After the desolation caused by the Storm Wars, many people looked to the churches to help support them in their time of need. Mikindim, a god of architecture and public words, flourished, as did Whalin, a god of healing and rest. Yatindar, in particular, grew in stature – as a god of justice and honor, he gave people the greatest hope in keeping the bandits and thieves at bay.
The churches grew in power, both politically and territorially. With so much unoccupied land available after the Storm Wars, the churches quickly moved in with monasteries, temples, preserves, and even fairs. Prosperity slowly began to return to the devestated lands, with the aid of the priests and temples. The new Merchant God, Lul, helped spread literacy and trade, and the Goddess of Music helped spread hope and knowledge. A new age, the Age of Regret, had begun.
In the year 867, nearly a century after the conclusion of the Storm Wars, something incredible happened. Every prophet of every god and goddess was seized by rapture, and proclaimed in one voice that, “Lo! The mages shall be silent for five centuries, lest the Dark God return. And in his return, he shall plunge the world into darkness for all time, bound by his minions and in death.”
The One Voice, as it came to be called, frightened the churches, the mages, and everyone who lived with repairing the devastation from a set of wars nearly a century gone. A hasty convention of all the churches in Karmen was called, for Karmen was at once the oldest city in all the world, the largest, and the home of most of the churches. The Avard Accords included no few mages in attendance, many of whom vociferously opposed the accords. Essentially, the churches outlined a unified plan to stop mages from practicing their art for five centuries.
The Avard Accords levied soldiers and priests from all churches to enforce itself, as well as funds from both the churches and the local nations. All mages would be asked to give up their trade, and turn over all their research, spell books, and magical items voluntarily. Those that refused would then be brought in by force. Many mages, especially those with strong religious affiliations, accepted the Avard Accords. Many refused, and either fled from Karmen, or prepared themselves for a siege.
Many mages found themselves without support from either the general populace, or their governments. Sorcerors and wizards had fallen out of favor with the people, due to the massive amounts of devastation they had wrought during the Storm Wars. That much more magic had been used for protection and abjuration was of no consequence in the short memories of the people. That a century had passed, and still there were lands that could not support life because of the old mage-battles, did not help the mages' position. The inital skirmishes in a long war had begun, and the mages were on the losing end.
Worse, the dragons were rousing, hungry and famished from a century-long sleep. While few dragons were ever normally active at once, the Storm Wars had roused all of them. Many had fallen during the wars, but enough were left to present a grave danger to society. The prophets had said 'mages shall be silent', and most dragons were magical in nature, with considerable ability. The dragons were immediately targeted, and special dragon-hunting institutions were constructed. In addition to this, the ogremai of the far wester Choranil Desert were at war with the barbarian shamans of the Tarsis Forest – and they were expending a great deal of magical energy on one another.
Yatindar's paladins quickly organized a crusade to rid the world of both the ogremai and the dragons, as well as a number of other magic-using races. Only because of the fair numbers of elves in the churches, were they excluded from the purges. After a vicious campaign that lasted several years, the crusaders returned home to find that the churches had very nearly succeeded in ousting all of the mages from the land. Those mages that still survived were driven underground, and the need for an inquisition became apparent.
The Avard Accords were amended several times, to allow for Crusades, the Inquisition, and the creation of the Cache Vaults. Over the next 453 years, the Inquisition launched two more successful Crusades, purged 34,000 mages from hiding, and wiped out two 'dangerously magical' species – the halflings, and the yuan-ti.
The Cache Vaults were massive vaults constructed to house all of the magical items brought in or captured during each Crusade. Many were used but once, and never opened again, but others were used continuously through the centuries. The Cache Vaults had a devastating self-destruct system that would annihilate both the magical items stored within, and everyone within miles of the vaults, should someone try to steal something from them. The vaults slowly accumulated massive stores of magical items, artifacts, relics, and even components of the legendary God Slayer sword. Each church maintained its own vault, and also maintained a separate vault to house the keys that would open the vaults. Because of the politics of the Inquisition and the Avard Accords, any key that could open one Cache Vault could open all of them. Through some slip-up in record-keeping and a fire that burned down the Vault Monastery, the locations of the vaults and their contents was lost in 1285 Avard.
In 1320 Avard, the War of the Undead officially began. The ensuing war saw the resurrection of Nathel by a necromancer, and his immediate death at the hands of the Chosen of Arpelos. There was also a resurgence of mages, massive and widespread cataclysmic events, plagues, undead, and Nabrolian attacks. To many, the War of the Undead signified the end of the Inquisition – for it met all the qualifications for ending the Avard Accords save one – the date. The One Voice specifically said 'five centuries', and it had only been four and a half centuries.
In the aftermath of the War of the Undead, many members of the Inquisition found themselves divided. Some believed the Avard Accords should end, especially as the Chosen of Arpelos admitted to having been helped by mages in the defeat of Nathel. Others believed that the Accords must continue for another forty-seven years – that some other Event would take place. The prophets were quiet, and pleas to the gods for answers were met with silence.
As of 1331 Avard, the Inquisition was strongest in Karmen, and radiated out from there. Sleeper units lay in wait for mages in many cities throughout the land, spies for the Inquisition abounded, and special Seeker units hunted down the mages where they hid. Many nations chafed at the restrictions the churches imposed on them, and old enmities that have been lidded by the churches were threatening to boil over. The situation was very delicate, and even the Chosen of Yatindar – arguably the most powerful political figure in the world – was at a loss for what to do next.
The Fourth Crusades, organized just before the War of the Undead, had to flee before the sinking of the Granite Mountains created the Sea of Kiriath. Their invasion of Kur Maeth established a massive outpost for the Inquisition in the far western lands. Because of this, strange power shifts began to go on beneath the surface. Illegal and illicit trafficking changed, and the mages were changing their survival strategies, as well.
1. The use of arcane magic is punishable by death.
2. The study of arcane magic, save by those who hunt mages, is a punishable offense.
3. Worship of the gods is allowed only within temples dedicated to the gods.
4. Only priests of the gods may lead worship to the gods.
A common method of the Inquisition is known as the Soul Flaying. A suspected mage is tied down, and then the glue-gray sap of an anthara plant is placed upon the mage's palms and soles, while certain prayers are made to contain the power of and aid the speed of the sap. The ink then painfully begins to travel through the person's lymph system over the course of several minutes or hours (or days, depending on the mercy of the Inquisitor), feeling like piercing needles as it moves. Once it reaches the heart, the sap forces the soul from the body – soul visible as a blue-gray ghostly image over the person's body, and any arcane powers visible as yellow-red tendrils. The suspect's soul is then subjected to the powers of the archons, as any arcane powers are flayed from them in a most painful way. For many Inquisitors, this is proof enough of a violation of the Avard Accords, and punishable by death. For the more merciful Inquisitors, the removal of the arcane power and the painful nature of the Soul Flaying are enough punishment. (Idea courtesy of Saige Linscomb's TUE21JUL2020 dream, in which it happened to her.)