Kas and Vecna. Yes, you will need a D&DI subscription to read this article in full. I will try to review some of the meatier parts for you in the meantime...
The article is narrated by an unassuming Vistani dancing-girl named Menodora Zarovan who knows her forbidden lore. Her opening lines should be pleasing to any fan of the World of Greyhawk:
"Nearly two millennia ago in a land known as the Flanaess, the name of the lich Vecna was sung by bards and cursed by clerics. How did he become a lich, and why did he seek to conquer the Flanaess?You may as well ask, ‘Why is the Shadowfell dark, Menodora?'"
Alright! A direct Greyhawk reference in a 4e product! Keep it going Menodora.
"Vecna was a supremely talented wizard who became obsessed with overcoming death when his beloved mother died. He conquered villages in the Flanaess to use the townspeople as subjects for his necromantic experiments."
A reference to the alternate origins of Vecna laid down in the semi-canonical Vecna: Hand of the Revenant graphic novel. Points for using that obscure source. Now for another Greyhawk emigrant...
"...one of his generals—a demonic half-breed mage named Acererak—rescued Vecna from destruction by clerics of Pelor."
This association is also from Hand of the Revenant. Acererak the future demi-lich who resides in the famous Tomb of Horrors once served the Whispered One. No big deal there. Acererak has figured prominently in 4th edition material already including a whole Tomb of Horrors makeover. The keen thing about this article so far is that it includes occasional sidebars with History skill checks for PCs to know relevant information at certain points in the article. These History checks flow well with the narrative and the difficulty numbers are easily adapted to any edition. Moving right along, Acererak's "true" history as told by the Vistani takes a slight turn...
"...the truth is that Acererak arranged Vecna’s near-destruction and rescue that day, so that he could ingratiate himself with his master and put himself in a position to steal Vecna’s darkest, most powerful secrets."
That rat! Well anyhow this leads to Vecna not trusting anyone and his obsession with secrecy becomes his signature portfolio. Next to the story comes Kas:
"During the time that Acererak was deceiving Vecna, Kas was a human paladin in Vecna’s service, drawn by visions of blood and a thirst for foes who would challenge his prowess at arms. Years earlier he had pledged himself to a god of death, but Kas soon grew bored with mere death."
Hear that? Nerull, Wee Jas, maybe the Raven Queen? Kas-a paladin-got bored with all of them and joined Vecna. Hardcore. This leads to another intriguing twist on the Vecna-Kas story:
"Vecna used necromancy to extend Kas’s life, wishing to retain his trusted weapon as long as possible. When Kas’s mortal form had reached the point when even Vecna’s spells could sustain it no longer, the lich fashioned for him a fanged mask of silver, and channeled the energy of undeath into it. By wearing the silver mask and accepting its necromantic embrace, Kas willingly received the dark gift of vampirism."
This heresy of history of course conflicts with well known events in Greyhawk's Vecna Lives! and much to my delight, Ken Hart addresses this change in his narrative...
"Perhaps you don’t believe me. Possibly you have heard that Kas became a vampire after his famous betrayal, as a result of being imprisoned in Vecna’s Citadel Cavitius, on an ashcovered world so cold that it freezes the very soul. That is what Vecna cultists quoting from the Scroll of Mauthereign would have you think..."
The tale goes on, relating why Vecna created the Sword of Kas for his bloody-handed lieutenant:
"As he spoke the final enchantments over it, he carefully pulled a thread of shadow from his own consciousness and wrapped it around the sword’s black blade. From that point on, as long as Kas bore the sword Vecna would be able to listen in on Kas’s activities, and sometimes even his thoughts."
Then Vecna was betrayed. By whom? Well, you'll need to make a DC 35 History check to find that out. I can't give away the entire article folks. Vecna will hate me if I do, but I'm pretty sure you know the rest.
I have to admit, given the extensive histories already written about Vecna and Kas (I'm looking at you Sam and Sean), there was every chance this article could have let me down by trying too hard to reinvent these well-known characters for 4th edition. But Ken Hart's History Check impressed me unlike most other 4e articles I've seen by at least trying to fit it with prior Greyhawk history. What is more amazing is that it's nearly all fluff other than a handfull of sidebars and adventure hooks at the end. If you have a D&DI subscription give this article a look. If you dare.