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Jezifreth Na’Harsindrian, The Inquisitor: Baernaloth of the Demented (4 of 13)

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Shemeska the Marauder's picture

“So here’s the way it works out: if you don’t give them water for a day, then they don’t go to the toilet. Give them water once, and they go to the toilet once; take pity on them and give them water twice – they go to the toilet twice. So it’s pure and simple common sense: just don’t give them anything to drink.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Vol 2, pp 495-496

 

“With an iron fist we will lead humanity to happiness.” – Sign above the entrance to Solovetsky prison, 1933

 

 

****

 

 

 Was it a lie or was it the truth that flew from his lips? I looked at him, uncertain, for he was said to be a blasphemer against the light of our great order. There was an undercurrent of dissent and blasphemy against our great lord and lady, such as had not been seen for a thousand years since our faith brought unity to the five nations of our world.

 

But, this was the current, not the times of a thousand years ago. These people, myself included had never, till the present, known strife, hardship or disharmony. This was alien, unexpected, and thus we suspected some outside influence at first. We had not found any, but the strife among the people of our nations had grown rapidly under the festering stresses of political upheaval in the west and the economic hardship brought on by the mass crop failure and famine among the people of the east.

 

Here in the capital city of Serithes, jewel of the highland plateau, we had assumed ourselves free from the immediate ramifications. That was before plague struck our eastern cities with the influx of the starving, and then our king was deposed by his brother; said to have been a reaction to the deposed reagent’s intention to invade the west in order to shore up our faltering currencies.

 

The people had cried out to us, we of the holy order of the divine pair. They needed our spiritual guidance through these difficult times, and they wanted a reason for it. After all, we had not seen such strife in over a millennium. Things soon worsened, and with that, people’s faith wavered and some began to speak out against our truth, our light, and our divine compact with they, our flock.

 

I was as shocked as my other brothers and sisters where when a treatise was printed and littered the streets of one of the eastern cities, from the doorsteps of the rich to the gutters below. The paper was filled with lies and half-truths. The lines of the papers claimed things about our faith that I will not repeat, may the divine pair shelter my soul. Blasphemy it was, but blasphemy that spoke into the hearts and minds of the weak and the uncertain. Those of wounded heart and mind, fearful what the future might bring, they listened, and the lies began to spread.

 

 “Find the source of this all” They told me and the others who were chosen by the most high of our faith. “Go out amongst the people, empowered to do all that you must, and find the source of these heresies. Expose them to the light of the sun and strike out at the lies they birth. You do this, and the rest of us shall win them back. Combined and by the grace of our twin creators we shall return the land to prosperity, and the souls of our flock to paradise.”

 

 

****

 

 

I remembered those words as I stood outside the cell in which we had taken the accused. The man stood shackled within the cold stone interior, beyond the iron door, and I pondering the details of the case as I watched him through an eyehole.

 

Will it be like last time?

 

My conscience seemed to ask me as I looked into the cell at the prisoner. It had been asking me the same question since I had started on the travel to this city, but now it seemed as if it was asking me like I would ask questions of the man in the cell.

 

“I hope not on some level, and on another level I pray that it will.” I muttered to myself.

 

The last time, the woman in the north: the child killer… you had to resort to violence then. Will you have to do the same now?

 

“I do what is needed. I have greater worries than the pain of this world. I concern myself with their immortal souls.”

 

Yes. That we do… proceed; do as thou wilt…

 

I paused and made to open the door.

 

“Your grace? Are you alright?” One of the guards hesitantly asked me.

 

I regarded him askance, “Yes. Certainly. Why?”

 

He bowed slightly, “You were talking to yourself…”

 

“Contemplation and prayer. Nothing more. Be at ease my son.” That said, I walked into the cell and slowly walked a circle around the man that stood accused.

 

His neighbors had spoken out against him, and they described a man who, having lost a son to plague, and his wife having killed herself shortly thereafter had turned to drink. In his depression it seemed as though he might have allowed such lies as had been said and whispered in the dark to cloud his judgment and worm there way into his heart like some fiendish parasite.

