In Which Merawen Joins the Dawnguard and Seeks Azura’s Star

Anybody reading my recent updates and going “gee Anna, you’re sure bouncing Merawen around through the various major faction plotlines” is absolutely correct. Because I am!

Part of this has to do with my previous commentary re: a) wanting to re-do the big plotlines that I had fun with before, and b) wanting to see if I can run Dawnguard and Dragonborn before I finally go for Alduin. But a new wrinkle in this is also that I’ve been running Merawen with the difficulty kicked up another notch, from “Novice” to “Apprentice”. Earlier in her run this wasn’t having a significant impact, but now that I’m up to level 30 I think I’m starting to feel it.

Hence, bouncing around through various plotlines, trying to see which ones I can finish, and which ones provide me the means to move other ones along.

More specific details, as always, behind the fold!

Highlights

  • Did the sweep job in Whiterun to clear valuables out of the priest Heimskr’s house; got another sweep job from Vex, and this one will be in Windhelm
  • Went to Orphan Rock to get Nettlebane for the Blessings of Nature plot, and made it successfully through that without having to fight the hagraven at close range; sniped her instead from behind cover
  • Returned to Whiterun to trigger the final part of the quest, and get Maurice to follow me to the Eldergleam Sanctuary
  • Hired Jenassa at the Drunken Huntsman, to try out having her as a follower, so that meant I had both Jenassa and Maurice with me to conclude the Eldergleam quest
  • Tried to go to Mount Anthor multiple times to confront the dragon there for a bounty, but the current dragon there is a Frost Dragon, and so far this hasn’t gone well
  • Went to Fort Dawnguard to begin the Dawnguard plot and get Isran’s instructions to go to Dimhollow Crypt
  • Tried to go to Dimhollow Crypt, only to have another frigging Frost Dragon attack as soon as I fast traveled to the nearby mill, and I couldn’t take that dragon down
  • Went through Ilinalta’s Deep to retrieve the Broken Star, to move the Black Star plot further along; this took most of the session, as the necromancers in that dungeon killed me repeatedly with frost attacks
  • Went to Falkreath to go ahead and trigger the “become thane of Falkreath by doing favors for its people” thing
  • Re-did the quest to search for the missing hunters and got Valdr saved from the spriggan cave
  • Tried to scope out Bleakwind Basin again with Jenassa at my back, to see if there was any chance we could take out the giants, and yeah no not yet
  • Boinged from Whiterun to Solitude to Windhelm to Riften on a selling off of loot run, also trying to see if any of the smiths were selling glass armor items yet; answer, no

General commentary

So yeah, I was pretty much all over the map on this run, trying to figure out which of the plots I could move along without getting killed. I am really feeling the lack of frost resistance on my armor, and this is a problem I need to fix ASAP.

I also need to get my Smithing improved enough that I can unlock Arcane Blacksmithing. I haven’t been doing as much direct smithing work with Merawen as I did with Alarrah; I’ve been more throwing money at Balimund for training to bump up the skill instead. But that pre-supposes that I have money for training. And to get money for training, I need to either run Guild jobs, or proceed with plots that can let me run dungeons for loot.

And right now, any location where I’m at risk for frost damage is a goddamn problem!

Mind you, this isn’t to say that I’m quite ready to set the Difficulty setting back down to Novice. I’m actually enjoying the challenge, because it makes me have to rethink my attack strategy. For example, running Ilinalta’s Deep meant I had to eventually rely a lot more on stealth and sneaking right up on the more powerful necromancers, to get close enough to hit them with Dawnbreaker, and do it fast enough that they didn’t have time to throw spells at me.

Still though, what this is telling me is that for the next session or two, I may need to specifically focus on lower-tier quests:

  • Guild side jobs
  • Running the “do a favor for people in a hold” quests to become thane (maybe Morthal, maybe Falkreath, maybe Riften, not sure yet)

Plus, I still do not have a house. This is another problem I need to fix.

