In Which the Dragonborn Boings Between Solstheim and Markarth
This was another “range all over the place” session, and this time more literally than usual–because I had to go all the way to Markarth for a side quest to satisfy Neloth of Tel Mithryn.
But in addition to that, I also saved the blacksmith of the Skaal village, took over a tribe of rieklings, got Neloth a new steward, and also helped him start the hunt for whoever’s been sending ash spawn at his settlement.
- Saved the Skaal blacksmith, Baldor Iron-Shaper, from the Thalmor who were roughing him up for the secrets of how to forge stalhrim (side note: fucking Thalmor)
- Went to confront the Thalmor captain, Ancarion, and surprisingly was able to get him to agree to back off from Solstheim; got the stalhrim map back from him and returned it to Baldor
- As soon as I finished talking to Baldor, and did a little forging at his forge to get my inventory cleaned up a bit, the historian Tharstan came up to ask me for help and protect him while he investigated a local ruin; I agreed, and Lydia and I escorted him into Vahlok’s Tomb
- The tomb was entertaining, several unusual puzzles, including magical bridges; also included Word Walls for all three words of the Battle Fury Shout, as well as the Dragon Priest Vahlok; no mask though
- Decided to do the riekling quest, so I tracked down Bilgemuck, who turned out to be apparently the riekling chief’s boar mount, and fed him meat to get him back to his pen
- Acquired ten scathecraw samples for the chief, who then asked me to help his tribe kill the “bad Nords” trying to take back the mead hall; I agreed to do this, and it really wasn’t much of a fight
- The riekling chief then decided maybe I was too strong, and probably a threat to his chieftaincy, so he challenged me; I killed him, so now I’m chief of the rieklings of Thirsk Mead Hall? Yay?
- Fair bit of loot on hand at this point so it was time to crash back at Severin Manor and drop off and sell things; coming out of there the next morning, Ancient Dragon buzzed Raven Rock so I had to help the guards fight and kill it; it landed up on the wall just outside town
- Got the worker at the Retching Netch to agree to go be Neloth’s steward; went to report this to Neloth, and had him also complain that his experiments with briarhearts were going awry, and he insisted I go look at a fresh briarheart for him; that required I go all the way to Markarth
- And if I was going to do a cross-country journey like that, I was going to make it worth my time, so I picked a Forsworn lair that had a Word Wall in it I hadn’t seen yet; this turned out to be Dead Crone Rock which was by Hag Rock Redoubt; Word Wall was for the final word of the Dismay Shout; challenging fight given that I’d done the Legendary thing on my Light Armor
- Found Left Hand Mine by Markarth while I was looking for my destination, overheard NPCs talking about a Forsworn attack, which I think was the opening hook for a quest to clear out Kolskeggr Mine; been there done that, so I skipped engaging with those NPCs
- Boinged back to Solstheim once Dead Crone Rock was dealt with, and on the way back into Raven Rock, got confronted by the Orc who’d been harassing townsfolk; Mogrul demanded I pay him the 1,000 septims Drovas owed him; I passed an Intimidate check and got him to back off with 500 instead
- Went back to Tel Mithryn to check in with Neloth and tell him I’d observed a briarheart as he’d asked; got attacked by ash spawn on the way there (and got rieklings to help me fight them!), and after discussing this with Neloth, got him to grumpily assert that the ash spawn were becoming more of a problem and I should help him track down who was sending them
- Neloth gave me a tracking ring which led me to Tel Mithryn’s graveyard, and the empty grave of the exact same necromancer who’d been involved with Fort Frostmoth; and with that, Neloth ordered me to go after her
- Side note: multiple times in this session, came across a duel between a Pyromancer and a Cryomancer, which always ended in the winner coming after me; latter time, rieklings also jumped in to help
A New Source of Stalhrim quest
Started off the session doing the quest A New Source of Stalhrim, which I wanted to do not only for the purposes of learning how to forge stalhrim–but also on the general grounds of “fuck the Thalmor”, once I found out they were behind the disappearance of the Skaal village’s blacksmith, Baldor.
Tracking Baldor down wasn’t difficult. A few Thalmor had dragged him off to an abandoned lodge not that far away from the Skaal village–Thalmor who were immediately hostile as I approached the place, and who Lyds and I dispatched forthwith.
Baldor was imprisoned down in the cellar of the lodge, but not too badly hurt. He urged me to head off in search of the Thalmor captain Ancarion, and retrieve a map of stalhrim locations for him.
Ancarion and his Thalmor subordinates had a boat docked on the northern shore of the island. This bunch was slightly less hostile than the other bunch of Thalmor (or for that matter, any Thalmor I’ve run into before), in that they did not immediately attack me when I showed up. Rather, I got a dialogue prompt to tell a guard I had business with his captain.
