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Know Your Lore: The Scarlet Crusade

Welcome to Know Your Lore, where each week Elizabeth Wachowski and Alex Ziebart bring you a tasty little morsel of lore to wrap your mind around. Sweet, sweet lore. Mmmm.

This week on Know Your Lore, we're going to talk about the faction that manages to be one of the most beloved organizations in the game while also being one of the most hated. Whether you love them or hate them, the Scarlet Crusade remains one of the most interesting factions in WoW, and they're attached to the Ashbringer that the WoW community is so fascinated with. Better yet, they return in Wrath of the Lich King.

The Scarlet Crusade was founded during the fall of Lordaeron, shortly after the Knights of the Silver Hand had been decimated by the Scourge and largely disbanded. Though its founders did not necessarily have the most sane or noble intentions, many of the men and women who joined their ranks did have only one primary goal in mind. They wished to free Lordaeron of the Scourge in the name of the Light, and crush the undead utterly. Considering those undead brought their homeland (one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world at the time) to its knees and blighted it beyond belief, that was a pretty noble cause.

People such as Highlord Mograine, Saiden Dathrohan, Isillien, and Abbendis were among the founders of the Scarlet Crusade. To prevent any confusion, there are two Abbendises in the Scarlet Crusade's history and both of them held the rank of High General. The first Abbendis is the father, and the other is his daughter. Like most of the Crusade, some of these founding members were good and noble, and some of them were nutso from the start. Mograine was righteous, Dathrohan started out that way, Abbendis was a nutjob, and Isillien was a fanatic.

The combination of personalities in the upper echelons of the Scarlet Crusade helped things along on the recruitment front. Nobody could disagree with Abbendis' mad ravings about the undead, because it was a really, really bad situation. The Scourge were washing over Lordaeron with ease, so his ravings were taken as pretty close to the truth. Those who weren't swayed by fear, but rather sought out valor and virtue were swayed by Dathrohan (a former Paladin of the Silver Hand) and Highlord Mograine.

Meanwhile, Isillien used paranoia as his tool of choice. Isillien took it upon himself to stick a knife through the heart of one of his attendants. When questioned on this, he claimed the attendant was already dead, and sent by the Scourge as an assassin. The idea that the damned could look as alive as any of their own was spread through the remaining population of Lordaeron, and the Crusade quarantined them all until they were given a clean bill of health. This fear kept the people in line, and kept the Crusade isolated. Anyone could be an enemy. Your brother, you sister, your closest friends. Any of them could be Scourge.

Isillien wasn't too far off from the truth, though he didn't necessarily know it. Saiden Dathrohan was long dead. It was not the Scourge that kept Dathrohan's corpse moving; It was the Legion. Balnazzar, a Legion veteran from the Third War, possessed the corpse of the fallen Paladin, using it to manipulate the remaining population. He bred fear and paranoia in his own way, and manipulated the ranks of the Crusade to protect his own hide. And don't forget, the Burning Legion hates the Scourge, too. Using the Humans as his personal army seemed like a pretty good idea.

High General Abbendis, in time, fell to the Scourge himself. Though the Crusade lost their raving madman, his daughter was quick to step into his position as High General. She was a powerful warrior without needing to coast on the name of her father, and she carried some of the same zeal her father did.

The Scarlet Crusade branched out from its strongholds in the Tirisfal Glades, reaching out into the Plaguelands. Recapturing and reinforcing places such as Hearthglen and Tyr's Hand, these places became the last bastions of Human civilization in northern Lordaeron. Even the Forsaken became enemies of the Scarlet Crusade. First, they were still undead abominations. Second, the Forsaken prevented the retaking of Lordaeron itself, the Keep and Castle.

A charge on Northrend was also made by the Scarlet Crusade. It wasn't a total failure, but close enough. They battled their way to the foot of Icecrown Glacier, but were ultimately defeated/stopped. Some may still remain, but they have not been heard from since. It's likely that the Scarlet Onslaught which we will see in Wrath will be the remnants of this expedition, or remnants of this expedition that have been reinforced by the mainland.

While all of this is going down, Highlord Mograine a.k.a. The Ashbringer runs into some trouble. To secure his place as head of the Crusade's military might, Dathrohan (Balnazzar) convinces Mograine's son, Renault Mograine, that the Ashbringer must die. Renault took his Father and his father's companions on an assault on Stratholme. It was a trap, naturally. Balnazzar had alerted Kel'thuzad and his minions about it, as the Scourge wanted Mograine out of the way, too. Unfortunately, the Highlord was winning the battle.

Until Renault stabbed him in the back. Literally. With a sword. The sword. The Ashbringer.

