Alarrah Playthrough

Adventures in Skyrim Up Till Now

I’ve been posting play by play updates of my adventures in Skyrim, a thing that folks are telling me on both Twitter and Facebook that they enjoy reading. It has, however, occurred to me that it might actually be nice to post that stuff to the blog! Not only for the sake of new actual content, but also for the sake of anybody who actually reads my blog (or the Dreamwidth mirror), and who might be entertained by my Skyrim adventures.

I’m not going to re-post all the play by plays up to this point, just because redoing them is work I don’t feel like doing. But to bring everybody who doesn’t follow me on social media up to speed, here’s where I am in the game so far. (And while this is primarily a summary of in-game activity, I’m also throwing in periodic in-character commentary, just because this is so immersive a game that it really does feel like my old MUSHing days.)

Lots of gaming geekery behind the fold!

Alarrah the Wood-Elf is now level 21, and has established herself as a Thane of Whiterun, with her loyal housecarl Lydia tromping with her all over the countryside killing assorted dragons, bandits, undead, and other beasties; righting assorted wrongs; and just generally collecting a lot of shiny loot while the Skyrim Civil War builds around her.

So far, Alarrah has not committed to either the Imperials or the Stormcloaks. She has no love for the Imperials–they did try to execute her in Helgen, after all–but on the other hand, she’s a a Bosmer living in Skyrim, and it’s not exactly like Bosmer are welcomed with open arms by the Nords.

She’s had enough activity in the countryside that at least two other Jarls, in Falkreath and Morthal, have given her the opportunity to become their Thanes, too. She has, however, not as of yet helped enough folks in those locales to take on those titles. Nor is she entirely sure she wants to. Whiterun did offer first, and now that she’s bought a home for herself and Lydia there, Whiterun has pretty much become her home base. If there is any place in Skyrim that commands Alarrah’s loyalty, it is Whiterun.

Everyone keeps telling her she’s the Dragonborn, and after killing multiple dragons as well as meeting the Greybeards on High Hrothgar, she is grudgingly willing to allow that she has some sort of special abilities connected to the dragons. She has only recently gotten to the point of being ready to deploy the Thu’um in combat.

She has won admission into the Bards College in Solitude, which makes little sense to her given that not a single member of same has ever actually asked her to sing. But she restored their Festival of the Burning of King Olaf, and apparently are now delighted to call her a bard. If this means she has a few people in a human city who don’t necessarily want to kill her on sight, and who might be willing to help her later, she’ll take it. (Even if humans are weird.)

She has come to the attention of the Daedric Prince Meridia, who commanded her to cleanse her temple of defilement and who rewarded her with the Daedric blade called Dawnbreaker. Alarrah has never been sure where she stands re: loyalty to any given Divine–but she’s smart enough to know it’s not wise to refuse the command of a Daedric Prince. And she is more than willing to wield the blade in Meridia’s name, especially if it means setting vampires and draugr on fire.

In close combat, she favors Dawnbreaker or the ebony sword she won as treasure from the slaying of the undead King Olaf. At range, as any self-respecting Bosmer should, she favors the bow. Her current armor of choice is almost all of Elven make, save for a lightly enchanted pair of fine leather bracers.

She has taken to smithing, alchemy, and enchanting objects as her primary non-combat skills. These are helpful not only to make coin for herself and her housecarl, but also to make use of materials she acquires over their travels.

While she has not yet felt called upon to become a true mage–whatever power being Dragonborn gives her, plus occasional minor spells to light her way in dark places, serves her for magic for now. But she has acquired several spellbooks nonetheless, and is reading them with interest, in case she learns of new ones that feel right to her to use.

As of yet, she has not yet felt the need to take a spouse–but she has whispered to herself in her heart of hearts that should the time come, and should an Amulet of Mara cross her path, her loyal Lydia is one she could have at her side with joy. Lydia is a Nordand a human–but she has followed the Dragonborn without question from Markarth to Dawnstar, and from Whiterun to Solitude, and many points in between.

And in a land torn by rising civil war and under the assault of rejuvenated dragons, loyalty is a treasure that Alarrah prizes above all else.

Herein ends the summary! Onward to the most recent round of adventures!