The guy let me through. When I approached and informed Ancarion I was there for the map, he likewise was surprisingly non-hostile. I was able to pass a Persuade check and tell him the smith wasn’t going to say a damn thing about the Thalmor’s little attempt to rough him up. Ancarion grudgingly acknowledged that their little endeavor wasn’t going as well as they’d hoped, and announced they’d be leaving the island to seek weapons elsewhere.
See now? That wasn’t so hard, was it? And I didn’t have to kill any of you.
Well, any of you here at the ship. Those fuckwits back at the lodge, on the other hand…
Regardless, I was able to return to the Skaal village and tell Baldor I’d gotten the map back for him. By way of gratitude, he clued me in on how to make stalhrim for myself, and gave me permission to use his equipment at any time. Also, I know now where the stalhrim source is, so I can go get more as soon as I can actually craft with it! (I need to reactivate Ebony Smithing on my skill tree.)
Lost Legacy quest
As soon as I was done talking to Baldor and using his forge, the historian Tharstan came up to talk to me. He wanted to explore a local ruin, but also acknowledged that he was old and not the adventurous type, and that he’d probably need protection if he wanted to explore a potentially dangerous ruin.
I found this refreshingly sensible! Tharstan is not the first time I’ve seen signs of scholarly research in Skyrim, but this guy is the first time that I’ve encountered a clearly sensible scholar!
Lyds and I met him at the location he wanted to explore, Vahlok’s Tomb. This turned out to be an entertaining dungeon, full of unusual puzzles. My favorites were the magical bridges that I had to quickly traverse to stabilize and make permanent, before Lydia and Tharstan could safely follow me.
This dungeon also had not one, not two, but all three of the Word Walls necessary for the Battle Fury Shout. And with each one of these that I found, with the accompanying puzzles solved, Tharstan happily pored over inscriptions on the Word Walls. And, intriguingly, figured out that the “Vahlok” entombed here was possibly functioning as a jailor–for Miraak.
Continuing his general level of sense, Tharstan also got the fuck out of the way every time Lyds and I fought draugr in the place.
And at the end, I did have to fight Vahlok. Reaching him required me to get past a bunch of fire traps, so I told Lydia to park herself at the entrance to the boss chamber so she wouldn’t get fried.
Vahlok did not drop a mask. He’s apparently the only named Dragon Priest in the game that has no mask. Not sure why.
The Chief of Thirsk Hall quest
After that I decided to go ahead and finish up the riekling quest–and support the rieklings in their quest to keep the mead hall.
I got the chief his boar Bilgemuck back, by offering the boar some meat to get him to follow me back to his pen. And I got ten samples of scathecraw as well, for the goblins to use in their “godspeak dance” ritual.
The biggest thing they wanted me to do, though, was fight the Nords they’d taken the mead hall from. This is another thing in Skyrim where you can decide to go either way, depending on how you want to play it. And from what I saw about the Nords in question on the wiki, they aren’t exactly worthy warriors.
So I elected to take the rieklings at their word that these were “bad Nords”, and help them in their attack on the Nord camp.
(I’m pretty sure Lydia was probably less on board with this entire concept. But there’s also the interesting question here of whether Lydia, as a Nord warrior, would be more appalled at fighting her own kind–or at how these Nords had gotten their asses handed to them by a band of pint-sized blue goblins, so were therefore not exactly worthy warriors. I suspect Lydia put up with this though mostly because I did!)
We were successful, much to the jubilation of the rieklings. But at this point, the chief got a little paranoid and decided maybe I was too strong–and a probable threat to his ability to maintain his position of chief of the tribe. So he challenged me and I had no choice but to fight him.
Sigh. Little blue dude, I could have taken you out by sneezing on you. How did you think this was going to go?
And so now Alarrah is the chief of the rieklings of Thirsk Mead Hall. Lolololol.
The immediate result of this so far has been that they will now show up at random to help me in battle, anywhere on Solstheim. And apparently they will also follow me to Skyrim. Also, I can even have one as a follower.
About which I’m sure Lydia will be just thrilled. Ha!
Reluctant Steward quest conclusion
At this point I had a lot of loot built up in the inventory, so it was time to return to Severin Manor, and do the usual drop off and sell stuff run.
I decided I’d also do the “Legendary” thing on my Light Armor skill–just to get back some perk points to drop back on my Smithing tree. Because I need to reactivate Ebony Smithing in order to do anything interesting with stahlrim. And also, because I want to get back to being able to manipulate dragon bones and scales. I want a fresh set of armor that I can double-enchant!
Once I finished working with the forge equipment in Severin Manor, I tried to set out through the town the next morning. And had a surprise Ancient Dragon swoop down to buzz the town!
The Redoran Guard did their share of shooting at the thing, but it still fell to Lydia and me to chase the dragon down once it finally crash-landed just outside of town.
When the dragon was sorted (and I retrieved its bones and scales), I went to the Retching Netch and found Drovas Relvi, the only person in all of Raven Rock willing to consider taking on the job of being Neloth’s steward. In fact, he high-tailed it right out of the Retching Netch and off to Tel Mithryn as soon as I raised the possibility with him.
