Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The High Profile work of the Senior Ordo Hereticus

I have recently explored the Bureau Astartes, the detective work of the permanent watching staff of the Ordo Hereticus and perhaps why a Space Marine Chapter is the size laid down in the Codex Astartes.
In all of these, I have mentioned the Inquistors of the Ordo Hereticus and their main task of keeping tabs on Chapter Masters, Abbesses of the Adeptus Sororitas and Bishops and Cardinals of the Ecclesiasty.

To this list[1] we might want to add autonomous military leaders like Generals of the Imperial Guard (who, remote from sector or sub sector command may go off and do their own thing), Admirals of the Imperial Navy (who, remote from sector or sub sector command may go off and do their own thing), Rouge Traders (whose remit is to go off and do their own thing) and the Dyamo of the more powerful houses within the Imperium.

Cardinal Richeleau - proof that one can fragrantly abuse the limits of one's power and only come unstuck when you try to take someone else's power for your own.  The OH would probably have left him well alone. 

Whether the Inquisitor’s approach is clandestine or authoritative bordering on the confrontational, there is a synergy between the heretic and the population within which they are hidden.  In each case, there exists an opportunity for the heretic to use his power to “disappear” the Inquisitor.   Obviously this is easiest for the Chapter Master in the orbital bond villain lair, but it shouldn’t be too hard for any of them. 

What there has to be is a system in place of Inquisitors (or their staff) logging their next audit or inspection with their HQ.  In the event that an Inquisitor does not check back in again within a proscribed time, this should perhaps trigger the dispatch of a second Inquisitorial team.  When they don’t check back, that should trigger a massive and overwhelming response.  It has to be in everybody’s interest to contribute to the resulting pogrom and so the overall security of the Imperium, in the name of and with the authority of the Immortal Emperor of mankind, has to mean something.

A Chapter Master is going to be acutely aware that the Inquisition is a direct child of the Horus Heresy and that the first Inquisitors were loyal former members of Traitor Legions.   This in itself, and the fact that his position is propped up by Chaplains of the Imperial Cult, make the Astartes predisposed to be seen to co-operate with the Inquisition. 

The Adeptus Sororitas itself is the branch militant of the Ordo Hereticus, what better place for a deviant to hide ?  But this places them firmly in the Ordo’s front line in the event of any battle.

It goes on; ultimately, all parties believe that they are serving the Emperor better and/or more diligently or that their work is the most important.  As the ultimate regulatory body within the empire, even the Ordos Malleus and Ordos Xenos would have to open their books to scrutiny.  This is not to say that any of these parties is a willing participant in being inspected, but that there exists perhaps an attitude of ‘if you’ve nothing to hide, then you’ve nothing to fear’.  There are no human rights in the Grim Darkness, even for Chapter Masters, Inquisitors and Imperial Cardinals.

Ultimately the governance of the Imperium is a delicate balance between these various powers who all purport to work to the same end for the same master.  The assurance provided by the Ordo Hereticus in this upper tier of government exists to demonstrate to all of the players that no one is above the law and that scrutiny by an outside agency is normal. 

If there was any separation of powers and responsibilities, then things would be easier; it wouldn't take an Holy Ordos to ascertain when things were going wrong.  However, with an empire held together by astropathic communication and long and unreliable warp travel; embodying combined authority in one person gives the collected empire a much more agile government, especially when dealing with outside influences.

Not the model for government within the Imperium of Man in the M39.

Does the Ordo Hereticus police itself ?[2] 

Are the movers and shakers of the Imperium really likely to exceed their level of authority ?  What does this look like ?  Colonel Kurtz from Apoc Now is a good example; the Queen from Snow White[3] is another – She is Queen, but that does not allow her to murder the king and then disenfranchise the Princess of the previous marriage.   And our quintessential example is of course Lugft Huron, the Chapter Master of the Astral Claws.

Col Kurtz - jus' went off and did his own thing. 

Now, that exact level of authority of any of these individuals is open to interpretation; in theory all answer to the High Lords of Terra; some like IG officers will have missions and commands from higher up the military command chain until one reaches the High Lords[4].  Ultimately at the level these people are operating at, it their own cognisance of the delicate balance that defines the bounds of the manageable, as opposed to the bounds of the possible, which is something different again.    We only have to look at Rogal Dorn pushing the shattered Imperium to the brink of civil war in the immediate aftermath of the Horus Heresy to see this in action[5]

The Queen from Snow White - probably a heretic according to the OH, regardless of her being a witch.

If we embrace the notion that the good governance of the Imperium is the will of the Emperor, then by simply expanding our idea ever so slightly wider we hit on the idea that going against this will is a form of heresy.   The Ordo is interested in persons having truck with the ruinous powers and unfettered use of psychic powers[6], but at its apogee, the Ordo Hereticus is an instrument of governance, of ensuring compliance from the rulers of the Imperium itself.

[1] I would suggest that an arbitrary cut off here might be persons with sufficient authority or disposable income to commission an assassination using the Oficio Assassinorium.   ie the movers and shakers of Imperial life – if someone dictates policy or controls forces then this is the level that the higher levels of the Ordo Hereticus ought to be looking at on a regular basis.
[2][2] Of course it does.  There is nothing like a nice bit of internecine conflict as a backdrop for a Dan Abnett tale.
[3] The Fairy Tale.  I quite like the Kirsten Stewart film myself; she might only be able to do one character, but she isn’t exactly hard to watch…
[4] There are other examples for all of the other branches of the Administratum; the Imperium is a very hierarchical place.
[5] Once ‘on side’, of course, Dorn is once again a major hero of the Imperium, rather than a villain.
[6] As previously discussed, monitoring the population for such things is generally the work of their watchers, not the highest ranking Inquisitors. 


  1. That is a really interesting read. As always, incredibly well written and thought out. You have an amazing grasp of each station and how the Imperium (probably) works. Cheers for this Zzzzzz

  2. 'qui custodiet ipsos custodes' indeed!