In Which Merawen Foils a Conspiracy and Escapes Cidhna Mine

Most of the action of this session was just general adventuring and crafting—up to the part where I got back to Markarth, and ran the Forsworn Conspiracy/No One Escapes Cidhna Mine! plot again.

Highlights

  • Got bounty for giant at Bleakwind Basin in Whiterun
  • Stopped at Warmaiden’s to buy a bunch of materials and smith them, got Smithing back up to 81
  • Sold stuff at Warmaiden’s and Drunken Huntsman (and noticed Nazeem at the counter in there, what was he doing there?)
  • Switched off to mage gear and went out to Bleakwind to take down the giant
  • Summoned a wrathman to help me out with the battle
  • Giant number one took out my wrathman, I took down giant number one, then had to take down giant number two
  • Did not fight the mammoth there—because my bounty wasn’t for a mammoth!
  • Arvak’d over to Honningbrew to sell loot from giants
  • Arvak’d to Windstad to build a few more things, and get a bunch of things to sell since I don’t need them anymore
  • Arvak’d to Dawnstar
  • Shopped with blacksmith and his wife, and also with alchemist
  • Tried to get a bounty pointer at inn but innkeeper didn’t have that prompt
  • Note: saw the pirates still there? Apparently they aren’t cleared out by the end of the East Empire quest?
  • Sold a bunch of things to Khajiit outside the town
  • Arvak’d to Windhelm
  • Stayed up all night in game forging stuff and enchanting stuff, since the equipment was not being used
  • Sold a bunch of stuff to Oengus, Niranye, and Quintus once the shops opened, managed to whittle down the weight from the dragon bits
  • Arvak’d over to Nightingale Hall to get into Riften
  • Sold a bunch of stuff at the Ragged Flagon
  • Slept the night at the Guild, then got up the next morning to sell more things to the Riften shopkeepers
  • Got a bunch of things smithed at Balimund’s
  • Sold several minor things and a few dragon bits to Brand-Shei, which finally got me leveled up to 74
  • Re-unlocked Orcish smithing and built an entire suit of orcish armor and a sword
  • Huh apparently Bersi isn’t mad at me? Sold stuff at the Pawned Prawn then!
  • Sold more stuff at Elgrim’s Elixirs and got rid of almost all the dragon bits
  • Down enough in inventory weight to be able to fast travel again \0/
  • Boinged down to Fort Dawnguard to get Restoration (4) and Smithing (1) training
  • Crafted a bunch more things and sold a bunch of things to both Sorine and Gunmar
  • Said hi to Serana, who’s a human again \0/
  • Headed out on foot to proceed west back towards Markarth
  • Vampire scout outside the fort; summoned a wrathman to help me fight her
  • Headed south-ish; found Stendarr’s Beacon, turned right around and left, because not gonna argue with the Vigilants about Daedra
  • Headed a bit west-ish; found unmarked location, burned down house with a single burnt corpse, and a circle of candles on the floor; wiki says this is someplace where the person who lived there tried to summon a flame atronach and fucked it up
  • Nightlord vampire; killed her with fire!
  • Cleared Crystaldrift Cave; found remains of Gadnor and his staff
  • Loaded so Arvak’d up and headed west
  • Kept having to dismount, kill animals that attacked me, and re-summon Arvak
  • Tried to visit Largashbur to see if I could sell anything there, found the previous unnamed Orcs outside the gates all dead, yikes?
  • Walked in the front gate and orcs charged at me WAIT WUT—no wait they’re coming after THE FUCKING GIANT OUTSIDE THE GATE, which then took out a couple of the named NPCs, Lob and Ogol
  • I summoned a dremora lord which helped me kill the giant
  • Moved on from stronghold when I discovered nobody there could buy stuff from me (and I think they’re down to like four named NPCs at this point so let’s not be there to trigger any further giant attacks for them, they’ve had enough trouble)
  • Took out assorted frostbite spiders, bears, wolves, and a hostile Khajiit, and then a troll near Ivarstead
  • Decided to Arvak back to Honningbrew and sell a bunch of the loot I picked up
  • Passed a barking dog, and also a courier
  • Vampire assassin! With an order from the patriarch of Broken Fang Cave (where I’ve been already) to take me out; called up my dremora lord a couple of times to take her and her skeleton down
  • Courier came wandering along after my fight with the vampire assassin
  • Thalmor + prisoner, Thalmor did not bother me
  • Guard ran by the other way
  • Farmer + cow for giants
  • Vampire masquerade encounter, but it played weirdly; I got the audio call for it before I found the actual vampires, and killed a bear before I even saw them; found them further along the road finally and had to try to talk to the leader to trigger them attacking me
  • Mudcrabs tried to come at me as I went over the bridge by the shrine to Dibella, but Arvak was faster even just trotting
  • Spotted the Headless Horseman ghost, first time I’d seen him in-game
  • Found the Khajiit outside Markarth oh hey this one has Thieves Guild Fence level prices! Sold her a bunch of stuff
  • Headed on into Markarth
  • Made a bunch of stuff at the forge for poor nervous Tacitus to sell
  • Went to Hag’s Cure to buy ingredients
  • Came out of Hag’s Cure to a courier, with two Letters of Inheritance, for the orcs Lob and Ogol who’d died at the stronghold!
  • Dropped off almost everything in my inventory at Vlindrel Hall
  • Dressed in fine clothes to wander about the city and deal with the conspiracy, and armed only with the Razor
  • Began the plot by meeting Eltrys at the shrine, and ran it through fairly similarly to how Alarrah did it
  • Had to figure out how to run Thonar’s part of the quest without incurring a bounty; I had to be careful not to hit the wrong people when the undercover Forsworn in the Treasury killed Thonar’s wife; I wound up rolling back once to undo hitting the wrong person by accident
  • Also had to do a rollback when I had to go meet Eltrys again—because Nepos’ household chased me into there, and my fighting with them caused the guards to throw bounties on my in the shrine; cleared the bounties only for them to not actually frame me for Eltrys’ murder, oops
  • Rolled back to Nepos’ house; killed all of Nepos’ household inside the house once they attacked me, so the guards wouldn’t see me do it; then I was able to proceed to the Shrine of Talos for the final stage and get thrown into the mine
  • Played out the mine pretty the same as Alarrah, in terms of plot actions chosen; I did take a couple of different dialogue options though
  • Had to roll back once in the ruins though as the Forsworn got stuck before Kaie could give me my stuff back at Madanach’s order
  • Held back and let the Forsworn rampage their way out; threw an invisibility spell on myself to quietly return to Vlindrel Hall
  • Saved for the night