So with that, I headed back to Tel Mithryn myself to check in with Neloth.
Briarheart Necropsy quest
And, naturally, Asshole McDouchewizard wasn’t exactly brimming over with joy that I’d found him a new steward; in fact, one of his first comments on the matter was that Drovas makes horrible canis root tea.
He also promptly started bitching about how his briarheart experiments were going badly, and demanded that I go find him a fresh briarheart. This was not exactly the quest from him I wanted to do–but it was the quest required for me to get to the one I actually wanted to do. So I decided to do this one anyway.
Neloth cast a memory spell on me so that he’d have direct access to what I saw when I killed a Forsworn Briarheart. And of course he had some snarky commentary about how I probably wouldn’t understand what he needed to know anyway. There was no in-game option to explain “by the way, asshole, I am the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold, can you consider shutting the fuck up?” But that said, given that Alarrah did kind of fall sideways into being Arch-Mage, it kind of stands to reason that she wouldn’t make a big deal about being Arch-Mage and might in fact find Neloth useful to learn from on the sly.
Ergo, her being willing to put up with his douchebaggery. Well, that, and also how he knows where the rest of the Black Books are.
The problem with doing this next task was, I had to not only go back to Skyrim, I also had to go all the way to the Reach to find a Forsworn lair so I could confront a Forsworn Briarheart. And in order to make it worth my time, I decided that I’d have to find a Forsworn lair with a Word Wall I hadn’t found yet.
I chose Dead Crone Rock as my target–which was located right near a place called Hag Rock Redoubt. It took me a while to actually find the place, because it was in a section of the Reach I hadn’t been to yet. I wound up wandering around in a circle at one point, and even going close enough to Markarth that I found Left Hand Mine nearby. I saw NPCs discussing a Forsworn attack–and that’s apparently the hook to do a quest all about clearing Kolskeggr Mine. But since I’ve already been there done that, I elected to not engage with those NPCs.
Clearing Hag Rock Redoubt was required to get access to Dead Crone Rock, and this proved challenging. Partly because making my Light Armor Legendary did leave me more vulnerable to attacks by the Forsworn–even though I quickly started regaining Light Armor points. But also partly because the game started acting very strange, slowing down hard. And the issue reproduced even after I closed the game and restarted it.
From what I could tell, the root cause of the problem seemed to be that a Giant Frostbite Spider had spawned inside a nearby tent. The spider was too big to actually fit inside that tent, so bits of it were clipping through the tent walls. Once I killed it, the slowness problem resolved and I was able to proceed up to Dead Crone Rock and get to the Word Wall.
When I got the word for the Dismay Shout, I was then ready to fast travel back to Solstheim.
And on my way back into Raven Rock, I was confronted by the Orc Mogrul, who demanded that I pay him the 1,000 septims that Drovas owned him–since Drovas was now out of his reach.
I passed an Intimidate check and got him to back off with accepting only 500 gold. And rather liked his “uh, yeah… sure… that sounds fine” reaction to the Intimidate check. I’m just imagining the icy death glare Alarrah must have given him.
I figure as soon as he bolted, Alarrah and Lydia must have started spluttering laughing. And Alarrah probably found it worth giving him 500 septims just to see how fast he bolted. 😀
Once I did that, I headed back over to Tel Mithryn to check back in with McDouchewizard and tell him I’d observed a briarheart as he’d asked, so that he could read what I’d seen out of the spell he’d cast before.
On the way there this time, Lyds and I got jumped by ash spawn again. (And the rieklings showed up to help, though one of them got killed, aw!) And when I made it back to Neloth, he grumpily asserted that the ash spawn were becoming more of a problem. And that clearly someone was trying to kill him.
I was amused by this exchange:
Me: How do you know you are under attack?
Neloth: Ash spawn keep appearing. One night a part of my tower mysteriously withered. Then my steward was killed. You had to find me a replacement. I’ve even been attacked by dragons! Do I need to go on?
Me, comma, the friggin’ Dragonborn: I’m not sure the dragons are about you.
Which he actually grumpily acknowledged was possible. Lololol.
Neloth then gave me a tracking ring to figure out where the attacks were originating–and that led me to Tel Mithryn’s nearby small graveyard. (For values of ‘led’ meaning, I had to actually consult the wiki for this because I had no fucking idea where to look and had no quest marker.) I found the grave of Neloth’s former apprentice Ildari.
Who, as it just happened, was the very same Ildari who’d raised General Carius in Fort Frostmoth. And whose body was not in her coffin.
Not the slightest bit suspicious, oh my no.
And of course, Neloth expected me to go solve his problem for him, because “I don’t have time to go traipsing all over Solstheim!”
Clearly, I’m going to have to go solve Neloth’s little problem with his vengeful ex-apprentice!