Dawnguard,  Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Saves a Priest of Arkay and Returns to Solstheim

This session was predominantly about doing side quests for the Dawnguard—but with a side helping of getting the party started for the Dragonborn plotline as well. Because Merawen’s now visited Solstheim a second time, and she’s experienced firsthand some of the creepiness involved with what’s going on with the All-Maker Stones there. Muahaha.


  • Session number in this run: 40
  • Cleared Ruunvald; got Florentius freed and on the way back to Fort Dawnguard
  • Had no choice but to take out the Charmed Vigilants because they would have all died anyway once I killed Minorne; however, did not want to kill their huskies, avoided killing one, but another one found me and attacked me, so I had to take it out, sorry doggo!
  • Walked back to Riften since it wasn’t far
  • Not far from Riften stables, got another swarm of things to fight, including:
    1. Not one, not two, not three, but four bears
    2. One vampire, who was also fighting Florentius
    3. A dragon!
  • Made it through that fight, with Florentius still alive, and heading on his way to Fort Dawnguard
  • Sold a bunch of stuff in Riften and at the Thieves Guild
  • Talked to the Temple of Mara priest about marriage
  • Went to Whiterun to sell more stuff, but decided I wasn’t quite ready to marry Jenassa yet
  • Instead, boinged over to Lakeview for crafting:
    1. A bunch of potions
    2. Improved armor, including disease resistance on the Blades armor
    3. A bunch of jewelry
  • Sold a bunch of things at Honningbrew
  • Went to mage college for training
  • Tried to go to Windhelm to sell more things and adopt Sofie, but landed at wrong time of day; went ahead and fast traveled to Solstheim to do Damphall Mine
  • Rented a room at the Retching Netch
  • Deliberately slept at the inn because I knew it’d make me be teleported to one of the Stones! 😆
  • Rieklings were at the Beast Stone, doing their version of the creepy chanting
  • Headed almost due west from the Beast Stone to get to the mine
  • Discovered on the way:
    1. Kagrumez
    2. Abandoned Lodge
  • Found Damphall Mine; suited up with the Nightingale Armor to sneak in
  • Killed some of the reavers but successfully evaded the last few, including the boss
  • Got the treasure chest cleared, including the new schematic
  • Found Bloodskal Barrow on the way south from the mine
  • Made it back into Raven Rock after hours, which meant I saw at least one town resident heading towards the Earth Stone and being creepy about “the Master calls”, yikes
  • Fast traveled back to Windhelm, but got back there in the middle of the night still
  • Went back to Fort Dawnguard to check in on finished plots
  • Got Gunmar’s Hide and Seek plot resolved, and also Sorine’s Ancient Technology plot
  • Discovered I needed corundum to make the new crossbow
  • Boinged back to Lakeview to get some, and also ingredients to make salts at the Atronach Forge
  • Boinged back to mage college; made a bunch of fire salts and frost salts since I had some salt piles, rubies, sapphires, and soul gems to spare
  • Went back to Fort Dawnguard to make the enhanced crossbow and also the exploding steel bolts \0/
  • Saved there for the night

Bolstering the Ranks quest

This quest line is the one to go rescue Florentius from Ruunvald, and I enjoyed running this one again—just because the whole story of the Ruunvald excavation has some nice creepiness to it.

With Merawen, it played out pretty much like it had with my Alarrah run. So all I’ll say here is that I am still a little sad that the game does not give you an opportunity to actually free the Vigilants of Stendarr who’ve been charmed by the witch Minorne. Even if you take her out, any Vigilants still alive in the dungeon will keel over dead.

So there’s no real incentive to not kill them. And since the headquarters of the Vigilants gets destroyed as part of the whole Dawnguard plotline, off-camera even, you don’t even have the opportunity to report back to the order what happened to their people.

What sense of victory you can get out of this plot, then, lies entirely with knowing that you’ve taken out a sorceress who’s capable of charming an entire excavation’s worth of people to her own ends and getting them to worship her. Which is not insignificant!

