I got into writing this up while working on my latest playthrough post for Harrowhark. But I found I had enough to say about this that it warranted its own post. After running this plot again with Harrow, I’ve decided that by and large, I really don’t like either option it gives you.
So here’s a long post about how I’d fix this plot, either in a story, or in a mod if I had the necessary skills to make it.
If you go the sap route, as I noted in my Skyrim Together playthrough, then you actively piss off Kynareth and she sends spriggans after you.
If you go the sapling route, you at least get Maurice off your back. But if you make the mistake of talking to Asta, which leads you to showing her that you’ve got Nettlebane, she will still get pissy at you after you get the sapling and tell you you’re no longer welcome in the sanctuary. (Which raises a real interesting question of why, exactly, Asta has any authority whatsoever to kick you out of the place. She’s not a priestess. She doesn’t own the place. So WTF?)
Pfpbpt. My main reason for doing this plot at this point is to unlock using Danica as a Restoration trainer, which is a valuable thing to have available. But what you have to do to get to that point is annoying.
I don’t see any mods to fix the structure of this plot on Nexus. The only mod I see about it at all just does a minor tweak to the rewards you get for running it. But this is now in the category of “things that annoy me about Skyrim”, so if anybody ever does a mod to rejigger this quest, I’d seriously consider running it.
If I were writing this quest out as a story, or trying to do a mod myself to fix this quest annoying me, here are some possibilities that come to mind for how I’d rejigger it.
It pisses me off that this guy gives Danica shit for not attending to the Gildergreen, muscles his way into your quest, gives you shit for hitting the tree with Nettlebane, and then even has the gall to call the Gildergreen “that half-breed stump”–when that’s the exact same tree he was so passionately defending to Danica.
This guy is just some random pilgrim, so it vexes me that he thinks he has any grounds to tell an actual priestess how to do her job. Particularly when that priestess tells him point blank that she hasn’t been able to attend to the Gildergreen because she’s too busy healing casualties of the war.
If this guy is as devoted a follower of Kynareth as he claims, he should have at least a bit of respect for a priestess of Kynareth in her own goddamn temple.
It also pisses me off that if you let Maurice come with you to the sanctuary, he gives you shit about pulling out Nettlebane and hitting the tree’s roots with it, and he bitches about you never telling him what your intentions were.
It also pisses me off that if you talk to Asta, a conversation that has no option but to lead you to showing her that you have Nettlebane, she immediately gets hostile and then tells you you’re no longer welcome in the sanctuary, even if you take Maurice up on his offer and get the sapling instead. Because you’ve already hit the tree.
Given that Danica’s request for you to get Nettlebane and go get sap off the Eldergleam to begin with is apparently actually an offense to Kynareth–because it results in spriggans–I feel like Danica asking you to do this should have a lot more weight than it does.
An actual priestess of Kynareth should not ask you to do something that’s an offense to Kynareth.
Fixing the plot
So given all of these things that piss me off, here’s how I’d rejigger this plot.
Tweaks to Maurice and Asta
Maurice should be an actual priest of Kynareth, not just a random pilgrim. This would make him a colleague of Danica’s, not just some random pilgrim showing up in Whiterun and bitching at her about how she’s not doing her job by restoring the Gildergreen.
Asta should likewise be an actual priestess of Kynareth, not just a worshipper hanging out in the Eldergleam Sanctuary. Let her be actually tending a shrine to Kynareth there.
This would require changing the outfits on both characters, so that they have appropriate robes. They should also have assigned skills similar to Danica, with ability to cast Restoration spells.
Tweaks to the Eldergleam Sanctuary
Add an actual shrine to Kynareth in the area where Asta hangs out. And put a little camp there for Asta and Sond, and if you resolve the quest in a way that has Maurice staying at the sanctuary, he can use this camp as well.
Initial conversation with Danica re: going to get the sap
I continue to find it irritating that you get Danica’s objective to go get the sap, and yet Maurice, who is standing right there in the room, presumably within earshot, is surprised when he sees you pull out Nettlebane later. Here’s how I’d rejigger that conversation to make his surprise more believable.
- He enters the conversation as soon as he hears Danica mention the Eldergleam Sanctuary to you.
- Danica initially rebuffs him, and tells him sharply that if he wants to be helpful, he might focus on helping the wounded and sick in the temple, rather than interrupting her business.
- You get an opportunity here to affect the flow of the conversation:
- If you tell Maurice you want to hear what he has to say, he stays and talks with both of you.
- If you tell him to respect Danica’s work with those who need healing, he will go focus on healing somebody in the temple, and therefore more believably doesn’t overhear what Danica tells you.
- If you tell him it’s a private conversation and he shouldn’t interrupt, he gets annoyed and goes outside to fret near the Gildergreen.
- If Maurice stays in the conversation, he and Danica argue about his confronting her. Maurice confronts Danica about her asking you to take Nettlebane and go get the sap, and says he has a better idea. Danica asks you what you think.
- If you tell Maurice you want to hear his idea, he proposes praying to the Eldergreen–and Kynareth–for aid. He will ask if he can come with you.
- If you tell Maurice you want to abide by what Danica asks for, he warns nothing good can come of this, and withdraws from the conversation. He also stays behind in Whiterun without asking if he can come with you.
