Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Becomes a Nightingale and Also Infiltrates the Thalmor Embassy

Thieves Guild plot advancement galore in this session, but also revisiting the main plot! Because I need to get the main plot moved along if I want to also advance the Dawnguard one—and also, on the general grounds of wanting to rob the Thalmor blind if at all possible.


  • Session number in this run: 19
  • Returned to Riften so I could proceed with Thieves Guild plot action
  • Dove into the lake now that I have Volsung, and was able to reach the sunken boat and retrieve the Quill of Gemination
  • Got the Quill to Maven Black-Briar, who gave me a document absolving Vald’s debt
  • Found my way to the backyard of Riftweald Manor, and started working on talking to Vald so that I could get him the document; had to do this twice because I accidentally turned him hostile the first time, second time through I figured out exactly when to talk to him while he was near the gate
  • Shot an arrow to trigger the ramp mechanism in back so I could get in on the top floor of the house
  • Stole every loose thing I could get my hands on while sneaking past the top floor and bottom floor guards
  • Made it through the Suspicious Cabinet (SO SUSPICIOUS) and into the tunnels underneath the house
  • Used Become Ethereal to get past swinging blade traps and a battering ram, and made it to the office where Frey had left a document showing his plans to steal the Eyes of the Falmer
  • Had to run Mercer’s place twice because I forgot to nab the Bust of the Gray Fox while I was in there the first time, oops! So I went back and did the second run after touching bases with Brynjolf and Karliah and getting Karliah to ask us to meet her at Nightingale Hall
  • Once Mercer’s place was sorted, met Brynjolf and Karliah at the Hall; Karliah explained to us that the place was the temple to Nocturnal, and that the Nightingales are sworn to protect it in life and death—and that Mercer Frey had violated his oath
  • She also proposed to make Brynjolf and me Nightingales, to give us the edge to meet Mercer on equal footing; once she explained that this was less of a matter of “religion” and more of a matter of “business”, Brynjolf and I both accepted
  • Brynjolf also informed me that he and Karliah had discussed making me Guild Master before I arrived at the place; Merawen’s dialogue prompts allowed me to basically “SAY WHAT NOW” and then reluctantly take the offer
  • Once I was a Nightingale, then I boinged back to Whiterun and finally killed one of the giants at Bleakwind Basin, to collect on that pending bounty
  • Worked on Smithing for a while until I could get it up over 80, level up to 41, and finally make Lydia some ebony gauntlets so she could have a full set of ebony armor 😀
  • Went to the mage college to check in there and get all the trainers to boost my skills for this level; had an Elder Dragon drop into the courtyard, and between Lydia, the other mages, and me, we killed it, and at least one of the mages threw a dialogue line that mentioned “Dragonborn”
  • Went to Riverwood to check in with Delphine and get her plan for finding out what the Thalmor were up to
  • Went to Solitude to find Malborn, and had to briefly duck into Radiant Raiment because I’d forgotten to bring something to wear after giving him the Nightingale Armor and other equipment, lol
  • Met Delphine at Katla’s farm, got the party clothes and my invitation from her, and took the carriage to the Thalmor Embassy
  • I had to use the drunken Razelan as my distraction this time, because I didn’t have any other party guest present with a high enough disposition to me to be willing to help me out—and I was not going to cause Erikur to start hitting on the maid, because ew
  • Got Malborn to let me in the back, and game on
  • Was not able to rob the place quite as blind as I’d hoped, because I found out that even with my Nightingale Armor on, and even with my maxed out Sneak, if I was standing in a bad place I was still at risk of the guards noticing me
  • I did however make it past all the Thalmor guards without having to kill any of them before the dungeon—though it was chancy!
  • Did however kill the hostiles down in the dungeon, because I had to do that in order to make sure Malborn and Etienne could get out alive
  • Got out with Malborn and Etienne (and the Stone of Barenziah), and then returned to Riverwood to check in with Delphine
  • Delphine went ! about Esbern being alive, and advised me to head to Riften to find him
  • For now though I headed back to Whiterun for a loot-selling run, and to start redistributing the stuff I made it out of the embassy with
  • EDITING TO ADD: And oh yeah I also forgot, I got the quest from Kharjo the Khajiit to get his Moon Amulet back, and Lydia and I ran the Redoran’s Rest bandit lair to do that, before I went and did the Embassy

The Pursuit quest

First item of business for this session was finishing up the quest for breaking into Mercer Frey’s house. And now that I had Volsung, I used it to dive down into the lake and break into the strongbox that had the Quill of Gemination.