I’m just sayin’, it’d feel more meaningful if I could have actually rescued the poor folks. Particularly given that other quests, even within the Dawnguard plotline, specifically require you to rescue someone enthralled by vampires—i.e., Dexion the Moth Priest. So the game clearly has the concept of being able to rescue bespelled people.

In this case, though, it’s a whole excavation full of people, not just one. And I can maybe see how the developers got there. If you have to think about rescuing the Vigilants in this plot, what does this mean in terms of game mechanics? If you take out Minorne before killing all the Vigilants, what do the remaining Vigilants do? Would Minorne’s hold on them be broken by her death, or would they still be hostile? If they’re not hostile, what interactions would they then have to have with the Dragonborn?

It would have made planning the plot more complex, so I can see maybe why they went the route of “okay, the nature of her hold on them is such that they die when she does, problem solved”.

As it happened, I did at least make a point of trying to avoid killing the Vigilants’ dogs, too, since they had huskies with them down in the excavation. If I couldn’t avoid killing the Vigilants, I figured at least I’d try to avoid killing their doggos! Because it’s not the dogs’ fault that their masters got enchanted by an evil sorceress, and they don’t understand why this stranger is coming into their space and having to fight with their people.

I successfully avoided killing one of the huskies, but not the second one I ran into—since that one did in fact find me and attack. So that was self-defense, but still. Sorry, doggo!

All that said, the whole point of this plot was to rescue Florentius, and that was at least safely accomplished. Got him freed and on his way to Fort Dawnguard, to check in with Isran and see what he could do to help out.

And, since Riften wasn’t far away from Ruunvald, I elected to just walk to Riften myself. Which meant I was headed more or less in the same direction as Florentius, which was a damn good thing because he was present when I ran into a mass attack situation that included:

  • No fewer than four bears
  • A random vampire
  • A dragon

Yikes. I heard the dragon first, but before I had a chance to really engage it, two bears at the same time came up and started attacking me. And I saw the vampire fighting with Florentius.

At the same time, the dragon went at it with a couple more bears.

So I had to fight my way through all of that, which was exciting. Fortunately Florentius didn’t get killed. He was apparently still a protected NPC? He went into that “low hit points” state where he kneeled down and had to recuperate, and then eventually got up again and went on his way.

Fortunately, by then, nothing else was still around to attack him so he was actually able to continue on his way.

Interlude: Possible marriage, definite crafting and training

At this point, given that I’m carrying an Amulet of Mara around, I thought I’d pop into the Temple of Mara and have the opening conversation with the priest in there about how to marry somebody.

And Jenassa is my current frontrunner for who I’d like to marry! But I decided I wasn’t quite prepared to do that yet, given that the game’s marriage ritual does involve spending a bit more time in Riften.

Here’s the awkward thing about that: to marry Jenassa, I’ll need to get her to come to Riften with me. What’s awkward about that?

Because I have a limited number of places I can comfortably sleep.

  1. The Bee and Barb is problematic, because Keerava is now hostile to me, thanks to my having had to bully her into paying her debt to the Guild. I’m pretty sure she’d still rent me a room, but having the innkeeper be hostile to me isn’t exactly the kind of welcoming picture you want to paint to a potential spouse!
  2. Taking Jenassa down into the Thieves Guild Cistern probably isn’t a good idea either. I already know I can take other NPCs down there—Serana came down there with me—but for the security of the Guild, it’s probably not a good idea to bring non-Guild people into their HQ. And as Guild Master, I would actually have to think about that.
  3. Likewise, taking NPCs into Nightingale Hall seems problematic. I don’t think Karliah would give me shit about it, but just from a purely in-character perspective, I feel like Merawen would feel real reluctant to take non-Nightingales into the hall. The Nightingales are, after all, supposed to be secret.

(And okay yeah the idea of keeping the Nightingales secret is kind of hilarious given that I’ve been running hither and yon in my Nightingale Armor. But wearing the armor around is not the same thing as actually bringing a person into the Nightingales’ own hall. I don’t have to actually explain the armor to anybody. I can’t see that I wouldn’t have to explain the hall itself, though! Particularly to a potential spouse!)