Last night was another round of doing a smaller quest, to try to beat down my growing Miscellaneous quests list. But first I left Lydia to sleep at home in Whiterun, and with the fall of night, went traipsing out onto the plains near Whiterun to hunt. Part of the plan was to just practice my archery. But I also had enchanted my recently acquired Elven Bow with a soul trap enchantment and I wanted to put that to the test!

Had yet another near-miss with a dragon encounter while out there, but this was another dragon that did not elect to land. I envision Alarrah having a brief flailing moment of oh shit why did I come out here without Lydia, not to mention a flare of alarm about whether she should try to do anything about the beast. But it was far out of my range, and I couldn’t hear alarms being raised in Whiterun. So I kept up with the hunting of smaller game!

The tally: one elk, one deer, one sabre cat. And the soul trap enchantment did work quite nicely. Started filling up some of the petty soul gems I’ve been carrying around.

After I got tired of hunting, headed back into Whiterun to pick up Lydia, do another round of shopping, smithing, and alchemy, before finally electing to knock down another of the random quests: taking a dwarven helmet to Markarth to give it to Calcelmo. (“Whoever that is,” I expect Alarrah said to Lydia.) This required actually buying back the other dwarven helmet I’d sold to one of the Whiterun stores before setting off, but hey!

It also took a bit of planning to figure out how to actually get there since I’d never been to Markarth before, so I couldn’t fast travel there. I’ve definitely gotten to the point of being accustomed to finding the nearest place to fast travel to, any time I need to get to a new spot in the game. This time was no exception.  And this time, the closest place I could get to was Rorikstead, I think. So off it was to Rorikstead, and the Dragonborn and her housecarl headed eastward from there.

Plenty of bandits to be encountered, of course. But as we headed further eastward, I ran into a new kind of opponent: Forsworn! Did not encounter them in any real depth yet, but ran into at least one big enough group of them to get the impression that they were savagely dressed, possibly better armed than bandits, and very, very cranky.

And since Lydia and Alarrah are just two women traveling the roads of Skyrim by themselves, retreating from large, organized groups of cranky people definitely seems like the better part of valor.

Made it to Markarth otherwise without incident, except for one minor skirmish with Forsworn that did have one funny thing about it that had nothing to do with the actual fight. A courier came running up to me during the battle, to hand over a letter about a museum opening in Dawnstar. Dude, seriously? Who the hell sent you after me this far east to tell me about a museum in Dawnstar?

The lollertastic courier aside, my first two big impressions of Markarth were:

  1. Lots of broken stone all over the place, this city seems to be in very, very poor condition, and,
  2. Given that as soon as I came in the front gates I saw an active murder in progress yikes, it doesn’t seem like there’s much law and order here? :O

(Note: I do recall certain spoilers about Markarth from the days when Dara and Paul both actively played this game. So I know the place sits on top of Dwemer ruins, and that the Dwemer are basically Skyrim’s version of dwarves.)

Found Understone Keep well enough, but the place was definitely a warren, and Calcelmo didn’t seem to be in it. Had to backtrack past at least one cranky person who told me to keep my magic away from him (I had a Candlelight spell active, because Skyrim on the Switch is very dark and Understone Keep at night is therefore hard to navigate). But I did eventually find the guy, and got a couple of conversational hooks that I did not elect to pursue, mostly because I just wanted to turn over the helmet and get the hell out of Markarth.

Didn’t even stay long enough to figure out where the local inn and stores were, because the place was giving me the heebies what with that openly visible murder and all. (Cue Alarrah very pointedly dragging Lydia along to get the hell out of the place, possibly with a stern warning to suppress any urges to yell about how Skyrim belongs to the Nords.)

That somewhat unsettling business attended to, fast-travelled right back to Whiterun to settle down again for the next day’s adventures!

And in today’s round of playing, I elected to stay a little bit closer to home and finally go check out the Jarl of Falkreath. This called for another boing down to the Guardian Stones, since I hadn’t actually gone into Falkreath yet on the prior jaunt in that vicinity, just near it.

No random encounters of note on the way–there were some, but they were similar to prior beast/bandit/random passing Thalmor encounters I’ve had before, so not worth detailing here.

