Dawnguard,  Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Quests All Over Skyrim for the Dawnguard

This session was all about the side quests for the Dawnguard, with a mix of quests from Sorine, Gunmar, and Florentius. Kidnap victims were rescued! Vampires were plammoed with crossbow bolts! Lost Dawnguard relics were acquired!

And through it all, Merawen boinged back and forth to several points between Markarth and Riften, all over the map. Most of the locales I hit in this session were places I’d been to before, either as Alarrah or as Merawen. But a couple of them were brand new to me, and that was fun!


  • Session number in this run: 42
  • Went from Fort Dawnguard to Whiterun to Windhelm, selling things and also experimenting with subtitles, and to see if I could repro the weird voice I’d heard in Windhelm; even jumped briefly to Solstheim to try it there too; couldn’t get it to happen again, so I resumed Dawnguard business
  • Ran Gunmar’s Preemptive Strike quest, which took me back to Fellglow Keep, which included surprise Dragon Dropping Enemy Mage Out of the Sky action!
  • Round four of Ancient Technology quest at Bilegulch Mine, featuring evading lots of Forsworn at nearby Lost Valley Redoubt, as well as orcs at the mine
  • Round five of Ancient Technology quest at White River Watch; picked up Lydia from Whiterun for this, just because I knew I’d also be going to Sunderstone Gorge
  • Also picked up Dawnbreaker for important Making Vampires Explode purposes; took the time to improve it up to Legendary
  • Recue quest at Sunderstone Gorge; rescued Lucan, the trader who has the shop in Riverwood
  • Decided to keep Lyds with me a while; returned to fort Dawnguard to check in with Sorine and Florentius, but had to do it twice due to the game crashing when I tried to improve the Dwarven crossbow the new schematic described
  • Got the first Lost Relic quest from Florentius to get the Dawnguard Rune Hammer at Redoran’s Retreat, and Sorine’s final schematic at Fort Fellhammer
  • Fast traveled to Fort Fellhammer, and took out frost dragon with Dragonbane when the dragon landed right besides me; took out bandits and bandit chief, and cleared boss chest to get the new schematic
  • Fast traveled to Redoran’s Retreat next, and got vampires; cleared the hideout and acquired the Dawnguard Rune Hammer
  • Quaffed Solution of Strength to get to Whiterun; got a courier, with another letter from Calcelmo who wanted one of the Exploding Dwarven Bolts of Fire I’d just bought from Sorine; sold some things to Warmaiden’s to beat down the inventory, then reported back to Fort Dawnguard
  • Gave Sorine the final schematic, and built an Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow \0/
  • Checked in with Florentius to tell him I’d gotten the hammer, and he told me another friend had been kidnapped by vampires, this time Jorn from the bard college in Solitude, who’d been taken to the Wreck of the Winter War northeast of Windhelm
  • First try at the Wreck of the Winter War, I encountered a Nightlord Vampire fighting two Vigilants of Stendarr; may have accidentally killed one of the Vigilants? Retconned though, because I was killed at the wreck by the Master Vampire and Bandit Chief there
  • Second try at the Wreck of the Winter War, spotted a frost troll killing an Imperial Courier; I killed the troll
  • Rescue at the wreck was successful, and I freed Jorn so he could return to Solitude
  • Got Lost Relic quest for the Dawnguard Rune Shield from Florentius, with Harmugstahl as the destination
  • Landed in Markarth and sold things to Lisbet, but changed my mind about visiting Calcelmo at that point, and fast traveled to Harmugstahl instead
  • Found a hagraven and took feathers
  • Went inside the tower, had scripted encounter with adventurer who warned me of magical spiders before he noped out of there
  • Solved a spike puzzle with four levels to flip
  • Cleared the lair, just one sorcerer as the main enemy but also several spiders
  • Sorcerer was Kornalus Frey, apparently no relation to Mercer, lol
  • Returned to Markarth; bought steel from and sold items to Ghorza; improved the Rune Hammer and Rune Shield
  • Then finally visited Calcelmo at his excavation, and noted his nephew Alcantar was also there; sold Calcelmo one of the Dwarven Exploding Bolts of Fire

Preemptive Strike quest at Fellglow Keep

This was one of Gunmar’s quests, and the idea was basically to show up at a location and take out the vampire sheltering there before he had a chance to turn his allies into vampires.