So it seems like my only real option here is to see if Keerava is still cranky at me, and see about renting a room.

As I write this I find, in experimenting with the game, that Keerava’s still willing to rent me a room. So okay then, that’ll work!

However, as of the session this post is about, I didn’t quite want to go through the steps of finding Jenassa, initiating the right exchange to propose to her, and getting her to come to Riften with me. That’s a good chunk of a session right there, and I wanted to spend more time on going to Solstheim.

So before dealing with marrying Jenassa, I focused instead on doing some crafting at Lakeview. I made a bunch of potions and did a lot of armor improvement, including dropping a Resist Disease enchantment on the Blades armor. Because I pick up diseases a lot with this character—I get Bone Break Fever or other things, either from beasts I fight or from traps. And now of course the vampires are in play and I’m at risk of Sanguinare Vampiris.

Now I have a 61% Resist Disease enchantment on the armor, and I’ve also got a necklace that bumps Resist Disease by another 40%. So both of those together means I can fight vamps a lot more safely!

And since my Dawnguard Light Armor seems like it’s getting almost competitive with the dragonscale in terms of rating, I may need to drop similar enchantments on the Dawnguard pieces too.

After taking care of all the crafting, I sold stuff at Honningbrew. And then boinged off to the mage college for training!

For once, I didn’t get a dragon when landing at the college, either. Nice refreshing change of pace.

Ancient Technology quest, round two

Then it was time to head over to Solstheim, to see about getting to Damphall Mine and finding Sorine’s second requested schematic.

I decided to try to actually board the ship in Windhelm as opposed to fast traveling, just to give myself the opportunity to look for Sofie in Windhelm and adopt her. But as it turned out, when I landed in Windhelm via fast travel, it was the middle of the night. So Sofie wasn’t near the gate, and I didn’t want to wander around trying to find her.

So I went ahead and fast traveled over to Solstheim. When I got there, I rented a room at the Retching Netch, and let the innkeeper tell me the story of the place’s name; I knew it already, of course, but I figured Merawen would ask! Plus, dude’s a Dunmer, and even if she doesn’t really want to be on Solstheim at all, she’d feel at least a little more relaxed around her own people.

And I rented a room. Knowing, of course, what would happen as soon as I tried to sleep! I.e., I’d be teleported to one of the All-Maker Stones. I figured I could use this as my narrative excuse to clue Merawen in on strange shit going down on Solstheim, whee!

Plus, since the game doesn’t exactly allow for asking NPCs for directions to landmarks, I was entertained by the idea of Merawen suddenly being elsewhere on Solstheim and having to find her way around. Muahaha.

As it turned out, I got dropped at the Beast Stone, which is not far away from Thirsk Mead Hall, where the riekling tribe took over. And a few of the rieklings were working on the Stone, doing their own creepy version of the Miraak chanting.

Merawen got the hell out of there as soon as she could. This was uncomfortably close to Miraak’s temple, too. But conveniently enough, my actual destination of Damphall Mine was more or less roughly due west of the Beast Stone. So I headed in that direction. I think I could maybe assume Merawen used the distant peak of the Red Mountain as a landmark? That would definitely have pegged “south” for her.

I found a couple of landmarks I’d seen before as Alarrah on the way: Kagrumez, the Dwemer ruin that has the arena in it, and the Abandoned Lodge, which will be important later for the “rescue the blacksmith from the Thalmor” plot.

And I made it to the mine well enough. Once I got there, it was basically a bandit lair run, with the added wrinkle of a significantly flooded area I had to dive into to check out. (And that’s what I’ve got Volsung for!)

I killed some of the bandits—er, uh, reavers, they’re reavers on Solstheim, right—but not all of them. The farther I got in, the more I decided it would be more amusing just to see how many of these guys I could sneak past. Answer: at least three, including the boss! Got in a little Throw Voice Shout action, too.

