In Which the Dragonborn Clears Highpoint Tower and White Ridge Barrow
This post covers two sessions, the short one I ran on Sunday night, and Monday night’s session as well. Both of them were fairly short, so I’m pairing them up in this post.
- Picked up where I left off in Highpoint Tower, and only remaining thing to be done was confronting Ildari; this time I found the steps up to her and killed her in melee rather than from afar
- Heard my rieklings in the background so they’d clearly come into Highpoint with me, but I did not see them actually trying to attack Ildari or the ash spawn
- Headed back towards Tel Mithryn to inform Neloth that Ildari was dealt with; got attacked by a random Orc who had much the same stuff in his inventory as a few random Wood Elves that have attacked me on Solstheim
- Neloth was surprised I was in fact still alive, and declared he’d make me a member of House Telvanni by way of reward
- Hoofed it back to Raven Rock from Tel Mithryn to do a drop off/sell run
- And on the way, also found Kolbjorn Barrow and got the Unearthed quest underway
- Headed north then to find the stalhrim source so I could mine the hell out of it; got attacked by another pyromancer
- On the way north, decided to check out the Altar of Thrond Cave, where I took out a trio of hagravens
- Killed a couple of bristlebacks on the way into and out of the Stalhrim Source spot, and also a trio of werebears
- Got a boatload of stalhrim out of the source!
- Decided to run White Ridge Barrow next, because I knew there’d be a Dragon Priest in there, along with a Word Wall and a Black Book
- And, as it happened, weaponized spiders? Because I found the imbuing chamber that lets you take albino spider pods and gems, and make flame or shock or frost or poison spiders out of them
- Enemies in this dungeon were mostly spiders and occasional bandits, who might possibly have been mind controlled if the journals I found lying around the place were any sign
- Dragon Priest was surprisingly easy to kill; got his mask
- Word Wall was for the Cyclone Shout
- Black Book was The Sallow Regent, and the realm of Apocrypha it dropped me in was mostly very, very dark; reward off the book was the choice between Seeker of Might, Seeker of Sorcery, and Seeker of Shadows; I chose Sorcery
- Fast traveled back to Raven Rock once I got the inventory down again
- Spent a little time at Severin Manor’s forge and enchanting stations; enchanted a bunch of items I had on hand with smithing bonuses, so I could play with the stalhrim; got Smithing back up to 60 so I could unlock smithing enchanted items; got both my sets of stalhrim armor improved up significantly
Finishing the Old Friends quest
There wasn’t much left to do to finish up the Old Friends quest, other than confronting Ildari in her lair. On the way to finding her, I head noises that told me my rieklings had gotten into the place along with me and Lydia—but I never actually saw them confronting either the ash spawn or Ildari herself. Probably for the best, given that both Ildari and her ash spawn packed pretty hefty punches!
Ildari was mostly a problem at a distance, though, given her ability to wield shock magic. So I hunted around for stairs to get up to her. Once I found her, I took her on at close range and was able to deal with her that way.
Nabbed her Telvanni robes off of her, got a few other things out of the nearby boss chest, and called it a day.
Coming out of Highpoint Tower, I got jumped by a random Orc who happened to be equipped much like a few different Wood Elves who’d come after me—i.e., a roughspun tunic, a bunch of different types of booze, and a couple of bottles of skooma. And like the Wood Elves, this Orc was apparently unarmed and tried to come at me with fists.
I don’t know what kind of particular random encounter this is supposed to be, since I can’t find a close enough match to it on the wikis. I can find a reference to a random encounter involving a generic aggressive adventurer typically tagged by the character’s race. But not one in which the attacker is specifically unarmed, fighting with fists, and carrying a bunch of booze and skooma. Maybe this is unique to Solstheim? I don’t know!
At any rate, headed back to Tel Mithryn to report in to Neloth. Who was surprised that I was still alive, and grudgingly willing to admit that I’d proved more useful than anticipated. He gave me a random staff (which I’d like more if I actually used staves in battle, which I don’t, at least not with Alarrah), and proclaimed he’d make me a member of House Telvanni.
Which, for the immediate moment, didn’t actually mean much. He did allow that in the future, once he returned to Morrowind, it’d mean I’d be considered nobility there. In the short term, it also meant he’d keep a bed and chest for me at Tel Mithryn. According to the wiki this doesn’t actually happen, so I will just have to assume this happens in headcanon and keep Severin Manor as my crash space for the remainder of my time on Solstheim!
Kolbjorn Barrow, and heading north
I headed back towards Raven Rock at this point, and on the way, decided to go ahead and trigger the Unearthed quest, which happens in stages. This one involves you finding Ralis Sedarys just outside Kolbjorn Barrow and offering to help him finance his efforts to excavate the place.
I’ve read ahead on this quest so I know how this is going to play out—escalating amounts you have to pay the guy—but there’s important loot to be had in the barrow so I want at it.
So I had my initial encounter with Ralis, and now I just need to wait for his messages to start coming in.
Then, after a brief stop at Raven Rock to do a drop off/sell run, I decided to head north in search of the Stalhrim Source. I had a marker for it on my map, but hadn’t actually been there yet, so I couldn’t fast travel to it. Therefore, I had to go overland.
On the way out from Raven Rock I triggered yet another random encounter that seems to happen an awful lot on Solstheim: the wizard duel, in which the winner then attacks me. Most of the time this has turned out to be the pyromancer, but I’ve had the cryomancer sometimes win that fight too. I don’t know what it is about Solstheim that has made this particular kind of random encounter happen to me a lot, but it’s shown up at least one per session and sometimes twice during most of my recent play.
