Shadows Gather Darkly
The Inquisition is a secret organisation that acts as the secret police of the Selentium Church, hunting down any and all threats to the stability of Uriel’s realm.
Formation of the Inquisition
The foundation of the Inquisition can trace its history back to the 4th century AS, when the then Pontiff Galerius IV assigned the the duty of prosecuting those corrupted by the Infernal to the order of the Helitites. ‘Inquisitors’ of the Helitites acted in the name of the Pontiff and with his full authority. They developed and used inquisitorial procedures that are still followed today.
In responsibility the the Helitites were meant to solely uncover and judge Infernal activities, and those corrupted by them. In effect, however, they judged heretics as well. They used local authorities to establish a tribunal and to prosecute the accused (and accursed).
By the end of the 4th century, what would become known as the Selentine Inquisition was formed. It had no seperate ordos at that time, and was staffed by Benefices and other Church officials. In the middle of the 5th century, the Selentium Church had reached a dominant position as the religious authority of the Erebian Continent. However, they started feeling increasing threatened by the presence of what they called non- and sub- humans (races such as the Hin and Orcs and cultures such as the Keltoi). As a result, Pontiff Andalus I establish the Holy Ordos of the Inquisition, defining the existing system as the Ordos Infernus and created the Ordos Externus to focus on the new threat before it. Finally, in the 6th century, the Ordos Venificus was founded to focus solely on heresy. This function was effectively removed from the Ordos Infernus, and there has often been friction between the two Ordos ever since.
Organisation of the Inquisition
Originally the inquisition was a single entity – today, the Inquisition is divided into three Orders , each responsible for assessing and combating a threat to the Church. Currently, the three main Orders are:
- The Ordo Infernus (Order of the Hunters of the Infernal): concerning itself with destroying daemons and other infernal servants of the Whisperer
- The Ordo Externus (Order of the Hunters of Non-Humans): seeking out and eliminating alien influence and corruption within the Selentium Church.
- The Ordo Venificus (Order of the Hunters of the Witch and Heretic): focus on stopping the actions of heretics, traitors and witches and warlocks within the Selentium Church.
Subordinate to the major ordos are several smaller organisations, known as the Ordos Minoris. These ‘minor orders’ are significantly smaller than the main three, and are often formed to combat specific, rather than broad, threats:
- The Ordo Sicarius: tasked with investigating and controlling the Officio Assassinorum.
- The Ordo Sepulturum: formed during the 13th Black Crusade, their focus is the relatively new threat from Plague Zombies
- A third, minor order, whose name is unknown, develops methods to limit the independence of the Des Sanktos Glavos. It was founded over 150 years ago and since been almost forgotten.
Role of the Inquisition
The Inquisition is immensely powerful, and the only individual that is exempt from their scrutiny is the Pontiff. If he has good cause, an Inquisitor may demand any service from any member of the Selentium Church, up to and including the Dukes, Earls and other nobles of Selentium nations. The Des Sankta Praetorius who guard the Pontiff’s palace and person are exempt from conscription, because their duty to the Pontiff is clear and unchanging. When it comes to the Des Sankta Glavos, Inquisitors often show some discretion. However, not even the Des Sankta Glavos are immune from their scrutiny and justice, and entire towns were destroyed in order to cleanse them.
The basic operational unit of the Inquisition is the individual Inquisitor with retinue. Each Inquisitor travels Uriel’s realm as his duties, studies, interests and local events direct him, and seeks out threats to the Church wherever he goes. When one is found, the Inquisitor will usually deal with it personally if his resources permit. If they do not, the authority of the Inquisition allows him to bypass the often unwieldy power structures that would hinder effective halting of such a threat by directly requisitioning military force, aid or whatever else they may require, and applying them where needed.
To allow this to happen safely and without abuse, the Inquisition gives each appointed Inquisitor an Inquisitorial seal. This is a rosette, signet ring or similar adornment bearing the Inquisitorial logo, and gives the bearer all the powers of the Inquisition, including the authority to requisition troops, call upon all the Chambers Militant and more besides ("by the authority of the Pontiff”). The crime of forging an Inquisitorial seal carries some of the worst punishments the Inquisition can call down on transgressors.
Occasionally a matter will surface that requires more lengthy study and debate than a normal Inquisitorial case. In such cases, Inquisitors may hold Apotropaic studies. These studies usually gather between one and three Inquisitors. Larger meetings known as Apotropaic Councils or Conclaves will gather at least eleven Inquisitors for debate and study of an important issue, or they may be called to ensure communication within the members of a faction or philosophical grouping of the Inquisition. Quite rarely, a so called “High Conclave” or Apotropaic Congress may be convened, but only by an Inquisitor Lord. These will often gather dozens of Inquisitors for weeks of debate on many related topics. Usually, it is at conclaves and meetings of this sort new Inquisitors will be appointed. It is also during such meetings that the Inquisition polices its own ranks, as no other organisation has the authority to do so.
