The Blessed Thorn-Crown of Stendarr Edit
"From temptation Talos doth ward us.
Mercy tempered by justice,
Arkay’s circle we complete.” -Inquisitor prayer
Born from the flames of the War of the Wolves, the Ordo Hereticus – or the Inquisition, as it is more commonly known – is the least spoken of element of the Knights of the Nine and at the same time its most iconic difference from the predecessor order. Interpreted both as oppressive zealots and a crucial guard of the Eight-and-One in troubled times, this order within an order is often misunderstood and reviled even by fellow knights.
Within the structure of the original Knights of the Nine, there was no such thing even approaching the Ordo Hereticus. The order then was far more concerned with the discovery and preservation of the relics of Pelinal Whitestrake and remained always a much smaller organisation than its current iteration, consisting mostly of a small circle of noblemen of some renown who had devoted their lives to the relics of the Eight. The infrastructure inherited, thus, while working well on the larger scale after the defeat of Umaril the Unfeathered and the spike in enlistment into the Knights, did not take into account the implications of thousands of men and women where there had once been a handful. With the order’s involvement in the War of the Wolves, it was finally decided that losses of faith were an all too real possibility (all the rigours of war considered) that could undermine the war effort where the Knights were concerned. Thus, the Ordo Hereticus was born.
Answering directly to the Divine Crusader, the Inquisition has only the hints of a structure, shadowing instead the rest of the order in organisation. High Inquisitors, charged with supervising the activities of an entire chapter, are the only ones devoted utterly to the cause of the Ordo Hereticus. These four are enigmatic individuals, among the most feared within the Knights of the Nine, particularly by the order’s own, their presence usually only warranted where mass heresy or the failure of a high-ranking individual of the likes of another inquisitor, a Knight Commander or even a Chaptermaster is suspected; so far, there have been very few such cases. The rest of the inquisitors are very much bound to the duties of their respective ranks, be they knights or lictors, the manner in which they seek out failings in faith left largely up to the individual. Often, the presence of an inquisitor is not known until he or she has already struck, as it is not required of them to make their membership in the Ordo Hereticus public.
Unlike the popular depiction that has already spread of the Ordo Hereticus during its short existence as a group of zealots seeking out and condemning to the pyre heathens, hedge-wizards, witches, lycanthropes and undead, the Inquisition is actually not concerned with the spreading of the faith of the Nine Divines and, until recently, operated exclusively within the confines of the Knights of the Nine. They seek not to inspire faith, but rather to preserve it where it already exists and prevent ‘heresy’ (primarily Daedra worship) from festering and becoming destructive. It was only with the creation of the Hammerfell Chapter and the order’s heavy involvement with local society that the Inquisition became more proactive, taking it upon themselves – with the Divine Crusader’s blessing, of course - to protect the Knights’ interests from harm that might come from pro-Yokudan moods among the local nobility or the Confederation’s militia. It is here that most horror stories involving inquisitors originate, where they often feel forced to be increasingly blunt and violent in sorting out the convoluted faction-politics of Hammerfell and where political treason is often confused for or mingled with following the old Yokudan pantheon, the individual nature of the inquisitors’ actions often making it impossible to discern what was acted against.
Though many of their fellow knights strongly dislike the Inquisition for its ill-defined and vast power, a popular saying being ‘an inquisitor inspires heresy just by his presence where there was none before’, just as many see the Ordo Hereticus as a vital safeguard that even the highest-ranked of the order are not safe from. It cannot be said how many Lictors, Knight Commanders and even Chaptermasters within the order today have been swayed from exploiting their Nine-granted authority for selfish reasons because they felt an inquisitor’s breath at their backs.
Not only the inquisitors and the High Inquisitors make up the ranks of the Ordo Hereticus; often, temporary aides in investigations are needed, as well as bodyguards or otherwise companions to the agents of the Ordo. Whether it is the temporary granting of Ordo authority or its considerable protection without conferring quite the authority of those who hunt for signs of wavering belief within the order's ranks, the Inquisitorial Wardens are the position to fit.
Most commonly, this is a title associated with the personal guard of the High Inquisitors - silent protectors who are always at their side, almost as enigmatic as their masters and ready to seize the heretic or the unbeliever at their order whenever need arises. However, as mentioned, the authority of a Warden might be conferred for an undefined period of time unto someone within the order who might otherwise be uninvolved in the affairs of the Inquisition, but neccessary to its ensure its success in an undertaking, whether it is establishing themselves in a new location or a more ordinary (as ordinary as one can get where the Ordo is involved) investigation.