Cleared the boss chest after I snuck around the boss, and got all the items out of it, including the schematic for Sorine. And I got out of the place by sneaking past the bandits again, and triggering a trapdoor to GTFO. That must have startled them, as the trapdoor suddenly opened for no apparent reason, lololol.

Hoofed it south to Raven Rock from there, passing Bloodskal Barrow on the way, as well as the Earth Stone near the town. And since I came in in the middle of the night, I also saw at least one of the townsfolk (the alchemist, I think?), stopping to creepily intone “The Master calls” at me. Yikes.

So now Merawen definitely has firsthand reason to know that there is some strange, spooky shit going down on Solstheim, which made her all the more determined to get back to Skyrim as quickly as she could. Too bad for my girl, she is going to have to go back there eventually. And sooner than she’ll like. 😆

For now though I returned to Windhelm—and got back there again in the middle of the night, so not good “finding Sofie so I could adopt her” timing.

Fort Dawnguard followup

Instead, I went right back to Fort Dawnguard to check in with Sorine and Gunmar both, since I needed to resolve Gunmar’s Hide and Seek plot as well as the Ancient Technology one. Got both of those settled.

Also confirmed that Florentius was safely on hand, and got him to sell me the spellbooks for Stendarr’s Aura and Vampire’s Bane.

I also got Sorine to teach me how to make the shiny new exploding crossbow bolts. But I discovered that I needed corundum to upgrade my current crossbow to an enhanced one! And I needed fire salts to make the bolts.

So I boinged back to Lakeview yet again to pick up materials. I got enough corundum to play with, and grabbed a bunch of salt piles out of various containers as well as rubies and sapphires. (Since, thanks to Prowler’s Profit, I have dozens of gems to spare, woo!) And I’m also swimming in soul gems.

Which means I was able to boing back to the mage college and use the Atronach Forge to make myself a whole bunch of fire and frost salts.

Once I had that done, I boinged right back to Fort Dawnguard. Got the crossbow properly upgraded, and made myself sixty exploding bolts. Then I saved for the night!

Next time

I don’t think I’m quite ready yet to go rendezvous with Serana to move the main Dawnguard plot further along. Partly because I think I do want to go ahead and marry Jenassa and get Sofie adopted! And possibly also the little girl from the Riften orphanage, too.

Headcanon-wise, I feel like Merawen would probably have a long talk with Jenassa, first of all to doublecheck with her if she’s actually interested. Sure, Maramal at the Temple of Mara goes into detail about how marriage happens in Skyrim, but Merawen and Jenassa are both Dunmer.

You could argue that since they’re Dunmer living in Skyrim, they also would be holding to Skyrim’s marriage customs. But specifically because they’re both Dunmer living in Skyrim, I feel like it’d also be appropriate for Merawen to specifically doublecheck where Jenassa is about this. Because she wouldn’t know how much credence Jenassa places in the Nord’s customs, or if she’s even aware of how the Amulet of Mara thing is supposed to work, or what.

Which is a lot of subtext to pack into the game mechanism of “hey, I’m wearing an Amulet of Mara! Wanna get married?” But it seems in-character for that subtext to be there, so!

All of which is a long-winded way of saying, yeah, first action in the next session will be getting married to Jenassa! And since that’ll have to be in Riften anyway, I think I’ll also pop into the orphanage and adopt a kid.

And for good measure I’ll need to arrange another trip to Windhelm specifically to track down Sofie. I don’t have a plot-relevant reason to pop back over there quite yet, but at this point I could easily just go there with the express purpose of finding the kid. Merawen’s seen her enough times now that she kinda feels for the poor kid.

Once I get all that done and get everybody settled in Solitude, it’ll be a question of what to do after that.

There are still side quests to do in Dawnguard. I can do a total of six Ancient Technology quests for Sorine, and I’ve done two of those now. There are also three other types of quests that Gunmar can give, one of which I’ve had now. And Florentius has a couple I could trigger, too.

So I’m going to try for a few more of those before returning to the main Dawnguard plot. That’ll give me an opportunity to try out the shiny new exploding crossbolts, as well as the shiny new spells. 😀


Editing to add

  • 11/16/2023: 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.