Alarrah Playthrough,  Dragonborn

In Which the Dragonborn Tours the Ruins of Solstheim

Apparently I was not running quite as low on places to visit on Solstheim as I thought! This session let me add a couple more to the list, in addition to the ongoing slower effort of clearing Kolbjorn Barrow.


  • Ventured out of Raven Rock to go check on the status of the excavation at Kolbjorn Barrow, and got asked yet again by hunters if I wanted to join their netch hunting party; this time I tried it, but didn’t care for it
  • Found that Ralis did in fact have a couple of diggers working on the place; he told me to come back later
  • Went back to Raven Rock and saw a courier try to come up and talk to me, only to be rudely interrupted by a Revered Dragon buzzing the town
  • Guards, Lydia, and I all attacked it, not sure who actually killed it, but it crash-landed just outside the main entrance and I was able to run out and get its soul
  • After that, ventured out again and went to the Dwemer ruin Fahlbtharz, notable for a lift out of it right near the Abandoned Lodge where I rescued Baldor; also notable for bunch of rotating giant gears that I had to navigate across to get between the various zones; found the Visage of Mzund and another Resonance Gem; also found two dead adventurers with journals that told their story
  • This time, when I boinged back to Raven Rock, the courier caught up with me and relayed that I needed to go talk to Ralis; I paused doing that until I had a chance to visit Glover Mallory’s forge and smelt all the dwarven metal I’d brought back from Fahlbtharz and get my inventory under max weight again
  • At Kolbjorn, discovered they’d broken into the barrow but the diggers had all been killed by draugr, so I had to clear the draugr and also trigger the hidden mechanism to open up what looked like a dead end; found Ahzidal’s Boots of Waterwalking; paid Ralis 2,000 gold to get new diggers
  • Cleared the cave system at Benkongerike, which involved fighting a bunch of rieklings, almost too cute to kill, lol
  • Second word of the Cyclone Shout
  • Untold Legends Black Book, from which I chose the Secret Servant power

Attempt to visit Kolbjorn Barrow, take one

Started off the session by thinking I’d go drop by Kolbjorn Barrow and check on the dig. On the way, I got intercepted by yet another party of hunters who wanted me to help them go after the netch. I decided to try it this time, but found that yeah, I didn’t particularly care for it. Netch aren’t difficult to kill if you have ranged attacks, and plus, they definitely fall into that category of “peaceful creature who won’t come fuck with me, so I don’t really want to fuck with it”.

Went straight from that over to the barrow, but my visit didn’t get far. I saw that Ralis had set up an actual legit little camp with tents, and that he did have a couple of diggers working on clearing access down into the barrow. But they hadn’t made all that much progress yet, so he told me to come back later.

For values of “later” meaning, apparently, “soon”—because when I tried to go back to Raven Rock, I saw a courier ahead of me who I figured was probably going to try to come talk to me.

Except that when he approached, he got rudely interrupted by the abrupt arrival of a Revered Dragon, who buzzed the town. Yikes!

This was the first time I’d seen one of these things, and it’s apparently a type of dragon that only starts showing up at level 59–which I was, as of that attack. It’s the third most powerful type of dragon in the game, after Alduin himself, and after Legendary Dragons. And this one did in fact take some effort to kill.

The town guards, Lydia, and I all shot at it, and I’m genuinely not sure who actually got in the killing blow. But it crash-landed just outside the town’s western entrance, so I was able to run out and get its soul. (No sign of Miraak actually showing up to swipe it, which continues to surprise me; after Miraak’s initial pulling of that stunt, I haven’t seen him show up since. Which of course should mean I just jinxed it and he’ll show up on my next dragon kill!)

This of course got me a new set of dragon bits, so I took the time to go drop those off at Severin Manor before taking on my next goal of the session: finding one of the other Dwemer ruins Paul had advised me I hadn’t located yet.

