Alarrah Playthrough

In Which the Dragonborn Does More Quests for the Dawnguard

Another “miscellaneous quests” type of session, a bit less low-key than the last couple, just because these quests were ones that required me to actually get into dungeons. Still though, this is part of the extended break between doing Dawnguard and doing Dragonborn!


  • Finished the quest to find Sorine her schematic, after figuring out how to get into and through Kagrenzel
  • Did up the Ruunvald Excavation quest and rescued the priest Florentius
  • Rode Arvak down to Riften since that was the closest source of shops, and because I got a lot of loot out of Ruunvald
  • Courier intercepted me on the way down to Riften so I had to get off Arvak to talk to him; he gave me a Letter from a Friend for a Word Wall at Silverdrift Lair
  • Immediately after talking to the courier, SURPRISE! FROST DRAGON!
  • Sold a bunch of things in Riften; also blipped back to Whiterun to sell a bunch more things, and also made my Smithing “Legendary” so I could reallocate perk points; dropped them all on Enchanting
  • However, discovered I couldn’t add an extra enchantment to stuff I’d already enchanted
  • Started rebuilding Smithing and leveled up to 56 while I was doing that
  • Went to Fort Dawnguard to check in with Sorine and give her her schematic; bought an enhanced crossbow off of her
  • Got Smithing re-training from Gunmar, also a side quest from Florentius to go wipe out a small vampire lair west of Rorikstead
  • Dealt with the vampire lair, as a chance to practice using Auriel’s Bow; however, the game weather shifted to thunderstorm and I couldn’t get a bead on the sun to shoot at it
  • Vampires and thralls at the lair still blew up real nice though when I shot them!
  • Reported one more time back to Fort Dawnguard, checked in with Florentius, and found Serana as well; Serana was cured of vampirism! Her eyes, however, were still yellow
  • Got Serana to follow me to Silverdrift Lair, so I could get the Word Wall and also just give Serana something to do <3
  • Serana is still a powerful necromancer and she raised a couple bandits while we were cleaning out the lair; they made rather disturbing zombie noises
  • Boss monster of the lair turned out to be a dragon priest but the kind without a mask
  • Got to the Word Wall without too much problem, and out again
  • Tried to send Serana back to the fort once I realized hey, I’m near to Heljarchen, I should check in there
  • Found a Shrine of Talos I hadn’t known about before not far from Heljarchen
  • But when I checked in I found a trio of bandits fighting Gregor and the bastards killed my housecarl even before I got close enough to join the fight, NOT ACCEPTABLE
  • Rolled back to when I left Silverdrift with Serana, this time I kept her as a follower as I went to Heljarchen again; bandits attacked again, but this time Gregor was saved!
  • Gave Serana an ebony bow and a dragonbone dagger by way of general gratitude for her being awesome

Finishing the Kagrenzel quest

Started the session by picking up where I left off, trying to figure out how to get into Kagrenzel and get Sorine her enhanced crossbow schematic. I finally managed to find the path up the mountainside to get to the front entrance for the place, though I had to kill a few frost trolls to actually get there.

Kagrenzel is not a large dungeon as Dwemer ruins go. But it does have one unique feature: it’s got a lift that initially looks similar to the ones that take you down into Blackreach. But this one is broken, and it will open up beneath you and send you plummeting a great depth. This killed me the first time I tried it. So I had to follow the wiki’s advice on the matter, and the two things that worked were:

  1. Clearing the lift platform of a couple of dead bandit corpses, as well as miscellaneous pots, to keep those things from hitting me on the way down once I started to fall. This required a bit of judicious use of Unrelenting Force.
  2. Throwing the Become Ethereal Shout as soon as the fall started, to minimize the chances I’d be hurt by any impact.

It’s also critical to note that you get dropped into deep water. So if you run this dungeon, I highly, highly recommend you have some form of waterbreathing immediately handy. I had the dragon priest mask Volsung on, since I’ve been using it anyway to bolster my carry weight. But its additional aid to waterbreathing was very helpful here, too. It gave me the necessary time to get out of the water without having to worry about drowning, and I also had time to unlock and loot a submerged chest while I was down there.

Once I was out of the water, the dungeon basically turned into a Falmer hive. But not a very big one. Soon enough I found my way to the Falmer chest that contained the schematic Sorine wanted–and given that it was actually in a Falmer chest, this raises the question of why exactly the Falmer cared about it, since they’re blind!

And once I found the schematic, I got out the back way, which went back out through Stony Creek Cave. Presumably you have to get out the back way, given that I’m not aware of any way to get back up through that broken lift.

Ruunvald Excavation quest

Turned out that the site where I needed to be for my other Dawnguard side quest on the queue, finding and recruiting Florentius, was just a little ways south and east of Kagrenzel. So I headed that way next.

Ruunvald at first glance seemed to be an archaeological dig, manned by Vigilants of Stendarr. But as I made my way into the place, it became quickly obvious that something was wrong, because I kept being attacked by NPCs the game tagged as “Charmed Vigilants”.

