The Inquisition (aka The Holy Orders of the Emperor's Inquisition) is a secretive organisation in the Imperium. They act as a secret police force, hunting down any and all threats to the stability of the God-Emperor's realm.
Formation of the Inquisition
The foundation of the Inquisition is shrouded in mystery, although it is believed that the organisation came into being either during or directly after the Horus Heresy. The Inquisition was believed to have been created by the Emperor of Mankind shortly before his internment within the Golden Throne.
There were originally only two Orders within the Inquisition, but a third (the Ordo Hereticus) was added after the events of the Age of Apostasy and it was deemed necessary to deal with a future Plague of Unbelief.
Ordos of the Inquisition
The Inquisition is divided into a series of organisations known as Ordos. Each Ordo is responsible for assessing and combating a threat to humanity.
As of the 41st millennium, the three Major Ordos are:
- The Ordo Malleus (Daemonhunters, or Order of the Hammer), concerning itself with destroying daemons and other servants of Chaos.
- The Ordo Xenos (Alien Hunters, or Order of the Aliens), seeking out and eliminating alien influence and corruption within the Imperium. This branch command the Deathwatch chapter kill teams. The Deathwatch are not a true Adeptus Astartes chapter, instead their ranks are filled from Space Marines seconded from other chapters who remain as part of the kill team for several years before returning to their home chapter.
- The Ordo Hereticus (Witch Hunters, or Order of the Heretics), focusing on stopping the actions of heretics, traitors and rogue psykers within the Imperium.
It should also be noted that there are some freelance inquistitors that are not part of one specific branch of the Inquisition.
Subordinate to the Major Ordos are several smaller organisations, known as the Ordos Minoris. These 'minor Ordos' are significantly smaller than the main three, and are often formed to combat specific, rather than broad, threats:
- The Ordo Sicarius is tasked with investigating and controlling the Officio Assassinorum.
- The Ordo Sepulturum is one of the smallest of the Ordos Minoris, formed during the 13th Black Crusade. Their focus is the relatively new threat from Plague Zombies.
- (Unknown name) develops methods to limit the independence of the Adeptus Astartes. It was founded during the Horus Heresy and has 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 Emperor. If he has good cause, an Inquisitor may demand any service from any Imperial citizen, up to and including the High Lords of Terra. The Adeptus Custodes who guard the Emperor's palace and person are exempt from conscription, because their duty to the Emperor is clear and unchanging. When it comes to the Adeptus Astartes, Inquisitors often show some discretion. However, not even the Adeptus Astartes are immune from their scrutiny and justice, and entire worlds have been destroyed in order to cleanse them.
Inquisitors also have absolute power to judge supposed heretics, mutants, untrained or rogue psykers and the like, with no appeal save the intervention of another Inquisitor. Practically, all possible verdicts are ultimately death sentences, although the means by which they are achieved differ. Traitors, the worst grades of offenders, are considered irredeemable and will be quickly executed. Heretics may be redeemed, often after considerable amounts of torture, and may receive absolution through death in service to the Imperium. This service may consist of arco-flagellation, conscription into Imperial armies, becoming the operator of one of the Ministorum's Penitent Engines or, in the case of penitent psykers, joining the retinue of an Inquisitor.
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 Malleus, 'Xenos Horrificus' for the Ordo Xenos and 'Hereticus Abomini' for the Ordo Hereticus.
Young psykers who have not worked against the Imperium or used their powers much will usually be repeatedly tested, and if they are young, strong and pious enough, may be taken in by the Black Ships of the Inquisition to become a Sanctioned Psyker or even an Inquisitor. The requirements are strict and many will be found wanting. Those that fail the Inquisition's tests will either be executed or used to power the vast psychic beacon of the Astronomican (an ultimately fatal, but more sacred, experience) or even sacrificed for the ultimate good of mankind to sustain the Golden Throne which keeps the Emperor alive.
If a world is the subject of extreme heresy or corruption, an Inquisitor may call down the verdict of Exterminatus. 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.
Organisation and operation
The basic unit of the Inquisition is the individual Inquisitor with retinue. Each Inquisitor travels the Imperium as his duties, studies, interests and local events direct him, and seeks out threats to the Imperium 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, Officio Assassinorum 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 Immortal Emperor of Mankind" rule ). The seal usually doubles as a decoder for encrypted Imperial documents up to extremely high levels of security clearance and may have similar perks. 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 several decades 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, but in extraordinary circumstances, such as the untimely death of his master, an apprentice may become an Inquisitor without these formal approvals.
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 Emperor and the position they have within the Inquisition.
Part of the nature of the Inquisition's work requires numerous undercover operations (depending on the individual Inquisitor). Particularly dangerous or sensitive missions may require the Inquisitor and his crew to operate without even the remit or knowledge of local planetary authorities; in some cases, the Inquisitor may fake the deaths of themselves and their crew in order to move their mission forward invisibly. At times like this, Inquisitors operate under a mandate known as Special Condition, which means that the Inquisitorial team, to all intents and purposes, no longer exists.