General adventuring commentary

I was pleased to remember that I could sell all this backlog of weighty dragon bits to various alchemists—and while I suppose I could have hung onto them to be able to use them for Dragon smithing once I re-unlock that perk, I also feel like I don’t really need to make more dragon-based armor or arrows. I am not hurting at all for arrows at this point. And not feeling like I need to make more dragonscale armor, really?

Also, it’s not like there is any shortage of dragons to kill to get new dragon bits.

So I wound up doing a circuit around several places, to sell the dragon bits backlog I had as well as a bunch of other items. And I took the time to stock up on alchemy ingredients as well as other smithing materials, just to work hardcore on getting the Smithing back up. As of the end of this session I’d gotten Smithing back up to 94! And given that I started the session at 80, I feel like that was great progress.

This also tells me that Smithing, at least for my play style, seems to be the skill most immediately useful for setting to Legendary, because it’s easy to build back up. And I can maintain ability to level up this way.

Alchemy and Enchanting are likewise things that are easy for me to level up—but I’m holding off on setting either of those Legendary, because I feel like the ability to create super-powerful potions and enchanted items is too critical for me right now to lose.

Alternating between Light and Heavy armor, though, does seem feasible. My Heavy Armor is over 90 now so it’s absolutely possible I could set that Legendary soon and switch back to Light Armor.

Also, it was valuable to be reminded that I do still have reason to visit Fort Dawnguard—because all four of the trainers there are Master-level trainers. I’m at the point right now where I can’t get additional training from Isran, Sorine, or Gunmar, but I can get additional training from Florentius in Restoration. And I’m going to need that if I want to still work on getting my magic skills up over 90 for the ritual quests.

Note also: YAY Serana is a human again, hi Serana!

Likewise, useful to be reminded that even if I’m done with the main Dawnguard plot, this doesn’t let me off the hook for fighting vampires! Since I had not one, not two, but three different vampire encounters in this session. Good argument I guess for traveling at night. :D

I was sad though to see that Largashbur is still having giant issues even though I finished their quest. The wiki says that apparently giants can still attack the stronghold even after the completion of that quest? And that it’s possible to kill off everybody in there except for the caster Atub. Yikes. This is a bug that the Unofficial Skyrim Patch has fixed, but, well, see my previous commentary re: not having patch ability on the Switch.

And, I was startled that I actually got inheritances for both of the named Orcs I saw killed, Lob and Ogol. Uh, thanks? I feel like that money should have stayed in the stronghold, though. I wish the game would give me a means to actually give them some monetary support! At the very least, let me trade with their blacksmith!

Forsworn Conspiracy/No One Escapes Cidhna Mine

My plan here was essentially to play out the quest more or less the same way Alarrah had done. I feel like even more so than Alarrah, Merawen was in a position to want to sympathize with the Forsworn.

However, actually doing this caused more glitchy behavior. The first glitch I ran into involved fleeing Nepos’ house rather than fighting with all of his household—a thing I’d tried to do with Alarrah. But they chased me into the Shrine of Talos, and I got stuck between them attacking me, and the guards trying to initiate their scripted action of framing me for Eltrys’ murder.

