More major plot advancement in this session, with a break in between for visiting a bit of Labyrinthian I hadn’t seen before!
And since this too is chock fulla spoilers for the tail end of the main Skyrim plotline, everything goes behind the fold!
- More visiting of properties and building of things, primarily Lakeview
- Wandered around the Whiterun plains to do more hunting, practiced the Bound Bow spell a bit more, as well as blowing through iron arrows I’d taken from prior bandits
- Reported to High Hrothgar for the peace conference, and found all the necessary parties had already shown up, including Delphine and Esbern, but also Elisif and Elenwen of the Thalmor
- Arngeir and Delphine snarked a little at each other, until Esbern stepped in and pointed out that they had a lot of necessary data that would help me with the whole defeating Alduin plan; Arngeir grudgingly allowed them in
- Ulfric pitched a fit about Elenwen being at the table, and when I got asked for my opinion, I said she should leave, on general fuck the Thalmor grounds
- Ulfric demanded Markarth as his opening bid, and when asked, I proposed Riften in exchange, only then realizing that that’d mean Laila Law-Giver would be deposed in favor of Maven Black-Briar, and I actually like Laila Law-Giver
- Esbern gave a passionate speech reminding everybody to stay focused and that the real threat was Alduin, so could they maybe consider not having a pointless war at least for ten seconds?
- The Imperials also demanded Ulfric pay reparations for Karthwasten, which I supported, after Tullius made cranky commentary about me “favoring” Ulfric
- All parties eventually agreed to the terms of the truce, at which point Esbern proved his usefulness again by providing the Shout that would let me summon a dragon to Dragonsreach to enact the next phase of my plan
- Then I hightailed it the hell out of High Hrothgar, just to avoid the whole question of Delphine waylaying me with her demand I kill Paarthurnax; demand successfully evaded!
- Once that was all done I wanted a bit of a break, so went back to Labyrinthian to find Shalidor’s Maze, the other area of the place I hadn’t visited yet, to find another word of the Dismay Shout, as well as the Diadem of the Savant
- When I finished that, I returned to Whiterun to prep for the dragon summoning plan
- Checked in at Breezehome, dropped off most of my stuff, and sold a bunch of other things while also stocking up on healing potions
- Found Lucia actually running around the city playing with the other children, aw <3
- Played tag with the kids <3
- Then finally reported to Dragonsreach to tell the Jarl “let’s do this”
- We went back in the back area of the keep, out on the porch with open access to the sky, and I threw the Call Dragon Shout; worked pretty quickly
- Dragon showed up, was cranky, I had to look up what to do next and saw I needed to make him land with Dragonrend and get him to follow me further back along the porch to the trap, done and done
- Got Odahviing trapped and talking, which was highly entertaining, just to listen to him bargain—but also to get a dragon’s perspective on Alduin
- Also was highly entertained by Whiterun’s wizard showing up and begging the dragon to let him have a few samples of scales and blood, about which Odahviing was less than amused
- I agreed to Odahviing’s proposal that he fly me to Skuldafn, where Alduin has his portal to Sovngarde, and which I would not get to without flying
So yeah, this was a big crunchy session with a lot of big crunchy plot progression! And since I did two big plot-relevant things, I spaced them out a bit with some breaks. Partly because I’m a little reluctant to finally finish this plot even though I know there’s plenty of DLC action to be had even when I’m done!
Building and hunting
Preliminary pre-plot action was basically more building and hunting. Popped down to Lakeview to build a few more things, but discovered that even though I had a surplus of gold, I was running low on steel and corundum. I’ll need to build my stock of those back up so I can make locks for assorted doors, and also get more shrines built.
And I ran around the plains of Whiterun a lot, just doing general hunting, as that’s pretty easy to do while something else is going on in the room (like, say, watching Jeopardy). This got my Sneak up to 99. I’m nearly at 100 there, at which point I might consider doing the thing where you reset a Legendary skill and get all the perk points back to spend on other things. Sneak is pretty easy to bump so I don’t mind risking this the way I’d be risking Smithing or Enchanting!
