In Which the Dragonborn Goes to Nchardak

This session saw the advancement of both the main Dragonborn plotline, and side quests as well! I’ve ranged pretty well over the southern end of the island of Solstheim with these efforts, and some up the eastern and western shores as well. Soon enough though I’m sure I’ll be heading more north.

Highlights and details behind the fold!

Highlights

  • Finished the plotline to investigate the Raven Rock Mine problem; found the remains of Gratian Caerellius, and the Bloodskal Blade; fought the Dragon Priest Zahkriisos and got his mask; cleared the mine for re-opening, and bringing new jobs back to the town
  • Killed the undead General Falk Carius at Fort Frostmoth and got his warhammer, the Champion’s Cudgel
  • Reported back to Captain Veleth; got his request to go and speak with Second Councilor Adril Arano, which turned out to be regarding a potential assassination plot against the head Councilor
  • At the Second Councilor’s suggestion, talked to the innkeeper at the Retching Netch and got his suggestion to stake out the Ulen family tomb
  • Diverted back to the main plot and headed east to Tel Mithryn to speak with the wizard, finally
  • On the way, met a party of hunters going after netch; wished them good luck and elected not to join them
  • Found a second piece of Deathbrand armor near Tel Mithryn; also fought a couple more Lurkers
  • Made it to Tel Mithryn and discovered that the air elevator in Neloth’s house can in fact kill you
  • Clued Neloth in as to who I am and what I wanted, and he immediately announced we needed to go to the Dwemer ruin Nchardak, which I’d seen earlier
  • We headed over there, and fought reavers and a few automata on the way in; we had to find several control cubes in order to adjust the water levels in the place, open several doors and bridges, and create stairs at one point, all in the name of getting steam into the reading room so we could access the Black Book
  • I read said Black Book and showed up in Apocrypha again, where I had a bit of a time making it past Chapter Three of that section; when I did, met with Hermaeus Mora who noted that I was looking for the same knowledge he’d given to Miraak, and gave me the second word of the Bend Will Shout; he also told me the third word would cost me, as he wanted the secret knowledge of the Skaal; I promised only to talk to them
  • When Neloth, Lydia, and I came out of the ruin, we were attacked by the dragon Krosulhah; dispatched same
  • Elected not to continue this main quest for the immediate moment as there are still plenty of other things to do on Solstheim
  • Returned to Raven Rock instead (via Arvak) to stake out the family tomb there as per the innkeeper’s suggestion; saw Tilisi Severin come in there
  • Got a side mini-quest from Fethis Alor to sell him East Empire pendants, of which I’d already found three, and he was happy to pay me for those
  • Reported her presence in the tomb back to Adril Arano, who gave me a key and leave to look for evidence in the Severin family manor

The Final Descent quest

The quest for finding out what happened in the mine, to Gratian Caerellius, was a pretty crunchy quest. Turned out that the East Empire company had (shocker!) broken through into a draugr crypt, and the draugr had imperiled their mining operations. And also brought about the death of Gratian, shortly after his discovery of the Bloodskal Blade.

Running the draugr hive was a bit challenging just because of at least one or two spots where I was fighting two or three draugr at once, often multiple Draugr Deathlords. But eventually I found my way down to where Gratian’s remains were, as well as the Bloodskal Blade.

The weapon turned out to be a two-handed greatsword, with a power to throw off red energy. It also turned out to be critical for unlocking the final stage of the quest, which I rather liked. There was a door puzzle you needed to use the weapon to activate, and that involved swinging it both horizontally and vertically to use its energy to hit the doors. Nice unusual puzzle, and a nice change of pace from the rest of the draugr hive puzzles I’ve solved to date.

(Don’t know if I’ll ever actually use this weapon in battle, mind you, given that it’s a two-hander. But it was pretty neat nonetheless.)

Finding the weapon though was only the first part of the climax of this dungeon. The door it opened gave me access to the room that contained yet another Dragon Priest, the first of the ones I’ve encountered on Solstheim so far.