This was a little trickier than I expected, for a couple of reasons. I initially showed up after dark, and realized that that was not a good time to go diving underwater if I actually wanted to be able to see anything at all. So I wound up surfacing and waiting on one of the small lake islands until the sun came back up, and gave me enough light to see by underwater to try again.

The second challenge was that I kept shifting position with the movement of the water. That made it difficult to keep a consistent bead on the strongbox long enough to trigger the lockpicking UI. I wound up having to position myself in such a way that I’m pretty sure I was bracing off the part of the boat sticking up from the bottom. Once I did that, I was stable enough that I could break into the strongbox.

Quill retrieved, I then surfaced and headed back into Riften. At this point, the day was just getting started—but I saw the guards chasing after a thief, in broad daylight. I think Merawen is not unsympathetic to any thieves that actually manage to rouse the guards, but on the other hand, it kind of offends her professional pride when she sees some poor burglar piss off nearly a dozen guards in broad daylight. Geez, you guys, work on your stealth skills, won’t you?

Caught up with Maven and gave her the Quill, anyway, so she gave me a document absolving Vald of his debt. But made it clear she also wanted his ass out of Riften.

This made my next item of business actually finding Vald so I could get into Frey’s house. And that required me to swing over almost to the gates of the city, then veer off to a path on the right that led back around the line of houses. That path gave me access to the backyard gate behind Riftweald Manor, where I could see Vald on guard.

I wound up actually turning him hostile by accident when I tried to talk to him when he wasn’t in the right spot—so the game interpreted that as an attempt to unlock the gate, which made Vald start attacking me. Oops.

So I rolled back, which meant I had to do the entry into Riften over. The guards still did the “pursue a thief” random encounter, and I had to track Maven down again as she was entering the market and give her the Quill.

Second time through though, I was able to initiate conversation with Vald peacefully. He accepted the clearance of his debt quite happily, and buggered off for parts unknown, giving me the key to the house as he went.

So that gave me free rein to basically break into the house. I took the route of finding the ramp mechanism, and shooting it with an arrow to lower it so that I could get up to access the second floor. From there, I was able to get in without the guards inside being the wiser.

And seriously, the second floor guard? Stood there talking to the wall the entire time I was sneaking past him. For fuck’s sake, Frey, you’re the friggin’ Guild Master and you hire this class of clueless thug? You’re not only a murderous lying bastard, you’re also a fucking cheapskate. Figures. 😆

(That said, I was also amused by one of the random lines the idling guard threw off muttering to himself: “Mead, mead, mead. Kill him to get some beer every now and then? Stupid bees and their stupid honey…” Clearly not a fan of mead!)

Anyway, went lalalala right past the second floor guard, while also nabbing every loose thing I could find. Same for the first floor, where I finally made it to a Suspicious Cabinet. GEE I WONDER WHAT THIS MIGHT BE!

Opened that up, and the false wall behind it, and that gave me access to tunnels underneath the house. Which led in turn down through a couple of swinging blade traps and a battering ram. Those, in turn, led to Mercer’s secret office where I was able to find a lot more interesting loot.

He had a bowl full of loose gems, a display case with a sword called Chillrend, a Bust of the Gray Fox, and, most importantly, a hand-drawn map that gave an indicator of his plans that I could take back to the Guild.

(Side note: I actually had to run Mercer’s house twice—because the first time through, I forgot to nab the Bust of the Gray Fox. Oops!)

When I got everything, I then found access down into the Ratway and was able to return to the Flagon and report to Brynjolf.

Trinity Restored quest

I learned at that point that Mercer was clearly planning one final heist before disappearing for good—and that Karliah wanted to speak to both of us, with the goal of getting us the edge necessary to actually stop Mercer. She asked us to meet her at Nightingale Hall, just south of Riften.

There, she finally came clean about being a Nightingale, and that the place she’d brought us was the secret Nightingale sanctuary. She, Gallus, and Mercer had all been Nightingales—and Mercer had violated his oath to Nocturnal by taking the Skeleton Key for himself, and defiling the temple.

Karliah proposed to make both Brynjolf and me Nightingales, to restore the Nightingale Trinity and give us the necessary edge to go up against Mercer. Brynjolf was dubious, saying outright that he wasn’t religious, but Karliah pointed out that this was less a religious thing and more of a business transaction with Nocturnal. She gives her Nightingales her support and gifts—and in exchange, Nightingales agree to protect her temple in both life and death.

Brynjolf and I agreed to this, and so Karliah called upon Nocturnal to seal the deal. Nocturnal accepted the terms, reinstating Karliah’s own Nightingale status as well as accepting Brynjolf and me.

