Feature Article

What Happens In Elden Ring? The Game's Story, Part 8: Miquella's Haligtree

Traveling through the Consecrated Snowfield takes you to the Haligtree, where the demigod Miquella tried to create a safe haven, and where you'll do battle with Malenia.

In Elden Ring, we've visited some pretty awful places during our journey through the Lands Between, where any number of people have been tortured and murdered. Traveling through the Consecrated Snowfield, however, we can finally find our way to somewhere that's not quite so horrifying--at least, on paper. That place is Miquella's Haligtree, another giant tree that once might have been the seat of a new religion to replace the Golden Order and the Erdtree itself. But nothing good can survive the Lands Between, and that's true of the Haligtree, as well.

Miquella's Haligtree hides another demigod Shardbearer who's waiting for you to face her: Malenia, Blade of Miquella. She's the demigod who fought Radahn and blanketed Caelid in Scarlet Rot, and she's still pretty formidable. We can also learn about another demigod, Malenia's brother, Miquella, although you won't be able to fight him. There's a huge amount of story surrounding Miquella, even though we never get a chance to meet him; his influence on the Lands Between is huge.

Here's everything you'll uncover within the Haligtree as you travel down to fight the Goddess of Rot herself. Once again, there are so many spoilers in this article; you've been warned.

More Elden Ring story explainers

Miquella and Unalloyed Gold

The first thing you'll notice when you come to the Haligtree, starting at the top, is that it's filled with Oracle Envoys, those weird trumpeters from Leyndell. Oracles, as we previously discussed, are non-human creatures that show up to herald the rising of a new god, or the dawning of new age. Somewhere far below waits Malenia, a demigod and Shardbearer whose Great Rune you could claim, and the Envoys likely seem to be here for her, as the lore you can discover later tells us that she's close to achieving godhood. They could also be trumpeting for Miquella, the person who seems to have come closest to actually bringing about a new era in the Lands Between after the crumbling of the Golden Order and Marika's disappearance. However, Miquella's plans have failed and he himself is no longer here at the Haligtree.

We have a lot of background about Miquella, even though we never meet him. Physically, despite his age and apparent wisdom, he's trapped in the body of a child. Malenia, his sister, is cursed with Scarlet Rot, but Miquella was cursed with a childlike form. That's probably the reason why Malenia goes by the title Blade of Miquella--she's fiercely loyal to her brother, that's obvious, and she fights on his behalf because he can't really do so himself.

Along with his desire to help Godwyn, Miquella also worked very hard to try to save his sister Malenia from the affliction of Scarlet Rot. The rot is a devastating disease; in Caelid, it has ravaged the land, and when Malenia fought Radahn in the Shattering, the rot infected him so badly that it drove him mad, even though it could not kill him because of his demigod status and the lack of Destined Death in the world. Miquella's work in attempts to stop the Scarlet Rot are what led him to break with the Golden Order--the religion of his parents couldn't help his sister, so Miquella started looking elsewhere. His investigations pushed him to try to find ways to limit the meddling of Outer Gods in the Lands Between.

The Haligtree is both a replacement for the Erdtree and a city where the downtrodden of the Lands Between might be free, or so it would seem. Scarlet Rot infests the entire place, however.
The Haligtree is both a replacement for the Erdtree and a city where the downtrodden of the Lands Between might be free, or so it would seem. Scarlet Rot infests the entire place, however.

We've talked about Outer Gods a bit, mostly as relates to the Greater Will, but it seems that Malenia is the victim of a different Outer God--something known as the rot god. It's not particularly clear what the deal is with this Outer God, except that it's responsible for the Scarlet Rot that afflicts Malenia. It seems like Miquella's work and break with the Golden Order pushed him to reject the influences of all Outer Gods; he wanted freedom for himself and the Lands Between. To do that, he created something called Unalloyed Gold, which is both a physical substance and, it seems, a larger metaphor for his take on the Golden Order as a religion and a government. In this case, Unalloyed Gold is another way of saying "pure" gold, or gold that isn't corrupted by the presence of other metals. When we talk about Unalloyed Gold, we're talking about Miquella's vision of the Lands Between uncorrupted by the influence of Outer Gods.