One encounter of note on the way into Falkreath, though. One of the guards stopped to ask me if I’d seen a dog on the road, and when asked, prompted me that someone named Lod (the blacksmith in Falkreath) was paying a small reward for the retrieval of that dog. Cue another side quest! But I didn’t pursue that one yet, as I was intent on finding the Jarl.

I got into Falkreath super-late in game time, so I poked around a bit until I found the inn so that I could rent a room and sleep. Two NPCs in there were unusually repetitive throwing their lines at me. One was an aggressive orc who kept taunting me with “What are you doing here, milk-drinker? Go home to your mother.” The other, I think, was an inn worker? She kept telling me that I’d have the men of Falkreath wrapped around my little finger. Which I presume means either the men of Falkreath are into Bosmer, or else the inn worker is!

Then, after a bit of in-game sleeping, went to go find the Jarl the next morning. Paul had advised me that the Jarl of Falkreath is an asshole. Paul was not wrong. The guy was young and indolent, and freely drawled at me about having made certain deals with local bandits that had apparently backfired on him, because the bandits had reneged on the deal. So he wanted me to go wipe out the bandits for him.

Neither Lydia nor Alarrah, I feel, liked this guy at all. That said, Alarrah had come all this way to check the guy out, and after that unpleasant visit to Markarth, I expect she rather felt like establishing more allies closer to home was probably a good idea. So she agreed to go wipe out the bandits for him.

This involved going to a place Alarrah and Lyds had already discovered in passing–Embershard Mine, not far from Helgen.

Which meant, as it turned out, having to actually go through Helgen again just because that was the fastest way to get there. This turned out to be less difficult than expected. Bandits had camped out in the place, but none of the ones there gave me or Lydia any trouble.

Embershard Mine is very near the Guardian Stones, and as I was expecting, it was pretty much a cakewalk. I’m pretty sure this particular lair is intended for players of a lower level than I’m at! But that did also mean that I was able to reasonably quickly return to Falkreath and go “yep, bandits are dead.” The Jarl cheerily paid me, and told me he’d permit me to buy property in Falkreath if I wanted and would make me his thane if I helped more of his people.

So that now means I’ve got potential thane-ships pending in both Morthal and Falkreath.

More on this dog, though. On the way back from wiping out the bandits, I actually found that dog the guard and the blacksmith had mentioned–a dog named Barbas, who was hanging out on the road near the city. And who promptly talked to me as soon as I encountered him.

And who pointed out correctly that in a land with flying lizards and two-legged cat people, I didn’t have much grounds to be startled that a dog was talking to me. ;D

Anyway, Barbas turned out to be the companion of another Daedric Prince, Clavicus Vile. The daedra-dog asked my help in resolving an argument he’d had with his master. Out of character, I thought taking on another Daedric quest sounded entertaining. In character, I expect Alarrah felt that after having had Meridia on her case not too long ago, coming to the attention of yet another Daedric Prince so fast was a little unnerving! But she agreed to do it.

First round of this particular quest involved heading to Clavicus Vile’s shrine, which was a fair hike east of Helgen and down in a network of snowy caves. Which, as it turned out, were inhabited by vampires. Fucking vampires, man!

As this was a prime opportunity to test that shiny new blade from Meridia, though, Alarrah and Lyds charged right in. Not even bothering to sneak much, since wielding a Daedric sword prone to throwing off fire damage was, as previously observed, not really conducive to getting your Sneak on.

Not much difficulty from any of the vampires, not even the mage who came at me with fire and frost spells. Better armor is super-helpful that way! I did whip out the bow a time or two for distance shots, and one of those resulted in a pretty spectacular crit that sent the other party tumbling head over heels down off a high walkway. HA.

I also got to deploy the Unrelenting Force shout at least once, which helped clear the field pretty quickly. And perhaps even more than expected? Because when I finally found the shrine, I found three different vampire NPCs already dead down there, including the Master Vampire, and I was pretty sure I hadn’t engaged the Master Vampire directly. So it was either me with the Thu’um (and clearly I don’t know my own strength, lol), or else Lydia got in some excellent work with her great big dwarven axe. In which case, go Lyds! I owe you another raise!

