- "A heretic may see the truth and seek redemption. He may be forgiven his past and be absolved in death. A Traitor can never be forgiven. A Traitor can never find peace in this world or the next. There is nothing as wretched or as hated in all the world as a Traitor."
- — Anonymous
The Ordo Hereticus is one of the three major orders of the secretive organisation known as the Imperial Inquisition. They are tasked with protecting Mankind from itself, by combating such internal threats to the Imperium as treason, mutation, heresy, apostate members of the Ecclesiarchy and unsanctioned Psykers, better known as "witches". It is this latter function that has earned the Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus the name "Witch Hunters". Mutants, rebels and heretics are also targeted by the Ordo Hereticus. The Ordo has no qualms at all about acting against threats in the other Adepta and many a renegade Ministorum cardinal or corrupt Tech-Priest has met his end at the hands of a Witch Hunter. These Inquisitors are some of the most feared individuals in the entire Imperium, and like all Inquisitors they have ultimate authority over any other Imperial organisation in the Adeptus Terra and can demand assistance from any other source of authority in the Imperium. The Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus are generally considered darker and more sinister than their Ordo Xenos and Ordo Malleus brethren because of their focus on eliminating the human enemies of the Imperium, which have transformed them into a grim, paranoid and unforgiving lot. The Ordo Hereticus' Chamber Militant are the Sisters of Battle, the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas, and they also make use of the Inquisitorial Black Ships to round up unsanctioned psyker mutants from across the galaxy and can call upon the military forces of the Ecclesiarchy, the Frateris Militia.
The Ordo Hereticus was founded much later in the Imperium and the Inquisition's history than the Ordo Xenos and Ordo Malleus, which can both trace their origins back to an order given by the Emperor of Mankind at the start of the Horus Heresy. It was created after the Age of Apostasy which occurred during the second century of the 36th Millennium. The Apostasy and the many heresies that took root during the anarchy of the Reign of Blood (most notably the Plague of Unbelief), had severely destabilised the Imperium's political structure in a way not seen since the Horus Heresy.
For the first few millennia of its existence, the Ordo Hereticus was but a rumour even to other Inquisitors, so fanatically was its secrecy guarded. All this came to an end following the Age of Apostasy, when it was decided that the Ordo would serve better by casting an intimidating shadow, rather than existing as a myth too easily ignored. As the Ecclesiarchy flourished, so too did the Ordo Hereticus grow with it, for nothing piques an Inquisitor's suspicion more readily than a holy man claiming to speak with the Emperor's voice. Often, its agents pose as servants of the Ecclesiarchy, feigning subservience to a Cardinal's will until they have sufficient proof of the man's guilt -– it is a rare priest with whom a member of the Ordo Hereticus cannot find fault.
The Ordo Hereticus was formed to specifically act as a check upon the power of the Ecclesiarchy, ensuring that another man like the High Lord Goge Vandire could not gain the level of power and control over the Imperium's massive governmental machinery that he did when he nearly usurped the Emperor's own rule and that of his surrogates among the High Lords of Terra by becoming both the Master of the Adeptus Administratum and the Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus Ministorum at the same time. Although the Ecclesiarchy has its own internal regulatory bodies, it is still the role of the Inquisition to monitor all of the state organs (including the Ecclesiarchy) of the Imperium. The Ecclesiarchy must be particularly guarded, however, because of the extraordinary role that the faith of the Imperial Creed has come to play in the daily lives of the Imperium's people since the end of the Horus Heresy 10,000 standard years ago. Nothing can move the men and women of the Imperium like the power of their faith in the Emperor of Mankind, and there are many corrupt individuals like Goge Vandire who would try and exploit this reality for their own selfish gain. Even worse are those who would pervert these honest expressions of faith into something darker and heretical, such as the creation of a new Chaos Cult that ultimately drives a planetary rebellion against the Emperor.
The arrival of an Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor is met with as much trepidation as awe, since none know where their gimlet gaze may land and upon whom their suspicions might fall. In addition to monitoring the Ecclesiarchy – ensuring that Wars of Faith do not exceed their mandate or that its many Cardinals do not amass more power than is deemed appropriate -– the Ordo Hereticus keeps a close eye on many other Imperial organisations: the Adeptus Arbites, the Adeptus Astartes, the Adepta Sororitas and also fellow members of the Inquisition. They monitor doctrinal and physical purity, and no one is beyond their jurisdiction. It is a brave man who crosses the path of a Witch Hunter, as simply by opposing a member of the Ordo Hereticus an individual may be damned and declared Heretic and Extremis Diabolus.
