The Congregation of the Holy Inquisition of Yrth
by Jeremy Davies
"Kill them all. God will recognize his own."
--Arnald-Amalric, Papal legate, Beziers, Earth, 1208
In the year 1240, out of the shadows of the Banestorm, a Dominican monk by the name of Robert Lebougre appeared in Megalos. He quickly became involved in the political intrigues of the growing Empire, and attached himself to the Holy Order of St. Michael Olybrius of Serrun. The Olybrians were only 40 years old and resembled the Dominicans from Earth quite closely. His natural leadership and charisma soon gained him power within the order, allowing him to introduce a radical religious movement that he had been a part of on Earth. Witnessing pagan practices in the north of Megalos first hand, Robert petitioned the northern bishops for an Inquisition into the state of the Faith in Yrth. The bishops responded in the winter of 1242 by making Robert Lebougre the head of a new ecclesiastical Gestapo, the Office of the Inquisition.
Robert became active in the Northern counties where the barbarians dubbed him Robert the Black (either due to his temperament or robe) and pursued the eradication of neo-pagan belief in areas now known as Quarterdec, Kethalos, Hidelban, and Myrgan, where many peoples shared culture with the nomads, and pagans were still openly active up until the border wars of 1270-99. He was also preoccupied with the subjugating of Dwarves residing in the Whitehoods. Robert claimed to have had a vision from Saint Olybrius himself informing him that the Dwarves were evil and the spawn of demons.
He would often petition the Emperor for serious military aid to "crusade" into the far north, bringing the Inquisition right to the heathen and the "unholy little ones." But the fledgling Empire had problems elsewhere, though Menelaus was always eager to hear from Robert and his progress. Eventually, in the Spring of 1256, Robert the Black was killed by a group of northern raiders at a village known as Rogald, about 50 miles north of Hidelban. Accounts vary, but the most accurate seem to say that the raiders were mostly made up of dwarves.
In his 16 years on Yrth, records show that he was directly responsible for the deaths of 676 men, women, and children of heretical beliefs, and at least 52 dwarves. He saw his Office increase from an initial compliment of 12 clerics and 50 men-at-arms to 180 clergy men and 500 warriors. The site Robert died upon was used to construct a large Olybrian Abbey in 1545, called Lebougre Abbey of Rogald. It became the headquarters of the Congregation of the Holy Inquisition of Yrth, and stands strong and firm to this day.
After Robert's untimely death, the Office of the Inquisition declined. There was some involvement in the border wars with the barbarians -- Robert's dream of heavy military support coming over 20 years too late -- but little of import. The factionalized bishops of the time did not actually elevate anyone to lead the Office, so its power crumbled just as its wishes were fulfilled. By 1304, the Office of the Inquisition was formally recanted by a simple stroke of the quill, though the activities of the Olybrian friars kept the spirit alive.
Without a concerted unit policing Church principles, areas around Christendom began to fall in their religious obligations. Tithes became less frequent in this period of turning away from the Church (1305-1403), known in history as "the way-turning." Bishop Rynnus of Craine, a prominent Church historian of the time, wrote in 1405:
"Heresy began to form amongst the flock as if that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world, who the Archangel Michael had cast out by his own Holy hand, had come to teach amongst us and bring good Christ-fearing men down to the pits of fire from whence he crawled."
The Curia was formed in 1403, so Catholicism gained a somewhat united front. To combat the rampant heresy -- and fund drainage -- a new group known as the Order of the Archangel Michael was formed in 1412 (p. F20). The Michaelites were an uncloistered order which soon began to make a name for themselves as a militant and ferocious group of wandering murderers and looters. There was little supervision of the order by the Curia, who were happy to see the tithes come rolling back in, and their lands and holdings secured. The protests against the order began to mount however, particularly from the "grass roots" level of clergy.
After Domitus completed his Code in 1578, it became apparent to the Curia that a more organized and respectable form of religious policing was required which would require monks, not barely controllable thugs, as its enforcers. The Curia was anxious to enforce their new complete and unequivocal Canon law. Add to this a resurgence in the Banestorm -- bringing large amounts of Protestant heretics to Yrth, an isolated spread of Islam in the southwest, and the appearance of Jesuits in the southeast -- and the Curia looked to the past for guidance.
