For this session, I’d thought about hitting the mage college for the next round of Arniel’s plot, taking care of the situation with the anomaly in Markarth, and then maybe going and wiping out the Dark Brotherhood. I took care of two of these things, but not the third. Instead, I wound up becoming Thane of Riften!
- Got to the college to drop off the Warped Soul Gem, which Arniel happily accepted
- Tried to fast travel multiple times over to Markarth to find the magic anomaly; had the game actually outright crash on me a couple of times, which required me to start from a prior autosave at the college
- Third time through I actually got jumped and killed by a squad of Thalmor, see previous commentary re: fuck those guys
- Possible root cause of crashing: one of these times through I stopped to talk to some Khajiit and was rudely interrupted by an Elder Dragon, which I proceeded to shoot the hell out of once it landed across the river; while the dragon corpse was burning, Lydia was in the middle of it?
- FINALLY made it to the magic rupture, which required me to cut through another Forsworn camp before I could take out the three magic anomalies the rupture generated
- Returned to the college to check in with Tolfdir, who gave me a hefty chunk of the share of the gold sent by the Jarl of Markarth for the handling of the anomaly problem
- Decided to head south on foot to Riften and see about becoming Thane there
- On the way, ran into Taron Dreth, Katria’s asshole apprentice from the Lost to the Ages quest, who flipped out when he saw I was carrying an Aetherium Crown; this flip out did not go well for him
- Helped an Argonian at the Riften Fishery by giving her a healing potion to cure her skooma addiction; got her to tell me who her dealer was
- While looking for that Argonian, actually found a second Argonian who desperately thrust me a thing called the Lexicon and begged me to return it to Avanchnzel
- Got the Jarl’s permission to investigate, and took out the dealer and his accomplice at a warehouse
- Wiped out the dealer home base and got the Jarl’s leave to buy property in Riften
- Bought Honeyside and blew my entire gold reserve to furnish it out; got Iona as my next housecarl
- Invested in Balimund’s forge because I like investing in smiths, apparently!
- Set out west on foot from Riften to see about getting to Avanchnzel
- On the way, passed yet another bandit fort and wound up fighting several of the bandits when they unleashed some pit wolves on us
- Found front entrance of Avanchnzel, but realized I was close to being overloaded, so decided Lyds and I better return to Whiterun instead
Taking the freshly charged Warped Soul Gem to Arniel at the college went well enough. I was amused that I keep finding him in his bed in the Hall of Attainment. Given that this plot is supposed to revolve around him doing experiments and all, I gotta wonder when exactly this guy actually works on his experiments?
(But apparently at least a little of that is supposed to happen in the final phase of this plotline.)
After I dropped off the gem, my intention was to go to Markarth next and handle the magic anomaly Tolfdir had told me about. This proved to be way more challenging than anticipated, because the game wound up outright crashing on me a couple of times when I got near to the place.
I am not a hundred percent sure of this because I lost track of what exactly happened on which run through Markarth–but the possible root cause of the crash might have been that when Lyds and I stopped to talk to some passing Khajiit, we were very rudely interrupted by a sudden Elder Dragon.
Lyds and I fought it, and it eventually landed on the opposite side of the river, but within arrow range. So I pelted it with arrows from afar. But Lyds caught up with me, and right as the dragon’s corpse was starting to smolder and trigger the soul absorption sequence, she was standing right in the middle of it.
Something like this was I think what caused the whole thing with Carl before! And I’m pretty sure this was on the first run through the Markarth area, because the two times the game crashed were after I fought the dragon… but I do not know for sure. Because I had dragon bones by the time I made it back to Whiterun at the end of the session, and I’m pretty sure the Elder Dragon was the source of those bones. I do not remember fighting a different dragon during that session once I got Markarth dealt with and went through the whole sequence of becoming Thane of Riften.
Anyway, after that bumpy part of the session, I did at least finally make it to where the magic rupture had happened. Which, amusingly, was not far from Karthspire and Sky Haven Temple. I only had to go a little ways from there, and wound up fighting my way through yet another Forsworn camp to get to where the rupture had occurred.
The Forsworn are another batch of enemies I’m not entirely comfortable fighting. Their whole deal is that they’re an organized guerilla warfare type force trying to take back the Reach, their part of Skyrim; they have issues with the Nords having taken over their territory.
But as with the Falmer, this is a thing that the player knows more about than the character. Alarrah doesn’t really know what the Forsworn’s deal is. She does know that random Forsworn just keep running up and attacking her when she’s going through the area, and it’s not like she’s not going to defend herself!
At any rate, did finally make it to the rupture, which generated a total of three anomalies that I had to take out. Fortunately this was nothing that sword-swinging couldn’t handle. Then all I needed to do was return to the college and report to Tolfdir, who turned over a share of the gold offered by the Jarl of Markarth for handling the problem. Yay!
