In Which Merawen Joins the Bard’s College, Gets Azura’s Star, and Becomes Thane of Winterhold

This was another one of those sessions where I was all over the map. Just about everything I did in this run was stuff I’d already done as Alarrah but which I enjoyed, so I wanted to do again–plus, the skill bonuses were important and I wanted to rack those up. I moved the mage college plot along a little further, ran the entire bard college plot, got Azura’s Star, and became thane of Winterhold. And oh yes, I also finally fully furnished Breezehome.

I did however also do a few new things, including trying out housecarl Rayya as a follower, running the Yngvild dungeon, and doing a thievery job in Windhelm that required me to break into the house of Brunwulf Free-Winter.

Highlights

  • Went to Falkreath to pick up Rayya and use her as a follower for this session, to try her out; right out of the gate, had to kill a dragon as soon as I arrived
  • Boinged up Winterhold to queue up some side quests; ducked into the inn in Winterhold to queue up the plot to go to Hob’s Fall Cave and find the letter from Ranmir’s lost love
  • Stopped by the Jarl’s longhouse to ask him if he had any work, and got him to ask me to go get the Helm of Winterhold from Yngvild
  • Went to the mage college to check in with the Arcaneum, and queue up the next task for that plot: getting stolen books back that could identify the mysterious orb
  • Ducked back down to Riften long enough to do Vex’s part of the Hob’s Fall Cave run, and also to get the “get the journals” task from Vekel the Man, since that’s also in Yngvild
  • Went to Solitude to do the bards college run, which led to running Dead Men’s Respite finally; saw a second dragon overhead when I fast travelled there, but it didn’t land to engage
  • It was pleasant to be reminded that Dead Men’s Respite was a pretty cool dungeon–and also that Alarrah’s ebony sword came from killing King Olaf-Eye! But I already had found an ebony sword with Merawen, so now I had two at this point
  • Returned to Solitude to do the next stage, helping Viarmo reinstate the Burning of King Olaf festival
  • Killed time waiting for dusk by running the favor for the spiced wine vendor to get her shipment sent up from the docks
  • Got inducted as a bard, got a portion of Elisif’s patronage gold, and queued up the quest to go get Pantea’s Flute
  • Went to Hob’s Fall Cave for the flute and the letter to show what happened to isabelle
  • Boinged back to Solitude to turn in the flute and find the correct professor to turn in the lute as well, since I’d found that before on a previous run doing a bandit bounty
  • Found the third professor to queue up the quest to get the remaining instrument, Rjorn’s Drum
  • Boinged back down to Falkreath since Rjorn’s Drum was in Halldir’s Cairn–also a pretty cool dungeon, though significantly easier when you’re already over level 30!
  • Went to Whiterun to sell things and also to finally furnish Breezehome properly, since I had plenty of gold to do that at this point and I wanted Lydia to have her comfy home even if I’m not making Lydia my primary follower this run; plus, I wanted the space to store stuff
  • Ran the Yngvild dungeon so I could get the Helm of Winterhold as well as the journals for Vekel
  • Sent Rayya home to Falkreath so I could go hit Windhelm next for the sweep job; threw a lot of money at Silda the Unseen for Pickpocket training while I was there
  • Went to Steepfall Burrow to get Noster Eagle-Eye’s lost helmet, then returned to Solitude to give it to him; got him to bump up my Sneak
  • Got a whole bunch of potions from Angeline and then boinged up to the Shrine of Azura to finish the Black Star quest
  • And since finishing the Black Star quest counted as a favor quest for Winterhold, I was able to also return to Winterhold and get the Jarl to make me thane
  • Popped into the Ragged Flagon to give Vex the stolen items from Windhelm, and also give the journals to Vekel
  • Gave the ice teeth I’d gathered to Marise in the Riften market

Rayya

Since most of this run was stuff I’d already done as Alarrah, I feel like I don’t really need to go into depth on those things again. But I will talk about the stuff that was new to me this time through!

Most notably, I tried out housecarl Rayya as a follower for the first time. Housecarl picoreview: I wanted to like her more than I did. She is significant as the only non-Nord housecarl you can get in the game, and since she’s a Redguard, she specifically has dual wielding for scimitars. Which is badass! However, I felt like her lines weren’t as expressive as Lydia’s, or even Jenassa’s. So aside from the undisputable badassery of her scimitars, she was kind of a non-entity to me.

