In Which Merawen Foils an Undead General and an Assassination Plot

Mostly, this session was about more familiar yet fun territory on Solstheim, finishing up the March of the Dead plot, and then doing the Served Cold plot as well! (With a side helping of exploring one less entertaining new spot.)

Still haven’t really gotten the main Dragonborn plot properly underway, but that’ll come next session!

Highlights

  • Headed farther along from the farm to aim for Fort Frostmoth
  • Found unmarked location with a chest and a couple of skeletons; attacked there by ash hoppers
  • Found Hrodulf’s house; explored the place and killed the two hostile reavers in the basement
  • Found remains of Hrodulf’s lover Bjornolfr
  • Also found remains of Hrodulf himself down by the water and the Burnt Spriggan that killed him; took out the spriggan
  • Headed to Fort Frostmoth
  • Killed assorted ash spawn, albino spiders, jumping flame spiders, and General Falx Carius
  • Got the Champion’s Cudgel, which I think will be way more interesting to me for its enchantment than it will be for actually wielding
  • Also got really overloaded, so used Arvak to return to Raven Rock
  • Started selling a boatload of things to Glover, Milore, and Fethis
  • Also checked in with Captain Veleth; got his request to talk to second councilor Adril Arano
  • Arano was all “somebody is trying to kill Councilor Morvayn”
  • I agreed to help, and he pointed me at Geldis in the Retching Netch for leads
  • Pointed at Geldis in the Retching Netch for leads
  • Made some arrows with the firewood I swiped out of the fort; also made several potions
  • Spoke with Adril Arano’s wife Cindiri and got her quest to go get her missing book from the shipwreck
  • Headed into the Retching Netch to speak with Geldis; got the pointer to stake out the tomb
  • Oh hello there Tilisu, why on earth are you here?
  • This time I got commentary about her being glad a fellow Dunmer is following the traditional customs
  • Let her go about her business rather than confronting her directly
  • Went back to speak to Adril Arano in the Retching Netch–and townsfolk were starting to fall under Miraak’s influence while I was having that conversation, so damn good thing Adril wasn’t affected
  • Went to go investigate Severin Manor; Mirri and Tilisu attacked us at the door, as they do
  • Jenassa took ‘em out, well done love
  • Right back to the Netch to report to Adril Arano
  • Got him to ask me to go help the Redoran Guard at Ashfallow Citadel
  • Dumped a bunch of stuff in an urn outside Severin Manor to get unburdened
  • Went to Ashfallow Citadel to deal with the assassins
  • Met party of netch hunters on the way; told them good luck
  • Met hostile but unarmed orc; Jenassa took him out
  • Also met Black Book madman being attacked by cryomancer in a cryomancer/pyromancer battle
  • Got the madman to point me at Benkongerike before he attacked me and Jenassa took him out
  • Onward to the citadel where we started taking out assassins
  • Found a pair of stalhrim boots in the place, awesome (second piece of heavy stalhrim armor thus acquired, also have gauntlets)
  • Discovered that whoa, Jenassa took a Staff of Fireballs off that pyromancer, and she started flinging fire at the assassins, awesome; didn’t know NPCs could take stuff from fallen enemies!
  • Cleared the citadel, but wound up attracting Vendil and other assassins with the noise of trying to get Jenassa past the swinging spike walls
  • Wound up shooting them through the spikes with spells and arrows, and killing Vendil that way
  • Got the last assassins after I finally found the second chain for the spikes
  • Headed back to Raven Rock
  • Found dead reaver at a chest with skeletons; attacked by three ash spawn there (because right, those ash spawn will keep coming till I take out Ildari)
  • Jenassa took out an ash hopper
  • Fought wood elf conjurer who tried to throw a couple of storm atronachs at me
  • (Goddammit, i’m just trying to get back to Raven Rock here, I do not have time for your random conjurer bullshit)
  • And oh hey Revered Dragon once I actually made it to the town
  • Reported back in to Adril at the Netch; he took me to see Councilor Morayn
  • Got Severin Manor
  • Recovered stuff from urn so I could distribute it in storage
  • Spent a lot of time organizing all the stuff in the manor
  • Improved the stalhrim boots and a couple other armor pieces
  • Made Elsweyr fondue!
  • Put a lot of enchanted weapons up on racks
  • Put dragonscale armor on a mannequin since right now i’m favoring Blades or Nightingale
  • Also put the chitin armor I took from Vendil and other assassins on mannequins
  • Racked Auriel’s Shield but not Auriel’s Bow, that thing’s improved enough that it’s almost competitive with the dragonbone bow now
  • Did however stash the crossbow and bolts, because the crossbow is heavy, and honestly I don’t like using it as much as regular bows even if exploding bolts are cool
  • Slept until the morning
  • Headed out to see about side jobs, getting the book and possibly also Kolbjorn barrow, en route to temple
  • Saved for the night

