Alarrah Playthrough

In Which the Dragonborn Joins the College of Winterhold

Two overall goals to last night’s game:

  1. Finding the Forgemaster’s Fingers and bringing them to the orc stronghold who asked for them
  2. Going to Winterhold to join the mage college there


  • Went down to Lakeview to check on the place
  • Discovered I’ve triggered another game bug—the one with your follower getting a new default hunting bow created in their inventory every time you dismiss them and re-engage them later, WTF
  • Went to Dragontooth Crater to find the Forgemaster’s Fingers, and killed a Blood Dragon there; found another word of the Ice Form Shout
  • Did not fight with the Thalmor squad I saw also attacking the dragon, despite being sorely tempted
  • Did totally fight with the Forsworn I ran into
  • Encountered a tree with a dead elf and interesting loot very near the Shrine to Peryite—did not go to the Shrine itself as that’s a Daedra I don’t want to engage with right now
  • Killed a second Blood Dragon on the way down to the orcs
  • Delivered the Forgemaster’s Fingers to the orc stronghold and got the chief’s blessing to be Blood-Kin of the Orcs
  • Headed back to Whiterun to drop off loot
  • Then went to Winterhold to join the mage college; on the way, saw and fought my first horkers (which I hadn’t realized are essentially sea lions!)
  • Oh hey Winterhold has female guards?
  • Got permission to enter the college as a new applicant, at which point I sent Lydia home as I figured she’d be bored stiff
  • Did the “Under Saarthal” quest which I needed to get access to that third fragment of the Gauldur amulet


Started off this session deciding it was Lakeview Manor’s turn for me to check on it. So I bopped down there and discovered that yep, having a cow on the property is total bandit bait, ran into three of them who killed my cow. I took issue with this. I hadn’t even gotten to meet that cow, dammit!

After killing the bandits, anyway, I popped inside and met my new bard, Llewellyn the Nightingale. Had him play me some instrumental stuff while I checked on Lakeview’s stock of building materials and built a few more things. And gave Rayya some of the armor I’d taken off the bandits.

I did not ask Rayya to acquire another cow. (Yet. It does occur to me that having your cow be bandit/giant bait could actually be helpful for purposes of amassing extra bandit loot to then improve and sell!)

However, giving armor to Rayya leads into a discovery I made with Lydia: that I’m having trouble giving equipment now, and the reason is this. Apparently there’s a longstanding bug in the game that when you dismiss a follower, and then re-engage them later, a new copy of their default hunting bow is generated in their inventory.

A copy of the bow which you do not see, but which resides in their inventory nonetheless, and which then eats up another chunk of their current carry weight.

Do this enough times, and you stop losing the ability to give your follower new items, because they’re carrying around all these extra hunting bows already. AUGH.

When I went searching for information about what to do about this, these were the solutions I found:

  1. Use certain debug console commands, but as with the dead dragon bug, this only works if you’re on PC and actually have the debug console.
  2. Hit your follower with the Wabbajack and then punch them until they return to their usual form, at which point their inventory is reset. I do have the Wabbajack but I’m dubious about this, just because it could kill them or turn them hostile, and I don’t want to do that to Lydia! (Though I might have to try it later anyway, just to really properly address this bug…)
  3. If you ask your follower to pick up an item, this bypasses the check against their inventory weight. So you can actually have them carry around a lot more things than their normal carry weight… to a point.
  4. If you marry your follower, apparently the extra equipment shows up in their list of things you can buy from them?
  5. If your Pickpocket is high enough you can apparently Pickpocket the bows off of them?

Option three is what I did this run, just to get all the Nordic armor back on Lyds, as well as the ebony battleaxe and ebony bow I wanted to give her to begin with. But that only bypassed the problem and did not fix it, and if I want to keep having Lydia follow me around but also maintain the ability to dismiss her and re-engage her later if I want to, I need to deal with this.

Note also that after I got her to pick up all the Nordic armor bits I wanted her to wear, when we came back to Breezehome later, I saw boots and gauntlets still on my floor. So I think I accidentally spawned extra copies of those, as part of this bug, too.

So I think I’ll have to raise the priority of marrying that girl. <3 And possibly also finally bumping up my Pickpocketing. I don’t particularly want to join the Thieves Guild with Alarrah, but I have no problems whatsoever with using the skill to bypass annoying bugs!

Final note about this issue: I see on the wiki that this problem apparently did get fixed in official patches to the game. But those patches apparently haven’t yet made it to the Switch build. Makes me real curious as to why the issue cropped up again! I’ve been in QA long enough to certainly get that bugs re-occur all the damn time; I’m just wondering if this one cropped up on the Switch because of their having to re-work the code for this console. Maybe they had to go back to an earlier point in the code history to get it to work on the Switch, or something like that.

