In Which the Dragonborn Destroys the Dark Brotherhood

This session was mostly all about dealing with wiping out the Dark Brotherhood, though with a side helping of tracking down the sword of Red Eagle. Highlights:

  • Sold a few things at Windhelm’s forge to lighten the load a bit
  • Spoke to Aventus Aretino in Windhelm, and even though the kid thought I was a Dark Brotherhood assassin, I agreed to kill his abuser for him
  • Went to the Windhelm docks to find the Northern Maiden; on the way, met a street kid named Sofie who was selling flowers for money to buy food; bought all her flowers
  • Tried to book the Northern Maiden to travel to Solstheim, only to find that the captain bent on never going there again; will be following up on this later
  • Then went to Riften to do the thing; was not entirely comfortable with this!
  • On the way back to Windhelm to report to the kid, had a weird dragon encounter that resulted in the dragon disappearing even though I hadn’t actually killed it
  • Aventus gave me a fairly heirloom plate
  • Headed back west in search of Red Eagle’s sword, and did battle with a whole lot of Forsworn and skeletons, not to mention Red Eagle himself, before finally claiming the blade
  • Returned to Whiterun; on the way in, had a courier deliver a note that read only “We know”
  • In Whiterun, after I did another round of saying hi to Lyds and dropping off and selling things, went to sleep—and woke up in a mysterious shack, confronted by Astrid; this did not go well for Astrid
  • Escaped the shack and hurried off to Solitude; on the way into Solitude, had another courier find me, with word that the orphanage in Riften was under new management and now publicly calling for people to consider adopting its orphans
  • Where I informed the first guard I found that I’d killed the leader of the Dark Brotherhood
  • At the guard’s urging, reported this to Commander Maro in Dragon Bridge, who sent me off to wipe out the rest of the Dark Brotherhood too
  • On the way to the Sanctuary, had another dragon encounter, and this time actually correctly fought and killed the dragon
  • Wiped them out, and headed on foot to Dragon Bridge; on the way, witnessed distant NPCs in a battle in which I elected not to interfere
  • Made it back to Dragon Bridge and reported to Maro, who was overjoyed and paid me handsomely, as well as promising to make sure the Emperor heard about what I did
  • Finally returned to Whiterun once more (with confiscated Shrouded Armor from the assassins)

So yeah, this session? All about destroying the Dark Brotherhood. Which required me to do some of the more morally dubious things in this game—though certainly not the most morally dubious, from what I’ve seen trawling around the wiki!

You get your hook into the Dark Brotherhood quests by following up on word about this kid Aventus Aretino in Windhelm. As the rumors go, the kid’s trying to summon the Dark Brotherhood. When you go and find out why, turns out he’s an orphan who ran away from the orphanage in Riften because the lady who runs it is, in short, an abusive crone who verbally and physically abuses her charges. The kid’s desperate for intervention.

The problem with this is, helping the kid out does basically mean you have to kill the old woman. Who, even though she’s an abusive bitch, is still a defenseless old woman.

So while I was willing to do this quest to get to the part where I could actually wipe out the Dark Brotherhood, I was still not entirely comfortable with doing this. Nor did it help, really, that the kid was convinced I was an assassin. I tried taking the dialogue stance of “I’m not who you think I am, kid”, but he was all “of course you are! I prayed, and now you’re here to take my contract!”

The game provides no way to back out of the transaction, so I agreed to help. I figure Alarrah handwaves accepting this “contract” by hearing the kid out, realizing he was abused, and deciding it was the right thing to do to go and take out his abuser.

That said: she still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of attacking an old woman. And by she, I mean, “me”. So when I went back down to Riften to take care of this, I did it in the middle of the night, with Sneak on, and additionally, taking a potion of invisibility. The wiki outright said there would be no negative consequences for doing this, but from a purely in-character perspective, I figure Alarrah would not want to take any chances.

I mean, she’s real good at killing things, but she’s still not actually an assassin!

So I got into Riften in the middle of the night, and actually got into the city via the back door to Honeyside, rather than going through one of the gates. Which meant housecarl Iona did actually see me (“honored to see you again, my thane”), but I figure Alarrah minimized her presence there and may even have said “if anybody asks, I was never here”.

I was vaguely surprised that the orphanage wasn’t actually locked at night. Which meant I didn’t have to lockpick it to get in.

Likewise, I was vaguely surprised that even though I came in at night, I still got Grelod’s opening harangue to the kids, in which she basically sneers at them that nobody will ever want them, and that any child who shirked their duties would get extra beatings.