In the Summer of 1580, a new entity called the Congregation of the Holy Inquisition of Yrth was formed, using Lebourge's Office of the Inquisition as a guideline. The Order of the Archangel Michael slowly become more used in secular investigative matters, though a close Christian tie remains to this day in the Megalan Order.
Father Haralf of Hidelban, the Grand Master of the Olybrian Order, was named the Grand Inquisitor. He was given serious backing by the Church in the form of the most feared military institution on the face of the planet: the Knights Templar. In addition to this, Emperor Claddius 1 "the Righteous" (1598-1614) -- a devout and fervent church man on the throne -- mobilized and put at Haralf's disposal several Imperial Legions.
Haralf suddenly became one of the most powerful humans in Yrthian history. Lebourge's dream of the north was not forgotten, and there was vengeance for the founder's blood. A vain and impatient man, inexperienced in the ways of war, Haralf attempted to achieve everything at once. He refused military advice, claiming that God was directing his will. Splitting his resources, he sent forces south and southeast in 1580, and north to the Whitehood mountains in 1585.
The northern campaign ended in quick disaster. Even the might of two Imperial Legions and a heavy compliment of Templars is not enough to tax the roused anger of the dwarves of Thulin in their ancient homeland. It remains the worst military failure of the Empire to this day; as far as the Knights Templar are concerned, it is unwise to even mention the year 1585 in their vicinity . . .
In the South, the campaign stagnated. The tribunal set up in Cardiel in 1581 to chase Protestants received little help from the locals. Most of the heretics avoided the inquisitors by crossing into North Tredroy and receiving the protection of the Muslims. There was sporadic and isolated fighting in the streets between Templars and Muslims when the monks attempt to torture some of their prisoners. The Tredroyan Mages and Mercenaries Guilds helped defeat and repel the Inquisitors.
In the winter of 1613, Simon de Anjou -- a Jesuit that came before the Inquisition refusing to recant his heresies -- was put to death personally by Haralf, in spite of direct orders from the Curia to the contrary. Haralf now believed that God has turned away from the Curia and was looking to him to become the supreme Patriarch of Yrth, an Yrthly Pope. Just as the Bishops in Megalos feared, Simon, a well-known and popular priest of the people, instantly became a martyr. The people of Araterre revolt against the church almost to a person, causing the Curia to back down and eventually accept the Society of Jesus. Haralf is blamed for the affair and is tried and convicted of "dealing with demons."
The cleansing fire of the Inquisition that he used so frequently as Inquisitor, gave him his final embrace. It was a Michaelite who brought Simon de Anjou's heretical teachings to the attention of the Congregation in 1612. Although the Order was no longer involved in most canonical Church investigations, many constables acted as agents to the Congregation, some taking on permanent roles as non-decision-making pre-investigators that began to be referred to as Brokers.
Haralf's legacy remains in the form of the Twelfth Decree, also known as the Haralfian Decree. The original Canon law drawn up by Domitus did not allow for the Church to rule on "judgments of blood," making Excommunication and maiming the worst sentence available to an ecclesiastical court. The Inquisition was given permission in 1583 to make judgments of blood in the pursuit of:
" . . . the cleansing and ultimate purging of souls for the heretic."
--12th Decree, Part 4; Clause 8
After the embarrassing failures, the Congregation of the Holy Inquisition declined in international power, but remained an internal force within the borders of Megalos. Run almost exclusively by the Olybrian order, monks of the Inquisition began to don red mantles in 1626 to differentiate themselves from those involved in normal duties. After the debacle in Araterre, the Curia was loathe to grant too much actual decision making power to the Inquisition.
The Inquisition became more active in Cardiel in the 18th century, trying to enforce Canon law on the people there. It is around the 1750s that Inquisitor monks first began to wear red hoods to mask their identity when "interviewing" those that might recognize them later. The brand of religious zeal wielded by the "red cloaks" was not welcomed, and added to the growing political unrest. In 1762, the Inquisition was expelled from the western provinces by the newly formed Confederation of Cardiel.