 

Still, I paced around him, uncertain to an extent as to his actual guilt. We had found several written pages of heretical work hidden upon his property, and though we had omitted what the actual contents of the box they were found in were, he claimed to have no idea of the existence of that hidden box or whatever was within. We had found some evidence of a gathering on his lands, perhaps dedicated to rights in the worship of some demon or fiend. However the man claimed it was only a bonfire to dispose of the carcass of a diseased calf, unfit for slaughter and unlikely to survive if released to the wild. Perhaps, but combined, it made him a suspect, and even if he was not the heart of such things, he could lead us to those who had whispered such lies to him in the first place.

 

“I don’t know what in the name of the divine pair that you’re talking about.” He protested repeatedly. “My neighbors, they only want my land if I’m forced to admit to something I didn’t do. That’s all I have left. My son is dead, my wife too.”

 

He was adamant in his innocence and of this claimed plot by his neighbors. They were pious folk; they had even donated a dozen cattle to the coffers of the church in recent weeks.

 

We spoke for another three hours but he remained steadfast in his claims and I could detect no real inconsistencies in his story. The church had been largely certain of his guilt and I was only brought in as a formality to prove it and bear witness to his admission of it. More than that, I was there to expose others and attempt to redeem this man’s soul.

 

            “If you are guilty of this, and the evidence is strong, there is yet time to save your soul in this matter. Recant and I can forgive you. Don’t make me resort to stronger matters…” I said softly to him. “Today is the velvet glove. After this it will be the gauntlet.”

 

            “This is idiocy.” He said with a mutter.

 

            “I have tried to spare you anything more. Tomorrow will be different, and further days will be progressively more so. Know that. I will see you in the morning.”

 

            Tomorrow it begins. You know it will.

 

            I gave my inner, nagging worries no mind as I left the cell and returned to my own chambers.

 

 

****

 

 

            I was troubled that night as I gave my devotions to first one and then the other of our faith. The evidence was there, but I had my doubts, though I was uncertain as to why I held them in the first place. Signs of a sacrifice to foul beings upon his property, and written blasphemies hidden nearby; those papers which now sat in a locked and blessed box within my room, carefully sequestered away as evidence and to make certain they did no more harm than they already did.

 

            The air of the night was warm and comforting as it filtered through the open window of my chamber while I lay, deep in thought and contemplation, upon the mattress. Still, despite the warmth and relative comfort, I was not fully at rest.

 

I asked myself as I was there on the borderline between consciousness and slumber, did I have to right man or were the real culprits of these blasphemies against our truth yet somewhere else. I drifted off to sleep then with my doubts upon my mind and my dreams that night went unremembered, though I did feel unusually tired when I woke at dawn the next morning. I frowned as I said my morning devotions, and I was struck with a resolute certainty to discover the truth on this new day. A lingering fragment of a dream came to me then with that line of thought, a feeling of having been watched while I slept and of a voice whispering this suggestion to me. Truly then, it must have been the divine inspiration of one of the holy pair.

 

“I will find the truth for you my lord and lady. Yes, today I will surely find it for you. Whatever the method I will find it for you.”

 

 

****

 

 

            When I had finished my devotions, I ate my breakfast, and then returned to the cell where the accused lay sleeping. I ordered him woken by the guards and we began our questioning once more.

 

Was it a lie or was it the truth that flew from his bruised lips? I looked at him angrily, for he was a blasphemer against the light of our great order.

 

One of the guards had thrown him to the ground when the accused became angry at my repeated questions over several admittedly trivial inconsistencies in his story that had cropped up in his claims compared to those on the first day. He was shaken but not badly hurt, but I did not apologize for the actions of those who had to restrain him for the remainder of the session.

 

            Shortly before the sun went down I gave him a respite and ordered him to be given food and water.

           

“We will begin again tomorrow after daybreak. Reflect on your answers and what you have been accused of. Recant my friend. It is not too late to save your soul.”

           

He looked up, bewildered at me. “I would gladly, such is my faith. But I’ve done nothing, you’re wasting your time and whoever has been spreading lies is still out there.”

 

            I paused and sighed. “Cut his food in half… hunger will ply his conscience.”

 

            “You’re a fool.” He muttered angrily.

