The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
I said last week that we'd be covering Broxigar Saurfang this week.
I lied, just like when I told Sully I'd kill him last. This week, we're going to talk about an honest to the Light Gilnean hero. A patriot, a rebel, a lord who cared for his land but could see beyond it, a killer, a father who would die for his daughter without hesitation.
Alone among the lords and ladies of Gilneas, Darius Crowley saw that without the Alliance, his nation was doomed. By his hand, civil war raged across the land behind the Greymane Wall. Forced to see his holdings in Silverpine truncated by a wall he opposed, he lost everything -- even his freedom -- fighting his misguided king. In the end, he cannot even take consolation in having ultimately been proven right.
Made a beast, he fights on for his homeland and his ancestral lands, stolen by Sylvanas Windrunner and the Forsaken. Forced to choose between his daughter and victory, he chose her and retreated into contested Gilneas. While the king of that land tries to rally Alliance support to retake the homeland, Crowley does battle in the moors and the streets of his homeland. Whether Gilneas is ultimately saved or destroyed by the Horde, one thing is clear: Darius Crowley will be found fighting there.
"Lord, as you've described, the other nations seem eager to assist. If Trollbane, Perenolde, and the rest partake, I do not know how we can rightfully call ourselves neighbors or friends if we do not join with them," Crowley continued. Genn understood why he was so beloved. His words were spoken with acute vigor. There were no political angles at play -- just a man concerned for his fellow men. (Lord of His Pack, James Waugh)
The origin of a future rebel
Darius Crowley came to his lordship relatively young. He first rose to some prominence among his people as the foremost and most passionate advocate of the Alliance of Lordaeron among the lords of Gilneas. While some like Vincent Godfrey advocated aiding the Alliance on purely pragmatic and utterly self-serving grounds, Crowley truly believed that aid for the Alliance was ultimately not only the best course for the survival of Gilneas, but their duty to their fellow men and the act of a proper neighbor.
Unfortunately for Crowley, his king, Genn Greymane, did not agree with him. Genn's father Archibald had not only raised Gilneas to power as an industrial nation, but he'd infused his son with the ideals of isolation and self-sufficiency that led Genn, as king, to distrust and dismiss the other nations as weak and backward. While Gilneas sent a few troops to fight alongside the Alliance, Genn balked at the costs of continued membership and was angered by the Alliance's refusal to hand land in nearby Alterac over to him after the Perenolde family was deposed.
Genn's decision to build a wall to keep the rest of the Alliance nations (and any further problems, such as the orcs the Alliance refused to put to death) out of his nation might not have necessarily led to a falling-out with Darius. The Crowleys were proud Gilneans and held their lands in the north of the nation for the crown for generations. Crowley's own vassals included Baron Silverlaine and the peoples of Ambermill and Pyrewood. These lands would become known as the Northgate region when Genn, advised by Godfrey and his sycophants, decided to build his wall directly through the bulk of Crowley's land, cutting him off from the majority of his holdings and forcing him and his people to relocate south of the gate (thus becoming dispossessed) or to be cut off from Gilneas entirely, as Baron Silverlaine was.
Already displeased with his king for his actions during the war, Crowley saw this new act as a betrayal not only of Gilneas' allies but of her very people. However, even this paled in comparison with the threat of the Scourge, which reached Gilneas despite her wall. Crowley alone among his people was sympathetic enough to the Alliance cause to arrange for troops (the Gilneas Brigade) to assist the remnants of the Alliance under Jaina Proudmoore.
With the world seemingly falling apart and his king mired in an isolationism that seemed to be helping it shatter, with walking corpses assailing the Greymane Wall and Greymane himself turning in desperation to Archmage Arugal and his summoned worgen (the selfsame worgen who would overrun Crowley's lands on the other side of the wall, including Pyrewood and the former keep of Baron Silverlaine), Crowley felt forced to act.
The Northgate Rebellions
His loyalty and even friendship for Genn cost him, however. While he was preparing to strike against the king and his followers, smuggling weapons into Gilneas City itself, Godfrey and his supporters managed to arrange for Crowley's arrest. This act triggered the Northgate Rebellion, so named for the region of Gilneas where Crowley and his supporters had been stripped of their homes. Left homeless by their own king and knowing that their homes were now infested either by Scourge or feral worgen, the angry people of northern Gilneas fought the supporters of Genn, their rage triggered by the arrest of the one noble who actually seemed to care about their plight.
