This is the second to the last post for Alarrah’s run, because in last night’s session, she took on and defeated Miraak. Also, she discovered what was really going on at Koljborn Barrow, and made her final visits to Tel Mithryn and the Skaal village.
And then she gathered up some of the things she’d amassed in Severin Manor, and set out with Lydia and Clanky to return to Lucia in Whiterun!
(I’m calling this second to last post because I have just a couple more loose ends I want to do with this character before I officially retire her. And I want to get a couple of screenshots of her in-game stats just to record in this series of blog posts for posterity!)
- Got the jaunt into the Waking Dreams Black Book underway to start the session, which took a while as there were multiple parts to that
- Mostly nothing in the first four sections of Waking Dreams that I hadn’t encountered in the previous Black Book runs–twisty passages, scryes, treasure pods and vessels, spinning whirls of loose pages, etc. But there were extra specific books to find, and these unlocked later sections of this quest
- After unlocking the later sections, I had to face the dragon Sahrotaar and throw the Bend Will Shout at him, which was simultaneously kind of awesome and kind of ethically dodgy ;)
- Sahrotaar carried me to where I had to face Miraak–at which point Miraak gave him shit for yielding to me, before giving me his HAHA I WILL COMPLETELY OBLITERATE YOU AND THEN TAKE OVER SOLSTHEIM villain monologue
- Then it was game on, me vs. Miraak, also two extra dragons who Miraak promptly slew for additional soul strength as I proceeded to wail on him with my fire-enchanted stalhrim sword
- Notably, I did not in fact completely kill him–because Hermaeus Mora intervened and took Miraak out himself, leaving Miraak to wish me the same fate he got as he died, and Mora to tell his ‘new Dragonborn’ that if I served him faithfully, I would continue to be richly rewarded
- Activating the Black Book after the battle let me have full access to my skills tree and rearrange a bunch of perks, which was kind of awesome and might have been more awesome if I’d been able to do this earlier in my game run when rearranging perks might have been more meaningful
- Returned safely to Lydia and Clanky in Severin Manor
- Went to the Skaal village to tell Frea that Miraak was dead, which she kind of already knew because she could sense the change in the power of the land; she called me Skaal-friend and gravely advised me not to let Hermaeus Mora force me into serving him further
- Went to Tel Mithryn to visit there once more, and Neloth checked me over for any signs of incipient insanity, lol; also bought more Conjuration training from Talvas
- Courier came to me with the final note from Ralis at Kolbjorn Barrow–and when I got there, there was clearly something else very wrong, as there were dead miners outside the barrow as well as in
- Lydia, Clanky, and I headed in; I found the finally uncovered Word Wall for the Cyclone Shout, and got the word off of that
- Buggy behavior with a blade trap that threw both Lydia and Clanky out of the hallway, and made me lose track of Clanky, so I had to come back for him later
- Eventually reached the newly excavated section–where Ralis was chanting and trying to raise Ahzidal the Dragon Priest
- Took out Ahzidal when he rose, while Ralis was knocked unconscious
- Questioned Ralis after the fight to figure out WTF, and he babbled about not knowing what he’d been doing and that he’d been under some kind of spell; he wasn’t certain if he’d killed the miners but was afraid he had, because Ahzidal had been pushing him into it
- Alarrah knows something about being forced into doing things by more powerful beings, so she elected to let Ralis go if he never returned to Kolbjorn; he gratefully agreed, and fled
- Found another Black Book, Filament and Filigree, and read it to run the level for that one, too
- Tried to fast travel (via Arvak) back to Raven Rock, only to discover Clanky wasn’t with me, so I had to drop off a bunch of stuff at the manor and then go right back to Kolbjorn to search for where Clanky might have wound up
- Found Clanky in the corridor where the buggy blade trap had been, and got him to properly follow me again
- Returned to Severin Manor to gather up as much as I could carry without being burdened–then went outside to fast travel, and boinged to Windhelm, then boinged to the Western Watchtower so I could go home to Whiterun <3
- Lucia was all “Mama, you’re home! Can I have some gold to spend!” Ha! :D :D
At the Summit of Apocrypha
It interested me that I actually dragged my feet a little, getting the final quest to take out Miraak started. I started this session going ‘well maybe I should go sell some stuff or smith something’… and actually had to encourage myself to just get it done. I think this was my brain trying to go “but I don’t wanna be done with Skyrim yet”?
(It’s okay, brain. You aren’t done with Skyrim yet! Plenty more Skyrim to come! Just not with Alarrah!)
So I got the Summit of Apocrypha quest underway, as per previous plan–just read the Black Book right in Severin Manor, so Lydia could keep tabs on me in a reasonably safe place. And as with all the other Black Books, this one had an often complex and twisty multi-section level, with assorted Lurkers and Seekers to fight. And treasure pods and treasure vessels, and occasional scryes that I had to activate to unlock gates or tunnels or subsequent sections of the level.
The first several parts of this particular level were not particularly different from the other Black Book levels I’d run. Several sections in, though, this level got way more interesting once I found the dragon Sahrotaar.
