Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Visits the Face Sculptor

A shorter session, since this was a Sunday, but still got in successfully running Sunderstone Gorge finally, and hunting for ingredients for Ingun Black-Briar. And also paid a visit to the Face Sculptor! So now Merawen is a brunette!


  • Session number in this run: 9
  • Went back to Dragonsreach to get Lydia so I could try to run the giant bounty; tried to scope the place out but shot too far east and wound up emerging near Hillgrund’s Tomb
  • Swung back around westward and wound up clearing Valtheim Towers, since I had to come back through there anyway; that got me enough loot that I had to return to Whiterun to sell stuff to clear the inventory
  • Tried to recon the giant camp again, this time fast traveling straight there, only to discover that I really didn’t have much in the way of cover; also saw on the wiki that the minimum level for taking on this giant camp was 24, and that was where I was at that point, so I decided I’d come back later
  • Decided instead to run Sunderstone Gorge; this time I actually made it through, and got an Unusual Gem as well as a word for Fire Breath; also let me get enough Fire Salts to go back to Balimund
  • Sent Lydia home to Dragonsreach again so I could return to Riften; gave Balimund his Fire Salts and got another 1,000 gold from him
  • Returned to Thieves Guild HQ and amused myself with a visit to the Face Sculptor, just to see how that worked out; commentary on this below
  • Also got another burglary job from Vex, this one for taking another Golden Ship Model from the Battle-Borns in Whiterun
  • Decided to run the quests for getting Ingun Black-Briar her ingredients; blipped up to Morthal and went through there as well as in the marshes to grab all the Deathbell I could find
  • Swung west towards Solitude to also grab all the Nightshade I could find; killed a couple of bandits en route
  • Entered Solitude to sell a few things, get more Nightshade within the city proper; got all the Nightshade and bought last required Deathbell from Angeline; also got a couple of Nirnroot from her
  • Blipped back to the vicinity of Whiterun to get more nirnroot; stealthily swiped some from Bleakwind Basin, the giant camp, without alerting the giant or the mammoth, go me

Guldun Rock and Valtheim Towers

My first action in this run was to try to clear that giant camp at Guldun Rock for the bounty. Problem was, I wasn’t at all sure I was ready to take on a giant. Certainly not alone. So I went back to Dragonsreach to get Lydia, and then headed to Guldun Rock to try to scope the place out.

This giant camp is pretty much directly south of Valtheim Towers, a bandit lair east of Whiterun, the one where one of the bandits confronts you to pay a toll when you go by. First time through here on this run I didn’t have to worry about the bandits, because the path up to the giant camp is just east of where the towers are.

My more immediate priority was to figure out if there was adequate cover around the camp to snipe the giant with arrows, because there was no way Lyds and I would be able to take it on in a melee fight.

Right around the front entrance to the camp, there didn’t seem to be adequate cover. So I tried to sneak around to see if there was a back entrance. If there was, I never found it. Instead, Lyds and I wound up overshooting to the west, killing a troll on the way, and finally emerging near Hillgrund’s Tomb.

So we had to swing back around towards the bandit towers. On the way, I nabbed a nirnroot off a dead alchemist lying by the road. Sorry about whatever killed you, alchemist, but I need that nirnroot!

Coming back up on the bandit towers, this time Lyds and I actually confronted them. And we cleared the place out. Lydia had a couple of rough spots during this battle where her health bar got beaten down to zero, but nothing ever attacked her during those critical moments, so she got to survive the fight.

That got me enough loot that I had to return to Whiterun for a selling run, before trying to recon the giant camp again. And this time, I determined there was a rock I could hide behind that gave me a line of sight to one of the giants known to be at this camp.

Whether it’ll actually be adequate cover and keep the giant from finding me and stomping me flat before I can kill him—unclear. I also noticed on the wiki that this camp is listed as minimum level 24, and at this point in the session, that was where I was. So that made me feel like my chances were dodgy at best.

I elected to come back to this later, and instead, go run Sunderstone Gorge as long as I had Lydia with me.

Sunderstone Gorge

This time, I was finally able to clear Sunderstone Gorge. This is not to say I didn’t have challenges getting to it still, because I did. First time on the way, Lyds and I actually ran into a dragon battling a giant—and I didn’t realize a giant was nearby until after Lyds and I started taking on the dragon.

Which was not, it must be noted, actually trying to engage with us. That should probably have been the tip off that something else was up! But there I was, shooting at the thing and finally letting it now that oh shit, something else is in play—when all at once SURPRISE GIANT and I’m getting slammed into the air by the impact of its hammer.


Second time through, I made it to the correct road junction, only to get taken out by Forsworn.