Meanwhile, though, I needed Lydia at my back for the first major action of the evening: finding the enchanted gauntlets called the Forgemaster’s Fingers, which the orc stronghold had asked me to do if I wanted the right to enter and trade things with their merchants.

The Fingers can get generated at a bunch of different random locations, according to the wiki. In my game, they got generated at a place called Dragontooth Crater.

This place was somewhat east-ish of Dragon Bridge, so that’s where I dropped out of fast travel to get there. Notable things found on the way:

  • A cart with a bunch of books tossed around on the ground nearby, which I think must have belonged to the skeleton I saw on an ore vein not far away? Because I didn’t see any other sign of a corpse. Took the books, though!
  • A few very cranky Forsworn, as we went charging past what looked like a stronghold of theirs, plus a couple extra ones near Dragontooth Crater once we actually got there.
  • The tiny mining hamlet of Karthwasten, which apparently has some local drama going on with an important powerful mining clan leaning on the townsfolk to try to buy their land. I did not engage with the local drama, particularly after one of the townsfolk crankily informed me that since I wasn’t from there, he didn’t want to talk to me.

If you’re going “gosh, I wonder what Alarrah could possibly find lurking in a place called Dragontooth Crater,” yep, you’re totally right. Because I totally found a Blood Dragon there. And a Word Wall, which gave me another word of the Elemental Fury Shout.

The other notable thing about this dragon kill was that there were Thalmor NPCs nearby. Lyds and I passed them on the way to the lair, but I saw them run up and start trying to fight the dragon, too. I’m honestly not legit sure whether I killed the dragon or they did? But either way, I did get its soul and its bones.

I also got the Thalmor telling me “this doesn’t concern you, ‘citizen’” like they do. I was all “I beg to differ, this totally concerns me, I’m the friggin’ Dragonborn”, but even if Alarrah was thinking it, it was still Inside Voice. Probably not wise to announce herself in front of Thalmor, after the rampage she went on through their embassy, not to mention killing a few more of them in Riften.

(Though really, if the Thalmor were right there as she slurped up the soul off that Blood Dragon, I would have thought one of them would, y’know, figure it out? But the NPCs aren’t that clever!)

Anyway, Lyds and I did not engage the Thalmor, despite being sorely tempted, because seriously, fuck those guys. We’d gotten what we came for, so we went about our business and aimed southwest-ish for the orc stronghold.

On the way down, we went very near what I discovered via the wiki was the Shrine of Peryite, another Daedra. I did not go to the shrine this time because Peryite’s the Daedra of disease and from what I’ve seen about his artifact quest, it involves some serious eww, and I’m not here for that. But I did get close enough to the shrine to find another nearby landmark, a tree with a dead elf corpse at it and some interesting bits of loot, including a diamond.

And not far north of the orc stronghold, we found another Blood Dragon. This time, there was an NPC nearby who yelled “I’m getting out of here” and totally ran off while we were fighting it. Possibly one of the most realistic NPC reactions I’ve seen to a dragon battle so far in this game, lol.

Now that I’m at level 39, and I’ve bumped up my Stamina high enough, my carry weight limit is now high enough that I can actually carry bones and scales off two different dragon kills and still not be maxed out. Awesome.

Also, I noted with some amusement that I actually came very near to the place where I’m supposed to meet Delphine and Esbern for the next phase of the main plot. I decided to not go any closer than necessary, though, so as to avoid having to be all “hey guys, yeah I know I’m here and all, but sit tight, I’ll get back to you, kinda busy”. 😉

Made it to the stronghold, anyway, and got permission to enter and speak to their chieftain. Who was happy to declare me Blood-Kin to the Orcs, and give me leave to trade with their merchants and train with their warriors. Awesome. I even trained briefly with the chief to get him to bump up my One-Handed skill.

I did not however linger in the stronghold, though I was tempted to do so. Because I wanted to move on to the other main goal of the evening: joining the College of Winterhold, partly to join the college in general, and partly to get access to that dungeon with the third Gauldur amulet bit.

So Lyds and I fast traveled to Wayward Pass, and hoofed it from there to get to Winterhold. I could have actually fast traveled directly to Winterhold, and in fact finally did that, because I couldn’t find a good way in there on foot. This is what I get for trying not to drop a dragon on a place when I show up!

One of the things I immediately noticed about Winterhold—and which I’d also noticed about Riften, for that matter—is that they have female guards. I have not seen female guards in Whiterun, Solitude, Morthal, or Falkreath, at least not yet. Poking around about this in searches led me to find that apparently only the Stormcloak-affiliated Holds have female guards, which seems like an odd distinction to me? But maybe the idea here is supposed to be that the Nord culture is less sexist than the Imperials?