 

            “I do this for your own good. Surely you must understand that…” I sighed and otherwise held my tongue for the moment, only staring at him a few more seconds before I left and slammed the iron door behind me.

 

 

****

 

 

            My words may have been firm, but my heart and mind were on much more shaky foundations that evening as I lay in bed. The warm air through the window that looked out onto the lights of the city was no longer comforting, but it had turned hot and stifling. There was little I could do about it and it took me much longer to fall asleep, time that I spent mulling over the prisoner’s answers that day.

 

My conscience seemed to ask me two things: was the man truly guilty of his crimes, and if not, what would I need to do to bring him to confess and make me privy to the dark things within his mind.

 

You know what you’ll have to do. You’ve done it before haven’t you?

 

            I sighed and turned over in the bed and away from the damp patch on the sheets where I had begun to sweat from the heat. It was true, I’d had to resort to torture once before, several years prior in a similar case in the north. That woman had eventually broken and confessed, but the evidence had been much more firm against her then than my prisoner now.

 

            It was hard that first time, but by the end it wasn’t. It’ll be just the same this time, won’t it?

 

            “I don’t know.” I said to myself there in the darkness.

 

            Oh, don’t lie to yourself. Don’t slander the truth to your own conscience here in the dark when no one besides you can hear it. Don’t lie to yourself like that man in chains down below in the dungeons did all day.

 

            “He was, wasn’t he…”

 

            You have your doubts. You have many doubts about his innocence. But can you wager the souls of so many on the comfort of one man just because of those doubts?

 

            “I can’t. I really can’t.”

 

            No, you can’t. His wounds will heal, but easier to ere now than to risk the souls of so many if you let him free and are wrong…

 

            At some point I drifted off into slumber, more resolute than ever. I had a dream that night in which I was back in that cell in the north, but unlike the last time when I had discovered the truth of a terrible crime and gained a confession from the accused, this time I was seated in the chair. I was unable to stand, and the woman who I had tortured then was dressed in a mockery of my own vestments.

 

            “You can stop some of us, but we’ll bring down your filthy religion. We spread even as you sleep and you’re sitting here and pondering his possible innocence when the evidence is right there in front of you! You’re a fool!”

 

            The woman cackled at me, her hair long and wild, and the burns of her torture still shown on her arms and legs. The holy symbols on the robes she wore were tattered and torn whereas mine would have been pristine. It was blasphemy and the hag tormented me in my dreams even though she was long dead.

 

            “No!” I shouted at her, immediately ending her mocking laughter.

 

            She narrowed her eyes and snorted, but then I continued in my anger.

 

            “I know what you did and I saw you convicted for it. You poisoned thirteen children and buried their bodies without the proper rights of burial… but I made you confess to it, and I saved the lives of five other children. We found them hidden in those caves and healed them of the poison in their food. They’re alive today and their souls safe because of me. Mock me now, but I did the right thing then, and I’ll do the right thing now.”

 

            She snarled at me, “They were so tender you see; so young. Perhaps I left out the fine details of what I did to them before they died of the poison…innocence despoiled before they passed…”

 

            “Whore of hell…” I spat in her face and struggled against the chains.

 

            She spat back at me, “You’re a fool.”

 

            “And you are damned. I watched you hang after you refused penance for your sins. I will find out the truth by whatever means needed…”

 

            “Sure you will… and if the truth isn’t what you want to know? What then?” She said as her eyes crackled red, bleeding from the sockets as she stared at me.

 

            I gave her no reply. Neither a figment of a dream or a specter of the unsaved dead were deserving of my answer. I would find the truth and I would root out the causes of the blasphemies that plagued us. Nothing was too much, no method too harsh.

 

            Still, my doubts were there, lingering at the back of my mind. They were there in the dream too: a demon sitting at the back of the room, its burning eyes reflected in those of the hag. The dream continued beyond that point; that demon of my own doubts staring at me and asking me questions like I had demanded to know from the hag before, and tomorrow the accused blasphemer. It was a wretched reversal of the proper way of things. I only know that my doubt, that demon, demanded answers to questions either in its own hellish form, or through the lips and form of that seven times damned woman that I had sent to the hangman three years before, and they were both dressed in mockeries of my own robes.