This, I figure, made Alarrah slightly less ambivalent about taking the woman out. So I snuck around the corner and past the sleeping kids in their cots, till I found Grelod sleeping on her bed, and took her out with one arrow shot.

She did not die silently. And the kids all woke up and came running in, at which point they all started cheering variations of “Hurray! Grelod is dead!” and “Aventus actually did it!”

The kids all clustered around me at this point, too. I was still standing there with my Sneak on, though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t invisible anymore. Regardless, none of the children seemed to realize I was there; they didn’t interact directly with me. I figure Alarrah was all “uhhhh” and hastily sidestepped them and got out of there as fast as she could.

Particularly given that Grelod’s assistant, Constance, was also on site and woke up at the commotion.

True to the wiki’s assertions, nobody caught me. But I did fast travel some ways out of Riften to leave as quickly as possible, and then hoofed it the rest of the way back to Windhelm. I was feeling like Alarrah was in a headspace where she’d probably run on foot all the way back to Windhelm. And possibly seek out things to fight on purpose, just to try to work off the nervous restlessness from what she’d just done.

And as always, the game did provide me with things to fight, though this led to some weird behavior as I was cutting through the area with a bunch of hot springs in Eastmarch.

A dragon showed up, not far away from where I also spotted a giant and a couple of mammoths. I started trying to take potshots at the dragon, and while I may have hit it a couple of times, I was pretty sure I wasn’t actually hitting with every shot. But I did see the dragon’s hit bar going down and eventually reach zero.

The weird part was, I never saw the dragon land, and I never found its corpse. So I don’t know what the hell happened there, if something else was fighting it and I never got close enough to its corpse, or what. And since I didn’t find its corpse, I didn’t get a soul off of it either.

Onward and back to Windhelm, then. Returned to the kid who was still hiding out in his family home, and he was overjoyed to hear that Grelod was dead. He gave me a fancy plate that he called a family heirloom, saying that I should be able to get a good price for it. So since the kid gave his blessing to sell the plate, Alarrah’s going to have to do that, since she doesn’t really want to keep MURDER PLATE around the house!

After that, I thought I’d try to find the Northern Maiden, which was my only known way to get to Solstheim and see about the client for getting an item for the college to enchant. On the way to the Windhelm docks, I found a street kid named Sofie, who told me she was selling flowers to get money for food.

And since Alarrah was very much in a place where she was sensitive to the needs of children, she bought every single flower the kid had. Sofie told me her mother had died, and that her father was a Stormcloak soldier who never came home. I got an option to offer to adopt her at that point—and I think I will in fact be adopting kids soon—but I’m not quite ready to do that. I need to figure out which house I want to put kids in.

I’m still not entirely sure I want to move out of Whiterun, but on the other hand, Breezehome isn’t really big enough for me, Lydia, and two children. I’m tempted to make Heljarchen Hall my main headquarters, just for the proximity to Whiterun. But Heljarchen is also real near a giant camp, which strikes me as sub-optimal for child safety purposes!

But at any rate, the immediate purpose after I spoke to Sofie was to see about getting to Solstheim. I did find where the Northern Maiden was docked, and I also found the captain. The captain, however, was adamant that he’d never go to Solstheim again—apparently he’d had some of the dragonborn cultists on board, and had actively lost days out of his memory as a result. This rather understandably freaked him the fuck out and he wanted nothing further to do with the place.

I got dialogue options from him that clearly tied into the main Dragonborn quest line, including trying to persuade him to take me over there because the cultists were actively trying to kill me. But for the time being, I decided Alarrah wasn’t in the mood to argue with him yet about it, or try to persuade or bribe him. So I told him I’d be back.

And instead of going to Solstheim, I went west again, to hunt down the sword of Red Eagle.

This, of course, put me into battle with a whole lot of Forsworn. And at least this was actual face to face battle, which Alarrah felt somewhat better about—at least these were opponents fighting her face to face. And I did finally track down the cavern where Red Eagle was entombed. Got a couple of weapons off of that—a sword called Red Eagle’s Fury which renamed itself to Red Eagle’s Bane after I killed him, which struck me as strange given that I didn’t kill him with that sword.

And I also got an enchanted sword off of Red Eagle himself, which did fire damage.

Red Eagle turned out to render looking like a dragon priest, though I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to be one in character. But apparently given that I’m pretty high level at this point, any character who would normally be a highest level draugr also has a chance to manifest like a dragon priest instead.

