The Gnosians were for many long decades a secretive religious movement. Their origin is in many ways shrouded in mystery, and it is unknown who began their cult. What is known is that a man called Norserik Hodgins was their “Superior” in the time before they went from clandestine religious organization to global threat.
He led their group to the mass murder of a small town called Gurmai in northern Cygnas. When the Cygnan government discovered the town a few days later the townsfolk were heaped in a great pile in the middle of the city. Investigation by healers indicated each and every one of them was missing their brains and bore a strange tattooed marking on their chest of a human head without a face. In retrospective analysis, it is believed that this was their first attempt at producing Gnosium, the compound the Gnosians use to indoctrinate followers and make themselves living gods. The Gnosians went underground for years following that incident, though the aftermath of similar slaughters (generally on much smaller scales) were discovered in every corner of the world.
They passed into legend, mostly amongst arcanists and holymen, a sort of strange footnote to the history of magic and religion. Then, almost fifty years after the Gurmai massacre, a man calling himself Alavar Hodgins and claiming to be the grandson of Norserik appeared to High Astramancer Zulkheim of Astra de Lunastra. Alavar told the High Astramancer that his grandfather (who would have been close to 125 years old at this point) was planning to steal the country’s greatest source of magical power, the Arcantric Ley Stabilizer. This device had given the entire country of Astra de Lunastra an incredible amount of arcane energy for centuries. Due to the enormous size of the device, and the Astramancer’s faith in his nation’s defensive abilities, he paid the man little mind and dismissed him. Three days later, Alavar’s corpse was found in the Astramancer’s office and the Ley Stabilizer had disappeared from its home in the Tower of Stars.
Seven years after the Ley Stabilizer’s theft, in the year 1239 of the world’s Sixth Era, a council was summoned in the Enchanted City after the discovery by Quillian soldiers of three Seeds of Life from the corrupted Tree of Life, Heldrassyl. The world was little more than a century from quite literally falling apart at the seams due to the tree’s corruption. Regent Lord Van Roke del Kamil of Saulden called leaders from every nation that would answer him to take part in a discussion about where to plant the new Tree of Life. The event was watched over by the Eternium Serrukas paladins of Tezren Nerich and small cadres of elite warriors from every present nation. After only an hour’s debate on the issue at hand, two uninvited guests appeared. The Gnosians Burol and Lady Sanguine intruded on the proceedings, slayed most of the attendees who couldn’t defend themselves or otherwise flee and stole the Seeds of Life. The world fell into turmoil and despair.
A group of great heroes were tasked with retrieving the Seeds by Van Roke and Lukan the Alldruid. They traveled all over the world, gathering clues and items of great power that they would need to combat the Gnosian threat and eventually (with the help of the Archmage Vecna Blackstaff) made it to Farplane Bastion, the extraplanar home of the Gnosian Brotherhood. There they laid siege to the remaining Gnosians and retrieved the Seeds of Life. Farplane Bastion was destroyed and the crisis averted. It seemed to the whole world that the Gnosian machine had been quite thoroughly dismantled
The Gnosian War (and the Entropius War, a related incident) lasted five years, ending in the early summer of 1244. In 1246, however, they reappeared. An agent of the Gnosians assassinated the new Arch Councilor of Maora on his day of inauguration and apparently stole the sacred Ethercite orb used by the people of Maora as a symbol of leadership. The Gnossite responsible called himself Do’adri and announced to the assembled crowd simply, “We’re back”.
Gnosium is a compound- sometimes called “Liquid Belief”- that is essentially condensed divine energy. Gods and demigods gain their position in the cosmos not simply by being incredibly powerful entities, but also by absorbing the energies of belief and worship from their followers. It is theorized by many that a god would slowly die and cease to exist if its followers all suddenly decided to worship a different entity. This collective energy of faith is referred to by some as “Gnosis”.
The Gnosians have developed a method for extracting raw Gnosis from living beings and alchemically and magically refining it into a potion. The potion is deeply connected with the Gnosian hierarchy and it’s theorized that one drop of the stuff in your system might be enough for most people to lose their free will entirely to the power of the Gnosian God-King (an entity theorized but not proven to exist). The compound alters and changes those who imbibe it, re-writing their minds and mutating their physiology into a mostly organless humanoid shape not so different from the physical makeup of an angel. Those who have imbibed Gnosium find it difficult to remember their pasts, and the rare few who have escaped Gnosian control undergo a painful reversion to fully mortal bodies.
It is even still unknown how they produce Gnosium, as all evidence of the devices and rituals they used disappeared or were destroyed after the fall of Farplane Bastion. Lady Sanguine, now Queen Magistrix of Shadedale, claims to have little or no memory of her time as a Gnosian and what little she has been able to say on the subject have been mostly things already known about the organization of false gods.
The compound itself is a silvery mercury-like substance that is easily recognized by any magically-active individuals who’ve come near it before. It has a very distinctive astral presence and energetic feel to it and is said to call out to any near it. The substance seems to have something of a will all its own and tries to force those near it to drink it through subtle mental prodding and suggestion.