I ran Fellglow Keep during the mage college quest, of course, so I was familiar with it. I didn’t anticipate any surprises, though I was curious as to whether I’d have to re-engage the Caller.

Answer: no. But I did get a surprise!

Came out of fast travel at the location, and had a dragon show up. That wasn’t the surprising part.

The surprising part happened when one of the mages patrolling the exterior of the keep started flinging fireballs at the dragon. Which, naturally, pissed the dragon off. So it divebombed the tower where the mage was standing, grabbed him, swooped with him up into the sky, and then dropped him. The mage’s corpse landed practically in front of me.


I hadn’t ever seen a dragon do that in Skyrim before! It certainly stands to reason that this would be possible. And now that I know it can happen, I’m a little surprised I hadn’t seen it happen before!

(But then, I rarely fight dragons where there are also hostile NPCs in the area. Usually it’s me and possibly also a follower, or non-hostile NPCs like the Western Watchtower guards. I’m still surprised though that I’ve never seen a dragon pick up and drop one of those guards, either.)

There was a second hostile mage outside the keep, and the dragon took that one on too. It didn’t even notice me until I came up close enough to start shooting it with my crossbow–and then I had its attention.

After that surprising little bit of action, actually getting into Fellglow Keep and taking out the vampire was kind of anticlimactic! But still fun, as I actually did it in full-on Nightingale Sneak, so as to avoid any living mages if I could. And I could! I was able to get in, snipe the vampire from the shadows, and then run like hell while the mage also in the room must have been going What the hell just happened?

Ancient Technology quest, round four

Next up was doing another round of schematic-fetching for Sorine. Note: I think this has definitely become one of my favorite Dawnguard things. Because getting that enhanced crossbow action going, as well as the exploding crossbow bolts, is very cool. And the enhanced crossbow ignores 50% of armor! Very helpful when going up against well-armored opponents!

This next round of schematic-fetching targeted a location I’d been to as Alarrah, but not yet as Merawen: Bilegulch Mine.

Getting there actually took a little doing. I fast traveled to Sunderstone Gorge, and as I moved west from there, I got spotted and warned off by nearby Forsworn. Probably as I was going near Lost Valley Redoubt?

And I kept circling around a lot because I had trouble finding access to the mine. This kept me close enough to Lost Valley Redoubt that I kept having to evade Forsworn–which I really wanted to do, given that I was traveling alone and heavily outnumbered. This didn’t protect me though from a joint ambush by a mudcrab and a trio of vampires! I had to switch to the Dawnguard armor and the crossbow to take them out.

Finding the right path into the mine eventually required me to dash-sneak through Lost Valley Redoubt, as it turned out. I barely evaded several Forsworn, even while burning through multiple invisibility potions. In particular, I barely evaded the Briarheart.

(I think they heard it when my invisibility kept wearing offNot sure!)

Likewise, when I finally made it into the mine, I had to evade several orcs trying to shoot at me. Got into the place and made it to the boss chest, though I did wind up having to fight the bandit chief and take him out before I could run like hell and return to Fort Dawnguard.

Ancient Technology quest, round five

Back at the fort, I got Sorine’s and Gunmar’s quests both resolved. Got a new “find a schematic” quest off of Sorine, and my first side quest from Florentius–one of the Rescue ones, where you need to rescue a friend who’s been kidnapped by vampires. While I was there, and since I now had the ability to do so, I made some shock bolts!

Sorine’s latest schematic was located at White River Watch, the bandit camp near the crossroads just southeast of Whiterun. So since I was going to be in the neighborhood anyway, I popped into Whiterun proper for dropping off and selling of things, and also picked up Lydia to have her at my back for a bit.

And while I was at it, I also picked up one of the Dawnguards off my bedroom wall in Breezehome. Because if there’s any time at which Dawnbreaker is seriously called for, it’s while running the Dawnguard plots. 😀 Even improved up to Legendary it’s not quite as powerful as my other swords, but there’s a principle here! A principle of making vampires explode.

