In Which the Dragonborn Makes the Thalmor Very Cranky

This post actually covers both Saturday and Sunday for Skyrim–because going through the Thalmor Embassy quest, “Diplomatic Immunity”, took a lot of work. And I backtracked a couple of times, not only during that primary quest, but also afterwards when I was trying to decide what to do next.

So, major highlights of this post include:

  • Infiltrating the party at the Thalmor Embassy, in a rather more violent manner than anticipated, yet also getting out alive with NPCs and the information Delphine sent me there for
  • Going to Solitude after to knock out a couple of minor quests: finding out for Angeline what happened to her daughter, and getting Noster’s helmet back for him

Let’s get to it, shall we?

So the thing about the Thalmor Embassy quest is, it’s supposed to be a lot more about sneaking and infiltration than just straight up fighting your way through. Paul talked this plotline up to me as very James-Bond-y, and he’s not wrong. Plus, there’s the whole aspect of how you have to get into the embassy undercover, and any equipment you bring with you has to be smuggled in, you can’t come in armed to the teeth.

Let it be noted for the record that given all of this, I really wanted to try to play this as sneakily as possible and get through the job without actually killing anybody.

(Narrator: “She did not get through the job without killing anybody.”)

I actually wound up having to start this quest twice, and the reason was that I fucked up giving invisibility potions to Malborn, and I forgot to actually give him any weaponry. Which meant on the first time through that I totally got killed by the Thalmor.

On the second attempt, this meant that I needed additional ingredients to get some invisibility potions made. According to the wiki there are nearly a dozen different ingredients you can get to make invisibility potions, but a lot of them are not available to me, as they appear in third-party in-game purchasable mods that aren’t available on the Switch. So I was limited to nirnroot, luna moth wings, and chaurus eggs.

Therefore, out of the hope that I could maybe nab a few luna moths on the way and also because I was curious how long in in-game time it’d take me to walk from Whiterun to Riverwood, I went to find Delphine without fast travelling first. Answer to the travel question: only a couple hours. And if you can do that on foot, presumably you can do it even faster on a horse. Which, I suppose, make Riverwood essentially a suburb of Whiterun.

Anyway, got to Riverwood with no problems and met up with Delphine at her inn. She briefed me on the plan: she’d get me a legitimate invitation to the party, while I would go to Solitude and meet up with a contact named Malborn who would smuggle stuff into the embassy for me to use on my mission. Then I’d need to get into the party and look for proof that the Thalmor were behind the dragon attacks.

And we put the plan into motion. Second time through I also stopped at Angeline’s Aromatics first, to buy her out of any invisibility ingredients she had and make sure I could have a few more potions handy. Then I went to the Winking Skeever to meet up with Malborn and hand off my stuff.

This time, I actually made damn sure to give him my best weapons, though I feel like Alarrah was somewhat grumpy about handing off the ebony blade and Dawnbreaker to a stranger. I did not remember to give him any armor. (But it turned out I didn’t actually need it, to my surprise!)

Then I met up with Delphine to pick up my invitation and the party clothes she brought me. Amusingly, the party clothes were just specially tagged versions of the “Fine Clothes” I’d already bought in Solitude. (Which makes me wonder if you show up for this quest in suitably fine clothes, does Delphine still make you switch to the party clothes?)

And with that, I got in the carriage to the embassy, which turns out to be not that far from Solitude.

The best part about the initial stage of this, the part where I came into the party, was who I could pick to get a distraction going so I could sneak into the back with Malborn. For my run through this turned out to be Idgrod Ravencrone, the Jarl of Morthal. She was delighted to help (because I am her thane) and even had a line about how an old woman could get away with anything.

For that matter, she also had a line about warning me to walk carefully at this party: “Now here is a face I did not expect to see. Be mindful, for you walk among adders.”

After this, I am rather more positively inclined towards the Jarl of Morthal. <3

Distraction successfully achieved, I headed back through the kitchens with Malborn, who made snarky commentary about her skooma habit to a Khajiit who protested about breaking rules by bringing guests into the kitchens. That got me free rein to get my stuff out of the chest where Malborn had stowed it, and to proceed to go look for what I came for.