Inquisitors with a certain degree of seniority (usually a decade or more of field experience) will often take on apprentices from various sources. These apprentices are often known as Interrogators, though there are several other ranks of apprenticeship. When his master deems him ready, an apprentice Inquisitor may be elevated to the rank of full Inquisitor. Normally, this requires the consent of at least three other Inquisitors or an Inquisitor Lord.
Very senior Inquisitors may become Inquisitor Lords. This largely honorific rank is bestowed by invitation from an existing Lord only, and requires the approval of two other Lords to be officially bestowed. The latter requirement is largely a formality, however, as Lords are few and far between and the odds of one Inquisitor being personally known to more than one is vanishingly small. Lords have a few extra powers within the Inquisition itself, but the title is mostly an acknowledgement of extraordinary servants of the Church and the position they have within the Inquisition.
Inquisitors can take on apprentices and teach them everything they know so that they too can some day be full inquisitors like their master.
The papal inquisition developed a number of procedures to discover and prosecute heretics.
When an inquisitor arrived at a town it had different strategies to identify likely heretics.
- Gathering: First, the townspeople would be gathered in a public place. Although attendance was voluntary, those who failed to show would automatically be suspect, so most would come. The inquisitors would provide an opportunity for anyone to step forward and denounce themselves in exchange for easy punishment. As part of this bargain they would need to inform on other heretics.
- Prior Knowledge/Investigation: The inquisitors could simply force people to be interrogated.
- Under-cover investigation: Often frowned upon by puritans, especially Monodominants, but often used to gather information without spooking heretics into flight.
Once information had been gathered, an inquisitorial trial could begin.
The inquisitorial trial favours the prosecution (the Church). The defendant would be is allowed a Pardoner, who speaks on behalf of the accused and acts as a pseudo-lawyer. However, Pardoner’s rarely work for free and have been known to share the fate of the heretic if found guilty. Therefore most accused rarely have such an advocate working with them.
Inquisitorial trials are usually conducted in secret with only the inquisitors, the accused, the pardoner and inquisitorial staff to take notes. Inquisitors usually sequester all of the property of the defendant. The accused is not normally told the charges, but is always invited to confess, only guessing what for. The accused is expected to self-incriminate and does not have the right to face and question the accuser.
It is considered acceptable to take testimony from criminals, persons of bad reputation, excommunicated people, and convicted heretics. Blood relationship does not exempt one from the duty to testify against the accused. Only another Inquisitor of higher rank can repeal sentences and there is no right of appeal. Inquisitors can keep a defendant in prison for years before the trial to obtain new information.
Despite the seeming unfairness of the procedures, the inquisitors did provide rights to the accused. At the beginning of the trial, interrogators invite the accused to name those who had “mortal hatred” against them. If the accusers were among those named, the defendant is set free and the charges dismissed; the accusers face life imprisonment. This option is meant to keep the inquisition from becoming involved in local grudges. A confession under torture is not admissible in the inquisitorial court, although the inquisitor can threaten the accused with (further) torture during the proceedings if the accused recants a confession.
Interrogation and Torture
Initially, inquisitors were not allowed to use torture. However, in 652 Pontiff Castus issued a papal bulla entitled Ad Exstirpo that authorised the use of torture by inquisitors. At the time it was a common (and still is) tool of the secular courts but not particular to the inquisition.
The inquisition has a set of procedures and policies that govern interrogation and the use of action. It is technically against Church policy to mutilate the body. These are called the Eight Actions.
- First Action: verbal interview without duress.
- Second Action: verbal threat of and/or description of Actions that may follow.
- Third Action: verbal interview with duress (beating etc) and removal of privileges (i.e. food, water, sunlight, and room to stand/move).
- Fourth Action: verbal interview with partial dislocation, such as Strappado where the accused hands are bound behind the back with a rope suspending the accused this way dislocating the joints painfully in both arms.
- Fifth Action: verbal interview with full dislocation, such as the rack and stappado, adding weights to the legs dislocating these joints as well.
- Sixth Action: verbal interview with water (massive quantities forcibly ingested – or even mixed with urine, pepper etc, for additional persuasiveness), and ice/cold.
