In Which the Dragonborn Witnesses the Sacrifice of Storn Crag-Strider

Getting close to Dragonborn’s end game, here. There are still bits of Solstheim I haven’t really explored yet. But on the other hand, I’m also feeling like Alarrah is close enough to her final challenge that I’m okay if she misses the other bits of Solstheim—I can always do the other bits on my next playthrough!

In this session, the big important thing done was the final part of the Gardener of Men quest, which sets the stage for the Dragonborn to confront Miraak. And which is rather sad, too. But there’s also a side helping of clearing Kagrumez, and getting a pet Dwarven Spider following me around!

Highlights

  • Met a madman who ranted at me about the Black Books, and who pointed me at the one Neloth has in his tower; however, the guy then flipped out at me and attacked me, so Lydia had to kill him
  • Got attacked by an Elder Dragon, a battle for which the rieklings showed up to assist, and none of them got torched! Good job, rieklings
  • Cleared the Kagrumez ruin, notable for its resonance gem control panel, which activated a few waves of machines to fight
  • Rieklings also showed up to help me out in Kagrumez! Good job, rieklings
  • Kagrumez also had two friendly machines that could be followers! I chose the Steadfast Dwarven Spider, so now I have a spider following me around, lol
  • Went to the Skaal village to finally follow up with them about Hermaeus Mora demanding “the secrets of the Skaal” in exchange for giving me the final word of Bend Will
  • Frea told me to talk to her father Storn; Storn resignedly declared he would give Hermaeus Mora what he wanted
  • Storn’s decision proved to be fatal, as Hermaeus Mora basically ate him by way of glomming the secrets of the Skaal out of him; RIP, Storn Crag-Strider
  • Frea urged me to make her father’s sacrifice worth it by destroying Miraak and freeing the land from his influence
  • After that grim and solemn moment I kinda felt like it was appropriate in-character to just go straight to Miraak! Which requires another Black Book jaunt, so I decided to do this in a relatively safe spot, i.e., Severin Manor, so Lydia could watch over me while I do this
  • On the way back to Raven Rock though a courier showed up again with the second message from Ralis
  • Returned to Kolbjorn Barrow, learned Ralis’ larger team of miners had gotten attacked by yet more draugr and two of the miners were missing
  • I headed in to clear out the draugr and locate the miners, who were dead; also found Ahzidal’s Ring of Necromancy
  • Reported back to Ralis who asked me for 3,000 gold this time to hire yet more miners, and this time also mercenaries to protect them
  • Realized I could in fact get at that Black Book in Tel Mithryn because Neloth had given me access to that room, so I returned to Tel Mithryn to read that book too
  • Left off in the middle of running that Black Book level

Prelude to Kagrumez

Heading to the Kagrumez ruin was my first goal of this session. But I had a couple of notable encounters on the way!

First off was a madman I ran into on the beach east of Raven Rock. This guy was ranting about the Black Books putting “secrets” into his head, which he desperately wanted out. I managed to talk him through telling me what was afflicting him, and even got him to tell me there was a Black Book in Tel Mithryn tower.

But then the poor guy flipped out and started trying to punch me. So Lydia hauled off and killed him before I even had a chance to draw a weapon. Ah well. Sorry, madman!

And, as I got closer to Kagrumez, an Elder Dragon showed up. Lydia and I started shooting at it, but we were also joined by the rieklings! Surprisingly, none of the rieklings got toasted as near as I could tell. Good job, rieklings!

(I suppose it stands to reason that the rieklings on Solstheim must have seen dragons before I showed up? But there’s a difference between ‘being aware of the big sky lizard of death’ and ‘being willing to actually run up and fight with it’. Presumably my rieklings are doing it because they’re seeing me do it.)

Kagrumez

Made it to Kagrumez after that. This ruin wasn’t large, really. Its main feature was the control panel in the middle of a large open area, where you have to plug in the “Kagrumez Resonance Gems” that you can get from assorted Solstheim locations. I came into the ruin with two of them already, and two more were available off of reavers that were camping out in the place and trying to find treasure.

The control panel set off different waves of Dwemer machines depending on the configuration of gems you plugged in, and you could get the proper configurations off of nearby doors that would open up and let you get farther into side rooms.

And the notable treasure was in fact in these side rooms: the Dwarven Black Bow of Fate, which has an enchantment on it that gives a chance to absorb up to 25 points of health and/or magicka and/or stamina.

Equally notably, Kagrumez also has two unique Dwemer machines in it, who are actually friendly and can be recruited as followers: a Steadfast Dwarven Spider, and a Steadfast Dwarven Sphere.

I chose the spider, so now I have a pet Dwarven Spider following me around. 😆

Which resulted in the following conversation in my household:

Me: I just cleared Kagrumez and now I have a pet dwarven spider following me around! I shall name him ‘Clanky’!

Paul: Shh, Clanky! We’re being stealthy now! Stay, Clanky!

Dara: Lydia, get out of Clanky’s way!

The rieklings also showed up in Kagrumez, and helped me out with the machines that attacked. Good job, rieklings! (I did not see them come up the lift with Lydia, the spider, and me? So hopefully the little guys made it out of Kagrumez on their own.)

I think it was on the way out of Kagrumez, too, that I got attacked by another random aggressive adventurer. This time it was an Argonian.

I went back to Raven Rock for a little bit with Lydia and the spider, just to drop off loot and do a bit of smithing. Not a single NPC blinked once at that spider clattering after me into the town. So apparently every NPC in this game is just accustomed to a general radius of weirdness surrounding the Dragonborn? Nobody blinks at me riding an undead ghost horse around, either. 😆

Got the smithing up past 70, which let me reactivate Glass on the list of materials I can work with.

