The peak of the Mountaintops of the Giants holds the Flame of Ruin, but that's not all that's hidden within the Lands Between's snowy mountain range in Elden Ring. Malenia, one of the fiercest demigods and a Shardbearer, hides here somewhere, as well. If you can defeat her, you can claim her Great Rune--but you'll have to find her first, and doing so is no easy task.
You're not the first to go looking for Malenia or her brother, Miquella, in fact. Sir Gideon Ofnir the All-Knowing, the Tarnished knight you find in the Roundtable Hold, has been trying to locate the whereabouts of these two demigods for some time. He knows they can probably be found at Miquella's Haligtree, a special, holy site--but he doesn't know where it is or how to get to it. He wants the information so badly that he was willing to wipe out an entire village to get it.
Of course, you can find your way to the Haligtree, where you'll learn a whole lot about a schism in the Golden Order and a demigod who has mostly been operating in the background, despite being extremely important to the Lands Between. But finding the secret path forward is difficult, and if you do uncover it, you'll have to ask yourself: are you doing the right thing? If you invade the Haligtree to face Malenia, are you making the world of the Lands Between a better place, or a worse one?
We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. As always, this article contains spoilers for the story of Elden Ring.
More Elden Ring story explainers
- Elden Ring Story Guide: The Lore and History of The Lands Between
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 1: Limgrave
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 2: Liurnia Of The Lakes
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 3: Caelid
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 4: Mt. Gelmir and Volcano Manor
- What happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 5: Leyndell, Royal Capital
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 6: Mountaintops of the Giants
- What Happens in Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 8: Miquella's Haligtree
- What Happens In Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 9: Eternal Cities, Deeproot Depths, And Mohg
- What Happens In Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 10: Crumbling Farum Azula
- What Happens In Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 11: Leyndell, Ashen Capital
- What Happens In Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 12: Becoming Elden Lord
- The Frenzied Flame and the Game's Bleakest Ending, Explained
Castle Sol and Godwyn the Soulless
The Grand Lift of Rold will take you to another location, but only if you have a special medallion in your possession when you use it. We found the first half of that medallion back in Liurnia of the Lakes, when we ventured to the village of the Albinaurics and met Latenna, the Albinauric woman. In the Mountaintops of the Giants, we can see what Latenna was trying to achieve and what Sir Gideon Ofnir's man, Ensha, was trying to find when he slaughtered everyone who lived there.
Latenna offered the first half of the medallion and came with us on our journey as a spirit. The second half of the medallion is located in Castle Sol, a stronghold in the mountains. The medallion is guarded by Commander Niall, the castle's leader, and while the lore is a bit sketchy surrounding him, we can infer a bit from a few things scattered around the area.
Niall, like others who made their way north out of the Altus Plateau, seemed to be a man displaced. It's not clear what happened to Niall, whether he lost faith in the Golden Order or just tired of the life he was leading. Lore surrounding him suggested that he traded his Veteran's Prosthesis for the lives of captured knights. In saving those who faced death, Niall gained their loyalty, and soon raised an army "with no nation." Niall stayed in Castle Sol to protect his lord, although he ultimately failed in that duty, judging from the ghost you find after defeating Niall. And that ghost makes it clear that Castle Sol's lord, Niall, and his soldiers did offer their loyalty to a leader: Miquella.
We never meet Miquella in the game, but there's a whole lot about him that we can pick up in the story, and seems to have had a major impact on the Lands Between even while being absent. Spells and items related to him suggest that, in his youth, he was loyal to the Golden Order and made gifts of spells for his father, Radagon. Over time, however, Miquella became focused on helping his two siblings with some tragic problems. He lost his faith in the Golden Order when he found the religion couldn't be used to heal the Scarlet Rot that his sister, Malenia, had been cursed with. And later, when Godwyn the Golden was murdered, Miquella made it his mission to try to save his brother. To understand that, we need to delve a bit into what happened on the Night of Black Knives.
Godwyn was killed by a group of assassins called the Black Knives, using blades that had been infused with a piece of Destined Death--the Rune of Death that Marika had removed from the Elden Ring. With the Rune of Death out of the ring, death works differently and in some cases not at all in the Lands Between; it's why souls return to the Erdtree when people die, and why the demigods are effectively immortal until you knock on their doors. If the Rune of Death were in the Elden Ring and in play, when people die, they would cease to exist, with their souls dying as well. That's a natural occurence, and there was a time when the Lands Between functioned this way, with death giving way to life, something we learn from the strange Ancestor Spirits in the Siofra River and other underground areas. But Marika changed reality by altering the Elden Ring, removing Destined Death and causing souls to return to the Erdtree when they die, creating what we know of as the Golden Order.