Often experienced inquisitors or ones in need of specific services depending on ordo or the current situation at hand will have retinues of henchmen that he has deemed most useful. These retinues can be made up of a variety of individuals from Chirurgeon medics to lobotomised gun servitors carrying massive heavy weapons. A list of henchmen is described below :
- Acolytes - Interrogator/ Explicator: An inquisitor can take on apprentices and teach them everything they know so that they too can some day be full inquisitors like their master.
- Chirurgeons - Torturer/ Excoriator/ Sister Hospitalier: Members of the orders hospitalier or just those trained in torture and punishment, they can aid an Inquisitor in interogating prisoners or healing wounds done to the inquisitor in battle.
- Familiars - Cherubim/ Servo-skull/ Psyber-eagle: By far the strangest of henchmen, familiars boost the psychic prowess of inquisitors and allow him greater initiative. (Nota bene: In Inquisitor game terms, these would normally be considered as part of a characters equipment, not as a member of the warband.)
- Hierophant - Castigator/Ecclesiarchy Priest/ Exorcist: Fiery members of the Ecclesiarchy, they boost the faith of the demonhunters they are in sevice to and chant exorcisms and prayers that can cause agony to nearby daemons.
- Mystics - Astropath/ Warp-Seer/ Sanctioned Psyker: Sanctioned psykers used by the Inquisition to detect the presence of daemonic creatures.
- Penitent - Bound Psyker/ Penitent Witch/ Pariah: When a Witch Hunter makes a heretic psyker repent his sins (a notably rare event), he could become what could be called a "psychic lightning rod", absorbing the psychic attacks of other heretic psykers and protecting the inquisitor and retinue in battle.
- Sages - Autosavant/ Lexmechanic/ Calculus Logi: Individuals whose mathematical skills are so keen that they can calculate firing angles and tragectories perfectly, increasing the chance for an inquisitor's ranged weaponry of hitting its mark.
- Warrior - Imperial Guard Veteran/ Combat-Servitor/ Gun-Servitor / Crusader: They act as bodyguards and gunmen for inquisitors that serve their master in the direct, physical combat against the minions of Chaos.
Especially helpful, competent (or attractive) retainers may become permanent members of an inquisitor's retinue, helping him bring light to the dark corners of the galaxy. Note that this list is not exhaustive as many diferent kinds of individuals with many different personalities and jobs have been seen in the employ of inquisitors in fiction from bounty hunters to daemonhosts to prostitutes to circus performers to assassins.
The Inquisition is broadly broken down into two schools of thought; that of the Radical and that of the Puritan. To the Radical 'the ends justifies the means' in every instance, whether through the employ of Exterminatus, daemonhosts, or alien weaponry. By contrast, the Puritans adhere strictly to Imperial doctrine and typically persecute their more unorthodox brethren.
The main tenets of the Inquisition, beyond the Radical/Puritan divide, can be defined below:
- Thorianism - These members of the Inquisition believe that the Emperor will some day be reincarnated. This is the most 'radical' of the Puritan idelogies due to the possible upheaval that could result should the Thorians actually be able to summon the Emperor into a new form, as Believers and Unbelievers turned upon each other. Named after Sebastian Thor.
- Monodominance - This philosophy holds that man can only survive in the Galaxy at the death of every other creature, be it alien, mutant, or even psyker (which would potentially harm the Imperium, seeing as all galactic communication and long-distance travel is psychic in nature). They are arguably the most extreme of the Puritans.
- Amalathianism - The conservative philosophy of Puritanism. It advocates unity between Imperial organisations and lack of tumultuous change. Amalathian inquisitors oppose the Inqusition's division into factions. Ironically, their idealisms mark them as their own faction in the Inquisition. It was at the birth of this philosophy, on Gathalamor, at Mount Amalath, that Lord Solar Macharius was spurred on to his grand conquest of nearly a thousand worlds.
- Xanthism - The most obviously Radical grouping within the Inquisition, it advocates the use of warp-based weaponry, such as daemon possessed swords, daemonhosts, and generally turning the power of Chaos against itself. Named after Inquisitor-Master Zaranchek Xanthus, executed as a heretic in the 32nd millennium. Note that, unlike other inquisitors, Xanthism Inquisitors cannot request Grey Knights
- Horusians - A sub-sect of the Xanthites, this sect wishes to create a new leader for humanity, much like the puritan Thorians. Both factions strive for a powerful, god-like figurehead to lead the Imperium into a new golden age. But the Horusians view the might of Horus as a wasted opportunity; believing that should the limitless power of Chaos be harnessed and bound into a great leader of men, Humanity could once more become united and crush all before it. Needless to say, even open-minded members of the Inquisition view the Horusians as dangerous in the extreme.
- Recongregationism - The Imperium, after millennia, has become decadent and corrupt according to this philosophy. To remedy this, Recongregators consider that the Imperium should be rebuilt, lest it stagnate further and collapse under the pressure of countless threats from both without and within.
- Istvaanism - To this ideology, conflict is desirable to further progress through strife. It holds that mankind has made its greatest achievements after periods of conflict, such as the Horus Heresy, or Age of Apostasy. It is the place of the Istvaanians to strengthen mankind through adversity, and so follow a 'survival of the fittest' doctrine. The philosophy is named after the Istvaan III virus-bombings that initiated the Horus Heresy.
- Wikipedia: Inquisition