The Highlord's pocket healer, High Inquisitor Fairbanks, had been cut down in the battle and was hidden amongst a pile of corpses. He didn't die from his wounds, but could do little more than watch in silence. Once Fairbanks was able to move again, he ran back to the Scarlet Monastery and told everyone about Renault's betrayal. Most found him insane, but there were many who listened to his words. Ultimately, Fairbanks was killed and tossed in a closet until someone could clean it up later. Luckily for Fairbanks, he had been tainted by the undead! Yaayy! He could 'live' forever in a locked closet, forgotten by all!

Actually, Mograine had been raised as a Death Knight, and Ashbringer was corrupted. When you retrieve the blade and return to the Monastery with it, you're heralded as the new Ashbringer... but Mograine the First pops out of the sword, kills his son out of revenge, and resurrects Fairbanks. Fairbanks tells you that if you want to reforge the sword, Mograine's other son is in Outland and can do it for you. But he isn't. Thanks a lot, old man.

The members of the Scarlet Crusade that skipped town when news of Mograine's betrayal spread took on a new name: The Argent Dawn. Their mission was roughly the same as the Scarlet Crusade's own, but they would carry it out as the Scarlet Crusade should have. Righteous and pure, the Argent Dawn accepted members of all races (including Forsaken) and would be active in putting down all evils in Azeroth, not just the Scourge. If you don't remember, they appeared en masse when the Dark Portal reopened. They were the first defenders when the Legion burst through the Portal.

Relatively recently, members of the Scarlet Crusade have been sent to Light's Hope Chapel (the Argent Dawn HQ) as allies. The Argent Dawn doesn't particularly like it, but understand the potential necessity to fight back the Scourge. Curiously, Scarlet Commander Marjhan, the representative sent to Light's Hope, seems to have not been sent by Balnazzar. He might not even know they're at Light's Hope. We're not actually sure who sent them, we can only speculate.

Another major figure returning in Wrath has ties with the Scarlet Crusade. Tirion Fordring, originally a Knight of the Silver Hand, was exiled for helping an orc. His son, Taelen Fordring, was left behind in Lordaeron. During the Third War, Taelen had been recruited by the Crusade and served under General Abbendis the Guy. When Abbendis the Guy died and Abbendis the Gal took his rank, Taelen was given a rather impressive rank himself. He would be the new Highlord of the Scarlet Crusade. Taelen himself never bought into the corruption and madness of the Crusade, and believed that he was doing what was right.

His father finally worked up the courage to show him what was wrong in the Crusade, and Taelen realized his folly. He abandoned his post as a member of the Crusade, and escaped Hearthglen only to be killed by Isillien, the man that recruited him in the first place. Tirion, rightfully pissed, kills Isillien. However, he is still filled with grief and is unable to forgive himself. I love happy endings, don't you?

Of course, that isn't really the end. Tirion swears to reform the Silver Hand and take out the Lich King. Naturally, we're going to see the outcome of that in Wrath of the Lich King.

The Scarlet Crusade is technically an evil organization in Warcraft, but many of its rank and file were once good people, and possibly still are good people. Corruption, paranoia and manipulation goes to its very highest ranks however, and the fear of infection from any outsiders, alive or dead, makes them a very dangerous group to keep around.

By the way, not everyone in the world knows of the corruption in the Crusade, or their vicious, unyielding ways. Most people, especially those in the southern Eastern Kingdoms, have had no exposure to them at all except in name. This is likely why you see a representative of the Crusade within the Cathedral of Light in Stormwind. The citizens of Stormwind probably know nothing of the harm the Crusade has done to others. To them, that guy is probably just a slightly eccentric preacher recruiting for an anti-Scourge group.

The Scarlet Crusade is definitely one of those villains you love to hate. They're bad guys, but they have style. There's a human side to a lot of them that helps you relate to their cause. I'll be honest, they're real jerks, but I still find the Crusaders in Light's Hope Chapel pretty cool. I sort of want Marjhan to get clocked upside the head, but I also sort of hope she's in Northrend kicking undead tail.

If you want more information on the Scarlet Crusade, I strongly recommend picking up some of the Warcraft RPG books, and generally doing the quests around Lordaeron. Tirisfal Glades, the Plaguelands, places like that.

That's all for Know Your Lore this week, but before we wrap this up I'd like to let you all know that the Know Your Lore gallery has been revamped and updated. If you want an easier way to look through past editions of your favorite column, you can bookmark that gallery and sift through them from there. They'll link you to almost all of our previous editions of Know Your Lore and supply you with some eye candy at the same time. If you don't see your favorite bit of Warcraft lore there, feel free to make requests in our Comments section below!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, Wrath of the Lich King

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