And once we were accepted by Nocturnal, Brynjolf further informed me that he and Karliah had had a discussion about the leadership of the Guild—and that they thought I should be the next Guild Master, once the reputation of the Guild was restored in Skyrim.

What dialogue prompts I had available to me for this basically let me go “SAY WHAT NOW” and have Merawen very dubious about the entire concept. I think, in fact, she was possibly even more dubious about this than the college making her Arch-Mage!

But Brynjolf deflected my question about why he wasn’t going to make a play to be Guild Master himself; he swore up and down he had no desire to lead. So I agreed to this, and Brynjolf said he and Karliah would make the arrangements, once the Guild’s reputation was restored.

First, though, we had to deal with Frey. So we agreed to meet where we had to go to do this: Irkngthand.


After all that plot action, I took the time to do a little side activity.

First, I finally went back to Bleakwind Basin and took down one of the two giants there, to clear the pending bounty on the place.

And I went back into Whiterun to take care of selling some things, and working on my Smithing so I could bump it up over 80 and unlock Ebony Smithing, finally. This also let me finish kitting out Lydia in full Ebony Armor and this does look badass on her!

And I went up to the mage college to check in there, and pay for the five rounds of training I could get for the current level.

When I showed up at the college, though, I triggered a random dragon landing right in the courtyard—like they do. This was an Elder Dragon, but since I came in with a fully armored Lydia and there were multiple mages on site, we soon took the dragon out.

Which meant four different mages also got to see me slurp up the dragon’s soul. Yum!

I’m not sure which of them was the one who actually used the word “Dragonborn”, but this was certainly enough reason for them to clue in that hey, their new Arch-Mage? She has some additional shit going on they probably all need to know about.

Diplomatic Immunity quest

After that, the rest of the evening went back to the actual main game plot, which I wanted to move along now that I had the Nightingale armor. Which meant checking in with Delphine in Riverwood—and doing the Thalmor Embassy, finally!

I tried to prep for this a bit beforehand, dropping off stuff at Breezehome that I knew for sure I didn’t want to be burdened with while going through the embassy. But I didn’t plan quite as well as I should have, just because I neglected to bring clothes with me that I could wear while handing Malborn my armor!

So I had to briefly duck over to Radiant Raiment and buy an outfit, just so that I could give Malborn my armor and not have to be naked walking through Solitude.

Once I did the equipment handoff, I then went to rendezvous with Delphine, get my party clothes and the invitation, and head over on the carriage to the party.

This time through the party part of the plot, I had to punt to using the drunken Redguard Razelan as my distraction. Idgrod Ravencrone from Morthal was there, but I’m not thane of Morthal yet with this alt, so I didn’t have her as an option. Nor was Maven Black-Briar an option either.

Ondolemar was a Thalmor NPC present. He’s the guy you meet in Markarth for a quest that involves finding a Talos worshipper for the Thalmor—but by definition, that means, helping the Thalmor, and yeah fuck those guys. So he wasn’t an option for a distraction either.

The only other NPC of note present was Erikur from Solitude. But I already knew in advance that using him as a distraction means letting him make lecherous passes at one of the serving staff, and I wasn’t going to inflict that on the poor woman, because ew.

Which left me one other option for causing the distraction I needed to give Malborn the chance to get me into the kitchens: Razelan, the drunken Redguard. So I gave the guy a drink to get him on board Team Merawen, and then turned him loose on the gathering while I scampered off into the kitchen with Malborn.

Got all my stuff out of the chest. And then it was game on.

I came in hoping to rob the place blind, again on general fuck the Thalmor grounds. However, I was a little surprised to discover that even with my Nightingale armor on, and even in full maxed out Sneak mode, I still couldn’t let myself get cocky creeping through the place.

Because I still had to keep sharp tabs on where all the guards were. Because if I didn’t, I ran the risk of bumping right into them—and if I did that, even with a maxed out Sneak, I was fucked.

Ask me how I found this out!

So it still took me a few tries to make it through that part of the embassy safely. I still did grab a bunch of goblets and bowls, though, as well as a couple of potions I was able to nab without too much risk! And I nabbed the Thalmor gear lying around in the nearby empty room, on general principles.

Dara says I should totally have snuck up on the guards and pickpocketed them, lol. Thing is, my Pickpocket is not nearly as high as my Sneak. ;D Plus, I knew from when I ran this plot as Alarrah that the guards didn’t really have anything I wanted anyway!