Although primarily concerned with monitoring the Ecclesiarchy to prevent its clerics from subverting the Imperium's delicate political balance between all the different loci of Imperial power, the Ordo Hereticus has expanded its jurisdiction to encompass the other internal threats to the Imperium of Man: witches, mutants, heretics, traitors and other human deviants who would threaten the lives, or even worse, the souls, of the Emperor's subjects. Hereticus Inquisitors are the most feared members of the Inquisition, as their focus is on Mankind itself and they are pitiless towards those they deem to have failed the Emperor or broken his trust. And under the fierce and unflinching gaze of a Hereticus Inquisitor, there are few now alive who have not failed the Master of Mankind in some way in either word or deed. The arrival of an Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor on a world is met with fear and awe, as no one but the Inquisitor himself knows where or upon whom his attentions will fall.
The members of the Ordo Hereticus monitor the Wars of Faith inspired by the Ecclesiarchy, to ensure they remain within the objectives assigned by the Ecclesiarch and the other High Lords of Terra. They ensure that the teachings preached by priests of the Imperial Cult remain true to the spirit of the Emperor's will (and the orthodoxy of the Adeptus Ministorum). They regulate the wealth and stellar territory claimed by the higher-ranking members of the Ecclesiarchy, to prevent the princes of that institution, its Bishops and Cardinals, from gaining more power than is appropriate.
The Ordo Hereticus is also called upon to monitor other Imperial organisations for internal threats, including the Adeptus Arbites, the Space Marines, and even the other Ordos of the Inquisition itself. Only the Emperor is beyond their jurisdiction or their suspicion, though attempts to root out perceived threats in the other Ordos of the Inquisition can be a difficult task at best.
Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus are commonly figures of incredibly strong will. Some are fitted with special psychic hoods designed to nullify hostile witcheries targeting their mind or person. Others prefer to trust in the Emperor, uttering litanies of protection and hate as they move against rogue psykers. A with the other ordos of the Inquisition, the Witch Hunters are happy to use individuals with psychic powers, provided they have been properly sanctioned. Perhaps surprisingly, there are many Inquisitors amongst the Ordo Hereticus who are capable of using psychic disciplines themselves. Woe betide the witch who is hunted by one such individual, for these Inquisitors are notorious in their zeal. Perhaps it is because they are fully aware of the terrible dangers that lurk within the warp, or perhaps it is a result of their training—whatever the case, these psychic Witch Hunters will stop at nothing to destroy the corrupt and tainted.
Some Inquisitors within the Ordo Hereticus specialise in the identification and eradication of mutants. They may have numerous cells of Acolytes at their disposal, which range from hive-toughened flamer squads, trained to purge large infected areas, to precision assassination cells, which remove and replace key political figures that have succumbed to the lure of the Dark Gods. In most cases, such Inquisitors will be less concerned with the mutants themselves (as they are a relatively simple matter to deal with) and more with the causes of mutation. An outbreak of mutation may herald a terrible event, point to an upswing in cult activity or simply be the inexplicable whim of the Ruinous Powers. Whatever the cause, the Ordo Hereticus will require an investigation and purge. This can sometimes cause the Ordo to be involved in high-profile events, such as the removal of a head of state, the cleaning up of corrupted pollutants or even outright war.
Occasionally the Ordo will find itself pitted against an individual being or phenomenon which presents a significant threat. This might be as varied as a psyker of unprecedented power, a mutant with terrifying abilities or even a governor unwilling to carry out necessary pogroms. In such cases, the Ordo Hereticus will excommunicate the offending person from the human race and then hunt them down with frightening ruthlessness. The ordos will call upon any allies they feel necessary, from the Sisters of Battle, to members of other Adepta or servants of another ordo. They are willing to do whatever is needed to get at the excommunicated party, even if it should mean sending the Imperial Guard against the Imperium's own people. Better to end a thousand innocent lives than to suffer the spread of corruption.
