A king in exile is still a king, and King Genn Greymane is nearly the living personification of his lost nation — at times arrogant, willful, tenacious, and filled with a bestial fury that may be held in check, but never truly leashed. Genn’s actions during the Second War proved his intransigence, and the aftermath of the defeat of Orgrim Doomhammer saw Genn pull his people back behind the wall he named after himself, abandoning nearly half of Gilneas in the process. Greymane is many things, but one thing he’s never been is lacking in a belief in his people and his nation.
Damn the orcs, damn the Alliance, and damn you! The last thing Gilneas needs is sponges from other nations drawing from our resources, Dalaran wizards meddling with our affairs, and someone else’s enemies killing our soldiers! Gilneas is its own nation and it always will be. This is the last time I’ll ever talk to you, Terenas, so I hope you were listening.
— Genn Greymane to Terenas Menethil, before the sealing of the Greymane Wall
He was prescient, in a way — it was indeed the last time Gilneas’ king would speak to the king of Lordaeron. But Genn didn’t truly understand what was coming, a wave of darkness and death that swept over the north of the Eastern Kingdoms and, in time, would come knocking on his supposedly impassible wall.
The young king
Genn was the son of Archibald Greymane. While the other nations of Azeroth put their faith in stout walls, strength at arms, and the magic taught by the wizards of Dalaran (magics learned from the High Elves of Quel’Thalas during the Troll Wars), Archibald had a vision of a self-reliant Gilneas and worked to bring it to fruition. During his father’s reign, Genn watched as Gilneas became the industrial capital of the Human kingdoms, a sooty nation where the power of steam grew impressive factories. Archibald taught his son that Gilneas came first, that the people and the nation were the envy of the world and needed nothing from others. Gilneas could shift for herself — had she not proved it with her towering chimneys and the fruits of the factory floors?
When Genn took the throne, he continued his father’s policies. He and his wife Mia had two children, Prince Liam and Princess Tess. It’s not entirely certain exactly when they were born — due to statements made during the novel Day of the Dragon that Jaina Proudmoore and Calia Menethil were the only daughters of reigning monarchs beyond infancy at that time, it’s likely Tess was born after the Second War. Tess was not a healthy child — if not for Krennan Aranas the Alchemist, she would have died as a baby.
Still, for Greymane life was simple in those days. Gilneas neither wanted nor needed the other kingdoms. It engaged in trade for the resources it needed for its vast industries and Genn knew the other monarchs of the Human kingdoms, but these ties were distantly cordial at best.
The Second War
When Anduin Lothar came north with the bedraggled refugees of Stormwind, Genn was distantly sympathetic, but he believed that Gilneas was in no danger from these ‘Orcs’ that Lothar spoke of. Of the three nobles who accompanied Genn, only Darius Crowley of Silverpine believed that Gilneas should enthusiastically join the new Alliance of Lordaeron and join the fight against the Horde. Genn was swayed by the argument of Lord Vincent Godfrey that Gilneas should join the Alliance, but provide only a token force. As a result, while Gilneas was counted as a member of the Alliance during the Second War, it didn’t really do much more than send a few troops and complain about how they were used.
Following the war, Gilneas and its king quickly came to cease supporting the Alliance. Seeing no reason to feed or house the Orcs who’d attacked Azeroth, much less any reason to help supply distant Nethergarde Keep, Genn broke with the Alliance. His last words to his fellow kings were his infamous address to Terenas. Following this, Gilneas started construction on the Greymane Wall, a vast fortification that would essentially seal the nation from any and all land travel. Unfortunately for young Lord Crowley, the Greymane Wall was built in a valley that lay south of his holdings in Silverpine. While Genn allowed the people of Silverpine to abandon their homes and move into what was now considered Gilneas proper, this act essentially made Crowley a lord without his holdings, as Ambermill, Pyrewood and the rest of Silverpine were essentially abandoned.
For a while, there was peace in Gilneas. The nation followed her king’s lead and turned inward, eschewing contact with the rest of the kingdoms descended from the old Arathi Empire, the Seven Kingdoms of Humanity that had made up the Alliance of Lordaeron. If Crowley seethed at the loss of much of his holdings, he did so quietly.
The Third War and the Northgate Rebellion
Things changed with the coming of the Third War. Genn saw no reason to open Gilneas to the refugees fleeing the destruction of Lordaeron by the Scourge, and allowed even the people who’d remained in Ambermill and Pyrewood to languish outside the wall. But even he wasn’t prepared for the coming of the Scourge — the undead servants of the Lich King began to assault the Greymane Wall, and even managed to decimate a Gilnean army that sought to check their attack.
Desperate, Greymane turned to a native son of Gilneas, the Archmage Arugal. Arugal, although a Gilnean patriot, had been in Dalaran as a member of the Kirin Tor, and had barely escape the city’s destruction. His return to Gilneas came hard upon the Scourge’s frenzied attack on the nation, and Arugal agreed (albeit reluctantly) to aid his king by summoning creatures even more fearsome than the undead to fight them. And it worked — using Ur’s spellbooks, Arugal summoned forth the Worgen from the prison Malfurion had banished them to within the Emerald Dream, and indeed, the druidic nature of the Worgen curse made them fearsome enemies to the Scourge.
But the savagery that caused Malfurion to banish the Worgen was unabated. Soon, they turned on those that had called them, and the curse began to spread through Gilneas itself. Despite its strong industrial bent, or perhaps because of it, a very few of the people of Gilneas persisted in what they called ‘the old way‘ and those that contracted the Worgen curse found that this helped amplify these nature magics that had helped Gilneas continue to grow food for itself despite an earlier crop failure.
