Alarrah Playthrough

In Which the Dragonborn Hunts for an Elder Scroll

This session was another long crunchy one, because on the night before a PTO day, I can stay up till stupid-o’clock playing Skyrim! 😀

The main goal of this session was to find Septimus Signus and learn from him how to find an Elder Scroll. This required me to first find the guy, which was itself kind of challenging. Then I had to follow his request to take a Blank Lexicon to a particular Dwemer ruin, get it filled with data out of the Elder Scroll there, and bring the Lexicon back to him!

I’m going to go ahead and put even the highlights list behind the More tag, because the bullet points by themselves are long and spoilery!


  • Wanted Lydia along for this trip, so got her in active follow mode
  • Went first to Heljarchen, on foot, to do some additional building but also to bring up some of my stored loot that I wanted to keep but also display, including my full set of glass armor
  • Lyds engaged some bandits on the way to Heljarchen, at one of the camps I’d cleared before, so we had three newly spawned bandits there we had to take down
  • At Heljarchen, got my building and armor display done; also paid Gregor to engage a bard and a carriage driver
  • As a side trip, went first to Windhelm with Lyds, where I sold some of the loot from the bandits that I didn’t care to keep, and then paid the captain of the Northern Maiden twice his usual rate to take me to Solstheim
  • Didn’t have to be in Raven Rock long, just long enough to find the client for the college and pick up his item to be enchanted; turned right back around to go pay the captain to take Lyds and me back to Windhelm
  • Dropped off the ring at the college to get it enchanted, and got Illusion and Destruction training while I was there
  • Then went hunting for Septimus’ cave, north of the college; had a few false starts finding it, involving ice paths and having to swim, before Lyds and I reached him
  • Yep, Septimus sure was crazypants, but I did wrangle the proper location to go to for the Elder Scroll out of him, along with an Attunement Sphere and a Blank Lexicon
  • Proper location was Alftand, just a little ways west of the Shrine of Azura, actually
  • Shot down a bandit from afar when he tried to come at us; saw three other NPCs stop to check out his corpse, but I’m not sure who they were, didn’t get close enough to engage
  • Actually found an Alftand outbuilding before we found the main entrance to the place; nothing obviously interesting in the outbuilding, didn’t stop me from looting the place
  • Finally found the main entrance, along with signs of an expedition having been there; began to find signs further into the place that this expedition had met with disaster
  • Remembered early in this dungeon that oh hey, I had torches, I could actually use them to save my magicka for later, and also to help knock a point or two off the carry weight
  • This was a very big dungeon, with some of the more complex traps, and I feared for Lyds enough partway through that I told her to stand guard not far from some piston traps–which added more time to the dungeon because I actually had to come back and find her later
  • Lots and lots of Falmer, and gruesome signs that they’d caught at least a few members of the expedition, yikes
  • Found the last two members of the expedition actually alive–but fighting each other, and I had to fight the winner of that fight
  • Had to get into Blackreach to get to where I was going, and Blackreach was really spooky and ethereal, and wow was it easy to get lost down there
  • On the way through Blackreach, found my first sample of crimson nirnroot and triggered a side quest to find out more about that
  • Killed a centurion once I found the tower where I needed to be, Mzark
  • The tower had an oculory a lot like the one in Mzulft, and I had no compunctions whatsoever about looking in the wiki for the correct sequence of things to do to activate it, because by then it was late and I was tired
  • Got the data transcribed into the Lexicon, and got the Scroll
  • The challenge then was getting back out of Blackreach, and the map was not helpful, so I had to glean from the wiki that I needed to be in the northeast corner and work my way back there; found another crimson nirnroot on the way
  • Finally got back out of Blackreach, only to realize I couldn’t go back exactly the way I’d come in, because I had had to jump down off a higher level to get to where I was
  • Fortunately however there was an alternate lift back up to the previous section, so I was able to backtrack and finally find Lydia again
  • Also had to backtrack a lot to find the proper way out, and really, all the backtracking took longer than the actual main exploration of the dungeon, particularly since I was overloaded again and had to use the trick of notching an arrow in my bow while sneaking to move a little faster
  • Finally made it back out, and had to quaff a boatload of my potions and therefore waste them, just to get the inventory weight down enough that I could fast travel (note to self: I do not need to carry eight million potions)
  • Elected to fast travel back to Whiterun just to unload all the extra things and prepare for the next phase of this quest

(See what I mean about even the highlights list for this post being long?)

