Vecna


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Vecna
Demigod, "The Arch-Lich, The Chained God, The Dying King, Lord of the Rotted Tower, The Maimed Lord, Master of the Spider Throne, The Whispered One"
Pantheon: Oerthian Pantheon
AoC: Destructive and Evil Secrets, Intrigue
Worshippers: Arcanists, conspirators, secretkeepers, nobility
AL: NE WAL: Any
Symbol: Left hand clutching an eyeball
Home p/r: Demiplane of Dread/Citadel Cavitius
Allies: None
Enemies: None
Favored Weapon: Dagger
Domains: Death, Knowledge, Magic, Trickery
Subdomains: Arcane, Deception, Murder, Thought, Undead
Known Proxies: None

One of the few Prime figures to be known far and wide across the planes, Vecna is a figure of terror and paranoia to all civilized realms, his name marking two of reality's darkest artifacts. In life and undeath, he was one of the most powerful magi any world had ever known, and it is said his hand inscribed the words of the Book of Vile Darkness. Today, his cult is buried in every corner of the multiverse; no city is free from his touch. His followers are the enemy of all living, and no deity counts themselves as his ally. It is said that every secret is whispered into the ear of Vecna, and every dark truth hidden is hidden within his mind. For now, the multiverse rests easy in the knowledge that the Chained God is locked away within the infamous Demiplane of Dread, but any sage can say that this situation is likely only temporary; even its chains cannot bind Vecna for good.

History

The earliest history of the mortal Vecna is shrouded in mystery. Some believe him to have once been a Suel Mage of Power, others believe him to be an Oeridian trained by the archmagi of Celene, still others believe him to be the first of the Ur-Flan. What is known, however, is that his rise to power was marked by immense tragedy and violence. Even while he still lived, Vecna's thirst for blood was renown. Some say entire villages were raised by Vecna only that the bodies of its citizens could be used for his foul experimentations. Others speak of his military campaigns, in which entire cities were crushed within fissures where the earth was torn asunder beneath them. Vecna ruled with an irrepressible ambition and an iron fist, observing all throughout his lands from the Spider Throne located at the top of the Rotted Tower, the tallest spire of the city of Ykrath.

The earliest record of the Occluded Empire of Vecna comes from tales of the fate of the Suel house of Kateri, fleeing the Suel Imperium in its dying days before the Rain of Colorless Fire and Invoked Devastation. Tales tell of their exodus through the Sheldomar River valley, ignoring the warnings of the local Flan tribes, and of their encounter with Vecna's lands. It is said they were slaughtered to a man, their heads mounted on pikes and the pikes erected across the empire's southern border, animated by necromancers in his service to announce the lands of Vecna to travelers for years after until finally allowed to rot away.

The first solid record of the Occluded Empire, however, comes from the Chronicle of Secret Times by Uhas of Neheli, an infamous history of the kingdom of Keoland, one of Oerth's nation-states. This work tells the tale of the city of Fleeth, a frontier town settled unwisely in lands claimed by the Master of the Spider Throne . Under siege for days, the city had little chance to survive, leading its burghers to offer their lives in exchange for the city's continued existence. Instead, Vecna, incensed by the request for mercy, had the entire city slaughtered, the families of the burghers executed before their eyes and their bodies left mounted on the walls of Fleeth. It was only the burghers themselves that were allowed to survive, so that they could warn their king not to impinge on his lands again.

It is known that over his entire life, one of Vecna's great obsessions was mastery over life and death, especially that of his own. Drawing from the traditions of the Ur-Flan under his rule, he was eventually able to overcome his mortal limitations and become a lich; according to some records, the first lich. No longer bound by a mortal lifetime, Vecna likely could have ruled eternally but for his one weakness; his lieutenant, Kas. Vecna's companion and confidant, Kas was inferior to none within the Occluded Empire but for Vecna himself. Utterly loyal, he was Vecna's greatest friend and most powerful servant. As a reward for such loyalty, Vecna gifted him with twin boons: an unnaturally extended lifetime (in the form of a vampiric curse), and the sword of Kas, a blade forged by Vecna's hand. Though unremarkable in appearance, its blade dull and black, the sword shimmered with the power of the evil concentrated within it. Possessing a fragment of Vecna's personality, including his great ambition, it whispered to the ear of Kas, speaking words of triumph, of what Kas was owed. How he truly deserved the Spider Throne. For centuries, it worked its tendrils deep into Kas's mind, turning him from Vecna and towards his own newly-forming desires for rule.