This was not achieved without resistance. Templars and Church backed mercenaries clashed with Cardien forces on the plain of Lympus, about 60 miles northeast of Calder. The battle of the Apple Orchard (Lympus is a fertile citrus-growing area) was of a relatively small scale, but particularly brutal.
The Church forces seemed to have the day won, after crashing through the Cardien lines and overlapping the right flank. Suddenly, the Church mercenaries left the field (Cardien coin was later found on them), leaving the 21 Templars and two Olybrian Inquisitors alone on the field. They refused an offer of terms. Setting themselves for a final stand, the Templars were given the time to confess their sins and hear mass. On a small hill lined with flowing apple boughs heavy with fruit and lush green grass that would soon flow with blood, the "Holy Score and Three" (as bards in Megalos would later refer to them) managed to kill 964 Cardien soldiers before they were finally crushed. They held out for an entire turn of the clock, with only one knight left alive -- his right arm severed in the fight -- to inform the Curia that Cardiel no longer would permit the Church to put its citizens to the flames so easily. The knight, Sir Kethadon, was hailed a hero. The tale of "the Holy Score and Three" is still popular today, and the strategies used by the Templars in the battle of the Apple Orchard are well studied by all students of military matters.
In 1824, Inquisition monks were sent to Caithness to investigate heresies performed under the Archbishop of Clixtus, Constantine. They were expelled personally by Earl Conall of Craine in July 1825, which help lead to the mass excommunication of Caithness in 1826.
As they were increasingly unable to operate as they would wish to outside the Empire, the Inquisition became more involved in internal matters within the borders of Megalos. They had some involvement in the Mages' War of 1924-1928, providing magical aid and religious rationalization. Several red-robed monks were martyred by the Muslims in Bannock during the spring of 1925. One of them, a Brother Osprey of Arvey, was said to have returned from death during a decisive battle known as the Battle of Dark Gull Cove. Fifty miles northeast along the coastline of Keyhole Bay, Dark Gull Cove was the scene of a pitched land/sea battle that helped end the war in 1928. The immortal form of Osprey was seen by many eyewitnesses to appear clad in silver armor with his Inquisitor's red robe about him, slashing the infidel with a scythe made from light itself!
In 1935, he became Saint Osprey of the Scythe. He is considered the patron saint of Holy vengeance and inquisition.
In the present day, Inquisition monks can be found in any of the Christian nations, though they are severely restrained in Cardiel. Agents of the Inquisition, known to the Church as Brokers, are also active throughout Christendom.
The current Grand Inquisitor is Father Allynus of New Jerusalem. Allynus is young, dedicated, energetic, and the most charismatic leader the Inquisition has had since Robert Lebougre. He has held his position for two years now, and is just getting a handle on the logistics of his command. There is currently an inquisition being held in Myrgan and one in Sho'joor which he takes an active role in supervising. His ultimate dreams lay, like so many of his predecessors, north. He has spies among the barbarians, and he is currently collecting information on the mines on the Whitehoods, and how to best penetrate them. He is a careful, intelligent man, and will only strike when he has the forces he needs and the path prepared. But he is confident that he can do it in his lifetime . . .
The Congregation of the Holy Inquisition has, by its nature, a loose structure. Technically, it is simply an arm of the Curia that comes into existence when required, i.e. when a matter of heresy needs to be investigated. When there is no Inquisition in progress, the monks, including the Grand Inquisitor, return to their normal duties within their respective abbeys. However, in practice there has not been a time when an ongoing Inquisition has not been occurring somewhere since 1705. The length of time an Inquisition can continue is somewhat like the length of the proverbial piece of string. The Grand Inquisitor knows that if there is no Inquisition, he loses a large portion of his influence in the Curia, so he will easily be able to keep some form of investigation going at all times.
For an Inquisition to begin, first a matter of heresy must come before the Curia. This can be initiated by a local priest who has a concern in his area, a wandering Olybrian or other monk who has witnessed something disturbing, or a Broker making a deliberate pre-investigation. The Curia will judge whether the matter should be brought before the Grand Inquisitor, who then decides if an Inquisition is required.
