While the Inquisition is often said to lack formal ranks and rigid authority, ten thousand years of custom and ritual have constructed an unspoken strata of ranks and positions that no sane operative would dare to question.
Broadly speaking, the offices of the Inquisition can be split into two separate tracks: the Seal and the Sigil. These office date all the way back to the Inquisition’s founding, where the God-Emperor instructed the Sigilite to select eight ‘inquisitive Humans’ and twenty-four ‘skilled companions’ to carry on their respective roles in defence of the Imperium.
The Seal refers to the Inquisitors themselves, those who have been granted a private audience with the God-Emperor of Humanity and were found worthy to bear His Seal. While no Inquisitor remembers anything but the faintest fragments of their audience, they know they have been deemed fit to guard the Imperium in His Name, and their Seals are unique archeotech devices soul-bound to them.
The Sigil refers to the agents of the Inquisition that form an Inquisitor’s personal, most trusted and talented cadre. While agents are granted no audience, they carry with them the mantle of the Sigilite; the expectation that they support and counsel their Inquisitors and temper their absolute authority with a constant reminder of Humanity’s need for cooperation, and the calamitous hubris that can come when one soul thinks themselves superior to all others. Agents bear their own Sigils, mirroring and psychoactively linked to their Inquisitor’s Seal, so that both may grow together.
The Inquisitorial Representative
Nominated from amongst the Lord Inquisitors who count their jurisdiction within the sectors surrounding Holy Terra, and sometimes even shared amongst them, the Inquisitorial Representative sits amongst the High Lords of Terra on the Senatorum Imperialis as the political ‘head’ of the Inquisition. Often regarded by Lord Inquisitors as more a burdensome duty than any great honour, as few are willing to set aside their commitments whilst fulfilling the role, the office of Representative nevertheless commands unparalleled power. Not only does it allow the Representative to engage as an equal with the most powerful individuals in the entire Imperium, but it represents the tacit support of dozens of influential Lord Inquisitors. Thus, when the Representative issues instructions to other Inquisitors, they are best advised to listen; not only can the Representative lay down crippling sanctions, but disrupting their delicate political schemes can spell catastrophe for the entire Inquisition.
The Grandmaster is a Lord Inquisitor who has risen to the zenith of power within a given sector’s Inquisition. Whether through formal appointment by the Inquisitorial Representative or a council of other sector Grandmasters, or by informal assent of other operatives within their sector, the Grandmaster acts as the head of the regional conclave. From assigning sector resources to punishing operatives’ transgressions, they are expected to maintain the stability of their demesne and in that regard their word is as good as law. Since much of their authority is derived from the ongoing respect and support of their peers, Grandmasters are expected to act with an even, diplomatic hand, but as veteran Lord Inquisitors they have the skills and assets to enforce their position against those with an over-abundance of ambition. Grandmasters are expected to hold their position for life, and upon death a successor is chosen from amongst the sector’s Ordos Masters.
The Masters are a Grandmaster’s three seconds-in-command, each responsible for overseeing the effective operation of their respective Ordo Majoris within a given sector. The Masters act as specialist advisors to the Grandmaster, not only on topics pertaining to their Ordo, but also the Ordo’s operatives – those who show promise, those who warrant a cautionary eye be kept upon them, and those who possess skills that may prove useful to the regional conclave’s plans. Like the Grandmaster, the Masters maintain their position through a combination of consensus and iron-fisted tenacity, but lack the Grandmaster’s tenure; the office of Master is a far more fluid one, infrequently shifting between those Inquisitors who enjoy the overwhelming support of their Ordo’s membership.
An Inquisitor commands more by reputation and influence than they do by superior authority, and thus older Inquisitors exert greater power by virtue of their more experienced wisdom and more established network of connections, assets and allies. Thus a ten thousand year-old hierarchy has come to exist, wherein veteran Inquisitors may be recognised as belonging to a higher strata within the Inquisition by virtue not only of their experience and resources, but their character. While the precise mechanics of being acknowledged as a so-called ‘Lord’ Inquisitor vary from sector to sector, such an acknowledgement indicates an Inquisitor possesses the highest calibre of ability, courage and loyalty, and thus is seen fit not only for bearing greater status within the Inquisition, but utilising that status to help maintain the organisation’s stability: resolving disputes, monitoring their Ordo’s ranks and placing the interests of the Inquisition above their own schemes. For while the title confers no greater temporal power, Lord Inquisitors will already possess considerable resources to warrant their acknowledgement; what the title confers is the authority of nigh-inviolable custom and the support of equally powerful ‘Lord’ Inquisitors in the strength of their opinions and force of their words. Appointment to Lord Inquisitor is invariably the first step towards becoming an Ordo Master, as it affords the Inquisitor an opportunity to demonstrate not their skill in the field, but their responsibility in maintaining the very fabric of the Inquisition itself.
