenance clearly shows the ability to move her face and feel pain. Her eyes bulge and her lips are drawn back. If Adeleas is so far gone into the drug that all she can do is stare while her throat is being cut, how come Ispan is able to show such reaction; not just in terms of horror but to physically show it as well? (Especially since crimsonthorn is a painkiller.)

It's possible that our hypothetical non-channeler could have served the tea to Adeleas, left, waited outside the hut until after the drug took hold but before Adeleas gets to the point of losing all capacity to channel, reentered, forced Ispan to drink the tea, and then killed them both, but that's really stretching it. The timing alone is problematic; a non-channeler would not have had the ability to sense whether or not the poison had taken effect, or how long to wait before reentering the hut. For that matter it seems unlikely that a non-channeler, even one who lives in the Tower, would have a safe and secure knowledge of how effective the drug would be in deadening channeling ability.

One other difficulty with the idea that a non-channeler committed the murders is the question of noise. How much sound does a stake being driven through the heart make? And if Ispan is able to show expression might a whimper, a cry or even a scream be completely out of the question?

If we suppose the murderer was a channeler, on the other hand, all of these problems go away. It doesn't matter if Ispan drank the tea or not; shields can be woven-off and left in place. They can also be passed from one person to another. A channeling murderer could have put an eavesdropping ward around the hut to prevent any sounds escaping.

Overall, it's much more plausible that a channeler is the culprit. But just in case, here are the possible non-channeling suspects:

channeling Suspects

Non-Aes Sedai:

The Windfinders

None of the Windfinders could plausibly know about Adeleas' preference for sweet tea, and as Elayne herself observes, "it was all but impossible that the Windfinders knew of an herb only found far from the sea" [WH: 8, Sea Folk and Kin, 196]. And anyway, given the state of affairs between the Aes Sedai and the Windfinders, the fact that Adeleas trusted the killer enough to take tea from her eliminates any of these women.

The Kin

On the same page of WH as above, Elayne reflects on what Vandene found out from Ispan about the Kin - namely, that Ispan knew nothing more about them than any other Aes Sedai. The conclusion she and Vandene come to is that there are no Darkfriends among the Kin; if there were, Elayne reasons, the Black Ajah would have known everything about them. There are some flaws in this line of reasoning, though. The first is the assumption that because one BA knows nothing about the Kin, that all BA know nothing about them. As we have seen, the BA operates on a strictly need-to-know basis; except for Alviarin, for example, no Black sister even knows who all the other BA are. The second flaw, of course, is that Elayne only has Vandene's word for what Ispan did and did not say; if Vandene is the killer, obviously there's a problem with relying on her (conveniently uncorroborated) testimony.

On the other hand, events in ACOS and TPOD do tend to support Elayne and Vandene's conclusion. None of the Kin tried to steal the *angreal stash found in Ebou Dar from the AS or otherwise attempt to prevent it from being found, and we know all of the Forsaken have been desperately seeking such items; the stash is the reason Moggy sent Falion and Ispan to Ebou Dar in the first place (where, it should be added, they were engaged in torturing Kinswomen for information on it). Nor did any of the Kin make an effort to stop the Bowl being used to end the DO's endless summer.

Of course, none of the AS in Elayne's party, except possibly Careane, tried to do those things, either, and it's almost certain one of them is Black Ajah - see below. (Careane's possible attempt is also discussed further on.) However, since the AS are a very hierarchical organization (and the BA follows that pattern), and since the Shadow hierarchy was rather disorganized at the time the embassy was sent (all the Forsaken scheming for themselves), some low-level BA in the Salidar embassy to Ebou Dar might not have been informed of the importance of the Bowl, and would have just followed orders to stick with the party and spy/whatever.

Regardless of whether Elayne is right or not about the lack of DFs in the Kin, though, the fact that the Aes Sedai consider the Kin to be so far beneath them, and the general poor relations between the two groups (especially in the wake of the "we are many and they are few" business) indicate that they fit the same category as the Windfinders. Nevertheless:

Zarya/Garenia and Kirstian

As they are now both technically Tower novices, they should be considered separately from the Kin. Both are very strong in the One Power, and it is conceivable that Adeleas might send either of them for tea. Another possible point against Zarya is her presence in the Tower seventy years ago. Apparently some really odd things happened at about that time, something that may have inspired Zarya's flight from the Tower and, perchance, Adeleas' murder seventy years later, once she was rediscovered? Of course, without knowing more about exactly what went on seventy years ago, there's nothing to say that the timing of Zarya's escape is more than coincidence. (The same suspicion cannot be applied to Kirstian, who ran away from the Tower three hundred years ago.)