General commentary

Nothing too terribly new in this session, since both the March of the Dead and Served Cold plots were ones that I did as Alarrah. Happily, they were both plots I very much enjoyed and did not mind playing again. Which is good, because if you want safe crash space and somewhere to drop all your loot while on Solstheim, you really need Severin Manor. So you need to play through both of these plots!

This time through, getting them out of the way quickly means I’ll have more time with Severin Manor at my disposal. So that’ll be helpful.

Also, I’d just like to note that getting the offer of citizenship in Raven Rock from Councilor Morayn after resolving the assassins plot really did hit me kind of differently playing a Dunmer. I’ve written already about how Merawen probably finds Solstheim a lot more stressful to visit than Alarrah did. But at the same time–Raven Rock is a community of her people. And a community whose leader now actively wants her there.

There are problems with this, though. One: the game does not appear to allow you to move an established family to Solstheim, even if you have Severin Manor. From what I see searching around about this, people have taken cracks at mods to enable this. But as per previous laments, can’t use those on the Switch build.

Two, moving children to Solstheim seems inherently problematic, and not only for the whole “ash-ridden hellscape” aspect of it. Just as importantly, there are zero other children in Raven Rock. And I didn’t see any kids in the Skaal village that I remember–though there is apparently a little girl there? The point being, it’d be really difficult to find Runa and Sofie playmates. So the kids would be at risk of getting seriously lonely.

Three, “I’ll move my children closer to a volcano that’s still erupting after two hundred years” is not really the best parenting decision on the planet.

Four, Raven Rock’s dangerous even aside from the volcano problem. Dragons are clearly willing to directly attack the place. Granted, the same can be said for a lot of places in Skyrim too–which is why Merawen wouldn’t want to put Sofie and Runa anywhere but Solitude or maybe Whiterun. Maybe Markarth, but only as a last resort. Every other place she’s set foot in has had direct dragon attacks.

Five, even though Merawen’s Dunmer heart stirs very hard at being invited into a community of her people, she still has several important ties to Skyrim. She’s the thane of several places. She’s Guild Master of the Thieves Guild. She’s Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold. So she can’t exactly bugger permanently off to Solstheim.

But all that said… I kind of feel like if Merawen didn’t have others depending on her, and if in particular she hadn’t already adopted children, she might be thinking very hard now about whether to settle on Solstheim as her primary home. Even given the proximity to the volcano.

And I do like Severin Manor. It’s a nice balance between cozy and spacious, has a good amount of storage, and has all the necessary crafting stations. I wish I could add more lighting to the lower rooms, just because I find them too dark–another thing people have apparently addressed in mods! But that’s the only real beef I have with it.

Well, that and the likelihood of Mirri and Tilisu’s bodies hanging around after you kill them.

Hrodulf’s house

This was a location I knew about from Alarrah’s run, but which I hadn’t bothered to explored before partly because the implementation of it bugs me. It’s an abandoned house where a pair of male lovers had tried to settle, but one of them went bonkers as he was obsessed with noises coming out of the basement (and which were possibly caused by Dwemer tonal architecture?).

The thing that bugs me about it is this: it’s the only sign of an NPC same-sex couple I’ve seen anywhere in the game, and they’re both dead.