Another place I decided to stop at on the way north was the Altar of Thrond, which I’d found before. The altar itself wasn’t interesting aside from the ‘yikes’ factor of a bloody sacrifice being left there. Nearby, however, was a cave. And when Lyds and I went in there to check it out, it turned out to have a trio of very cranky hagravens in it.
(Hagravens which, apparently, also appeared in an expansion pack for Morrowind? The more I read about stuff on Solstheim, the more I’m impressed by the general continuity of characters and lore across the entire Elder Scrolls franchise. Neloth also shows up in Morrowind.)
The Stalhrim Source, and enemies around it
Got to the Stalhrim Source without too much trouble, eventually. Passed the hostile rieklings nearby, but didn’t directly engage; also killed a couple of bristlebacks both heading into and out from the source.
Also notably: had my first encounter with werebears on Solstheim! Three of them, who came at me first in their wereforms, but who reverted back to human forms once Lyds and I took them out.
As for the stalhrim source point, I’m a little amused at how close it was in fact to where the Thalmor had been docked. If Ancarion had just bothered to send an expedition out a little farther from the ship, he might actually have found the place! (Or maybe he did, and they had to try to hassle Baldor to learn how to actually manipulate the stuff?)
Regardless, I mined the hell out of the place and came out of there with thirty-two stalhrim nuggets. Which I made extensive use of later.
White Ridge Barrow
Not far away from the Stalhrim Source was White Ridge Barrow, one of the other barrows where I knew I’d find a Dragon Priest and another Black Book. So this made it highly important to check out, and I decided to do that next.
The other main point of interest about White Ridge Barrow? It’s the place where you find out a couple of siblings had discovered the secret of how to make different kinds of spiders out of the albino spiders native to Solstheim. This involved putting spider pods and gems into a thing called an imbuing chamber, and getting spiders you could throw as a result. I mostly had a bunch of rubies, but also one amethyst, so this resulted in me getting a lot of flaming jumping spiders and a few shock spiders as well.
It was amusing to do this once, and I’ll have to see how useful the spiders are in a battle. But wow is this not a dungeon for arachnophobes!
(Also, for the record, seeing that one of the two siblings was yet another Dunmer sorceress who’d gone crazy, hard on the heels of Ildari, was a little much. I get that Solstheim being a Dunmer colony means that a lot of the local NPCs are going to be Dunmer. I also get that a couple of these sub-plots in Dragonborn do kind of need the antagonists to be mages. But doing two plots back to back, in which the antagonist was a female and a Dunmer and a sorceress and insane? Yeah. A bit much.
I’m not going to go so far as to say Skyrim is being sexist about this—because there are plenty of male antagonists all over the game, too, and a few of them are decidedly crazypants. It’s more like, in this particular scenario where I happened to play these two quest lines back to back, the repetition in the character concepts stood out quite starkly.
But I digress.)
Aside from the spiders, I was in White Ridge Barrow for three things:
- The Dragon Priest
- The Word Wall
- The Black Book
The Dragon Priest in question was Dukaan, who didn’t strike me as all that difficult to kill. His big speciality appeared to be frost damage, and I was pretty well armored against that. Got his mask after taking only a few potshots at him.
The Word Wall gave me the first word of the Cyclone Shout, which strikes me as potentially highly entertaining in battle and I am going to have to try this one out. Preferably without Lydia in the line of fire.
And the Black Book was the one called The Sallow Regent. Like the others, this one transported me to Apocrypha upon reading it, complete with Lydia’s “I really wish you wouldn’t do that” commentary.
This time, the bit of Apocrypha I got dropped into had as its distinctive feature some serious patches of darkness. Which in fact appeared to do me damage, and I only learned after the fact that I could have eluded the darkness patches by staying under the various hovering floating lamps I saw overhead. Other than that, though, there wasn’t much to distinguish this bit of Apocrypha from the others. I killed a couple of Lurkers and a couple of Seekers, got a bunch of books as loot, and finally made it to the Black Book on the pedestal at the end.
The reward for reading this one was a choice between Seeker of Might, Seeker of Sorcery, and Seeker of Stealth, giving you bonuses in all the skills related to those various areas. I chose Seeker of Sorcery.
Back to Raven Rock
With the barrow cleared, I fast traveled back to Raven Rock once I got the inventory back down under max. And spent a little time in Severin Manor working with the forge and the enchanter, because I wanted to get my Smithing back up some more—and also because I wanted to see what I could do with the stalhrim.
Once I bumped Smithing over 60 again, I was able to reactivate Arcane Smithing, which let me actually be able to work on the stalhrim armor I’d acquired. I’d already enchanted the pieces I bought from Baldor, and the Deathbrand pieces came pre-loaded with their own enchantments.
Still though I wasn’t quite able to work with those items until I diverted to the enchanter table and made myself an entire outfit of things with Smithing enchantments: clothes, gloves, a necklace, a ring. Having all of those on at the same time gave me more than enough oomph to improve both sets of the stalhrim armor up to Epic, as well as the stalhrim weapons I’ve acquired. And I still have some stalhrim to spare, hopefully to get them all up to Legendary.
(One thing I wished I’d done though was to rename the various clothing items I enchanted! It would be useful to have them all be things like Ring of Smithing or Clothes of Smithing or Necklace of Smithing, just so that I would be able to know at a glance in my inventory that those are the specific items I need to be wearing if I really want to arm for bear at the forge.)
And after taking a few screenshots of Alarrah in various things, that’s where I stopped for the night.
I’m honestly running out of side things to do in Solstheim, and I have to wait for the message from Ralis to get that quest actually going properly. I may need to go ahead and proceed with the main plot, since I have one last step to do in the current stage before I do the final one, and have to go take on Miraak properly.
But I’ll also hunt around the wikis a bit and see if there are any other minor quests I can pick up, either at Raven Rock or the Skaal village.
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