The first part of this worked well enough. I had enough sneak and enough invisibility to make it past the first two guards and the first mage. I did not make it past the next round of guards, who caught me outside on my way to Elenwen’s solar, where I had to be to look for the proof.

That said: I was stunned, stunned I tell you, that I actually survived fighting multiple guards and at least one mage at this point. Without armor. But now I did have Dawnbreaker, and the ebony sword. Thalmor are pretty badassed, but they still don’t like being set on fire very much. :D

Finally, into Elenwen’s solar and the proof I needed. Oh hey look, the Thalmor are also investigating the dragon attacks and they are real interested in finding somebody named Esbern. But at this point I also overheard a discussion between a couple of NPCs about torturing information about a prisoner downstairs, so I had to proceed to the next stage: getting downstairs to free that prisoner.

This part also took a couple tries, because even after I made it downstairs (killing the two NPCs who’d discussed the prisoner on the way), I was confronted by another couple of soldiers who’d captured Malborn and threatened to kill him if I didn’t surrender. With Paul’s advice, since I’d been making a point of saving a lot so I could re-try any difficult bits, I finally pulled this out without resulting in Malborn’s death.

What I had to do was position myself in a good spot before triggering the event that would make the guards and Malborn appear–and then attack the guards before they could kill Malborn.

So I parked at the top of the dungeon stairs, read the book that let me know how to find Esbern, and then promptly jumped the guards when they appeared.

Which was pretty friggin’ glorious, because I was able to sneak up right behind one of them and slit her throat. With DawnbreakerWhile wearing my party clothes. Wow, I wish I’d gotten a screencap of that. :D

I also then finally realized, these assholes have got armor, I should swipe it if I want to improve my chances of getting the hell out of here. So I stripped one of the guards of her armor and suited up, and then hustled Malborn back down so we could find the prisoner, Etienne, and free him.

He led us to where we needed to be to get out of the place: a trapdoor that dropped down into Reeking Cave. And here was one more spot I had to try a couple of times, because there was a frost troll down there and it killed both Malborn and Etienne at first. So I had to time it right to make sure I got ahead of them, so that I could take out the troll and keep them both alive.

And finally (after I found another unusual gem and a few other bits of loot), we got out. Etienne just bolted completely. Malborn stopped long enough to be very cranky at me about how the Thalmor would be hunting him for the rest of his life, and that what I’d just done had better be worth it. Then he bolted, too.

Which left me free to get the hell out of Dodge myself. Boinged back to Riverwood to catch up with Delphine (and Lydia, who magically appeared at my back again now that the embassy quest was over, hi Lyds, you glorious Nord goddess you), and to tell her what I’d found.

Delphine was quite startled Esbern was still alive, and told me the next thing I’d need to do would be go to Riften to try to find Esbern.

So now I’ve finished another portion of the main storyline of this game and I’ll say here what I said to both Dara and Paul: wow that was the most tense thing I’ve done in Skyrim to date, and that includes killing dragons, and getting through the killing of Malkoran to get Dawnbreaker. I think it’s because of the huge espionage aspect of the plot–and how part of me knew that even if I had my weapons, I didn’t have my armor, so I was more vulnerable than usual. And at least in theory trying to sneak, even if I wound up having to kill all the Thalmor I ran into on the way out.

Plus, the stakes for this quest were super-high, being that this is a main storyline quest, not just “go into a dungeon, kill monsters, get loot.” That said: the stakes were not quite as immediate as I’d kind of expected. Dara and Paul tell me that there are no consequences in-game for any of the activities at the embassy, in no small part because everybody in Skyrim hates the Thalmor. So both sides of the civil war will be all “you killed half a dozen Thalmor and pissed off their ambassador? Awesome.”

Still, given that poor Malborn was apparently traumatized by the entire experience (dude was not a warrior of any kind, so no wonder I had to work to keep him alive on the way out), part of my brain also was all “exactly how worried would Alarrah be about this?” Would she be keeping an eye out for any Thalmor to come after her later? How worried would she be about having all these documents she lifted from the place?