If so, the Grand Inquisitor will dispatch monks to the area, backed up by Templars and Templar sergeant-at-arms. This is called a Tribunal. If he is not attending personally, he will appoint an Inquisitor General. On some occasions a complement or even an entire Legion will be ordered to attend the sight of an Inquisition, particularly if the Emperor has political interest in the area. The local priests and bishop of the area being investigated would announce the impending Inquisition well before it arrived, ensuring that as many people as possible would know when and where it would be holding its court. This court usually takes place in a local monastery in the diocese. Even after the Inquisition arrives, a "Grace" period of no less than one month begins. During this time, heretics could confess their sins, hear admonitions, and receive forgiveness and their penalties. The customary penalties for such recanting heretics could be as little as fasts, pilgrimages, or prayer, but there would also generally be some form of monetary/goods penalty.
During the Grace, the mostly Olybrian monks would also conduct some serious religious revival services, with a great deal of preaching and pastoral work. Also, the Inquisitors call for reports and accusations against the suspected heretics from the general population.
Both the forewarning and the Grace can be ignored if the Grand Inquisitor believes that these actions could "jeopardize the investigation by allowing heretics to relocate themselves under haste." Thus, it is possible for red robed monks and armor-clad Templars to descend suddenly and without warning upon a suspect community, taking suspects into custody immediately. The local priest, who may have lodged the original point of concern, could well be horrified by such an action, but no doubt would generally have the sense not to voice his disapproval with too much conviction . . .
Afterward, the Inquisition begins.
The initial purpose of an Inquisition is to judge whether heresy is occurring. For a person to be judged a heretic, the Church is under three Obligations:
- On the question that has caused the Inquisition to be called, the Church must have a stated orthodox position, either within the Domitian Code or in a later Decree.
- It must have repeatedly declared to the individual, through a cleric, the error of his ways and the correct position.
- The Church has to show that the heresy has been communicated to others in some way, by word or deed, and that this could have influenced others.
If heresy is then found, the investigation begins. Those accused are made to attend the court and be judged according to at least two witnesses accounts. The witnesses could be anyone from criminals to small children, but the accused are permitted to name any "mortal enemies" whose accounts should not be heard. The accused does not confront these witnesses, though they would be named in the hearing. The Accused also has a right to a defense lawyer and witnesses, though this right is almost worthless because people are generally too afraid to speak on the behalf of a suspected heretic lest they themselves become suspect.
If the judges come to the conclusion that the accused is a heretic, but can not obtain a voluntary confession, torture is deemed an appropriate recourse.
If the accused is found guilty of heresy, a sentence is decided upon. Death is generally reserved only for a heretic who refuses to recant his/her beliefs or a member that has been judged heretic before and has now relapsed. The death sentence is almost always done by burning at the stake, though if the weather is inclement, hanging is an alternative. Other major penalties that can be used at the Inquisitors discretion are: excommunication, exile, slavery, permanent imprisonment, confiscation of all property/funds (a very common occurrence), and maiming/forehead branding. Minor penalties include pilgrimages, wearing of a cross, monetary fines, flogging, and temporary imprisonment.
A clergyman found guilty of serious heresy is sent to a monastery, under guard, to be "put at peace." This means to be bricked into an underground section of the monastery foundation with a bible, and thus buried alive.
There is an office of the Inquisition in New Jerusalem, Megalos City, and at Lebougre Abbey of Rogald, the spiritual heart and training center for the Inquisition. Unknown to most people, there is also some form of magical communication with the above offices at almost every Olybrian Abbey in Ytarria.
The position of Grand Inquisitor, the leader of the Congregation of the Holy Inquisition, is a powerful, much feared, and respected role. When the position becomes vacant, it is traditionally first offered to the Head Abbot of the Olybrian Order, who may either accept and fulfil both roles, or decline and then decide for himself who should serve as leader of the Inquisitio.
The Inquisition recruits its monks directly from the major orders of the Church. Although almost exclusively Olybrian, there are usually several of the more hard-line Franciscans and Constantinians involved. All Inquisition monks must serve at the monastery at Rogald for a period of time, where they learn more about the history of the Congregation and study deeply many learned texts on how to best investigate heresy. Some of these valuable scrolls were written by Robert Lebougre himself.