It’s also odd just because in the Holds that are Imperial-aligned, they certainly seem happy enough to let women be fighters. Whiterun’s Jarl has a female housecarl (and a Dunmer, for that matter). And Elisif in Solitude was perfectly happy to give me a female housecarl. So it doesn’t make much sense to me that those Holds wouldn’t also have the occasional female guard.

But I digress. The other notable thing about Winterhold is, of course, that the place is kind of pitiful. You can become thane there, but you don’t get a house to buy, and you don’t get a housecarl. Presumably because most of the city got destroyed in the Great Collapse, and the best-surviving section of it is actually the mage college.

And the college is not that far away from the town proper. Even the college, which is mostly intact and pretty nice inside, showed some signs of neglect—the big fancy bridge that leads into it has several bits that have worn down from age. But they did have a guard on duty, Faralda, who challenged me when I showed up and asked me to demonstrate a spell for her to prove I had the aptitude to sign on as a student.

I have barely used any magic so far in this game, mostly just the Candlelight, Magelight, and Healing Hands spells. But I did have a few others I’d learned, including the one Faralda asked for, Firebolt. She asked me to shoot a spell at the rune on the ground near her, and when I did that, she gave me leave to enter the place and speak to another NPC, Mirabelle Ervine, who gave me an initial tour of the place as well as some novice robes. She also showed me where I’d be sleeping, and told me to report to one of the teachers who was about to do a class.

At this point, I dismissed Lydia. I figured she’d be bored stiff following me around the mage college, and even though I knew this’d mean generating another hunting bow in her inventory, I didn’t want to risk having her around and possibly pissing off any of the mage NPCs if she wound up getting in a fight and hitting one of them.

That said: it did feel weird to tell her to go home! I envision Alarrah and Lydia having an exchange something like this:

Lydia: I don’t like the idea of leaving you here alone, my thane. Are you sure you’ll be all right?

Alarrah: I’ll be fine. You got me safely here, and you know I can handle almost anything that comes at me. Plus, how bad can this place be?

Lydia (grinning): Not too likely dragons or giants will get in here, I guess.

Alarrah: Exactly. And if one of these mages tries to throw a spell at me, you know how fast I can duck. Now go on home, and be careful on the way. If you need help, stop at Windstad and tell Valdimar I sent you, or stop in Solitude and talk to Jordis at Proudspire. Or Gregor at Heljarchen Hall.

Lydia: You… have so many houses now. And housecarls…

Alarrah: But you are my first, and my best. I will come back to you. Wait for me in Whiterun. And watch over our home.

Lydia: I’m at your command, my thane. Do you have anything you want me to carry home for you?

Alarrah: What, you actually want to carry my burdens for once?

Lydia: I am sworn to.

Alarrah: And you do a damn fine job.

Lydia: Thank you. And… please be safe. I will miss you.

Alarrah: And I you.

Yeaaaah, I’m totally going to have to marry that girl. <3

And with that, I proceeded to go about the business of being a mage student.

There were three other NPCs taking the class with the teacher, Tolfdir: a male Nord, a male Khajiit, and a female Dunmer. All of them were anxious to show what they could do, and when Tolfdir asked me to chime in an opinion, I told him I wanted to learn something practical.

So he had me help him demonstrate how wards work. I’d learned a Steadfast Ward spell but hadn’t had a chance to use it, and this was good practice. He had me stand in a particular place and throw up a ward, while he threw a fireball at me. The ward worked. Awesome.

Tolfdir’s next item of business was to take us out on a little field trip. Which was exactly where I wanted to go: Saarthal, where I could get that next bit of Gauldur amulet.

Before I went over there, I stopped off at the hall where I’d be sleeping and changed out of my glass armor, into the robes I’d been given. I figure Alarrah gave those robes a long measuring look, and felt really weird about not having her armor on. (She definitely approves of the advice of Beirand, the Solitude blacksmith: “Be safe! And always wear your armor!”) Particularly after she’d promised Lydia that she’d be okay.

But I finally compromised by putting on the hood and robes, but also keeping on the glass gauntlets and boots and having my shield handy. And under no circumstances would I be laying aside Dawnbreaker.

Took a screencap of Alarrah in her robes, too, which actually look pretty cool.

This also gave me the first opportunity to see a draugr hive actually treated as a source of research—because the college was actually excavating the place, looking for magical artifacts and other lost knowledge. Archaeology, Skyrim style!

It was also noteworthy that the male Nord of the other student NPCs, Onmund, was testy about the ruins being disturbed. About which I’m all, thank you, here finally is a Nord who is not comfortable with the bones of his ancestors being rifled through!

Didn’t stop me from totally looting the place though. 😀 At least once I got past the initial excavation area and down to where the actual draugr were.