Dara and Paul also tell me that no player home will ever be breached in the game, so I would not have to worry about oh, say, Thalmor agents tracking me to Whiterun, breaking into Breezehome, and finding all the documents stashed in my chest there. Still though I also feel Alarrah will feel at least a little paranoid about wandering around in the armor she swiped off the dead guard, so she’s going to work on improving that armor some to make it less recognizable as Thalmor gear. (Note: this being an in-character reaction, not out-of-character, since the Thalmor armor isn’t visually distinguishable from the elven stuff she was already wearing anyway.

Additional note: it has probably also occurred to Alarrah that if she’s in full elven gear, that kind of makes her look like a Thalmor, and I’m pretty sure she’s not entirely okay with that.

Second additional note: Knowing what I know about the Thalmor now, it also leads me to wonder whether fleeing the Thalmor might have been why Alarrah wound up in Skyrim to begin with.)

Anyway, after all that excitement, I definitely felt like doing something simpler and letting the main storyline simmer on the back burner for a while.

Initially I tried to go to Dawnstar to follow up on the museum pamphlet I got off the courier. But I’ve found that the two major quests in Dawnstar, this one as well as the nightmares plot, lead to dealing with Daedric artifacts and I’m kind of not wanting to do another Daedric plot this soon.

So i went to Solitude instead and followed up on a couple of the simpler plots there.

The first of these was just to find out for Angeline, the proprietor of the alchemy shop, what happened to her daughter. This was super simple and just involved me having to go up to the nearby military bastion, find a general, and ask him about Angeline’s daughter. When the guy told me “uh, yeah, about that, she’s super dead”, I had to go back and break the bad news to the old lady.

Unsurprisingly, she was not exactly prepared to thank me for it, but she did acknowledge that I’d done her a service. Poor old lady. <sadface>

(On the other hand, as a player, I gotta wonder why Angeline didn’t just send her niece up there? Or go herself? She’s got a younger woman helping her in the shop, one of them couldn’t just walk up there, ask to see the general, and get the news themselves? Ah well, this is what I get for being the player character.)

Last but not least, I took on the quest to help the old beggar Noster out by recovering his lost helmet for him. This wound up taking me to a place called Shadowgreen Cavern, which on the map looked a little distressingly close to the Thalmor Embassy.  But not as close as it looked, apparently? The wiki says it’s actually farther north and it looks closer than it is due to how the map works.

On the way out of Solitude to go get Noster’s helmet, I heard the Solitude guards delivering lines about how Ambassador Elenwen was furious because some guest at the Thalmor Embassy had gotten into where they shouldn’t be. I imagine Alarrah going “LA LA LA LA” (in Inside Voice) on her way out through the gates. Because she’s shocked, shocked I say, that some person would be so bold as to wreak such havoc. WHATEVER IS SKYRIM COMING TO.

Made it to the place without any issues, anyway. Lyds and I got in, killed a few wolves and bears and spriggans, and I found the helmet and a little bit of loot. There was apparently an extra chest that I could have gotten to if I’d wanted, but it was situated in a way to make it impossible to get to without doing Whirlwind Sprint. And, well, no. See previous commentary re: that not being my favorite Shout.

Let it also be noted for the record that there were rabbits hopping through the place as well. I did not bother the rabbits. Because BUNNIES. Of course I didn’t bother the bunnies!

Also, it was kind of hilarious how my sneak is high enough now that if I’m in sneak mode, a charging creature can go right past me and head for Lydia.

Once I finally got the helmet, though, I took it back to Solitude to give it to Noster, who happily bumped my Sneak up another point for the trouble. Which means I’m now at Sneak of 70.

Since Solitude’s actually not too far away from Windstad Manor I stopped off there, just to see if anything needed doing and to doublecheck if I had materials enough on hand to build more stuff. Answer: not yet. Saw Valdimar over there mining the clay deposit, though.

Next time: not actually sure yet? Now that I’m thane of Falkreath as well I kind of want to buy the property there so Rayya has somewhere to hang out, but I need enough money to do that. So I may do some radiant quests in Solitude, or maybe go to the shrine of Azura, finally, since Azura seems to be one of the less completely fucked up Daedric Princes.