This session pretty much amounted to doing the rest of the preliminary work to get Merawen established enough as Dragonborn that I could get to the point of failing to find the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller… and then bailing to Riften.
Highlights and commentary and such behind the fold!
- Started down High Hrothgar multiple times, but kept getting killed by a troll, which happened enough times that I finally said “fuck it” and fast traveled down to Ivarstead
- Where I promptly got jumped by my first cultists for the Dragonborn plotline; this time, they didn’t kill me right out of the gate, I took out one and Lyds took the rest
- Got the innkeeper’s quest to investigate Shroud Hearth Barrow
- Found the guy faking being a ghost in the barrow, and had to take him out when he attacked me; took his journal back to the innkeeper and got the Sapphire Claw from him, so I could unlock the rest of the dungeon; got the word for Kyne’s Peace Shout
- Headed back to Whiterun to do a loot dropoff, and to get access to the carriage so I could get to Morthal
- Wound up spending most of my gold on arrows and one round of alchemy training off of Arcadia, though, so I couldn’t buy a carriage ride
- Started off on foot to go north, but partway up the plains, had a surprise dragon show up, so had to kill it
- Also had some bandits alerted, I think because Lydia ran over to fight with them, so had to take them out too
- Between the dragon and the bandits, got more than enough loot to tromp right back into Whiterun and sell all of that stuff, which replenished my gold
- So I took the carriage to Morthal, and when I got there, saw the townsfolk confronting Idgrod’s steward about the wizard situation
- Morthal children kept trying to talk to me, I think Merawen doggedly ignored them; took a room at the inn
- Killed a group of bandits and mages on the way into Ustengrav
- Ran the Ustengrav dungeon; got the word for Become Ethereal off the Word Wall; made it through the puzzle that requires Whirlwind Sprint a lot easier this time
- And of course the Horn wasn’t there
- Sent Lydia back to Whiterun and bolted!
- Tried to go east first with the intention of getting to Windhelm, but I wound up in Dawnstar instead; tried to go south again from there, only to be killed by another troll and auto-save rolled back all the way back to coming out of Ustengrav
- So I sent Lydia home again, and this time bolted to the west and ran off to Solitude
- Witnessed the execution on the way in, then sold stuff at the forge and bought more arrows from both the blacksmith and the guy in the archery shop
- Bought a few things off the Khajiit parked outside, then got the carriage driver to take me to Riften
- Got the gate shakedown from the guards, and also got confronted by Maul just past the gates; between the guards and Maul, pretty much wiped out my remaining gold
- Which meant Brynjolf was right on target when he approached me and was all “you’re a little light in the pockets, aren’t you, lass?” And offered me his proposition…
It is definitely a bit humbling being back on a low level character after getting very used to being able to kill everything with Alarrah!
I did kick the difficulty setting on this run up another notch, from Novice to Apprentice. I’m pretty sure that this hasn’t had a significant impact on my gameplay yet—because arguably, the increase in difficulty is offset by my improved ability to play the game.
Coming down High Hrothgar felt more difficult this time, though. Doublechecking what I wrote up for Alarrah, I’m not seeing that I documented having trouble coming down the mountain from High Hrothgar—but then, I might have tried to fast travel.
Either way, though, Frost Trolls are level 22 and I’m still only level 7, so it makes absolute sense that they’d hand me my ass. (And I guess I just got lucky coming up the mountain, and didn’t run into any Frost Trolls…)
It was nice to be reminded that I did rather like the Shroud Hearth Barrow plot, and for that matter, Ustengrav—despite my documented frustration with how the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller plot resolves.
This time, though, I could take advantage of that by making it my excuse for why Merawen bails on being Dragonborn at least for the time being. 😆
Sending Lydia home
The game of course gives me no mechanism to pick a fight with Lydia, so I have to completely headcanon this, but I think the scene went something like this:
Merawen: <storms out of Ustengrav in fury, Lydia hastening behind her>
Lydia, when they get back to the entrance: My thane… are you all right?
Merawen, whirling on her: No. No, I’m not. We just wasted our time and risked our lives for nothing.
Lydia: Not for nothing, we have the note, it’s a lead—
Merawen: It’s horseshit! I don’t know what’s been going on the last several days, what this Dragonborn thing is, why everyone is inflicting this on me—
Lydia: You are Dragonborn, the Greybeards said so—
Merawen: The Greybeards sent us down into this pit for nothing!
Lydia: You can’t know that, my thane. They must have their reasons. Maybe they don’t know the Horn wasn’t here?
Merawen: I don’t care. I’m done. All I wanted was to get out of Morrowind! And now all you Nords are foisting your mad superstitions off on me, your Jarl has his spy tracking me everywhere I go—
Lydia, icily: Excuse me?
Merawen: Do you deny it? Why the hell else would you be risking life and limb for a Dunmer you don’t even know?
Lydia: I swore an oath. To carry your burdens. To protect you, and all you own, with my life. No matter where you go or what you do.
