"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 some independent patrols and lobbyists in the Imperial City. High-ranking Templars are easily recognized by their gilded armor, which is an accepted Legion uniform. Besides their more subversive activities, Templar enforcers often seek to suppress ideologies they do not approve of, such as the Arcturian Heresy or Numidianism. Their 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 razzias 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 godsblood, an addictive, hallucinogenic substance 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 Chim El-Adabal 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 extreme outcrop of Tiber's personality cult, which was widespread among his personal guard.
Support for the Templar cause by high-ranking generals and unscrupulous Emperors has kept the Templars in the Empire's good graces, despite their extreme beliefs. Templar disdain to 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 troubles 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 are easily distinguished by their iconic golden Templar armor. 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 Imperator without subscribing to the rest of their 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. Only a small group is ever invited to become part of the Cult. The Templar's attitude has not endeared them to their fellow officers or superiors, and Legion High Command has taken steps to curtail their influence. Unsurprisingly, the Templars are unpopular with the Elder Council and the Imperial Curia.
The Templars have a vendetta with their rivals, the Talos Cult. Despite nominally worshiping the same deity, the Talos Cult is more Nordic than Imperial in nature, and popular among the common rank-and-file. Hostilities between the two cults have tapered off since the Talos Cult was declared illegal.
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.