Which is a shame, because Rayya is also voiced by Claudia Christian. Which I think may have been part of the problem. Christian does the voices of several notable characters–Adrianne at the forge in Whiterun, but also Laila Law-Giver, the Jarl in Riften, and the housecarl you can get in Riften, Iona.

And I’ve got Christian’s voice most heavily associated in my brain with Adrianne, just because she’s the character I am around the most. On the grounds that her forge in Whiterun is the one I can access most easily and which has a smelter.

(Windhelm’s forge has a smelter, and I’m pretty sure Markarth’s does as well, but I try not to spend any more time in Windhelm than absolutely necessary, and Markarth’s kind of right behind Windhelm on the list of places I want to stay the fuck out of. So, since Riften’s forge and Solitude’s forge don’t actually have smelters, this means I need to do most of my smithing practice in Whiterun. Though I need to remember I’ll also have access to a smith at Fort Dawnguard once I move that plot far enough along.)

Therefore, it was kind of weird and distracting to me to hear Christian’s voice coming out of a completely different character.

So I was glad to try the character out as a follower, and a little sad though that she wasn’t more interesting. I’m likewise a little sad that Christian being the voice for housecarl Iona probably means by extension that Iona would not be particularly interesting to me as a follower either–on the grounds that I’m pretty sure Iona and Rayya will have the same follower lines.

Which suggests to me that I’ll probably have to keep the housecarls as backup followers and it’ll be more interesting to see what other NPCs can do. I very much liked Jenassa and will probably hire her again, but I also want to try out some of the other interesting NPCs, like Aranea, the mage priestess at the Shrine of Azura. More on her below.

Bard’s College

One of the big things I know I want to do on this run is get all of the Stones of Barenziah–and since I knew one of them was going to be in a location I’d hit as part of running the Bard’s College plot, I decided to go ahead and do that again. Plus, while the Bard’s College is useless as an in-game entity, the +1 boost to all your skills you get for finishing the quest is useful and I didn’t want to pass up that opportunity.

This time through, though, I did some judicious stacking of parallel quests so that I could satisfy multiple objectives at the same time. Running Hob’s Fall Cave to get Pantea’s Flute overlapped with a favor quest for Winterhold, as well as giving me a chance to get another of the Stones of Barenziah.

And I will say, it was nice to be reminded that yeah, the dungeons you need to visit to run this plot were fun. Though significantly easier running them at level 30+ than they were when I ran them as Alarrah. :D

Furnishing Breezehome

I may be minimizing Lydia as a follower in this run, but that didn’t mean I wanted to ignore her completely! So between that, and needing to finally have my own house as a place to store stuff, I wanted to go ahead and furnish Breezehome properly once I had enough spare gold to do so.

This turned out to be less expensive than I remembered, ha! This is what I get for getting Breezehome set up so early in Alarrah’s run that all of my recent recollections of putting a house together were influenced by Proudspire Manor and the three Hearthfire properties!

Anyway, now I have Breezehome fully set up. Which gives me access to two more chests where I can store stuff, as well as the alchemy lab where I can store ingredients. And bookcases!

I haven’t been keeping all the books with Merawen like I did with Alarrah, unless they’re specifically interesting for some reason. But now that I have at least a couple of small bookcases I can start thinking about which books are the interesting ones to keep.

What I will be keeping at Breezehome for the time being, though, will be the named weapons I get when I become thane of places–and the dragonscale helmet I actually found in chest loot, which I think was the first time ever that I’d found dragon armor of any kind in chest loot. :D

I can’t improve that thing quite yet. I am a long way from unlocking Dragon Smithing, but I should hopefully soon be able to at least improve if I have enough enchanted things on me to boost my Smithing skill. And possibly also appropriate potions. Because yeah, this helmet will definitely need to see some use later!

Yngvild

Running the Yngvild dungeon, for the quest called Toying with the Dead, was a bit of a letdown. This dungeon was an ice cave up north, near-ish to Dawnstar and Winterhold, and the antagonist for this plot is a necromancer who also happens to be a necrophiliac and has been kidnapping young women from Dawnstar. Ew.

He has in fact enslaved their ghosts to serve him, and the part about this that disappointed me was that the quest didn’t give you any satisfying means to actually liberate the poor ghosts. There is a detail in the boss chamber where, if you yoink a soul gem off a pedestal, you can get one of the ghosts to actually turn on the necromancer–but that ghost, as well as any others still alive, are still hostile to you.

