14 - Gildergreen

Rather than wake the Jarl in the middle of the night just to tell her, we went back to the Moorside Inn for the rest of the night. We told Jonna what had happened, and she brightened up as we told her of Movarth's death. That would make her brother's life a lot easier, if he didn't have to keep the vampires away from the town any more.

She advised me to take a Cure Disease potion, if I hadn't already. You could catch vampirism from fighting them, and although Falion knew how to cure it, it was a process one would want to avoid. I didn't have one, but I could ask Lami how to make one in the morning.

After telling Jarl Idgrod the news, (and receiving a decent gold reward), we headed over to the Thaumaturgist's Hut to make some Cure Disease potions. Lami told me I could use the Vampire Dust to make them, as long as I had another ingredient, Mudcrab Chitin, or Charred Skeever Hide. "If you've got any Hawk Feathers, you don't even have to make a potion. Just eat them."

I had plenty of mudcrab remains, and soon had a good supply of potions. I drank one, and handed another to my housecarl. She took it and drank it immediately, without a word. I offered her another to carry, but she shook her head.

Since we now had two reasons to head for Whiterun, to deliver Idgrod's note to Danica, and to take the carriage back to Markarth, we set out for Labyrinthian, and the pass. A couple of the smaller frostbite spiders blocked the road ahead of us, briefly, as a fireball quickly flew in their direction and dealt with them in short order. It seemed that my companion had a new, more powerful, spell in her repertoire.

She also had longer legs, or a shorter skirt. Whichever it was, I approved heartily.

The same fireball spell proved useful against the frost trolls we met at the ruin. Although I got caught in the blast a couple of times, fire was not a problem to me, and the frost trolls certainly didn't like it at all. Not that they liked being hit with my warhammer, either.

We passed through the ruin without being too tempted to investigate the various doors we saw. We could come back later, after we'd dealt with our current quests. Likewise, there were several side-trails leading into the hills that we ignored. I was already struggling to remember what unfinished business we had, without starting more.

After crossing the tundra, and discovering that my housecarl could also surround herself with a shield of flame when a pack of wolves attacked us, we arrived at the Whiterun stables. I almost hired the carriage to go to Markarth, but just in time, I remembered Idgrod's letter to Danica. I needed to deliver that first.

Danica Pure-Spring was sitting under the old tree in the middle of town when we found her. She paid me for the delivery, and we started talking about the tree. This was the Gildergreen, and the temple to Kynareth had been built here because of the tree. But it was dying, and could only be revived with the help of sap from its parent tree, the Eldergleam. That would be hard to do, as there was only one way to get that sap, using a special knife called Nettlebane.

I'm not sure when my fascination with the story turned into an agreement to get this knife from the hags at Orphan Rock, but that's what happened. It was in the opposite direction from Markarth, too.

On the other hand, this wasn't an urgent matter. The Eldergleam had been growing for thousand of years, and its daughter tree for hundreds, so a few days wouldn't even be noticed.

We rode the carriage back to Markarth, and I delivered the statue to Lisbet. She was delighted, and gave me a sum of gold that was way more than I'd expected. It made me wonder what the second statue I'd found was worth, but she soon dashed my hopes. Gilded and solid are nowhere similar in value.

I decided to keep mine. I should be able to find somewhere to put it, back at the Tower.

Ghorza asked how my smithing was progressing. I confessed that I hadn't done much recently, not since my visit to Mor Khasgur. "I have a couple of ebony ingots, If you want to try making something," she told me.

"Not yet," I replied. "It's a big step from Orcish to Ebony, and I still have some way to go."

"You should go to Riften, and have Balimund train you," she suggested. "You'll need to go east for the ebony, anyway."

I needed to go east for Nettlebane, too, and Danica had mentioned that the grove where the Elderglem grew was also in that direction. It looked like we'd be going east.

"Everywhere in Skyrim's east from Markarth" Ghorza reminded me.

The road from Helgen towards Orphan Rock was familiar for some reason. Then it dawned on me that this was the way we'd come in on the cart, that day with the dragon. Except now I was going in the opposite direction, and I had much better company.

Yes, she was quite the opposite of Ralof. He'd kept up a constant steam of comment, even as we'd been supposedly sneaking past the bear in the cave on the way out.

Orphan Rock was guarded by witches who liked to use shock spells. That was unfortunate, as a fire mage is at a bit of a disadvantage when she has her magicka drained that way. A war-hammer is an appropriate counter-measure, however, to which they have no answer.

The final hag, and the hagraven that held Nettlebane, preferred fire spells, and that played into our strength. They had little to offer, apart from the dagger itself. A few potions, some ingredients, and a bit of gold. Nettlebane itelf didn't appear valuable, and was rather heavy, for just a short knife. But it was its unique ability to harvest sap from the Eldergleam that made it special, and we had to return to Whiterun to find out how.

There was a pilgrim in the temple when we took it to Danica, a man called Maurice Jondrelle, which I think is a Breton name. He'd come to see the Gildergreen, and been disappointed at its current state. When he overheard that we were to travel to the parent tree, he asked if he could come with us.

Since I'd cleared the bandits from Valtheim, before rebuilding the Tower, I knew that most of the road between here and Darkwater Crossing would be safe, apart from the usual wolves and other wild creatures we might run across. So I agreed that he could tag along. We'd not be responsible for his safety once we got there, as I had no idea what to expect when we reached the Eldergreen Sanctuary.

Apart from one incident where the idiot Breton tried to tackle a sabre-cat with his bare hands, and was only saved by a well-timed fireball, we reached Darkwater Crossing without too many problems. The miners there pointed out the way to the Sanctuary, through a cave entrance out among the hot springs.

The entrance tunnel brought us out into a large grotto, where light poured in through a hole in the roof of the cave. The light fell on a huge tree to one side of the cave, and spilled over to a lush green area with a steam flowing through it. A couple of other pilgrims were here ahead of us, admiring the flowers and shrubs by the streamside. The water was warm, and the air in the cave was heavy and moist, making growing conditions perfect for a lot of the tender plants that grew there.

The tangled roots of the great tree were everywhere, blocking the path up to its base. I pulled out Nettlebane and hacked at the nearest root, to see what happened. Would it give up its sap?

Instead the root lifted out of my way, letting me climb further up the path. I repeated the process at the next root, and the next ...

Maurice was horrified at this, and stopped me before I could cut into the trunk of the tree. He told me there had to be another way, and I allowed him to try his alternative first. If it didn't work, it would be back to the original plan.

After a few moments of silent prayer to Kyanreth, he got up off his knees and pointed. There, in front of the tree, was a small sapling, in a pot. "You can take this back to Danica. Tell her it's a daughter of the Eldergleam, just like the one she's trying to resurrect. The true blessings of nature are in renewal, not maintenance. This can become a new Gildergreen, in time."

I could see his point. This was not Dagon's way, but it was the way of this world. Everything dies, and is replaced by something younger, rather than being destroyed and rebuilt every so often. Since the Kyn do not have children, we tend to forget the ways of mortals, and see things a different way. Danica was a mortal, so I imagined that she'd see things more like Maurice did.