The Slaying of Enod al Usaloth
As Thorus tells it, the Dead Wastes were once not as they are now, harsh and barren and dry, but a great inland sea. At the centre of the sea was an island, and upon it, glittering like a jewael, was the Elven city of Usaloth. Usaloth was ruled by Enod, a great king; his justice was swift, his council close, and mercy wise.
The sea was wild and changing; they say Zandilar herself danced in the waves in those days, and none could approach the island city by water. All travel came to Usaloth through a great portal, guarded day and night by Usaloth’s elite soldiers, and separated from the island proper by a long, narrow bridge. Many an incursion was halted by the simple method of felling the city’s foes at the mouth of the portal, blocking their advance; a small garrison could hold the entire island indefinitely, and this they did, and for a millenia the city knew peace, becoming a land of philosophy, science, and art.
The slaying of Enod al Usaloth happened some nine hundred years into his reign. Knowing a direct assault was all but impossible, the agents of Avernus had for more than a century attempted by guile and deception to worm their way into the royal Court. Their goal was to influence Usaloth towards a policy of sympathy for the devils at the front lines of the Blood War; the wealth of the Elves would bolster the devils’ war against the demons of the Abyss, and they coveted it dearly.
Patiently, over long decades the devils’ agents slowly turned the Court to their purpose. Imagine the glory, they said, Imagine Usaloth’s might standing at the backs of the Blood War, holding the line while the legions of Hell chase the demons back to their Abyss. Imagine bringing peace to the celestial realms. Imagine the gratitude of Mount Celestia, for making the borders of the Realms safe, for doing what the gods themselves could not! Is this not a just war; perhaps the only just war?
Now Enod was wise, but he was old, and more and more the rule of the city had fallen to his Court. And so perhaps the old king was blinded to the treachery of Avernus. Or perhaps he too was swayed by honeyed words and thoughts of divine glory. Whatever the reason, Usaloth opened her portal to Avernus, welcoming the legions of the 9 Hells to her bosom. Thus did Avernus conquer the great city without a drop of devil blood shed. At once, the devils swarmed into the city, stripping it of wealth, slaying or enslaving the populace, and pressganging the small guard into service in their infernal armies.
As the smoke of a city in flames and the cries of its people reached the royal tower, Enod strapped on his armour, took up his spear, Melicathien, which means Gift of Blood in the high tongue, and calling his palace guard to his side marched down into the streets of his city.
It is said Enod and his guard fought very like demons, hard as the sea and as unyielding. Though the city had all but fallen before they began, they were determined to drive the invaders back across the bridge and through the portal. And this they did, block by block, street by street, house by house.
For days the gutters ran black with devil ichor. One by one Enod’s guard fell, until at dawn on the 10th day Enod al Usaloth stood alone at the foot of the bridge connecting the fallen city to its portal. The remaining devils fled screeching before him back to Avernus, their arms laden with spoils.
Enod stepped out onto the bridge, meaning to chase them through the portal, destroying the gate on their side, locking Usaloth away from Avernus for ever. But a shadow loomed in the swirling arcane gate, and there emerged the lithe figure of Dispater, then but a field general in the armies of Asmodeus, not yet the fearsome Duke of Hell. Dispater padded forward to meet Enod on the bridge carrying simple weapons of bone and iron: a maul and buckler. Slamming the one against the other, Dispater baited the king forward. Enod returned the solute, raising the blood-darkened tip of Melicathien towards the devil. Dawn light glinted along its shaft. For a moment they stood in silence, and then with a cry the old King rushed forward.
Enod was relentless, but Dispater would not be moved, grinning a silent, wicked grin as Melicathien crashed against his shield again and again. Such was the thunder of Enod’s blows that the very stone under their feet began to shift, and warp, and crack. Finally, with a great cry of frustration, the heart-rending misery and loss of a King presiding over the death of his kingdom filling his throat, Enod leapt to the air and with a vicious strike quick as a snake and strong as a bull shattered Dispater’s shield. Dispater was forced back and fell to one knee, but the stone bridge before him finally gave way. As Enod alighted on the bridge it fell away beneath him, and the old king was swallowed by the sea. Dispater howled in triumph, and with his legions behind him, claimed the city for his own. He named it Dis, and brick by brick the devils carried it back to Avernus, until nothing was left of the city and the island stood empty, a grave marker adrift on a sea stained with blood.
Thus ends the tale of Enod al Usaloth, a good man who died too late.