Merawen, cluing in that she may have gone too far but too angry to back down: I don’t want you. I don’t want your service. Go home. Find somebody else worth your time and attention.
Lydia, not missing that “worth your time and attention” bit: …
Merawen, screaming: Go!
Lydia, very quietly: As you command, my thane. I’ll head back home if you need me. And by the way… you are Dragonborn. You have the Thu’um. I saw you take a dragon’s soul with my own eyes. I believe in you, even if you don’t. Come find me in Whiterun if you change your mind.
And with that, as Lydia strides off, Merawen barely holds it together and runs off towards the west, picking any direction but south. Any direction except the one her housecarl took to return to Morthal, and then back to Whiterun.
Merawen’s frame of mind
Writing out the previous scene tells me a lot about this character and how to play out her choices in the game moving forward.
- She’s carrying some inner trauma from Morrowind. I think her family was severely fucked up when Red Mountain erupted, and never recovered from that.
- She probably lost her last family member within the last decade or so, to ailments brought on by prolonged exposure to the ash from the mountain.
- She’s been living a hardscrabble life ever since, probably in the Ashlands of Vvardenfell, and only recently got to finally flee the island.
- She likely fled from Vvardenfell via less than aboveboard means. Possibly stowed away on a ship, which is how she might have gotten caught crossing into Skyrim and handed off to the Imperials? Or else she stole a boat on her own, managed to cross the Sea of Ghosts, and got caught when her craft was spotted coming ashore somewhere it shouldn’t.
- She may be around 60 or 70, old enough to be somewhat experienced, young enough to still be strong and nimble and not quite as experienced as she sometimes tries to make herself believe she is. Skyrim elves can live as long as 300 years, so she’s still quite young by Dunmer standards.
- Not an inconsiderable amount of trauma just from damn near dying in Helgen. Not only because of the Imperials almost executing her, but Alduin also burning the place down.
- So she’s probably got some PTSD going on.
- She’s more noble than she likes to admit. Anybody who knows my roleplay history, not to mention my writing history, will know I’m a sucker for the “rogue with a heart of gold” character archetype. Merawen will definitely fall into that archetype. A thief, undoubtedly—but one with certain core unshakeable morals that I’ll need to uphold while playing the Thieves Guild plotline out.
- She is freaked the fuck out by this Dragonborn thing. She can’t quite dismiss it out of hand, because she can Shout and she can’t deny that she has… something. But the sudden pressure of high visibility amongst the Nords around Whiterun is freaking her out. It’s feeling like a thing from the gods, and she has got a great deal of “who the fuck am I that the gods would want to give me special powers” going on, too.
- Hence, lashing out at Lydia and making her go home, then seizing the opportunity to flee. I took her to Solitude just because that was the closest place to Ustengrav with a carriage, but she did a surgical strike on the place, in there just long enough to sell things and move on.
- Particularly given that as soon as she set foot in Solitude, the first thing she saw was a frigging execution. That had to have flipped her out a bit more, given Helgen, so she was anxious to get the fuck out of the place as fast as she could.
- She probably told the carriage driver to take her as far away as he could get her, and chose Riften just because that sounded like the best place for her to hide out and lay low.
- Cue Brynjolf and his little proposition!
Joining the Thieves Guild, doing the main plot
So I’m definitely going to play this as, Merawen joins and takes over the Thieves Guild. And given everything that seems appropriate for this character, I will also have her visit the Face Sculptor in the Ratway. Getting her to rearrange her face fits in very well with the whole “hiding out from her Dragonborn destiny” thing.
It won’t work, of course. Her destiny will come calling. Cultists from Solstheim will keep finding her. Dragons will keep attacking her. She’ll keep getting Shouts and absorbing dragon souls to unlock them.
And eventually, after she’s carved out a niche for herself with the Thieves Guild, the most secure home she’s ever had, she’ll realize that the rising dragon threat imperils that.
This time, though, she has the power to stop a threat.
And she’ll eventually have to swallow her pride, remember that the housecarl Whiterun gave her believed in her, and go apologize to Lydia. That’ll be the point at which I’ll resume the main game plotline!
I’m not sure yet how I’ll play out the DLC content with this character. I am quite curious as to whether it’s possible to run the Dawnguard and Dragonborn plots before you take out Alduin.
But I’m not sure yet what’ll feel right for this character in particular. Given what I’m establishing about Merawen’s desperation to get out of Morrowind, I cannot imagine she’s going to be in a hurry to go to Solstheim any time soon. So this may be a matter of exactly how many cultists she has to kill before she finally decides to confront whoever this Miraak is that wants her dead!
Dawnguard, though, might be a thing I can run before I get to the “apologize to Lydia” stage.
For now, though, I gotta work on getting in with the Thieves Guild! So in Merawen’s next session, that’ll mean, helping Brynjolf with this whole “steal a ring and then pickpocket it onto an unsuspecting vendor” thing!