Perhaps more so than other arms of the Inquisition, the Ordo Hereticus is concerned with the big picture. Their duty tasks them with tending to a vast flock, and as such, individuals within that mass are seldom of importance. The Imperium is comprised of billions of souls, each of which is a potential psyker, mutant or rebel. The Ordo Hereticus fights on countless fronts, endlessly, with no warning of where fresh heresy may arise. Whilst cells of Acolytes or particular Inquisitors may have the luxury of dealing only with the local situation, the scholars and masters of the Ordos look upon events with a distanced eye, thinking in terms of systems and sectors rather than planets or countries. To some observers, this impersonal attitude is vile, but to members of the Ordo Hereticus it is necessary to protect mankind from itself.
The Adepta Sororitas, also known as the Sisters of Battle or the Daughters of the Emperor, are a penitent organisation within the larger Adeptus Ministorum of women devoted to the worship of the God-Emperor of Mankind and the orthodox interpretation of the Imperial Creed. Although there are many different orders within the Sisterhood that perform many different specialised functions across the Imperium, the most well-known as the Orders Militant, which form the military arm of the Ecclesiarchy and also serve as the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Hereticus.
After the Age of Apostasy, the Ecclesiarchy was forbidden from possessing any "men under arms" by the Decree Passive issued by the famous Ecclesiarch Sebastian Thor, the righteous successor of Goge Vandire. A loophole was found and exploited by later Ecclesiarchs by refounding the Daughters of the Emperor as warrior-nuns after merging them into the greater Sisterhood of the Adepta Sororitas. The Sisterhood serves, among its many other functions, as an internal regulator of the Ecclesiarchy and as the army of the Adeptus Ministorum, spreading the True Faith in the God-Emperor throughout the galaxy.
Centuries ago, following the Age of Apostasy, the newly reformed Adepta Sororitas and the Ordo Hereticus forged an agreement to assist one another in fighting the Emperor's enemies. This agreement, made at the Convocation of Nephilim, is still shrouded in mystery and it is suggested among some Inquisitors that the Sisters of Battle and the Ordo Hereticus are following some secret plan that only the canonesses of the Sororitas and a few Inquisitor Lords fully understand. Whether this is true or not, a Witch Hunter can expect to find common purpose with the Sisters of Battle, and the two organisations work together extensively. Although very different in their methods of tackling a problem or internal dissent (Hereticus Inquisitors tend to be analytical, methodical and suspicious, while the Sisters of Battle are zealous and unquestioning of Imperial Creed dogma) the Sisters and the Ordo Hereticus also share the common purpose of eradicating threats to the Imperium from within. Even though the Adeptus Sororitas and its Sisters of Battle remain part of the Ecclesiarchy's structure, they respond when called upon by Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus who need a more forceful resolution to a particular problem.
Notable Ordo Hereticus Members
- Inquisitor Agmar - As a young member of the Ordo Hereticus, Agmar lead multiple attacks upon Ichar IV's capital city of Lomas to break up a rebellion launched by strange cult members. It turned out that the rebellion was created by a massive Genestealer infestation. With the Adeptus Arbites, he destroyed enough of the defences used by the cult's psychcially enslaved members to allow the Ultramarines Chapter to seize the planet. It was then that Angmar's Astropaths felt the approach of Hive Fleet Kraken and it was his initiative that led to the breaking of the Hive Fleet at Ichar IV.
- Inquisitor Lord Fyodor Karamazov - Inquisitor Lord Fyodor Karamazov is known and feared throughout the Imperium. He gained his fearsome reputation during an event on the planet of Salem Procor, when he executed a popular servant of the Adeptus Ministorum. This caused a huge outcry from the Ministorum's clerics and the Thorian Inquisitors, yet later it was discovered that the preacher had in fact truly been a heretic, and Fyodor's reputation was redeemed. However, relations between the Inquisitor Lord and the Ecclesiarchy and his fellow Inquisitors have yet to mend. Karamazov rides into battle on the massive war-machine known as the Throne of Judgement.
- Inquisitor Tannenberg - Witchfinder Tannenberg was a Hereticus Inquisitor who uncovered the heresy and mutation within the Saint Garrat Scriptorium, sending its Adepts to the excruciation chambers and burning the scriptorium to the ground. Tannenberg was also responsible for executing all forty-five members of the psyker Chaos Cult known as the Coven of the Red Moon. Amongst his many Acolytes is the scribe Lamont.