But Unalloyed Gold is also an actual physical thing that Miquella created to drive out the influence of Outer Gods. If you met a pair of characters in Caelid, the sage Gowry and the Scarlet Rot afflicted woman Millicent, you might have seen Unalloyed Gold in action. Through Gowry's quest, you can obtain the Unalloyed Gold Needle. In fact, to get the needle, you need to fight a guy called Commander O'Neil and his men. As Cian Maher pointed out at Inverse, Elden Ring uses a lot of elements of Irish culture and language, with the name O'Neil greatly suggesting this is the son of one Commander Niall from Castle Sol. It makes sense O'Neil would have the needle, then, if he's a soldier loyal to Miquella. Gowry has his own purposes for wanting the needle, and we won't get into the quest that involves him and Millicent just yet, but you can see how Unalloyed Gold works during that quest when you give the needle to Millicent. The Unalloyed Gold needle fights the Scarlet Rot infection; it doesn't cure it, but it completely arrests it, because Unalloyed Gold actually fights off the influence of Outer Gods.

Miquella would go beyond just trying to create a means of stopping the influence of the Outer Gods or breaking with the Golden Order. He also tried to replace the Erdtree, creating an alternative to the old way and a safe haven for those oppressed by it. In a very real way, Miquella represents an alternate religion and government for the Lands Between, but one that could never quite take off because of what happened after the Shattering.

Miquella's new order

As you climb down the Haligtree, you'll find the city of Elpheal, Brace of the Haligtree in its branches and encircling its base. Within that city are many of the Misbegotten, a race of winged creatures you've probably seen before. They're especially prevalent on the Weeping Peninsula, where you'll find them at Castle Morne. If you talk to the castellan there, Edgar, and his daughter Irina, you find out that the Misbegotten were servants and possibly even slaves to humans. They revolted and took over Castle Morne, which is what you find if you go there. Thus it seems that, like the Albinaurics, the Misbegotten you find in the Haligtree are there looking for a better life.

After fighting a projection of Loretta at Caria Manor, you face the real thing here. Loretta has changed her title to become a knight of the Haligtree.
After fighting a projection of Loretta at Caria Manor, you face the real thing here. Loretta has changed her title to become a knight of the Haligtree.

A little further down, you also discover Loretta, Knight of the Haligtree, defending the path down to the city. You should remember Loretta from Caria Manor back in Liurnia of the Lakes--you fought a magical projection of this same knight there. We learn a whole lot more about Loretta at the Haligtree, which fills in a few more gaps of the Albinauric story. Loretta was once a Carian royal knight, but it seems that, after Rennala lost her mind, Loretta abandoned her role at Caria Manor to join up with Miquella. She left the magical projection of herself behind to fulfill her duties at the manor, but there was nothing much left to guard.

Loretta's gear, including her shield, suggests that there were rumors she might actually have been an Albinauric herself. That'd make some sense, given that she's always on horseback (Albinaurics notoriously have bad legs that fail as they get older). However, Albinuarics bleed white when you attack them, while Loretta bleeds red like a normal human--so maybe the rumors are just that. Either way, it seems that Loretta made helping the Albinaurics her mission. It may well be that Loretta found the way to the Haligtree after leaving Liurnia with a small group of Albinaurics, hoping to find a place for the Albinaurics to live in freedom. Some of the Albinaurics established Ordina, while others, including Latenna, went back to Liurnia to bring the rest of the Albinaurics and the Birthing Droplet, only for them to meet tragedy before that could happen.

Elpheal is full of Miquella and Malenia's followers, in fact. You'll find other soldiers bearing the Haligtree crest there, as well as Cleanrot knights who serve Malenia. There's a question, however, of whether and how many of these people are here of their own free will. We learn from different items related to Miquella that, while people seem drawn to him because of his dedication to the downtrodden, he also has the ability to compel people's love. Among the soldiers you find in Elpheal are troops who will rush toward you and blow themselves up, which could just be a serious dedication to Miquella's cause--or could be the result of a compulsion to do anything for their lord because of his supernatural ability. The fact that Miquella can compel people to love him calls into question whether anyone in the Haligtree is actually there by choice, but it does seem that the Empyrean was serious about helping those in need. He just also isn't, perhaps, completely innocent or virtuous.

