I did not intend to set off plots for Windhelm in last night’s run, but I totally set off plots for Windhelm in last night’s run—along with more quests for the college, and a surprise side quest entirely because I accidentally hit the Shout button.
- Went to Heljarchen to try to build some shrines in the cellar, only to discover, doh, I’d left all my iron ingots in Whiterun
- Accidentally hit the Shout button trying to get the cat out of my way
- Cleared the inventory for questing purposes, then set out to find the three bits of equipment for the wizard in Riften
- First stop was Ivarstead, and on the way into that, got intercepted by a courier with another Letter from a Friend, this one pointing me at Ironbind Barrow
- So I went to that barrow next, only to discover a couple of unexpected NPCs camped out there: a Redguard named Salma, and an Argonian named Beem-ja, who insisted on accompanying me into the dungeon; this did not go well for the NPCs
- Got the second word of the Become Ethereal Shout though!
- Hoofed it northward from there towards Winterhold and discovered a couple more locations on the way
- Next step: the college, to check in with Arniel, whose experiments were also not going well; he gave me back the Warped Soul Gem and asked me to take it to Dwemer convectors to charge it
- Got the enchanter trainer at the college to give me a minor reward when I gave him some soul gems he needed
- Also got another couple of bumps in Alteration off of Tolfdir—and a quest pointer for dealing with an aftershock from the Eye of Magnus, over in Markarth
- Picked up Wylandriah’s next item at the inn in Winterhold
- Decided to hoof it south to Windhelm for the third item, which let me discover a third previously unknown location
- Found the open-air market at Windhelm, including their blacksmith, but also finally found the White Phial apothecary and triggered the quest from there to find the fabled White Phial for the shop owner; got Wylandriah’s third item while I was in there
- On the way out of Windhelm also triggered the opening scene of the murder mystery plot there, which I did not plan to do, but I went with it anyway
- Left Windhelm long enough to pop down to Riften and give Wylandriah her things back
- Went to Forsaken Cave, where I’d already been, but this time I was able to get the Phial
- Fast traveled to a nearby mill to get back to Windhelm, only HI ANCIENT DRAGON SAYS RAAAAAAAR
- Killed the Ancient Dragon (which also killed a couple of Stormcloak soldiers), in front of startled mill NPCs
- Was over-burdened at this point thanks to dragon bits, so had to Whirlwind-Sprint my way to Windhelm, and also make use of potions of strength
- Found the inn at Windhelm, where I saved for the night
The first thing I’d intended to try to do last night was take advantage of my new ability to turn iron into gold, and go build out more of the shrines in my cellar at Heljarchen. This would have worked better if I’d actually remembered to take my iron ingots with me, doh.
But I did at least build a few other things, not the least of which was another arcane enchanter, so that I could have that on hand when I visit the place.
On the way back to Whiterun from there, hoofing it down through the plains, I wound up accidentally hitting the Shout button. This was because the cat is prone to trying to climb all over me when I’m sitting on the couch, and when he does that, it’s very easy to accidentally hit buttons on the Switch! Fortunately this time, I was alone on the plains, and the current active Shout was Become Ethereal. So I didn’t have to worry about pissing off any nearby guards.
Next item on the agenda was to do some minor questing, and go find those three items for Wylandriah, the wizard in Riften. (Side note: she’s a Bosmer! Nice to see another Bosmer NPC finally!)
The first stop for this was Ivarstead, so I fast traveled nearby to get there. On the way in, I got intercepted by yet another courier with yet another Letter from a Friend, with a clue for a Word Wall. This one was kind of lollertastic given that it told me I’d caused quite a stir at Heljarchen Hall—and nobody’s there right now but Gregor, my housecarl!
Gregor, my dude, if you knew where to find a Word Wall, you could have just told me, y’know? No need for secretly engaging a courier! (Though now I also totally have a headcanon of the courier being Gregor’s cousin, and maybe also Gregor secretly having connections to the Blades and not wanting to out himself, even to his thane, lololol…)
Anyway, in Ivarstead, Wylandriah’s spoon was stuffed inside a satchel which happened to be in a farmhouse. So I had to actually enter the farmhouse, which, naturally, had its family in it!
