The Mandorlin (Old Exekian, "Holy Books') is the name given to an official document, constituting the collective religious texts held sacred to believers in the god Akhen.
The oldest known version of the text is written in Exekian, and dates to the end of the Old Kingdoms era. It was composed on shards of specially grown crystal, intended for public viewings. The Temple version approved by monks and scribes during the reign of King Letholdus II is disputed by the Vormundists, who published a revised edition translated directly from Old Exekian in 162 AYZ.
The text itself contains three major sections: the Beginning, the Histories, and the Law. These are then divided up into chapters - five chapters in the Beginning, seventeen in the Histories, and thirty-two in the Law.
The first holy book and the oldest, the Beginning recounts the creation of the universe by the god Akhen over the course of five chapters.
In the original version, Akhen creates space, time, light, and heat, followed by earth, water, and air. He then populates the world with flora and fauna, before bringing into being the first sentient creation, the Exekians, beginning with Embal and his mate Callidora. Setting them aside from the rest of creation, these beings and their descendants are designed with immortal souls and imbued with a divine spark that allows them to make their own choices and act of their own free will.
But unlike Akhen, the Exekians are fickle and malcontent. Callidora becomes resentful of Embal and their firstborn son Monaxia; after discovering she is pregnant again, she flees into the sea, where she is transformed into a Fomori. Her secondborn son Goran is thus born at sea, but he returns to land as an adult in order to find a mate, and is thus reunited with his father. Embal pleads with Akhen to return Callidora to him, but Akhen refuses. Instead he creates a new mate for him, Droxine, who gives him another son, Kasimir.
As Akhen creates more Exekians as lovers, friends, and companions to each other, they begin to squabble among themselves. Since they are immortal, their fighting is without end; unable to destroy each other, they lay waste to the world around them. To stop this, Akhen introduces death and mortality to his beloved creations. Monaxia, whose crimes were considered the worst of his siblings, is transformed along with his lover Lostris into the first humans, and thereby condemned to grow old and die. The ageless Exekian race continues on through Kasimir and the Fomori through Goran, but they too are able to die of sickness and injury. The descendants of Monaxia and Lostris are scattered, roaming the earth and propagating throughout.
The second holy book is a collection of legends. Akhen retreats to the background as the story focuses on the lives of heroes and villains. Much of these stories take place during the Old Kingdoms era and explain the foundation of Zantium and the Old Exekian Empire. It is split into seventeen chapters.
The Dark Queen and the First Paladin
Queen Skoga and her lover Arkady are lying in bed together. They get into an argument over which of them has more wealth. In the morning, they each survey their property, and it seems they are equals. But then Arkady remembers that, as an heir of the nearby kingdom of Sylarat, he can claim the mighty Ferdia, the greatest of the Exekian warriors, among his belongings. To win the argument, Skoga assembles an army to take Sylarat by force, intending to defeat Ferdia.
Sylarat is besieged for a brief time before Ferdia arrives to defend the city. Skoga's armies scatter in terror, and many are slain. One soldier manages to wound Ferdia, who flees to the woods to escape.
Another of the enslaved soldiers, the human Peredur, had deserted the field at the beginning of the battle and fled into the forest. He stumbles upon Ferdia, feels compassion for him, and bandages his wounds. As a reward for helping Ferdia, he trains Peredur to fight, making him the first paladin.
Peredur is later captured by Skoga's men and thrown in a dungeon. For six nights, Peredur dreams of a different facet of love: unconditional love, friendship, sacrifice, eternal love, "love that wills the good of the other", and servitude. At the end of the six days, Peredur is due to be executed. However, in the aftermath of the failed raid, chaos breaks out among the petty kingdoms and Skoga is killed. Her prisoners are freed.
Peredur and Angharad
The released Peredur wanders the earth. He has little purpose beyond avoiding recapture and continued enslavement. He encounters a wild woman named Angharad, "tames" her, and they are married. He trains his sons to be paladins.
A young man named Gwydion travels the world and grows increasingly disenchanted with the universe. He envisions strange methods by which he might make his own world, which he dubs the "Arcane Realm". This other world is unstable and lacks the internal, unseen logic which the real one possesses, but Gwydion holds absolute power there.
Gwydion begins telling others about the Arcane Realm, presenting it as a greater alternative to the real world. His words anger his family and community, and they cast him out. Gwydion dies in exile, but his spirit refuses to pass on. In his new state, he is finally able to literally create the Arcane Realm. As a consequence, he becomes entrapped there for all eternity, and he soon grows to loathe being the lord of a static universe. But many living mortals are nonetheless drawn to him and his alternative world, asking him to grant them special powers. A few of these mortals even worship and pay tribute to Gwydion as a superior god to Akhen - but the text warns that this can lead only to ruin.
The Kingdoms Become an Empire
An Exekian called Taranis Kuhl ascends to the role of emperor, uniting the fractured kingdoms into a single entity. The Old Exekian Empire expands rapidly, seizing control of Skadi, southern Dardanos, and the eastern half of Zantium. With this expansion comes a reliance on slavery, as the Exekians endeavor to subjugate the humans living on their conquered lands.
Rathina, an Exekian seeking a cure for death, commissions the finest blacksmith in the land to fashion a dagger with the power to transfer life from the living to the dead. Akhen allows her to create this device, but then causes it to be stolen before she can use it to restore her lover. The dagger is subsequently lost, "not to be found again until it pleases the god".
The Fall of Pride
The Fall of Pride is a play originally written by Nykara the Mad. In it, she tells her life story as a slave raised to entertain her masters, who pervert everything that brings her joy. At the end of the confessional monologue, she first blames the system of slavery for his woes, but ultimately concludes that the world is evil by nature and bad things will happen regardless of what system or country one lives in.
The third holy book details various laws set in place by Akhen to govern the behaviors of Exekians and mortals. It is divided into three sections: the Divine Laws, the Social Laws, and the Moral Laws.
The Divine Laws include the right to life, liberty, and livelihood. It is sometimes known as the "Natural Rights" due to the obvious, inherent nature of the items listed, including punishments for murder, theft, assault, rape, and so on.
The Social Laws include guidelines on legal disputes, such as marriage, divorce, and trade deals. It is sometimes known as the "Practical Laws".
The Moral Laws present a code of ethics. These dictate how an individual should live. There are rules regarding the treatment of neighbors, sexual behaviors, vices and virtues, and the nature of the living. The Moral Laws were never officially integrated into any society, but both the Old Exekian Empire and the kingdom of Apicarta modeled social expectations on some variation of them.