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The Defias Brotherhood is a group of assassins, thieves, and pirates that are hostile to the Alliance. They dwell in the rural areas of the Kingdom of Stormwind, mostly that of Elwynn and Westfall — both of these are areas not easily protected by the Stormwind Army.
Razed by the Horde in the First War, Stormwind City required a small army of engineers and artisans in order to begin a massive program of reconstruction. After restoring the city to its former glory, the workers gathered outside Stormwind Keep to collect payment for their services.
Under the influence of Onyxia (posing as Katrana Prestor), the nobility of the city refused to pay Edwin VanCleef what he was owed. Edwin caused a riot in the streets of Stormwind in outrage, and King Varian's wife, Queen Tiffin, was killed, along with many other citizens. Edwin, along with the rest of the Stonemasons' Guild, left the city and planned their revenge.
The shocked and forlorn workers were rallied by engineer Edwin VanCleef and became bandits, collecting their payment on travelers at the time. Marking themselves with a tattoo of a cog on their right hand, the bandits declared that “the machine will not run smoothly if the parts go renegade” to each waylaid traveler. Banditry and thievery quickly became a way of life for the exiles, banding together under VanCleef’s leadership as the Defias Brotherhood.
Over the years, the ranks of the Brotherhood have been bolstered by the skilled, the desperate and the outcast— and now those marked with the cog tattoo signifying membership number in the hundreds. In Elwynn Forest and the area around Stormwind, the Brotherhood has mastered the art of the ambush and, despite protection by the Stormwind City Guard, few caravans get through the woods unhindered. The Guard’s inability and unwillingness to pursue the Brotherhood into Westfall has led the farmers and villagers in the area to form The People's Militia in an attempt to stave off the Brotherhood’s constant looting.
Lacking any formal military training, the outcasts who formed the Defias Brotherhood might have been forcibly disbanded long ago were it not for the skilled craftsmen and tinkers who made up its founding membership. These founders have worked together to give members of the Brotherhood access to an array of mechanical devices and weapons ranging from climbing equipment and smoke bombs to automatic crossbows and wagon traps (clamps buried in the ground that seize heavy wheels passing overhead and stop wagons on the spot). When the Defias Brotherhood advanced into Westfall, the goblins of the area were upset both by the Brotherhood’s raids on the merchant trains that supplied their shops and by the Brotherhood’s refusal to sell their inventions at goblin merchant outposts.
After repeated attempts by the goblins at negotiation were met by increased attacks on their suppliers by the Brotherhood, the merchants hired a group of mercenaries to hunt the bandits. This hunt resulted in the only major battle fought by the Brotherhood— and led to the capture of all goblins in Westfall by the renegade bandits. Chained together, they were marched south into the Dead Mines and put under the command of Edwin VanCleef. What has happened to them since is unknown. According to an in-game resource, there is a large underground tunnel from The Deadmines to Stormwind Keep, which was created by goblins, gnolls and other races of the Defias Brotherhood.
- See also: Record of Defias Activity
The Alliance recaptured Stormwind after the Second War, finding the city in ruins. King Terenas ordered a massive reconstruction of the city with the assistance of the Alliance human nations and member races. Many of the exiles and refugees from the first war started to return to their old homeland.
The construction was overseen by the House of Nobles, who accepted the help of many artisans and specialists from across the Eastern Kingdoms. The spirit of rebuilding, hope and prosperity struck many who decided to volunteer for the great work. However, other less altruistic laborers considered the opportunity of rebuilding as a lucrative government contract: a chance to prove their craftsmanship and start anew. Eager to forge new lives, these craftsmen traveled to Stormwind, many bringing their families at great expense.
When the rebuilding was completed, many craftsmen demanded payment for their labor. Blacksmiths, engineers, laborers, and stonemasons marched together to the new keep to request payment for their services. But there was nothing left to pay with; the remainder of the funds having been spent in order to expand Stormwind's military presence into the surrounding regions. To "solve" the problem, the nobles expelled the laborers and artisans from the rebuilt kingdom. The nobles had their new city— and those that built it were left broken and empty-handed.
Alone, feeling betrayed and disillusioned with the Alliance, the group turned to the head of the Stonemasons, Edwin VanCleef, for leadership. VanCleef — master engineer and former assassin under Master Mathias Shaw — then founded the "Defias Brotherhood." Ostensibly standing for freedom and justice, they built a base of operations in the Deadmines of Westfall — and VanCleef began plotting his revenge against the kingdom that had betrayed him.
Anyone with a sword and a cog tattoo can declare himself part of the Defias Brotherhood and begin robbing traveling merchants. Yet the Brotherhood hears of such activity quickly, long before even the Stormwind Guard and new self-initiates soon find themselves visited by a member who instructs them in the ways of the Brotherhood. If the initiate agrees, he is officially allowed to join the Defias Brotherhood. If an initiate proves disagreeable, he is paid a second, quieter visit shortly thereafter by a shadowy form wielding a pneumatic crossbow. Most initiates quickly join one of the Brotherhood’s many established raiding parties. These groups are generally known as “bands,” though they often adopt more colorful nicknames, from the “Southpath Raiders” to the “Roadspirits”.
