"First, the Army is divided. Supposedly the local commander reports to the governor, right? But the Army has never liked being under a civilian, and lately its gotten worse. Much worse. You'd be surprised what's going on out in the districts. Then add the Red Templars to the mix. Theoretically tied into the chain of command, right? But they don't really take orders from anybody but themselves."
The Red Dome Templars are an influential fraternity embedded within the Imperial Legion's chain of command. They dedicate themselves entirely to the fundamentalist worship of the Divine Tiber Imperator. The Templars are extremist Emperor supporters: they believe that the Elder Council should be reduced to a ceremonial function and that the provincial governments should be abolished entirely, leaving the Emperor an absolute monarch.
The Templars are mostly active within the Legion's chain of command, though they have supporters elsewhere and lobbyists in the Imperial City. Officer status in the Legions is a prerequisite for Templar membership, and most Templars as such wear the distinctive gilded Templar armor bestowed upon Legion commanders.
Templar enforcers often seek to suppress ideologies they do not approve of, such as the Arcturian Heresy or Numidianism. Their sectarian activism is met with tepid condemnations by Empire officials, who often look the other way when Templar militants raid a scholar's home or incite a razzia against foreigners.
Central to Templar beliefs are the Blood Dome Temples, shrines erected on places where Tiber Septim has shed blood in battle. These sacred grounds are anointed with pools of incarnadine, an addictive, hallucinogenic substance likened to the blood of Talos, and used by the cult to enter a trance-like berserker stance and commune with the Divine.
The cult originated among high-ranking officers during the Tiber Wars. According to Templar doctrine, Tiber anointed his favored generals with his own blood, painting the red diamond on their hands and tongues, thus empowering them to act in his name. This claim has little base in historical facts, and most see the Templars as an extremist outcrop of Tiber's personality cult, which was widespread among his personal guard.
Support for their cause by high-ranking generals and unscrupulous Emperors has kept the Templars in the Empire's good graces, despite their extremist beliefs. Templar disdain towards provincials is considered a valuable asset in suppressing rebellions and pacifying unruly provinces: as a bonus, a Templar sent abroad is less likely to cause trouble back home. The unfortunate result is that some Templars have managed to build support for their cause among soldiers outside of Cyrodiilic jurisdictions.
Templar-affiliated Legion commanders always wear the golden Templar Legion armor (though other military Templar orders also use such outfits). These officers serve in all kinds of Legion posts throughout Cyrodiil and the Empire. Not all Templars are extremists: many see the cult as a vessel for their personal ambitions, or seek a personal relation with Tiber Septim without subscribing to the cult's political agenda.
The Templars maintain exclusive Blood Dome Temples in Sutch, the Imperial City, Sancre Tor, and Caer Suvio. Each of these Domes is governed by a Headred, a champion to whom all Templars must answer regardless of rank or station: his command is said to outrank even a direct order from a Legion general. Each Headred is an absolute ruler of his own temple, answering to no one but the Emperor himself.
The Templars are primarily an officer cult, unpopular among the common ranks (who tend towards Stendarr, the Talos Cult, or some of the popular soldier-saints). Rumor claims that membership in the Red Templars is a fast-track towards promotion, which is why many ambitious petty officers flock to it. The Templar's attitude has not endeared them to their fellow officers or superiors, and Legion High Command has recently taken steps to curtail their influence. The current Emperor is said to dislike them, although the Templars were favored by him during his early reign. Unsurprisingly, the Templars are unpopular with the Elder Council and the Imperial Curia.
The Templars have strained relations with other Tiberite cults, such as the Talos Cult or the Ysmirathi. Despite nominally worshiping the same deity and even pursuing the same goals, these cults differ on social levels: the Templars are exclusive to officers and martial nobility, while the Talosians are popular among broad layers of the populations, both common soldiers and citizens. Hostilities between the Tiberite cults have become more prominent lately, and some fear a that a large temple-war might break out, which would be very disruptive for Legion affairs.
The Red Templars offer no common quests or faction advancement, but will play a part in the Legion questline. As the player climbs the ranks of the Legion, the Templars will approach them with an offer to join the cult and be sponsored by them. This will open up a number of options later on in the questline.