Inquisitors Ordinary make up the vast majority of Inquisitors within the Inquisition – those who have yet to develop the reputation, influence and assets to be honoured with advancement by their peers. While on paper Inquisitors Ordinary possess the same authority as even the Grandmaster, the sheer disparity in experience, proven worth and capacity to bend the Inquisition and wider Imperium to their will means that the former are expected to bow to the instructions of their ‘superiors’. Wilful Inquisitors Ordinary are not unknown to the organisation, but many are of sufficiently political minds to realise that a measure of compliance and cooperation breeds opportunities to prove their mettle, grow their network of allies and secure the necessary assets to enact their will across a sector – and thereby, hopefully, be acknowledged one day as a Lord Inquisitor. Although most Inquisitors have the sense and grace not to lord their formal rank over their personal cadre of agents, it nevertheless remains the responsibility of the Inquisitor to make final decisions and command their agents in the field.
Interrogators are apprentice Inquisitors – those deemed to have the potential, with the proper education and training, to one day become fully-fledged Inquisitors. Interrogators will either come from within an Inquisitor’s personal cadre of trusted, veteran agents, or be appointed to them by their Master or Grandmaster (usually in cases where a particularly promising candidate has emerged from the Schola Progenium). Interrogators accompany their Inquisitors for anywhere between a decade to half a century, observing first-hand and gradually developing the necessary skills to become an Inquisitor in their own right. Often Interrogators will act as an Inquisitor’s second-in-command, the responsibility acting as an ongoing test of their aptitude in managing a cadre of Agents; should they survive, and succeed in thwarting Humanity’s enemies, they are eventually deemed worthy of bearing their own seal as an Inquisitor.
Master of Agents
Rising parallel to the authority of an Ordo Master, the Master of Agents is an agent who has demonstrated such skill and loyalty, not only to their own Inquisitor but the entire Inquisition, that they are considered an equal to all but the most powerful of Inquisitors in the sector. While still a trusted member of their Inquisitor’s cadre, the Master of Agents also reports to the Grandmaster directly, acting as a valued consultant by offering a distinct perspective to that of other Inquisitors, and is expected to liaise with other Agents to ensure their voice is heard by the Inquisition. The Master of Agents is elected from amongst and by the ranks of a sector’s Sigilite Agents on the merits of their loyalty, wisdom and candour.
A peculiarity unique to those sectors that maintain a Consilium amongst their operatives, the Tribunes are elected from amongst the ranks of the Agents – typically Sigilite Agents – to oversee the much larger Assembly, and as a result of their increased responsibility possess greater powers to propose motions.
While certain Agents are eventually considered suitable to join the ranks of the Inquisitors, that is not the sole avenue of advancement for agents. Appointment to Interrogator is a unique honour, but it is ultimately an indication that an agent contains untapped potential to fulfil a particular (albeit critical) role within the Inquisition; the office of Sigilite Agent, on the other hand, is a much broader but no less honourable indication of an Agent’s worth. Sigilite Agents are not only the elite of the elite, but arguably more importantly display a quality of character almost beyond question or reproach: possessing a loyalty not only to their own Inquisitor, but the entire Inquisition, a conviction that transcends faith into a quasi-Humanistic belief in the Imperium, and a dedication capable of overcoming personal politics, gain and even self-preservation. As a result, Sigilite Agents typically command greater authority than Inquisitors Ordinary, and particularly respected ones can rival Lord Inquisitors.
Agent of the Throne
Agents, while formally the servants of their Inquisitors, are typically in practice closer to companions, allies and even friends. While an Inquisitor bears formal authority over a cadre, they are but one individual expected to fulfil the unique function of their office; Agents, on the other hand, are paragons drawn from various walks of life, specialised in a range of valuable skills that make them indispensable to their Inquisitor. Although Agents were once ordinary citizens of the Imperium, long years spent in service first as lowly acolytes, and now as the most trusted operatives of an Inquisitor, have honed them into the pinnacle of Human ability and nigh-peerless experts in their chosen fields. Amongst themselves, most cadres function as a rough collection of equals – each Agent with their own areas of expertise, to whom their Inquisitor is best advised to listen – but in moments of crisis or decision, and whilst out in the field, Agents are expected to defer to the wisdom of their Inquisitor.