Closure of the Gardener of Men quest

At this point I was pretty much killing time waiting for the next courier message from Ralis, so I could keep clearing the Kolbjorn dungeon—about the only remaining bit of Solstheim I want to clear, because of the rest of what I haven’t seen yet is mostly less interesting treasure-wise or monster-wise.

(There is a powerful monster on Solstheim I haven’t encountered yet, but that monster is level 90 and I’m pretty damn sure it’ll hand me my ass. I may still try to go after that monster, but whether I do this before or after I take out Miraak is an open question.)

So it seemed like it was finally time for me to go move the main quest pointer along. The next thing I had to do was go back to the Skaal village and talk to Storn Crag-Strider about “the secrets of the Skaal”.

I actually talked to his daughter Frea first, just because I liked her and because it seemed appropriate. She told me a bit about her family background, but once I brought up the topic of the secrets, she urged me to speak to her father.

Which I did. And I learned from him that the Skaal’s secrets were not anything of great power—but rather, their knowledge of “how to talk to the wind, how to listen to the earth”. Basically, their awareness of how to maintain their harmony and balance with the land, in the name of surviving in a harsh climate. But it was knowledge Hermaeus Mora didn’t have and which he’d been denied, so by definition, he wanted it.

The Skaal had been resisting yielding their knowledge to him for some time, because they considered Mora a demon and an enemy. But Storn also revealed that their legends stated eventually a shaman would have to give up those secrets—and Storn decided the time for this was now.

Frea begged him not to do it, but he asserted this was his choice and his fate. So I had to hand him the relevant Black Book, which he opened and read—and which summoned Hermaeus Mora.

Unfortunately this did not go well for poor Storn. Herma-Mora (as the Skaal call him) basically ate him as he slurped the knowledge of him.

The aghast villagers had all gathered to witness this, and Frea finally looked at me and point-blank told me to go kill Miraak and make sure her father’s sacrifice hadn’t been in vain.

No pressure or anything!

Ralis’ next letter

After that grim and solemn scene at the Skaal village, I felt like Alarrah would pretty much want to go deal with Miraak right then and there.

And since Alarrah knows she’ll have to go back into the book Waking Dreams to get at him, I figured she’d want to do this in a safe space where Lydia could watch over her. Which pretty much meant, Severin Manor.

On the way back into Raven Rock, though, the courier found me again with Ralis’ second letter urging me to come talk to him at the dig ASAP. So I detoured back to Kolbjorn Barrow to find out what was up.

(I think, but am not a hundred percent sure, that this was where I got attacked by another random aggressive adventurer—this time a Breton.)

The dig camp was larger this time, and they had indeed made progress getting further into the ruin—but yet more draugr had killed the mining team, including a couple of them Ralis hadn’t been able to find. So he asked me to go in and clear the place again, and see if I could find the two miners who were unaccounted for.

Lydia, Clanky, and I took care of this. (And I was frankly surprised that the spider held its own, so far it’s not met anything that could kill it! We’ll have to see if it survives to the end of Alarrah’s run and makes it all the way back to Whiterun with her.) We took out assorted draugr, found the two miners who were missing (and who were very, very dead), and reported back to Ralis.

Who promptly informed me that he’d have to hire yet more miners, as well as mercenaries to protect them this time. But that this would cost me 3,000 septims.

I told him this’d better be worth it, and paid up.

Black Book at Tel Mithryn

I also realized by this point that while the Black Book at Tel Mithryn was in a back room of Neloth’s living quarters, that room was one he had in fact given me access to—because it was the room where he had his staff enchanter.

So I decided I’d go try to read his Black Book as well, with the following in-character justifications:

  1. Another possible source of power to take against Miraak, and at this point Alarrah probably wants every weapon she can get at her disposal
  2. Arguably, Tel Mithryn could also be a safe space to read the final Black Book, because Neloth understands them, and if anything happened that Lydia couldn’t handle, he could probably assist

So I had to divert back to Severin Manor one more time, to get the relevant key out of one of the chests there in case I needed it. And I also cleared out the inventory, to prep for a new wave of incoming Black Book loot. Then I headed over to Tel Mithryn.

Head-canon wise I feel like Alarrah would clue Neloth in to her intentions, but the game didn’t give me any conversational prompts to do so. Not even a prompt to ask him if she could go read the Black Book.

I am however going to take the liberty of assuming that Alarrah showed up and went “okay, so I need to read your Black Book, and when I’m done with that I’m going to read the other one that’ll give me access to Miraak, please help Lydia if anything happens she can’t handle.”

And with that, I stepped into the back room where the book was and started reading it.

The Hidden Twilight quest

Neloth’s Black Book was called The Hidden Twilight, and that’s the section of Apocrypha it dropped me into.

This was another large, multi-section run and I didn’t finish it all last night. I think I made it to Chapter V?

After doing a few runs through the Black Books, I didn’t find anything terribly difficult to kill in here. The dungeon layout did have an unusual feature though of bridges that curled and uncurled, and I had to figure out how to get past the second one. Timing a jump onto it wasn’t quite enough; I kept timing it wrong and falling back down to the lower level. Which required me to have to circle back around to try again.

And after a couple of tries at that, I finally just opted to Whirlwind-Sprint my way across the gap and get into the next section.

(Side note: it is satisfying to be able to use Whirlwind Sprint properly, after all the trouble it gave me earlier in the game!)

I saved when it got late enough—I try not to play Skyrim past midnight on most work nights!

Next time

Finishing up the Hidden Twilight Black Book run. In-game time permitting, perhaps the next phase of the Kolbjorn Barrow run?

And I think I do also want to go after Karstaag, the super-powerful ghost frost giant, just to try my mettle against him. But the question here is going to be whether I do that before or after I take on Miraak.

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