 

But all dreams end, even if doubts still linger with us and follow us even after we awake. And, like dreams, even nightmares fade back into the wall of sleep; but with it, it took away any memory of just what it was that the fiend had demanded from me.

 

 

****

 

 

            I awoke exhausted and covered in sweat. The air through the window was cool, not the hellish heat that had been there in the evening. Odd that it would change so drastically. Perhaps it might rain today, but the weather was not on my mind that day when I went before the prisoner again…

 

            I ignored the man’s protests as I had him hauled to another cell where the implements of a more forceful questioning had been set and assembled. The coals were hot and the irons glowing, glowing just as hot as the eyes of that demon there in the back of my mind that had questioned me incessantly in my half remembered dreams. But the heat of the irons today was not of hell, but of the favored of heaven.

 

            The gaoler was hesitant initially at my request for his services, but I was more concerned with these matters of the soul than he was. He was a simple man and I had to carefully explain to him the stakes of this. Innocent souls were at stake after all. The body is corrupt, the flesh is weak, but the soul is immortal. He was reassured at this, but he was still uncertain at my switch from simple questioning the day before to now using branding irons. It was my decision though, not his.

 

“Apply the hot irons again.” I spoke to the hooded gaoler and he complied without pause, though he may have inwardly felt uncertain. The prisoner screamed and pleaded for mercy, but what pause did that give us? Tolerance need not be given to the intolerable. Only the righteous are worthy of compassion and mercy, not the unclean, the sinner, the traitor and the heretic.

 

“I didn’t do it!” He screamed in pain as the smell of burnt flesh rose into the air, a sharp, pungent, and acrid odor.

 

            “Then who did?! Who else was there with you that night worshipping fiends? Hmm?” I gestured the gaoler to step back. “Who then was it? Who else wrote blasphemous papers that we found in that box on your land? Hmm?”

 

            The man blinked despite the pain and began to laugh at me. My anger swelled and my mind flickered with an image from my dreams of the damned mocking me, questioning me, and laughing at me. My anger was there in my mind, no longer confined to the hidden recesses, but there with me in the interrogation chamber, manifest like a raging fiend in my expressions and my subsequent actions.

 

            “Don’t you laugh at me you son of whore!” I screamed at him as the anger took hold of me, that snarling fiend lashing out as I grabbed one of the hot irons and jammed it against his thigh till blood boiled and cauterized at the site.

 

            “You will not laugh at me again! Do you hear me? Do your ears hear me? Or must I apply the irons to them as well?” I was screaming at him, and I didn’t realize it till the gaoler touched my arm, but I had dropped the irons and begun to pummel the man with my fists.

 

            The prisoner was moaning and insensate when I recovered my senses and my anger had retreated like a chuckling devil admiring its handiwork. I had lost control, but I was justified in what I did.

 

            “You are dismissed for now.” I said as the gaoler nodded and left. I would not need him again since any further questioning would be useless with the current state of the accused.

 

            I was preparing to leave when the prisoner mumbled something up at me. “You’re a fool…”

 

            “And you are damned.” I replied back as I made a holy gesture to cleanse the air of his lies.

 

            “Papers? Written papers?…” He chuckled softly and winced in agony, “My hands tremble when I try to hold anything. I can’t write…”

 

            “You lie!” I shouted as I rushed from the room and returned to my own chambers. I never locked the cell’s door, but he was in no condition to leave anyways.

 

 

****

 

 

            I paced in my room that evening, unable to rest and the night air was sweltering, even hotter than the nights before. My anger was there as I screaming insensate curses out and up to the sky through the open window, and my doubt was there as well, questioning my methods and my justification in light of what the accused had told me earlier.

 

            The papers are written in finely articulated penmanship. He couldn’t have written it, and you’ve seen his hands shake when he grips his bonds or his chair…

 

            “I know, I know. But the other evidence… no…”

 

            Fear that you’ve failed? Or do you fear that you’ve mangled an innocent man… and enjoyed your actions more than you should have?

