Dawnguard,  Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Saves a Moth Priest, Hunts a Disguised Vampire, and Gathers Jazbay Grapes

I’m well and thoroughly into the Dawnguard content at this point, with a lot more mileage to that entire plotline than I got with Alarrah. Because this time through, I’m trying out more of the Dawnguard side plots, too!

So while I moved the main Dawnguard plot along some in this session, I spent most of the rest of it on side quests.


  • Session number in this run: 39
  • Picked up where I left off at Forebear’s Holdout
  • Switched off to the dragonscale armor for better armor rating
  • I was sneaking, so initial two death hounds completely missed me, only to be taken out by Serana–who then promptly raised one of them
  • No real challenge in the Holdout, so got Dexion the Moth Priest rescued quickly
  • Got back outside and fast traveled to Fort Dawnguard
  • Resolved the Jarl’s Justice quest with Isran, who gave me Leather Armor of Destruction
  • Then spoke with both him and Dexion to get the priest to read the Elder Scroll and tell us we needed to find the other two, before Isran took him away to rest
  • Spoke to Serana to trigger the next quest to find her mother, and get a lead on the Blood Scroll since i already have the Dragon one (which I still think I should be able to, y’know, mention as highly relevant to the others)
  • Told Serana I’d meet her at the dock so that I could have the chance to do some side questing
  • Went to go talk to Sorine, who out of the gate asked me to go get Florentius, and asked me to ask Isran where to find him
  • Told her I got her schematic for her; she gave me an enchanted necklace, also showed me how to make the new crossbow type
  • Asked her if I could do anything to help, and she re-triggered the Ancient Technology quest so I could go get another schematic
  • New schematic was at Damphall Mine–on Solstheim! Looks like I have another reason to go back there now, and hey, this is a place I hadn’t found on Solstheim before
  • Then talked to Gunmar and got Dawnguard armor from him–a mix of pieces, so I bought the remaining ones so I’d have a full set each of Light and Heavy
  • Also asked him if I could do anything to help, and he warned me about a vampire masquerading as an ordinary citizen that I’d need to take out on the sly; a “traveling bard” who was hanging out in Falkreath
  • Got Isran to point me at Ruunvald to find Florentius
  • Boinged back to Lakeview for armor improvement work
  • Made a bunch of potions; improved all the Dawnguard armor and other pieces as well, and made additional armor, including Daedric for Lydia
  • Boinged to Honningbrew and Whiterun to sell stuff; left the Daedric armor in my Breezehome chest to follow up on next time I want Lyds as a follower
  • Boinged to Falkreath to take out the vampire bard–which took two tries because the damn game locked up on me!
  • Attempt number one: lured him out of Falkreath proper and far enough away that I could get him in sneak mode while invisible, without either him or the guards seeing me
  • Tried to move on from that, and discovered Falkreath Watchtower, but then the damn game locked up
  • This threw me back to Falkreath with a still-living bard, so I had to lure him outside Falkreath, and then pick a fight with him to get him to attack me
  • This dropped a 40 gold bounty on me in Whiterun, oddly enough, because I was in Falkreath, I thought? Little fuzzy on where exactly the boundary between Falkreath Hold and Whiterun Hold lies
  • I still got a murder listed in my crime stats, but got a bounty only for the assault, because my taking out the vampire wasn’t witnessed by anyone
  • Bopped over to the Western Watchtower to see if I could get the bounty paid off–and immediately triggered another random vampire attack, three of them ganged up on me
  • Guards caught me just after I put down the vamps, and I sheathed my weapon to surrender; I went along quietly and paid my bounty, and was then free to go
  • NPCs noticed I looked ill on my way through the market, coming down from Dragonsreach; yep, vamps gave me Sanguinare Vampiris, so I blew through another Cure Disease potion
  • Fast traveled to Steamcrag Camp to look for Jazbay grapes
  • Discovered Riverside Shack locale, and killed cave bear there
  • Eluded multiple giants and mammoths until I found 20 Jazbay grapes
  • Headed towards Ruunvald (or so I thought)
  • Discovered Darkwater Crossing; would have explored the place to see if I could trigger the quest to rescue the lost Argonian, but there were Stormcloak Soldiers patrolling there, and they made warning noises at me when I got too close, so off to Ruunvald it was
  • Discovered Darkwater Pass, where that trapped Argonian would be, but I’ll rescue him later
  • Discovered I had the wrong quest marker active, oops; no wonder I was going the wrong damn way
  • Decided to proceed to go see Avrusa anyway; gave her her Jazbay grapes and she gave me multiple potions by way of thanks
  • Discovered Snapleg Cave on the way to her farm, and Boulderfall Cave afterwards
  • Killed multiple bears and also frostbite spiders; leveled up to 57
  • Passed Balbus again on the way past Shor’s Stone, heading for Ruunvald
  • Spotted a Companion, I think, with a slain sabre cat nearby
  • Made it to Ruunvald and saved for the night