In WH, Zarya and Kirstian come to Vandene with the theory that the killer must have been either Merilille, Sareitha or Careane [WH: 8, Sea Folk and Kin, 195]. Opinion is divided on whether this is a point in favor of their innocence or of their guilt. On the one hand, if either of them was the killer, why draw attention to themselves? Why not simply keep mum? On the other hand, sometimes the best way to cover up your own guilt is to pin it on someone else.

That said, other events in WH support Zarya and Kirstian's theory.

Is one of Elayne's party Black Ajah?

It certainly seems so. From [WH: 10, A Plan Succeeds, 248]:

[The Black sister Marillin, to Shiaine]: "'I really wouldn't get ten feet [into the Palace]. But there's a woman already in the Palace. She can do what you need. It may take time to make contact, though.'"

A few lines later, Shiaine thinks to herself:

"So. One of the sisters in the Palace was Black Ajah, was she? She would have to be Aes Sedai, not just a Darkfriend, to do what Shiaine needed."

Is Shiaine right in her assumption? Some people think not; if Marillin had meant a Black sister, why not simply say that instead of calling the contact "a woman"? We don't know, though, what it is that Shiaine needs done. If the criteria Shiaine is basing her assumption on is merely that the woman needs to be able to channel, then there are lots of non-AS in the Palace that could fit the bill. It's possible, though, that Shiaine needs something done that only an Aes Sedai could do, and that therefore her assumption is correct.

In any case, Shiaine's thoughts are corroborated by Temaile and Eldrith's conversation a few pages earlier:

[Temaile speaking]: "'There are only three sisters to trouble us [in the Palace], and we can dispose of them'" [WH: 10, A Plan Succeeds, 245].

Three sisters? There are four AS with Elayne and Nynaeve at that point: Vandene, Merilille, Sareitha, and Careane. The obvious conclusion is that one of the four would not "trouble" the BA - i.e. one of the four is BA herself [Pam Korda]. It has been pointed out, however, that one of the four, Sareitha, was only raised three years ago and has not yet acquired the ageless look, and so might have mistakenly been left out of Temaile's count.

Taken together, though, the two quotes lend strong support to the idea that one of the Aes Sedai with Elayne and Nynaeve is Black Ajah. Occam's Razor tells us this BA is the killer; and truly, the Aes Sedai were always the most likely of the possible suspects even before the information acquired in WH.

Aes Sedai suspects

One thing we do know is that Vandene is either the killer or she was not a part of the shield when Adeleas was killed. Otherwise she would have felt something was wrong - she certainly would have noticed when Adeleas died. Of the four, Vandene still looks the most likely to be guilty. She will be considered separately below.


The weakest of the Aes Sedai. This would make the use of crimsonthorn to eliminate Adeleas pretty important. In addition to this, Careane is the only one of the four AS (that we know of) who has actually served tea to Adeleas in the past. In fact of the AS (excluding Elayne and Nynaeve), Careane is also the only sister whose strength we know in terms of comparison to the others. Careane has at least two Warders, but we know as of WH that this is not necessarily a problem (see section 1.3.5). One thing to note is that Careane is the one who does not hide her face enough and sets the Kin farm on its ear in TPOD. A bit odd, since Aes Sedai seem to be quite adept at keeping their one identifying trait under wraps. Could she have been trying to create a panic? Or was she trying to show her face to a DF among the Kin? Of course it might be that she was just stupid, but the "slip", if it was intentional, could be construed as a devious attempt to create enough chaos that the Bowl would not be used or at least that its use would be delayed.


Sareitha behaves rather suspiciously in WH. She tells Elayne, obliquely, that she had followed Elayne and Aviendha when they went on their secret sojourn into the city [WH: 7, The Streets of Caemlyn, 181]. El and Avi were accosted by street toughs and injured on that outing, yet Sareitha did nothing to help. Then again, the whole reason she was telling that story was to point out to Elayne how helpless she would have been if Aviendha had not recovered in time to fend off their attackers. Since Avi evidently took care of the toughs just fine, why would Sareitha have felt the need to intervene? And if she was doing something shady, why tell Elayne about it?

The second and much fishier thing about Sareitha in WH is her disappearance in Chapter 11. Nynaeve is mightily peeved at having to take Sareitha's turn at teaching the Windfinders, since "the Brown had slipped out of the Palace leaving a note about an urgent errand in the city" [WH: 11, Ideas of Importance, 257]. This is the very next day after Marillin speaks of making contact with the "woman" in the Palace who can help Shiaine. Coincidence?