- If Maurice does not stay in the conversation, you will see him by the Gildergreen if you walk past it on the way out of Whiterun. He will tell you he has reconsidered and wishes to know if he can come with you.
- If you accept his request, then the quest can proceed as per the original version, without him knowing that Danica asked you to take Nettlebane.
- If you tell him to stay behind, he warns you again that nothing good can come of this, but withdraws to let you go about your business.
Changes to what happens when you show up at the sanctuary
- When you arrive at Eldergleam Sanctuary, if you speak to Asta, you will still have to reveal to her that you have Nettlebane.
- If Maurice is with you, he will protest and you have another opportunity to accept his sapling idea.
- If you turn Maurice down at this point, or if you do not have Maurice with you and you are pursuing the sap version of the quest, Asta will warn you that taking sap by harming the tree would be an offense to Kynareth. This is your last opportunity to back out.
- If you go through with Maurice’s idea, or if you accept Asta’s warning that taking sap would offend Kynareth, you can proceed to get the sapling.
- If Maurice is with you, he can pray to the Eldergleam, and he will remain at the sanctuary afterwards as per the original version of the plot.
- If Maurice is not with you, Asta will tell you that you must prove your respect to the tree. You can do a small ritual with Nettlebane to sacrifice a small amount of your blood, which will signify your willingness to give a bit of your life for the renewal of the Gildergreen. This will make having Nettlebane still relevant to the plot
- If Maurice is not with you and you’re doing the sap version of the plot, and you explicitly reject Asta’s warning, then taking sap from the tree will result in spriggans as per the original version of the plot.
- If the spriggans do not kill Asta and Sond before you have a chance to kill them, Asta will tell you you have committed an offense against Kynareth, and you must make amends to her. You must do three things:
- Use Nettlebane to shed a little bit of your blood to resurrect the spriggans you’ve killed, and restore their guardianship of the Eldergleam. Nettlebane will deal you a temporary hit to your Health, Stamina, and Magicka, because if this is a blade that the Eldergleam itself fears, it should also damage you. The spriggans at this point will no longer be hostile unless you are foolish enough to attack them again, or unless you go after the tree.
- Do a pilgrimage to all of the shrines of Kynareth in Skyrim, and pray at each one.
- Once you visit all the shrines, your last act should be to pray at the Gildergreen itself, at which point a sapling will sprout, and Kynareth’s good graces will be restored. The damage you took from Nettlebane will be healed, and in addition, any diseases you have will be cured.
- If Maurice is with you, and the spriggans kill Asta and Sond but don’t kill him, then Maurice will take over Asta’s function here and tell you you have committed an offense against Kynareth. This will trigger the same options as previous.
- If the spriggans kill Maurice, Asta, and Sond, then Kynareth herself will address you. You have not only killed her spriggans, you’ve also caused the deaths of three of her faithful worshippers. You have two choices at this point:
- Protest to Kynareth that you were only trying to follow the instructions of her priestess, which will divert Kynareth’s wrath off of you–to Danica.
- Accept responsibility for your actions, and speak in Danica’s defense, which will lead to the pilgrimage option as described above.
- If Kynareth’s wrath is diverted to Danica, you must return to Whiterun. When you visit the temple again, Danica will reveal to you that she’s already seen Kynareth’s will in a vision. She asks you to give Nettlebane to her. She takes it to the Gildergreen and stabs herself with it. Her body disappears in a wave of light, which then sweeps over the tree and returns it to its full glory. Nettlebane likewise is destroyed in the enactment of Kynareth’s will. Maurice is humbled by Danica’s sacrifice, and takes over running the temple of Whiterun in her name. He becomes the replacement Master trainer for Restoration. Town gossip about the restoration of the Gildergreen is more wistful, with the guards and other townsfolk being grateful that the tree is restored, and revering Danica for her sacrifice.
- Returning to Whiterun with a sapling, via either acquiring it at Eldergleam Sanctuary or coming back at the end of your penance quest, will maintain Danica’s ability to be your Master trainer in Restoration. She will also have lines about needing to re-evaluate the wisdom of Kynareth, and mention her intentions to pray to Kynareth for clarity in her will.
- Possible coda, depending on whether Danica survives and whether you want to keep Nettlebane: an opportunity to make amends to Kynareth and her priests and priestesses by destroying Nettlebane, so that it may never be used again against the Eldergleam, or against Kynareth’s spriggans. You would need to do so by having Danica, Asta, or Maurice purify the weapon. Then you must take it to the Skyforge to be melted down, as the Skyforge is the only forge in Skyrim that reaches a powerful enough heat to melt it. An additional dialogue option would be available with Eorlund Gray-Mane to let him bear witness while you do this.
This is a more complex version of the plot, and I’m pretty sure that doinking around with the conversational logic would take some doing. Additional lines might be buildable via the sorts of tools I’ve seen described in other mods that add voice work.
The pilgrimage option is something I’m borrowing from the Divine Crusader Creation content in the Anniversary Edition. But it might require adding additional shrines of Kynareth.
I’m not a modder. But I think I’m pretty good at building a narrative!
And if this narrative were mine, this is totally how I’d do it.