They threw lines at me about their family drama—apparently the daughter is desperate to travel—but nobody seemed to mind that I just wandered over to the table and yoinked that spoon right out of the satchel. Which surprised me, I was expecting to have to engage with them to buy the thing or do a favor to get it or something, or steal it as a last resort. But I did not object to it being this easy, either!
From there, I then decided to go check out the barrow, because hey, another Word Wall!
This turned out to be more or less on the way up to Winterhold anyway, a place called Ironbind Barrow. I think I’d previously discovered this place but hadn’t actually entered it, because I was able to fast travel there.
And when I arrived: surprise NPCs! A Redguard named Salma and an Argonian named Beem-ja were camped out there, intending to break into the place for treasure hunting. And they refused to let me enter the cavern without them.
Since I was alone and about to enter a draugr hive, I saw no particular downside to this; I was mostly just there for the Word Wall. I did note with interest that both of the NPCs waited for me to keep up with them, so their mechanics did clearly require me being alongside them.
When I got far enough into the dungeon, I discovered why: the Argonian, who was a conjurer, was apparently also a goddamn necromancer and intended to resurrect the dead warlord in there. With me as a blood sacrifice.
I think fucking not, asshole. I killed him. And poor Salma, who’d been essentially raised by this Argonian, was shocked at his turning out to be a bloodthirsty necromancer asshole and found herself needing to be alone for a while. So she asked me to go on without her. I left here there in shock and grief in the barrow, since the game didn’t really give me any other option.
But aw. This was the last she appears in the game, from what I see on the wiki, and I choose to believe she makes it home safely and reconciles with her father, who’d had serious suspicions about that Argonian to begin with.
Apparently, though, I missed a couple of interesting things about that dungeon that I may need to go back and doublecheck, including a unique weapon with a combined fire damage and soul trap enchantment. :O I did at least get the second word of Become Ethereal off the Word Wall, though.
I decided to hoof it to Winterhold from the barrow, partly because it was snowy territory and I wanted to see if I could find and kill some icewraiths for the vendor in Riften who wanted them. I did find one and kill it on the way! And I also discovered a couple of other new locations I hadn’t seen before.
At Winterhold, I stopped first at the college to check on Arniel’s quest. I learned from Arniel that his experiments were going badly, and that he needed additional help getting that Warped Soul Gem charged up. He needed me to take it to Dwemer convectors and use them to charge it. Which he could not do himself, because having to make “calculations”, apparently? Calculations which could apparently not be made outside the college?
But whatevs, okay fine, your Arch-Mage will go solve this problem for you too. 😉
Meanwhile, I got the enchanter staffer at the college to also give me a minor quest, which I was immediately able to solve for him because all he wanted was three Grand Soul Gems and I had them right there in my inventory. He was happy to pay me for them.
I also found Tolfdir and got him to train me up another couple notches in Alteration. And yet another quest from him, but this one probably slightly larger and crunchier—as it’s “Aftershock”, which involves me having to go off and deal with more magical anomaly issues caused by the Eye of Magnus. In Markarth. Joy! Well, I’ll eventually be heading back there anyway.
Next item to take care of after that was to head down to Windhelm for Wylandriah’s final item. Hoofed it for this leg of the journey as well, for the same reasons as above, and found a third new location, the charmingly named Stillborn Cave.
I’d already been briefly to Windhelm on previous sessions, but I think this was the first time I’d really started exploring the place and seeing a notable number of NPCs. With interest, I noted that one of the NPCs at the forge was enthusiastic about working in Windhelm just because she gets to see Ulfric Stormcloak up close.
So far though I’m finding the place kind of dingy. It’s not got the same hellpit vibe I got off of my one short visit to Markarth so far, but the general layout of the place is a lot more close and confined than Whiterun or Solitude. And there’s a lot less greenery. So there are a lot of very close alleyways and stone walls, and not too much in the way of plants to alleviate that. Not exactly welcoming, is what I’m saying here.
