And now, at last, the conclusion of Merawen’s trek through the Forgotten Vale! Played through the rest of that locale rather faster than I had done with Alarrah; I skipped large parts of it. See below for details!
- Picked up where I’d left off in the Vale, a little ways after killing the frost giant with the emerald paragon
- Serana still stuck in sneak mode
- Acquired Unknown Book Vol. III
- Continued fighting Falmer (including a mage with a Staff of Fireballs) and chaurus, and also mining orichalcum and moonstone veins
- Made it to the entrance to Glacial Crevice, did not break Serana out of Sneak mode by changing zones
- Skipped most of Glacial Crevice, in the name of not killing any more Falmer than absolutely necessary–and also because I knew from Alarrah’s run that I wouldn’t miss anything critical
- When I came through the entrance, Serana had a line about “poor thing, it would have tried to kill us” but not clear what she was actually talking about? The line went by so fast that I didn’t see the subtitle pop up
- Took the shortcut through the Crevice by going underwater through a long passageway to the west, thank you Volsung for your waterbreathing assistance
- This led to the cavern with crisscrossing bridges; followed those all the way to the top
- Also got way ahead of Serana, it took her a while to catch up with me
- Fought a Falmer who actually just buggered off in the middle of the battle, that was weird–and I wasn’t sneaking at the time, so I’m not at all sure what prompted that
- Serana eventually caught up with me; I didn’t see her running to catch up, she was just suddenly there, I think the game caught up with rendering her properly?
- Once Serana caught up with me, and after we fought a couple more Falmer, made it to the passage that led to the next section of Forgotten Vale
- Took out the frost giant with the diamond paragon; Serana did seem to break out of Sneak mode on her own, so yay (still not sure what got her stuck in the first place)
- Note: killed the giant with my crossbow \0/
- And started mining quicksilver all over the place
- Got into the stretch of Falmer settlement with a whole bunch of tents, and flailed around a lot fighting Falmer until I actually found the tent with Unknown Book Vol. IV
- Also tried not to take any more loot than my hard limit–carry capacity + 60 to account for what Potions of Strength I had available; this required some periodic leaving of stuff in chests, but also drinking some of my extra potions (non-critical stuff like Regenerate Magicka or what have you)
- Left behind several potions of poison looted off of previous Falmer
- Eventually reached the gate past the settlement, which led to the Wayshrine of Radiance
- Tally at this point:
- 3 of 4 books found
- 4 of 5 paragons gained from giants
- 5 of 5 wayshrines found
- I was overloaded, but went “fuck it” at this point, because I was almost to the Inner Sanctum, so I decided to try and see if I could get through the place with minimal additional looting, and keeping the inventory within range of my Strength potions for eventual fast travel back out
- Got into the Inner Sanctum and made it to the ruby paragon giant
- Decided to proceed straight to Auriel’s Chapel, and not swipe stuff from frozen Falmer and chaurus, because I was overloaded too much already
- Got to Vyrthur and GAME ON
- Blades Armor held up well against the onslaught of the frozen Falmer and chaurus
- Not so much against having the ceiling dropped on my head (ow)
- Also discovered that when Serana pulled me out from under the fallen rubble, and we chased Vyrthur up onto the balcony, I couldn’t access my inventory–which meant Serana got ahead of me to Vyrthur, and I couldn’t run to catch up with her, lol
- Got Vyrthur confronted and slain, and got Gelebor to show up and give me the bow as well as the blessings on all my elven arrows
- Confirmed with Serana that yep, we sure do have to kill her father; she recommended we return to Isran for reinforcements
- Which was exactly what I was planning to do anyway, but first: LOOT DROP IN SOLITUDE TIME
- HI FAMILY I’M BACK FOR A FEW MINUTES everybody keep low profile till I return from killing the master vampire mmkay?
- Sofie gave me an Ashen Grass Pod, what a good kid <3
- Dropped off most of the loot at Proudspire
- Switched off to Dawnguard armor, dropped Blades and Nightingale armor into storage chest, along with all crafting materials
- Stashed all the gems in the bedroom safe
- Stashed ingredients in storage barrel downstairs
- Charged up dragonbane and the dragonbone bow with soul gems
- Saved for the night
So here’s the thing–I really like Forgotten Vale, as I’ve said before. But it’s also huge.
Fortunately, not all of it is actually critical to visit, for purposes of doing the Touching the Sky quest. The parts you absolutely, positively have to do are visiting the Wayshrines, getting into the Inner Sanctum, confronting and killing Vyrthur, and then doing the epilogue with Gelebor to get the bow.