Fahlbtharz and the next Black Book

Turned out there were a couple more Dwemer ruins I was interested in finding, but the first one I came across was Fahlbtharz. More specifically, I found the lift that you use to get out of Fahlbtharz, which happens to be very near the Abandoned Lodge where the Thalmor had locked up Baldor before.

It’s the same kind of lift that you have to use to get out of Blackreach and back up to the surface—and like at least one or two of those, there was no obvious way to get into it. So I had to go find the front entrance into the ruin. Fortunately, the front entrance was not very far away.

And, like multiple spots across northern Solstheim, the front entrance into Fahlbtharz had been taken over by the rieklings. The other notable thing about the opening part of this ruin was how a lot of it was at a slant, because the structure had tilted over. This made navigating through it a little challenging, but only a little. Mostly, it just added some visual interest.

Once I was past the riekling-inhabited area, the ruin turned into more of a standard Dwemer ruin—complete with automata and assorted levers and buttons and resonators I had to interact with in order to proceed.

The less standard part of the ruin though was a huge multi-level area filled with giant spinning gears, which I had to jump across in order to get to new parts of the overall dungeon. I found this aspect of Fahlbtharz simultaneously interesting and frustrating. Interesting for it being a new thing—and frustrating because while it didn’t actively make me motion sick, I felt just enough off balance trying to deal with those gears that I suspect I would have gotten motion sick if I had been trying to play this with the Switch in docked mode, particularly if our TV had a higher frame rate than it does.

(And since I know Skyrim has a playable VR version, I just have to imagine how tricky navigating this dungeon must be in the VR build. I will not be trying that.)

Fahlbtharz also had a couple of dead adventurers in notable spots, who had apparently been working together to get into the place, in search of something called the Visage of Mzund. Both of them had journals telling their story, and the latter one provided some clues to a puzzle to solve in order to get to the dungeon’s final stretches.

I’ll say straight up that I just followed the wiki’s recommendation to get past the boiler puzzle, and shot the resonators in the order the wiki recommended. Part of me thinks I should have least tried to solve the puzzle on my own first. But the rest of me has only so much patience for spending time on puzzles like this! Particularly in a large dungeon where you have to spend a lot of time getting to the puzzle to begin with, and you have a large amount of dungeon to do after the puzzle as well.

The further in we got, the more I saw Dwarven Ballistas, too. And these were a challenge, because the damn things shot armor-penetrating bolts. Ouch. These were almost more annoying than Centurions!

And speaking of Centurions, there were a couple of those I had to take down as well—because while they didn’t activate and attack me on their own, I had to provoke them so I could take them out and get at their dynamo cores. These were necessary to activate the treasure room that had the boss treasure in it, including the aforementioned Visage of Mzund. Which turned out to be an enchanted Dwarven Helmet, heavy armor, that lets you do a steam attack.

Also, there was another Kagrumez Resonance Gem. Which is apparently going to be necessary once I actually get into Kagrumez!

Attempt to visit Kolbjorn Barrow, take two

When I fast traveled back to Raven Rock (on Arvak, because I was overburdened again) to drop off some stuff, this time the courier found me and was able to deliver the message that Ralis needed to talk to me. I had to dismount to talk to him, which dispelled Arvak, and which therefore made me overburdened again.

So before I went back to Kolbjorn, I went first to the Raven Rock forge and smelted all the dwarven metal objects in my inventory down to ingots. That beat the inventory back down to a manageable weight, and then I was able to go see what Ralis wanted.

The good news: they’d broken through into the opening rooms of the barrow.

The bad news: draugr had killed all his diggers.

So he needed me to clear out the draugr and also see if I could figure out how to break past the dead end they’d discovered. The draugr were not a problem. I had to consult the wiki, though, to determine that I had to pull a skull off a table to trigger the opening into the next chamber.

Once I opened up the next chamber, I dropped the skull (because ew, who wants to be carrying a skull around in their backpack?). And in said chamber, I found the first of the artifacts in the barrow: Ahzidal’s Boots of Waterwalking.

