In Which Merawen Moves Plots Along, and Destroys the Dark Brotherhood

This entire session was mostly stuff I’d done before, with a few variations from how Alarrah did it. I moved the mage college and Dawnguard plots along another notch, while testing out having Aranea from the Azura’s Star plot as a follower. And, I destroyed the Dark Brotherhood again! They had it coming.

Highlights

  • Started off in Riften and thought briefly about doing hunting in the surrounding woods, so popped outside the city and spotted the Khajiit on site; they actually ran off to attack a frostbite spider! And the horse from the nearby stables also jumped into the fight!
  • Did a little hunting in the Whiterun plains to get materials for leather smithing
  • Did enough leather smithing work to make it up over 60, and also a little bit of enchanting up at Dragonsreach, so that I could level up and unlock Arcane Blacksmithing! Which also let me finally improve my Thieves Guild armor \0/
  • Went to the Shrine of Azura to recruit Aranea as a follower; when I showed up, so did an Elder Dragon! Which we killed
  • Went to Fellglow Keep with Aranea, to move the mage college plot along another notch; attacked by Miraak cultists when we showed up
  • Went back to the college to return the stolen books, and also had the followup scene involving the Psyjic Order monk coming to see me, and raising the suspicions of Ancano
  • Ran the Dimhollow Crypt dungeon to find Serana and free her, and get the Dawnguard plot properly underway; got attacked by Miraak cultists here, too
  • Elder Dragon tried to attack when Serana, Aranea, and I emerged from the crypt; it killed me, and second time through, the dragon never landed, so we didn’t get to take it out
  • Went to Castle Volkihar to deliver Serana and her Scroll, and turned down Lord Harkon’s gift
  • On the way to Solitude from the castle, found the Steed Stone and triggered that to get the carry weight bonus
  • Sent Aranea home to the shrine once I reached Solitude; sold some more things there, but couldn’t find a glass helmet yet to finish out my glass armor set I was acquiring
  • Fast traveled to Windhelm to see if their smith had a glass helmet; answer, no
  • But while I was in Windhelm I broke into the Aretino house to have the conversation with Aventus, and launch the plot to take out Grelod the Kind and get access to the Dark Brotherhood
  • Also, the smith at Windhelm’s forge gave me a side quest to get a sword for him as a model for one he’s making for Ulfric
  • Took Grelod out the same way Alarrah had done, with an arrow strike, once I realized I didn’t have the requisite perk yet to reverse pickpocket poison onto her; also had a better hiding place this time so none of the children got anywhere near me
  • Boinged back to Windhelm to report to Aventus and got him to give me his family heirloom plate
  • Boinged back to Whiterun, and sold the plate as well as a few other things to the Khajiit outside; got the courier who showed up with the “We Know” message from the Brotherhood
  • Parked at Breezehome to sleep so i could trigger the Brotherhood kidnapping me, which they obligingly did; killed Astrid and freed the captives
  • Went to Solitude to report to a guard that I’d killed the leader of the Dark Brotherhood, and he pointed me at Dragon Bridge to report to the commander there; courier showed up while I was talking to him, with the notice from the Riften orphanage that they were open to adoptions
  • Khajiit were parked outside Solitude when I came out from that, so I stopped to trade with them and also get a round of Lockpicking training off their guy
  • Boinged down to Falkreath to head west from there and find the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary; got in with the password, and proceeded to clear the place (and get the Stone, and other loot as well)
  • Returned to Whiterun to do another loot inventory and save for the night

What it takes to get the Khajiit to actually enter combat

I started the session thinking I’d maybe do a little hunting to get raw materials for smithing practice. Tried this first in Riften, and went out through the gates. But then I saw the Khajiit were on hand, and I walked over to say hi and sell things–only to see all of the Khajiit in the camp whip out their weapons and run off into the trees, yikes?!

They’d spotted a nearby frostbite spider. So apparently it is possible for the Khajiit cavern NPCs to actually enter combat!

