In which the Dragonborn Investigates the Arkngthamz Ruins

So I decided to go ahead and launch the quest to investigate the ruins of Arkngthamz–and in so doing, triggered a nice big juicy quest that’s going to have me popping into multiple Dwemer ruins, to aid a ghost named Katria who has some serious unfinished business to take care of!

Highlights:

  • Killed a dragon, like you do–but this time it was a named dragon, which was different
  • Found a shrine to Dibella as I hoofed it westward from Whiterun, and talked to a hunter there
  • Found an orc stronghold and had a conversation with an unseen guard who essentially told me to fuck off, and when asked how I could convince them to not make me have to fuck off, told me “go get us this shiny thing”–another quest I will be following up on later
  • Found the ruins of Arkngthamz, as well as the ghost of the adventurer Katria, who tried to warn me off lest Lyds and I die like she did, but who then asked to help us when we wouldn’t go
  • Investigated the hell out of Arkngthamz, killed a bunch of Falmer (the first time I’ve fought Falmer!) and a bunch of chaurus (first time I’ve fought these too), and made it down to the tonal lock where the tasty treasure was
  • Got out of the dungeons alive and with a boatload of loot, and Katria’s amazed pronouncement that after finding the first of the Aetherium Shards, there were three more she–er, uh, we–could find
  • Bonus epilogue: also played this morning and did a find a thing type quest for a guy in Whiterun, and raided a nearby bandit lair to recover his family sword

So let’s get to it!

Let it be noted for the record that I have no idea how to pronounce “Arkngthamz”. I figure my options are:

  1. “arcing thams”
  2. “arc ung thams”
  3. “keyboard smashy”

And really, all of the Dwemer ruins I’ve come across in the game so far seem to be pronounced “keyboard smashy”. The Dwemer did not seem to be terribly fond of vowels, is what I’m saying here.

But regardless of how to pronounce it, I was able to get there reasonably easily. I decided to hoof it since this location was to the west, over south of Markarth, and that stretch of the map is still kind of an open slate to me. Plus, I wanted to see if I could have any interesting encounters while en route. Answer: yes!

The obligatory random dragon kill was a little bit more interesting than usual just because this time, the dragon actually had a name: Vuljotnaak.

Not that this made the battle particularly more notable, mind you, Lyds and I still took him out. But I found it interesting that he was a named dragon, and apparently this means he was a dragon recently resurrected by Alduin? Which makes me wonder how many more named dragons I’ll run into before I can finally take on Alduin himself.

Second random encounter: another Dark Brotherhood assassin, this time a male Dunmer, who I took out just as fast as I did the female Khajiit who’d jumped me the day before. Same exact note on the body this time, with instructions from Astrid to take me out by any means necessary.

Let it also be noted for the record that Alarrah is now less than pleased with whoever this Astrid person is, and why she keeps sending minions after her, and who the fuck hired assassins to come after her to begin with?

(Note: OOC I know that these are entirely random game encounters and actually have no game significance. But Alarrah doesn’t know that! Alarrah is now tilting decidedly in the direction of having to go find this Astrid person and have words. And by words, I mean, arrows.)

I actually had to back out of the third interesting game encounter–which appeared to be, saving a hunter from bears?–because I got stuck in a river and couldn’t figure out how to get free, so I had to roll back.

This actually cost the the second Dark Brotherhood note, actually; I’m back to having one in my inventory. However, for purposes of in-game action, particularly given that the Dark Brotherhood assassins are indeed entirely random, I’m going to still assume Alarrah is cranky about being targeted and is going to go do something about this Dark Brotherhood problem soon. ;)

Third interesting road trip encounter: a hunter at a shrine to Dibella, who informed me she’d been hunting and fishing in those parts for years and who happily sold me a few pelts.

Fourth interesting road trip encounter: a couple of Vigilants of Stendarr, one of whom said testily that the “mercy of Stendarr does not extend to Daedra worshippers” as I went past. What gave me away? Azura’s Star sticking out of a pocket? Or Dawnbreaker? Fuck you, lady, if Stendarr wants to take issue with me carrying Meridia’s and Azura’s given tokens around, he’s welcome to come make me a better offer, mmkay?

Fifth and final interesting road trip encounter: close to finally getting to the ruins, I found my first orc stronghold, which turned out to be Dushnikh Yal. I was hailed from someone behind the fence who the game tagged as “Arob”, though I didn’t actually see her. Arob basically told me “fuck off, outlander, you’re not welcome and you can’t come in”. I hadn’t actually intended to enter the place–I actually thought it was a bandit lair at first because the fortifications looked similar, and I was going to avoid it–but since I was given a dialogue prompt to ask Arob what I could do to convince her to let me come in, I took it.

Arob ordered me to go find a thing called the Forgemaster’s Fingers, which are apparently enchanted gauntlets. And if I found them and brought them to her, then I could be declared Blood-Kin to the Orcs and allowed to enter their strongholds. Hold that thought, Arob, I’ll get back to you!