But before I got to him, I had to get past a whole slew of swinging blades traps. And I noted with frustration that while I could get through them via Become Ethereal, the lever beyond the traps that unlocked the iron gate did not deactivate the traps. They started up again as soon as I walked near them.

Which meant that if I wanted Lydia at my back for the battle with the priest, I had to go back and get her, and escort her through the traps. They hit her hard, and if she hadn’t been an essential NPC, they would have killed her. But I made a point of healing her after each one. Not letting any stupid swinging blade trap kill my wife.

Once we were through that gauntlet, we were free to head into the final chamber and take on the Dragon Priest. He packed a powerful punch, because his speciality was shock damage, and that’s one of the things that can still actually rattle me around a little. Still though, I was able to eventually take him down and get his mask.

Even after that, though, we still weren’t done. Because one of the mysterious Black Books was also in this dungeon—and this one was called Winds of Change.

I read it, and was transported back to Apocrypha. There, I had to fight my way through the level and pick up assorted loot, until I got to the part where I could choose one of three perks off the Black Book. I chose Companion’s Insight, for the benefit of not damaging my followers by accident in battle, when I throw Shouts, spells, or melee attacks around.

When I came back from that little side jaunt, we still weren’t done!

The way out of the dungeon that involved not going back through the swinging blade traps was actually a back way out through Bloodskal Barrow, and that involved having to fight a few very surprised bandits once we showed up in the tunnels they were inhabiting. That turned out to be the usual front access into that draugr hive to begin with; the East Empire Company had dug a back way in!

Once we got out of the barrow, we were finally able to return to Raven Rock. There, I found Crescius and his wife Aphia, and told them what I’d found. Crescius was delighted at his vindication—and that this would mean the mine could be safely opened again, because he was certain there was still ebony to be found down there.

Aphia threw off a dialogue line about “are you sick?”—which might have been directed at her husband, but might also have been directed at me, since I have had NPCs ask me if I’m sick before. I hadn’t seen those stupid swinging blade traps giving me any disease when they hit me; one or two of them did, while I was escorting Lydia through. Just to be sure, I quaffed one of my Cure Disease potions.

Finishing this quest up did result in the immediate re-opening of the mine, much to the relief of the town. I had several NPCs thereafter throw me happier dialogue lines referencing it.

The March of the Dead quest

Next up: finishing up the quest to check out the “declaration of war”, and the note purportedly from Falx Carius, who Captain Veleth told me had been dead for a couple hundred years, ever since the eruption of the Red Mountain.

Lydia and I went to Fort Frostmoth, east of Raven Rock, and found the place covered in ash. And ash spawn. Which, by the way, are creepy as fuck, in a volcano zombie kind of way.

Falx Carius was not an ash spawn—but in investigating the fort, I found the journal of the necromancer who had in fact resurrected him, only to discover that she didn’t actually have direct control over him. Oops.

I also found a handful of letters from one particular Imperial, who’d been trying to write to his wife back in Cyrodiil, and which gave some documentation of what exactly had happened to the fort. It had been wiped out pretty much by the volcano erupting, and the poor guy who’d written the letters left his last one on the sad note of “anybody who finds this, please tell my wife I love her”. Awww.

Taking out Falx Carius actually took a little work. Dude was wielding a warhammer called the Champion’s Cudgel, which has a Chaos Damage enchantment on it that can random select between Fire, Frost, and Shock Damage. Finally did take him down, though, and his final gasped words were that he was failing the Empire.

Which, also a little sad! It wasn’t Carius’ fault a necromancer resurrected him and broke his brain. And he clearly had at least a little bit of a glimmer of his former living self in there, if he was focused on still “serving the Empire”.

Once that was done, Lyds and I returned to Raven Rock to report back to Captain Veleth. He was grateful for the assist, and rueful about having to ask me for yet another favor: that I should go talk to Second Councilor Adril Arano, on urgent business.

Served Cold quest, round one

Said urgent business turned out to be that Arano had reason to believe that Councilor Morvayn was at risk of assassination. Morvayn had apparently raised the wrath of a powerful rival Dunmer House by ordering one of their number to be executed, and Arano was concerned that undercover operatives of that House might be in Raven Rock.