Visiting Heljarchen

I’d been thinking for a while that I needed to move some of my longer-term acquired loot into some of my other houses. Just because some of this stuff is things I want to keep, but neater things that it’d be cool to display. And since I’m building out an armory at Heljarchen, with a lot of armor mannequins in it, it seemed appropriate to take some of the full suits of armor I’m no longer using there. I’d already previously dropped off my elven gear there, and this time, I wanted to bring the glass.

Also, I had a couple of enchanted items I’d found in loot which I wanted to destroy so that I could learn their enchantments. And I do have a enchanting table at Heljarchen now! So I had a lot of stuff I wanted to take up there for this run. Enough that I was overloaded carrying it.

So I made a point of having Lydia along for this, partly because I wanted her on the main part of the quest. But also because I wanted her guarding my back in case I ran into anything on the way to Heljarchen.

Which we did. Namely, bandits. Because we passed close enough to one of the camps I’d previously cleared that Lyds, bless her heart, ran over and started engaging three newly spawned bandits there. So I had to help her take them down.

(Side note: this is the bandit camp where I also see a horse-drawn carriage. I never kill the horse, of course. Which leaves me to wonder if that horse gets confused by why it keeps getting a fresh set of people every so often, lol.)

Made it to Heljarchen with no other issues. Took the time to set the glass armor up on one of the armory mannequins, and also futzed around some with the Shrouded items I’d confiscated from the Dark Brotherhood. Discovered that the robes I’d nabbed actually had the Brotherhood sigil on them, which I feel like Alarrah would specifically not want to wear, and also discovered that some of the items qualified as clothing, not as armor.

So the clothing-type items, I think I may need to destroy to see if I can learn their enchantments. I’m going to keep the armor, though, since it has no obvious Brotherhood markings on it. And I’m going to see if I can improve and enchant it enough to make it worth wearing out. I wouldn’t want to wear this stuff while going up against big-time enemies like Alduin or other dragons. But for infiltrating large dungeons, particularly when I know now that I have issues with getting overloaded a lot? Lighter armor, particularly if it’s well-improved and enchanted as fuck, seems highly appealing. My dragonscale armor is really cool, but it’s also heavy as light armor goes!

At Heljarchen’s table, I did in the meantime destroy a couple other loot items to add their enchantments to my list. And I built an additional shrine on my shrine display in the cellar, as well as other miscellaneous weapons racks, wall sconces, and such.

I also found Gregor and paid him to engage a bard and a carriage driver. Partly to get the man some company whenever his thane is not in residence. 🙂

Going to Solstheim

Once I took care of all that, the next item on the agenda: going to Windhelm!

I needed to be in Windhelm only long enough to find the captain of the Northern Maiden again, and convince him to take Lydia and me to Solstheim. But when Lyds and I got there, it was after hours. So I rented a room in the inn, had a snooze, and then got up the next morning game-time to attend to this.

Sold a few things to the forge first, just because they were items I’d taken from the bandits on the way to Heljarchen, and they weren’t interesting enough to keep or even bother to improve. Once I did that, I wandered around a little more to find the way back to the docks. (And accidentally found my way down into the Gray Quarter, Windhelm’s Dunmer district, which I will need to follow up on later because I do want to find my contact from the Thalmor Embassy raid down there and do his epilogue.)

Found street kid Sofie again, and bought all her flowers. I made it back to the Northern Maiden from there. The captain was initially adamant about not returning to Solstheim, but he changed his tune very fast when I offered to pay him double, lol. What the character actually said was “a man has to make a living, after all”, but it played out in my head as:

Captain: I’m not going back to Solstheim!

Me: I’ll pay you double.

Captain: I am going back to Solstheim!

And this turned out to be short but also neat. There’s a long animation that plays as you take the trip over to Solstheim. And once I got there, I was greeted by a Dunmer NPC who pretty much said “you’re new here, be advised, this is Morrowind, not Skyrim, you will be expected to abide by our laws here”.