Crowley himself was imprisoned but still seen by many (even Genn) as the heart of the rebellion. However, while civil war wracked Gilneas City, a more insidious threat loomed. The worgen summoned by Arugal had not simply faded into the night after turning the tide against the undead hordes of the Scourge. Rather, they continued to lurk in the forests of Gilneas, spreading their curse and finally washing over the city itself. Soon, it mattered little what one's politics were; it was a battle for survival between men and cursed beasts.
Taken aback by the sudden onslaught and knowing that Gilneas needed every able-bodied defender, Greymane did what was unthinkable to Godfrey and his ilk. He turned to Darius Crowley.
Red in tooth and claw
Crowley also realized that fighting Genn would see Gilneas destroyed. He chose to ally with his once-friend and revealed the existence of the rebel arsenal, turning it over to the king for use against the worgen. Crowley even led a small force on a daring diversion that ended in a heroic last stand in Gilneas' Light's Dawn Cathedral, holding off the savage worgen long enough for the majority of the city's population to escape. Crowley himself and his men were not so fortunate.
Crowley was bitten during the stand at the cathedral, as were most of his men. While most succumbed to the bloodlust and frenzy of the curse, Darius managed to hold onto enough of his humanity and retreated to the Blackwald Forest to the south. He found himself at Tal'doren, the Wild Home, where he discovered the truth about the worgen curse and its origins, thanks to the presence of night elf druids. Crowley began capturing other worgen and helping them regain some measure of their self-control, and it was there that Crowley was confronted by Godfrey and Genn Greymane himself, who revealed his own similar struggle with the worgen curse. Despite Godfrey's horrified objections (and later own attempt at a rebellious coup), Crowley made common cause with his king. In the end, however, all they could do was evacuate most of their people on night elf ships.
Taking the war home
Crowley did not let it end there. First, he managed to return to the Silverpine Forest, making common cause with other worgen packs in the area, such as the pack led by Ivar Bloodfang. These forces, dedicated to the reclamation of all of Gilneas (including the northern lands lost to the Scourge during the period of the Greymane Wall), call themselves the Gilneas Liberation Front.
With the aid of the 7th Legion (an elite Alliance fighting force), Crowley managed to sneak past the Horde via a submarine and began waging an extremely successful guerilla campaign against the Forsaken invaders, pushing them out of the Wall and into Silverpine and then as far north as the border to Tirisfal itself.
Only by murdering and then using val'kyr to raise the native population as brainwashed undead and infiltrating into worgen-held territory can the Forsaken begin to retake ground. This culminated in a scheme in which Sylvanas raised Lord Godfrey from the dead in order to use him against his long-hated rival. Buoyed by her successful control over the former Dalaran wizards of Ambermill (who died fighting her but who immediately became loyal upon their forced conversion to Forsaken), the Banshee Queen likewise believed Godfrey to be her loyal servant, and so she used him to capture Lorna Crowley for use as a bargaining chip.
This plan ultimately worked: Godfrey indeed captured Lorna and used her against her father, who surrendered the fight in Silverpine to protect his daughter from being murdered and raised as a Forsaken slave to Sylvanas. (Ironically, had Lorna been exposed to the worgen curse, as Crowley himself exposed many of the former leaders of Southshore and Hillsbrad, she would have been immune; by protecting Lorna from his own curse, he left her vulnerable to the curse Sylvanas once condemned and now spreads to new victims.)
Crowley, his forces, and his daughter retreated back into the still contested regions of Gilneas itself. Ironically, in so doing, he failed to witness Sylvanas' own plan come to stab her in the back, as Godfrey proved more free-willed than Archmage Ataeric or others forcibly converted into Forsaken. While most of those raised by val'kyr in Silverpine switched from staunch opponents of the undead into suspiciously loyal minions immediately, Godfrey did not. Crowley might well have smiled at the irony as his old enemy killed his new one, only to fail to permanently defeat her. Ultimately, Lord Godfrey and his men retreated to Shadowfang Keep, which was technically Crowley's property once held by one of Crowley's direct vassals.
At present, Crowley and his forces hold ground in Gilneas. It seems unlikely that they can regain the nation, much less their former homes in Silverpine, from the Forsaken thieves without more direct Alliance aid. In the shattered world after the cataclysm, that seems unlikely. Gilneas is just one battlefront in the Alliance/Horde war, after all.
Still, Crowley fights on. While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.