Moving on from there, I finally got to Arkngthamz. The most immediately notable things about the place were:

  1. Earth tremors, manifesting as rumbles through the console
  2. Not far in once we actually entered the ruins, I started hearing the voice of Katria warning us to turn back
  3. A thing I remembered from Dara and Paul playing Skyrim before, which is to say, the dwarves of Skyrim being surprisingly steampunky, and clearly having the highest technological advancement of any race in Skyrim; I thought this was cool at the time and I think it’s a fun take on dwarves now

Anyway, being the player character and her loyal housecarl, Alarrah and Lydia naturally did not turn back. And it didn’t take long for the actual ghost of Katria to appear and make snarky commentary about how we needed to turn back lest we die. When she couldn’t talk us out of leaving, she asked to come with us. This seemed helpful for quest purposes, and got me an incorporeal guide to ask for pointers about how to get through the place.

(Amusing side note: Katria was just as prone as Lydia to getting in my damn way. And bitching about it when I bumped into her. Lady, you’re a ghost, why are you bugged by physical contact?)

The dungeon in general was one of the more challenging ones to navigate through, partly because of interesting dwarven mechanisms, but also partly because of some of the ways through being only on fallen pipes that I had to carefully walk across lest I fall into the water far below. (Which did actually happen to me at least once.)

Also on hand as a challenge: a whole bunch of Falmer and their pet chaurus. (Chauruses? What IS the plural of chaurus?) This was the first time I’d fought either creature, and I figure Alarrah was kind of wigged out a little by laying eyes on Falmer for the first time. They are, after all, degenerate mer. And they look to me like a cross between goblins and Gollum–yet another Tolkien-esque thing taken in an interesting new direction in this game.

I didn’t get much loot off the Falmer. Not that I couldn’t have looted them–I could, they had stuff to take. But I got quickly overloaded because I was already carrying dragon bits from killing Vuljotnaak, and I also got heavy metal bits and bobs off of taking out a couple of dwarven spider things. So I had to be careful about how much extra crap I picked up. This actually slowed me down a couple of times as I had to narf down a bunch of random food items to knock my inventory back down, and I also wound up burning through a lot of potions I didn’t otherwise need to burn through, for the same reason.

Further in on the dungeon we found Katria’s bow, Zephyr, and Katria urged me to take care of it for her. It was stuck out on a fallen log, and it took me two tries to get to it; the first time I fell off the log into the water below. I didn’t want to have to figure out how to get back to where I needed to be, so that caused me to have to roll back a little. But not far. I still came back in a point close enough to try for the bow again.

The tonal lock at the end of the dungeon was pretty cool. I like this kind of puzzle in games, and this particular instance of it was well done. It did take me a while to actually find all of the rotators I had to shoot–I had to remind myself to look up along the wall. It took a while after that to figure out the proper shooting positions for the higher rotators, that was tough. Damn good thing I had a lot of arrows.

Got all the tonal locks open correctly the first time, so didn’t have to worry about fighting a centurion or triggering any other traps. Got to the main treasure, which turned out to be the first of the Aetherium shards, about which Katria basically flipped her shit. She urged me to help her by finding the other missing shards, part of her general unfinished business since she was cranky about her apprentice stealing her research and taking credit for it after her death.

I agreed to do this, and she promptly vanished, leaving Lyds and me to get out of the dungeon on our own.

Which proved surprisingly challenging. There was supposedly a fast way out, but with as much stuff as I was carrying, I couldn’t get it to work; I kept falling into water and getting swept into an area I couldn’t get out of. So I had to opt for taking the long way out of the dungeon.

After finally getting out (and nudging the inventory weight down a little more so I could actually fast travel), we returned to Whiterun.

There, I proceeded to sell and make a whole hell of a lot of things, including discovering that some of the bigger dwarven metal bits I’d found could be smelted into dwarven metal ingots. All told the loot tally got my gold cache up over 20,000.

But that wasn’t quite enough still to go buy the house in Solitude. So this morning, I did a mini-session–a mini-quest involving finding the family sword for one of the characters in Whiterun, Amren, the guy who usually goes by me and goes “have you tried mercenary work? It might suit you.”

Turned out his sword was in the hands of bandits in a lair just east of Whiterun. So I walked over there to clear the place out. There were actually six bandits, but I only killed five of them–because their watchman was an old blind dude and did not actually attack me. So I didn’t attack the poor guy.

Everybody else, though, fair game. And the bandit boss was particularly well equipped, with Nordic armor and a glass greatsword. So since I looted the hell out of the place, I got overloaded all over again and had to walk very slowly back into Whiterun. There, I did yet another round of crafting and selling!

As of this writing, I’m now around 24,500 and Proudspire Manor is almost mine!

Tonight: Imma gonna go get that house. And then probably hunt down another Aetherium shard!