Finishing the Prophet quest

This went really quickly, a bit more quickly than I anticipated, really. But going back and looking at my post about Alarrah doing this quest, I don’t see that it was any less quick for her. Basically played out the same way—a couple of minor enemies to fight through, before getting to the vampire who was enthralling Dexion Evicus, the Moth Priest. And having to briefly fight Dexion even after taking out the vampire, because he had successfully enthralled Dexion, and that held even after I killed him.

I did, at any rate, successfully rescue Dexion and get him back to Fort Dawnguard. Before I had him do that, I resolved the Jarl’s Justice quest with Isran, just to clear that off my journal. He gave me a Leather Armor of Destruction.

Then Dexion read the Elder Scroll Serana had. As with Alarrah, he then announced we also needed the Blood Scroll and the Dragon Scroll.

And, as before, since I was standing right there with the Dragon Scroll, I feel like I should have been able to go “about that”—and present the Scroll.

But given that the Dawnguard plotline has Dexion unable to read any further Scrolls at this point, because reading the one strikes him blind, I suppose they chose to withhold that plot point until the player and Serana have both Scrolls in their possession. It saves an extra decision tree and maybe a few extra lines they would have had to have Dexion’s voice actor record.

As with Alarrah’s playthrough, as Isran took Dexion off to rest, Serana then approached me to discuss the possibility of looking for her mother to see if Valerica has the Blood Scroll. This time through I took it as far as agreeing to check Castle Volkihar with her and sneak in the back way, but I also told her I’d meet her there because I had other things I needed to do first.

Namely, additional side questing for the Dawnguard.

Checking in with Sorine

The conversation with Sorine was a little disjointed, just because as soon as I came up to her, she initiated the Bolstering the Ranks quest that requires me to go find Florentius. Only when I agreed to do that (happily, because I liked running Ruunvald as Alarrah) was I able to proceed with telling her that I had the schematic she wanted.

And that did play a little oddly, because she then was all “oh good you’re back and in one piece”—which I think she might have said before asking me about fetching Florentius, but hey!

She gave me a necklace with a Resist Shock enchantment on it, and also taught me how to make the new type of crossbow.

Then I asked her if I could do anything to help, and she re-activated the Ancient Technology quest, to send me off to find another schematic. The location for this one turned out to be Damphall Mine—which is on Solstheim!

So looks like I do have another reason to actually set foot on Solstheim again.

Hide and Seek quest

Gunmar was nearby at the forge, so I checked in with him as well, and got him to give me the initial pieces of Dawnguard armor—mixed Heavy and Light, like he’d done when I did Alarrah’s playthrough. (Note though that this time, I’m actually getting the armor from him before finishing the Dawnguard plot!)

But I also went ahead and bought all the remaining types of Dawnguard armor from him, just to get a full set of both Heavy and Light, and to experiment with which type I liked better.

