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Literature / The Inquisitor Cycle

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Translation: Me, an Inquisitor. Servant of God.

A Polish book series written by Jacek Piekara revolving around the adventures of Mordimer Madderdin, a Inquisitor of the Holy Office. In this universe, Christianity took a radical turn where Jesus Christ didn't die for our sins, but became a ruthless warlord that conquered the Roman Empire by force and since then, the world has been ruled by the Inquisitors. Mordimer is a rookie Inquisitor that just acquired his license to operate, considers himself a man of faith, a servant of God and a hammer of witches. Soon he becomes involved in political intrigue, conflict with the forces of darkness and the enemies of the Empire.


This book series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • '90s Anti-Hero: A particularly nasty case, since Mortimer is barely qualified to be called even an "anti hero". The protagonist of the series is a remorsless inquisitor of a particularly corrupt version of the Catholic Church. His job involves brutality and excessive violence just to keep things in order, while he never shows any signs of developing consciousness of what horrible things he is doing for a living - and in fact, he enjoys them a great deal, with "job well done" feeling each time he closes the case. Anything that gets caught in a crossfire of his chase after heretics and witches is just their problem, not his. And yet, he's the protagonist of the series and compared with things and people he's facing on routine basis, a definitely good guy and next best thing to a heroic figure.
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  • A Handful for an Eye: Mortimer's arsenal includes a supply of toxic powder to throw into his enemies' eyes.
  • Alternate History: In this timeline, Jesus did not die on the cross, but rather conquered Rome by force and slaughtered every Jew in Judea, becoming known as "The Butcher of Nazareth". All surviving Jews found refuge in either Persia or China. Islam never comes into existence because Muhammad is killed by a random Christian desert patrol. As a direct result, the Persian Empire never falls and remains an enemy to the Romans.
  • Burn the Witch!: Witches are routinely hunted down and executed by the Inquisitors.
  • Character Development: With a twist. The whole saga is written as Madderdin's gradual realisation that he's living in a Crapsack World, serving evil people for an utterly corrupted faith that makes him do horrible things in the name of it... and him embracing it in informed fashion, rather than start to develop a counsciousness or scrupules or running on blind faith alone.
  • Church Militant: The main character and his organization unsurprisingly, but this universe's version of Christianity is a lot more militaristic as a religion teaching it's followers to be without mercy.
  • Creepy Twins: Two of Mordimer's companions are a pair of crossbow-wielding bandit brothers with a taste for necrophilia.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mordimer's mother was a witch that wanted to gain immense power from a dark magical tome and he became orphaned after she was arrested by the Inquisitors. One of them, Arnold Löwefell, takes him under his wing and raise him to become a Inquisitor himself.
  • Dark Fantasy: For starters, the cycle is set In a World… where Jesus rather than dying for anyone's sins, descended from the cross, butchered all of Jerusalem and then proceed to conquer Roman Empire. Christianity is all about no mercy whatsoever, while being run by one of the bleakest Corrupt Churches ever described. Then there is heavily hinted issue of Demonic Invaders and eventual Cosmic Horror Reveal. Plus just the general Crapsack World nature of the setting.
  • Dark Messiah: Jesus Christ himself. Rather than dying on the cross for anyone's sins, he came down and proceed to first wipe out all the Jews in Judea who didn't follow him, then conquered the Roman Empire. For a while it was implied that Jesus did die on the cross and what followed was just People Puppets by the demonic powers, but that got ultimately ret-coned and simply ignored in the following books.
  • Dung Ages: There are only two things that Madderdin absolutely hates about the world around it: it's dirty and it stinks. Befitting Dark Fantasy, this trope is exaggerated to almost comical proportions.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Appears in one story - the team descends into haunted ruins, and after facing several deadly traps decides to use one of the twins' powers to create a shortcut - the effort is cripplingly painful and takes him out of commission for the rest of the story.
  • Evil Gloating: Cornelius, the alchemist from Sowers of Dread. He's so full of himself and his discovery, the fact he got captured by Inquisition only makes him giddy. After all, he finally has a chance to boast about his achievements to someone with enough brain power to appriciate them.
  • Fallen Angel: Notably, they are a separate thing from the legions of Hell and barred entrance, but not welcomed back in Heaven, either.
  • First-Person Smartass: The stories tend to be narrated by Mortimer himself, who isn't above snark or going on lemony tangents.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: Orphans is blatantly Hansel and Gretel, gone grimdark. The titular orphans are in fact two demonic beings that are Always Chaotic Evil and use the innocent Empty Shells of the lost children as their hosts, while the witch was doing her very best - and succeeding - in containing them and then dispelling them away. Mortimer first allows her to finish her job, then gets patched by her after barely making it alive himself... and then sentences her to the death on a stake for being a witch.
  • Have You Seen My God?: After finishing His conquest, Jesus ascended into heaven and left Saint Peter in charge of the Roman Empire and never has been seen since.
  • Holy Is Not Safe: Let's put it this way - you don't want to meet your guardian angel, not to mention look at it.