Sahrotaar was a Serpentine Dragon, and initially tried to battle me. At this point, the game expected me to throw the Bend Will Shout at him to ‘tame’ him. This would get Sahrotaar on my side instead of Miraak’s, and let me get Sahrotaar to actually carry me to where I could fight the First Dragonborn.
This was simultaneously kind of awesome and ethically dodgy, just because of the whole concept of the “Bend Will” Shout: i.e., to temporarily force others to become your allies. If you have all three of the Shout words, the game description even outright says you can use it to tame dragons.
Here’s the problem with that: the dragons are fully sentient, speaking creatures.
So you’re not “taming” the dragon. You’re basically mind-controlling it into serving you.
Which is particularly weird given how the main original questline specifically has you getting a dragon ally, Odahviing, simply by defeating him in battle at Whiterun and getting him to acknowledge that your Thu’um is superior to his. In the Summit quest, though, you don’t just fight Sahrotaar. You have to throw Bend Will at him.
Now, you can maybe hand-wave this a bit by how the game also has you use Bend Will to clear Miraak’s influence on the All-Maker Stones all over Miraak. By extension, this is also allowing you to break the mind-control holds on the people (humans, mer, and rieklings) who were forced to work on the shrines.
Therefore, Bend Will can clearly be used to break mind control as well as initiate it. And you could make an argument that that’s what you’re doing with Sahrotaar.
But that you have to think about hand-waving this at all makes me a bit dissatisfied with how the game chose to handle this. I think as a player I’d have been more satisfied with a clearer distinction on using Bend Will to break mind control vs. causing it. If you’re the hero of the plotline, you shouldn’t be the one throwing mind control around, dammit.
That said: I also still object to the whole concept of “taming” a fully sentient creature. Just… no.
Now all that said, it was still pretty frigging awesome to be able to ride a dragon for longer than I did Odahviing. You even have the ability to fight from dragonback, though I didn’t try to do this. Sahrotaar did attack a couple of Lurkers and Seekers en route to taking me to Miraak–but I didn’t try to attack them myself, just because I was kicking back and enjoying this new aspect of the game. Plus, I just wanted to get to the actual battle.
Soon enough though Sahrotaar landed where Miraak was waiting. And Miraak was less than pleased that I’d gotten Sahrotaar on Team Alarrah. He actively gave Sahrotaar shit about that, before turning to give me shit and basically start in on giving me the expected HAHAHA I WILL OBLITERATE YOU AND TAKE OVER SOLSTHEIM villain monologue.
I let him finish, though I expect that Alarrah probably would have started going at him mid-pontificate, just because I wanted to see what he’d actually say. Once he was done, though, game on.
And honestly? It was easier than I’d expected. Miraak was a formidable opponent, and had the extra added oomph of a couple more dragons who were still Team Miraak on his side–but who he didn’t hesitate to kill to get their souls as he fought me, and as I whacked him down to zero health a few times. But my stalhrim sword, with its fire enchantments, kept doing him some serious damage, and he did spend a good portion of this battle actively on fire.
(Noting also for the record: I fought Miraak in the stalhrim armor, not the dragonscale, even though the dragonscale was better armor. I liked the narrative statement though of specifically wearing the stalhrim armor as a mark of support for the Skaal.)
And Miraak never killed me. He did do me serious damage, but I had more than enough healing potions to keep going.
It’s important to note though that as per the expected game events, I didn’t actually get to deliver the final killing blow. Because Hermaeus Mora intervened, apparently having finally had enough of Miraak’s bullshit, and impaled him with a tentacle. Miraak died screaming out a wish that I’d meet the same fate he did, while Mora told me that if I continued to serve him faithfully, I would continue to be ‘richly rewarded’.
Subtext: and if not, he’d totally tentacle-stab me, too.
With that, Miraak was down. I looted his body to get his stuff, and for good measure looted the dragons as well, so now I’m totally swimming in dragon bones and scales. Then I read the Black Book on the nearby pedestal.
This gave me full access to my skills trees, and ability to rearrange perks at whim. Which was, I gotta say, pretty awesome. I think it would have been more awesome though if I’d been able to do this earlier in the game run where it might have been more meaningful. Doing it at the end of Alarrah’s run, when I have no further serious plotlines to pursue and no other major opponents to take on, doesn’t really give me much.
The takeaway from this being, it’s a serious argument for planning further playthroughs to do the Dragonborn quest before taking on Alduin.
And, finally, I read the book again to return to Severin Manor, and Lydia and Clanky.
Visiting the Skaal and Tel Mithryn
Since it seemed appropriate to the narrative, I made a point of returning to the Skaal village after this to check in with them and let Frea know that Miraak was dead. Which, as it turned out, she kind of already knew–because her position as the village’s new shaman gave her the insight to sense the change in the balance of the land.
She also offered me respectful but solemn advice–not to go further down the path of letting Hermaeus Mora influence me. She acknowledged that Mora had forced me to serve him to take Miraak down, but asserted also that the All-Maker had made me Dragonborn for a reason, and that I should continue to walk with the All-Maker.