Finally, during a border skirmish with Keoland, Kas acted on the voices, attacking Vecna with the one weapon powerful enough to harm him. None survived to speak of the details of the battle, but with its end came the crumbling of the Rotted Tower, leaving nothing but a pile of ash, the sword, and the last remains of the mortal body of Vecna — his eye and hand. The loss of the leadership of the empire lead to a near-instantaneous collapse, and the kingdom was able to sweep over the confused tribes of Flannae.

Centuries passed, and though Vecna was deceased, his cult lived on, growing in strength and number. Finally, after centuries, he awoke once more, the energies of the divinity sweeping through his body. It was a slow ascent, but Vecna has always been patient, and after barely a century of work, he became a true demigod. Stealing the fortress Citadel Cavitius from the Doomguard (finding both the design and the location quite appropriate), Vecna established a realm on the Quasielemental Plane of Ash soon after his ascension, and it was here he dwelled until very recently. Of course, his grudge against the world of Oerth still held, and he immediately began planning means of getting his revenge upon the world that disgraced him so.

Fairly recently, in the year 581 CY (equivalent to the year 121 in the reign of Hashkar), the Maimed God enacted his first such plan, an endeavor in the works for centuries. Exploiting a network of powerful magical items, he attempted to weave a web about the world to entirely separate it from the other gods of Oerth, thus being the only entity to receive the energies of worship from faithful and allowing him to vault to the position of greater god. Thanks to the aid of the rival demigod Iuz, this plan was thwarted by a band of local adventurers, banishing Vecna's avatar from the Prime and weakening him enough to allow his capture by the Dark Powers, imprisoning him and his realm within the Demiplane of Dread, where it is assumed he still remains today.

Priesthood

Those that dwell in moderately-sized cities have likely encountered at least one cultist of Vecna in their time, but few could identify one. In public, they show no signs of worship, cursing his name along with all others. In private, however, they venerate him through their service, the very act of hiding in plain sight a form of worship to his name. Followers of Vecna, or "Vecnites", have a strong hierarchy, founded on a deep mutual fear of extortion or revelation of things its members would prefer kept secret, and assassination and violence between members is surprisingly rare; as the living can hold tightly to their knowledge, the dead are vulnerable to any number of divinations, speak with dead only the most common amongst them.

In essence, all cults of Vecna are in fact part of a single organization, linked to one another through magical means of communication. There is no room for diverging beliefs or alternate interpretations amongst the Vecnites, and any stirrings of that sort are quickly quashed; violently, if need be. Members of the cult are moved as necessary thanks to this extraplanar network, as individuals become discovered or are needed elsewhere. Not all members of the cult are hidden within the cities of the Multiverse, however. Though few and far between, there are outposts of Vecna, centers of activity where his people can operate in the open. It is here that his undead servants tend to work in his name, and indeed such locations tend to be oppressive environments for the living, where those still having their life are treated as second-class citizens unless of high rank within the cult. Before it was taken into the Demiplane of Dread, Citadel Cavitius was the greatest such outpost, and it was there that the highest of the cult lived - the Hand and the Eye, two golems created by Vecna himself out of the severed pieces for which they are named, and imbued with great intelligence and powers. Other, lesser versions are often created by other branches of the cults in order to provide evidence of the level of power they have achieved.

Outside these outposts, the cult does their best to blend into normal society in order to best gain the information that allows them true power over society. They tend to make a special effort to ensure there is no connection between position in the hierarchy and public power; indeed, the most powerful members of the cult tend to be nothing more but file clerks, librarians, or very minor government functionaries, barely noted by anyone. Immemorability and adaptability are two of the most important qualities of a Vecnite, as they must be able to quickly assume any position or cover with complete believability, and those that can best grasp these abilities are the ones with the greatest potential for advancement within the priesthood; of course, skill at the third most important quality - extortion - is quite important itself.

Dogma

The central tenets of the Vecnite faith are, of course, founded on intrigue and espionage. Vecnites are taught to seek out, not positions of power, but positions of knowledge, keeping their true beliefs in the shadows while gaining opportunities to discover hidden facts that can be exploited for their advantage. Mayors, governors, and kings are in the open, targets for all. But clerks, record-keepers, and accountants are remembered by few and observed by fewer, despite the information they can gain that few others could dream of. Knowledge is indeed power to their faith, and the very essence of their cult is the collection of useful secrets. Blackmail and extortion are well-accepted methods amongst the Vecnites, both to gain leverage on outsiders and to ascend within the cult itself. The ultimate secrets, of course - the arcane arts - are of special interest to many Vecnite faithful. There are no greater secrets than the secrets of the multiverse itself, and no greater power to be held than these mysteries.