Also of note here: one of the horses from the stable also joined in the fight with the spider before running off farther into the trees. So apparently that specific horse is quite the volatile warhorse. And capable of taking on frostbite spiders?

Aranea as follower, and impact on mage and Dawnguard plots

Since this was another run where I did activities I’d already tried as Alarrah, this will be another post where I just focus on what was different this time. The main thing for the mage college and Dawnguard plots was how having an actual follower along changed things up a bit.

First of all, Aranea as a follower is pretty badass. She does have the same voice actor as Jenassa, and therefore she has some of the same lines in common–but she didn’t seem as vocal as Jenassa, so at least in terms of character interaction I didn’t quite like her as much.

But in terms of combat, she was undeniably really frigging handy. When I showed up at the Shrine to get her, I had another incident of an Elder Dragon showing up–and this time, between my arrows and her throwing lightning at it, we took it out. And in subsequent combat situations, she summoned both Flame and Frost Atronachs and generally helped make running both Fellglow Keep and Dimhollow Crypt easier. So yeah, having a combat mage as a follower is a thing I can now heartily recommend.

For the mage plot, her presence also meant that when I showed up at Fellglow Keep to get the stolen books back, I never got the option to let Orthorn follow me through the dungeon. And I was fine with that, because he had been quite fragile when I tried this dungeon as Alarrah and it was difficult to actually keep him alive. So as Merawen, I told him I could handle it by myself–which was a little disingenuous given that Aranea was right there. But though he was dubious, Orthorn accepted this, thanked me for freeing him, and went on his way.

For the Dawnguard plot, having Aranea along meant that once I found and freed Serana, I had two mages following me out of the crypt instead of one. Which made getting past the last couple of gargoyles that wake up and attack you on the way out considerably easier.

When I escorted Serana to Castle Volkihar, Aranea came with us on the boat–but she did not enter the castle. No in-game interaction explained her staying outside. She was waiting for me though when Harkon punted me out of the castle after refusing his offer to make me a vampire.

All in all I’m glad I gave her a try but I’m not sure I’ll want to have her as a follower on a subsequent run. I very well may ask her if she wants to be steward if I wind up building Lakeview, Windstad, or Heljarchen in this run, though!

Fellglow Keep

Other than having Aranea along, the only other notable difference for me this time through Fellglow was that I didn’t bother to try to free the vampires in the cages.

Played the interaction with the Caller the same way, and got her to agree to give me the books without any further trouble.

Dimhollow Crypt

Aside from having Aranea along, one other notable thing happened running Dimhollow.

This time through I did actually find the spellbook for Necromantic Healing, though I had to backtrack to do it. I told Aranea to wait near the exit out, which she did. I also tried to tell Serana to wait–which she didn’t. She had a line about how I thought she was going to stand by while I did things, I was crazy. And also that she was going to keep an eye on me.

Got the spellbook, regardless. Thing is, I’d gone after it thinking I could use it to heal Serana if need be. But from what I saw on the wiki, Serana doesn’t count as undead, presumably because she and her family are the special fancy type of vampire created directly by Molag Bal? So I won’t be able to use the spell on her anyway. Oh well.

Steed Stone

After finishing up at Castle Volkihar, since I was in the right area anyway, I decided to stop at the Steed Stone on the way to Solitude and get its power activated so I could have that tasty carry bonus.

I also discovered that in addition to that carry bonus, it also makes any armor you’re wearing weightless. Which means that if I were so inclined, I could actually try out heavy armor with Merawen. I am tempted by the idea of seeing what she looks like in Ebony Armor, just because I feel like she’d look badass in entirely black armor. :D

I’m not yet a hundred percent determined to try that, just because the Ebony Armor on female characters does that annoying HI LOOK I AM A FEMALE CHARACTER AND YOU CAN TELL BECAUSE MY ARMOR HAS BOOBS thing. Which looks stupid and also, according to all reasonable people who know anything about armor at all, actually doesn’t do much to provide a woman’s breasts actual protection.

