Trial and Tribulations
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An Imperial trial takes place in three stages. The first is the Time of Determination. It is at this time that the judges determine which charges will be levied against the accused. Imperial courts have wide latitude in determining which crimes they do and do not choose to notice, though ignoring flagrant violations of Imperial law may bring down stern retribution from superiors (or from the Emperor's Vigil). Given the "guilty until proven innocent" bias of Imperial courts, it is often far easier for the court to simply not take up certain charges than it is for an individual to be charged and then acquitted.

The second stage is the Time of Deliberation. This is when the formal charges are read out, and the judges deliberate on what sentence will be imposed for each. The determination of appropriate punishment (where not mandated by Imperial law) is made based not on the basis of the severity of the offense per se, but rather on what penance the judges determine to be appropriate in order for the accused to be afforded redemption. Acquittal at this stage of the trial is very rare, but can occur if new information comes to light, if the individual in question performs some highly redemptive act, or if it turns out to be politically expedient to do so.

The final stage is the Time of Penance. This is when the sentence determined is carried out. Imperial citizens have no right of appeal, and sentences are generally carried out immediately after they are determined, though the Emperor's Mercy may request a stay of up to 24 hours if he or she can convince the Emperor's Wisdom that such might be useful (for example if there is a chance that a powerful individual such as one of the High Lords of Terra, a sector governor, or an Inquisitor might intervene).
- From Ivs Imperium.

Acting as the Emperor’s Wisdom, Arbites Aenid Fraal opens the trial of Teniente Alférez Hidalgo Rollando Hernandez with the Time of Determination. The evidence already in front of her include the Hernandez’ recorded confession and the remnants of the Imperial Aquila he destroyed, which has been authenticated as the insignia of an Imperial Guard infantry unit.

As the Emperor’s Mercy, Commissar-Cadet Calpurnia Jemadar makes a case that it would be wildly disproportionate to charge him with anything more than Disrespect of an Imperial Icon. As the Emperor’s Wrath, Hernandez himself makes a counter-charge that he must have felt some doubt about the Emperor’s divinity in order to be able to step on the aquila!

Jemadar calls Hernandez himself to testify. She questions him to establish his quandary, his reluctance to step on the aquila, and his devotion to his duty. While Hernandez is acting as witness, Sanctioned Psyker Xanthia temporarily steps in as the Emperor’s Wrath to question him in turn and establish that he was knowingly surrounded by apostates if not heretics.

After him, Jemadar calls on Logician-Comptroller Narthax to establish that because of his actions Hernandez did in fact succeed in the mission assigned to him on behalf of Inquisitor Skane; and that the Inquisitor did place a certain value on his continued existence and service. Returned to his role as the Emperor’s Wrath, Hernandez receives a few warnings from Xanthia, the Emperor’s Vigil.

Fraal rules that Hernandez will be charged with Disrespect of an Imperial Icon. The defense and the prosecution make their cases for dismissal and for a sentence of flogging and six weeks of jail respectively. Fraal sentences Hernandez to 200 lashes and sends him to a priest for confession, where he receives a penance to attend 16 hours of liturgy a day for the rest of the trip.

After the trial and flogging (carried on by Jemadar), the four agents are summoned by Inquisitor Skane. She pronounces Hernandez cleansed and awards each of them a purity seal and a promotion, and commends their work.

The agents are then called to meet with Narthax for their next mission briefing. Jemadar is first to arrive; as she gets near the briefing room, she overhears the following exchange between an unknown man and a strangely diffident Narthax:

NARTHAX: “She should never have put me in charge…”

VOICE #2: “The Inquisitor trusts you.”

NARTHAX: “But I’m worthless, worthless!”

VOICE #2: “Someone is coming.”

Jemadar walks in for her briefing and meets with a tall, thin, slightly pasty-faced man bearing the mark of a sanctioned psyker, sitting with Narthax; he is introduced as Senior Inquisitorial Quaesitor Aristarchus. Soon the others arrive and the briefing starts. In short, they are to accompany Aristarchus to the settlement of Stern Hope on Iocanthos, where he will lead an investigation into suspicious disturbances, possibly psychic, occurring in the area of a new cathedral raised to honor St. Drusus, and make sure the consecration of the cathedral goes as planned.

Next, Aristarchus and his assistants will await the arrival of the Chartist vessel Misericord, headed for Sepherus Secundus. They will investigate possible heresy aboard the Misericord, then check in with Logician Narthax at the first stop on Scintilla.

The trip to Iocanthos involves long days of cramped boredom aboard the trade-hauler Brazen Sky. To help p[ass the time, they trade stories. They learn with some surprise that Aristarchus, Narthax and then-Arbites Skane were originally companions much like Fraal, Xanthia, Jemadar and Hernandez. Aristarchus tells many entertaining and startling stories about their adventures, and provides the junior agents with some background on the Inquisition. He says the reason they are assigned to him for this mission rather than their designated mentor Narthax is so they will gain some experience.

At last, the Brazen Sky reaches Iocanthos…

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