Everything else is entirely optional. And this time through, I actually decided to skip through parts of it that Alarrah did in her run. Because:
One, even more than Alarrah, Merawen has had in-game reason to learn about the backstory of the Falmer, because Merawen did the plot to kill Mercer Frey in Irkngthand. So it felt appropriate to try to kill as few Falmer as possible.
I couldn’t completely avoid them. Avoiding Falmer when I’m on my own, wearing the Nightingale Armor, and sneaking through a dark cavern where it’s easy for the Falmer to miss me is one thing. Avoiding them in an above-ground settlement, in broad daylight, with an aggro vampire as my follower? That’s another thing entirely.
But what I could do was avoid large stretches of any dungeon where the main point was just to fight Falmer and loot stuff out of their tents. Hence, skipping most of Glacial Crevice.
Note that the shortcut through Glacial Crevice is so totally a thing I would not have known about if I didn’t regularly look stuff up on the uesp.net wiki. But I’m very glad I found out about the shortcut, because it was super helpful to take advantage of in this session.
Two, while I was trying to minimize my loot regardless, I did eventually get overloaded. Which cut down hard on the amount of stuff I wanted to lug around with me. And if possible, I wanted to avoid having to blip out to Solitude again for the express purpose of dropping off stuff.
Which meant I had a hard limit of current carrying capacity + 60 (because I had a few Elixirs of Strength), over which I could not go if I wanted to maintain ability to fast travel when I was finally done. And that required me having to be more judicious about what loot I picked up, and to make judgement calls on which enemies I really, really needed to fight.
(It occurs to me as I write this that I do have access to Arvak now, which helps the whole “fast travel while overloaded” problem, definitely. But Arvak’s not really useful for moving through crowded, twisty Falmer settlements while overloaded. Can’t really take a horse along Falmer bridges! Or through icy caverns. Even a spectral undead horse.)
And three, this was my third session in Forgotten Vale, and really, I just wanted to get it finished up. ;) I think three sessions’ worth of Forgotten Vale is about all I have patience for!
In addition to skipping most of Glacial Crevice, I also didn’t bother to loot most of the frozen creatures in the Inner Sanctum. As Alarrah, I found most of their loot goodies interesting enough to get. As Merawen, though, not quite so much. Because:
- Most if not all of it was stuff I either didn’t directly need, or wasn’t any better than stuff I’m capable of making on my own
- As Guild Master of the Thieves Guild, I sure as hell ain’t hurting for cash at this point, so it’s not like I needed the stuff to sell :D
For the same reasons, I also elected to not bother to circle back to the paragon portal to get the paragon loot. (But I thought about it, in no small part because of trying to decide if I wanted to bother with getting Auriel’s Shield yet. I’m not convinced it’ll be useful to Merawen, but I kinda want it anyway.)
While these various changes in strategy did impact this session’s playthrough flow, the final confrontation with Vyrthur more or less played out the same. The only significant difference, really, was that this time Serana and I confronted him in daylight on the final balcony. And also, I did the fighting while overloaded! Which rather necessitated range fighting, rather than trying to close fast enough for melee.
And certainly, the epilogue with Gelebor played out the same.
Note to future me
For benefit of future me when I’m planning my next playthrough, and also for benefit of any other players reading this, here are the things I consider either critical or at least interesting enough to definitely do in Forgotten Vale:
- Visit all the Wayshrines as they’re plot-critical
- Fight the dragons in the frozen lake
- Get the word for the Drain Vitality Shout off the Word Wall near the dragons
- If you’re in the mage college, go after the Unknown Books, of which there are four, so you can bring them to Urag at the college
- If you want to get all four of the Unknown Books, by extension, you also need to get the emerald paragon, which by definition means taking out that frost giant
- Whether you do the other four frost giants depends on whether you really want the loot those paragons give you access to, how much of a completist you are for getting the unusual paragons, and how you feel about killing off the frost giants (since there aren’t any others anywhere else in the game, other than the ghost frost giant Karstaag on Solstheim)
Auriel’s Shield is another thing accessible only if you have the correct paragon–in this case, the ruby paragon, from the giant you kill in the Inner Sanctum.
I will go back for the paragon loot because I’m enough of a completist to do that, and I want that shield as well as the final Unknown Book. But only after I finish up Dawnguard’s main plot action.
Biggest priority: heading off to Fort Dawnguard to rally the troops and kill Harkon!
Time permitting, I will then go pop back into the Soul Cairn, find Valerica, and tell her it’s safe for her to come back out again to Tamriel.
(Optional things I may also do while in the Soul Cairn again: give Valerica my Soul Husks and get her to make me Soul Husk Extract potions, and possibly also hunt down the Reaper.)
Then I’ll pop back to the Forgotten Vale and do the paragon run.
And somewhere in there I’ll need to pop over to the mage college for level 60’s round of training!