And getting down there actually required me to trigger a trap. One of the other mages on duty at the place ordered me to find a few minor magical artifacts around so he could catalogue them. But one of them turned out to be an amulet, and when I picked that up, it triggered a spear trap that cut me off in an alcove. I was still in visual and talking range of Tolfdir, though. When he found out from me what happened, and saw an area of magical resonance where I’d taken the amulet from, he suggested I throw a spell at it. So I hit it with a firebolt, and that crumbled the wall. Which gave me access to the rest of the dungeon.

Tolfdir went into fits of scholarly rapture about this, which was kind of charming and adorable. Especially given that I expect Alarrah would be all “my dude, this place is totally going to be swarming with draugr, I’ve been in half a dozen other ruins like this one, why the hell aren’t you people wearing armor?”

That said, I guess the whole idea here is that if you’re a good enough mage, you don’t need armor.

After Tolfdir and I got far enough into the dungeon, I suddenly got hit with another plot point: a vision of somebody involved with the Psijic Order, warning me that there was great danger in this place—and that I’d set a chain of events in motion that could not be stopped. And that I alone had the power to prevent disaster.

Given that Alarrah just recently also got told she was the only one who had the power to keep Alduin from destroying the world, this sounded plenty ominous.

But I also figure it hardened Alarrah’s resolve to learn everything she could from the college, to improve her ability to keep the World-Eater from, well, eating the world.

Told Tolfdir about this vision, and he was all “vision? What vision?” But also throwing several more scholarly raptures about what it could all possibly mean. And apparently he felt this was justification to send me on ahead into the dungeon, to try to find the danger. By myself. Lol.

I mean, I wanted to do that anyway, but it nonetheless amuses me that this guy felt it justified to send the new student into a possibly dangerous ruin all by herself. I see two possibilities here:

  1. The mage college teachers genuinely don’t see anything odd about sending their apprentices off to do dangerous things.
  2. Tolfdir clued in that maybe I was a bit better equipped than most apprentices to investigate the place? I mean, I did show up covered in glass armor and armed to the teeth.

Probably a little of column A, a little of column B. 😉

Needless to say, the place was totally a draugr hive. And even though I was wearing less armor than usual, with Dawnbreaker, I was still able to handle every draugr I ran into. I have a goal in mind here to see if I can get better at using the Destruction school of spells, as well as wards… just to see if I can have the left hand ready to throw spells while the right hand wields a blade. I’ve been doing this already with the Candlelight or Magelight spells, so it’d be nice to do that with something like Firebolt or the lightning spells I’ve come across.

There were a couple of puzzles of the rotating pillar variety, which didn’t take too much effort to get through, though I did need the wiki’s clue that I had to match the pillars with the symbols behind them on the walls.

And once I got far enough into the dungeon, Tolfdir finally caught up with me. Possibly because he realized that hey, maybe sending a student alone into a possibly dangerous ruin was a bad idea?

I did get to see him throwing offensive spells at some of the draugr we encountered, though. Including the final boss—Jyrik Gauldurson. Who we found in a room with a great big glowing orb.

And once I took out Jyrik, Tolfdir was entirely over the moon about the discovery of the orb. He didn’t dare leave it unattended, and asked me to run off to go tell the Arch-Mage in the college what we’d found. I agreed to do this, though I had to first run out the way we’d come and then back again, because I couldn’t figure out how to get past a gate barring my way.

Plus, I realized from consulting the wiki that I’d missed the boss trap and the Word Wall in this place, and that was not acceptable. So I ran back to the boss chamber and then took care of finding both of those things. This Word Wall let me finish up the words for the Ice Form Shout.

When I made it back to the college, I was able to find the Arch-Mage in his quarters. Dude was a Dunmer, who kept flipping through a book even as he talked to me, and he thanked me for bringing the matter to his attention. Then sent me off to go talk to the mage down in the Arcaneum to see if he had any books that could tell me more about what we’d found.

On the way down there, I got stopped by another NPC, Arcano, who questioned me about the incident as well. There wasn’t anything blatant in the exchange, but the guy was a bit of a supercilious asshole. (And given what I glimpsed in the wiki, I’m totally not surprised that he’s going to be a problem.)

Made it down to the Arcaneum, where I found who Dara and Paul both agree is the best character in the entire college: an orc who’s the librarian in charge of the place. I adore that the mage college’s primary librarian is an orc who defends his books like they’re his own plane of Oblivion. <3

This guy also advised me that he had a book that probably could have told me something useful about the orb—but that the thing had been recently stolen by a mage who’d been kicked out of the college, along with other books as well.

So I was going to have to see what I could do about getting those back.


Saved at that point!

Next time

I’ll go see about that stolen books problem. And see how many of the other mage teachers I can get to train me up.

Editing to add

12/4/2021: Corrected the reference to the NPC of the mage college who was testy about Saarthal being disturbed. His name is Onmund, not Ormund as I’d written before.

3/12/2022: Reformatted this post to make it better match ones in later playthroughs.

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.