Not all of the Skyrim Heavy Armors do this, though. But the armors that are better about it are harder to get (e.g., Daedric, Stalhrim). Still though it means I might be interested in checking out the Blades armor once I get to that part of the main plot.

But, dunno yet. I have started seeing ebony armor pieces showing up for sale, as well as getting them in loot. So I may just be able to nab enough ebony pieces to try out wearing them, regardless.

Side quest for Windhelm’s smith

Without actually expecting to, I triggered a side quest to go find an ancient sword for Windhelm’s smith, because he wanted to use it as a model for one he was trying to make for Ulfric.

I would have done it, because I do like being on the good side of the smiths, and also, this was a new thing I hadn’t done before. But it actually wanted me to go to Stony Creek Cave yet again, and I’ve already been there once this run. I don’t think I want to pop back there immediately unless I have another quest at the same time, possibly pointing me at the adjacent Kagrenzel ruin. We’ll see.

Destroying the Dark Brotherhood

Last but definitely not least, I played through destroying the Dark Brotherhood again. This time through, I feel like the only essential difference is in what I envision as the character narrative, as opposed to any actual difference in game play.

Since Merawen is a Dunmer, and assassination is actually legal in Morrowind, I figure that she probably has less of a moral objection to assassination per se than characters of other races would. This doesn’t mean she actually approves of it, mind you, just that she’s possibly less inclined to just go “assassins are eeeeevil” right out of the gate.

Also, given that the Dark Brotherhood is specifically a splinter group from the Morag Tong in Morrowind, this actually gives additional heft to Merawen feeling like it’s the right thing to do to take them out. Because these assholes are operating outside the law.

Plus, they’d attacked her twice before I initiated this plot again, three times if you count them kidnapping her, and that’s enough times for them to be annoying!

This time, when I approached a guard in Solitude to tell him I’d killed the leader of the Dark Brotherhood, he actually gave me the line about the murder of the orphanage matron in Riften, lol.

So I have to imagine that took Merawen slightly aback–because “wait how do you know about–never mind, NOT IMPORTANT, I didn’t say that in my Outside Voice”–but that she specifically avoided commenting on that because she had bigger fish to fry.

Of course, it didn’t help that the courier with the notification about the orphanage being under new management and opening for adoptions came up right as I was talking to that guard, either. :D

Mostly though I wanted to wipe out the Brotherhood to a) get access to the Stone of Barenziah in their Sanctuary, and b) get Astrid’s Shrouded Armor. Which I have now achieved.

While I was at it, this time through I also nabbed the Redguard-style outfit off of Nazir, just because he had unique clothes and a red Alik’r hood. And I thought it might be neat to see what those looked like on Merawen. Answer: pretty neat!

Also, it’s notable that this time through, I learned the Marked for Death Shout at the Sanctuary after I learned the Drain Vitality Shout at Dimhollow. Which set me up with both Shouts without Alarrah’s buggy behavior of Marked for Death triggering extra copies called Drain Vitality. So that’s good, and that’s an argument in favor of doing at least that much of Dawnguard before you learn any words for Marked for Death, so you can avoid that bug.

Next time

Not actually sure yet! So many options to choose from!

I kinda feel like, though, since I spent this session on non-Thieves-Guild stuff, that my next session should have Guild mileage. I do still have the pending Bedlam Job in Markarth. But that’s in Markarth, which may take some judicious planning if I want to get in there without triggering the Forsworn Conspiracy plot.

There are two Stones of Barenziah to be had in Markarth, one of which is in the Treasury House, and the other in the Dwemer museum. The latter location is apparently involved with a later part of the Thieves Guild plot, so I think I may hold on that and see if I can get into the Treasury House first.

Once I pull that off, I may well proceed with the Thieves Guild plot and run Snow Veil Sanctum.

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