In Which the Dragonborn Quests for the College of Winterhold

I gotta say, I’m deeply amused by how the admission standards at the College of Winterhold are such that if I’m actually off questing looking for books for them, nobody minds that I’m apparently not showing up for classes. ;) Did a lot of questing for the college in this session, not only for the main college plotline, but also radiant quests.

This is a big post, with a bunch of screencaps. Highlights:

  • Stopped in Whiterun multiple times to say hi to Lydia and to drop off or sell stuff, and while doing that, unlocked dragon smithing. \0/
  • Killed two different Elder Dragons, one near the Western Watchtower, one literally in the college courtyard. Right in front of the Arch-Mage, lol.
  • Went to a necromancer lair not far from Whiterun, freed the NPC who’d originally stolen the books, and convinced the Caller to let me take them. Got a bunch of skills books as a reward, and bumped up all my magic skills a little.
  • Proceeded to the next quest on the main college plotline, which involved alerting Tolfdir to one of the interesting books I’d brought back, learning more about Ancano being a Thalmor, and having a surprise in-person visit from the Psijic monk who’d given me the earlier vision, warning me that orb was dangerous and I was going to have to act.
  • Got a side quest from Ormund, the Nord apprentice at the college, to get a family amulet back from him. This involved me having to speak to Enthir, and go get a staff for him before he’d agree to give the amulet back. Fetched the staff from a necromancer in Falkreath.
  • Got a side quest from Brelyna, the Dunmer apprentice at the college, to let her practice throwing spells at me.
  • Got a side quest from J’zargo, the Khajiit apprentice at the college, to use some fire cloak scrolls he’s developed.
  • Got two different side quests from the orc librarian at the college to find a rare tome for him, which required raiding a Falmer nest at Darkwater Crossing, and a bandit stronghold at Robber’s Gorge.
  • At the Falmer nest, found and freed a trapped Argonian.
  • At the bandit stronghold, killed the third dragon of the night, a Blood Dragon.
  • On the way back to Whiterun after one of the side quests, got attacked by a random Argonian.
  • And oh yeah, more dragon cultists ranting about me being the false Dragonborn.

This was a big session, done in pieces across the day, so I’m going to write this up in general category areas rather than purely chronologically, since I’m not a hundred percent sure of the order of everything! Here we go.

General commentary, and Dragon smithing unlocked!

I was deeply amused, after the touching farewell scene I imagined between Lydia and Alarrah, that the side quests I started on this run totally let me bop back into Whiterun several times! Which meant Alarrah was able to drop stuff off at Breezehome repeatedly and say hi to Lydia.

I did not however elect to bring Lyds along on the side quests I worked on, mostly in the interests of speed. But I also want to see about fixing Lyds’ inventory situation before I take her out on another quest. Which I think may require marrying her first!

I did however also do a lot of smithing in Whiterun. Which meant I was able to bump that Smithing skill up to 100 and finally unlock Dragon smithing. \0/ I had enough dragon bits saved up from prior kills that I was immediately able to create a full set of dragonscale armor and improve it straight up to Legendary. Also made a dragonbone sword and a dragonbone bow. Fuck yeah.

This means I’m now running around covered head to foot in bits of dragon I’ve killed. Not a single person has remarked on this yet. Relatedly, not a single person at the college seems to clue in that that new apprentice Alarrah? Totally the Dragonborn. Not even the Thalmor dude seems to have put it together. Apparently word didn’t reach him of my rampage at the embassy. ;)

Commentary I have started getting though is remarks from guards who are cranky about the mages infiltrating Saarthal. More Nords being cranky about the ruins of their ancestors’ graves being disturbed! Granted, the game is clearly setting this up as a matter of “the Nords don’t trust mages”. But on the other hand, I think Nord characters are entirely justified in being cranky about the resting places of their dead being disturbed. I’d be cranky if somebody went tromping through my family graveyard and stole all the stuff I’d left there for them, too!

(Which is not to say I’m not going to keep looting draugr hives, because I am totally going to keep looting draugr hives. I got houses to finish building out, after all.)

Finally, let it be noted for the record that good grief, Winterhold is a pit. It’s even more of a pit than Morthal, because at least in Morthal, it’s not always snowing!