White River Watch was a familiar dungeon at this point, and running it was trivial. Lyds and I took out all the bandits (except for the blind one, we weren’t going to harm him), and I cleared the boss chest to get the schematic.

Favorite exchange in that dungeon:

Bandit Chief: Now ain’t this a surprise!

Me: <throws fireballs>

Bandit Chief: Yarrgh!

Me: Surprise!

Rescue quest, round one

The Rescue quest Florentius had given me was targeting Sunderstone Gorge. A locale I’d already been to in this game–and in this session, even, because I used it as the fast travel landmark to get close to Bilegulch Mine!

But because I remembered how much trouble getting into the place I’d had the first time I visited it in this run, I wanted Lydia at my back. Which was why I’d picked her up.

(Granted, at this point I’m level 57, closing in on 58, and I’m way more powerful than I was the first time! But still, if at all possible, I want a follower whenever I’m heading into a dungeon known to have a lot of potential enemies to fight.)

Since I fast traveled straight there, the mage who guards the entrance immediately went into trying to warn us off. Unfortunately for him, I did not heed his warning!

Also of note: when Lyds and I started fighting with him, there was apparently a hunter NPC in the vicinity. I didn’t get a good look at her, but I did hear her dialogue lines fire off, including “I’m getting out of here!”

Running the dungeon again was not terribly problematic. With Lyds on deck, stealth wasn’t really an option, so we just barged through the place and took out any enemies we encountered.

However, this was another incident of having the wrong quest marker active–which caused me to initially almost make it to the exit before realizing I hadn’t found Lucan to rescue him yet. So I set the right quest marker on, and that let me actually get to him to get him out of his cage.

With that accomplished, it was back to Fort Dawnguard yet again. This time with Lyds still accompanying me, since I was in the mood to keep her around a bit longer.

Ancient Technology quest, round six

I wound up having to check in with Sorine and Florentius twice–because when I tried to improve one of the new dwarven crossbows with the fifth schematic, the game crashed on me! Fortunately it didn’t throw me back too far, though, just to the point of arriving in the middle of the night at Fort Dawnguard and needing to rest on one of the cots.

Second time through when I checked with the others, I got Sorine’s final schematic quest, and the first of the Lost Relic quests from Florentius. Both of these were targeted for places I’d already hit in this run, with the schematic being at Fort Fellhammer, and the Rune Hammer at Redoran’s Retreat.

Decided to go Fort Fellhammer first. Fast traveled there, and had literally just drawn Dragonbane to start engaging bandits when the usual fast-travel-generated dragon showed up. A Frost Dragon, who landed on the ground almost right behind me. And, since I’d just drawn Dragonbane, I dove over to the dragon’s side so I could start whacking it with the blade. Just for a change from place from pelting enemies with crossbow bolts. 😀

Then Lyds and I had to fight the bandits on the outside of the structure, as well as the bandit chief inside. We took out the bandit chief so that I could clear the boss chest. Then, onward to Redoran’s Retreat!

Lost Relic quest, round one

This time, coming out of fast travel at the target locale got us a random vampire encounter. We took the vamps out, and then cleared the actual hideout to get to the Dawnguard Rune Hammer.

Redoran’s Retreat is not a terribly large hideout, so this didn’t take long.

And now that I have the hammer, it will be real interesting to try it out. The hammer’s special ability is supposed to be letting you cast fire runes without burning magicka, and that sounds like all kinds of explody fun.

Rescue quest, round two

At this point in the proceedings I was overloaded, so I quaffed a potion of strength to let myself fast travel over to Whiterun. When I got there, I got a surprise Courier–with another letter from Calcelmo, who really, really wanted to buy the Exploding Dwarven Bolt of Fire I’d just acquired. (And I still wonder how the fuck Calcelmo knows when I buy dwarven things, particularly clear over on the other side of Skyrim. Do the vendors of Skyrim know he’s spying on them? Does he have a standing deal with all of them to message him as soon as they sell something dwarven out of their inventories? So many questions.)

I sold some things at Warmaiden’s to get unburdened, and then reported back to Fort Dawnguard. Gave Sorine her final schematic, and once she taught me how to make the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow, I leapt right on that. (Had to buy some quicksilver ingots from Gunmar to make it, but fortunately, he was very nearby since he and Sorine are usually hanging out in close proximity.)