This meant he had the same dragon priest type tricks, involving high maneuverability and floating around a lot. So I wound up having to poison my dragonbone bow with a poison of Slow, and hitting him a few times with that before I could finally take him down.

Looting the cavern afterwards got me to a point of being overburdened, but I had a couple of potions of Strength. So that let me get safely back to Whiterun.

On the way in, I was intercepted by a courier. He had a note from an unidentified sender, which had the sigil of a hand on it, and only two words: “We know.”

NOT THE SLIGHTEST BIT OMINOUS. Gee, I wonder who sent that!

I’m pretty sure it’s difficult to spook Alarrah at this point. This, though, probably spooked her at least a little.

And for good reason. After I finally keeled over into my bed in Breezehome, I next woke up in entirely unfamiliar surroundings.

And I was greeted by Astrid, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood. Comma, the same Astrid who’d already sent five different assassins after me, and with whom I wanted to have words regardless. This, of course, being the entire point of doing this plotline to begin with!

Astrid presented me with her ultimatum: if I wanted out of the shack I was in, somebody was going to have to die. And she pointed me at three victims behind me, all of whom were bound and kneeling, with sacks over their heads. She told me I’d have to kill one of them, because in killing Grelod I’d robbed the Dark Brotherhood of a legitimate contract and they demanded a life in exchange.

I got a dialogue option for “I’m having no part of this insanity”, which I took, and about which Astrid had no fucks to give. She told me I was involved whether I liked it or not, because of taking their contract from them. And she kept emphasizing that somebody would have to die if I wanted out of the shack.

At which point I drew my bow and started fighting her.

I didn’t quite catch what dialogue she threw off in response to that, but she certainly sounded surprised. And Alarrah was all “how the hell did you think this was going to go, woman?”

After taking her out (and taking all her armor, because seriously, lady, fuck you, sternly worded and pointy letter to follow), I freed the captives and fled the scene.

Turned out the abandoned shack I was in was actually not far from Windstad Manor, north of Morthal. Arguably I should have retreated to Windstad to rest up and maybe get Valdimar’s help. At the very least, it would have made sense to get the captives to Windstad where they’d be able to rest and recover before heading back to wherever they needed to be. But the game didn’t give me any mechanism to do that, so I kind of have to assume this as my headcanon for what Alarrah did at this point.

What the game wanted me to do, though, was go report Astrid’s death to a guard. So I’m going to assume that after making sure the captives got safely to Windstad, Alarrah hightailed it off to Solitude. Morthal was closer—but Solitude’s bigger and better defended, and Alarrah wanted to be somewhere safer.

On the way into Solitude, another courier found me. This one actually had a message from Constance at the orphanage in Riften, who was sending out notices to anybody couriers could find that the orphanage was now under new management and actively encouraging adoption of its charges.

This, I figure, reassured Alarrah somewhat, and she probably filed the info in the back of her mind to follow up on later. This is definitely more encouragement for her to be in a place where she could adopt children.

For now, though, she had more urgent business. It was very late in game time, but there were still people out. Khajiit were camped out at the gates, so I stopped with them to ask their Lockpicking trainer to bump me up a notch, since I’d leveled up to 49 while on the quest for the Red Eagle sword. And there were still guards out. I found one by the gates.

He gave me the rather snarky generic guard dialogue of “let me guess, someone stole your sweet roll”—which is a smart mouthed thing to say in general, but particular to a woman in friggin’ dragonscale armor and who’s armed to the teeth, my dude. Changed his tune real fast though when I told him point-blank that I’d killed the leader of the Dark Brotherhood.

He was all “wait what?! You’re not joking? You need to report this to Commander Maro in Dragon Bridge immediately”.

Which I ran off to do. Again on foot, but Dragon Bridge isn’t far from Solitude, so that’s okay.

It was still stupid-o’clock in the morning game time, but to my surprise, when I entered the outpost where Commander Maro was stationed, he was actually awake. And he was also very, very surprised when I showed up and went “so uh yeah I sorta kinda just killed the leader of the Dark Brotherhood”.

Maro told me he’d been working for months to take out the Brotherhood, and that his agents had recently acquired the password to their Sanctuary. He conscripted me to go take them out.

CAN DO, SPORT.

Their sanctuary turned out to be just a little ways west of Falkreath. So I fast traveled my way down there, and on the way, ran into another dragon that this time I was able to fight correctly with no issues.

