One of the more intriguing Cataclysm NPCs I've encountered so far has been High Warlord Cromush, a Horde NPC/quest giver who plays important roles throughout Silverpine Forest and Hillsbrad. Horde players who haven't revisited the old zones may still recognize Cromush from his appearance in Heroic Shadowfang Keep.
What most interests me about this Mag'har orc is that he wildly fluctuates in his behavior, and constantly surprised me with his unpredictable reactions to story events. His non-aggressive nature and surprising displays of emotion, especially for an orc, have made me very curious - and suspicious - about his true motivations.
We first see Cromush in Silverpine, when Garrosh learns just what Sylvanas is up to nowadays. Following this shocking revelation, Garrosh leaves Cromush behind to "guard" Sylvanas, clearly distrustful of the Banshee Queen's true intentions.
When I first read this dialogue months ago, I assumed that Cromush was probably a typical "Rawr, Me Smash!" Garrosh fanboy, since the new Warchief trusted him with such an important task. I expected Cromush to be mindlessly loyal, eager for blood, fawning over Garrosh's every whim, etc.
However, I was completely wrong. Every time I thought I knew what Cromush was thinking, he would shock me by doing something completely different. He's like no orc I've ever met before!
for the Silverpine Forest and Hillsbrad zones.)
Example 1: FIX HER!
During Cities in Dust, the conclusion to the Silverpine Forest questing zone, you accompany Sylvanas, Cromush, and Val'kyr sisters Agatha, Arthura and Daschla to the Greymane Wall. You meet up with new Forsaken members Lord Godfrey, Lord Walden and Baron Ashbury there, who bring with them Lorna Crowley, who you captured in a previous quest.
Sylvanas uses Lorna as a bargaining chip to convince Worgen leaders Lord Darius Crowley (her father) and Ivar Bloodfang to surrender. They do so, and retreat back into Gilneas.
The moment of victory is broken when suddenly, Godfrey pulls out a gun and shoots Sylvanas, killing her. (Yeah, she gets one-shot. I know, WTF.)
High Warlord Cromush says: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, GODFREY!
I was a bit surprised at how strongly Cromush reacted to Godfrey's betrayal, and the fact that his initial response was vocal surprise & disbelief, rather than immediately leaping into battle as I believe Garrosh would have done. I reasoned that perhaps Cromush was a bit wiser than I first thought, and was able to look past his personal distaste for the Forsaken to see their value to the Horde as allies.
A short fight ensues, before Godfrey, Walden & Ashbury flee. Cromush then turns to the three Val'kyr:
High Warlord Cromush says: Fix her... FIX HER!
(The three Val'kyr then sacrifice themselves to resurrect Sylvanas, who gets back up while Cromush kneels in front of her.)
Say what now? Now this WAS surprising. That's a pretty significant display of grief and loyalty towards Sylvanas for someone who supposedly didn't like or trust her. Garrosh certainly wouldn't be so broken up over her death.
Actually, what non-Forsaken person WOULD be? That's the first time I've ever seen someone who wasn't undead show Sylvanas such devotion and reverence. Thrall would probably be sad, and the other Windrunner sisters would probably mourn her...but that's about it. At best, other Horde members would regret the loss of a powerful military asset. At worst...well, we all know what people think about the Forsaken.
Let me put it another way. Cromush's reaction of shock and horror was just like the Dwarves when they heard their beloved King Magni had died. It's completely unexpected, out-of-place, and startling. It's even more of a jarring contrast when you remember that Cromush is there to monitor/spy on Sylvanas because Garrosh doesn't trust her.
Once again, maybe Cromush just doesn't want to lose a useful cog in the Horde war engine. Maybe. But the urgency in his words, his outraged reaction to Godfrey's treachery, it all screams of something else.
It almost seems like...he's in love with her?!
I'll let that digest.
Example #2: Shadowfang Keep
During the assault on Shadowfang Keep, you are accompanied by Deathstalker Commander Belmont, a Forsaken NPC/quest giver you encountered frequently during Silverpine Forest. After you kill Baron Silverlaine, Cromush unexpectedly shows up. He comes down hard on Belmont, reprimanding him for going against Garrosh's no-plague policy. Belmont assures him that the plague is extremely diluted and only meant as a deterrent, not a deadly weapon, but Cromush is skeptical, and threatens Belmont with "the Warchief's wrath" if he finds out Belmont is lying.
Now this was the Garrosh lackey I was expecting! Brash, distrustful of the Forsaken, eager to threaten his "allies" with bodily harm...Cromush displays all the trappings of a typical "new Horde" orc here. He's completely different than the concerned, almost tender Cromush we (chronologically) just saw at the Greymane Wall. He even seals the deal by running off ahead and getting poisoned/incapacitated by Lord Godfrey.
He does survive, though, and relocates to Tarren Mill in Hillsbrad to give more quests to Horde players. Which leads us to...