I also got dialogue prompts off him that were clearly oriented around the Dragonborn plotline and finding Miraak, which I’m not yet ready to do. But my only other options besides that, when he asked me what my business was, were “none of your business” and “I’m looking for work”. I saw no reason to be rude, so I just took the “I’m looking for work” option and left it at that.

And, well, finding the guy with the item to enchant is, arguably, looking for work for the college!

Lydia threw off a line about “so this is Raven Rock, doesn’t look like much”, and she wasn’t really wrong. Raven Rock looks pretty bleak and gray, or at least the bits of it I could see from the dock did. The most notable things about the place were the various guards I saw in netch armor, and the signs of Dunmer-style architecture.

In theory I can build netch armor now, but it looks weird so I’m sure I wouldn’t ever actually wear it. I might build a set at some point just for display purposes, though. And the Dunmer-style architecture was kind of cool, as it was not oriented around squares and straight lines like Skyrim architecture generally is. It was more organic than that. I suspect though that this might have creeped Alarrah out a little, because so far her recent experience with non-Skyrim-architecture has been the tents of the Falmer.

Finding the college’s client was not difficult, though. He was inside a local tavern called the Retching Netch (charming), and he was happy to turn over his item for enchanting.

So I turned right back around the way we’d come, and went back to the ship to pay the captain to take us back again. This time he did not make me charge him double.

Doublechecking my device, I see that I did not take screencaps of my arrival at Solstheim. I’ll have to fix this problem once I return for the Miraak storyline!

Stopping at the college

From Windhelm, I fast traveled up to the Shrine of Azura so that I could head in to the college. Saw a dragon shadow overhead–a dragon had clearly respawned at Mount Anthor–but it didn’t land to engage.

What did engage me, though, was an icewraith. And when I killed it, I triggered some glitchy behavior that involved the icewraith’s remains actually being suspended in midair. So I couldn’t access them to get the teeth. Drat.

(The Switch build of the game does seem glitchier the longer I play. I don’t know if this is a matter of my save file data getting longer and longer, or what. I may need to periodically reboot the device and see if that improves behavior?)

On the way up to the college I was amused to see a random goat actually on the walkway. I’m pretty sure that goat wasn’t there to apply to the college, but I’ve been involved with the college long enough not to make any assumptions! 😉 Whatever its purpose, the goat turned around and hoofed it back down to the ground as Lyds and I passed it.

Got in late enough to take a snooze in the Arch-Mage quarters, then got up the next morning to deliver the ring for enchanting to Sergius, the enchanter trainer. Also found Drevis and Faralda, for training in Illusion and Destruction.

After that, I was ready to go hunt for Septimus.

Finding Septimus Signus

This took longer than anticipated, and the reason why: because Septimus’ cave was actually on a little island, and I had to figure out how to actually get to it. This involved finding a path across the ice, and in some places, actually also doing a little swimming.

Which: wow, that seemed dangerous, if nothing else from the standpoint of this being a body of water with actual ice floating in it, so that water had to be super-cold. And a quick search tells me you can in fact drown in Skyrim if you’re underwater long enough. So I didn’t want to risk swimming unless absolutely necessary.

Fortunately, the bits of the path I had to traverse that required swimming didn’t require me to be underwater for very long. Still though: Alarrah had to be going fuck that’s cold fuck that’s cold fuck that’s cold the whole time.

And even if Lydia is of hardier Nord stock, it wouldn’t surprise me either if she was also going fuck that’s cold fuck that’s cold. Maybe a little softer. 😉

At any rate, I did eventually find Septimus’ little cave hideout. There, he was just basically pacing back and forth muttering to himself, until I showed up to start questioning him about the Elder Scroll. This triggered a lot of rambling, semi-rhyming incoherence out of him–yep, he sure was crazypants!–but I did finally get him to tell me what had to happen.

I had to take a Blank Lexicon off to a Dwemer ruin called Alftand, and from there, get into Blackreach to find the Tower of Mzark. There, I’d find an Elder Scroll and a mechanism with which I could transcribe its information onto the Lexicon. Which would let the information be accessed without risk of insanity.

Alarrah was on board with this plan, not really being of a mind to drive herself crazypants by trying to read the Scroll. So off we went to Alftand!