This by itself was a big clue something was afoot. And bigger clues were to be had from the journals written by the excavation leader, who’d complained about growing headaches and how everybody at the site seemed to be strangely compelled to endlessly dig, including himself. The third of these journals was particularly creepy, because every single proper noun in the thing–the writer’s family, colleagues, and mentor, and the name of Stendarr himself–had been replaced by a single name. Minorne.

Not the slightest bit suspicious, oh my no.

Honestly, I felt a little sorry for the Vigilants of Stendarr at this point. Because every time I’ve run into them in the game, at least in terms of plot-relevant stuff, they’re having their asses handed to them. Their headquarters gets torched by vampires early on in the Dawnguard plotline, and two different NPC Vigilants who show up in that plot get killed.

And here now was another bunch of Vigilants clearly being manipulated by a malevolent force of some kind. I felt a little guilty about killing them. And definitely guilty about having to attack their dogs. Because they had a few huskies with them, and the huskies also attacked me because their masters were.

So I was all NOOOOO I DON’T WANT TO FIGHT THE GOOD DOGGOS, but I kind of didn’t have a choice. Because the doggos were in fact attacking me, so I had to fight them in self-defense. I tried to figure out how to throw my Bosmer “animal allegiance” thing on them, or a Calm spell or something to get them to back off, but couldn’t figure out how to make it work.

There was supposed to be a fourth journal from the expedition leader, but the location for that was apparently buggy in the Switch build, because for the life of me I couldn’t find the book. I even tried throwing Unrelenting Force at the barrel it was on, to no avail. So I had to consult the wiki to see what it actually said.

And yeah, explicitly clear by the fourth journal that whoever the hell “Minorne” is, she’s got the entire excavation under her thrall.

However, once I finally got to the boss chamber, this was another scenario where I was able to take out the primary antagonist from afar with a single arrow shot. Minorne immediately dropped. So did the Charmed Vigilant next to her–who I hadn’t actually attacked yet. According to the wiki, killing Minorne also took out any remaining Charmed Vigilants by extension. So I could not have cleared the dungeon without taking them all out.

See what I mean? Definitely feeling sorry for the Vigilants. It would have been nice to rescue at least a few of them.

The wiki informed me that Minorne was actually just an Altmer mage. Apparently supremely powerful in Illusion, if she was able to bewitch an entire excavation to dig for her? But at the end of the day, still mortal. I found her body and looted a key and a staff and a couple things off of it, so I could get out of the dungeon the back way.

I also found the excavation leader, who was very, very dead. I’m not sure if he also dropped when I took out Minorne, or if I managed to kill him with a shot, too. I think but am not certain I did two shots, so one of the two must have gotten him.

And I found Florentius, who was very much alive, albeit caged. He was grateful for my help, and as soon as he started talking to me, it was apparent why Isran found him weird to deal with. Because Florentius, a priest of Arkay, apparently hears Arkay’s voice in his head and has active conversations with him. It is not clear if this is because Florentius is a little bit crazy. Hell, for all I know, Arkay might actually be talking to him!

I did however convince the guy I was on the level about Isran wanting his help. And apparently the “Arkay” in Florentius’ head agreed that helping Isran was a good idea. So Florentius headed out, assuring me as he went that “Arkay” would show him the way to the fort.

Taking Arvak for another ride

I got a lot of loot out of this dungeon, enough that I’d stashed a bunch of it in one of the chests and had to go back for it. Once I did that and got outside again, I was overloaded.

So I decided to do another summon of Arvak, just long enough to get me down to Riften. This time, I got screencaps!

(Note: since the Switch build does tend to run dark, I did auto-adjust the color levels on both of these screencaps on my computer.)

Undead But Still a Good Horse
Undead But Still a Good Horse
Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider

And for all his disquieting skeletal appearance, Arvak is still just a horse and behaves like one. So I was able to ride him down towards Riften!

I did not however make it all the way there. Shortly before I reached the stables, I saw a courier come running up to me. And he didn’t start talking to me until I got off Arvak, which caused him to immediately disappear.

This left me free to converse with the courier, who handed me another Letter from a Friend. This one pointed me to Silverdrift Lair.

Kind of hilariously, as soon as the courier was about to turn and go, a Frost Dragon dropped right out of the sky on me. I had no warning, it just landed and started attacking. And the courier immediately yelped something to the effect of “I’m not sticking around” and ran off.

Got the dragon sorted, and the dragon bits certainly didn’t help me much with the whole “overburdened” problem. But by now I was close enough to Riften that I was in range of guards to come running over and gawk at the dead dragon. And I could tromp into Riften and stop at Honeyside without it taking too long.

Rested for the night, then got up and started selling off my loot. Once I’d sold everything I could in Riften, I then blipped back to Whiterun.

Interlude: Whiterun

I decided to go ahead and do the “Legendary” reset thing on my Smithing. Because at this point, I have awesome enough armor that I don’t need to make anything else for a while–and I am not hurting for money, with over 120,000 gold. So I felt I could go ahead and risk losing Smithing for a while.