In some cases, as with “Rillo’s Leafwalkers”, a band is named after its leader, called a “captain” in the Brotherhood. Captains lead and control their bands with force and cunning and most experienced captains bear scars, demonstrating their ability to withstand challenges by young upstarts. Captains plan the raids of their bands, and they are responsible for supplying their bands with not only food and shelter but also training in the art of the ambush and the technology that gives the Brotherhood an edge. Initiates interested in becoming full Defias renegades quickly become familiar with the requirements described for the prestige class, as their instructors put them through a grueling training regimen until they qualify.
Captains and their bands are given free reign by the Brotherhood’s leadership to steal, pillage, harass and harry as often as they like and as long as they can avoid open conflict with the troops of the Stormwind Guard and the People's Militia. Occasionally, however, higher-ranking members of the Brotherhood are sent out with “knife squads” to warn bands who go too far; in the words of Edwin VanCleef, “a dead traveler carries no treasure and a ruined village has no plunder”. The Brotherhood requires that captains bring a quarter of all loot to Moonbrook, where it helps fund the research and activities of VanCleef and the Brotherhood’s leadership. In return, the Brotherhood gives captains access to the technological advances made in the labs within their hidden headquarters.
They are known for attacking caravans and travelers across central and western Azeroth. In Westfall, they are known for brazenly and openly looting farms and village merchants. Bands of the Defias Brotherhood are found mainly in Westfall and Elwynn Forest, though they occasionally range into Duskwood and other parts of northern Azeroth. The few who have managed to track them so far believe that the Brotherhood works out of the remote town of Moonbrook in southern Westfall. Yet its true headquarters is actually nearby in an underground fortress constructed in the labyrinthine Dead Mines.
Many consider the Defias Brotherhood just a band of bullies and brigands, but they underestimate its military capabilities. While the Brotherhood employs mercenaries to bolster its ranks, it trains and fields its own forces, preparing for the day when it acts to disrupt all trade with Stormwind.
The Brotherhood’s force serves two purposes. First, it is a highly mobile raiding force, capable of quickly attacking a caravan, seizing its most valuable goods and destroying the remainder. Second, it is a more conventional attack force that can launch attacks on Alliance garrisons and forts. To achieve these purposes, a typical Defias unit emphasizes mobility, stealth and ambush tactics, and toughness.
The Brotherhood is not heavy on magical support; however, within the Deadmines, magi learn to master a deadly arsenal of spells. Also, Defias tinkers, trained by some of the most fiendish goblin minds, devise automatons and steam armor suits whose raw power can provide backup for their less-armored human warriors. The next major engagement between the Brotherhood and the unsuspecting Alliance may hold a few surprises.
The two major units of the Defias Brotherhood are bandits (who serve as cannon fodder) and renegades (who are somewhat tougher). Stronger field units (which are given names like “highwayman” and “pillager”) tend to be more skilled as warriors than as rogues.
The Defias Brotherhood pretends to embody noble ideals in the service of a just cause, but it’s a facade; the presence of bandits among them proves the lie. The highwaymen stalk the roads of Westfall, especially at night, exacting a toll on anyone who doesn’t support the Brotherhood’s efforts. Bandits are the lowest of the low in the Brotherhood’s ranks and, when the battle horn sounds, they take the front ranks. They group together for close support (preferring to fight back to back in a mob) and are often the first to flee the field when the tide turns against them.
The Defias Brotherhood rarely fields an army of regular troops, as VanCleef and the other commanders prefer its members to master a wider variety of skills than those of a pure soldier. The Defias renegade (often called a thug or brigand) is the gold standard of the Defias operatives, a decent fighter and a skilled spy wrapped in one strong, sneaky package.
Members of the Defias Brotherhood take pride in their affiliation. They wear red bandanas over their faces to display their allegiance and to hide their identities. They are lightly armed and armored, employing short swords or longswords, and hiding a dagger beneath the folds of their cloaks. In situations where they’re expecting trouble, they command a small cadre of mercenary soldiers or Defias bandits and use them as buffers to protect themselves from the enemy.
Renegades of the Defias Brotherhood tend to be exceptionally skilled, swift of foot and mind, and mechanically adept. They also tend to feel alienated from society at large and are often looking for some sort of revenge, even if they don’t know how or against whom. As well, they need to be able to show enough initiative to seek out and join the Brotherhood of their own free will, though once inside they are expected to follow orders within the wide borders of freebooting and banditry.
The majority of the renegades are human, with a small portion of dwarves from Khaz Modan in the south and a few high elves upset at the army of Stormwind for refusing to march north and retake all of Quel’Thalas. Half-elves, half-orcs and others who feel outcast from their own races have also bonded with Defias bands and become renegades. Some legends told that the Defias Brotherhood was founded by a group of noblemen who once stood for freedom and justice.