  • Meaningful Name: Grim Reapernote , one of Mortimer's henchmen was introduced as a prisoner starved almost to death by his captors. While he recovered his health, and is a decent warrior, he remained unsettlingly thin.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: When encountering an alchemist capable of producing genuine Super Serum and witnessing first-hand what it can do, Mortimer takes action. In a rare case of thinking straight, rather than following religious zeal, he promptly orders to kill all the witnesses and the alchemist, burns the recipe without looking and then puts the whole lab ablaze, too. He ends up surprising himself with this decision, too.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: One cursed ruin is guarded by a set of riddles. Mortimer takes them in stride, commenting on how this sort of thing is a part of his training.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: First of all, as far as anyone is concerned, they don't exist, and people pretending to be one are just lunatics (think Vampire's Kiss), trying few different folk and myth takes at once for good measure of their insanity. Then it turns out they are real and are nothing like any of those myths assumed. They are vaguelly related with the figure of Christ himself, are ageless, extremely rare and can't recall their past prior to "awakening" as a vampire. They don't really need blood for survival, but it taste like nothing else, and short from their immortality and Super Strength, everything else is just like normal human - up to having regular, human children. Holy symbols, despite their omnipotence in-universe, don't affect them, either. So all the benefits, none of the drawbacks of usual vampire fare. This encounter is one of first clues that there is something very, very weird going in the whole setting, as Madderdin has no answer to it and is left puzzled for years to come about it.
  • Orphaned Series: Narrowly averted. Piekara is infamous for never finishing his series and the Cycle was no exception, ending up suspended without further notice. Twice.
    • Technically speaking, the series did got orphaned, twice. First, the ongoing plot was suspended and prequel got created instead. Then the prequel got suspended without real resolution, to be replaced with different continuity following different character.
  • People Puppets: The standard result of demonic possession and not a big deal, at least from the point of view of the Inquisition. But it gets nasty when Transformation of the Possessed kicks in, because instead of giving them bruises or making them ugly, it goes for One-Winged Angel form instead - and the host is dead and condemned to Hell by that point.
  • Prequel: What books 5-9 are. That despite book 4 ending up with a massive Cliffhanger and seemingly abandoning the format of "bunch of short stories with shared universe and characters published together".
  • Religion Is Magic:
    • Despite the prevalence of dark sorcery, Christians are capable of wielding magical powers of their own by calling down to the heavens.
    • Persia has it's mages capable of Playing with Fire drawing from their faith in Zoroastrianism.
  • Rich Boredom: Rich, but bored people have an uncanny tendency to get into occult in-universe. It's something of a running joke and a well-studied phenomena among the Inquisitors.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The Christian cross is slightly twisted as it's used to represent the cross being broken shortly after Jesus descended from it. Cover art goes as far as to depict each arm twisted in the same direction, like... well, you know.
  • Strictly Formula: The short stories from the majority of the series follow a very strict format: it's Mystery Fiction with a murder case to solve. The small handful of plots that break from this format instantly stand out in the crowd. Otherwise, Once per Episode:
    • Mortimer will formally introduce himself in a narration (rather than dialogue), along with mentioning that he works for the bishop of Hez-Hezron.
    • The Twins will be mentioned as stinking like sewer and/or their sexual preferences will be brought up.
    • Mortimer will pray the mangled version of Lord's Prayer to get into a trance.
    • A witch - if present - will be genuinely nice and most compassionate person in the story.
    • Mortimer's guardian angel will accidently maim him by mere touch or standing too close, then quickly cure him after realising it.
    • Also, any bored rich will be evil, always.
  • Super Serum: One gets developed by Cornelius, an alchemist behind the events of Sowers of Dread. Once dosed with it, the subject gains Super Strength, Feel No Pain and can easily live off the dead, all while being a docile thrall to the person giving orders. Better, once it wears out, it has withdrawal symptoms so severe, the subject will do anything for another dose. The alchemist only complain is that he still didn't managed to find a way for it to last longer than few days, as if it somehow made the potion any less potent.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: With in-unverse Christianity preaching things like "no mercy" and "kill everyone less zealous than yourself", various characters end up killing or setting up people that helped them, perceiving them either as weak or simple sinners. Mortimer is routinely doing this himself, often to people who selflessly saved his own skin. And he doesn't get better about this.
  • Vomiting Cop: Mortimer has few moments of this throughout the series. When he is puking, you know it's worse than usual.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Anything regarding Jesus conquering the Roman Empire, unifying humanity, the corruption of the organisation set up by him and his ultimate fate of being in coma while fed blood of falled angels only needs the names swapped and you've got Warhammer 40,000 and it's Imperium of Man backstory to the T. It's very blatant, more so given Piekara's life-long involvement in Polish tabletop RPG scene and being once a writer for one of the scene-defining magazines. On top of that, the whole series borrows left and right from Warhammer Fantasy, which used to be the RPG game in Poland around the time when the cycle started.
    • The series can also be described as an attempt to follow the path laid by the Witcher series: a child-unfriendly saga about a highly competent, well-trained investigator dealing with supernatural and monstrous threats in a Crapsack World. The Inquisitor Cycle became its own thing by turning up the crapsack and child-unfriendliness to about 11, throwing in a big dose of Religious Horror, and making the protagonist technically a member of an organisation rather than a freelancer.