But I won’t do it till after Alduin is dealt with, that’s for sure.
Let it also be noted that I am carrying a spectacularly ridiculous number of arrows at this point. Way more arrows that I could possibly use. I just tallied them up and as of this screenshot I took during my hunting run, I had 1,368 arrows in my quiver. Minus most of those iron arrows which I blew finishing the hunt, but still!
And if I cast the Bound Bow spell, that not only gets me a magic bow, it also gets me 100 magic arrows to go with it.
And since the Switch build comes with the DLCs pre-installed, this also means I can make additional arrows any time I want, as long as I have firewood and appropriate ingots (or dragon bits). Which means I basically have an infinite supply of arrows at this point, and that is very, very silly. Amusing, but silly!
But hey, if the vanilla build of the game doesn’t assign a weight to arrows, I have no compunctions about carrying ALL THE ARROWS. Because I CAN.
Season Unending: Council at High Hrothgar
The first main plot action of this session was reporting to High Hrothgar for the peace council—though I’ve come to realize that this is less “peace council” and more “negotiation of temporary truce until the dragons are dealt with”. This negotiation doesn’t actually stop the war, it just halts it.
From what I’ve seen searching around, it’s possible for you to then play out the entire civil war plotline once you’ve dealt with Alduin. I haven’t decided if I want to do that yet. Part of me feels like playing out a war would be less interesting, and part of me feels like Alarrah in particular would not want to favor a side. Particularly now that she’s getting wider recognition as the Dragonborn, and has enough clout to do things like get people to come to the Graybeards to negotiate truces and such.
For the time being, though, my goal was to get that truce negotiation going. My quest pointer for that was “Talk to Arngeir”, so I was a little surprised that when I next showed up at High Hrothgar, all the NPCs were already there for the council. So I had little to have to tell Arngeir other than to reassure him that he was doing the right thing by allowing this council in his sanctuary, even if he was offended by having this “men of violence” in a place of peace.
Arngeir was also offended, as it happened, by the presence of Delphine and Esbern. Who I hadn’t seen since Sky Haven Temple, and who I had not contacted about the negotiation—but apparently they heard anyway? I don’t know if the game is assuming I would have sent them word, or if they got word from contacts of their own, or what. (Which seems questionable, given that the Blades don’t even exist as an order anymore?) Delphine and Arngeir very clearly didn’t like each other very much, and Arngeir initially wanted to throw them out. But Delphine pointed out that they were the ones who’d sent me along the current path of a plan, and Esbern pointed out that furthermore, they had critical information that would help defeat Alduin. So on those grounds, Arngeir grudgingly let them into the council.
I didn’t have any opportunity to intervene in this conversation; it was clearly a scripted exchange. But also amusing in the sense that it involved a couple of the highest-caliber actors in the cast, Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow. Presumably those few lines were part of why Bethesda shelled out to get them into this voice cast. ;D
With that, once I took my designated seat, the council convened.
There is a general set script to how the council works in any game of Skyrim, apparently. There isn’t too much that I as the player character got to do with it, but there were a few points at which my input was specifically requested. Anyone who’s played the game enough knows what these points are:
- Whether or not to kick Elenwen out of the council; I opted for “yes”, on general grounds of fuck the Thalmor
- What the Imperials should get in exchange for Ulfric’s opening demand for a major hold; in my game, Ulfric asked for Markarth, so I suggested he give up Riften, only belatedly realizing that this would mean Riften loses Laila Law-Giver and gets Maven Black-Briar as Jarl, and I kinda like Laila Law-Giver? But Riften for Markarth seemed a fairer exchange than Winterhold for Markarth. Even though I also belatedly realize that putting Winterhold up for exchange would probably also get me a Jarl in Winterhold a bit less hostile to the mages. I’ll have to remember that next time I do a playthrough!
