Founded at the request of King Arangor Obarskyr in 1018 DR by Lord Benil Arlinford, the Eclestian Order was formed to deal with numerous occurances of cults worshipping fiendish entities within Cormyr. With the attention of the kingdom, in particular the Prince (Later to become King Azoun II) occupied with a Black Dragon, Thauglorimorgorus, "The Black Doom", Cormyr's resources were stretched thin.
It is mentioned that the original members consisted of a war wizard Thurson, specialised in infernal summoning, a paladin of Kossuth named Chathe, and a Suzailian militia officer, Captain Delezial who was apparently "not only highly skilled in the art of interrogation and uncovering difficult crimes, but zealous in his pursuit of wrongdoers".
Although not widely published in most accounts of history during the time, the Eclestian Order proved instrumental in maintaining the stability of the Kingdom at that time. It is recorded that they halted the plans of a major power from the outer planes which would likely have resulted in widespread devastation in Cormyr had it succeeded.
Due to thier proven usefulness, the order was granted a permanent status in the kingdom by the king, expanding their duties to hunting other monsters, such as werewolves, underdark denziens, undead and tieflings. Their primary goal however, was always the hunting of demons and devils attempting to gain a foothold on the area and this took priority over all other duties. They often worked in concert with the War Wizards over the next twenty years to wipe out infernalist activity in Cormyr.
In 1039DR, disaster struck as the the Arlinford estate outside of Suzail, then serving as the home of the Order was attacked by an unamed cult seeking revenge for the damage the Eclestians had done by exposing thier activities in the past.
Large numbers of losses are reported as a result of the attack, including war wizard Thurson who fell during the fighting attempting to protect the niece and nephew of Lord Arlinford. Delezial, who was himself burned heavily down the left side of his head during the attack, responded in anger by tracking down all those responsible and having them burned alive one by one. Chathe was also hit hard, retiring from the order and dissapearing into obscurity. Lord Arlinford, distraught from the loss of his relatives, let Delezial do as he wished with the remainder of the order. It was certainly the events of 1039 that caused the Order to become increasingly more secretive, selective and dispersed. From that point on Delezial (With the title of "Grand Inquisitor") ordered the extensive, even extreme, magical probing of new potential recruits. The outposts of the order were no longer common knowledge and the Eclestians often worked in secret to spy on populations around the country.
Although the numbers of the order are very difficult to estimate due to thier secrecy, one would expect they have at least three hundred agents operating in Cormyr. At time of writing (1225DR), they follow a strict rank structure as follows:
- Acolyte - Although the rank may sound unimpressive, a potential must go through grueling training simply to reach this status.
- Witch Hunter - Usually charged with overseeing a group of Novices, the Witch Hunter uses his group to seek out and investigate humanoids who serve fiends. The order refers to these individuals as "Witches" or "Warlocks".
- Plane Warder - Plane Warders are usually in command of a group of Witch Hunters, and are specialised in tracking down and combating the fiends themselves.
- Vice-Inquisitor - The Vice-Inquisitor is charged with ensuring other members of the order act appropriately and with unquestionable loyalty.
- Grand Inquisitor - The leader of the Order. Usually chosen from the Vice-Inquisitors of the order if the current Grand Inquisitor retires or perishes.
Information on the order has always been difficult to come across, but it has become increasingly more so as time passes. Whether this is because their numbers are dwindling, there is less need for their work (The War Wizards are excellent at dealing with infernal threats after all), or if they have gone even further into hiding to protect themselves, is unknown. It could be a combination of the three.
The average commoner or soldier who has heard of the order refers to them as "Witch Hunters" and although a general respect of the benefit of their work is seen, a great deal of fear is often shown for them and their methods.
Their old allies the War Wizards seem to now be indifferent towards the order, deferring to them relevant investigations as they make themselves known in an area, but generally the two groups keep to themselves.
The Eclestian Order still retains the old powers it was granted at it's founding to this day. They are known to have the crown's permission to hold trials for the following crimes anywhere within Cormyr:
- - Colluding and allying with Fiendish creatures (including using powers granted from such creatures)
- - Infernalism (defined as the summoning of devils or demons).
- - Refusing to cooperate with Eclestian investigations
The Order may well have further powers, but if so these are rarely used or spoken of by their members. Controversially, the third crime listed can apply to local militias and non-Crown related organisations, and the Eclestians have used it in this manner in the past when the local guard forces proved uncooperative. The reasoning behind this is due to the fact that the militias themselves could have been corrupted by the very creatures the order are seeking out.