- Inquisitor Ligea - Inquisitor Ligea can be described as "Looking more like an elegant family matriarch rather than a hunter of daemons." Ligea was an unusual Inquisitor, in that she did not see much combat, but rather focused her efforts on texts and ancient writing. She possessed at least one minor psyker ability, which allowed her to apprehend information simply by contacting an object, such as a book or a statue. She was recruited into the Ordo Hereticus at a very young age. She was attached to the Grey Knights Chapter on the trail of Saint Evisser, looking for Ghargatuloth, Prince of a Thousand Faces, a powerful Greater Daemon of Tzeentch. Unfortunately, Inquisitor Ligea eventually succumbed to the taint of Ghargatuloth after allowing herself to delve too deeply into tainted knowledge, opening her mind to daemons which caused her to lose her mind. Having gone quite insane and fallen mostly to Chaos in the process, Ligea was captured by the Inquisition she once served. However, having opened herself up to Ghargatuloth, she was able to learn and reveal the true name of Ghargatuloth to Justicar Alaric, through a recording of her interrogations, in which she babbled what was apparently a meaningless string of syllables. This gave the Grey Knights the advantage they needed in order to destroy Ghargatuloth once every thousand years. Inquisitor Ligea died in an interrogation room high above the planet Mimas when Inquisitor Nyxos ordered her cell opened, venting her into space.
- Inquisitor Thaddeus - An Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus, Thaddeus was put in charge of hunting down and destroying the Renegade Soul Drinkers Space Marine Chapter. He is a rather patient man and does things slowly and concisely as to get them right. He shuns other Inquisitors who use force and fear on Imperial citizens to secure information. He believes in speaking to people politely and with respect to get what he needs. He seemed to make a deal with Sarpedon, the acting Chapter Master of the Soul Drinkers, when Sarpedon was injured badly and held by an insanely powerful mutant attempting to gain godhood in the Warp, known as Teturact. Thaddeus decided to spare Sarpedon after months of trailing the Soul Drinkers and learning about the tragedies which had befallen them and he fired on Teturact, giving Sarpedon time to finish him with the Soulspear. Thaddeus decided that Sarpedon was not nearly as dangerous to the Imperium as Teturact was. Thaddeus fell out of favour with the Lord Inquisitors for allowing the Soul Drinkers to continue to exist, but he still pursued them and eventually met his end facing down the Howling Griffons Space Marines after they saw him as Sarpedon's ally.
- Witch Hunter Tyrus - Tyrus is a Witch Hunter and a staunch member of the Monodominant sect of the Inquisition. As a child, he was tortured by the Daemon Prince Kholoth who took one of his eyes and ears before destroying the rest of his village. Tyrus was saved from death at the Daemon Prince's hand by the Inquisitor Covonis who then took Tyrus under his wing as an apprentice and Acolyte. Covonis was killed on the world of Epsilon Regalis by Kholoth but Tyrus successfully banished Kholoth to the Warp again, taking up his master's Power Armour and Force Sword. He was then elevated to the full rank of Witch Hunter and Inquisitor. Tyrus is highly active in the Imperium as an internal policer of heresy. He is known for carrying out extreme and bloody purges of suspected Heretics on many worlds on regular occasions. He is also known to chase heretical Inquisitors as strongly as he does witches. He has a great hatred for all kinds of psykers, even those found amongst his fellow Inquisitors. His policy on guilt is based on religious testing and arcane methodology. Tyrus is known to use the ancient trial by ordeal to determine guilt or innocence of heresy or witchcraft in certain cases, such as the Trial by Balance, the Ordeal of the Blade and the Trial by Holy Seal, while his favorite method for determining guilt is to force the accused to consume a jug of holy water blessed by an Adeptus Ministorum priest. If they choke then they are guilty of being a Heretic in Tyrus' judgement and are immediately executed. Tyrus is also known to use the Emperor's Tarot to determine innocence or guilt.
Ordo Hereticus Relics
- Liber Heresius - First laid down during the Age of Apostasy, this tome has grown to contain the wisdom of thousands of Ordo Hereticus Inquisitors. By properly interrogating its pages, the reader can glean sufficient wisdom to predict and counter the strategies of renegades
and traitors before their ruinous schemes come to fruition. Over the course of centuries, the Liber Heresius has become incredibly unwieldy, as each new wielder scribbles his own notes into its broad margins.
- Codex: Inquisition (6th Edition), pp. 12-13, 22, 39, 50, 83, 101, 107, 130-131, 136, 154, 167
- Codex: Witch Hunters (3rd Edition)
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 220, 226, 257, 268-269
- Dark Heresy: Ascension (RPG), pp. 169-170
- Grey Knights (Novel) by Ben Counter