More tightly focused goals this session, with a focus specifically on the Thieves Guild plot and the Mage College plot. Side activity was restricted to just selling and/or dropping off loot in Whiterun, and doing a little bit of Smithing at Warmaiden’s.
Details behind the fold!
- Session number in this run: 17
- Got the pointer from Mirabelle Ervine to go to Mzulft to see if I could find the Synod party she’d spoken to before, and get a lead on the location of the Staff of Magnus
- Went to Whiterun to pick up Jenassa as a follower again, and also do a loot sell/drop-off run
- Headed off to Markarth to check in with Calcelmo; paid for a room at the inn, sold a few things at the general goods store there, and also went to the forge and got a side favor quest from the orc smith
- Then headed into Understone Keep to find Calcelmo; first, got the Dwarven Arrow he asked for sold to him
- Then asked him for access to his work and he essentially told me to fuck off; however, he agreed he’d let me into the museum if I go kill the spider Nimhe for him
- So Jenassa and I took out the spider, as well as smaller spiders down in the excavation, which got us access to the museum
- Access to the museum also meant access to another Stone of Barenziah, woo! Though I had to steal it twice due to having to roll back from forgetting to have my Sneak on before I nabbed it the first time, oops
- Made it into the laboratory section but discovered that Jenassa was actually a liability, as she was interfering with my Sneak; tried multiple times to make it past the other guards in there, only to have them discover and attack us
- So I sent Jenassa back to Whiterun from the public part of the museum, re-activated Sneak, nabbed the Stone of Barenziah, and then snuck my way into the private laboratory part of the complex
- Working it solo, had no problems whatsoever sneaking past the multiple guards in the place, even after I caused an explosion by screwing around with a valve (which didn’t even actually kill anybody, but it did piss off Calcelmo’s nephew)
- Nabbed the Dwemer Puzzle Cube to take back to Delvin
- Made it to the rubbing; already had a roll of paper so I just had to nab a charcoal off one of the nearby tables
- Once I had the rubbing I just had to sneak past the guards again and make it back to the balcony, and from there, jump down the waterfall to get clear and be somewhere I could fast travel from
- Went back to Winterhold and met up with Karliah and Enthir in the Frozen Hearth’s cellar
- Enthir translated the journal using the rubbing, and was able to report that Gallus had said in his journal that Mercer had desecrated the Twilight Sepulcher and was also using Guild funds to buy himself luxuries
- Karliah took this very grimly, and asked me to meet her back at the Ragged Flagon now that we had proof to take to the Guild; she also gave me Gallus’ Nightingale Blade
- After that, I returned to Whiterun, so that I could a) temper the blade, and b) pick up Jenassa again so I could resume mage college activity
- Took Jenassa with me to Mzulft and ran the dungeon, including making it to the Synod researcher at the end and getting him to confirm the Staff of Magnus was in Labyrinthian
- Returned to the mage college with this news, only to discover, oh shit, Ancano’s taken over the Eye of Magnus
- Cue explosion that kills the Arch-Mage, cue us having to run down to Winterhold to take out the magic anomalies, cue me having to check in with Mirabelle and get Savos’ amulet and the Torc of Labyrinthian from her
- Bopped back to Whiterun one more time to drop off all the loot from Mzulft, then bopped to Morthal as the nearest landmark to Labyrinthian
- Found Labyrinthian and then stopped there for the night
Hard Answers quest
I didn’t dive right into this quest immediately. I’d saved from my previous session while still at the Mage College, so as I’d planned, I started off by checking in with Mirabelle to get her recommendation to look for the Synod researchers at Mzulft if I wanted to find the Staff of Magnus.
Once I did that, though, I fast traveled over to Whiterun so that I could re-engage Jenassa as a follower. I also needed to do a loot drop-off/sell run, as I needed to make sure I was ready to hit the Mzulft dungeon later. (And, for that matter, I also dropped off most of my dwarven arrows so that I would have a single one available to sell to Calcelmo.)
With Jenassa at my back, I then fast traveled off to Markarth. Did a few preliminary things there, including renting a room at the inn, selling a few items at the general goods store, and also checking in at the forge to sell a couple of items there. Also had a conversation with the orc smith about her inept apprentice, which led me to getting a side quest from her to bring her a particular book if I found a copy.
Then I headed into Understone Keep so I could find Calcelmo at his excavation. Since I had that “bring Calcelmo a dwarven arrow” side quest active, I dealt with that first for all the good the eight gold was worth, lol. But then I went to the real matter at hand, and tried to get him to let me see his translation work.