And as I write this, I’ve also realized another thing that is perhaps also contributing to the “not exactly welcoming” vibe: I haven’t seen any kids yet. No groups of kids running around playing tag like I see in Whiterun or Solitude… or even single kids coming up to me with bits of dialogue. Even Winterhold, poor snowy pit that it is, has at least a couple of kids who’ve come up to me with dialogue about the college. No kids yet though in Windhelm.
All of which basically means that I’m not exactly disappointed that apparently I can’t be thane of this place unless I choose a side in the war. I’ll do the local plots still, but I’m not going to be too concerned about getting the thaneship here; it’s not like Alarrah’s lacking for thaneships or houses at this point.
And I will at least say that the inn in this place, Candlehearth Hall, is rather nice. So while I may still buy the house here once I get the murder mystery plot sorted, I won’t mind staying at this inn.
At any rate, Wylandriah’s third item turned out to be parked inside the alchemist shop in Windhelm’s open air market—which was the White Phial, and oh hey, that’s the place that also triggers the White Phial quest! So I went in there to get the item, but also get the opening hook for the White Phial quest, which involved the old ailing alchemist asking me to go get the Phial for him. And I got Wylandriah’s final item while I was in there.
On the way out of there, I also accidentally triggered the opening hook for the murder mystery plot in Windhelm, Blood on the Ice. Found the first scene of that, which was fairly grim. But I went ahead and got that started too.
Noted that the guard running the investigation at the murder scene was another female guard, though she was not particularly impressed with this random stranger coming up and going “what’s going on then?” She waved me off to go talk to another NPC if I thought I could do any better investigating the murders than the guards could.
RIGHT THEN, looks like Detective Alarrah is on the case! (Or at least, she will be after she takes care of a couple other quests first.)
Bopped back down to Riften long enough to give Wylandriah her items. She had completely forgotten she’d talked to me, but she was nonetheless delighted that this stranger showed up with exactly the items she needed, and was perfectly happy to reward me for my stunning precognitive insight in bringing her what she needed. Snerk.
After that, it was off to Forsaken Cave to get the Phial. I’d already been there on a previous quest, so this time, I mostly just had to remember the proper pathway to get to the final chamber. And this time, I also had the special mixture the alchemist had prepared that would trigger the mechanism necessary for me to find the Phial.
Which, of course, is cracked. So this will need additional sorting!
Headed back to Windhelm at that point, but by now I was also overloaded… because there were a lot of silver ingots re-spawned as loot in Forsaken Cave, and I wasn’t going to walk off and leave a bunch of silver! So I had to utilize a potion of strength to let me fast travel to Anga’s Mill not far from Windhelm.
And when I came out of fast travel: ANCIENT DRAGON.
The next tick up from Elder Dragon. Yowza. This was the first of these I’d seen (and Paul, when I mentioned this to him, said “won’t be the last!”), and accordingly, it took longer to kill.
Since this fight was near an inhabited area, it also meant I heard NPCs yelling for help, and NPCs also came running up to engage the dragon as well while I was shooting it with my arrows. This time the unfortunate sods bit to death by the dragon were Stormcloak soldiers.
Me, I stayed the hell out of the way of its head and kept pelting it with ebony arrows, since I was still overloaded and wasn’t going to get any closer to the beast than I had to.
Cue dragon soul absorption, cue stunned NPC “you took its very soul!” commentary. And at least three witnesses standing there staring at me.
(It would be nice if, on one of these occasions where I kill a dragon near an inhabited place, one of the NPCs who sees me do it would come up and go “Thank you! You saved our mill/village/forge/town/farm/whatever”. But noooooo.)
From the mill, I was able to do a combo of Whirlwind Sprint and a few additional potions of strength to make it back into Windhelm on foot. Got back to their forge, and did a little bit of forging and creating of various types of daggers, enough to sell and beat my carry weight down a little further.
Then I parked at the inn and saved for the night.
Follow up on the Windhelm quests! Let’s see if I can figure out who’s killing people in this city!
Editing to add
3/9/2022: Reformatted this post to make it better match the ones in later playthroughs.