This is not exactly stellar representation. JUST SAYING.

I went ahead and explored the house this time, though, just because it was a new thing to do. And there’s something to be said for new things to do on a second playthrough.

But that said, it’s also sad. There isn’t much to do in there other than take out the reavers that camp out in the basement, and if you do find Hrodulf’s body south of the house, you can take out the Burnt Spriggan that killed him. But there’s no puzzle to solve here, and nothing you can do to give the poor guys closure.

Compare and contrast this to the Frostflow Lighthouse I visited two sessions before this one. There, at least, you can give the poor deceased family a little closure by placing Habd’s remains where he wanted them as per his last known wishes. And you do need to hunt around a bit and do something about the thing that actually killed the family, i..e, the chaurus.

But there isn’t any such thing here. It’s just “here’s an abandoned house, a couple of reavers for you to kill, and two dead queer lovers, one of whom went nuts before he died.”

Not really a satisfying thing to play through, and I wouldn’t have really been satisfied with it either if the couple in question had been opposite sex, either.

Point here being, if you’re going to set up a locale like this with some backstory, for me as a player, it’s more engaging if there’s actually a problem to solve. Don’t just throw “tragic backstory and a little bit of loot” at me, particularly if it’s a tragic backstory the player can’t do anything about. There are so many other places in Skyrim to get loot, and so many other places with backstory that the player can do something about, that there’s nothing really here to make stopping at this place worth the time and trouble.

Finishing the March of the Dead quest

Speaking of tragic backstory, the letters you can find from the dead Imperial soldier while you investigate Fort Frostmoth kind of illustrate what I was complaining about above.

The difference here though is that the dead NPC died when the volcano erupted, two hundred years ago. And while this guy’s remains are still by his knapsack, there’s less immediate emotional impact to that than there is the body of somebody who’s clearly recently deceased.

Also, with this, the tragic backstory is only a side note to the main point of the place, i.e., killing the undead General Falx Carius. That dude’s backstory is pretty tragic too, but at least here, you get to give him closure and put him out of his undead… well, I can’t exactly say “misery”, because he doesn’t seem exactly “miserable”. Even undead, dude just wants to defend the Empire!

But, well. Sorry, undead general dude. I can’t have you sending ash spawn after Raven Rock. And I’ll have to confiscate that cudgel you’re using, while we’re at it.

Served Cold quest

The main new aspect to doing this quest–and as a result, being offered citizenship in Raven Rock as well as getting ownership of Severin Manor–is how that plays out differently when you’re a Dunmer.

But related to that, if you’re a Dunmer, you do also get slightly different lines out of Tilisu in the Ulen Family Tomb and I was glad to see the game accounting for that. Most of the time, when I’m talking to a Dunmer NPC, I get conversational prompts as well as dialogue lines that seem to assume I am not a Dunmer, and that I would need to get basic information like “What can you tell me about Morrowind?”

(Some of this I can hand-wave, such as asking Adril Arano about the history of House Ulen. Because I’ve been kind of assuming that Merawen is just a garden variety Dunmer commoner, not previously associated with any noble house. So political shenanigans involving the noble houses seem appropriate for her to ask about.)

Aside from that, clearing Ashfallow Citadel did play through rather differently as described above in the highlights. And I’ll have to see if the game does eventually clear Mirri and Tilisu’s dead bodies out of Severin Manor; I recall it seemed to take a few sessions before they finally vanished in Alarrah’s run.

Next time

Probably going to hit Kolbjorn Barrow as that’s pretty close to Raven Rock, and then see about getting Cindiri Arano’s book next. Then work my way towards Miraak’s temple–which ought to put me in a position to finally meet Frea, and find out about the Skaal.

Time permitting, I’ll see about getting to the part where I learn the first word of Bend Will, so I can start working on cleansing the various All-Maker Stones.

Also, I’m closing in on Level 62, which will put Merawen at the same point Alarrah reached by the end of her game. We’ll see if I make it there next session! Once I do, I’m going to want to compare the individual skill levels between the two characters.

Screenshots

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