(We also learn in WH, by the way, that Sareitha has one Warder, Yarman. But again, this doesn't indicate anything one way or the other.)

Sareitha's semi-suspicious behavior continues in COT, where she defends Hanlon (a known DF) to Elayne, despite the fact that his actions were clearly in the wrong (and everyone else despises him) [COT: 11, Talk of Debts, 299].


As a Gray sister and head of a diplomatic mission, it's logical to assume that Merilille was picked by the Gray Ajah to lead the Salidar delegation. And of course Delana as a Salidar Gray Sitter who is also BA may have played a major role in picking her. Of course that raises the question of why send a BA to Ebou Dar? The Shadow does know of the possible cache of angreal even if the Bowl of Winds is not yet a goal. Also notice that Tylin is rather upset with the way Merilille has handled matters until Nynaeve and Elayne show up and tell the truth. So perhaps she is sent to keep the local ruler from coming to an accommodation with the Salidar group. Certainly add an unhappy ruler to an independent nobility plus the constant threat of Whitecloaks and you would pretty much hamper Salidar from any sort of effectiveness. On the other hand, she could just be incompetent.

In [COT: 15, What Wise Ones Know, 358], we discover that Merilille has run off with Talaan, the super-strong Windfinder-in-training who's dying to be Aes Sedai. On the one hand - how convenient. On the other, Merilille was showing some definite signs of imminent nervous breakdown at having to teach the Windfinders, and who could blame her? Though it might seem that taking off with Talaan represents a break in her bargain to teach the Windfinders for a year, Elayne knows she could have Aes-Sedaied around this by saying "I am teaching a Windfinder - just while running." So her AWOL stunt is not conclusive one way or the other.

At this point, Careane and Sareitha seem to be duking it out for first place among the most "obvious" of the non-obvious suspects - the obvious, of course, being Vandene.

The Prime Suspect: Vandene

[Andrea Leistra, Craig Moe]

Certainly, she looks guilty. She knows what Ispan has said and she knows what Ispan has not said. More importantly she had an idea of what her sister may have been thinking or been on the verge of figuring out. Furthermore, Vandene was the other person in charge of Ispan, yet it is Lan that discovers the two bodies. Exactly when was Vandene going to check up on her sister? And what about the way the shield is described when the two first question her in [TPOD: 4, A Quiet Place, 105]? Certainly Vandene could not be innocent and a part of the shielding at the same time. Yet it raises the question of the timing of the deaths if it was Vandene. Why now? Certainly if Vandene is BA she would know what if anything Ispan could reveal.

Arguments in Favor of Vandene Being the Killer

In defense of Vandene

Here are counter-arguments for the points against Vandene, and rebuttals:

As another defense for Vandene, Matthew Doyle observes, "It's noted that there are two cups of tea on the table, and automatically assumed that the second cup was for Ispan. Well, why couldn't it have been for Vandene? Assuming that this was a careful and thoroughly prepared murderer, she would have brought two cups with her just in case the second sister was there. Otherwise she would have been in a world of hurt had she dosed Adeleas as she then would have had to fight off Vandene and Ispan both.

"So rather than the second cup being indicative of a plan to incapacitate Ispan before she was murdered (something which clearly didn't happen), I think it more likely that it was there as a precaution to make sure that both sisters were knocked out of the picture had they both been questioning Ispan that night."

Miscellaneous Vandene Theories (of the slightly loony variety)

There may have been something up between Ispan and both of the Senior Twins. Clues are that both sisters participated in the behind-closed-doors "interrogation" of Ispan, which proved fruitless, and that Ispan seemed to become upset when she thought that Elayne and Nynaeve might do the interrogation, rather than Adeleas and Vandene [TPOD: 4, A Quiet Place, 107]. [Jonathan Vaught]

Some ideas:

  1. Adeleas was Black Ajah and Vandene (not Black Ajah) killed her to hide her crime.

    This idea is pretty much refuted by the statement Vandene makes in [TPOD: 28, Crimsonthorn, 547]:

    "Those two facts name her [Adeleas'] killer, in a way. A Darkfriend, and one of our party."
    If Vandene is not Black Ajah, then she is bound by the First Oath and unable to lie. She automatically eliminates herself, therefore, by her own statement.

  2. John Novak offers: "My sneaking suspicion is that both Adeleas and Vandene were Black Ajah, but of different cells, and this is one of those grisly little ironies Jordan likes to throw in every so often-- I like the image (so to speak) of Adeleas sprawled out on the floor, conscious but unable to speak, figuring out in a flash that Vandene is also Black Ajah... and being physically unable to communicate that before she got her throat slashed."

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