In Godwyn's case, death was even weirder than usual. With Destined Death, both the body and the soul can be killed--that seems to have been the natural way of things. But when Godwyn was assassinated, his body survived, but his soul was murdered. (Following what we learn in Ranni's story, this result seems to have been the plan all along, with the Black Knives purposely attacking Godwyn in such a way as to only kill his soul; it's complicated.) Godwyn became known as the Prince of Death, the patron saint of Those Who Live in Death, but he's basically just an immortal body with nobody behind the wheel.
There are a lot of weird things that this is doing to the Lands Between, seemingly--you can even find Godwyn's body--but for the time being, the important part is that this left Godwyn as a sort of vegetable, and Miquella had apparently hoped to do something to help his half-brother. He turned to the people of Castle Sol and those who knew something about the eclipse for help, as we learn from a ghost at the top of Castle Sol, seemingly the spirit of the lord whom Niall and his soldiers served.
Digging into the knights of Castle Sol, we can get a bit more of a sense of what they're up to. Their eclipse insignias mirror the iconography that's key to another group: the spectral, headless mausoleum knights that can be found near the big walking mausoleums--there's even one of those right near Castle Sol. Lore attached to the Eclipse gear you can get from the mausoleum knights suggests they're a group who serve "soulless demigods," protecting them from Destined Death and even cutting off their own heads so they can continue to serve in Death. It sounds like, then, that these knights were specifically dedicated to Godwyn, possibly even becoming Those Who Live in Death to consider serving him.
YouTuber SmoughTown has a great video about Miquella and his relationship to Godwyn, which goes into a lot more detail than we are here. It sounds like the mausoleum knights hoped the power of the eclipse, through its relationship with Destined Death, might have been capable of reviving Godwyn and restoring his soul.
The ghost at the top of the castle suggests that Castle Sol and Niall worked for Miquella in this regard, trying to use the eclipse to restore Godwyn's soul, with Miquella seemingly offering them a place at the Haligtree if they were successful. Ultimately, however, they failed. The ghost suggests that failure meant that Niall and the spirits of his men were stuck in the castle endlessly, guarding the medallion piece, but unable to reach the Haligtree themselves, much like the headless mausoleum knights who've endlessly dedicated themselves to protecting the wandering mausoleums.
The Consecrated Snowfield
With Niall's half of the medallion, you can use the Grand Lift of Rold to reach the Consecrated Snowfield. The whole area is guarded by Albinaurics and deadly spirits, and there are caravans of folks who seem likely lost in the blinding snowstorms, hoping to find their way to Miquella but unable to do so.
Further on, you'll find Ordina, Liturgical Town, a spectral place populated by a few living Albinaurics, but mostly spirits. The place is actually more of an evergaol than an actual town, but it stands as the last magical line of defense to the Haligtree, and it's where Latenna and the Albinaurics were trying to go before they were murdered by Ensha on Sir Gideon's orders.
Head to the Apostate Derelict, a nearby ruined church, and you'll find a large Albinauric woman there, completing Latenna's quest. Latenna talks about how Phillia, the big Albinauric, can use something called the Birthing Droplet to serve as the future of the Albinauric people. Again, there are gaps here, but we can infer that Latenna might have been trying to lead the Albinaurics of the Liurnia village here, to Ordina, when they were attacked by Ensha. The Albinaurics seem to have been fleeing to a new home, a place where they could live without being forced to serve others, as it seems they are in Liurnia, or persecuted and murdered, as they were at Volcano Manor.
Recall also that Albinaurics are people created by humans, seemingly through a form of magic, so the Birthing Droplet is likely essential to the Albinaurics reproducing. We've seen that second-generation Albinaurics don't resemble humans, but instead are those frog-looking folks, and we can speculate that this lesser form of Albinauric is the result of reproducing without the help of the Birthing Droplet. But again, we don't really know--info on the Albinaurics, outside of the tragedies they've suffered, is pretty thin.
Ordina actually serves as a mini-dungeon; you'll need to go into the evergaol at the top of the town in order to unlock the pathway to the Haligtree. Inside the evergaol are Black Knife assassins, an interesting inclusion here. It seems this gaol is less about imprisoning these people than it is about guarding the way to the Haligtree, since multiple prisoners roam around inside it, and the evergaol encompasses the whole town. What connection the Black Knives have with the Haligtree isn't immediately clear, especially since the Black Knives are responsible for what happened to Godwyn. There's a lot we don't know, but their presence here seems pointed.
Lighting various magic lanterns inside the evergaol opens a magical seal that lets you leave Ordina and head to the Haligtree, Miquella's domain. Here, we get a sense of what Miquella is all about, and learn a lot more about the Empyrean--the one who might have come closest to saving the Lands Between after the Shattering. Read on in Part 8.