Also asked him if I could do anything to help, and he pointed me at word he’d gotten of a vampire trying to masquerade as an ordinary citizen. He urged me to look into that, and by “look into” he meant “go kill the vampire, but discreetly, because otherwise the Hold guards would totally arrest me”. I agreed to do this.

But before I did it, I got Isran to point me at where Florentius was, despite his just not liking the guy. To Isran’s credit, even though he is an asshole, he’s at least an asshole willing to listen to the arguments of the people he specifically did want to recruit to the ranks. Because when I told him Sorine thought we needed Florentius, he was willing to accept that.

Then I blipped off to Lakeview, Honningbrew, and Whiterun in that order, to improve the Dawnguard armor, make a bunch of potions and some extra armor pieces as well (including Daedric armor I’ll be giving to Lydia later), and then sell a bunch of stuff.

Finally, I went off in search of that vampire pretending to be a bard.

He was hanging out in Falkreath. And this time, unlike with the Jarl’s Justice quest, I didn’t have the option of warning the Jarl and getting official sanction to take the vampire out. I just had to do it discreetly, without getting caught and arrested.

Frustratingly, I wound up having to do this twice because after the first time, the damn game crashed. When I came back from that, I’d been thrown back to before I killed the vampire.

Both times, I basically had to persuade the guy to follow me out of Falkreath proper so that I could get him out of witnessing range of the guards. With the Amulet of Articulation from the Thieves Guild, this wasn’t difficult. It was difficult, however, to keep him actually following me. If I got too far ahead of him, he would turn around and start walking back.

Eventually though I did manage to successfully kill him, without the guards seeing me. The frustrating part of this though was that there was no way I could do this without it counting as a murder in my crime stats. And that’s because the vampire isn’t initially hostile to you. I had to specifically attack him first to get him to fight me, because I’m too high-level at this point. He’s an NPC that levels to match the player, up to a point—which meant he was too high-level for me to hit him with a Frenzy spell and get him attacking the guards. Or me.

Doing that also got me a bounty of 40 gold in Whiterun, oddly enough. Which was weird given that I killed this guy just outside Falkreath.

So before I did anything else, I decided I’d better clear that bounty. I boinged over to the Western Watchtower to see if I could get the guards there to try to arrest me.

Answer: yes, but only after I fought and killed three more random vampires. Yikes.

Only then did the guards at the watchtower start shooting at me. I immediately sheathed my bow and let one of them run up to confront me. At this point I could have tried to bribe him because I’m a member of the Guild, or invoked my position as thane to get him to back off. I opted to do neither and just go ahead and let him take me into custody and pay the bounty.

I probably should have just bribed the guy—because I have certainly bribed my way out of many a problem with this character—but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the vampire kill being counted as a murder in my stats. So I think this played out in my head as Merawen trying to be as low profile as possible, and just accepting paying the (small, admittedly) bounty. It ain’t like she couldn’t spare 40 gold. And that was cheaper than the bribe I had in my dialogue prompt, which would have been over 600 gold.

That done, I was moved up to Dragonsreach and then free to go. As I walked down through the market, one of the market NPCs told me I looked ill. Checked my Active Effects, and yep, the damn vampires had given me Sanguinare Vampiris. So I had to burn through another potion of Cure Disease, on top of everything else.

Hunting for Jazbay grapes

After that not entirely satisfactory little adventure, I decided to go fuck off for a while and hunt for Jazbay grapes for Avrusa’s side quest. This required me to fast travel into the tundra area in Eastmarch, since there were a lot of them growing wild there.

I used Steamcrag Camp, the giant camp, as my fast travel marker. And wandered around pretty much at random from there, until I found 19 more Jazbay vines (since I’d already bought one sample from Arcadia before).

While I was doing that, I spotted and eluded multiple giants and mammoths, as well as the dragon flying around overhead. And I don’t know if it’s because of these multiple large creatures in the vicinity or what, but I noticed the game’s play getting janky at times—these periodic little hitches where my normal movement flow would just lag for a few moments, then start working properly again. I’ve noticed this semi-regularly in Merawen’s playthrough, rather more than I had with Alarrah’s, and I don’t know what the difference here is.

