In Which the Dragonborn Meets the True Leader of the Greybeards
Decided to go ahead and move forward with the next stage of the main quest last night, partly just because this one was particularly important plot-wise, but also because that stage was necessary to unlock the next stage of the White Phial quest!
- Went back to the college to follow up with Arniel, and learned from him that he was expecting yet another thing that Enthir had failed to deliver
- Learned from Enthir that he’d done his part of the deal thank you very much, but the courier never showed up with the item
- Tracked down the missing courier, who was dead in a previously visited dungeon, and brought back the item he carried to Arniel
- Watched the delighted Arniel try to finish his experiment; this did, aheh, not go terribly well for the poor guy
- Briefly explored north of the college
- Headed next to High Hrothgar to ask the Greybeards about this Shout mentioned on Alduin’s Wall
- Greybeards basically went “sorry we can’t teach you this Shout, we don’t know it, you’ll have to go speak to the leader of our order”
- Went up the mountain to do that, using the newly learned Clear Skies Shout, and met the actual leader of their order
- Had a rather lovely conversation with said leader, but he couldn’t teach me the Shout either; he could, however, point me in the direction of what to do instead, i.e., find an Elder Scroll
- Headed back to the college to ask Urag in the Arcaneum about how to find an Elder Scroll
- On the way into Winterhold, got a courier to hand me two letters at once, one for the next phase of the White Phial quest asking me to come back to Windhelm, the other another Letter from a Friend with a pointer off to another Word Wall
- Got a side quest from the enchantment teacher to get an item from a client who wanted the school to enchant it for him
- Got a side quest from Urag to find another important book for the college
- Got to read two books about Elder Scrolls from Urag, and one of those triggered another important quest, Discerning the Transmundane
- Closed in Whiterun to drop off things, smooch my Lydia (in headcanon, anyway!), and prep for the next run
This session turned out to be more plot-relevant than I anticipated! Not only because I moved the main quest along some more, but also with the number of additional quests I triggered at the very end of the session.
Got things started, anyway, by heading off to the college to check in with Arniel. And on the way up to the college, started things off with a bang with DRAGON!
This was another Elder Dragon, swooping down on me when I came out of fast travel near the Shrine of Azura. Took it out reasonably well with my bow. And I was running light enough that the dragon bits didn’t overload me as I headed up to the college!
I have come to learn that if somebody at the college is cranky, it’s almost always because they had dealings with Enthir, and Enthir isn’t delivering on his side of the bargain. This time was no exception re: Enthir not delivering, but to be fair, this time it kind of wasn’t Enthir’s fault. After Arniel pointed me at him, Enthir testily pointed out that he’d done what he’d been asked to do: arrange delivery of a thing from Morrowind.
And it wasn’t his fault that the courier never showed up. Logic with which I kind of couldn’t argue.
I did at least get him to tell me the courier’s last known general whereabouts, which were basically “somewhere in the Rift”. Which turned out to be somewhere I’d already been, Darkwater Pass, where I’d rescued the trapped Argonian before. And which was a Falmer hive.
It took me a little bit of work to actually find where the quest marker was pointing me. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure that the courier was in fact inside the dungeon—so at one point I actually got out again and scouted the surrounding terrain just to be sure. But I did finally find him in a waterlogged hole in the cavern, once I found the lever that triggered the access to the stairs that led down to how I could get to him.
Which let me find the thing he was bringing: a unique named dagger called Keening. This, I brought back to the college.
Arniel was delighted that I’d actually returned with it, though a little alarmed that I’d carried it this far and managed to not actually die. Which I suppose was possibly an indicator of what was to come. He invited me to watch the final phase of his experiment—which, surprisingly, was just “hit the Warped Soul Gem with the dagger”.
This didn’t do anything at first, enough that he got agitated and started yelling “work, damn you!”
The dagger must have heard him, because on his final round something sure did happen: he disappeared. Oops.
And now I have a new spell, Summon Arniel’s Shade. Which does suggest that the poor guy is in fact dead, as opposed to “he disappeared off to wherever the Dwemer disappeared to”. Yay?
