This is actually a double session post, since I didn’t get to put up one yesterday. Covered here is the play done on Friday 12/24 and Saturday 12/25.
And it works out nicely regardless, because this basically means I can cover all of the Soul Cairn action in one single post!
So mostly, this post is all about the Soul Cairn. Which was mostly the same as previous playthroughs, with the exceptions of doing things in a different order, and also actually killing the Reaper this time through.
- Finished shopping in Riften
- Sold stuff at the Pawned Prawn
- Went down to Elgrim’s Elixirs and actually found Ingun’s supply chest; bought a bunch of things from Hafjorg and sold her all my dragon bits
- Sold a bunch of things to Balimund as well to get weighty things out of the inventory
- Boinged to Embershard Mine to get that schematic for Sorine; did not clear the whole dungeon, just far enough in to get the schematic and clear that treasure chest
- Hoofed it over to Lakeview and dropped off a bunch of stuff in exterior house chest
- Fast traveled to Icewater Jetty
- Went around behind the castle to the back way in, and fought the exterior skeletons
- Started having a nice little convo with Serana only to be rudely interrupted by a skeever, and only then did I realize she’d raised one of the skeletons we fought outside, lol
- Did hard push through Castle Volkihar’s ruins, nothing terribly different here from previous playthroughs, yep it sure is still dark and gruesome back here
- Leveled up to 54 partway through; took first Heavy Armor perk again to try to start rebuilding that tree
- Made it to Valerica’s lab; pre-emptively nabbed a couple of black soul gems but tried not to nab anything else (going to hold on that until Valerica actually gets back and gives me leave to help myself to stuff in the place)
- Took a few of the conversational paths with Serana about her background; took the path of telling her that my parents are alive but I’m not on good terms with them (figuring that Delga had to abandon her family when she abandoned her stronghold)
- As per previous playthroughs opted to not have Serana turn me into a vampire
- Made it into the Soul Cairn; started following the wiki walkthrough explicitly because it is super easy to get lost in the Soul Cairn
- Found Arvak’s owner and got the quest to find Arvak’s skull
- Found four pages of the book
- Found Morven Stroud and got his offer to bring him soul husks for anything left on his cart
- Paused to save there for the night
- Picked up where I left off in the Soul Cairn
- Investigated a building by Morven Stroud and looted a couple of chests
- Proceeded along the blue glowing wall south and east
- Killed by one of the Keepers >_<
- Thrown back to building by Stroud; decided to skip it this time
- Took actual path towards the Keeper this time
- Threw Ironflesh and flame atronach spells; killed two wrathmen, and got the Keeper this time and his dragonbone battleaxe
- Got the spellbook for Conjure Wrathman
- Found Reaper’s Lair which I hadn’t tried before in previous playthroughs
- Tried a trick from the wiki: throwing Aura Whisper Shout which let me find him without reaper gem fragments, so yay, got three black soul gems and a Daedra heart
- Found Jiub! Asked for more background out of Jiub this time, and wow he has a lot of interesting backstory
- Found Arvak’s skull; met Arvak’s owner’s soul again and got the spell to summon Arvak, yay
- Killed the second Keeper, the one with the dragonbone bow
- Got killed by the third Keeper
- Wound up derping around a lot trying to find the last two pages of the opus
- Found Morven Stroud again and gave him 25 soul husks; got thunderbolt spell for the trouble!
- Decided to go for Valerica instead of finding the last couple of pages; got her first interaction done and the quest to officially kill the Keepers
- Then went after the last two pages of the book
- Serana got stuck in combat mode again while getting page 9; got the page, and also got my Soul Essence gem out of the same chest, hadn’t realized before that that turns into a black soul gem as soon as you recover it
- Went off to give Jiub the pages, and Serana caught up with me at that point; got the opus in complete form, and the locket <3
- Got the third Keeper killed
- Got the third conjure spellbook finally
- Headed back to Valerica, who took me and Serana to get the Elder Scroll
- Fought Durnehviir
- Did not get the dialogue prompt to discuss getting my Soul Essence gem back? Because apparently this is a bug for if you kill any of the Keepers before you find Valerica
- Had chat with Durnehviir and took his favor quest
- Back to the portal!
