Dawnguard,  Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Hunts Still More Vampires for the Dawnguard

This was another session all about the Dawnguard side quests, because I had to chug through a few more to finally get to the last one I wanted to do! With the obligatory side helpings of confronting dragons and bandits, and this time also Thalmor. And more building work on Heljarchen Hall as well.

Plus, Gregor the housecarl is now properly outfitted with his own suit of dragonplate armor, as well as dragonbone weapons. You work for the Dragonborn, you will be outfitted correctly!

Also, this post contains considerable saltiness about the Hide and Seek quest, since I got another round of that. And today’s favorite Skyrim bug: trying to rescue a kidnap victim from vampires, only to discover the kidnap victim has buggered off for home all by herself!


  • Session number in this run: 47
  • Gave Gregor dragonplate armor and dragonbone weapons
  • Headed off to Falkreath; sold stuff at Gray Pine Goods
  • Popped into the inn to get Dengeir’s pointer for killing his ancestor
  • Headed east towards Bloodlet Throne
  • Discovered Peak’s Shade Tower
  • Took out spriggan earth mother
  • Overheard but did not see the Alik’r warriors trying to harass a Redguard woman again
  • Couple more spriggans and a troll as we cut cross-country
  • Found Bonechill Passage
  • Re-killed dragon at Ancient’s Ascent
  • Circled around a lot trying to find the path to Bloodlet Throne; found Greywater Grotto
  • Finally found Bloodlet Throne but did not have Dengeir’s quest; fast traveling back to Falkreath did not fix, apparently this was because it conflicted with the Dawnguard quest? Because the DG quest is not for a named vampire, and Dengeir’s quest is? Will have to see if Dengeir’s quest is just unavailable now or if it comes back
  • Returned to Bloodlet Throne to finish the Dawnguard quest; killed once by ancient vampire; second time through, remembered to get my sneak on and to not forget my crossbow; cleared the dungeon
  • Returned to Fort Dawnguard to resolve quest with Gunmar; tried for a Florentius quest but got yet another Gunmar one, Hide and Seek again, this time in Rorikstead to kill a vampire masquerading as a Traveling Pilgrim
  • Fast traveled to Western Watchtower, saw Blood Dragon vs. giant, giant beat up the dragon enough that I was able to take the dragon out when it landed pretty much right by me
  • Got a lot more loot off the dragon though and became overloaded; decided to detour to Heljarchen
  • Had to draw crossbow and sneak across the plains, to move at all reasonably
  • Ran into bandits attacking a hunter; had to flee, sorry, hunter!
  • Made it to Heljarchen, and dropped off stuff
  • Went overland to Rorikstead in Nightingale mode; made it to Rorikstead, saw dragon attacking
  • Shot the Vampire Pilgrim from afar, then took out dragon, which turned out to be the named dragon Nahagliiv
  • Reported in at Fort Dawnguard to report in; Gunmar gave me the Hunting the Monster quest, with the contact in Whiterun this time, the vendor Carlotta
  • Did not have to deal with pissed-off guards this time, the difference here being, I shot the vampire without him noticing, so no bounty accrued
  • However, did have to deal with the Traveler, and fuck he killed a couple of Whiterun NPCs and yeah no not willing to let that stand!
  • Rolled back to coming out of Fort Dawnguard; take two, fast traveled to Western Watchtower instead of directly to Whiterun, but killed by vampires
  • Take three, this time successful, also got to give the Dawnguard Rune Hammer a go; also, this time killed the Traveler without any named NPCs dying!
  • Got Carlotta to give me the letter saying where her vampire friend was: Halted Stream Camp, fuck yeah, opportunity to mine the place for iron again
  • Also got her to complain to me about the bard trying to court her way too aggressively; promised to get the bard to back off, and did so
  • Jumped to Heljarchen to drop off things and build more things
  • Got Gregor to follow me again, and help go clear out Halted Stream; cleared it with no issues, including taking out the vampire there, and then mined the hell out of the place
  • Returned to Heljarchen to build out a lot more things
  • Jumped to Fort Dawnguard to report in to Gunmar
  • Asked Florentius for a quest and finally got another one from him, but it was another Rescue quest, back to Fellglow Keep yet again, this time to rescue the priestess Hamal from the Temple of Dibella
  • Frost dragon attacking the place again; let it go ahead and take out the mages outside the keep; did not engage Frost Dragon myself
  • Snuck into the place to rescue Hamal; was able to take out the vampire in there, but did not find Hamal; saw her quest pointer actually moving westward across the map so apparently she moved on her own?
  • Went after her, but Elder Dragon showed up and chased me; I tried to outrun it, but also ran into some Thalmor just north of Dragonsreach; had to stop and engage both the dragon and the fucking Thalmor
  • Whiterun guards witnessed me killing the dragon and threw off the “gasp! It’s just like the old legends! Dragonborn!” commentary
  • LOL, Hamal made it all the way back to Markarth, so I basically had to fast travel back there in a few hops and just go straight into the Temple of Dibella to find her; still had to trigger the “rescue”, though, to conclude the quest; very odd to have her going “you came for me? I thought I was going to die in here!” Lady, I’m pretty sure you didn’t actually need rescuing?
  • Boinged back to Fort Dawnguard, reported in with Florentius, finally got him to give me the quest for the Dawnguard Rune Axe, locale of Robber’s Gorge
  • Stopped at Heljarchen for loot drop
  • Lolololol Courier found me with another letter from Calcelmo, wanting an Exploding Dwarven Bolt of Ice, after I’d just bought Sorine out of all her exploding bolts
  • Saved for the night