Set it to Legendary and got 10 perk points back to spend, which I immediately dumped into my Enchanting tree, so that I could make it up to the perk that lets you put two enchantments at once on something.

I discovered, though, that I could not put a second enchantment on something I’d already enchanted. Which meant, no putting carry weight enchantments on existing armor.

All the more reason to work on getting Smithing built up again! I got back five points of smithing just working at the forge in Whiterun for a little bit. And also leveled up to 56, while I was at it.

Fort Dawnguard and the Moldering Ruins

Boinged back to Fort Dawnguard, to check in with Sorine and give her her schematic. While I was there, I bought five rounds of Smithing training off of Gunmar, and got a side quest off of Florentius to track down and clear a vampire lair.

This was at a place tagged as “Moldering Ruins”, a little ways west of Rorikstead. So I boinged over there to clear the place, and get some practice using Auriel’s Bow.

However, this plan was a bit thwarted by the game weather cycling around to “thunderstorm”. So I couldn’t really get a bead on where the sun was so I could actually shoot it. (And it only occurred to me as I worked on this post that I could have thrown Clear Skies to solve this problem!)

Still though, just shooting the Sunhallowed Elven Arrows with Auriel’s Bow meant that the vampires and thralls blew up real nice. Very tiny lair, though; I didn’t have to stay there long. Got the master vampire taken out and promptly returned to Fort Dawnguard to report to Florentius.

And this time, I also found Serana! Who confirmed she was no longer a vampire, though the game still gave her yellow eyes. (Yet another known bug, apparently.)

I spent a little time just exploring the fort. Practiced a bit with the crossbow to see if I could get the hang of it; I find it a little weird just because of the angle of how you hold the crossbow in first person. But the potential for piercing armor is very tempting, and I want to see how well I can fight a dragon with this thing!

I saw other Dawnguard members doing target practice, and also found where the Dawnguard keeps its huskies. Made a point of stopping to tell them they were good doggos, since I still felt bad about killing the huskies at Ruunvald!

The Dawnguard huskies are apparently claimable as followers, and one of them can also be adopted by your kid as a pet. Clearly I will have to explore this. <3

Got Serana to follow me again, though, just to give her something to do! She just seems to wander back and forth in the fort and doesn’t engage in Dawnguard activities like the other NPCs do. So I got her to come with me to Silverdrift Lair.

Silverdrift Lair

This was a combination bandit lair and draugr hive, not too big, but not tiny either. Mostly, the fun of running this place was seeing Serana in combat.

Even though she’s no longer a vampire, she’s still a powerful necromancer and she still resurrects dead bodies around her at the drop of a hat. This time she did it to a couple of the bandit corpses lying around the place–which resulted in said bandits making some unsettling zombie noises! She did it to both a male bandit and a female one, and both of them did the zombie noise. Which means that the dev team for this game got multiple people into the studio for the express purpose of recording zombie moans. Lolololol.

Serana also does the follower thing where she will get in your way, and sometimes get stuck on traps. It’s a damn good thing the game still thinks she’s an essential NPC and cannot be killed, because she got stuck on a fire trap trying to follow me further into the dungeon and I had to maneuver around a little, just to get her to follow me fast enough to avoid the trap.

The Word Wall in this place was another word of the Disarm shout. And the boss draugr rendered as a Dragon Priest this time, rather than a Draugr Death Overlord. Not too challenging a fight, though.

Epilogue: Heljarchen

Found out when I consulted the map that Silverdrift Lair was actually not that far away from Heljarchen Hall. So I decided to check in there. And originally tried to send Serana back to the fort.

Tromped down towards Heljarchen, and on the way, I found a Shrine of Talos that I hadn’t realized was that close to the house. I don’t think Alarrah has many fucks to give about Talos per se, but I think she’s been in Skyrim long enough at this point–and has enough Nords as her housecarls–that she’s willing to be respectful.

As I closed in on Heljarchen, though, I saw signs of combat beside the house. More bandits. And when I got close enough to join the fray, I discovered to my alarm that the bastards had killed Gregor.

NOT ACCEPTABLE, BANDITS! He’s my second favorite housecarl!

So I rolled back to the previous auto-save, which was me coming out of Silverdrift with Serana. This time I kept her following me until we got to Heljarchen. And the game did trigger a bandit attack again once I got close enough. This time, though, Gregor got to live! Yay, Gregor!

And we killed each and every one of those assholes, because you come onto my property and attack my housecarl, I claim your loot.

(At this point, too, I’m thinking Alarrah would be supremely tempted to chuck any bandit corpses over into the nearby giant camp, by way of just getting them out of her yard.)

Serana came into the hall with me, at which point I gave her an ebony bow I’d claimed from the bandits, as well as the dragonbone dagger I’d made a while back and which I was still carrying in my inventory. This was by way of general gratitude for Serana being awesome. <3

Then I sent her on her way back to the fort, and dropped off several items in my armory. Last but not least, I headed back to Whiterun to save for the night.

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.