Third time through, the group encountered at that road junction was actually Stormcloaks fighting Imperials. The Stormcloaks won. Lyds and I stayed in Sneak mode though and waited for them to go by.

Then we finally made it to Sunderstone Gorge, right up to the mouth of the cave where the first of the mages hiding out there was waiting. My Sneak had just hit 70 at this point, so this time I was much better at sneaking right up on him. Which let Lyds and me take him out in short order.

Once we were finally in the cavern, things were much easier. There was a skeever to take out, and assorted mages of various types, but no more than two at once. Lyds had trouble a couple of times here too, but again, nothing ever attacked her during her health bar being minimum, so I got to keep my housecarl!

And I found a few other useful things as well:

  • The third Stone of Barenziah I was looking for
  • A few more fire salts, two just lying around and a third from a flame atronach we had to kill
  • The word for Fire Breath off the Word Wall

This meant I now had more than enough fire salts to return to Balimund in Riften. So after sending Lydia back to Dragonsreach, I blipped back to Riften to check in with Balimund. He was very happy to get them, and gave me 1,000 gold for the trouble.

At which point I realized: oh hey, I have enough money now that I can actually see the Face Sculptor!

Galathil the Face Sculptor

Galathil, a Bosmer mage, is the infamous Face Sculptor who hangs out down in the Ragged Flagon. Her presence in the game appears to be entirely to give players an opportunity to reset their appearance in-game if they want to, if for whatever reason they’re dissatisfied with it. I was curious about how this worked, so I wanted to give it a shot.

Mind you, resetting your appearance is entirely for player satisfaction. It has zero bearing on your game play. Everybody still recognizes you, even any NPCs you’ve pissed off.

Which means you can’t use this as a means to evade the law, or evade anybody that’s mad at you in general, even if that might actually be a relevant goal for you!

Still though it makes me want to headcanon a reason for how this might actually work in-game. ;D The game does not specify exactly what kind of power Galathil is wielding for her arts. There aren’t any relevant spells in any of the known schools of magic.

But it would seem to be magic to me, based on how you can walk right up to her and have her change you in the Ragged Flagon, without her budging from her chair. As I am an Elfquest fan, the closest equivalent I can think of to this is what Elfquest calls fleshshaping. So I’m imagining Galathil touching her client’s forehead and enveloping them in her power, until she achieves the result the client wants.

What intrigues me here though is what Galathil’s backstory is. The game doesn’t give her one. But I go down the following train of thought thinking about her:

  1. Her power doesn’t work on the dead, and she outright says to any vampire player character that she can’t manipulate their flesh; so, clearly not related to necromancy.
  2. In Skyrim game terms, it seems like some sort of mutant hybrid of Alteration and Restoration magic. The known spells in those schools of magic don’t apply, but Restoration covers healing and closing wounds, and that’s manipulation of living tissue. So clearly whatever gift or spell Galathil picked up is related to that.
  3. She rants about how she used to ply her arts to Skyrim’s powerful, but now she’s hiding out amongst the scum of Skyrim; therefore, she must have had a reason for going into hiding.
  4. So who’d she piss off? Did she try to alter someone and have it go horribly wrong? Did she try to change someone only to have them die in the process, and their relations now want her dead?
  5. Or is she hiding from somebody more powerful and more unsavory than her who demanded she work for them, and she had to refuse?
  6. Is she hiding out for reasons that don’t actually have anything to do with her gifts? Did the Thalmor come after her?
  7. Ooh, and this would actually engage the part where having her change you has no in-game bearing on your character whatsoever—maybe that’s actually part of the deal for how she got this power to begin with. If a Daedra granted her this gift, but with the price that it wouldn’t actually otherwise change a single thing about the lives of any of her clients, then that opens up potential other reasons why she might have had to hide out. Because maybe somebody expected that her changing them would get them off the hook for crimes, only for that not to work in the slightest. At which point whatever criminal paid her for this got hugely pissed off, so she had to go on the run to hide from them!
  8. And that spells “problematic bargain with Daedra”, which in turn spells “Clavicus Vile”. Galathil honey, you made a bargain with Clavicus Vile, didn’t you. ;D

Regardless of Galathil’s actual backstory, I also thought about why Merawen would do this. I think if asked, she’d probably say that now that she’s a thief, it seemed appropriate to make herself even harder to detect in the dark. As a Dunmer, she was by definition already pretty dark! But when I originally created her, I gave her pale eyes and reddish hair. I thought the pale eyes looked pretty cool and a little creepy, but it did occur to me that they might actually stand out a bit too much if torchlight hit them.