I tried to get out of that a couple of times. Once involved the Forsworn agents actually killing me, because they kept hitting me while the guards were talking, and I couldn’t defend myself. Also, I’d made a point of dressing just in standard fine clothes to walk around the city, just to make things a little more challenging! So I wasn’t armored and they were therefore able to damage me. And because I wasn’t able to actually take an action, I couldn’t throw wards up either.

Another time involved me getting bounties smacked on me because the guards saw me attacking them—and when I tried to bribe my way out of that, they never initiated the action to frame me for the murder.

I wound up having to roll back to Nepos’ house completely, and carry out the entire fight within his house. Only then was I able to proceed to the shrine and trigger the conclusion of the Forsworn Conspiracy quest, and move on to the mine.

Tried a couple of things different in the mine this time. When Borkur the Beast challenged me about how it felt to do my first murder, I told him I wasn’t a murderer. He called me a liar.

I also wound up brawling Duach to get his bottle of skooma to trade for a shiv. Kicked his ass, too! Which just goes to show that even though she’s a slender little Dunmer, the Dragonborn is not to be trifled with, even if she’s unarmed and unarmored.

On a related note, it also occurred to me that at this point of the proceedings, even though I’d lost all my gear, I was still a mage. So I had all of my magic available to me. This seems like a major security hole in the so-called inescapable mine! You throw a powerful mage down there, one who is capable of blowing up things with her magic, or conjuring powerful creatures, and you’re going to expect her to stay there?

What’s to keep me from conjuring a dremora lord and ordering it to kill all the guards? Or incinerating them myself with the Incinerate spell? Or making them kill each other with Frenzy? Or, hell, hitting them with the Bend Will Shout?

The answer to this being: ethics. But the people throwing me into that mine don’t know that. And never mind the Dragonborn in particular in this scenario—it just seems super odd to me that in a culture where they know magic is a thing, the mine doesn’t take precautions against any prisoners breaking out with magic.

(Side note: this does raise the question of whether the game gives any mechanics for the mine guards to block prisoners’ magic? I’m not aware of any in-game mechanics that could completely block magic

Of course, this is the same so-called inescapable mine where the Forsworn dug themselves an entire frigging tunnel into the Dwemer ruins while the guards weren’t looking. So I gotta assume at this point that the rep Cidhna Mine has is entirely driven by the Silver-Bloods controlling the PR, rather than having any actual basis in reality. Because I mean honestly.

Now, there’s also the question here of, if Merawen had chosen to break out on the strength of her magic, if she’d still had the bounty on her head in Markarth. But I contend that if you’ve been thrown into prison for corrupt reasons to begin with, why the hell should you believe that those same corrupt powers that be are going to care about whether you can clear your name or not?

Also, I didn’t say this in Alarrah’s playthrough post for this plot so I’ll say it here: it makes little narrative sense to me that your name is cleared in Markarth pretty much as soon as the Forsworn make their escape. I mean, I was able to go right back to Vlindrel Hall as soon as they rampaged their way out of the city.

I get that this is convenient for gameplay purposes. It means you don’t have to wait to return to normal activity in Markarth, if that’s on your agenda for your playthrough. But from a narrative perspective, I don’t see how it makes sense. Madanach and his band are too damn busy breaking out of Markarth to worry about telling the guards “and oh by the way that Dunmer Merawen had absolutely nothing to do with this, so lay off of her”.

Best headcanon I can come up with this is maybe Madanach had a letter clearing my name queued up and ready to be delivered? Maybe as part of his making the arrangements for me to get my stuff back? Not like he had any time to do that either, from what I can tell—because the quest takes you straight from Madanach telling you “go kill this guy for me” to “okay good you’re breaking out with us” without any time between.

Which suggests to me from a narrative perspective that clearly the breakout would have had to take more time than it seems as you play it through.

All this commentary aside, though, I did still enjoy playing this quest again! Interesting other things that I noted this time:

  • Fun switch doing it after I’d become thane in Markarth, rather than before
  • Also fun running the conspiracy while not armored and armed to the teeth, just to make it a little more entertaining when I had to brawl with the thug outside the Warrens
  • I’m pretty sure at least one person in Nepos’ Forsworn agents crew in his house fell to the insta-kill of Mehrunes’ Razor
  • Noted that the prisoner Uraccen is apparently the father of Uaile, who I sorta kinda killed inside Nepos’ house, yeah I’ll skip telling him about that because awkward
  • Also noted that Rhiada, in the Treasury, was killed during the fight with the Forsworn undercover agents—and yikes she was Eltrys’ pregnant wife, that’s grim and sad
  • I got a boost of Illusion to 75 as I crept out of the ruins in the Forsworns’ wake, when I cast Muffle and Invisibility to get back to Vlindrel Hall \0/

Next time

More general adventuring. More smithing. And probably more dragons and bears and wolves and Forsworn and vampires and anything else I run into the road!

We’ll see what else presents itself as an opportunity.

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