Made it out to the next phase of the run, finally, and that too proved a little tricky. Because this was in broad daylight, which hampers Sneak as well. And I also couldn’t get either of my previous distraction tricks to work—shooting an arrow off into the distance, or using the Throw Voice Shout. Neither of these got the mage at the door of Elenwen’s Solar to budge.

Because apparently the Thalmor aren’t cheapskates enough to skimp on training their guards, apparently?

So I was not able to get past the mage at the door without him seeing me. The good news was, though, as soon as he moved, he lost track of me. So I was able to zip past him, get through the door, and not have him or the other guards external to the building come after me.

Which left me one more guard to get past, as well as the initial grab of documents out of Elenwen’s office. Cleared her chest of documents, as well as nabbing a few other random items while I was there.

Then, finally, I made it down into the dungeons. At that point, all bets were off and I needed to kill the hostiles to actually move forward—and also because the two NPCs down there were in fact torturing Etienne, so fuck ‘em, they’re going down.

Also remembered prior strategy discussion with Paul the first time I ran this plot, and that I needed to park myself at the top of the stairs again before reading the dossier on Esbern. Because that triggers the guards coming in with Malborn and threatening me—and if I’m already on the stairs, I can take them down at close range.

I didn’t pull the same spectacular stunt Alarrah did with decapitating one of those guys with Dawnbreaker, sadly! But it was still pretty awesome to see Malborn defending himself, even if he only had his fists to fight with.

Malborn and I zipped back down the stairs, and I got Etienne freed. Then we hightailed it out through the secret exit.

Got the Stone of Barenziah while I was down there, and got that troll killed before it could take out either Malborn or Etienne. And made it to the exit back out into the open air, where Malborn promptly threw his cranky line about “the Thalmor are going to be hunting me for the rest of my life, I hope this was worth it!”

Hold that thought, my dude, I’ll be back to Windhelm to help you out later. (Which I never did do as Alarrah, so I want to try to make a point of doing it as Merawen.)

Then, back to Riverwood, where Lydia caught up with me again. Informed Delphine of the discovery about Esbern, and she advised me to head off to Riften to find him in the Ratway!

Cue the thief going “wait, there’s an old guy in the Ratway? Can you get a little more specific? There are a lot of old guys down in the Ratway…”

Editing to add

Oops! Forgot something: when I was heading to the lake to get the Quill of Gemination for Maven, I found the Khajiit outside Riften. This is the bunch of Khajiit that has the warrior Kharjo with him, and so I got the quest from him to get his Moon Amulet back.

When I got Lydia kitted up with her ebony armor, she and I also hit Redoran’s Retreat near Whiterun, because that’s where the quest for Kharjo’s amulet sent me.

Redoran’s Retreat is not a big bandit lair, and it’s essentially a small mine, with a couple of iron ore veins in it. I’m pretty sure I ran it as Alarrah before?

It was amusing to see the bandit chief throwing off the same lines that the orc guard had done in Mercer Frey’s house, anyway, before I got the amulet back and hauled a bunch of loot back to Whiterun for selling. I’m pretty sure this was before I got Lyds the final ebony gauntlets, too—which I actually made for her once my Smithing was up over 80.

Next time

Paul has recommended to me that I don’t go after Mercer yet, and instead work on doing more side jobs for the Guild to get at least one city boosted with the reputation job. So I’m going to work at least for a little bit on that.

And I do have a pending Bedlam Job in Raven Rock. I don’t really want to back out of it, even though it’s in Raven Rock—because that’s another thing that’s a matter of professional pride, Merawen does not back out of jobs!

I’m not in a huge hurry to get the Dragonborn plot officially underway. Also, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass to boing back and forth between Solstheim and Skyrim, so I don’t want to do that any more than I have to.

If I can get an additional side quest in Solstheim, that’d make it more interesting to head over there now vs. later. So I will probably stop at the mage college first, get a round of training for level 42, and then also see if any of the mage NPCs can give me side quests that have locations in Solstheim. If they do, bonus.

Then I’ll head over to Raven Rock and see about that Bedlam Job. Likely target for that will be Severin Manor, because seriously, they have like six or seven mammoth tusks in their alchemy lab nook, and who needs that many mammoth tusks?

Once I do that, then I can boing back to Riften, get Delvin’s fee for the Bedlam job, and pick up another job from both him and Vex.

And since that’ll put me in the Ratway anyway, I could also follow up on finding Esbern. And killing some more Thalmor while I’m down there. Muahaha.

Meanwhile, I also need to report back to Fort Dawnguard and update Isran, which would move that plot along a little farther and I think also add Serana back as my active follower. It’d be interesting to see if she overrides Lydia following me. We’ll find out.


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.