- Seventh Action: verbal interview with use of compression (such as the thumbscrew, and the boot)
- Eighth Action: verbal interview with use of heat and fire (e.g. red-hot pincers or pokers applied to fingers, toes, ears, noses and nipples; the Keltoi Boot: metal calf high boots filled with ice-cold water placed over the legs of the accused, then placed over a fire until the water boils furiously).
All Actions past the Third (i.e. the Fourth onwards) are considered torture.
The torture methods used by inquisitors were mild compared to secular courts, as they were forbidden to use methods that resulted in bloodshed, mutilation or death. Also, once torture (fourth action onwards) could be performed only once (although a session could be “suspended” multiple times, and when continued would be regarded as the same session of torture).
Inquisitors also have absolute power to judge supposed heretics, witches, traitors of the Church and the like, with no appeal save the intervention of another Inquisitor. Once the trial was concluded the results might take years to be revealed, during which time the defendant stayed in prison. The inquisitors would save up the cases and announce them at once in a public ceremony called, sermo generalis, or “general sermon.”
Potentially, all possible verdicts could result in the death sentence. However, this is usually reserved for the most serious cases, including repeat offenders and unrepentant heretics. Traitors, the worst grades of offenders, are considered irredeemable and will be quickly executed. Execution was done not by the Church, which was forbidden to kill, but by secular officials. The inquisitors generally preferred not to hand over heretics to the secular arm for execution if they could persuade the heretic to repent. It was in the inquisitors’ interest to be perceived as merciful, and they generally preferred to keep defendants alive in hopes of obtaining confessions.
Heretics, even witches, may be redeemed, often after considerable amounts of torture, and may receive absolution through death in service to the Church. This service may consist of flagellation, or conscription into the Church armies/Crusades, or becoming a Penitent (a witch or warlock that has repented his or sins, a notably rare event, and become a preternatural lightning rod absorbing magical attacks of other heretical witches and warlocks).
Other punishment includes having all of his property confiscated, and in many cases, accusers may have been motivated by a desire to take the property of the accused. The more common punishments include a long pilgrimage for first offenders, wearing a yellow cross for life, confiscation of property, banishment, public recantation, or long-term imprisonment.
For example, Commodus Voke, a famous inquisitor working in the area of Asmulia executed 42 people out of over 900 guilty verdicts in fifteen years of office. Execution was to admit defeat, that the Church was unable to save a soul from heresy, which was the goal of the inquisition.
If the Inquisitor deems it necessary he or she can attach a stigma to a dangerous heretic or alien race. Each of the major Ordos has a different stigma. They are ‘Extremis Diabolis’ for the Ordo Infernus, ‘Externus Horrificus’ for the Ordo Externus and ‘Venificus Abomini’ for the Ordo Venificus.
If a village, town or city is the subject of extreme heresy or corruption, an Inquisitor may call down the verdict of Exterminatus as a last resort. Many question the necessity of such acts, but the Inquisition feels it is fully justified in performing them, and would be in error if it did not.
Exterimatus is used when the price of holding, redeeming or retaking the city is deemed too high or the threat of witchcraft or heresy too great to contain by conventional means. Thus, Exterminatus has been very rarely used on vital or valuable regions to the Church. Exterminatus can be carried out in many different ways as outlined below.
With all of these methods, the Inquisitorial forces surround and lay siege to the city/town/village to prevent the populace, and threat, from escaping. A number of different methods are used to lay waste to the city and populace prior to the Inquisitorial forces storming the city and finish off any of the remaining populace within. Usually only one or two of the following methods is used in any particular instance of Exterminatus.
- Bombardment: Bombardment is one of the simplest means of carrying out Exterminatus. It involves using catapults, ballista, and even the cannons produced by countries such as Chaubrette and Lamordia, to bombard the town with heavy artillery until it is raised to the ground.
- Poison: Poisoning of the food stores and water supplies (especially wells) is another common and reasonably simply method.
- Purging through the use of fire is the final common method. The city is set alight and the exits from the city are barred to prevent the populace escaping the purging of the taint of heresy (etc).
In fealty to Uriel, our protector and lord, and by the blessed light of the Creator, in the name of the Ordo Infernus, I call thee diabolus, and in the testimony of thy crimes, iu submit this carta. May the Creator’s light shine account in all balance. Uriel protects.”
Response: I hear full well thy charge and thy words and make my submission. May the Creator’s light shine account in all balance. Uriel protects.”
Does thou accept this carta from my hand?
I accept it into mine, for that I may prove it thrice false.
Does thou state thy innocence now, at the going off?
I state it true and clear. May it be so writ down.