And for that matter, even though the college is mostly intact, the bridge that’s the access point to it looks awfully dodgy and has several side bits that have fallen away. Which seems like a big problem to me given how it’s always snowing in Winterhold (the wiki, in fact, specifically SAYS it always snows in Winterhold). Which means that bridge totally ices up, and I gotta wonder how many mages slide right the hell off of that bridge to their deaths.

I am however really kind of charmed by hearing the female guards in Winterhold do the same gruff lines that the male guards elsewhere do. Like “NO LOLLYGAGGING!”

Status of Carl

I didn’t see Carl appear again during this session, but I’m not entirely convinced he’s gone yet. Last Carl sighting was just north of the Western Watchtower. He seems to cycle between there, the walkway up to the Whiterun gates, just inside the gates (and by the forge), and over in the market.

Which makes sense, as these are the places in Whiterun I’m most likely to be.

I note with amusement though that when Carl does appear, he is not entirely incorporeal. He casts shadows. And last time I saw him show up in the market, he knocked several cabbages onto the ground by his flailing! So not only is he a dead dragon corpse, he’s kind of a dead dragon corpse poltergeist.

The people of Whiterun, however, continue to be entirely unperturbed by his presence. Adrienne must see this shit all the time?

Carl at the Forge
Carl at the Forge

I still have not been able to test the theory that I could banish Carl by killing another generic Dragon. The reason for this being, the last several dragons I’ve killed are of course responding to my level in the game–and the more powerful you get, the more powerful the randomly encountered dragons are. I may just be out of luck getting another dragon of a low enough level to reset Carl? Or I may have to wait for his corpse to finally expire.

Alarrah and her wardrobe

Here, have some screencaps of Alarrah in various outfits and armors! Note that this gallery does not include a screencap of her glass armor. I’ll correct that later, just to get it documented! I have not sold the glass armor, even though I’ve upgraded to the dragonscale. I figure Alarrah is partial to all her armor and is going to keep it. She’ll probably move it to Proudspire or one of the other houses, so she can set it up on display. Breezehome doesn’t have room for that.

(Also, these screencaps are not all from this last session–the first several are from earlier ones. But now that I have a reliable way of getting screencaps off the device and copy them straight to my computer, it’s a lot easier for me to include them in posts.)

Still though the main point of this gallery being, the dragonscale armor, because that looks badass and i wanted to definitely get screenshots of that.

Main college plotline: Hitting the Books quest

A good bit of the point of this session was moving the main plotline for the college along. The first phase of this was to go retrieve the stolen books Urag, the orc librarian, wanted me to retrieve.

And that required me to head back down to Whiterun, because the locale for those books was pretty near to there, just a short jaunt to the east. This was Fellglow Keep, a necromancer lair.

The former member of the college who’d stolen the books, Orthorn, was a prisoner there along with several vampires. I didn’t realize they were vampires at first until I freed one, and she ran into the next room and started fighting with the next round of enemy mages. Then I found her corpse and realized she was a vampire.

I elected to not free the other two. The wiki told me they wouldn’t attack me, but after all the vampires she’s killed so far, I figure Alarrah wasn’t able to take a chance.

Orthorn was another matter. I freed him, and at first tried to let him accompany me on the rest of the way out of the place. But he turned out to be pretty fragile and got killed multiple times. As this guy was not Lydia, I quickly got tired of doing rollbacks for the sake of keeping him alive. And, since the wiki said I wasn’t required to let him actually come with me on the rest of the quest, the third time through I took the dialogue option of telling him bluntly that it’d be easier to clear the place without him in the way.

Which was rude, but also true. Orthorn was a trifle miffed at the rebuff, but did thank me for freeing him before finding his own way out.

This left me to clear the place in peace and hit a bunch of necromancers and elemental mages with arrows from afar. I eventually made my way to the boss of the lair, the so-called Caller. Surprisingly, she didn’t actually engage me in combat, though she was also miffed that I’d ruined all her experiments. I was able to pass a Persuade check to get her to let me take back the books I was there for, and leave in peace.

Also, there wasn’t much in the way of interesting loot in this place, though I did nab a lot of soul gems. And a couple of outfits I thought I’d actually try on later, so I yoinked those, too. Though I don’t think Alarrah will wear them in character until after they’re properly cleaned. I mean, prior owners being necromancers and all. These dresses are going to want some intense scrubbing!

Anyway, that accomplished, when I got back to the college to give Urag the books, he told me to go report to Tolfdir and bring him up to speed about the book Urag thought he should read. Which triggered the next quest: Good Intentions.