He was not on board with this. Or even letting me into the museum, until I agreed to kill a spider for him. His workers had taken to calling the spider Nimhe, and she had been interfering with the excavation work for months.
So I agreed to do this. Jenassa and I headed down into the excavation for a spider hunt!
Jenassa continued being a communicative NPC and had three different lines I heard her fire off about the Dwemer, not only while we were on this spider hunt, but also when we went to Mzulft later. I don’t know if she’s this chatty with everybody who hires her, or if she just likes the player and is comfortable striking up conversation with them! I choose to headcanon it as “Jenassa really likes the player character, appreciates working for them, and is comfortable with striking up conversation about matters of interest to her”. And, apparently, Jenassa is interested enough in the Dwemer to have colorful commentary about them.
Anyway, taking out the spiders wasn’t difficult. There were a few standard frostbite spiders first, and then the aforementioned Nimhe, a named giant frostbite spider. As with any other dungeon that has spiders, not a good quest for arachnophobic players!
From what I recall, I never did the “kill the spider” quest as Alarrah, so it was neat to see more of Calcelmo’s excavation. Plus, it also accomplished the goal of getting the key to the museum and Calcelmo’s permission to be in there so I didn’t even have to break in.
Which is good, because when Jenassa and I got over there, we quickly discovered that there were multiple Markarth guards patrolling the museum. I didn’t explore that part of the complex in depth, aside from belatedly confirming that this is where the Stone of Barenziah I wanted was.
First of all though, I had to figure out how to get from the front part of the museum into the laboratory section at the back. And that section was where we needed to get to, because it led to the tablet from which I could get a rubbing to take back to Enthir and Karliah.
That back section turned out to be a problem. Because it was patrolled by additional guards—and while the Markarth guards were not initially hostile because I had a key to get in, the private guards were primed to attack intruders on sight.
And I found out that having Jenassa at this point was a liability—because while I was almost maxed out on my Sneak, she wasn’t. And she kept getting noticed by the guards and triggering fights with them.
Reluctantly, I decided I was going to have to send her back to Whiterun. So I rolled back to an auto-save from when we were in the front part of the museum, and dismissed her from there. I wound up having to do this twice, in fact—because after I dismissed her, I then tried to steal the Stone of Barenziah, only to forget I didn’t have my Sneak on. So I got spotted by one of the nearby Markarth guards.
Who did not take a thievery attempt well, lol.
So I rolled back again, and then remembered to turn on Sneak mode before I nabbed the Stone. And once I was running solo, I headed into the back laboratory area and proceeded to sneak my way through the place with no trouble whatsoever.
I had to backtrack once, just to doublecheck where an extra loot item to bring back to Delvin was—a Dwemer Puzzle Cube.
At one point, I also had to turn a valve to cause an explosion, which also distracted others in the room (including Calcelmo’s nephew Aicantar), and let me proceed undetected to the balcony that led to the final section.
I already had a roll of paper in my inventory, so I just had to nab a charcoal off a nearby table before I made it to the tablet and was able to do the rubbing. On the way to that, I also heard Aicantar issuing orders to the guards, proclaiming that “accidents like that just don’t happen, somebody’s trying to steal my uncle’s research!”
And, well, lol, he wasn’t wrong. Though not quite for the reasons he was probably thinking.
I got the rubbing, and then snuck my way right back out again, evading all of the guards who were theoretically combing the place and yet who managed to miss the thief sneaking right past them on the stairs.
(Sidebar: Additional fuck you to Mercer “you sure are noisy for somebody who calls herself a thief” Frey.)
Once out on the balcony, I still wasn’t able to fast travel even though I was outside. And I discovered that the expected escape plan, if I didn’t want to backtrack out through the museum again and have to re-evade all the guards, was to jump down the waterfall. Which was actually pretty cool. I took the precaution of quaffing a potion of waterbreathing, then found the little side path that gave me direct access to the water, and jumped from there.
That let me make it down to where I could get out of the water, and, finally, fast travel back to Winterhold.
At the Frozen Hearth, I discovered that the place had a cellar—because that’s where Karliah and Enthir were. The cellar access was a stairway behind the innkeeper’s table, and since I definitely never saw this as Alarrah, I’m now wondering if a similar cellar stairway is in all of the inns of this type in Skyrim! Or if it’s a thing that just gets generated for the Frozen Hearth for this plot.
(Answer seems to be, the cellar is unique to the Frozen Hearth, ha!)
