Heading back to Whiterun the party was set upon by a pack of feral wolves which provided Zora and opportunity for redemption after being knocked out by the Forsworn beast and allowed Deana to gather sufficient pelts for the guild back in The Drunken Huntsmen. These she duly handed in to Elberond, the Steward of the Guild with the promise of bear pelts to come.
Work was also going on ahead apace in the guild building. A basic structure was now in place and a couple of bedrolls allowed members to rest between forays into the Wild. Elberond assured Deanthala that work would soon be completed and that the Guild would be a fully functional asset in Whiterun that would serve as a source of trade and income and as a means to keep the wildlife around the city in check.
The party spent a day in Whiterun, Lydia having to attend to several duties up at the Dragonreach. Vilja took this opportunity to visit the Temple of Kynareth and came back distraught. A priestess there by the name of Danica had unburdened a story on Vilja about a tree that was dying in Whiterun, the Gildergreen. Apparently the only way to revive the tree was by getting a sapling from the parent tree in a place called the Eldergleam Sanctuary far to the East. Just as Deana was about to ask why the priestess needed their help Vilja continued by saying a magic dagger was needed to part the gnarled, overgrown roots that the tree had extended to protect itself. This ‘Nettlebane’ was apparently in the hands of a coven of witches and Hagravens known to prey on the travllers on the road to Ivarstead that cuts through the mountains. Vilja pleaded with Deana to help Danica. Such was the passion with which the Nord pleaded her case that Deana could not reject. After all they had a few days to spare, Lydia had informed them that her duties with the Jarl would keep her for at least 3 days. Enough time for the others to embark on the quest.
Orphan Rock proved a tough nut to crack as these Hagravens were ruthless with claw and fire. Furthermore a brace of human witches worked in tandem with them. Vilja was knocked to the brink of death while Zora clearly revelled in the berserk rage of combat. Our heroes prevailed to recover a wickedly jagged dagger that reeked of malevolent magic. The nature loving Vilja even refused to touch the thing, trusting it to Deana’s keeping. A cold road through the mountain passes below High Hrothgar awaited.
Arrival at the Eldergleam Sanctuary was uneventful, other than the bone chilling air that cut like a finely honed blade as they moved through the mountains. The Sanctuary was a true sight of woodland beauty. Two large waterfalls emptied from above into a natural cavern of exquisite beauty. Trees, floral and woodland creatures of all shapes and sizes dotted the cavern floor and atop a large hill stood the parent Gildergreen Tree. It shone with a glow of its own bathing all the cavern in its warm light.
Drawing the dagger Deana approached the think roots blocking the way to the tree. As if the Gildergreen was possessed of some sentient power, the roots parted of their own accord sensing the dark magic contained within Nettlebane. The trio wound their way to the top of the hillock to find a woodsman, who announced himself as Maurice Druid of the Elder (not that the title meant anything to Deanthala). His eyes opened in horror as he saw what the Dunmer was holding. He dropped to a fighting stance unclasping a large Quarterstaff strapped to his back.
‘Oh goody the tree hugger wants to play,’ spat Zora unleashing the two hander from its holster.
‘Hold,’ cried Deana. She opened her palms wide and said, ‘we wish the tree no harm but rather wish some of its sap to restore its sibling in Whiterun.’
Maurice seemed to lessen his aggressive stance and abandoned it completely when Vilja told him what Dancia had spoken about.
‘The spirits of the wood indicate your pure intentions child of Morrowind,’ he said suddenly. The party instantly readied weapons when a number of Spriggans materialised from within the Gildergreen itself.
‘Put those down as they mean you no harm. On the contrary they bare a most wondrous gift…’
Indeed as the Spriggans morphed back into the tree they left a young sapling identical to the mother tree, just as brilliant and majestic as its parent but smaller.
‘Take this to the priestess of Kynareth and tell her that from death must come life. This sapling will grow in the earth of the old and provide new life and flower once again.’ With that he bade the party farewell and resumed his praying before the Gildergreen once again.