The Legend of Mardat - Part 1 in the Serpent Lord series
When the navy of Gondor besieged and took the city of Umbar, home of the Black Númenoreans, the Gondorian armies began to grasp hold of Harad. Though they were resistant, and made a great assault on the Gondor-occupied Umbar, the Haradrim were forced to oppresion. The captains of Umbar took the sons of all the Haradrim Kings and used them as hostages - if they made war on Gondor their sons would be slain. So the dominion of the west held Harad at bay for many years, though the anger and rage the Haradrim harboured for Gondor grew all the more stronger.
Kamril was the king of Azkahar, a Haradrim city that lay in Far Harad, where Gondor's hold was not as tight as in Near Harad. Yet Kamril was a petty and weak-minded man, who had not the courage or the wish to strike back against Gondor, even though his only son, Mardat, had not been taken hostage. When Kamril died seventy-eight years of age, his son took the throne at thirty-two. Mardat, unlike his father, had a strong will and brave heart, who put his people's safety before his. So it was no suprise that he despised Gondor, and was all the more dangerous that he had no family to take hostage against him. In secret, Mardat hand-picked the best warriors in Azkahar and made them into the Zari, a mysterious force that stalked the city's domains, silently killing all Gondorians they found. One individual, named Kalsarid, showed true steel in the Zari force, and so Mardat made him his lieutenant.
The Zari reported to Mardat that a sizeable encampment of Gondorian warriors was stationed at the eastern borders of Azkahar's domain, and that they were planning an assault on the city due to the disappearance of several of their men. Wishing to show the invaders just what he was capable of, Mardat began to reassemble the army of Azkahar, drawing in new and veteran soldiers alike from the neighbouring tribes. At the dead of night, Mardat's army struck into the encampment, slaying all they found. From then on, whispers of the mighty 'Serpent Lord' spread through the south, making Gondor tremble and the Haradrim hopeful.
Following his first strike, Mardat began to piece together the peoples of all Far Harad into one great army, destroying every soldier of Gondor south of the Amrun road. The Zari became Mardat's captains, going out across the lands and asking tribes to join his armada. Fearful of any blow Mardat might make, a Gondorian emmisary rode to parley with the Serpent Lord. The messenger said that Mardat must withdraw his army a hundred leagues away from the Amrun Road, or Gondor would destroy him. The Serpent Lord simply laughed at Gondor's wish, and clove off the emmisary's head with a great stroke of his blade.
The day after the messenger came, Mardat ordered his army northwards. One captain of Gondor was sent by Umbar with a sizeable army to test the strength of Mardat, and only as he rode to meet it did he know his folly. The Gondorian force was completely wiped out without the Haradrim taking any substantial damage. After the battle, the Serpent Lord chose fifty of the best warriors at his disposal and made them the Serpent Riders, his elite force and personal guards. Their fierce skill at fighting from horseback is still told to this day.
Mardat's next move was to take the capital city of Harad, Karna. Long had Gondor controlled this rich temple-city, and for too long had it's people and riches been wronged. With his Serpent Riders, Mardat took Karna by storm, his cavalry destroying the front lines of Gondorians as his foot warriors followed behind. By the next day, Karna was Mardat's. Gondor struggled to contain those tribes that had not yet revolted, and dozens of hostages lay dead on the streets of Umbar. Another messenger went to speak with Mardat, but now with a new message. He said that Mardat could do what he pleased with all the land that he currently possessed, and in return he would not strike against Gondor again. The Serpent Lord agreed, though both he and Gondor knew that this agreement would soon be broken.
Little more than half a year later, Mardat rode out to Karna with his entire cavalry force, including his Serpent Riders and the former members of the Zari. He did not take his footmen, being confident only his horsemen were needed to capture Umbar. But Gondor was ready for him.
The King of Gondor, Hyarmendacil, rode from Umbar's gates with a large force of skilled and mounted Citadel Guard. Hundreds of Khandish Mercenaries, hired by Gondor's coin, rode on the Haradrim army's rear. Even with the skill and determination of Mardat and his Serpent Riders, the Haradrim were crushed by the combined assault. Both the mercenaries and Citadel Guard far outclassed the regular Haradrim riders in combat, and soon enough the last survivors were fleeing back to Karna.
Defeated and bearing many scars of battle, Mardat was a broken and exhausted man. Yet then, something most unimaginary happened. The Serpent Lord's lieutenant, Kalsarid, challenged him to a duel. Everyone knew Mardat had never lost a duel before, and he eagerly accepted. But for all his skill and might, he was shattered by the last battle, and Kalsarid easily spitted Mardat's body on his blade. Kalsarid then claimed Mardat's army, but over the next weeks it became apparent Kalsarid was not the leader he thought he was. Hyarmendacil led an unnumberable host from Osgiliath and totally destroyed Karna, slaying Kalsarid and his last few men. The capital city of Harad was left a blood-soaked ruin - everything that could be burnt was burnt, everything of value was taken. From then on, the ruins of Karna have been haunted by the restless souls of the dead.
Several years after Mardat's death, a seer prophesised the return of the Serpent Lord's descendant, and that he would take the Kaharil blade - Mardat's weapon - from it's keeping-place in Umbar and once again drive Gondor from Harad's ancient lands . . .