 

            “Nonsense, I only do what is needed! I only…”

 

            Yes, go right ahead and rationalize it… you know that I’m right. You stopped the laughter, you stopped the mocking, and you gave him pain for his error. You illustrated with action what was needed, yes, but you liked it apart from that.

 

            I must have fallen asleep at some point and slipped once more into a nightmare, because when I turned from the window the fiend from my dreams was there in the corner of the room. It was there, my guilt and my rage there, an unwelcome presence in my dreams, staring up at me with a snarling grin. It was huge, two or three times the size of a man, but wasted as if from starvation when I might cut a man’s rations to break his resolve.

 

            The heat that radiated from the thing was intense, and I some part of me found it amusing that the intense heat of the evening air had managed to insinuate itself into that detail of my nightmare. Its eyes were glowing, crackling coals set into its nearly skeletal head like the malformed spawn of a goat and a serpent. White-hot iron, curved quills, sprouted from the thing’s head, neck, and back like hellish porcupine.

 

“I stopped his laughter, just like I stopped hers when she laughed at me. I saw her hung for mocking me just as much as I saw her hung for her actual crimes.”

 

The fiend folded its hands and laid its fingertips against one another in a brazen mockery of prayer. The fingers were ruined and blackened, burned like exposure to hot coals and the flesh roasted down to the bone. The fiend’s body was likewise covered in the telltale marks of hot irons and brands, the still bleeding scars and gouges from scourges and whips, and the dripping holes of deep puncture wounds. It was chuckling at me, both in my own voice, that of my current prisoner and that of the hag I had seen damned previously.

 

It’s the mocking that gets you. All wrapped up in your own self-righteousness.

 

“I have enough to deal with during the day than to be mocked and interrogated by myself in my dreams…” I turned my back on that figment of my imagination.

 

I saw the thing smile and snicker knowingly in a reflection of one of the mirrors in my room, present also in this dream. The air was distorted in the reflection behind the thing and smoke rose from the plaster of the walls where it rested against them.

 

Don’t turn your back on me. You can’t avoid me no matter how much you care to. I’m a little part of you, a thing inside of you, you see? You can avoid this just as much as the broken little wretch downstairs can walk out of his cell smiling and happy for the experience. Now turn around before I don’t give you a choice in the matter…

 

I shrugged and laughed as I lay down on the bed while the fiend narrowed the burning cinders of its eyes and leered. The thing in the corner of the room then stood up suddenly and then it was on top of me, pining me down to the bed with one hand around my neck.

 

You asked your questions during the day, and now it is my time to ask my questions. You will answer and you will feel pain. If you do not answer you will feel more pain. But you know this, this is how you operate on the accused. This is what you did today…

 

The fiend said with its breath smelling of roasted flesh before I felt its tongue loll out and lick up one side of my face.

 

And that is what you did to me, isn’t it? Still enjoying it too.

 

It was speaking in the voice of the hag again as it brushed a hand up my side like a whore and licked at my face with a tongue coated in black, cinder strewn, syrupy mucus.

 

 You enjoy it. You enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed what I did. We just had different goals…

 

 “Tell hell with you.”

 

It laughed in her voice again. You have no idea. Hell is a kind place by comparison. Amateurs really, well meaning amateurs, still…but that’s not what I want.

 

“You aren’t even real. F*ck you.”

 

If that’s what it takes, by all means lets keep it as an option on the table shan’t we?

 

The demon with her voice snarled and laughed at once before fixing its flame-licked eyes on me once more and returning to its original voice.

 

You can find your answers tomorrow, but now I look for mine. By the end of it, believe me, you’ll be needing your prisoner tomorrow to serve as a release for your anger. Push it off on him. He doesn’t matter, guilty or innocent; he’ll serve just as well. But for now, I will speak to you, and you will answer me.

 

            The demon leered down at me, on top of me, and the last thing I remember was looking into its eyes and seeing my reflection in those crackling orbs. I was screaming, and I saw the face of my current and former prisoners reflected back at me too; they were laughing at me.