Cleansing Light quest

Since this was a quest I’d done before already for the Dawnguard and it was sending me to a familiar location, i.e., Bloodlet Throne, it actually took me more time to find the location and to also work out the discrepancies with Dengeir’s quest for that locale than it did for me to actually clear the dungeon.

Because yeah, I’d thought at first that hey, if I’m going there anyway maybe I could also do Dengeir’s quest to take out his vampire ancestor? Except it didn’t work that way. I was able to trigger Dengeir’s dialogue for this quest, but it did not show up in my quest journal.

And I only realized after the fact that this might be because I already had the Dawnguard quest active—and that quest wanted me to kill a “Nightmaster Vampire”, as opposed to Dengeir’s quest, which is targeting a known named vampire, Vighar.

But when I went back to check with Dengeir to see if I could still trigger his quest, the answer seemed to be no. The dialogue option for it had disappeared from my list of prompts with him.

Now that I’ve finished this Cleansing Light quest, though, it’ll be interesting to doublecheck and see if Dengeir gives me that option back. I suspect he won’t. Oh well!

Also, I had a devil of a time just finding a proper path to the place. I think I remember having this same problem with Alarrah’s run, too. I wound up having to clamber over a lot of mountain ridges to make my way south, as well as fast traveling a few times to Ancient’s Ascent to get un-stuck when I got caught in a couple of places.

Once I was actually in there, though, I just had to remember to sneak and to take advantage of my crossbow. I really like the Stendarr’s Aura spell, and it’s never not fun to hit vampires with Dawnbreaker. But I’m way better at range fighting than I am at melee, and with vampires in particular, it’s always a better idea to take them out from afar.

Even if I do so like making them explode with Dawnbreaker!

Also, this was my first run with Gregor as a follower, just to put him to work. I like Gregor. He’s a bit more friendly than Argis the Bulwark, and his “my place is by your side, thane!” demeanor is kind of adorable. ❤️

Hide and Seek quest

As previously expressed, not really a fan of this quest, just because there’s no way you can do it without having your count of murders increment on your Crime stats, whether or not you get a bounty.

The only real difference between this quest and the Jarl’s Justice one is that with the latter, the vampire is specifically carrying orders in his pocket outright saying “yep I sure I am a vampire”, which is enough to convince the Jarl to let you take the vampire out.

But I kind of feel like, if the Dawnguard has the ability to know “hey, this person hanging out in location X and pretending to be a perfectly ordinary Y is actually a vampire”, then presumably the Dawnguard has some way of actually knowing for sure that that person is a vampire. So what are the Dawnguard’s means of knowing this, and why aren’t they opening up those means to the Jarls?

All my character has to go on in either type of quest is what Gunmar says to her. I.e., “this person is a vampire and you need to take them out.” So how the hell does Gunmar know when this person is a vampire? Where’s his proof? And if he has proof I’m supposed to be able to trust, why can’t I take that proof to the Jarl of wherever the vampire is located?

