Alarrah Playthrough

In Which the Dragonborn Seeks the Staff of Magnus

Last night’s session was pretty much focused on more of the plotline for the College of Winterhold.


  • Finished up remaining buying and selling business in Whiterun
  • Checked in with Urag to give him back the books he wanted
  • Reported back to Brelyna to tell her her spell wore off alright
  • Headed down into the Midden underneath the college and tested a scroll of J’zargo’s while I was down there
  • Also found two other interesting things besides the Augur of Dunlain
  • Questioned the Augur for more info about what was going on and was advised to tell the Arch-Mage they needed to find the Staff of Magnus
  • The Arch-Mage, unsurprisingly, decided that “they” actually meant “me”
  • Talked to Mirabelle about the staff, and got a side quest from Tolfdir to look for his missing alembic
  • Headed off to Mzulft to look for the Staff
  • Made it partway through Mzulft, killed a bunch of Falmer and Dwemer automata, and found a bunch of dead Synod researchers
  • Also found a live Synod researcher who helped me move the plot along


Paul warned me, and he wasn’t wrong, that after a certain point all the fancy armor I’m capable of making will get fancy enough that nobody can actually buy it. I am almost to that point, though for now I’ve been handling it by totally buying Warmaiden’s out of every ingot of every material they have, until they have enough gold to buy one of the fancy things from me.

Then I make more things with the ingots and sell them right back to them. 😀

Though seriously, if I’m gonna be selling them stuff made out of ebony and dragon bones, or legendary quality stuff in general, they should just pay me a regular commission! Eorlund Gray-Mane may be the smith that gets all the press in that town, but he ain’t selling his wares to Warmaiden’s, I’m just sayin’.

Also, once I get my Speech skill up high enough, and unlock the investor perk, Warmaiden’s is going to be the first store I invest in to bump up their standard gold stock.

Meanwhile, though, I had a plotline to get back to at the college. I’ve been amusing myself by not fast traveling and instead hiring the carriage to take me to Winterhold. Partly because at least in my semi-IC way, I feel like Alarrah would want to help contribute to the Whiterun economy by giving her business to the carriage driver. <3 But also because it seems like if I travel that way, I’m slightly less likely to have a dragon drop down on my head when I get to where I’m going!

(I don’t know if the game mechanics actually make this correct, but so far at least on observation, that’s how it’s trending for me!)

Next, a couple of side notes about the college.

One: as I said in my last post, I have grave concerns about the bridge that leads into the college. Does this game mean to tell me that nobody in the College of Winterhold ever has problems crossing that bridge?

Or that they have no magical ability to fix it?

I Mean Honestly
I Mean Honestly

I suppose actually hiring some of the townsfolk down in Winterhold to get some quarried stone up here to fix this isn’t an option, either. If the college is down on its luck and down on its funds, they might not actually be able to pay anybody to come up and fix this?

And two: even aside from the main plotline for it, the college is certainly swimming in its share of local drama. The mage who teaches Restoration spells, Colette, apparently gets a lot of shit about her particular magical school being less useful than the others–and she’s quite twitchy about it in her dialogue prompts to the player. I feel a little sorry for her almost and am trying to make a point of searching her out to ask for training.

Also, a couple of the other mages–Faralda and Nirya, a couple of Altmer–apparently have quite the rivalry going on. Nirya’s first dialogue prompts to me were all to the effect of “whatever that bitch told you, TOTALLY NOT TRUE”. Yowza. Dial down the drama a little bit there to the student, mmkay?

But all that said: once I made it back to the college, I reported back to the Arcaneum to give Urag the books he was looking for. This got me a little extra pocket cash, as well as a quest pointer to follow up with Urag later once he translates the volume of Shalidor’s writings.

I also checked in with Brelyna to let her know her spell that turned me green did safely wear off. And I helped her out a little bit more with her practicing, with no particular harm done. Though she was also smart enough to realize I’d told her it was a pleasure to help partly out of politeness. I think I like this girl. 😉

Next up was the visit down to the Midden to find the Augur of Dunlain. Fortunately I didn’t have to look very hard to find one of the entrances down there. And–shocker!–there were draugr down there.