Then I checked in with Florentius to let him know I’d gotten the hammer. When I asked him for another quest, he told me that yet another friend had been kidnapped by vampires–this time, Jorn from the bard college in Solitude.

The target location for this was the Wreck of the Winter War, another shipwreck, but this time one I hadn’t actually been to yet. It’s northeast of Windhelm, so I fast traveled to Snow Veil Sanctum as my nearest landmark.

Close to the water, I got attacked by a Nightlord Vampire. There also appeared to be Vigilants of Stendarr at the scene–one of them was in on the battle, and another was lying dead nearby. There’s an item on the wiki page for “World Interactions” for Skyrim that matches this, but I think I may have accidentally killed the Vigilant that was still alive? He wound up a pile of ash.

As it happened though that encounter got retconned. When I made it to the ship, I was taken out by the Master Vampire and the Bandit Chief, which wound up throwing me all the way back to coming out of Fort Dawnguard. So I had to try for the Wreck of the Winter War a second time.

The second time through, I spotted a frost troll fighting an Imperial Courier. The troll killed the courier. I killed the troll.

And I approached the ship a different way. First time through I’d tried to swim in, directly into the break between the two pieces of the hull. Second time, I swam to a little hill that gave me land-based access to the upper deck. From there, I was able to start shooting bandits with my crossbow. That attracted the Bandit Chief and the Master Vampire, but they didn’t get close enough to me to keep them from crossbow-based vengeance. \0/

Lost Relic quest, round two

The next checkin with Florentius got me the Lost Relic quest I really wanted to do–the one to get the Dawnguard Rune Shield. Because a) the Light version of the Dawnguard armor doesn’t come with a shield by default, and b) that shield can generate an aura like the Stendarr’s Aura spell, if you bash undead with it. I very much want to try this out!

This quest had another new-to-me locale for it, though one I’d spotted in passing: Harmugstahl, not far from the Dragontooth Crater. Which meant I had a reason to return to the Reach, and more specifically, Markarth.

I fast traveled into Markarth to sell things, though opted to not visit Calcelmo quite yet. Instead, I fast traveled to Harmugstahl to run that dungeon.

Found a dead hagraven just outside the place, so took feathers. I didn’t remember offhand if this had been a hagraven I’d killed before, and there isn’t a hagraven mentioned in the wiki writeup for this locale. So she may have been randomly killed by something else? Not sure!

Inside, I had a clearly scripted encounter with an adventurer who spotted me even though I was sneaking. He warned me of frostbite spiders in the place–and not just regular ones, ones that had somehow been enspelled. To wit: ick!

He noped right on out of the place, leaving me to explore the place by myself. Killed a few spiders before getting to the main boss of the lair: the sorcerer Kornalus Frey. Who, despite his same last name, apparently has no connection to Mercery “Murderous Lying Bastard” Frey? Because this Kornalus guy was an Altmer, whereas Mercer Frey was a Breton.

The one notable feature of the dungeon was a spike puzzle with four levers, which you had to solve by flipping the levers in the right order to get them all to retract. Not too terribly difficult; I didn’t even have to look up the solution on the wiki.

Once I cleared the dungeon, I returned to Markarth. Sold stuff to Ghorza at the forge, purchased from steel from her, and then improved both the Rune Hammer and the Rune Shield.

Closed the session by paying the visit to Calcelmo to sell him the Dwarven Exploding Bolt of Fire. Amusingly, Calcelmo’s nephew Alcantar was on hand too. Given that I’d last seen either of these people while I was busy robbing Calcelmo’s museum, I figure Merawen had to give her Completely Innocent Citizen routine quite the workout for this little transaction.

Next time

I have one more Lost Relic quest I could get from Florentius, to get the Dawnguard Rune Axe. And there’s one more I could do from Gunmar as well, called Hunting the Monster, another “track down the vampire” type quest.

I’ll probably work on doing both of those next, just to get all the Dawnguard side plots squared away before returning to Dawnguard’s main plot and rendezvousing with Serana at Castle Volkihar.


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.