The spread of the Worgen curse exacerbated Darius Crowley’s dissatisfaction with his king. Before the Scourge became a pressing threat, Darius had conspired to send the Gilneas Brigade north to aid the Alliance. This force ended up accompanying Jaina Proudmoore to Kalimdor. Genn found this intolerable and confronted Crowley, but the young Lord was far from cowed by his king’s anger — indeed, he met and matched it with his own. Genn’s actions had weakened humanity in its darkest hour, helping to hasten the fall of Lordaeron and Dalaran. Genn’s isolationism had left many of Crowley’s subjects on the other side of his wall, to die when the Scourge came. Crowley told his king that he would tolerate the man no longer, and the Northgate Rebellion flared to life as Gilnean fought Gilnean, all the while the curse continued to spread. First it went north, along with the now maddened Arugal, who seized control of Silverpine Keep in Pyrewood as the curse transformed the remaining villagers into Worgen.
Eventually, forces loyal to Genn defeated Crowley’s forces and the man was tossed into prison. But this wasn’t a victory for Genn. The Northgate rebellion following hard upon the heels of the Scourge attacks had left Gilneas weak and vulnerable. It’s feasible that Gilneas could have survived, if the king had asked for help from outside his kingdom. But to do so was weakness. Archibald Greymane had taught Genn this, and his entire reign was built around the principle that Gilneas was a self reliant nation that needed nothing from outside.
The Curse, the Shattering, and the Forsaken
After the civil war, Gilneas desperately longed for time to heal. But the Worgen had not been idle. Led by their Alpha Prime, the former Ralaar Fangfire, the Worgen were still spreading their curse throughout Gilneas. Alpha Prime made use of Arugal, who’d been driven mad with grief over the havoc his summoning had caused, and thus spread the Wolf Cult through Silverpine as well as Gilneas. Genn decided that revealing the presence of the Worgen to his people would be disastrous, and sought to eradicate the monstrous beings by leading a series of hunts.
And so Genn Greymane, king of Gilneas, was bitten by a Worgen and became cursed. Genn knew his people would shoot him if they knew he’d been bitten — it was what he would have done to any of them, after all. Therefore, he concealed his condition, and fought to control the curse with pure willpower. But it was the presence of the ancient Night Elf Belysra Starbreeze that truly allowed Genn to stave off the fury of the Worgen curse. Alpha Prime’s Wolf Cult found allies in Sylvanas Windrunner and her Forsaken — both wished to see Gilneas fall (Sylvanas had been ordered to do so by Garrosh Hellscream, as she was still considered on probation by the Horde after the events of the Wrathgate), and so they worked together, creating a series of tunnels beneath the Greymane Wall that Genn had believed impregnable. The Wolf Cult used the Starlight Slasher killings to cover their attacks on those loyal to Genn, who feared trying to overtly exterminate the Worgen (plus, as one suffering from the curse himself, he now knew that their humanity wasn’t lost forever to them) despite Lord Godfrey’s objections.
In an attempt to hold back the Worgen, Genn freed Darius Crowley. The younger Lord still felt Genn was to blame for what had befallen Gilneas, but he didn’t want the city to fall any more than Genn did, and joined forces with his former king in a desperate plan that almost worked. In the end, Crowley found himself cursed as well, Gilneas City fell and Genn was forced to recruit a recently cursed Worgen by dosing him with Krennan Aranas’ elixirs. While still trying to deal with the curse and the Wolf Cult, Gilneas was hit by the Shattering, and the Forsaken poured into the country by sea and by the now-shattered Greymane Wall.
This led to another small rebellion, as Lord Godfrey, Lord Walden and Baron Ashbury (who Genn had grown up with, a lifelong friend) betrayed him to the Forsaken in an attempt to negotiate with Sylvanas. It ended in their deaths, and in time, their undeaths. But Gilneas was still in mortal danger. Genn and those loyal to him (including Crowley and his Worgen from Tal’doren, who’d learned how to control their bestial sides) mounted an assault on both the Wolf Cult and the Forsaken.
Ralaar Fangfire died, the Wolf Cult was dispersed… but Sylvanas herself killed Genn’s son Liam and used a plague weapon to render Gilneas City uninhabitable. While the Worgen curse had by this time spread throughout the people, they were evacuated to avoid death from the plague, including Genn.
After the fall
Genn was now a king without a country, a father who’d lost his son, and all of his mistakes as leader of Gilneas were laid bare for him. He knew his stubborn isolationism had cost him everything. Gilneas had refused to help others, yet without the help of Belysra Starbreeze and her fellow Night Elves, there would have been no hope for his people. Too late, he realized that it wasn’t weakness to refuse to ask for help when it was required — indeed, all the industrial might of Gilneas had proved brittle indeed when faced with the Scourge, the Worgen and at last the Forsaken. Now he and most of his people were Worgen.
Still, despite being one of the oldest monarchs on Azeroth (Genn was already in his middle years when the Second War happened) Genn is far from done. His mastery over the Worgen curse has given him a new lease on life. His rage at Sylvanas’ attack on Gilneas and the death of his son Liam motivates him to oppose the Horde. Gilneas may be a nation in exile, but for once, it’s a nation utterly loyal to the Alliance and willing to do whatever is necessary to reclaim their homeland and drive out or destroy the Forsaken.
We’ll see how that plays out in Legion. For now, Genn grows ever more ready for his day of reckoning with Sylvanas.