Clavicus Vile however turned out to be an entirely different Daedric experience from Meridia. Kind of like dealing with the Harry Mudd of Daedric Princes, an impression well enforced by whoever was doing this entity’s voice acting! (As well as the voice acting for Barbas, since the doggie had a very similar style of delivery.) Lord Vile is apparently the Daedric Prince of wishes, and the opening conversational prompts were along the lines of “what deal do I want to strike with him.” The other options were “a way to end the war in Skyrim” and “the power to wipe out all my enemies”.

Neither of these seeemed in character for Alarrah. As I’ve written before, I feel like Alarrah has only so many fucks to give about Nord business. Nor is she particularly aggressive. As she grows more powerful and people seek her out more, she’s aware her profile as the Dragonborn is rising–but she’s also not seeking a path of power for power’s sake. Out of character, neither of those options just seemed at all interesting! So I stuck with the option of “I’m just here to bring you back your dog”.

Vile agreed to take Barbas back if and only if I did yet another thing: go and get the Rueful Axe. At this point I figure Alarrah is finding Vile rather less appealing as a Daedric entity than Meridia–but he is still a Daedric Prince, and so Alarrah’s philosophy of it being unwise to piss off a Daedric Prince still holds. So she agreed to go get the thing.

Not, however, before bopping briefly back to Whiterun to get rid of a lot of stuff as I was travelling with a great deal of weight in the inventory. Sold a lot more things, made a bit of new armor (and finally leveled up my smithing enough to make elven armor, yay!), and destroyed a couple of interesting things to learn their enchantments. The dog kept following me around through Whiterun, barking in a sort of “get a move on, mortal” way. Soon enough, I got a move on to go find the Axe.

Target locale for this was a little ways west of Meridia’s shrine, as it turned out. Also fairly near Dragon Bridge. So I fast travelled over to Dragon Bridge to get into the vicinity, and hoofed it from there. It was late game time, but the locale was close enough that I didn’t bother to seek out the inn in Dragon Bridge. Went overland to try to get to the place I needed to be as fast as possible.

Not much in the way of random road encounters, but Lyds and I did take down an ice wolf and a snowy sabre cat. Having Barbas around to help in fights was also useful, but only erratically. The dog had a way of bopping in and out of my company, and I don’t know if that was a deliberate part of the game mechanics, or if there were bugs in it? Because Barbas wasn’t with me the whole way.

He was with me long enough to ask him what the deal was with the Axe, though. And I got the backstory about how the guy who currently has it was a mage whose daughter had lycanthropy. This guy prays to Clavicus Vile for a way to end his daughter’s curse, and Vile gives him the Axe. To wit: Vile? Not exactly the most upstanding of Daedric Princes.

Not pleased by this news, Alarrah gets the Axe (clearing out the lair is again not difficult, and the mage is no match for either her or Lyds) and returns to Vile’s shrine at Haemar’s Shame.

At which point Barbas is again physically not actually present? Which struck me as weird. But I make it back to the Shrine, and Vile offers to let me keep the axe if I actually murder Barbas.

I think Alarrah was repelled by this. Hell, I was a little repelled by that! Barbas is not a normal dog, but he’s still a dog, and so I figure Alarrah was all “I’m not going to kill a dog, what the fuck is wrong with you?” But not saying that in her Outside Voice, because again, not wise to piss off a Daedric Prince.

So she declines. Vile sulks at this and tells her she’s no fun. Threatens briefly to curse her for her lack of ambition, but apparently can’t actually pull it off (Vile has apparently lost a lot of power in recent times), and so he finally just sulkily agrees to take Barbas back as well as the Axe. And he gives Alarrah the Masque of Clavicus Vile for her trouble.

I looked the thing up and apparently the Masque is supposed to give you the respect and admiration of everyone around you, and it also is super helpful for getting better prices in shops. Given how her encounter with Clavicus Vile went, though, I’m pretty sure Alarrah doesn’t trust the thing. So I don’t think she will be using it much. Except maybe in Belethor’s store in Whiterun, because seriously, fuck that guy, he’s a douche. 😉

And so now the Dragonborn is resting up in Whiterun again, thinking about what to do next–and whether she’s ready to go meet Delphine in Riverwood finally, or whether she wants to expand her network of allies before she risks going to break into the Thalmor Embassy.

More next time!

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.