I’m amused, too, that the wiki says that nobody else still at the college ever remarks upon Arniel’s disappearance. Which is a little sad. And possibly indicative, at least purely in character, of how often people must disappear at the college that the remaining ones don’t even comment on it!
After that, I briefly thought of exploring north of the college, just because I’d learned from Paul that the other quest involving a thing called a Lexicon, which was a significant Daedric quest, was triggered by meeting a madman north of the college. I did not find him. I did find a Shrine of Talos, what looked like someone’s abandoned campsite, and the entrance for a possible barrow, tagged on the map as Yngvild.
However, I didn’t explore long. I decided instead to head off to High Hrothgar and work on the next stage of the quest.
I showed up at the place in the middle of the night, game-time. So since all the Greybeards were sleeping, I parked on a bench and just waited for them to wake up. Then I initiated the “hey can you teach me the Dragonrend shout” conversational line with Arngeir.
Not so much. Arngeir was quite testy about the entire idea of teaching me such a thing, until another of the Greybeards threw him a stern chastisement and got him to admit to me that this was not really his decision. I would instead have to venture up the mountain to speak with the true leader of their order, Paarthurnax. And for me to be able to do that, he’d have to teach me a different Shout, Clear Skies, which would stabilize the icy conditions long enough for me to continue up the path.
Once he did this, I have to admit it was pretty cool to practice that Shout and see the icy mists clear before me. The path up the mountain was not exactly safe—I killed a couple of ice wraiths and a troll en route, which also let me level up to 48. And the path in general just looked like the kind of icy trek just screaming for you to get pitched off the side of the mountain if you made one wrong step—-but I did make it safely up to the proper point.
At which point the true leader of the Greybeards arrived.
This was the thing I already knew about, from when Dara and Paul played this game before. Still, though, it makes me giggle to think of how Alarrah must have felt when she found out the leader of the Greybeards was in fact a dragon.
The game does in fact give you a dialogue prompt for that, “I wasn’t expecting you to be a dragon.” Paarthurnax replies that he is as Akatosh made him, as is the Dragonborn. I kind of feel like that this doesn’t really convey sufficient intensity of feeling here, because I’m envisioning that Alarrah would have wanted to march right back to Arngeir and go “You held back critical information from me, old man!”
That said, the conversation with Paarthurnax was actually fun. He taught me the Fire Breath Shout—and I think I accidentally triggered a bug that let me get two words of that Shout rather than just the one, because I unlocked the first one with one of my spare dragon souls before Paarthurnax could do it for me.
Then he encouraged me to actually use the Shout on him. Which meant I got to spit fire, like a dragon, at a dragon.
This too is a thing I think the game undersells. 😀 Because it seems like to me that the Dragonborn, even after spending many months in game time learning Shouts and becoming confident in her power and killing a few dozen dragons, must still be moved by having a conversation with a dragon. And learning from him how to actually spit fire like a dragon. And be greeted by him as if she is herself one of his kind.
Which the game in general—and Paarthurnax in particular—does emphasize. Paarthurnax even specifically talks about the “dragon blood” being strong in the Dragonborn. Really interesting phrasing, given that it implies there’s a physical component to being Dragonborn and not just a metaphysical/magical/soul-based one.
I’m pretty sure this is not what the game actually wants you to think; all the reading I’ve done learning about the worldbuilding suggests that being Dragonborn is a matter of a mortal being born with the soul of a dragon, as opposed the mortal actually having dragon blood. The latter scenario would by definition require that the mortal have dragon genes, and that would require an ancestor that was a dragon. And in a game where there is no known way for a dragon to take on mortal form, how would that work?
(Though certainly in character, the idea of a dragon taking on mortal form does seem to exist. That idea was raised during the bard college quest when I was asked to help fill in the missing bits of the song about King Olaf!)
But I digress. Even though this kind of meta discussion is in fact the very kind of stuff Paarthurnax would apparently love, as he does come across as loving him some conversation. He was very happy when I spit fire at him, and spoke about how long it’d been since he had enjoyed conversation with his own kind.
