Greyhawk’s Secret Histories Unlocked: Vecna

Beginnings

In chronicling the histories of Vecna, it is important to realize one must first rent in two the  veil of deceptions,  misdirections, and lies that the master of secrets has raised to protect that knowledge; the truth that is Vecna.

The greatest barrier to uncovering Vecna’s history is discovering his origin. All documented accounts describe Vena as a lich. Some would have you believe that he was always in this state of undeath. And unfortunately there is no historical evidence to prove otherwise. For All primary documentation exists after his transformation into lichdom. Oral tradition though suggests otherwise.

There are two possible reasons for this. First many believe that the reign of Vecna as a warror-king pre-dates written records. The second reason may be that the name Vecna only applies to his controlling years as a lich. Thus the master of deception changed his name upon his becoming. What is quite amazing is how no one seems to know the truth of his original nom de plume. Did Vecna magically erase its existence or erase everyone who was able to speak his name. He was certainly capable of both. After all, they didn’t call him The Whispered One for nothing.

Knowledge is Power

What we do know about his mortal years was that Vecna was able to amass a significant amount of territory and power.  Nothing was beyond his grasp. Yet even with all of that worldly power, Vecna understood that real power was not manifested just in might but that true power was knowledge applied. And so he began a quest for all of man’s knowledge.

His quest for knowledge led him to the study of magic. Some say that he became the greatest of wizards, unrivalled in knowledge of the arcane.  But Vecna was brash, self-centered, and selfish. In his quest for knowledge, he realized there was something even greater then acquiring knowledge – being the ONLY one to possess it.  Vecna refused to believe that knowledge was available for all. He wanted it all for himself.  Every time Vecna discovered a new truth he devised a plan for no one else to have that knowledge.  Vecna understood by being the only one who has the knowledge it puts others at a disadvantage. You can then use the secret knowledge against your opponents and they are unable to use it against you. In addition, Vecna was not opposed to destroying this knowledge so it would remain hidden. When he finally accumulated all mortal knowledge he looked to the knowledge of the universe and some say once Vecna unlocked those secrets he took on the secrets of the very gods themselves.

The Arch-Lich

The only thing that stood in Vecna’s way from gaining all knowledge was death. For no man could prevent his own death.  So, Vecna set out to prove that truth false. There are no written accounts to what happened next or how it happened for Vecna keeps such things secret. What we do know is that Vecna became a thing of death, a lich. Many though believe he succeeded in doing much more. There are some that theorize that Vecna succeeded in imprisoning death itself, never to die. Minimally, we know, he succeeded in becoming the first arch-lich.

With death conquered Vecna set out to finish off all the kings of Oerth and some say he nearly completed that task. Tales of his cruelty were widespread. Stories claim he laid entire cities to waste under rock and earth. Other tales suggest he breed cities as training grounds for vile experiments.

The The Chronicle of Secret Times by Uhas of Neheli provides us an account that may give us insight into Vecna’s depraved mind. Seeing that their city was next on Vecna’s path of destruction the burghers of Fleeth met to discuss options to prevent the entire city from being destroyed. The burghers decided to offer all of the city and its possessions if Vecna would let them live. Vecna refused and said that he would see all of the heads of the citizens of Fleeth stacked before the city. The burghers offered themselves to spare the city. Vecna capitulated and suggested the burghers offer one of their lot (a burgher and his family) and the city would be spared.

Lots were drawn and the unlucky burgher and his family were sent to Vecna as a sacrifice with the request that he pass by.  The requests, nay the begging, went unheeded for Vecna led an assault on the city that went five days. Ironically, it didn’t need to, for Vecna leveled the city walls with a wave of his hands. After the assault, Vecna had the heads of the citizens stacked before the burghers to see. Their wives’ and children’s’ heads, mouths aghast, right there in the front. As an extra measure of torture the burghers were permitted to go away unscathed and Vecna gave the final order for the burghers not to be harmed so they could forever remember his name.

Kas, the Bloody-Handed

As his armies ravaged the lands and demolished everyone who stood against them, one man in the lich-king’s army begin to rise in prominence.  His bloody campaigns and his own lust for blood caught the eye of the lich-king. His name was Kas. As a measure of gratitude for his accomplishments Vecna made Kas his personal lieutenant. In addition he crafted him a sword that legend says was forged from untold magic from Vecna and meteoric iron from the gods.

Legend says that one night in an act of ultimate betrayal Kas attacked Vecna with the very sword Vecna created to protect Kas. In a battle that spanned weeks and continents, Kas destroyed Vecna cutting off his hand and taking his eye before Vecna claimed Kas’ life as well.

Who knows the motivations behind Kas’s betrayal? Was it the greed of a man who was tired of living in the shadows of another?  A man who felt he should have been given more glory for the accomplishments that he was rightfully due.  Was it the result of a sentient sword that was so forged of evil that it twisted the mind of a once loyal friend into what some say became himself a thing of undeath. Or was it something altogether unexpected and before hidden – the secret machinations of a man, who became a creature of ultimate evil,  who found out the secret to even more power.

Apotheosis of Vecna

Vecna’s followers claim that Kas’ act of betrayal is the ultimate reason, like Vecna we should protect knowledge and secrets, for if you can’t even trust your second in command – who can you trust. But there are many who believe this was all a master plan of the Undying King.  They believe that Vecna knew all along that Kas would betray him and forged the sword with the perfect formula of hidden magic and knowledge of the gods that combined with the betrayl of Kas would serve as the catalyst to his ascendancy to that of a god.

Although Kas’ attack on Vecna was probably self-serving, Kas became a hero for the people of Oerth, for without his intervention Oerth would surely have fallen to the lich-king. All that remained after the battle was the Hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna, both rumored to bring untold powers to anyone who should find them.  Since then Vecna’s followers have searched the globe high and low for these artifacts, hoping to bring the dead god back to Oerth. Documented history has the artifacts appearing in several places and none have met with success.

So the question you ask me then is Vecna a god….my answer is how many worshipers does it take for a god to become real. And lastlty, if Vecna succeeded in becoming a god would he reveal how he did it?

Yours in continual war against those who seek to keep the past hidden,

Emornun

Collector of knowledge and dispenser of truth

4 comments on “Greyhawk’s Secret Histories Unlocked: Vecna”

  1. Mordekin

    To continue the story 2ed. AD&D Ravenloft setting had Vecna as a domain lord (now a Demi-Lich), and even had Kas (now a vampire) battling back and forth. Overall, I really enjoy Vecna as a epic villian, and I think that with the Hand/Eye they can make a hook for an entire campaign story.

  2. Chuck

    I agree as well, though I don’t like the idea of ever letting a pc actually use the hand or eye. Too much evil, too much power, IMO. I would however let them make a classic mistake and try to use the Head of Vecna!

  3. Twilight

    Great article! I think Vecna is the perfect PC arch enemy. An entire campaign could easily be created around the cult of Vecna and the PCs trying to thwart their plans. Keep up the good work guys!

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