And I was all, “what the fuck, lady, I just helped you destroy the psychopath who enslaved you, why are you attacking ME? Oh well, I’m going to have to hit you with Dawnbreaker. Sorry. I hope you don’t explode oh whoops wait you exploded.”

On the upside, though, this did let me get another of the Stones.

On the additional WTF side, I’m pretty sure I do not want to know what client asked Vekel the Man for this psychopath necromancer’s journals. Which, by the way, I still have–because when I went back to Vekel to give them to him, he didn’t actually take them even though he did dialogue responses to me that indicated him accepting them from me. Another game bug.

I do not think Merawen will want to keep these books. I’ll have to go fence them, either to Mallus or to Gulum-Ei, just because the whole ew factor of this particular psychopath NPC makes me disinclined to want to fence them to Tonilia.

Sweep job at Brunwulf Free-Winter’s house in Windhelm

This was another one of those thievery jobs I was a little sad about, just because Brunwulf Free-Winter is one of the few Nords in Windhelm who not only is not a racist dick, he’s actually actively trying to work to better things for the Dunmer and the Argonians. He’s also the guy that becomes Jarl in Windhelm if Ulfric Stormcloak is deposed and the Imperials take over the city.

However, Merawen doesn’t know that yet. So I totally robbed his house.

And with a Sneak of 93, I didn’t have the slightest problem getting in there either. Though it didn’t hurt that I was able to get there right during a window of time when he wasn’t in there!

Getting Azura’s Star

When I did the last phase of this plot as Alarrah, it took me a few tries to get past the dremora summoned by Malyn Varen. This time through it only took me two tries–because I remembered that if there are opponents who are going to give me problems in melee range, I should bloody well take them out with arrows before they can get near me.

And by this point, I also had a better bow–because I found two different ebony bows during this session, so I was able to trade up from the glass! :D I’m still shooting elven arrows because I haven’t unlocked Glass Smithing yet, and so far the places that sell arrows haven’t had glass arrows in stock. I also haven’t unlocked Ebony Smithing, so I can’t make those arrows either.

But ebony bow + elven arrows was more than enough to one-shot the dremora. And, as it happened, Malyn Varen himself. He came running back at me while I was shooting the dremora, so I took him out faster than I’d planned.

Which also meant that I was removed from Azura’s Star before I had a chance to loot either the dremora or Varen’s corpse, but ah well! The whole point of doing this anyway was to get the Star, and now that’s sorted.

The one other notable part of this was that the first time I showed up at the shrine, a dragon actually showed up too. And while I started shooting at it, Aranea also started fighting it, from her place up on the shrine. She was throwing lightning bolts, and that looked very, very badass.

I was a little sorry that that got retconned by the dremora frying me in the Star!

Still though it showed me that Aranea can apparently be quite formidable in combat. And the chances of my using her as a follower just went up.

(From what I’m seeing in the wiki info about the voice cast, I think she’s even got the same voice actor as Jenassa. It’ll be interesting to see if they have any follower lines in common.)

Next time

The next item on the mage quest plotline is Fellglow Keep, and that’s another location for a Stone of Barenziah, so I’ll probably be doing that.

And I’m at 58 on the Smithing now, so I have only two more jumps to do to get to 60 and unlock Arcane Blacksmithing. Which I need to do to be able to improve my Thieves Guild armor. I need to see if I have enough gold to pay Balimund for training to speed that along if possible.

(And yes, I’m a thief, I could totally just pickpocket him and get my gold back and keep paying him for training. But I kinda like Balimund and don’t want to rob him. He keeps saying “you’ve been a good friend to me, that means something”, and, well, it means something to Merawen too. See previous commentary re: she’s more noble than she likes to admit.)

But I have a bunch of other things I could do as well, and when possible, I want to stack them on top of getting more of the Stones. Which means I need to get more of the Guild jobs done, I think. I’ve cleared the last job from Vex so I need to get another one from her. In the meantime, I have a Bedlam Job from Delvin, and those I can satisfy by getting more of the Stones.

On the other hand, I do have a lot of parallel quests active now, and I liked them all in various ways when I did Alarrah’s run, and running them as Merawen is also highly tempting. So really, this is going to boil down to, what am I in the mood to do next. So I think I’ll start with Fellglow Keep, possibly with Aranea as a follower, and also work on getting to 60 in Smithing. And we’ll see where I go from there!

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