Which blowed up real nice when I tried J’zargo’s scroll on ’em!

Paul was watching during this part of my run, and at his suggestion, I poked around in various directions until I found two interesting things that will definitely want exploration later: the Atronach Forge and an unidentified but clearly significant black gauntlet on a stand in the middle of what looked like a ritual circle.

My main goal for coming down here, though, was to find the Augur of Dunlain. Who turned out to be a big glowing blue light as opposed to someone in corporeal form, which I suppose is why he hangs out down in the Midden? Maybe he’s even too weird for the rest of the mages?

Regardless, he gave me more info pertaining to the main college quest: one, confirming Ancano is a Thalmor, and two, that I needed to report back to the Arch-Mage and tell him that the school needed to find something called the Staff of Magnus.

When I went to do this–no surprises here, given the whole “I am the player character here” factor–the Arch-Mage decided that he’d interpret the Augur’s advice that “they” should find the staff to mean “me”.

He also sent me off to go find Mirabelle and ask her about the staff, since he recollected she’d said something about it the other day. But by then it was pretty late in the evening game-time, so I decided to pop back over to my bed in the Hall of Attainment and have a rest.

To my surprise, I found Tolfdir actually sitting in the chair by my bed–because apparently the NPCs at the college have no compunctions whatsoever about walking into each other’s spaces. (I expect Alarrah is finding this a trifle strange, given that she owns a total of five different houses at this point and has access to all the living quarters space she wants!) When I chatted with him I saw the dialogue prompt “You look like you could use a hand”, which got him to admit he needed help finding his alembic. This is apparently a potential recurring side quest, so I agreed to help him look for it.

(And then was thinking in Inside Voice, “Now go the fuck away, old man, nobody but Lydia is allowed to watch me sleep and you aren’t her‘!)

Got up the next morning game-time to go find Mirabelle and have a word with her. From her, I learned that representatives of an order of mages called the Synod had recently come to the college, but the Arch-Mage had refused to give them an audience. They’d been looking for the staff too, and she remembered that they’d gone off to the ruins of Mzulft.

Next stop: Mzulft!

This place was pretty far south of the college, but not quite as far south as Riften. And this time, I did have to fast travel. Dropped down at Kynesgrove and hoofed it the rest of the way from there.

On the way, I heard what sounded like dragon roars in the distance, but I never actually saw a dragon. I did kill a few passing sabre cats who tried to jump me. I did not however engage with what looked like mammoth poachers I spotted from a distance (there was a dead mammoth lying near them). Nor did I engage with the surprisingly large number of live mammoths I spotted (at least three? four?), or the one giant I saw who was near them.

Also of interest to me was how a lot of this terrain looked kind of blasted. I think I was a little ways west of where I’d gone to do the Eldergleam quest? From what I see on the wiki, this area is supposed to be volcanic tundra. And it had a lot of Dragon’s Tongue growing wild in various places, which says interesting things about where that particular flower is likely to be found.

As soon as I made it to Mzulft, I discovered that at one of those Synod people Mirabelle had mentioned was collapsed at the door of the place. He gasped out a few last words about “the oculary” before he up and died on me.

When I started making my way through the ruins, I kept finding more of the Synod team, too. At which point I started going “every last one of these guys is dead, aren’t they?”

Despite finding the expected array of Falmer and dwarven machines to kill (including my first Dwarven Centurion Master, which dropped Daedric arrows when I killed it), I did not however find all of the Synod researchers dead. At least one of them was very much alive, and turned out to be the next important plot point. After exchanging several dialogue lines with him, I got him to tell me what his party had been doing in the place: investigating a huge device that apparently required a special crystal to work.

And oh hey look! Conveniently enough, I’d found a focusing crystal on the way through the place!

So I got the guy to tell me I had to place the crystal in the right place on the device… and that was the last thing I did before finally saving for the night.

Next time

Picking up where I left off in Mzulft!

Editing to add

3/11/2022: 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.