Of course, the actual answer to this is probably, “because that’d be harder to code in the game”.

Because you’d have to get some form of interaction set up to actually get the required proof to the Jarl. If it’s some kind of incriminating letter, then the quest becomes more like the other types of “hunt the vampire” quests and that’s not satisfying as a play experience.

If you try for some other type of interaction, such as eyewitness testimony, you then have to think about how to set up that interaction. Which NPCs could serve as eyewitnesses? The player might have to persuade that person to not only confirm to them that the target is a vampire, but also to go and deliver their testimony to the Jarl.

So depending on how many NPCs in any location might be tagged as potential witnesses, those are additional voice lines you’d have to record for those characters. And additional decision trees you’d need to set up for them.

There might also even be a risk of the eyewitness being in danger from the vampire, and the player would have to get to the witness before the vampire does… actually, that sounds kind of awesome as a quest and I’m sorry I can’t do that!

But you’d also have other potentially complex things to code with this, too. Because if the witness is at risk, what happens if the target vampire gets to them first? And does the target vampire kill the witness in front of any other NPCs? If so, do those NPCs count as witnesses that yep, that guy sure is a vampire?

If the target vampire takes out the witness but is not seen doing so, then you still have to think about falling back to the “you have to take out the vampire anyway, with or without solid proof” scenario.

So lacking all of that, I just have to be salty about “this quest wants me to kill a vampire and I have permission to do so, but that quest wants me to kill a vampire and I do not have permission to do so”. Sigh.

On future playthroughs I’ll have to think about means to kill the vampire other than just killing him myself. Frenzy spells, maybe. I’d be trying that except that Merawen is a very high level character at this point, level 59, and the target vampires scale up accordingly. I think the target vamp for the quest would now come through as level 25, and what means I have of doing Frenzy right now would not affect him.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying, okay yeah, I got another Hide and Seek quest this session.

And at least this time through, even though I got another increment to the Murder stat on my Crimes tab, I was able to take the vamp out when his back was turned, so I didn’t get the associated bounty for committing assault.

When I showed up at Rorikstead to hunt down the vamp and saw a dragon attacking the place, I was kind of hoping the dragon would take out the vampire for me. But no such luck. I didn’t see the vampire trying to engage the dragon at all.

So I had no choice but to shoot the vamp from afar myself, and then engage the dragon! (Which turned out to be Nahagliiv.)

And, also, this should at least be the last time I have to do this quest since now I’ve gotten the Rune Axe quest. And once I’ve sorted that I’ll be returning to the main Dawnguard quest line.

Hunting the Monster quest, and the Traveler redux

Next up was another round of Hunting the Monster, this time with my contact in Whiterun.

And as I’ve come to learn, as long as you have the Dawnguard quest line active, any time you set foot in a town you will be at risk of encountering the Traveler. Who can respawn after any initial encounter you have with him.

For this quest, I ran into him again—which makes the third time I’ve had to deal with him in this game so far. And this time through, the bastard actually killed a couple of Whiterun NPCs, Lillith Maiden-Loom and Jon Battle-Born!

As far as I was concerned, I could not let this stand.

Because y’know what? It is part of my critical game experience that when I come around the corner at Belethor’s General Goods, Jon Battle-Born needs to be standing there going “Y’know what’s wrong with Skyrim these days?”

If Jon’s not there doing that, it’s not fucking Whiterun, dammit! Because okay sure, Jon’s annoying in the sense of “oh for fuck’s sake, man, do you have anything better to do than stand around bitching at passing strangers?” But on the other hand, dude’s a wannabe bard, so at least his bitching is coming from a place of aesthetics, and he’s the rare male Nord who’s trying to think about things besides fighting and death and such. And I kind of respect and want to protect that. ❤️

Plus, I was already cranky about the Traveler taking out Ghorza in Markarth, not to mention all the NPCs I‘d already lost in Riften earlier in the game. I’d prefer not to lose any more named NPCs if I can help it! (Which, really, probably means I’m going to have to stay the fuck out of the cities until Dawnguard is done, just to make the Traveler stop showing up.)

So I wound up rolling back from that first jaunt into Whiterun. Second time through, I got killed by vampires when I tried to land first at the Western Watchtower.