Finding Alftand

Alftand turned out to be not much of a distance jaunt; the ruin was just a little ways west of the Shrine of Azura. Actually finding the main entrance, though, was trickier. I found an outbuilding first, which proved to not have any quest-relevant stuff in it, though I did loot the place. Lyds and I had to wander around a little further to actually get to the main entrance.

On the way to finding that entrance, we killed a bandit NPC when he came charging at us–I think the Alftand entrance was in range of a bandit camp? But I didn’t get close enough to the camp to really discover it properly. I did see three other NPCs from a distance who stopped to check out the corpse of the guy I shot, and they may have been other bandits. But they didn’t come chasing after Lyds and me, so I didn’t bother with them. Too much to do to find the way into Alftand!

Once we found the main entrance, we also found signs of an ill-fated expedition that had come to explore the place. The expedition leader had left a journal with some pointed commentary about the College of Winterhold, I could not help but notice.

And as we proceeded into the ruin, we started seeing quite gruesome signs of the party having met with disaster. There were bloodstains and bones all over the place. We also found additional journals from other party members, describing how they’d had to penetrate deeper into the ruin to get out of a nasty storm, only to start getting attacked by the dwarven machines.

Later on, further in, the threat of course became the Falmer. I found a lot of Falmer in this dungeon, with signs of tech that were either left over from the Dwemer, set up by the Falmer, or maybe both. I found at least two forge areas, as well as an alchemy table.

And I also found torture implements and the remains of some of the party members. Yikes.

I kept my sneak on a lot and tried to sneak past some of the Falmer without killing them. Generally this did not go well and I did wind up having to engage every Falmer I found. I did not, however, take any of their ears.

Fairly far into the dungeon, I found a sequence of pistons blocking the path I had to proceed along. And which would clearly knock the unwary adventurer down into a large cavern below. This had “Lydia is going to get pounded by these things” written all over it, so I stopped Lydia and told her to wait for me.

I was able to get past the pistons myself just as a matter of timing, and figuring out how many seconds each one took between extending and retracting. However, not far past the pistons, I also found a spinning blade trap. So even if Lyds had made it past the pistons, I would have had to stop her before the spinning blade trap too.

The blade trap, though, was nothing the Become Ethereal Shout couldn’t handle.

Towards the end of the last part of Alftand, I finally found the final two party members. Who were in fact alive, and fighting! It was not clear to me exactly why they were fighting. But from what I see looking up the characters on the wiki, the disasters that befell their expedition had apparently driven them both kind of crazy. So Umana killed Sulla–and attacked me when she saw me. So I had to take her out.

This was also at the point where I could trigger access to the next stage of the dungeon crawl: Blackreach.

Finding Blackreach

I’d known about Blackreach already, and in fact had thought I’d already found how to get down into it, when I’d done the Dwemer ruin Raldbthar. However, once I actually laid eyes on it, it became very, very obvious that I’d been mistaken. I think what I’d reached in Raldbthar was the Deep Market section of that dungeon, and I hadn’t gotten all the way down into Blackreach from there.

This time, I did make it down there, and it was very cool. Spooky and ethereal, with a lot of giant floating mushrooms, as well as strange small black ones on the ground. I also found my first samples of crimson nirnroot while I was down there–and as soon as I found one, that immediately triggered a side quest about learning more about crimson nirnroot, which I’ll need to follow up on later.

And I did take screencaps of Blackreach! Here’s one (though since I was wielding my bow at the time, you get to see the tip of my dragonbone bow here too):


The main point of getting down into Blackreach was the Tower of Mzark, as I mentioned in the highlights. There, I needed to find the oculory necessary to write to the Lexicon, not to mention getting the Elder Scroll.

This was not terribly difficult, though I had to fight a centurion before I could finally get to the oculory. Really, the more difficult part of the experience was that by this point, I was overloaded and out of potions of strength–so I had to use a trick involving keeping my dragonbone bow wielded, with an arrow nocked to it, while sneaking. This let me move a little faster than I would otherwise, though it also meant that I kept accidentally shooting arrows when I didn’t mean to. So I did this trick with my most expendable arrows, the steel.

And by the time I found the oculory, it was pretty late and I didn’t feel like spending any more time on that than I needed to–because I also knew I was going to have to backtrack to find Lydia. So I had no compunctions about looking on the wiki to see the correct sequence of actions to take to fill the Lexicon and get the Scroll.