Everything we find in and around the Haligtree tells us that Miquella was creating an alternate religion to the Golden Order, free of influence by the Outer Gods, and that he even intended to create his own Erdtree with the Haligtree. There are even Erdtree Avatars hanging round Elpheal, which you can find at Minor Erdtrees throughout the Lands Between, and the armor of his soldiers say that he watered the Haligtree with his own blood in order to try to turn it into an Erdtree.

Miquella even embedded himself into the Haligtree, which might have helped finally create a new Erdtree and may have even elevated him to become a god himself. But before he could finish whatever he planned, someone else intervened. You won't find Miquella at the Haligtree because he was abducted.

Mohg and Miquella

You can see in the Haligtree where Miquella embedded himself in order to make it grow into an Erdtree. Malenia waits there, hoping her brother might return.
You can see in the Haligtree where Miquella embedded himself in order to make it grow into an Erdtree. Malenia waits there, hoping her brother might return.

As an Empyrean, Miquella is one of the few demigods who could be elevated to godhood and succeed Marika, and it seems that put a target on his back. Despite attempting to create a new order free of the influence of Outer gods, an Outer God and its disciple would eventually come for him. It seems to have happened while Malenia, Blade of Miquella, was away from the Haligtree, and Miquella was defenseless within it.

While Malenia was gone, probably fighting Radahn in Caelid, the Haligtree was invaded by Mohg, Lord of Blood. Mohg's story is an interesting one; an Omen like his brother Morgott, Mohg lived in the sewers beneath Leyndell, but at some point, he was visited by an Outer God called the Formless Mother. He began worshiping this Outer God and started something of a blood cult, hoping to take power himself and start what he calls the "Mohgwyn Dynasty." White Mask Varre, the guy you meet when you leave the crypt and walk out into Limgrave for the first time at the start of the game, is a follower of Mohg, and a lot of the information he gives you early in the game seems designed to push you away from the Two Fingers to join up with the Lord of Blood instead.

Back in the Consecrated Snowfields, you can find a place where second-generation Albinaurics are gathered near a teleporter, and you even find a red second-generation Albinauric near the teleporter. If you use it, the teleporter takes you to an underground location: the Mohgwyn Dynasty Mausoleum and its surrounding, blood-drenched swamp. The place is filled with hideous creatures and red second-gen Albinaurics, as well as a few of the regular blue Albinaurics near the entrance.

We're back to speculating exactly what's going on here, but I personally believe that Mohg represents an alternative to Miquella--basically, the dark side take of Miquella's philosophy. Mohg is also a champion of the downtrodden, including the Omen, but he and his followers don't want to be left alone, they want to seize power. The red Albinaurics are those who have chosen to throw in with the Lord of Blood, and when you find the blue Albinaurics near the entrance to the bloody swamp, you're finding Albinauric prisoners who've been taken by their powerful red counterparts. These guys are now either being held as prisoners, or perhaps more likely, forced to join their red counterparts. We might even speculate that the blood can be used to forcibly corrupt the Albinaurics to turn them into Mohg followers. In any event, though, we can guess that these Albinaurics were either brought here under guard or attempted to follow Mohg and his forces back through the teleporter in hopes of saving Miquella, only to lose the fight on the other side.

Despite all his work, Miquella would ultimately fail, thanks to the plans of Mohg.
Despite all his work, Miquella would ultimately fail, thanks to the plans of Mohg.

There's more to the relationship between Mohg and Miquella, but we'll save that story for a closer look at Mohg and the underground world where you can find him. Suffice to say that, with Miquella gone, the dream of the Haligtree and Unalloyed Gold has failed.

Malenia, Goddess of Rot

As you climbed down the Haligtree, you probably noticed that it didn't seem exactly...healthy. In fact, much of the tree is covered in the same rot and fungus you find all over Caelid. Reading descriptions of weapons, items, and armor you pick up throughout the area, you'll see the tree discussed as "misshappen" and "rotting." In Miquella's absence, the Haligtree never became an Erdtree, but what's worse, it seems to have died, in part thanks to the continued presence of another Empyrean: Malenia.

At the bottom of the Erdtree, past Elpheal, you'll find a big pool of Scarlet Rot infecting the tree, with the centipede-like pests from Caelid living within it. It doesn't seem like Malenia has been damaging the tree on purpose, but with Miquella gone, her presence has rotted the tree from the inside. Like Caelid, this is a place of unchecked Scarlet Rot, and bad things are taking root within the tree itself.