Skills taught include Bard, Accounting, Law, History (Inquisition), Occultism, Psychology, Administration, Diplomacy, Performance, Savoir-faire, Theology (Catholic), Detect Lies, Interrogation, Intimidation, and Intelligence Analysis.
Instruction in the very basic spells of the Body Control, Mind Control, Communication/Empathy, Information, and Knowledge Colleges are available to those with magical aptitude. If particular magical talent is noticed at Rogald, the monk can be sent to study at Azer, the Templar College of Battle Magic. There they delve further into the more advanced spells of the above colleges, as well as looking at optional strains of magic; the Fire College is particularly popular . . . Once having attended Azer, the monk is know as a Magus Inquisitio, and afforded additional respect from his brethren.
The distinctive red habits, worn by Inquisition monks since the 1750s, are only required to be worn when at court (hearing an Inquisition) or while interrogating a suspect. If blood is likely to be shed during the interrogation, or during an execution, the hood with two eye slits is worn, covering the entire head. Otherwise, the normal plain black robe of the monks order is often worn so that no one is able to differentiate the Inquisitor from a normal cleric.
Agents of the Inquisition (Brokers)
These men (and sometimes women!) are not cloistered, but trained at Rogald in arts of subterfuge and spycraft. They are sent out into the nations with assumed names and credentials to observe and report on heretical practices. They all have a small pebble implanted beneath the skin that gives off a certain Aura, only noticeable by a trained Olybrian, which identifies them as a Broker at any Olybrian Abbey and gives them access to the communication equipment.
Skills taught to Brokers at Rogald include: Tracking, Stealth, Shadowing, Lockpicking, Detect Lies, Disguise, Acting, Occultism, Theology (Catholic), Law, Heraldry, Navigation and Area Knowledge (Olybrian Abbeys). This last skill allows the Broker to make regular contact with a superior and report their findings back to the Congregation.
Brokers are often sent out to areas where unreliable sources have indicated there may be heresy occurring. This is called a Pre-Investigation. The Broker will generally act as a transient worker/mercenary of some sort and see what they can dig up. When not directly involved in a Pre-Investigation, Brokers wander the countryside sponsored by the Church. They are the active eyes and ears to the black stain of heresy.
The Caves of the Lyndynites
An Inquisitorial Tribunal has been hearing evidence for the past six months at Asburghe Abbey in Sho'joor. Father Allynus is personally running this investigation into a cult known as the Lyndynites. Lyndyn Southman was a sailor in the employ of the Duke until he was laid off when there was a shipping crisis five years ago. During the next two years he disappeared for some time, but when he resurfaced he claimed to have seen the afterlife and been told how to achieve its riches. Lyndyn began preaching a religion based on sea creatures and the holiness of the oceans. He claimed that the sea was a spiritual conduit to the innermost essence of existence, as well as claiming that there were strange fish-men who were chosen prophets of God. Most thought him a harmless madman, but after a few years, he actually managed to build up a following where he based himself in the cliff face caves along the treacherous shore line south of the city. The Fishmen (p. FF70) actually have a major sacrifice that they wish to perform at an exact point of time at a site in Sho'joor. They plan to sack the entire city and hold it for one day, harvesting from the land-dwellers as many livers as possible to aid the potency of the ritual, then retreat back to their ancient underwater metropolis some 300 miles out to sea. They do not have the numbers to win through sheer force, so they have used Lyndyn to recruit a group of land-dwelling "zealots" to assist them.
An "artifact" that the fishmen gave Lyndyn while they converted him (he fully believes in his new religion) is a small head circlet made of tiny shells. It is actually enchanted with Foolishness (-4 IQ, always on 20 yard radius, doesn't effect wearer) and Conceal Magic (-8), which helps convince his flock of his "revelations."
Just like Lyndyn, Allynus has no idea about these plans. He believes that this is just another upstart pagan cult that he will crush with ease. The caves that the heretics are hiding in do present a problem as they are extensive and warren-like. Not believing this issue important enough to involve an entire Templar cadre, he is looking for mercenaries to root the pagans out of their holes by the sea. The pay is good and the work looks easy . . .