Breaking into Heimskr’s house

This was one of those Guild jobs that points at how the game’s shaky in its implementation of having the Guild only rob the wealthy. Heimskr is clearly not wealthy. He has only a one-room house, with simple clothing and possessions.

Yet if he comes up as the target of a side job for the Guild, he’s still considered “wealthy”, and high value items will spawn inside his house.

So you have to headcanon this a bit, and maybe assume that Heimskr is more wealthy than he lets on? But that you have to headcanon it at all just shows my point about the game being shaky in its implementation of not targeting the poor as thievery victims.

Aside from that, though, hitting his house was particularly challenging, even more so than the houses of the Battle-Borns and the Gray-Manes. And this is why: Heimskr’s house is specifically right off the square in the Wind District in Whiterun, within visual range of the wide plaza where he does his preaching. And by extension, within visual range of the city guards. The square is full of guards all the damn time.

I tried to lockpick his door during daylight hours, and got spotted, so I had to back out and roll back to a prior save. Tried it again later after dark, only to find that oh shit, Heimskr’s actually still awake. And he did in fact spot me after I’d swiped two of the three valuable items, and ordered me to get out.

Which I did, because I didn’t want to risk him yelling for the guards. I stayed sneaking outside his door and waited until after midnight, then tried a third time. By this point he was finally asleep, so I was able to get the third of the items I was supposed to nab.

(Note: the wiki’s writeup on Heimskr is, I think, mistaken. It said he heads back to his house at 8pm and sleeps for four hours until midnight, but that was very clearly not the case when I went into his house after dark the first time. I think maybe the wiki should have said he sleeps for four hours starting at midnight?)

Boinged back to Riften after this, to turn in the items and pick up another job from Vex. She gave me another sweep job, this time in Windhelm.

The Blessings of Nature quest

I’ve built up quite the list of quests in my journal, so in the name of clearing some of that out, I elected to go get Nettlebane next. No real difficulty with this. I was able to take out the three initial hags without too much trouble, and then sneak up to a point from which I was able to snipe the hagraven who actually had Nettlebane on her.

Then I went back to Whiterun to initiate the final stage of the quest and get Danica’s request to go get sap out of the Eldergleam. And, by extension, pick up Maurice as a follower.

Before I did that, though, I went to the Drunken Hunstman and hired the Dunmer mercenary Jenassa. She’d come recommended by friends of mine who’d hired her before in their games, and plus, since she’s a Dunmer, I figured Merawen would be more favorably inclined to having her as a follower.

And, given how the game has been more difficult at current settings, I figured having a competent follower at my back was really called for at this point.

So with both Maurice and Jenassa as followers, I went to the Eldergleam Sanctuary. And triggered a dragon encounter on the way!

We killed that dragon, though I had the bug happen where I didn’t actually get a soul off of it. From what I see on the wiki, this may have been caused by how I’d already cleared the nearby dragon lair Bonestrewn Crest.

Did the run through the Sanctuary, and as with Alarrah, I let Maurice do the thing where he asks the Eldergleam for help and gets the sapling off of it. Merawen may be bitchy, but I don’t think she’s cruel, so it made sense to go that route.

Mount Anthor

With that quest taken care of, I tried to take Jenassa to Mount Anthor multiple times during this session, to see if I could take out the dragon there for the pending bounty.

Note that I’ve already cleared Mount Anthor, but a dragon respawned there, and that respawned dragon is the one the bounty’s asking me to hit. Problem is, it’s a Frost Dragon.

And I do not have any Resist Frost enchantments on my current armor. So each time I tried to hit that lair in this run, the dragon eventually took me out.

I need to spend more time to prep. I’ll need either a Resist Frost enchantment on my armor, multiple Resist Frost potions, or both.

And probably also better arrows. I’m shooting a Glass Bow right now, but my stock of decent arrows is getting low, and I’m going to need to improve them to be able to properly take this dragon on.

