Edwin VanCleef was originally one of the architects that worked on the rebuilding of Stormwind City after its destruction at the end of the Second War. A master of the art of masonry, VanCleef was personally responsible for the design of many of the more awe-inspiring structures of Stormwind. Not the least of such structures was the impressive Stormwind Cathedral, which later became the center of both the faith of the Holy Light and the revived order of paladins. The reconstruction of Stormwind was an arduous task, but with such a genius as VanCleef masterminding the operation, the project was completed smoothly and in record time. However, the leaders of the city -- in a move heavily influenced by the corrupt nobility of Stormwind -- refused to pay the Stonemasons Guild for their work, citing the already enormous economic burden the Alliance had elicited due to the ravages of the Horde.
In addition, in a public outrage for the demands of the Guild to demand so much funds in such difficult times, they have decided to banish the workers from Stormwind. Following this obviously unwise decision, it was Edwin VanCleef decision to lead many of his colleagues, in search of wealth via other avenues. This was the beginning of Defias Brotherhood.
The actual aim of the Brotherhood, of course, was not merely financial gain: VanCleef, along with the other disenfranchised masons, had a score to settle with Stormwind, and their vengeance became their new goal. To that end, VanCleef allied himself with a number of other factions in the region, mostly bandits, criminals and other humans unsatisfied with the leadership of the kingdom of Azeroth. These would become the bulk of his paramilitary force that was quickly growing throughout Elwynn Forest and Westfall. In addition to these, VanCleef sought out powerful mages, various foreign mercenaries, and the ingenious goblins to assist him in creating the ultimate weapon of destruction. Beneath the famed Deadmines of Westfall, located beneath the former Alliance town of Moonbrook, VanCleef commissioned the construction of a gargantuan leviathan of a vessel armed with enough firepower to shell Stormwind into submission.
From aboard the ship located deep within the Deadmines, VanCleef awaited the moment at which he would strike at his hated foe. Believing his cause to be one of absolute righteousness, he prepared his mighty vessel to depart from its hidden port. Before this could take place, however, intrepid agents of the Alliance, having previously learned of the headquarters of the Defias Brotherhood, entered the Deadmines and assaulted VanCleef's ship. In a fearsome battle atop the juggernaut, the Alliance operatives slew VanCleef, ending a great threat to the security of Stormwind. Yet they were left with the disconcerting worry that not all matters with the Brotherhood were yet resolved, including the question of the corrupt nobles of the human capital city. Subsequent events would prove that despite VanCleef's death, the plans of the Defias Brotherhood were far from finished.