I heard him out, agreed that his concerns seemed justified, and followed his recommendation to go speak with the innkeeper of the Retching Netch for ideas on how to proceed.

And as it happened, innkeeper Geldis Sadri did in fact have an idea for what I should do. He recommended I stake out the Ulen family tomb—because somebody had been leaving ash yams as offerings inside, and that person might have a lead on what was going on. I agreed to do this.

The Path of Knowledge quest, and a side helping of Deathbrand

Before doing that, though, I opted to swing back to the main quest and work on that for a while. This required me to go back to Tel Mithryn and speak with the wizard Neloth.

Doing this would also give me an opportunity to stop at one of the places marked on the Deathbrand treasure map, and hopefully pick up another piece of the Deathbrand armor!

On the way to doing this, Lyds and I encountered a party of NPC hunters intending to go up against some netch. They invited me to join them. I declined, on the general grounds of a) I had higher priority business to attend to, and b) the netch seem like peaceful docile creatures as long as you don’t fuck with them. And I didn’t really want to fuck with them. So I wished the hunters good luck and went about my business.

Lyds and I did have to fight a couple more Lurkers as we got to the chest with the Deathbrand item in it, though. (It’s unclear to me at this point whether the Lurkers are infesting the waters of Solstheim because of Miraak’s influence, or because the boundary between Solstheim and Apocrypha is weak, or what. Either way: ew.)

Deathbrand item acquired out of the chest I found: the boots.

Moving on from that, reached Tel Mithryn and found the front entrance into Neloth’s primary tower. Inside, I discovered he had essentially an air elevator—though the wiki calls this an enchantment. This was the means to actually get up to the primary level of the tower, where he lived. And I discovered that that enchanted air elevator could, in fact, kill me. Tried to go up there only to fall off when I found Lydia waiting for me, and I wound up stepping in the wrong direction. Oops.

Fortunately though I didn’t roll back too far. Entered the place successfully the second time, and began my conversation with Neloth. Who is a bit of a douche, in a “I am the high and mighty powerful master wizard” kind of way. But at least he’s a knowledgeable douche.

Once I explained who I was and what I wanted, he immediately announced we’d need to go to the Dwemer ruin of Nchardak—conveniently, the Dwemer ruin I’d already noted on my way down from the Skaal village, before. Neloth informed me he’d already tried to investigate the place and knew that there was a Black Book in there, but he’d had trouble getting to it before. The three of us tromped over there to check the place out.

Unsurprisingly, there were reavers camped out around the place’s exterior. We took them down.

Inside, the place was large and pretty complex, particularly in regards to the main meat of the quest: finding a bunch of control cubes necessary to restore steam power to the Reading Room that contained the Black Book. These cubes had varying functions: adjusting the water levels in the lower parts of the ruin, raising and lowering bridges, or activating stairs. I had to find several of these and use them in the right order to get us access to the boilers that would restore the steam to the Reading Room, and this took a while. Particularly given that I had to keep throwing Candlelight spells around, just to see what I was doing.

Fortunately, though, the water levels involved in the various steps weren’t so deep that Lydia couldn’t swim them. I was fine—I had a waterbreathing enchantment handy—but I didn’t want Lyds to drown! Nordic armor is heavy and I can’t imagine she’d swim well for very long in it.

Once we got all the control cubes found and the boilers activated, we were able to finally access the book. As expected, this one also took me back to Apocrypha, but a different section this time.

And a more challenging section, for that matter. I liked the touch of the flexible moving bridges that slowly swung back and forth between the various sections of this part of the realm. This required a bit of “wait for it”, as I had to jump onto those bridges at exactly the right time in order to use them to get to the next section.

I got killed a couple of times in the middle of this visit, though—but in this context, being killed in Apocrypha only threw me back to my body in Tamriel. At which point Neloth gave me a little shit about it and told me to read the book again, until I found what I needed.