None of the inn NPCs seemed to object to me heading down there. Maybe they knew from Karliah and Enthir to expect I’d need to go down there?
Enthir got right down to business, accepting the rubbing from me and using it to translate Gallus’ journal. From that, we learned two things:
- Mercer had desecrated something called the Twilight Sepulcher
- Mercer had also been using Guild funds to set himself up with luxuries, so on top of being a murderous lying bastard, he was also apparently perfectly willing to steal from his own Guild
Karliah took this very grimly. She was not willing to tell me much about the Nightingales yet, because of being sworn to secrecy, but she was at least willing to tell me that the Twilight Sepulcher was the temple to Nocturnal that the Nightingales had sworn to protect. Also, she gave me Gallus’ Nightingale Blade, and asked me to meet her at the Ragged Flagon when I was ready, now that we had proof of Mercer’s misdeeds.
Enthir, for his part, also offered to help me with fencing stolen goods if I needed him to do so.
On my way out, the innkeeper’s wife and daughter actually came down into the cellar, but again, neither of them seemed disturbed by my being down there. So I was able to exit the inn and go about my business.
Back to the Mage College quests
From here, I picked up again with mage college business. I boinged back to Whiterun to pick up Jenassa again, and also so that I could temper the Nightingale Blade. This required a bit of extra Smithing boosts—not only the enchanted items I have right now that augment my Smithing, but also getting blacksmith potions from the apothecary.
That let me get the blade improved enough that it is now my highest damage blade, woo! So I stuck the ebony sword on the weapon plaque at Breezehome, so I could make the Nightingale Blade my primary sword instead and reduce my inventory weight a bit.
Then it was off to Mzulft, to pick up again with that plot. Running this dungeon took less time than it did for Alarrah, because of course this time I knew more or less where I was going.
I did take the time to pick up interesting loot when I could, including getting enough cogs that I can fill out Arniel’s quest for that later (though I still haven’t quite decided if I want to run that quest yet).
This was, I think, the first time Merawen actually got to see Falmer. Given her previous conversation with Enthir about them, and now that she knows a little of their backstory, I suspect she was slightly regretful about sniping them—but not enough to not do it, given that she also saw that the various researchers were dead and that the Falmer had clearly killed them. So there was only so much regret she had room for.
It was while running Mzulft, I think, that my Sneak made it up to 100. So now my Sneak is maxed out! \0/
Noting for reference though that I will not be doing the “set a skill Legendary” thing with Merawen’s Sneak. Because her Sneak is too critical for being a thief. And I also want to see what it’s like to max out all the perks on that skill tree, too!
The dungeon more or less played out the same as it had for Alarrah, anyway, including finding out from the cranky (and slightly crazed) Synod guy that the staff was in Labyrinthian… and the vision at the end when I headed for the shortcut way out.
Then, back to Winterhold. Where I played out that part of the plot, too, involving Ancano taking over the Eye of Magnus and causing an explosion that kills the Arch-Mage. And Mirabelle sending me off to Labyrinthian, with Savos Aren’s amulet and the Torc of Labyrinthian as well.
I boinged back to Whiterun one more time to do another loot drop run, and clear the inventory to hit Labyrinthian. Then I boinged over to Morthal, since that was the nearest good landmark I had, and from there I found Labyrinthian in reasonably short order.
Side note about that: I don’t think I’d realized that Labyrinthian was that close to Morthal, when I did Alarrah’s run? Seriously, it was a pretty short walk. Not close enough to be in visual range of Morthal, but certainly close enough that I gotta wonder whether the people in Morthal know to avoid the place?
There is a great deal to be done in Labyrinthian—not only that dungeon itself, but also the other things nearby, like Shalidor’s Maze, and a nearby dragon lair as well. I’m tempted to just clean the entire place out in one go!
I really did like Shalidor’s Maze when I ran it as Alarrah and would enjoy running it again as Merawen. And as the Dragonborn, I should never turn down an opportunity to clear a dragon lair when I get one!
But that said, given that there is indeed so much to do in Labyrinthian, and the main Labyrinthian dungeon itself is pretty large, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to clear the whole place in one session.
So I think I’ll just run Labyrinthian proper. This’ll let me proceed with the mage college quest and go up against my first Dragon Priest with this alt. And that’ll clear some of the weight off my list of quests in the journal.
Labyrinthian proper is big enough that that by itself might take the entire next session, but time permitting, I’ll then see about returning to the college with the staff. Once I do that, deactivate the Eye of Magnus, and defeat Ancano, then I can get to be Arch-Mage and close out that plot.
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.