However, their secret-finding isn't limited merely to the dark. All knowledge, even the most trivial fact, may potentially be useful somehow, and thus Vecnites are taught to keep track of everything. Photographic memory is almost a requirement for the highest within the cult, and there are few fields, few locations, and few individuals of note that are beyond the breadth of knowledge of a high priest of Vecna. If a particular open piece of knowledge is judged especially useful, either for Vecna or the cult itself or because of its potential usage against the cult, actions will immediately be taken to ensure the only possessors of the knowledge are the cult itself. More than a few ancient tomes or ruins have been destroyed in the name of Vecna for this purpose.

And of course, Vecnites are taught to keep their own histories close to the chest. Although the risk of being outed as a Vecnite is certainly part of the reason, it's a minor aspect. They know well the power secrets can hold, and it is for this reason that they do all they can to keep their own from being discovered. This indeed forms the mirror of how important it can be to hold control of information in the public eye; while you can find the secrets of others, you can also destroy record of your own. "No matter how powerful a being is, there exists a secret that can destroy him. In every heart is a seed of darkness hidden from all others; find that evil seed, and your enemies are undone. Strength and power come if you know and control what others dare not show. Never reveal all that you know, or your enemies will lake your seed, too."

All this, however, is put aside when word of the rise of the Hand or the Eye, or of the Sword of Kas, reaches their ears. Upon the appearance of one of these artifacts, all other priorities are put aside, and all efforts of the cult are put towards retrieval of the artifact, unless senior members judge it more useful to allow them to remain "in play"; even then, however, they will be closely watched until their usefulness in the wild has expired. The appearance of one of these artifacts is one of the few times when members of the cult will act openly, as even the survival of any one individual is considered secondary to the return of one of Vecna's legacy to the hands of the cult. If they can be retrieved without violating the cult's shadowy nature, so much the better, but they will not allow one of these relics to slip through their grasp merely to avoid discovery. Should the Hand or the Eye be held by the cult, ill times are likely ahead; each such time in the past has presaged one of Vecna's plots reaching its climax. Should the Sword reach their hands, however, it is merely banished from the world in which it has arisen, granting that cult great power in the process.

Mockery of the Betrayer

One of the few holy days of Vecna, this day marks the anniversary of the betrayal of Kas. Honored as the day of Vecna's ascension to godhood, this day is meant to represent that even those that attempt to act against the Maimed Lord in the end are merely serving his ends. Celebrations on this day consist of a wild celebration by the cult, concluded with the sacrifice of a sentient representing Kas himself. On rare occasion, an actual traitor to the cult is available to serve such a purpose, and when this occurs the celebration is even more rabid — the tortures upon the victim during such a situation prior to their sacrifice are nearly unimaginable in their fervor.

The Sacred Chant

Used to mark the opening and closing of a religious service to Vecna, or merely as a calming ritual, this simple chant is core to the faith of Vecna, summarizing its basic tenets in a single line. Oftentimes new members are forced to chant it for hours on end in order to bring them into a hypnotic, slightly suggestible state. It is also occasionally used for atonement by those that have committed a minor transgression against the faith, either through spoken repetition or by scribing it in blood repeatedly. It is usually spoken or written in Cavitian, an ancient dialect of a language of Oerth known as Flan that is still used today by Vecnites in favor of Common in their religious ceremonies, both for its relative rarity (and thus unlikelihood that it will be understood by others without magical aid), and because it was that language spoken by Vecna in his mortal life.

  • Arwain Vecna ni. Rydym yn sibrwd dy enw. Rydym yn chwilio am y gwybodaeth. Rydym yn dod o hyd i'r gyfrinachau. Ar gyfer bŵer, ar gyfer Oerth, ar gyfer eich ewyllys, ar gyfer eich teyrnasiad. Yn enw'r y Llaw a'r y Llygaid, rydym yn agor ein meddyliau i chi.
  • Translated: Vecna guide us. We whisper your name. We seek the knowledge. We find the secrets. For power, for Oerth, for your will, for your rule. In the name of the Hand and the Eye, we open our minds to you.

Gallery

Images of Vecna
Symbol of Vecna
The holy symbol of the cult of Vecna  
Picture of Vecna
A representation of Vecna  
Picture of Vecna
A representation of Vecna  
Picture of Vecna
A representation of Vecna  


References

  • Ancient History: Vecna's Realm
  • Deities and Demigods (3e), pp.94-96
  • Domains of Dread
  • Dragon #225 - Three Greyhawk Grimoires, pp.49-51
  • Dragon #348 - Core Beliefs: Vecna, pp.18-33
  • Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, pg.186
  • Vecna Lives
  • Vecna Reborn
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