At that point I decided I was in the mood to return to Riften and see about becoming thane there.
There’s a particular plotline you have to follow to get on the Jarl’s good side, and this is initiated by finding a particular Argonian with a skooma problem and helping her out. So I went looking for that Argonian, Wujeeta, who was supposed to be an employee of the Riften Fishery.
Before I found her I actually found a different female Argonian, From-Deepest-Fathoms, who thrust a thing called the Lexicon at me (turned out to be a fancy and somewhat ominous looking cube) and begged me to take it back to Avanchnzel. I knew about this opening plot hook but so far have not elected to read up on it on the wiki, so so far all I know is that she’s got some sort of history with the place and is clearly traumatized by it.
I figure Alarrah was all “wait what who the hell are you okay okay calm down yes, I’ll take it”. Which let From-Deepest-Fathoms wander off, continuing to babble a trifle less anxiously to herself.
After queuing up “figure out where the hell Avanchnzel is” on the To Do list, I resumed looking for Wujeeta and finally found her. Got her to admit to me that she needed help with her skooma problem, and fortunately had plenty of healing potions on hand, so I could spare her one. Then I was able to get her to give me a pointer about who her dealer had been, so that I could take that information to the Jarl, Laila Law-Giver.
(Side note: shoutout to all MST3K fans who know why I have to snicker at this name. That said, at least Laila’s steward Anuriel seems to have a few more functioning neurons than Brain Guy or Bobo.
Additional side note: Laila Law-Giver also was voiced by Claudia Christian, which I had to confirm just because she sounded like she was the same actress as Adrienne at Warmaiden’s! But also because she shared the line “You’re someone who gets things done. I like that” with Adrienne.)
Got the Jarl’s permission to go take out the dealer, and then after that, to clear the actual headquarters of the skooma operation. Once I did that, I was home free to be declared thane.
This was a thaneship acquisition that actually played out differently than all the others; Laila had a few different unique lines. Notably, she did not have the line about telling the guards about my new title, because ‘wouldn’t want to think you’re part of the common rabble”. Not having that line made me like Laila Law-Giver rather better.
However, she didn’t give me a ceremonial weapon of the Rift, like the other Jarls did. She did give me a nice weapon, mind you, but it was a random unnamed and enchanted one.
Neither did she give me a line about assigning me a housecarl. Iona was waiting for me in Honeyside when I went to check the place out, though.
And I wound up blowing my entire gold reserve to buy the place and get all of its furnishings. I do rather like the house, it’s not as pretentiously large and fancy as Proudspire, but it’s a little nicer than Breezehome. And it has a nice porch overlooking the nearby lake, and direct access outside the city walls.
(Which strikes me as a bit of a security hole in the city walls? But whatevs!)
The other thing I took care of while getting settled in Riften was to invest in the forge run by Balimund. So far he’s been my favorite vendor in the place, and apparently, I just like investing in smiths. <3
One other thing I’ll note about the skooma dealer plot: the game doesn’t give you any good way to get rid of skooma. There’s no mechanism for destroying an acquired object in the game. Your only options really are leave it somewhere, sell it to somebody, or just drink it. All of which seem kind of counter to the point of having an illegal drug in the game.
According to the wiki, too, actually drinking skooma won’t have any negative effects on you, and will restore 25 points of stamina. Which seems hilarious as well given the whole “this is a highly addictive drug” thing in-character. I suppose you can hand-wave it as a “the Dragonborn has a metabolism that can burn through skooma without ill effects”? Kind of like how Steve Rogers can’t get drunk in the MCU?
Nor is there any particular negative consequence to you having any skooma yourself. Merchants apparently won’t refuse to deal with you or anything like that.
As to what I did with the skooma: hold that thought.
Once I got Honeyside furnished out, I decided to follow up on this Avanchnzel plot. The place turned out to be west of Riften, so I decided to hoof it in that direction with Lydia and see what happened.
The main interesting thing that happened was finding another bandit fort. I was going to walk past the place, only they threw open a gate and sicced a couple of pit wolves on us. At which point, okay fine you assholes, Lydia and I are going to have to kick every single one of your asses.
We did wind up kicking a fair number of their asses, but as with Fort Greenwall, I elected to not go in and clear the whole place out. I wanted to find Avanchnzel.
Which I did find. But when I got there, I realized I was running close to being overloaded again, plus it was getting fairly late. So I elected to return to Whiterun and shed excess items, and also working on re-establishing the gold reserve.
On the way into Whiterun, found the same Khajiit group I’d encountered while killing the Elder Dragon. And I sold them the skooma.
Checking out Avanchnzel in depth!
Editing to add
3/9/2022: Reformatted this post to make it better match the ones for later playthroughs, as part of porting it over to skyrim.annathepiper.org.