The Defias today
Having long forsaken those noble virtues on which their brotherhood was founded, the mysterious Defias faction is now composed of thieves, bandits, and vicious mercenaries. This vile group is determined to wreak havoc upon, and ultimately destroy, the House of Nobles in Stormwind City. Convinced that the nobles are corrupt and villainous, the Defias Brotherhood has waged an underground war in a quest to rid the land of their hated enemies.
It is also known that groups of gnolls, kobolds, and even goblins each help the Defias Brotherhood in their own particular ways. For example, goblins built Harvest Golems at the behest of the Defias Brotherhood to scare off the local inhabitants of Westfall, allowing the Defias to run their smuggling operations with greater impunity. The Harvest Golems have done that job well — eliciting terror in anyone foolish enough to roam alone in the fallow fields of Westfall. Now, in Westfall, only The People's Militia stand in the way of Defias operations, which seemingly become more brazen by the day.
The Defias have taken over parts of Elwynn Forest, Duskwood, Westfall, and have recently caused significant problems in the Stockade. They are a dangerous group, with infiltrators in the highest circles of Stormwind Nobles and a sinister single-mindedness in the execution of their illegal trading. Wiley the Black in Lakeshire speculates that the Defias have even begun work on a "weapon of mass destruction"... a hypothetical weapon of unknown origins and power; however, the existence or non-existence of such a weapon is not expected to affect any unilateral action that may be taken against the Defias by bands of adventurers.
That weapon is probably a reference to the huge juggernaut battleship that is in construction in the Deadmines. After all, the entire Deadmines are a huge construction yard for the ship. It is also revealed in some lower mid-level quests, such as The Missing Diplomat quest chain, that the Defias have staged a worldwide plot related to the 10-year old king of Stormwind, Anduin Wrynn.
Brann warns fellow travelers to make sure their coins are not scratched. This is due to the Defias Brotherhood taking a liking to marring the face of the king to produce what are known as “cross-eyed coins.” These coins have been declared illegal.
It is known that the Defias wear face masks. To a certain degree, the material of said face masks reveals a Defias member's rank within the Brotherhood. A popular item for rogues is the Red Defias Mask, a mask that can drop off of any Defias mob in Westfall, Duskwood, the Deadmines, or the Stockade. It is a bind-on-pickup item and can only be worn by rogues. Because it can be equipped by low level characters, before most other head-gear, many lower level Rogues actively seek this item for its look, despite the fact that it provides no armor or stats. Curiously, the highest drop-rate for the mask seems to be off of the grave robbers in Duskwood, the only mobs who drop the mask that are not masked themselves.
Allies and leadership
Several clues exist in-game about other hostile factions in Azeroth that may be helping the Defias. The most obvious of these are of course the Riverpaw gnolls of Westfall and the kobolds of Elwynn Forest; according to the note sent by Wiley the Black to Gryan Stoutmantle, these groups are actively working for the Defias to help secure the mines they've captured.
While completing quests against the Bloodsail Buccaneers near Booty Bay, it is possible read a short message written by one pirate intended for his crew. The note references "our project in the Deadmines," suggesting that the Defias Pirates and Goblin Shipwrights responsible for building and crewing VanCleef's juggernaut ship might actually be Bloodsails who are cooperating in the endeavor for their own reasons. Oddly, however, the pirates on VanCleef's ship may occasionally drop Blackwater Cutlasses...
In addition, the quest chain The Missing Diplomat quest chain alludes to the Defias possibly having some kind of partnership with the Strashaz Naga near Dustwallow Swamp. One of the Defias operatives interrogated during the quest has documents that mention "our new allies" being of help in the plot. These allies might quite possible be the naga, since (until he was moved) the missing diplomat himself was guarded by naga on Alcaz Island...
As for the true leaders of the Defias, it is intriguing to note that the organization endures — and indeed, proceeds to some of its more dangerous plots — well after the death of VanCleef, who was supposed to be in charge. While it is possible some of his underlings might have merely stepped up to fill his role (such as Bazil Thredd), another possibility is that VanCleef was never totally in control even while alive, and that he was in fact being manipulated by a higher power. It is clear that the Defias, for all their hatred of the Stormwind House of Nobles, nonetheless have considerable ties to certain nobles (the operative example being Lord Gregor Lescovar). Perhaps someone with influence in the House of Nobles is directing the Defias...someone who already manipulates much of Stormwind on her own...
This section concerns content exclusive to Cataclysm.
Despite the near total annihilation of the Defias' leadership, including Edwin VanCleef, the Defias will make a resurgence in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. VanCleef's daughter, Vanessa, will arise to take the leadership of the Defias and take vengeance on Stormwind for assassinating her father. Sentinel Hill is attacked in the process, and many homeless join the Defias.