The murder of Adeleas and Ispan has been solved, but I think it is worth a retrospective analysis.
The killings occurred 28 days after the Bowl of Winds was used and 8 days after Adeleas revealed Garenia was a runaway; Garenia whom Darkfriend Careane should have recognised.
Why were Adeleas and Ispan not killed sooner?
It had been public knowledge for a short while where this party was headed. Perhaps Careane wasn’t in regular contact with a Forsaken. It looks like she did not receive orders until the group passed through larger villages and a Darkfriend spy could report through the chain to Moridin and orders be given to Careane. Moridin was the only Forsaken who knew who was in this group and was eager to find them.
The murders were the beginning of a scare campaign to break this large group of channellers with rising fear. Moridin was soon to give Shiaine orders to have food stores burnt and the Kin killed with the One Power in Caemlyn as part of his revenge on Elayne’s group for their restoration of the weather, and to destabilise her hold on the city and nation.
Each woman was killed twice over, once by poison and once with a manual weapon:
Adeleas lay on her side beside an overturned stool, a cup on the rough wooden floor not far from one 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…Crimsonthorn root was used in a tea. In small doses it is a painkiller; in higher doses it slowly kills through paralysing the muscles. The victim would be aware but unable to move. Death, probably by gradual asphyxia, could take hours. Nynaeve does not know of an antidote for a strong dose.
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. That was all. The hut was so small it only took Nynaeve a step to reach the table. Dipping her finger into the teapot, she touched it to the tip of her tongue, then spat vigorously and emptied the whole teapot into the table in a wash of tea and tea leaves.…
"This is crimsonthorn root," she [Nynaeve] said, trying to sound matter-of-fact and failing. "It's sweet, so you might miss it in tea unless you know what it is, especially if you take a lot of honey."
Vandene nodded, never taking her eyes from her sister. "Adeleas developed a taste for sweet tea in Ebou Dar."
- The Path of Daggers, Crimsonthorn
There is a real world plant with a similar physiological effect, and with some associations with the name crimsonthorn: hemlock (see Herbs and Other Medicines article). Hemlock is very poisonous and its leaves (sometimes seeds) were used as a painkiller, a sedative and a muscle relaxant. It is still sometimes used medicinally. There is little difference between a therapeutic and a toxic dose and an overdose produces paralysis:
In poisonous doses it produces complete paralysis with loss of speech, the respiratory function is at first depressed and ultimately ceases altogether and death results from asphyxia. The mind remains aware to the last.These symptoms are pretty much as Nynaeve described for crimsonthorn.
- Maude Grieve, A Modern Herbal
Nynaeve thought that both women drank the tea:
"They might have remained conscious for hours. Not able toIspan showed an expression of pain and terror, so she either already wore this expression when the paralysis came on – the pain could have been from her interrogation – or she never drank the tea and the second cup was intended for Vandene if she was there. The former is more likely since then Ispan would be defenceless.
move, but aware.
- The Path of Daggers, Crimsonthorn
Why crimsonthorn root? Careane did not wait for the crimsonthorn to kill either woman. If they were given forkroot instead, they would have slept and killing them would be much simpler. Careane had been told to make the deaths scary and an obvious betrayal by one of the group. Perhaps Careane wanted them conscious for as long as possible; Ispan for punishment and Adeleas to hold her shield. It seems the paralysis would prevent any channelling since, as Cadsuane explained:
Few had channeled where she could see, but she had noticed that they created some weaves without the gestures that sisters used. The hand movements were not truly part of the weave, but in a way they were, because they had been part of learning the weave. Perhaps, once, there had been Aes Sedai who could, say, hurl a ball of fire without some sort of throwing motion, but if so, they were long dead, and their teachings with them. Today, some things just could not be done without the appropriate gestures.Aes Sedai have to move to make a weave, not only for the necessary gestures, but also because they need to know where something is in relation to themselves so they can affect it and if they are paralysed they can’t move their eyes. While Ispan should have been unable to weave anything, maybe Careane didn’t take any chances. Adeleas would hold the shield on Ispan; Careane was perhaps too weak to do so (see Saidar Strength Ranking chart). Adeleas would not release the shield on Ispan because otherwise she would be freeing a Darkfriend. If she held the shield at least this way one Darkfriend was killed.
- The Path of Daggers, New Alliances
With the tea, Careane was prepared for any eventuality, including the presence of Vandene, and would have an excellent excuse for visiting the hut. The killer knew Adeleas’ taste in drinks because she served everyone drinks all the time.
Adeleas was dispatched with a quick slash across the throat some time during the proceedings – perhaps once it was obvious Ispan could not channel. This may have been part mercy and part safety measure. Ispan, on the other hand, was to be made an example of.
The killer was the drinks waiter; the one who knew how everyone liked their tea. Careane was a big strong woman and Ispan’s murder required physical strength.
The party stayed at many inns on their laborious journey to Caemlyn and the article detailing these is now posted on the Thirteenth Depository.