 

 

****

 

 

            I woke up screaming and freezing. The wind through the open windows was bitterly cold and raindrops clacked upon the stone of the windowsill. Such a drastic change in the temperature…

 

            All I remembered from my dreams was laughter. Mocking laughter from those who would despoil the truth of our religion and harm the souls of our flock. I remember them hurling questions at me. I remember that fiend, that manifestation of my anger being there above me and questioning me in my own voice, reaching up from the darker, vengeful portion of my soul.

 

            You go find your truth. He doesn’t matter, guilty of innocent; he’ll serve just as well. An example must be made to strike fear into those who are guilty.

 

            “One way or another I’ll stop this blasphemy, even if I must condemn the innocent in the process.”

 

            You have greater goals in mind. After all, what does it matter if in the process of greatness, some small, insignificant mistakes must be made. They don’t matter, for you have greater goals in mind, yes? It isn’t a mistake if it leads to greatness, no?

 

            “No. No it’s not.”

 

 

****

 

 

            My anger and my purpose was livid in my mind like the waves of heat that wafted off of the body of the fiend as it followed me out of my room. Conviction and purpose, drive and lack of sleep, together had hurled me into a religious ecstasy. It had to be that, it was obvious, since I saw the thing from my dreams there behind me, watching me and smiling a reflection of my own smile. We would find our truth, we would set an example regardless of the cost and uncaring of the pain that it might cause in error.

 

            I descended the stairs and it followed, its hulking footsteps causing the stairs the buckle and the tiles shatter from the weight and heat. The force of my will and my righteousness was such that I saw it manifest thusly. All the while as I walked towards the prisoner’s cell, the fiend was screaming at me. It alternately mocked me in the voices of the condemned and urged me onwards with ever more inventive ways to garner my answers.

 

            You know that to do, you’ve seen it before. What I did to you in your dreams, you do to them now and transfer it unto them. Break them as I broke you. Rip them asunder as I took you apart and made you whole again over our time together. You don’t remember it all, but you remember the process. Now repeat it on them of your own free will.

 

            He perched behind me, his broken lips at my ear and his ragged hands upon my shoulders, guiding me and ushering me down towards where my own prisoner waited. A metaphorical descent into a hell of my own making.

 

            Metaphorical? Hardly. I have my answers, but this is what I want…

 

            The prisoner screamed the scream of the guilty as I stood there in the doorway, framed from behind by the beast that was my anger and my resolve. Were I not a righteous man I would have thought him screaming at something actually there behind me, but it was my vision, my inspiration from on high and nothing more; metaphor.

 

Was it a lie or was it the truth that flew from his blood-flecked and broken lips? I looked at him, uncaring, for though he was innocent, it mattered not. An example had to be made, a bloody and mangled messenger whose death by my orders would put fear into the hearts and minds of those who would dare to blaspheme against our most holy order. We were perfect, we were righteous, we were the divine among the unworthy and kicking and screaming we would save their souls, even if some must be damned along the way. Our methods mattered not, only our goals.

 

They never noticed as I left his mind, having planted that seed lurking within. It had germinated in our short period of time together. A little piece of myself buried within to soon flower, sprout and spread to and help them in their quest for glory as I had just then; a little bit of myself to aid them in their holy quest. Holy they were, holy is how they rationalized their actions, so what need did they have for compassion or mercy. Justice was theirs to dispense. At least that is the lie that you whisper to yourselves at night, when you sleep, and the demons of your conscience come to haunt and torture you.

           

Sometimes the questions are those that you ask yourself, bits of your soul that ride upon the currents of grief, doubt, hatred or rage… they question you ceaselessly and either tempt or redeem. Mortals are weak, and too often that whisper of redemption is drowned in a foaming, raging sea in which we lurk.

           

Sometimes you ask your questions of yourself, something you demand them of others in a pitiful reflection of your own inner dialogue, and sometimes the questions that are asked of you are from without, not within, from my burning lips to your fading souls. You’ll find your truth eventually, one way or another, and you will not like what you find. You find your truth and I’ll show you mine. You will suffer in darkness and I’ll find my answers one way or another, and you won’t like them. No, you won’t like them at all.