Eventually, you come to Malenia herself, sitting beside the spot in the Haligtree where Miquella embedded himself. As you approach, she talks about how she's been waiting for Miquella's return, but the fact that she's just chilling out here suggests that Malenia doesn't know who took her brother or where to go to get him back. It's possible that when we find Malenia, she's not completely in her right mind, however--there's some suggestion that, in her battle against Radahn, Malenia sacrificed something of herself in order to release the Scarlet Rot and use it to defeat the demigod. We get information to that effect in Millicent's quest line, where it's suggested that Malenia gave up some of her pride and sense of self to embrace the rot and win the battle.

When Malenia is hurt enough, the Scarlet Rot spreads, infecting her and the world around her. When she fought Radahn, she made the decision to give herself to the Rot, dooming her adversary as well as Caelid.
When Malenia is hurt enough, the Scarlet Rot spreads, infecting her and the world around her. When she fought Radahn, she made the decision to give herself to the Rot, dooming her adversary as well as Caelid.

That's an interesting bit of storytelling, in fact. It suggests that Malenia made a significant decision in order to defeat Radahn, releasing the Scarlet Rot on purpose, an act that it's easy to see as incredibly reprehensible. She spends a lot of her life holding the rot back, it seems, but in the fight with Radahn, she gave herself over to it, and that allowed it to ravage both her half-brother and Caelid itself. In the official story trailer, we can even see Malenia stabbing herself to release the rot, and related lore tells us that Malenia even sacrificed some of herself to win that battle. One of her Cleanrot knights, Finlay, carried her back to the Haligtree to save Malenia after releasing the rot.

Complete the story of Gowry and Millicent and you'll learn more about what others hope to make of Malenia. As an Empyrean, she can become a goddess like Marika, but that might not be a great thing--the influence of the rot god and the way Scarlet Rot corrupts everything Malenia touches really suggests that the Lands Between would suffer even more if Malenia ever ascended to godhood. That doesn't seem to be her desire, either, but there are worshipers of rot who wish for her to become a god. It's close to happening, too--we learn from the Scarlet Aeonia incantation that the rot within Malenia "blooms" under certain circumstances, advancing the rot within her and pushing her toward godhood. It's bloomed twice before, the incantation states, with one of those bloom happening during the fight with Radahn in Caelid, spreading the rot throughout that land. Another bloom happens during your fight with her, and she's then referred to as Malenia, Rot Goddess.

Still, you (hopefully) manage to defeat Malenia in the end, goddess or not. In doing so, you put down the rot goddess and seemingly put an end to whatever plans the worshipers of rot might have had in mind. (Or at least, most of them; Millicent's story shows us that there are others who could "bloom" and become servants of the rot, and in the place of Malenia, there's a Scarlet Aeonia...which raises the question of whether she's actually dead.) But while you can add Malenia's Great Rune to your collection of pieces of the Elden Ring, it's also worth noting that you don't need to. In fact, the Haligtree is far away from everything, inessential to your goals, and populated by people who probably just want to be left alone. Malenia has done awful things in the past, including spreading Scarlet Rot all over the place, but when you come to kill her, she's not bothering anyone and neither are the people who live in the Haligtree.

In this case, you might very well be the monster, not the people you're attacking. Then again, maybe it's better that someone prevent Malenia from spreading any more Scarlet Rot around--if, of course, that's what you actually did.

That's another Great Rune grabbed, however. From here, you can return to Leyndell, or you can go after one last Shardbearer: Mohg, Lord of Blood. His nascent kingdom lies underground, and although it is separate from the rest of the underground world you can find in Elden Ring, its location suggests that Mohg is carefully moving into the remnants of a past civilization in hopes of hiding out and growing his power. Before we venture back to Leyndell, we'll uncover the Eternal Cities and the Mohgwyn Dynasty. Read on in Part 9.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a former senior writer at GameSpot and worked as a journalist for newspapers and websites for more than a decade, covering video games, technology, and entertainment for nearly that long. A freelancer before he joined the GameSpot team as an editor out of Los Angeles, his work appeared at Playboy, IGN, Kotaku, Complex, Polygon, TheWrap, Digital Trends, The Escapist, GameFront, and The Huffington Post. Outside the realm of games, he's the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. If he's not writing about video games, he's probably doing a deep dive into game lore.

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