It seems specifically more obvious in this particular area of the map, though. Where there are several very large creatures in play.

The wandering around also let me discover a few locations that weren’t on my map before:

  • Riverside Shack, a ruined house inhabited by a cranky cave bear, who had presumably killed the prior inhabitants of the place
  • Darkwater Crossing, where I tried to stop and say hi to the locals, but I got too close to some Stormcloak Soldiers who made very cranky “move along” noises at me, and I didn’t feel like fighting them, so I moved along
  • Darkwater Pass, where I know the Argonian from Darkwater Crossing is supposed to be trapped, which I haven’t dealt with yet in this game; I may come back to this later

It was at this point that I discovered I had the wrong damn quest marker active—I thought I was heading to Ruunvald, but I wasn’t, I was headed south towards Avrusa’s farm. I decided to go ahead with this just to clear that quest out.

Went to her place on foot, just to see if I could get in enough random creature kills to make it to level 57, and I did. Made it safely to her farm (where I discovered one of the previously killed dragons as well as the slain Imperials were still lying around the place), and handed the Jazbay grapes off to her. She was very happy to receive them, and told me to come back and visit again.

(Interestingly, at this point Avrusa should now be available to me as a potential spouse! And she is a Dunmer. Thinking about if I want to marry her, or Jenassa!)

Discovered a couple other locations I did not engage with, Snapleg Cave (which I think I remember from Alarrah’s run, this may have been where I killed Gunmar’s bear in that game?) and Boulderfall Cave (which I did not remember at all, I don’t think I found this place before).

Once I got within range of Shor’s Stone I ran across Balbus a second time, and also spotted a Companion walking nearby who may have been the one to kill a nearby sabre cat.

Then I finally made it to Ruunvald, and saved for the night.

Next time

Ruunvald, definitely!

We’ll see if I can make it through the whole Ruunvald dungeon in one session, and how much time I have left over to get Florentius safely back to Fort Dawnguard and into a position of being able to give me his side quests, as well as sell me stuff. In particular, he’s got the Stendarr’s Aura and Vampire’s Bane spells I want to try out. (Though not with Serana around, I don’t want to damage her!)

After that, now that I’ve leveled up to 57, I’ll need to get in a round of training. I’ll probably boing back to the College of Winterhold for that, given that I still need to work on the various schools of magic. All five of the schools are over 50 for me now, and a few of them are up in the 60’s. I’d like to keep that moving!

(In general, Merawen’s skill trees all seem better balanced than Alarrah’s were. I’m getting progress across the board in more things than Alarrah did, as opposed to having spikes only in certain areas. When I get to level 62 it may be interesting to compare where all her skill trees are vs. where Alarrah’s got to when I stood her down.)

I will probably also need some inventory management at this point. And a stop in Riften to do that, as well as checking in at the Temple of Mara to see if I can get into the mode of finding somebody to marry! I do think Merawen’s going to propose to Jenassa. ❤️

And I think I’ll probably send her to Proudspire, just because that’ll let Jordis not have to be in that house all by herself. Plus, Proudspire is my best option for placing kids, right now.

After that, Solstheim will be my next destination so I can do Sorine’s quest. And if I go to Windhelm first, rather than fast traveling straight there, then this would let me find and adopt Sofie the flower girl.

Narratively speaking, I think Merawen’s at the point where the combined weight of threats from Alduin and the vampires are making her think, okay, gather the ones I care about the most and put them somewhere safe. This is similar to where Alarrah was just prior to marrying Lydia and adopting Lucia!

(I will probably adopt two kids this time. Not sure who the second kid will be yet, I might go do one of the kids from the Riften orphanage though.)


Editing to add

  • 11/15/2023: Fixed missing gallery, and added a session number.

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.