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'm taking a trip back into the past this week. I was discussing the history of the game with a friend and we got to talking about Blackrock Depths, about how the instance felt like an ancient city in many respects. Some of them were good, and some of them were bad. And then we got to discussing the Onyxia attunement chain. We realized that for many players, this quest and the lore behind it was completely lost. Even the main players were no longer to be found.
So I've decided to take this week and talk about Marshal Reginald Windsor, who so bravely (and nearly nakedly) hurled himself into trash packs with the fervor and intensity of a raging lion. A raging lion who would aggro every trash pack well before you were ready for them, and get his crazy behind stabbed to death if you didn't get over there and pull them off of him, only to do it again immediately after. A brave, bold, absolutely fearless man who made that quest sheer torture until you outgeared the heck out of it. I admit, it was actually kind of fun to come back in BWL/AQ gear and stomp a new mudhole in some Dark Irons.
So who was this brave and dangerous knight? Who was Marshal Reginald Windsor, and how did he end the Great Masquerade and save Stormwind from the Black Dragonflight's wicked broodmother herself?
A Lost Hero
We know that Reginald Windsor served alongside future General Marcus Jonathan during the First and Second War, ultimately being directly under Turalyon's command during the final defeat of the orcs at Blackrock Spire, based on conversation between the two of them. We know but little else... the Windsor family has served Stormwind for a long time, and that the powerful dwarven hammer was granted by the Dark Iron architect Franclorn Forgewright to Marshal Windsor's family, specifically his great, great grandfather. During the Second War, Reginald Windsor made the hammer famous by using it to slaughter untold numbers of orcs.
While Reginald Windsor served with distinction during wartime, it was in peace that he began to grow uneasy with what was happening to the kingdom he'd helped save from the orcs, and rebuild from the destruction of its capital city. At first he was occupied by his duties, being given command of a distant outpost in the Redridge Mountains, called Morgan's Vigil. From there, he led sorties against the Blackrock orcs to ensure they never regained their strength and posed a threat to Stormwind. But what he saw from his vantage point as a Stormwind Marshal disturbed him greatly. Troops and supplies were being diverted away from the most vulnerable sectors. Lakeshire and Duskwood were both left at to the mercies of their surroundings, while Westfall tottered on the edge of collapse. His own command was forced to use a destroyed, abandoned village as their forward base of operations, with a ragtag civilian's militia as their only support.
It rankled him, and so he began quietly investigating, compiling notes. When the King of Stormwind, Varian Wrynn, disappeared on a diplomatic mission Windsor's suspicion grew and he increased his efforts to determine what was truly going on. Exploring the Burning Steppes, he discovered tablets that pointed him to a disturbing possibility, but in the process he alerted his true enemy and she took steps against him, sending a force of Blackrock orcs to ensure his silence. It was a sufficient force to kill a dozen heroes a dozen times over, or so it was thought.
Windsor and his men destroyed them in pitched battle. However, their fight took place in the very shadow of the Blackrock Mountain, hotly contested by orcs and Dark Irons serving Emperor Thaurissan, and those dwarves recognized the mighty hammer Windsor used to crush orc skulls. They attacked as soon as the orcs were slain, and overwhelmed Windsor and his depleted soldiers, so that only one of the patrol led by Windsor to escape was a traumatized soldier called Ragged John.
What happened vs. what happened to me
We're about to hit one of those discrepancies that occur when in-game lore is later contradicted by out of game lore. It's called a 'retcon' which is short for retroactive continuity and what it means is that the later source changed what officially happened in lore. The World of Warcraft comic sets up that canonically, the slave gladiator Lo'Gosh discovered he was the aforementioned King Varian and alongside his companions, went into Blackrock Depths to rescue Windsor. They then went to Stormwind, made their way to the Keep, and... well, they did the same thing as what players did in the game.
Now, I want to tell you what happened if you played through it. Because here is what happened, and I want you to understand it: you would break into the prison in Blackrock Depths, kill several guards and a Twilight's Hammer interrogator named Gerstahn and when you'd find Windsor, he would refuse to leave with you. You see, all of his notes were taken and he was demoralized, convinced that he could never prove his suspicions, so you had to leave him there and report back to Marshal Maxwell at Morgan's Vigil. Then you had to go back to Blackrock Depths, randomly murder everyone until A Crumpled Up Note dropped. Then you would go back to Windsor, who while still refusing to leave his cell would task you with killing General Angerforge and Golem Lord Argelmach and reclaim Windsor's lost notes from their bodies. Then, and only then, would Windsor allow you to break him out of prison.
But he wouldn't leave the prison just yet. Oh my no. That would make sense, and Windsor hated sense so much that he grew his beard just to spite it. No, instead Windsor would lead you on a death-defying rush around the prison until he found a storeroom where he could get some weapons and armor, and then he insisted on visiting several cells in the prison to either free or kill the inhabitants within, all while running headlong into danger as if each trash mob in the entire dungeon was made of delicious Devil's Food cake. (So far as I can determine, they were not.) Then he'd finally leave the dungeon, and upon following him to Morgan's Vigil you would find that he had already taken off for Stormwind.
Let's kick a dragon in the slats
You follow, because you haven't gotten enough of Windsor yet (I suspect there's something wrong with you at this point) and once there, the events of the comic and the quets more or less dovetail. Windsor confronts Marcus Jonathan when Lady Prestor orders his arrest, and convinces him to back down, then marches up to the keep and confronts Lady Katrana Prestor. Obviously as a player you don't find out you're one-half of the King of Stormwind, but aside from that it's pretty much the same thing.
Windsor ultimately died in the process of exposing Onyxia for who she really was, and it's interesting to consider all the consequences of his actions. Not only did he free Bolvar from her mind-control and canonically restore Varian to control of himself, in so doing he shaped the next several years of Alliance history. Without Windsor, there's no Bolvar in Northrend (and thus, no ultimate fate of Bolvar atop the Frozen Throne), no Varian to lead during the Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria periods. And all from a guy who I had to save from a dungeon fourteen times to get people attuned to Onyxia. Kudos, Reginald, you will forever be the man who defined the pain of an escort quest for me.
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.