Side note: Lydia does make amusing commentary every time I read one of these Black Books. She keeps going “not this again” and “I really wish you wouldn’t do this”. Not that I can exactly blame her, she is sworn to protect me with her life, and it’s kind of tough for her to do that when I keep reading these Daedric books and getting yanked by creepy tentacles into Oblivion. 🤣

(And not to mention, if I get actually eaten by something in Apocrypha, or driven batshit, it’ll fall on her to go home to Whiterun and explain to Lucia why Mama Alarrah didn’t come back!)

Finally, third time in, I made it through. And this time, when I made it to the end of the section and found the Black Book I needed to read there, I encountered Hermaeus Mora himself.

The Daedra laid it out for me: he knew I wanted the same knowledge he’d given to Miraak, but Miraak was beginning to displease him. He was willing to give me the same knowledge, the second word of the Bend Will Shout, but the third one would cost me and he expected the “knowledge of the Skaal” in exchange.

Still kind of in “it’s wise to not piss off a Daedra” mode even though I feel like Alarrah really isn’t feeling this whole “being champion of Hermaeus Mora” thing, I agreed to talk to the Skaal. Mora dismissed me, freeing me to do the read off the Black Book and pick up the ability Dragonborn Force. Because being able to disintegrate hostiles with the Unrelenting Force Shout sounds pretty fucking badass.

And, finally, I was able to return to my body in Tamriel and tell the others what had happened. Neloth announced he’d return to Tel Mithryn. And as we went outside, SURPRISE! DRAGON ATTACK!

This was a named dragon, Krosulhah. The wiki says he was supposed to throw me a lot of dialogue during the fight about being sent by Miraak to kill me. But I legit do not remember him actually saying anything of the kind at me? I don’t know if this was because there was background noise during the action interfering with me hearing his dialogue, or because he was legit bugged and didn’t throw me the dialogue he was supposed to. The two wikis I consult for Skyrim info have no information about bugs involving this, so who knows.

Either way, I took him out fairly quickly. But this also got me overburdened again. So as Neloth headed back to his tower, I summoned Arvak so I could make it back to Raven Rock and get some stuff sold.

And also to pick up where I’d left off on the assassination-related side quest! Because I’m fairly far along on the main Dragonborn quest line at this point, and I’m not quite ready to leave Solstheim yet.

Served Cold quest, round two

Lyds and I parked in the Ulen family tomb for a little bit, just to wait and see who’d show up. Answer: Tilisi Severin, mother of Mirri, who I’d already seen at the apothecary.

I elected not to accuse her directly, as she claimed to be there to pay respects to the dead. I let her go about her business, and went about mine—reporting back to Adril Arano what I’d observed.

The next morning, anyway. Waiting for that, I actually spent a little time first at the forge and the outdoor apothecary station, just to whittle down the inventory some.

Once it was a more reasonable hour, I also spent some time selling stuff. Including talking to the general goods merchant Fethis Alor, which let me get the mini-quest from him to sell him East Empire pendants. Of which I already had three, and he was happy to buy them off of me.

I could have gone back to the Retching Netch to sleep—but now that I know as a player that any time I sleep on Solstheim I’ll be transported to one of the remaining uncleansed Stones, I wanted to hold off on that until I’m actually ready to do more of them. More to the point, I think Alarrah probably is a little skittish about sleeping on this island. Enough that Lydia is probably going to have to hassle her to actually get some rest.

Hold that thought, Lyds, I’ll do this soon enough when it’s narratively appropriate!

Meanwhile, though, I went to have a chat with Second Councilor Arano once my mercantile business was done, and to report that Tilisi Severin had shown up at the tomb. Arano found this suspicious—but given that the Severins were a powerful and wealthy family, he didn’t want to go after them without some damn good proof. So he authorized me to enter their house to search for said evidence. And take whatever steps were necessary to defend myself, if it came to that.

And this was the part where I saved for the night.

Next time

In game time, it was still the middle of the day. So I’m not sure yet if I want to take the frontal approach and just barge into the place, or try to sneak in. Given that I do have authorization, I’m kind of inclined to just go “fuck it” and take the direct approach! But we’ll see!

Screenshots

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