 

 

 

On Jezifreth Na’Harsindrian, The Inquisitor, from the writings of the fallen Ursinal, Delemthar the Penitent, priest of He Once Known as Anubis:

 

            The Inquisitor normally takes his true form when he deigns to physically appear, rather than masking himself in a mortal guise or as a lesser fiend as some of his brethren will do. He is open and blunt about who and what he is, and about what he wants from his victims, though he will often whisper to them in their sleep, or when they are alone and deep within their own thoughts. He may appear to them as their own introspection and doubts long before he takes physical form, and even then it may be some time before they realize that he was manifested himself.

 

When Jezifreth manifests in physical form, he appears in the standard form of one of the Baernaloths; twelve feet or so tall, wasted, sickly, and pale. However he varies from the standard form of his kind in the following, notable ways. His eyes are not the dead, white, snake-like eyes of many of his kind, but rather they take the form of burning, crackling cinders, igniting and glowing within his head, and casting a guttering and harsh light. His fingers are burnt down to the bone, the flesh blackened and roasted, ruined and claw-like. His body is covered in burn marks, bleeding lashes and puncture wounds; all of them the signs of prolonged and brutal torture. Upon his back, sprouting from the burned and cauterized flesh, protrude a series of slightly curved, white-hot iron spikes, sprouting down at an angle like porcupine quills. The fiend himself reflects what he is and his means of torment and pain, like his brethren the Flesh Render, he spares himself nothing in what he gives to the multiverse that he blights with his presence.

 

            The Inquisitor seems to derive both pleasure and purpose from the slow corruption of once holy women and men, especially those holding positions of power within established clerical hierarchies, and, to a lesser extent, secular authorities who hold power over large numbers of individuals, lawmakers, kings, nobility, judges, and keepers of information and official secrets. Almost exclusively, the subjects targeted by this particular member of The Demented, reside upon the infinite worlds of the prime material plane, rather than the outer, transitive, or inner. Perhaps this is because most mortals reside upon the prime, fit for corruption and capacity to do the most damage in the wake of his tender ministrations, or perhaps on the other planes the Inquisitor would dare the wrath and direct intervention of the powers; we suggest the latter.

 

            To those of us who watch for the workings of such paragons of darkness, there is an order and rationale within the workings of the Inquisitor, or at least the glimmer of some order within those blasphemies. He is searching for something, and the corruption of mortals may be only the grisly side effect of his search rather than the goal or aim or it. While we are not privy to those sessions between he and his subjects, we suspect that his questions relate to the inner workings of their churches, details of their communication with their respective patron deities, and in the records of secular authorities regarding the histories of their nations and of the coming or religion to their domains.

 

            In past millennia, the Inquisitor has seemed to particularly visit and question the faithful of those gods who are, in the Baern’s view of such time scales, soon to wither and die. Perhaps the fiend sees signs and portents of their eventual deaths, perhaps he only sees opportunity, or maybe some mixture of both in gripping upon the hope and desperation of the deity and its adherents, perceiving some weakness to exploit in search of his answers.

 

            Oddly enough, the Inquisitor has snatched upon attempts to question the faithful of abstract concepts, the elemental gods, and even fiends raised to the status of true powers. This strikes us as strange, being that Jezifreth predates, massively so, almost all of these gods. Perhaps he is not interested in the gods themselves, but the process of how they arise, flourish and ultimately die. Perhaps the Baern perceives something else in the process beyond what we currently know of such things, and if so this raises a troubling possibility. Is there something that underlies the gods of the multiverse, something transcendent beyond the order and status quo of the gods, perhaps something of which they are all but aspects and fragments? After all, we know that worshippers of concepts and alignments, not actual gods, do receive spells by virtue of their belief. Even the Athar, who in their foolishness, desperation, or brilliant insight, see true divinity as beyond this existence, unknowable and beyond the gods, they are granted power by their belief.

 

            We know that the Baernaloths view the abstract concept of evil as a living being, though perhaps beyond our conception of life in the conventional sense. Perhaps they view the other alignments and even other beliefs and concepts which as opposed to this thing that they claim created them and sent them into the multiverse as heralds and servants, this thing that they worship. If so, than Jezifreth may be seeking out the signs and means by which these other transcendent forces act upon and touch our reality, if such a thing is true, if something else exists outside of what we know.

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