For as long as there was a Fanolanian Church there has been a Garde Ecclésiastique to ensure that the clergy and its property would be adequately defended. When the elves and humans decided to go their own way and sever ties to the leadership of the Holy Imperium Church there was a realization early on that the tremendous wealth of the many chapels, monasteries, churches and mighty cathedrals was at risk from opportunistic ne’er-do-wells looking for an easy score. Thus it was by decree of King Carloman that the Archbishop of Avondace set up and authorized a militia force to be overseen in each diocese by the resident bishop. Unlike the secular armies that were called up only in times of need the Garde Ecclésiastique was to be a permanent force. In terms of need the Holy Kingdom of God was deemed to be in a perpetual state of need therefore the army that served His causes must be always ready for action.
It didn’t take long for this fledgling army to evolve and expand its existential mandate. While maintaining its original calling to protect the property of the Church and the lives of those that serve it the Garde Ecclésiastique also became the literal sword of the Church in matters of discipline and enforcing doctrine. Key to this was the rooting out of heretics and witches that went against the teachings of the Church and led others to falter in their faith. It also took on a somewhat more sinister role in what can best be described as “adventurous endeavors of the faithful.” In this capacity the Garde Ecclésiastique took steps to advance the policies and ideologies of the Church whenever they were contradicted by those of the King in his role as the secular head of state. Thankfully these were not frequent occasions, but they nevertheless happened.
The most notable of these clashes was over the Aelerfyne Invitation. The King had decided to extend an invitation to all of the dark elves, or drow, to be able to take part in heeding the call to Arborea. By the reckoning of most folks this was a noble and benevolent act. Extending what amounted to a pathway towards salvation to the long-separated and vilified drow was seen as a generous gesture in the extreme. For the Church, however, it was a bridge too far. Under no circumstances did the Church see this as being acceptable. The dark elves had committed the sin and must now suffer the wrath of God and remain locked away in the eternal night of their underdark world. To this end the Church directed the Garde Ecclésiastique to find and destroy all of the invitations before they could be delivered. Paladins, inflamed with their customary righteous passion, led armies of fanatical men-at-arms forward and did their best to intercept the Royal Couriers that had been tasked with finding the dark elves and delivering to them the tapestries that were magically imbued to help guide them to where they needed to go on their pilgrimages to Arborea. One by one the Garde Ecclésiastique destroyed these tapestries to prevent the King’s order from being realized. But they missed one, and despite all of their efforts to thwart the King’s edict the Church failed to prevent the dark elves from being at least in some small way reconciled to their surface-world brethren.
Currently the Garde Ecclésiastique is made up of dedicated men-at-arms led by paladins who have proved themselves and advanced as Knights of the Domaine into the Order of the Hammer. There are also a large number of clerics that serve (a disproportionate number of clerics can be found in the ranks as compared to any army called up by the King) and a fair number of men and women that have, how shall we say, less than savory methods of operation. It is a universal constant though that the core beliefs of the paladins are not compromised by any orders given to them by their bosses in the Church hierarchy. It is this certain point of view that makes the paladins so dangerous. By their estimation any edict issued by the bishops or archbishops is considered to be in the best interest of the Church, therefore it is the Will of God to see it carried out. Bolstered by their faith they then set about to carry out these commands to the best of their ability. In this they can be quite regimented and inflexible. If one was to be able to reason with them they might be shown the error of their ways, but these are zealous and overconfident people with little room in their hearts for accepting new and potentially blasphemous information.
To put it another way people that have had to go up against the Garde Ecclésiastique have often relied on the advice of the infamous heretic Sazis the Maggot when he said, “In order to argue with a paladin you must kill him, and let God explain to him his error.” From a certain point of view this might be the only recourse.