And she called me Skaal-friend. Aw. <3
While I was at it, I also went back to Tel Mithryn once more. Neloth greeted me by making a point of examining me for any sign of Hermaeus Mora’s influence, by which he meant ‘incipient insanity’. I must have passed muster, because he didn’t suddenly try to magically constrain me or anything. Lol.
I bought additional Conjuration training from Talvas, as well.
After that, I got in another round of sleep at Severin Manor before I finally triggered the other loose end I was waiting for–the courier to show up with the final note with Ralis, so I could clear Kolbjorn Barrow.
Conclusion of the Unearthed quest
When Lyds, Clanky, and I arrived at Kolbjorn this time, it was clear something was seriously wrong. The digging camp was larger–but this time there were dead miners outside the barrow as well as in. And there was no sign of Ralis anywhere.
I found all of Ralis’ journals in his tent, the last of which revealed he’d been under the influence of Ahzidal, and that he’d begun killing the miners.
Alarrah, at this point: Well, shit.
So we had to head into the barrow to find him. There was a lot more of it accessible at this point, including the Word Wall for a word of the Cyclone Shout.
And the swinging blade trap I’d encountered before proved a bit buggy this time, as I tried to have Lydia and Clanky pause on one side of it while I went ethereal with the intent of going through it and deactivating it from the other side.
Problem was, the trap had a gate right past it, and past that gate were draugr. Which Lydia and Clanky both picked up on, and they tried to barrel past me to fight the draugr through the gate. This had the very odd result of throwing both Clanky and Lyds through a wall on the right, right out of the hallway. Yikes?
Lydia reappeared behind me shortly after this, but Clanky did not. So I had to finish clearing the barrow without the spider.
Fortunately, though, there weren’t any other puzzles that needed solving, I just needed to figure out the proper path to get to where Ralis was. Once I found him, it only took a few moments for Ahzidal to rise so I could get down to the business of taking him out and getting his mask.
Ralis got knocked out during this confrontation. When it was over, he roused–and was more or less himself again, horrified at where he found himself, and half-remembering that he’d been suffering hearing voices and having hallucinations. He was not a hundred percent sure he’d killed the miners, but was pretty sure he might have done–because he did know that Ahzidal wanted their energy to rise again.
At this point, the game gave me two options: spare Ralis, which would let me have him as a follower in the future if I wanted, or tell him I couldn’t let him go unpunished.
I went with option A. Because I figured that Alarrah knew a little something at this point about how it felt to be manipulated by a more powerful being, forcing you into doing horrible things. So she had some room in her heart for mercy. Ralis gratefully seized on the order to never return to Kolbjorn Barrow, and fled.
After he left, there was one other thing to take care of in the barrow: finding the Black Book I knew was here, Filament and Filagree. After a bit more hunting, I tracked that down and went ahead and triggered it to do its level.
Which, fortunately, was not nearly as long or complicated as Waking Dreams. So I ran that one and got the Secret of Protection reward off of it.
At this point I had a lot of loot on me and was overburdened again. I thought maybe Clanky would catch up with me again if I fast traveled, so I summoned Arvak and tried to fast travel back to Raven Rock. Lydia came with me. Clanky did not.
So I dropped a bunch of stuff off at Severin Manor, and promptly fast traveled back to the barrow to go back in and hunt for Clanky. Because I was not leaving Raven Rock without him!
I found him back in the same corridor where the spinning blades had been before, in “wait” mode rather than “follow” mode. So I told him to follow me again, which let him return to Raven Rock with me safely.
And with that, finally, I was ready to take Alarrah home.
Back to Whiterun
I loaded up with the most critical things I wanted to take back to Whiterun with me, and then did the two-jump fast travel to get home again. One to land in Windhelm, and one from there to get to the Western Watchtower.
And I did have a bit of a lovely “oh thank Divines, home” heart pang on the way in. <3
Passed Ri’saad’s Khajiit on the way into the city, and bought a few things off of him just to make sure I’d have something for Lucia. Then I hastened right back up and through the Whiterun gates.
As soon as I entered Breezehome, I got Lucia’s glad cry: “Mama! You’re home!”
Immediately followed by her asking me for gold to spend, lololololol. Also, she threw me a line she’d given me before about “Mama took me to the market!” Uh, honey, what other “Mama” are you talking about, given that Lydia was with me the whole time we were gone? Did you pick up another parent while I was away? Did your name your fox Mama?
And with that, with Lydia, Lucia, Lucia’s fox, and Clanky all on hand, the Dragonborn was finally home.
One more low-key run in which I think I’ll do a circuit of all Alarrah’s properties and get a tally of all her loot and books and things. Maybe do a little bit of building to finish up all the Hearthfire properties. And maybe summon Durneviir a couple more times just to let him fly around.
And since I finally have that copy of Song of the Alchemists that Lami in Morthal asked me to bring her, I gotta bring her that book. :D
So I’ll do one final post with Alarrah, with a boatload of additional screencaps. Then I’ll officially retire her.
But before I do that, here’s the screenshots from the Miraak session!