With the password, I was able to breach the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary gates. Inside, I found multiple assassins, a few of which I was able to take out in single shots. A few others I had to engage at close range. I did, however, take all of them out.

And while in there, I also found their Sanctuary had a Word Wall. This wall is in theory for a word of Marked for Death, but apparently there’s some glitchiness to it, and now I also have a Drain Vitality Shout which may have fucked me over from learning the third Marked for Death word. The wiki discussion of involved bugs suggests that this is another thing fixed by unofficial patches? But I don’t know if I’ve triggered the block for that third Marked for Death word yet.

Grabbed another few bits of Shrouded Armor off of some of the assassins I took out, since a couple of them had bits Astrid hadn’t had. And grabbed a few more things as well before finally leaving and heading back to Dragon Bridge to report to Maro.

Did this on foot, too, since the run back to Dragon Bridge was almost entirely directly north from where I was.

On the way, the only notable NPC encounter was that I went past a trio of what looked like Thalmor from a distance. I made a point of not going anywhere near them. And not long after that I think I saw the same NPCs actively engaged in fighting somebody else—which I chose to not interfere with since the Thalmor always do snark at me about intruding on Thalmor business.

Made it back into Dragon Bridge by the next morning, game time. Reported back to Maro, who was overjoyed to see me return and rewarded me handsomely for my efforts. He also told me he’d make sure the Emperor himself would hear of my accomplishment.

And with that, with Alarrah feeling somewhat better about her recent experiences, I went briefly back to Solitude to sell some stuff. Popped into Bits and Pieces, where I got a line out of Sayma that I hadn’t had before—about how I had a fire in my eyes like her husband Beirand. Also went to the Fletcher shop where I discovered that Fihada in there had some Daedric arrows, which I immediately bought. Don’t mind if I do!

I thought briefly of making stuff at the forge before I remembered that Beirand didn’t have a smelter. So I fast traveled back to Whiterun instead. There, I tried on the Shrouded Armor—which I have to admit does look pretty sexy and badassed, and I think I’ll be keeping this armor around for its various bonuses in case I need to do something else particularly sneaky. I spent a little time improving it at the forge next door.

Also finally grabbed some firewood from the chopping block not far from the house, so that I could use that to make arrows! Which turned out to get me a nice cluster of dragonbone arrows, the most powerful arrows I am currently capable of making. Which gives me a good ongoing use for dragon bits since I’ve pretty much made all the dragon armor I need—and making and tempering further bits of dragon armor makes items generally more expensive than I can easily sell.

But I can always use more arrows. Even though at this point I have a perfectly ridiculous number of arrows. Several hundred arrows, all of various kinds, including Steel, Orcish, Dwarven, Elven, Glass, Ebony, Daedric, and now Dragonbone. And since the game assigns no weight to arrows, there is no limit on how many arrows you can carry.

I may have to sell off the less powerful arrows, though, just for the gold. Now that I’m able to make my own I have no real argument to keep lesser arrows around!

One other entertaining thing I noted on this return to Whiterun: as I was settling in to save the game, and putting things into the chest in my bedroom in Breezehome, I heard alchemy lab noises coming from downstairs. Which startled me, given that I was not actually at the alchemy lab. So I went down to check it out and found Lydia at the alchemy lab, making potions! Lyds honey! When did you learn how to make potions? I had no idea she could do that. :D

Mind you, I don’t actually know if her doing that generated potions she could use, sell, or give to me, but it was pretty cool to see her doing it regardless. I figure that since I’ve been leaving her home more often, she’s had the opportunity to learn new skills. Maybe she’s been training with Arcadia!

Next time: I think now I’m in a better position to go back and take a crack at convincing the captain of the Northern Maiden to take me to Solstheim so I can attend to that business for the college. And once I do that, I can return to the college, turn in the item for enchantment, and then set out in search of that Elder Scroll!

P.S. I didn’t trigger these bits of dialogue in-game, but I read about them on the wiki, so I’m going to take the liberty of assuming Alarrah knows about them regardless.

THIS IS NOT THE SLIGHTEST BIT MORALLY DUBIOUS OH MY NO ITEM 1: Apparently if I go back and try to talk to Aventus again, he’ll talk about wanting to grow up to be an assassin just like me.

THIS IS NOT THE SLIGHTEST BIT MORALLY DUBIOUS ITEM 2: The one little girl at the orphanage has a line about “killing one person can solve a lot of problems! I wonder at the possibilities!” 

I’m apparently inspiring the next generation of Widowmakers no wait hold up, wrong game. XD