Third time through, I was able to get into Whiterun, spot the Traveler, and kill him before he took out any named NPCs. Then I was able to proceed with contacting Carlotta about her vampire ‘friend’.

While I was at it, I got Carlotta to give me her side quest to get the bard from the Bannered Mare off her back. I got that dealt with, and also got from her the letter that revealed that the vampire was hiding out at Halted Stream Camp. Which was awesome, given that I needed the iron for work at Heljarchen Hall.

So with the help of Gregor, again earning his paycheck as my latest housecarl, I cleared out Halted Stream Camp, including taking out the vampire hiding there. And then I mined the hell out of all the ore veins, so I could do more building at Heljarchen with all the iron ore!

Rescue quest

Next up, once I reported back to Fort Dawnguard again, I finally got Florentius to give me more quests. Because he’ll only give you quests after you’ve done a certain number of ones from Gunmar, apparently?

The first one he gave me, though, was another rescue quest. This one was to rescue Hamal, the head priestess from the Temple of Dibella, from Fellglow Keep.

Which meant I had to go back to Fellglow Keep yet again. This time through I got another Frost Dragon fighting the mages outside the place, and I was able to sneak in and take out several of the mages as well as the vampire.

The interesting wrinkle this time though was that I did not find and rescue Hamal on site, even though I had a quest marker for her still. I noticed that that quest marker actually started heading west—and I realized, hey, is she actually heading back to Markarth on her own?

So I ran off to catch up with her. Because apparently the woman didn’t really need rescuing, but I did want to at least resolve the quest objective!

Took me a while to catch up with her, though. Because when I tried to head west from Fellglow Keep, I got overtaken in turn by an Elder Dragon.

Which proved to be problematic. For giggles, I tried to see if I could evade it just by hauling ass across the plains. But given that the dragon had the aerial advantage, that wasn’t going to work very well, lol. And also, while I was trying to haul ass away from the dragon, I also ran smack dab into a trio of Thalmor who immediately attacked me.

So I had to fight the dragon and the fucking Thalmor.

Turned out this was just north of Dragonsreach, so I also got the Whiterun guards in on this little melee. And they were therefore witnesses to my taking out the Elder Dragon (on the ground, by sword, as it happened) and slurping up its soul. Fun times!

I finally just fast traveled straight to Markarth after a couple of intervening hops. And found Hamal right back in her temple where she belonged, though I still had to go right up to her and trigger her “OMG you came for me, I thought I was going to die here!” response so I could actually get the quest resolved!

Lady, I’m pretty sure you didn’t need rescuing? But thank you for your gratitude!

(And fortunately, I didn’t trigger another recurrence of the Traveler while I was in Markarth this time!)

When I reported back to Fort Dawnguard after this one, I finally got Florentius to give me the last Lost Relic quest! And while I was there, I bought Sorine out of her supply of exploding crossbow bolts.

Which meant that when I stopped at Heljarchen for a loot drop, I also triggered another Courier with a Letter from Calcelmo, who really really really wanted one of my Dwarven Exploding Bolts of Ice. My dude, you’re going to have to wait till I get back to Markarth.

Next time

Not entirely sure what order I’m going to do these things in, but I know I’ll want to do the following things:

  • Check current inventory status and see how many things I can drop off at Heljarchen while I’m there
  • Survey current storage at Heljarchen and see how many salt piles I can rustle up, because I need to make more fire and frost and void salts
  • Make new armor and weapons for my wife! If my housecarls are getting better equipment, my spouse damn well should as well
  • Boing to mage college and do level 59 training, with non-zero likelihood of dragon encounter
  • Boing to Solitude to check in with Jenassa and Jordis and children, and give Jenassa her new equipment
  • Go get the Dawnguard Rune Axe from Robber’s Gorge, and see about having Jenassa follow me for that, just to let her do something else adventurous and not have to be home with the kids all the damn time
  • Go back to Fort Dawnguard to check in and get the Axe quest resolved, possibly also make more exploding bolts
  • Time permitting, then head out to Castle Volkihar to finally rendezvous with Serana and get the main Dawnguard plot proceeding further


Actually skipping the screenshots this time, because while I took some, none of them are new enough or interesting enough to share.

Editing to add

  • 11/16/2023: 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.