Dawnguard quest line

Decided to go ahead to Fort Dawnguard with Jenassa following me, as that would improve my chances of getting there safely. And this time, I also found the NPC, the fresh-faced Nord lad Agmaer, who also wants to sign on with the Dawnguard. He walked up to the fort with Jenassa and me, throwing off kind of endearing commentary the whole time.

Other than that, starting this plot off played out pretty much the same way it had with Alarrah.

And I tried to go to Dimhollow Crypt to get that dungeon going. But when Jenassa and I tried to fast travel to the nearby mill, an entirely different Frost Dragon showed up!

Which proceeded to hand me my ass, just like the one at Mount Anthor. So I had to beat a strategic retreat.

The Black Star quest

New plan: advancing the plot for Azura’s Star!

So Jenassa and I went to Ilinalta’s Deep, and this was actually the majority of this session. Because here, too, I started feeling the impact of a higher difficulty setting. It took me a whole lot more tries to get through this necromancer lair, in no small part because the various necromancers were throwing around frigging frost spells, particularly Ice Spike.

I therefore had a lot of trouble getting past most of them. What finally started working was:

  1. Telling Jenassa to hang back a bit
  2. Going into Sneak mode and sneaking right up on the target necromancer to be close enough for melee range
  3. Smacking the hell out of them with Dawnbreaker

And I had to remind myself of where the hell the Broken Star was in the lair; I almost made it out of the lair before I realized I’d missed the part of it where I had to get the thing off of Malyn’s skeleton.

Pulled a lot of loot out of this dungeon, though, enough that I had to do the usual shuffle of Thieves Guild armor + potion of strength so I could get back to Whiterun and sell stuff.

Falkreath

Went by Falkreath long enough to have the Jarl give me the “help my people and I’ll make you my thane” line. And then triggered the side quest to go rescue missing hunters, forgetting that that quest did not in fact count as a favor quest in Falkreath. Oops!

Still though it was a reasonably low-key quest, and it was nice to actually succeed at it, after the difficulty of running Ilinalta’s Deep! Plus, it let me get access to a gold vein to mine for ore.

Bleakwind Basin

Tried to scope out Bleakwind Basin one more time to confirm whether I had a prayer of actually taking down the giant there. Answer: no.

I couldn’t find any cover close enough to actually be able to snipe the giant. And, as it happened, I actually inadvertently alerted both giants when Jenassa got into a fight with a couple of mudcrabs!

The giants both came stomping over, and a few seconds later, I was stomped flat. Ow ow ow ow.

I am definitely going to need a more powerful bow and better armor before I can clear this camp for its bounty.

Shopping run

And the last thing I did for this session was basically a shopping run, looking to see if I could find any glass armor. I’m almost to level 31, but glass armor apparently doesn’t start showing up in lists until you’re level 36, so I have a bit farther to go.

I also threw a bunch of money at Balimund in Riften for Smithing training, so now my Smithing is over 50. But I need to get it over 60 to unlock Arcane Blacksmithing, and I need to make it to 75 for Glass Smithing.

Jenassa

Last thing I’ll say in this post is that I do indeed like Jenassa as a follower. She’s got a bit of Dunmer drama queen going on, with lines like “I am the shadow at your back” and “so many shadowy corners to strike from, I could learn to like this place”.

I also went “aw” at “We’re one of the same kind, you and I. I’m glad to have met you.”

Even if that line made me think, what, you’re a Dunmer thief mage Dragonborn? Awesome! ;D

I think I’ll have to lose her once I find Serana, though, because the game will enforce having Serana as a follower. And since Jenassa is a mercenary, that’ll mean I’ll need to rehire her later. But I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

Next time

Since I have several priority problems I need to attend to, I think the next session’s going to have to focus on lower-level stuff as I mentioned before.

And since I did in fact have a challenge finishing the Azura’s Star plot, I’m definitely going to have to work on building up my fire resistance too before I let Aranea send me into the Star to take on the Dremora and the soul of Malyn in there.

Screenshots