That accomplished, I started the long slog to backtrack my way out again.

Getting out of the dungeon

I found one more sample of crimson nirnroot on my way out–and also wound up having to consult the wiki for how to get out of Blackreach in general, because the layout of the area was definitely confusing, and the local map was no help, since it shows you only a tiny bit of it at a time. But from the wiki, I was able to determine that I needed to be in the northeast corner of the place to get back up into Alftand. So I headed there.

On the way, I also found an area I hadn’t found on the way in. There, I saw some actually nicer architecture, and spied distant NPCs who were very clearly not Falmer. I don’t know who they were, but they didn’t move like Falmer and didn’t seem to be dressed like them either. Since I was now in the mode of wanting to get the fuck out of the place, I didn’t take the time to try to engage with them. But they were clear signs that there’s a lot more going on down in Blackreach that might be worthy of investigation.

Finally made it back to the lift that could take me back into Alftand, only to discover once I did that that I could not in fact go back the way I’d come. Because I’d had to jump down from an upper level to get down to the path I’d taken, and there was no way I was going to go back that direction, even if I hadn’t been overloaded.

Thankfully, though, there was a second lift. Once I found that, I was able to get back up to that upper section, and then do another long slog of a backtrack to get to where I’d left Lydia. I told her to follow me again.

And then had to backtrack some more to actually find the way out of the dungeon completely.

Once I did that, I then discovered that I had the additional problem of not having any way to get off the ledge we were on. I was going to have to fast travel. And in order to do that, I’d have to get my inventory weight down some more.

Which required me to quaff a boatload of potions, which meant in turn that I had to waste them, but oh well. Once I’d done that, I was able to fast travel–and I elected to return to Whiterun, to dump a lot of excess stuff and see about planning for the next major round of questing.

Strategy thoughts

I was clearly carrying too many potions, acres and acres of potions for healing and magicka, in particular. And it turned out they were occupying a significant chunk of my carry weight. I’ll have to make a note of this for the future, and see about whether I can balance this out with improvements to enchantments on my gear. Or maybe better use of healing spells. I’m the friggin’ Arch-Mage of Winterhold, I should be able to heal myself with magic, right?

I also need to see if I can make something with a Fortify Carry Weight enchantment on it. I already have the dragon priest mask that does that, but the bump to carry weight from that isn’t as significant as what I can get off of certain potions. And if I can enchant a jewelry item, or even double-enchant some of my armor to allow for carry weight enchantments once I’m good enough at enchanting to do that, all the better.

That said: I won’t discount using the dragon priest mask, either. I’ll have to see if I could wear it with the Dark Brotherhood gear, which I have to admit would probably look badass.

Likewise, I’m going to have work to stop carrying so much loot. I’m to the point in this game that I clearly don’t need to grab every single item I see, even if it’s expensive armor or weaponry. Non-enchanted gear is no longer interesting enough to grab, since I can make stuff that’s better than anything I’m likely to find in loot drops anyway. And enchanted gear is only interesting at this point if the enchantment is one I don’t know yet.

(Still though, any enchanted gear I find is likely to be heavy. So even if it’s gear I want, I need to plan for that in my carry weight.)

Next time

I think a good portion of my next session is likely to be enchantment prep and evaluation of available gear! And I’ll need to doublecheck the current side quests to see if anything immediately requires attention, before I return to Septimus and give him the transcribed Lexicon.

Taking on Alduin is getting closer, though. The Elder Knowledge quest resolved when I found the Scroll, and now Alduin’s Bane is next.

And now that I’m at level 50, I’m getting to the point of feeling like I could take that bastard world-eating dragon on.

P.S. EDITING TO ADD: Oh yeah, forgot to mention that guards in both Whiterun and Windhelm have stopped me to go “you! You’re the one that destroyed the Dark Brotherhood, all the guards are talking about it, you’re a hero! I owe you a drink!”

Awww, thank you, guards of Whiterun and Windhelm! It’s nice to be appreciated. <3

P.P.S. Oh yeah and I also forgot to add that I actually also accidentally ate one of my crimson nirnroots, as I was trying to whittle down my carry weight by eating unnecessary ingredients, or ones which still had effects I hadn’t discovered yet. I hadn’t actually meant to eat the nirnroot. But I still have one left!

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.