Intrigue in the Hospital
Troubling reports of heretical teachings have been made to the Grand Inquisitor about the Hospital in New Jerusalem. Father Allynus is horrified that the inner sanctum of the Order of the Hospital could be teaching such things as partial spiritual reincarnation. The Curia cannot be officially informed on any Inquisitional proceedings because Bishop Activus Lynnick of New Jerusalem is implicated. Father Allynus needs to treat this situation with kid gloves as the political ramifications of these canonical breaches are huge. There are Templars in the city, although their movements are restricted to limit them purely to their official role of guarding Church grounds. More information is desperately required of the liturgy being taught within the Hospital itself. Five brokers have already "gone missing" attempting to infiltrate the organization, as have two undercover Templars.
Lord Dorset Longfellow, a landed noble retained by the Inquisition to look into the situation at a higher level, has also just disappeared in the last few days. The Hospital have released a statement to the Curia and the Emperor's court that he was abducted by a group of disguised Kharijites. Sir Guildford Perrennius, who personally delivered the message to Megalos City, is using this to further his argument for a concerted New Crusade. Dorset actually languishes in the lowest dungeon the Hospital has to offer, with his eyes put out for his attempted spycraft. The liturgy used by the Hospital has deviated somewhat from the canon, but nowhere near to the extent reported. The Temple are deliberately exaggerating the information being presented to the Grand Inquisitor in the hope that an official Inquisition would be called for. The damage this would cause to the reputation of the Hospital, even when most of the allegations are proved incorrect, will cost them in the eyes of Christendom.
The Templars will take a dim view of outsiders coming in to investigate and possibly reveal the truth. Four of the five brokers that have "gone missing" were killed by Temple, not Hospital knights.
Sir Geoffrey Freeman believes he finally has the numbers within the Order to oust the current Grand Master and place himself at the position. He recently survived an assassination attempt by the hashishin as he left mass. Geoffrey immediately blamed the infidel and even hinted that Guildford may have been involved in attempting to silence the " . . true scourge of the heathen and satanic unbelievers." In truth, he and his immediate supporters arranged the murder attempt, which certainly helped him survive it, in an effort to win over support for his claim to the leadership.
The Old Man of the Mountain has only just found out that his sect was used in this way. A real assassination is now planned.
Worthy of note is that the Hospitalers are very susceptible to magical information gathering, though they are very good at mundane counter-spy techniques.
More trusted outsiders are needed by the Inquisition to act as brokers and find out what is really going on in New Jerusalem. Another noble is also required to ask questions at the Hospital court. The resulting turmoil could shake the foundations of the military orders, maybe resulting in open civil warfare! Add to this a group of real Kharijites, disguised as cloth merchants, who plan on setting fire to the Grand Hospital itself, and an explosive situation is certainly in the making.
On the Trail of Thulin's Soul (and riches)
At Rogald Abbey, Brother Amalric Bloodblade, an ex-Templar who became a monk of the Inquisition, has been put in charge of the Revival in the Northern Lands. He has a converted and money-hungry dwarf by the name of Dusselhoov Tweed who claims to know of a secret entrance to the mines of the Whitehoods, as well as a somewhat trouble-free passage through to the north. Amalric wants a group to go with Tweed and map out the route, as well as take notes on the feasibility of a campaign through the mountains.Bloodblade is obsessed with crushing the dwarves. He has studied all the material of the 1585 debacle and has dedicated his life to understanding the strategic problems associated with predominately subterranean combat. Although the mission is extremely high risk, a huge chest of gold is offered, as well as a guaranteed place in heaven and an opportunity to pilfer some of the legendary treasure rooms of Thulin's Folk with a local dwarf.
The only problem is that Tweed is actually a Zarakian renegade. Although he does know about the secret entrance, he will be mostly guessing from there. If the party ever gets in serious trouble, he will try to just meld into the surroundings and pull some fast talk about being captured and forced at knife point to accompany the surface-dwellers.
As luck would have it, a High Council has been called in Zarak which Thulin has decided to attend. The halls and tunnels on the far east of the range are somewhat deserted due to the drain in dwarfpower. Maybe the party will win through to the other side with their heads intact and a sack full of booty . . .
Article publication date: March 1, 2002
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