So when I took her through the Face Sculptor UI, I chose options this time that facilitated the idea of “make Merawen darker”. I’d already chosen the darkest possible Dunmer skin tone for her, but this time through I also chose darker highlights for her face, and gave her dark hair and the darkest eyes as well.

I also did a little tweaking of the details of her face as well, changing the shape of her chin and jaw, and giving her different facial warpaint. Chose a darker color for that this time, too.

Really though, I think this is just as much about Merawen feeling kind of goth. Okay yes as a Dunmer, again by definition, she’s already pretty goth. But she’s probably got some brooding going on about her life choices, and was subconsciously wanting her outside to better match her inside, I think.

(Nobody tell her she’s actually a little cuter now, lol.)

And also, there are amusing questions here of how Merawen will react when she finds out her new face doesn’t keep anybody from recognizing her. Like Lydia. Or Keerava at the Bee and Barb. I expect this will lead her to coming back to Galathil to go “what the fuck, woman, people still recognize me?”

And Galathil saying coolly, “My power does not protect you from that.”

”You might have told me that.”

”You didn’t ask. Satisfying your assumptions is not part of the services I offer.”

Next quests

While I was down in the Ragged Flagon, I also sold a bunch of things to Tonilia, as well as getting another burglary job from Vex. Which is in fact in Whiterun, so I’ll need to do that while I’m doing the meadery job. This one will involve breaking into the house of Clan Battle-Born. And I’m rather okay with that.

But they have another Golden Ship Model! Didn’t I just swipe one of those from Solitude? Apparently there’s a set?

Thought about going down to check out the Dawnguard at this point, but decided I wasn’t quite in the mood yet. And since this was a Sunday night run, I didn’t want to do anything too involved.

So I decided to just go hunt for the rest of Ingun Black-Briar’s ingredients. Most of these, I found just wandering around through Morthal, the marshes north of Morthal, and over into Solitude. While doing this, I killed a couple of random bandits, which gave me some loot I could carry over to Solitude to sell. I also killed a slaughterfish which tried to come up out of the water at me! Hit it with a Flames spell. Mmm, seared slaughterfish!

While going through Morthal proper, Joric, the Jarl’s kid, actually said to me, “You’re different, aren’t you? Not like anyone else. Not in Morthal, or Skyrim.”

What tipped you off, kid? The pointed ears or the dark gray skin?

It was interesting to get that observation out of him, though. I think it might actually have gotten Merawen’s attention, since he was not actually hostile, and having a Nord child react her to her in Skyrim in a non-hostile way might have made her stop to look at him and say “Yes. I’m a Dunmer. A Dark Elf. Have you never seen a Dunmer before?”

Joric: “There isn’t anyone like you in Morthal.”

Merawen: ”There are in Skyrim, though. I’ve seen them.”

Joric: ”Where?”

Merawen: ”Riften. Whiterun. Solitude.”

Joric: ”Where do you come from?”

Merawen: “Me personally, or my people?”

Joric, thinking about this a few moments: “Both.”

Merawen: “My people come from Morrowind. East of Skyrim.”

Joric: “Why did you come here?”

Merawen, not exactly willing to focus on why she personally came here: “A great mountain in our land exploded and destroyed much of Vvardenfell with fire and ash. Many of us couldn’t live there anymore. We had to flee to find a place to live safely.”

Joric: “Maybe you could live in Morthal. We don’t have any fire mountain here. My mother is the Jarl. You could talk to her.”

Merawen, dodging that line of thought, because she’s cluing in that the kid is still focused on her in particular: “Thank you. I… will think about it.”

Meanwhile, I also found the same Abandoned Shack where Astrid kidnaps you to, when you start the Dark Brotherhood quest. I observed though that you can’t get into that shack without that quest being started.

And I found all of the nightshade and most of the deathbell I needed, and the last of the deathbell I was able to buy from Angeline in Solitude.

Which left the nirnroot. I also found several of those, but still needed a few more. So I boinged back down to Whiterun to hunt around in the plains to the west of the city, since I knew of several I could find in that general area.

Notably, I was able to nab a couple of nirnroot at Bleakwind Basin, the giant camp, without alerting either the giant or the mammoth nearby. Thank you, 70+ Sneak and the Muffle spell!

Arcadia at Whiterun had a nirnroot in her store inventory, too, so now I’m down to needing just two more. Which is where I’ll probably pick up next time.

Next time

Since I’m still in the vicinity of Whiterun, though, I think I’ll need to go ahead and do the Thieves Guild work there next!

Then work on finding those last two nirnroot, maybe in conjunction with additional side jobs.


Editing to add

  • 11/15/2023: Fixed missing gallery, added a session number, and corrected headings from H3 to H2 to better match styles on later posts.

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.