When I reach Whiterun, I see a character I haven't noticed before sitting beside the gnarled old tree in the centre of town. I've probably passed this over a thousand times, but I never thought it would be part of a quest. Her name is Danica Pure-Spring, and she's a priestess at the Temple of Kynareth. She tells me that the tree is known as Gildergreen, and that its sap has healing properties. Or rather, it did until it started dying and losing its flowers.
The only way to restore the tree to its former glory is to retrieve a small amount of sap from one of the oldest living things in Tamriel, the Eldergleam. This enormous tree has been growing in a cave network beneath Skyrim for generations, and is considered a holy place by the Nords. Not just anyone can take the sap, though. I need a special weapon called Nettlebane; the only thing tough enough to cut through the Eldergleam's thick bark.
The bad news is, Nettlebane is currently in the possession of a powerful witch. I travel to Orphan Rock north of Helgen. The place is crawling with witches, but they have no armour and I have a flame-enchanted Daedric sword upgraded to 'legendary' level.
After carving my way through the coven, I climb the rock and find a Hagraven - a twisted creature that's part old crone, part bird. She pummels me with fireballs, but I get in close and run her through with my blade. I search her body and retrieve Nettlebane.
Next stop, Eldergleam Sanctuary. This is one of the most beautiful locations in the game; an underground forest buried deep in an ancient cave. The path to the Eldergleam is blocked by thick, centuries-old roots, but one stab of Nettlebane and they shrink away to nothing.
I reach the old tree and take the sap, but suddenly I'm attacked by a group of Spriggans. These supernatural beings protect nature in Skyrim, and they haven't taken kindly to me stabbing up the Eldergleam with my blade. Rather than fight them, I dash to the exit.
I arrive back in Whiterun and Danica uses the sap on Gildergreen. She thanks me, and tells me that if I come back in a few hours, the tree will have come back to life. When I return later, I notice that it's now blooming with pink flowers; a far cry from the sorry, dried-up state I found it in. That's my good deed for the day, I think. I always like to balance things out when I play Skyrim, countering every moment of pure evil with an act of kindness.
End of the road
It's been a hell of a journey. Rising from humble beginnings, Andras the Nord has achieved more than most people would in a lifetime. He's slayed dozens of dragons, become leader of the Dark Brotherhod, liberated Skyrim from the tyranny of the Empire, joined forces with Daedric Princes and even found time to get married. But it ends here.
It's been a hundred hours, and I'm finally bored. Not with the game itself, but with my character. I've been essentially doing the same thing since the very first dungeon - combining destruction magic with one-handed weapons, and occasionally firing an arrow.
I find myself listening with envy as colleagues in the office talk about their mage characters, or thief characters. I glance at my quest log and realise that I'm ready to end the main story, and decide that it's time to pen the final chapter of Andras' tale.
I won't talk about the final quest to avoid spoilers, but when the final boss falls - you can probably guess who it is - it's a fitting end to the old Nord's adventure. I consider continuing after the finale and clearing up the few lingering quests I had left in my log, but I resist. I press start and quit to the main menu. Then, without really thinking about it, I absent-mindedly select 'New Game'.
See you in another hundred hours.