- What the Imperials should get to balance the deal out a bit more for them, and in my game this was “Ulfric should pay reparations for the massacre at Karthwasten”—at which I was kind of going, wait, what massacre? Because I hadn’t heard anything about this in the flow of the game I’d had so far, and I hadn’t seen any sign of any such thing even in reading the wiki. It’s not clear to me whether this is a thing that happens if you’re actively doing the war part of the quests. If it is, it’d be weird to have that play out later, after the negotiation! For the time being though, I opted for “yes, Ulfric should pay reparations”, particularly given that Tullius had specifically made cranky commentary at me about making the Imperials give up Markarth, and my apparently “favoring” Ulfric?
Partway through all of this, while the snark and vitriol flew fast and furious, Esbern got up to deliver a passionate speech and remind everybody at the table that the real threat was Alduin the World-Eater—and maybe, just maybe, could they all consider stopping their petty little war for a few minutes in favor of working to save the world?
Heh, this was clearly also Bethesda shelling out to get everything they could out of having Max Von Sydow in this cast. :D And Esbern got everybody to shut the fuck up, go Esbern!
The negotiation is I think scripted to eventually be accepted by all parties, no matter the specifics of what the player decides at the various points. And that is of course where we got to. Arngeir reviewed the terms, confirmed that all parties agreed to them, and the council began to wind down.
Esbern got in a little bit more “let’s make damn sure Max Von Sydow gets all the camera time” action, though, as he also confirmed with me what he recommended I do next for the whole “capture a dragon” plan. He gave me a Call Dragon Shout which would summon the dragon Odahviing, whose name he and Delphine had discovered in research in Sky Haven Temple. He theorized that Odahviing would come when I Shouted for him, out of general pride and wanting to answer my challenge. I agreed to this as part of the plan, and everybody then finally formally dispersed.
And I made a point of getting the hell out of High Hrothgar as fast as possible—because I also knew that if I didn’t, Delphine would come pester me to kill Paarthurnax. And I already had decided I didn’t want to do that. So I followed the wiki’s advice and vamoosed to avoid the entire question.
In between doing the truce council and the next phase of the main plot, I wanted a break doing something else. So I headed back to Labyrinthian to look for the one remaining area there that I hadn’t visited yet: Shalidor’s Maze.
Which, I discovered, was in fact intended to be a trial for Arch-Mages when it was built! And hey, I’m an Arch-Mage! So it felt like a fun thing to do. Also, there was a Word Wall there that I wanted to hit up.
And the maze was entertaining. It was a little odd in that technically speaking, I was still “outside” while in the area, because I had open sky over me. But the game doesn’t treat it as “outside” and you can’t fast travel out of there. That didn’t bother me any. The only aspect of it that did kind of bother me was that the wiki was swearing up and down that there were a couple of chests on the western and eastern walls, and for the life of me I saw no signs of any such things. (Though as I write this, I did just find a YouTube video with a pointer on where to look. I may eventually return for that loot, once I get Alduin dealt with!)
The maze does provide you four staves that you can use to activate the sigils in it, so it can be run even if you’re not playing a mage-type character. I did not bother to use the staves, though. Since I am in fact the Arch-Mage now, it felt appropriate for me to throw actual spells at the sigils. So I did that, and was able to run both sides of the maze fairly easily. There aren’t any monsters in either side besides the occasional skeever, and if you’re able to throw Destruction spells around, that certainly is no problem.
There are also a bunch of shutters at various turns that you can activate, some of which include bits of loot. I was a little surprised that all of the shutters were silent in my game, as they seemed like something that ought to trigger some kind of sound effect. But I don’t know if this was a bug unique to the Switch build or what; I didn’t see any sign of this in the bugs lists for this dungeon, on either of the wikis I’ve been using for reference.
The big boss battle of this dungeon is a Dremora, who throws multiple atronachs at you. I found this battle suitably crunchy, and given that two of the three atronachs were storm ones, they threw me a considerable amount of shock damage. So I had to keep sharp tabs on my health bar and burn through a lot of healing potions.
And I got the main loot item of the dungeon off of the Dremora—the Diadem of the Savant, which makes all spells less expensive to your magicka to cast. Awesome.