Main college plotline: Good Intentions quest

Here’s where things started getting a lot more entertaining. First bit of this quest involved me chatting with Tolfdir around the big spinning orb thing, listening to him theorize about it…

Up until we got interrupted by Ancano. Who, in addition to being a supercilious asshole, is also a Thalmor. (But, in the words of Mark Twain, I repeat myself!) He was very suspicious about why someone calling himself a member of the Psijic Order showed up at the college wanting to see me.

This turned out to be Quaranir, the same guy who’d sent me the vision down in Saarthal. He came to see me in person because he’d tried to send me more visions, but got blocked by interference from that glowing orb–which the mages have taken to calling the Eye.

He pulled his trick with freezing time so he could talk to me undisturbed, and at least at first I took the dialogue options that leaned towards “why should I trust you?”

His answer to that was, and I quote: “I presume you refer to Ancano’s distaste for the Psijic Order? The Thalmor see our Order as a threat because we have power, and we will not allow them to control us. I assure you that we mean you no harm.”

Alarrah: “Wait, your entire Order pisses off the Thalmor? HAIL AND WELL MET, FRIEND. I would very much like to subscribe to your newsletter.”

Once he told me that, I was entirely on board with helping him. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to give me much more info, given that the Eye was continuing to interfere with his efforts to read the future. So he advised me to go find somebody called the Augur of Dunlain, before finally lifting his block on time and letting the conversation around us resume.

Cue Ancano continuing to be hostile, and Quaranir blithely going “I’m sorry, I must have made a mistake, I’ll see myself out now.”

And Alarrah at this point is just as blithely going .oO (Nothing to see here, just an innocent Totally Not the Dragonborn apprentice, move along!)

They moved along. Me, I thought perhaps I’d take the chance to find either the other apprentices (to trigger their side quests), Tolfdir (to question him about the Augur), or other teachers (to get them to train me).

The immediate next action I had happen, though, was to make it out into the courtyard in front of the Hall of Elements. I saw the Arch-Mage out there, crouching, which looked weird to me–and then the fight music started.

I went oh shit now what, at which point an Elder Dragon dropped out of the sky, right into the courtyard, and started attacking me.

And this, this right here, is entirely why I wasn’t going to completely ditch my armor. Or my beloved Dawnbreaker!

I managed to take it out even without the full glass armor on (this was before I made the dragonscale armor), and I think I heard the Arch-Mage throw off the by now standard “holy crap you absorbed its soul” line.

Ah yeah, hi, Arch-Mage? I’m, um, sorta kinda the Dragonborn and I do this a lot. Don’t tell the Thalmor asshole, okay?

I did at least manage to find Tolfdir after that, and get him to clue me in on where to find the Augur of Dunlain. Who is apparently in a place called the Middens, down underneath the college.

“Underneath the college”. You people are totally sitting on top of a draugr hive, aren’t you?

But I didn’t go look for the Augur yet, as I had a bunch of other side quests to take care of.

Ormund’s quest: Retrieving his family amulet

Ormund, who is a bit of an odd duck as Nords go in that he’s a Nord who actually likes magic and who’s at the college only after long years of arguing with his family about it, admitted to me that he’d gotten into a deal with the somewhat shady Enthir that he now wanted out of. He’d given Enthir an amulet that had belonged to his family, and now he really wanted it back, but he couldn’t get Enthir to let him have it. So he asked for my help.

Enthir flat out refused to give it to me until I agreed to do something for him in return: retrieve a staff he had lost in another shady deal to someone even shadier than he was. (And I was distinctly amused that I got to have a dialogue prompt to the effect of “Wait, you won’t let Ormund out of his deal, but you want out of yours?” And he got all huffy at me: “THAT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT.”)

Anyway, I did have to agree to go get the staff. Which required me to bop down to Falkreath (with another passing stop at Whiterun), and find a necromancer holed up in a tower. This was a very small tower, more like some of the tower bandit lairs I’ve cleared out than the necromancer lairs. Getting the staff was not hard.

Coming back from that (on foot, just because I wanted to get the lay of the land between there and Whiterun), I saw what I’m pretty sure was one of the dragon burial mounds, maybe even the one Alduin had been raising a dragon from earlier. It no longer had a top on it, so yeah, dragon totally resurrected out of that one now.