Example #3: Death of a Kingslayer
A seriously heart-wrenching quest in Hillsbrad sees you team up with Kingslayer Orkus to steal some Alliance Battle Plans from Ivar Bloodfang, Balinda Stonehearth and Vanndar Stormpike. Orkus heroically holds off all three while you get the plans, but tragically dies during the escape.
(Sidenote: I cannot say enough about this quest. It broke my heart. Probably my favorite quest in Cataclysm.)
You return to Tarren Mill and give the plans to Cromush and tell him about Orkus. I was curious to see what Cromush would do, and he didn't disappoint.
High Warlord Cromush says: What happened? What have you got in your hands there?
High Warlord Cromush reads the Alliance battle plan.
High Warlord Cromush says: He... He died to get this here?
High Warlord Cromush lifts Orkus' lifeless body up.
High Warlord Cromush says: Do not mourn Orkus. He died with honor... with pride. He died a hero of the Horde.
High Warlord Cromush says: From Lordaeron to Kalimdor, they will know his name and they will sing songs of glory, praising the fallen champion of the Horde.
High Warlord Cromush says: Know that what you did will save hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. You are also a true hero of the Horde,
Wow. Suddenly Cromush is the epitome of the noble, honorable orc. It's like Thrall and Saurfang rolled into one! You can tell he is deeply moved by his ally's sacrifice, unlike some people, and that he plans to fully honor and recognize Orkus' bravery and valor. After this little speech, I was ready to follow Cromush into the Nether itself. Orkus was awesome, and I felt like Cromush paid him the respect he deserved.
Example #4: The Frostwolf Clan
After receiving the battle plans, which tell of an impending Alliance assault, Cromush asks you to head to Alterac Valley and enlist the aid of the Frostwolf Clan. He speaks highly of the Frostwolves, and anticipates needing their help to defeat the Alliance army.
However, the Frostwolf leader Drek'Thar refuses to send help. He tells you that although he has done many terrible things over the years, he feels remorse for his actions, while the Forsaken do not...and that of all his regrettable deeds, none would be as terrible as lending aid to the Forsaken.
When your return to Cromush and tell him the news, he basically has a heart attack!
I don't even know what to make of this! He's clearly shocked and horrified that the Frostwolves would deny his request, and judging from his dramatic physical reaction, he's dumbfounded by the news. Once again, he surprised me by reacting not with anger or vitriol, but with fright and confusion.
It's interesting to note that he doesn't even considering breaking ties with the Forsaken, to try to convince the Frostwolves to help. Maybe he's under orders not to? Or maybe he knows it just wouldn't be possible, since the Horde needs the Forsaken? Regardless, I found it interesting that Cromush - an orc! - would so quickly disregarded the legendary Frostwolves in favor of the Forsaken..
It really makes me wonder what is going on inside his head. I almost feel sorry for him, like he's been given this crucial mission by Garrosh and he keeps encountering all these snags. At the same time, he shows great leadership and determination - despite this grim turn of events, he quickly grits his teeth and resolves to find a way to still win. Even as I marveled at his constantly-changing emotional state, I got a kick out of his perseverance.
Oh, and Cromush does indeed find a way to drive off the Alliance forces in Hillsbrad, involving lots of explosives. Before detonation, he kneels and the two of you have a moment of silence for Orkus, forever cementing Cromush as awesome in my mind, despite his quirks.
So what does it all mean? Honestly, I have no idea. Cromush doesn't show up again after Hillsbrad (other than in Heroic Shadowfang Keep, of course). Initially it almost seems like Cromush becomes enamored with Sylvanas, which would be an interesting twist. But then he goes right back to being a brute in Shadowfang Keep, only to flip once again with Orkus' death to be an awesome, honorable guy. He then switches polarities again, brushing off the (justified) concerns of the Frostwolves, only to once again revert back to being honorable during his last scene.
And what's with his emotions? I'm not saying that orcs can't be tender or sad, but Cromush REALLY wears his heart on his sleeve. I never knew if I should be trying not to piss him off or giving him a tissue to dry his eyes with.
Don't get me wrong, I think he's a refreshing, interesting character who seems to have the best interest of the Horde at heart. Unlike Garrosh, Cromush doesn't seem blinded by his own bloodlust or pride, and he seems to have a realistic view on things. For example, after the Frostwolf Clan's rejection, many orcs would have gotten pissed and distracted with ideas of retribution for being so dishonored, but Cromush immediately shifts his focus to the more pressing problem, the looming Alliance threat. He seems like he has a good head on his shoulders.
I think he's got a lot of potential in the future, whether it's as an uncomfortably awkward liaison between the orcs and the Forsaken, or as an intelligent, crafty war commander. My inner paranoid self also can't shake the feeling that his bizarre behavior indicates some sort of trickery or subterfuge on his part, but as of right now, I can't think of anything concrete.
What about you? What do you make of this strange warlord?