Reported back to Ralis, who advised me he was going to have to hire a whole new set of miners to proceed, and sweeten the pot given that he expected all the local miners would be skittish about their friends being killed at this ruin. I gave him 2,000 septims to let him get at it.

Visiting Benkongerike

Last but not least, I went to Benkongerike, a cave system I’d noted before but hadn’t had a chance to get into before now. As with Fahlbtharz, rieklings had settled in a good ways into this place. There were a lot more of them here though, with tents all over the place, as well as the barrel traps they’re apparently quite fond of.

I gotta say, I almost hate killing the little guys. They’re kind of adorable. Lydia agrees with me, too! She had a line “I don’t know whether to kill it or pet it.” Lololol.

So because fighting the rieklings is really kind of like kicking puppies, I didn’t loot their tents very much. And I tried to avoid hitting them unless they specifically hit me first.

My rieklings also followed me into the place, and notably didn’t have the same scruples I did about trying not to attack their brethren too much. I spotted them a couple of times as Lydia and I made our way down. Apparently the riekling tribes have no problem at all fighting one another!

Since I was wanting to avoid taking too much from the rieklings (looting them seemed extra cruel after killing them), I think I wound up missing several aspects of this dungeon I probably should have paid more attention to—including a stalhrim deposit, according to the wiki. But that’s fine, it’s not like I’m hurting for loot or gold at this point, or even stalhrim; I still have twelve pieces of the stuff in my stash!

And the main items of interest for me in this dungeon were the Word Wall and the Black Book, anyway.

The Word Wall required getting through a gate that had a pillar puzzle to unlock, and the Shout Word was another one for Cyclone.

And the Black Book was the one called Untold Legends. This time, when it transported me to Apocrypha (with Lydia lamenting, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”), I landed in a multi-section area with intermediate books I had to read to traverse.

There were more Seekers, and more Lurkers, and more bendy tunnels that changed where they took me as I moved. This happened slowly enough that it didn’t cause me any motion sickness problems, so that was good! And it added to the unsettling creep factor of the place.

The rewards offered off this Black Book at the end included the Secret Servant, Black Market, and Bardic Knowledge powers. I chose Secret Servant, partly because I’ve been advised that the Dremora Butler you can summon with that power is kind of hilarious. 😆

Epilogue: leveling up

In between doing all of the above, I got in more forge time in Severin Manor, bumping up the Smithing. That let me level up to 60, as well as getting my Smithing specifically up to… 67, I believe it was.

And since that meant I was ready for another round of training, I looked up who all the various trainers are on Solstheim. Which let me identify one of the people in Raven Rock as a Restoration trainer, at least a Common-level one. But since my Restoration wasn’t over 50 yet, that was all fine! So I paid her to get my Restoration up to 49.

So at this point the interesting question for me is, how much farther will I level up before I finally do all the things in the game? I do still have at least a bit more of Solstheim to do, so I might get in two or three more levels of advancement before I finally need to take on Miraak.

But a couple of very high-level NPCs to fight have come to my attention—NPCs that apparently are level 80 or above, one of which won’t even show up unless you’re at least level 80. Which raises the question of yikes can I even take them on, as well as how much more I’d need to do to get there.

Because while I am a completist in gaming, and inclined to do and collect All The Things, I’m not quite enough of a completist to keep at it past the point of completing all available major plotlines. I’m more inclined to instead do a different playthrough and consider what changes in strategy might be called for to get a character powerful enough, fast enough, to take on those very high level NPCs before I have to worry about closing off the main plots.

But we’ll see! Since I do have a bit more Solstheim to do yet, I don’t have to worry about this issue immediately!

Next time

There are at least a couple more stages of the Unearthed quest to go through, so while I’m working on those, I think I may need to hunt down the Kagrumez Dwemer ruin and see about clearing that!


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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.