On a related note, finding my way along northward, I veered too far to the west and found that the dead bones of Vuljotnaak were still lying around. Which kind of surprised me. I also don’t know if that dragon burial mound I’d come by was his, but it would have been kind of hilarious if Alduin resurrected him only for him to get later killed by me.

I also killed a random Argonian on this part of the run. Dude just came running up to me on the road and started attacking me, for no apparent reason. Didn’t even have an assassin’s note. The wiki says that it’s possible to have a random aggressive adventurer just up and come at you, and that when this happens, they’ll just be named according to their race, e.g., “Argonian”. OKAY THEN.

When I got back to the college, got the staff back to Enthir, and got the amulet back to Ormund, Ormund was delighted and pleased he could count on me. <3

Brelyna’s quest: Spell practice

I didn’t have to go anywhere to help Brelyna out, but I did have to let her practice spells on me. Which, in a college where apprentices have a way of getting incinerated, was arguably unwise. But also, I’m the player character, so I’m pretty sure she wasn’t going to actually blow me up.

She did turn me temporarily green, though. Which only really caused the game to render the entire screen in green hues for a little while, as opposed to actually turning my skin green. I was slightly disappointed by that, because I’d have loved to get a screencap of Alarrah with her skin turned green. :D

J’zargo’s quest: Helping him test his scrolls

J’zargo’s quest initiated when he asked me for help testing some fire cloak scrolls he’s developed, which are supposed to be extra special tasty against the undead. As Alarrah is very fond of setting undead on fire, she was down with this and agreed to help.

So the Khajiit gave me ten of his scrolls, asked me to go use them, and report the results back to him. I haven’t had a chance to use them yet, just because none of the side quests of this session involved undead. But I expect I’ll be using these soon enough.

Side quest from Urag to fetch books, #1: Shalidor’s Insights

This quest triggered when I asked Urag if there were any special books the college needed that I could go fetch for him. He perked up and told me about a mage called Shalidor, who was apparently very insightful, and whose writings were a thing he was always wanting for the library.

So I agreed to go track some down. This sent me off to what turned out to be a Falmer hive at a place called Darkwater Pass, in the same area of the map I’d recently been to to hunt down one of the Gauldur amulet pieces.

First notable thing about this Falmer hive was that they’d set up a couple of tripwire traps, which, when triggered, would smack the victim with giant metal claws. Ow. Fortunately I saw both of these tripwires before I tripped them. And practiced throwing a little fire around by flinging a firebolt at them to set them off.

The other notable thing about the dungeon was that there was an Argonian NPC trapped in it, an NPC by the name of Derkeethus. I freed him, and found that he was significantly less whiny than Orthorn back at Fellglow Keep. He happily scampered off about his business once I finally got us out of the place, too.

Side quest from Urag to fetch books, #2: Robber’s Gorge

This was the last quest I took on for the night, a second quest to help out Urag by fetching books for him. Turned out this one was in a chest cache at a bandit lair called Robber’s Gorge.

Robber’s Gorge was one of the type of larger, well-fortified bandit lairs I’ve seen before. And since I was alone, I was reluctant to just go charging into the place.

However, when I got close enough to the place, I saw there was another complication on side: a Blood Dragon roaring down out of the sky and breathing fire all over it.

O RLY, said the Dragonborn, now taking a moment to ponder the viability of a “let the dragon torch the place before killing the dragon” strategy.

But it didn’t quite work out that way. I backtracked to find a better way to get at the front of the lair. But on the way to doing that, I actually got to a higher level ridge where I found the dragon had landed. So I took it on and killed it.

Then I went after the bandits.

They saw me coming, so I had to employ a tactic of taking cover behind some rocks and taking potshots at them when I saw one in range. And by now, I did have the dragon armor and weaponry–including my shiny new dragonbone bow. That did let me take down two or three of them from a distance.

A few others survived long enough to actually come find me and go hand to hand, at which point I whipped out the dragonbone sword and dragonscale shield I’d just made.

Once I killed all my opponents, I was able to search the place. I found at least one other dead bandit that might have been killed by me OR by the dragon, I wasn’t sure. But I also found the chest with the book I wanted in it, as well as some additional tasty loot. Including an ebony helmet. I’m far enough along that I’m starting to find ebony gear in my random loot drops. Awesome. :D

Next time

As of this writing I’m still in Whiterun, on my way back from Robber’s Gorge, and working on another round of selling stuff so I can build up enough gold to report back to the college and get more training.

And to turn in the books I found, and move the plot along some more!