- Returned to Valerica’s lab and headed out to the balcony
- Boinged to Fort Dawnguard
- Gave Sorine her Exploding Fire Bolt schematic, and got her next quest
- Bought spellbook for Stendarr’s Aura and also a bunch of ingredients from Florentius
- Sold Gunmar some of my extra loot
- Hi Dexion we found the Elder Scrolls—oh wait shit you’re blind?
- Got his advice to go to Ancestor Glade
- Decided to go ahead and set Smithing Legendary
- Dropped several perks on the magics to bring down cost of casting; also dropped another perk point back on Heavy Armor, and one back on Smithing to wake up Steel Smithing
- Did a bit of alchemy and enchanting and smithing at Fort Dawnguard before heading out
- Boinged to Lakeview for loot drop
- Saved there for the night
As written above, this pair of sessions was basically all about the Soul Cairn.
In previous playthroughs, I basically went straight for Valerica first and then hit all the other aspects of the Soul Cairn after I found her the first time. This time, though, I played it a bit differently. On the assumption that my character wouldn’t necessarily know where the hell in the Soul Cairn Valerica actually is, I elected to follow the wiki playthrough on where to find everything and just slowly work my way through the place.
This had a few useful effects. Most notably, I got two of the Keepers killed even before I found Valerica. I also found Morven Stroud, Arvak, and Jiub, as well as most of Jiub’s pages.
But it resulted in a couple new things as well!
One of these is that I discovered a spot where a soul is basically being a farmer, complete with a small crop of soul husks and two cow souls. I was hunting for soul husks for Morven Stroud at that point, but I only took a couple of the ones by the cow souls. Just because taking the crop from cow souls and a soul husk farmer just seemed rude.
I was simultaneously charmed and a little alarmed to find cow souls, too! I mean, it makes sense? You know in the game that animals can be soul trapped as well as people. So by rights you should actually see way more animals in the Soul Cairn than you do. (I can buy why the game doesn’t have them, though; they’d be additional things to keep track of in the game.) But finding a farmer and cow souls suggests that this farmer and their cows must have all been killed at the same time, maybe in a bandit raid? And that’s just sad.
More notably, I also finally found the Reaper’s Lair. I hadn’t bothered to go looking for it on previous playthroughs, just because fighting the Reaper didn’t seem interesting to me. Plus, the game expects you to find three reaper gem fragments to summon him.
But the Reaper does drop good loot: three black soul gems and a Daedra heart. And you apparently don’t have to have the gem fragments, according to the wiki. I tried one of the recommended workarounds to summon the Reaper, i.e., using the Aura Whisper Shout to see where he was actually hiding, then coming up and trying to interact with him. That worked splendidly, as well as alerting me to where the various other creatures in the lair were.
So yay! I got the black soul gems and the Daedra heart. But boy howdy is it dark inside that lair, even more so than the rest of the Soul Cairn. So if you go in there, make sure you have a light source to see what you’re doing.
I discovered as well that if you kill any of the Keepers before you make it to Valerica, and you came into the Soul Cairn via the “be partially soul trapped” path, you don’t get the dialogue option from her about how to recover the soul gem with your partial soul essence in it. This does not however keep you from finding it, and I did successfully do that while looking for page 9 of Jiub’s opus.
All in all, a very satisfying Soul Cairn run.
Meanwhile, I elected to go ahead and set my Smithing to Legendary, partly because Delga’s skill advancement is a lot more lopsided than Merawen’s was. I’m getting powerful enough that I need to maintain a suitably high armor rating, and I want to bring down the cost of casting various critical spells. I’m the frigging Arch-Mage, I should at least be able to reasonably cast all the Apprentice-level spells! And I need to work on the Adept ones as well.
Granted, Delga’s intended to be a tank, so her physical combat skills should be the dominant ones. But I don’t want the crafting and magic skills to be particularly poor, either!
Gotta hit Ancestor Glade and get the Scrolls read, so I can get the pointer to the location of Auriel’s Bow! And move on to the next major favorite phase of the Dawnguard plotline: the Forgotten Vale. :D
But I also need to get in level 54’s training, and will need to do a proper loot assessment before I hit the Vale and make damn sure I’m prepared.