To the ultimate point, though, not even Paarthurnax was able to teach me the Dragonrend Shout—because by design, the Shout was one impossible for a dragon to actually hold in their mind. He did however give me an alternate strategy for learning it. Which involved tracking down an Elder Scroll, and using it to go back in time myself and learn the Shout directly from the ones who created it.
Sure! Why not! How difficult can this be? ;D
Yeah, another point at which the game is underselling the concept a little. I cannot help but think that Alarrah, as confident in her power as she’s grown during the progression of this story, would stop and go “uh… okay?” at least a little at the whole notion of going back in time.
And with that, I had to actually go find out how to find an Elder Scroll. Paarthurnax didn’t know. Neither did Arngeir—since I did actually go back to Master Arngeir for a followup round of “you left out some critical information, my dude”.
Arngeir was testy about this, too, with a line that included “such blasphemies are the calling of mages”. He told me to go talk to the college of Winterhold. Me, comma, the Arch-Mage of the college of Winterhold.
So at this point I’m thinking Alarrah is standing there going “gee, THANKS” in her Inside Voice. And deciding to not actually mention that she is in fact Winterhold’s Arch-Mage. Two can play at this withholding of information, Master Arngeir.
And by now, Alarrah’s also thinking that Delphine has the right of it, and she’s not liking the Greybeards much either. Not only because of Arngeir being reluctant to help her, but also because he specifically doesn’t seem to give a fuck about the world ending. “Have you considered that Alduin was not meant to be defeated?” he asks her.
Alarrah has no time for that.
So she left High Hrothgar, and headed back to the college to check in at the Arcaneum and see if Urag can actually give her some useful information.
Saw another dragon flying over me when I came out of fast travel, but this time, the dragon did not actually land to engage. I think Alarrah probably took that as an interesting sign, in the aftermath of her conversation with Paarthurnax.
On the way into Winterhold this time, a courier ran up to me—and this time, for a change of pace, the courier actually had two letters for me. One was from the alchemist’s assistant in Windhelm, who asked me to come see him as soon as possible as he had more information about how to fix the White Phial. The other was another Letter from a Friend, with a clue to another Word Wall.
At the college, since I’d leveled up to 48, I wanted to try to find at least a couple of people to train me up if I could. First person I found was the enchantment trainer, and I don’t really need his help, but I did get a side quest from him involving getting an item from a client to get enchanted, which meant more income for the college.
Urag was also testy, but he’s always testy so that’s okay. I was quite amused by his crack about if he had an Elder Scroll, did I think he’d actually let me see it? He did however at least have a couple of books he was grudgingly willing to let me read.
One of these books was complete gibberish. And when I asked him about that one, he said it had been written by someone he’d actually once been friends with—someone who was at least in theory still alive, somewhere north of the college. And that I’d need to find him to learn more.
Ha! Cue the hook for the other Lexicon-related quest I was trying to start anyway, when I was exploring north of the college before!
And while I was in there talking to Urag, I got another “go find a book for the college” quest off of him as well.
On the way out of the library, I found the Conjuration trainer and got some points of training off of him. I didn’t do all five allowed rounds of training with him, though, as I also want to find the Illusion trainer and get a few points with him, too. Illusion is my lowest ranking magic skill now, and therefore the one in most need of help.
All of that being quite enough activity at the college for the night, I closed with the usual epilogue of returning to Whiterun to drop off things and get quality time with Lydia! (Headcanon-wise, anyway; the game of course does not give me any actual mechanism to smooch my wife. Darn it.) I was a little amused too that Lyds did the dialogue at me of wanting to start a store. Uh, hon, you already did that! I’m good with it! Have fun selling things, you’ll be better at it than Belethor anyway.
Dunno yet! I got a lot of quest hooks added to my list during this session, so now I’m going to have to consider the order in which I do them. I suspect the easier side quests will be the ones I take on first, before working my way up to returning to Windhelm, and then beginning the Elder Scroll hunt.
Editing to add
3/9/2022: this post has been reformatted as part of porting it over to skyrim.annathepiper.org. I’ve made it better match the styling I’ve used on subsequent playthroughs for Merawen, Delga, and Ysani.