The Fallen: Capturing a Dragon
Once I was done amusing myself with Shalidor’s Maze, I figured it was time to go ahead and proceed with the main plot. That I felt like I had to take breaks in between the plot milestones, I think, can translate to Alarrah feeling in-character like the weight of this whole Dragonborn thing is bearing down on her!
But, well, destiny is calling. So I headed back to Whiterun, to clear out the inventory as well as possible, lay eyes on Lydia, and also ideally lay eyes on my new adopted daughter as well.
To my pleasure, Lucia was actually out playing with the other children. <3 So I indulged in playing a bit of tag with them, and chased them all up and down Whiterun, while the children laughed and Lucia kept yelling “You can’t catch me!”
This, I feel, lightened Alarrah’s heart some and reminded her exactly why she needs to defeat Alduin.
So after that little interlude, she finally reported to Dragonsreach to get this dragon capturing plan done. In full dragonscale armor.
The Jarl and his guards were all on board with the plan, though understandably nervous even if the keep had already been used once in the past for dragon capture. Happily, the plan was not terribly complicated. I just had to go in the open porch area behind the throne room, which has access to the sky, and throw the Call Dragon Shout that Esbern had given me.
Which basically amounted to yelling “Heeeeeeere dragon! C’mere boy!”
Surprisingly, it got a fairly quick response. It was only a minute or two before Odahviing showed up. Obviously for game play flow you don’t want to make the player wait too long for this, but purely IC, it was kind of funny. It made me wonder whether Odahviing had in fact been actively listening for a challenge from the Dragonborn, and how far away he must have been that he was able to basically zip right over.
I really liked this part of the plotline, though. It was exciting to be working with the guards to weaken the dragon—though I had to actually consult the wiki to discover that what I needed to do was get him landed via Dragonrend, and then get him to follow me further back along the porch to where the trap was. Once I did that, the guards were able to nab him.
Odahviing was unsurprisingly displeased by such confinement, but a bit less displeased than I might otherwise have expected. Once he was nabbed, for example, he didn’t still try to spit fire at everybody, and instead cut straight to addressing me directly.
And while he never outright said he was rebelling against Alduin himself, he dropped pretty heavy hints that more than a few dragons had come to feel that Alduin was not worthy to rule—that his Thu’um was no longer the strongest. By extension, Odahviing was more explicit about answering my call specifically because he wanted to judge the strength of my Thu’um.
The most important information he had to offer, though, was that Alduin had a portal to Sovngarde and that said portal was in a place called Skuldafn. Which I would not get to without flying. I liked this line of his: “You have the Thu’um of a dovah, but without the wings of one, you will never set foot in Skuldafn.”
And, well, I could not argue with that logic. Even though Alarrah was standing right there armored head to foot in the bones and scales of Odahviing’s kind, this still didn’t mean she could fly!
Also, Odahviing dodged the question of whether he’d promise to serve me—though he allowed that he would reconsider if and when I defeated Alduin.
Meanwhile, as I accepted his proposal and began to look for how to free him from the trap, I noted with distinct amusement that Whiterun’s wizard, Farengar Secret-Fire, showed up and began begging Odahviing to be allowed to take blood and/or scale samples from him. About which the dragon was less than amused, and I’m pretty sure he probably would have chomped on the wizard if he thought he could have gotten away with it under the current circumstances. :D
Circumstances being what they were, though, he didn’t try. And I did find how to get up the stairs to the correct guard to give the order to free the dragon. The guard was all “what, after all the trouble we went through to catch him? Your funeral. You’ll have to get somebody else to help you if you want to catch him again!”
This being the point at which the game expected me to get on the dragon and take off, I saved there for the night.
I’m in the endgame now of the main game plotline—from this point, there’s no going back until I take out Alduin. So the next session or two is definitely going to be all about that.
This won’t mean I’m done with Skyrim, as I do still have all the Dawnguard and Dragonborn DLC content to do, as well as several quests in the core game I haven’t done yet. But I’ll decide what to do next after Alduin is down!