Dawnguard,  Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Returns to the Main Dawnguard Plot

This session finally saw the last of the Dawnguard side quests I wanted to do, i.e., acquiring the Dawnguard Rune Axe. Which meant I was also finally able to rendezvous with Serana and proceed with the next phase of the main Dawnguard plot: infiltrating Castle Volkihar in an attempt to find Serana’s long-lost mother Valerica.

And getting into one of my favorite bits of the Dawnguard plotline: the Soul Cairn!


  • Session number in this run: 48
  • Did a little armor building at Heljarchen until I realized I didn’t have enough iron to make a full dragonscale set of armor for Jenassa
  • Tried for glass instead only to realize I couldn’t do that either; then realized I was already carrying a glass armor and a glass shield and should not have wasted my malachite on making those already when I could have made her some boots
  • Made some leather too and improved that
  • Scoured all the barrels and sacks in the house for salt piles and got 21 \0/
  • Boinged to mage college for training; got all the training, and shiny spellbooks from Faralda, with more advanced Destruction spells
  • Made a bunch of fire, frost, and void salts at the Atronach Forge for using on making exploding bolts later
  • Boinged to Solitude to sell things to all the vendors
  • Runa gave me a flower when I checked in at Proudspire ❤️
  • Picked up Blades armor so I could wear it some more
  • Got Jenassa on deck as follower and gave her her glass armor, as well as all my glass arrows
  • Boinged to Robber’s Gorge and cleared the place with Jenassa
  • Dragon got in on the fight but we didn’t kill it? Not sure if it flew off or got killed by something else?
  • Got the Dawnguard Rune Axe
  • Boinged to Fort Dawnguard to check in with Florentius and resolve that quest
  • Boinged back to Robber’s Gorge but did not find dragon
  • Headed back to Solitude for loot dropoff before rendezvous with Serana
  • Attacked by cultists; also attacked by vampire, but just one this time, and two Vigilants of Stendarr also helped in the fight
  • Three more vampires just north of Dragon Bridge
  • Dropped off a bunch of stuff at Solitude including most of the armor I’ve been hauling around, because of wanting to whittle down the inventory for next phase of Dawnguard
  • Sold more stuff to and bought stuff from Beirand
  • Gave Jenassa an ebony bow from Beirand’s forge; also gave her my dragonbone sword
  • Then off to rendezvous with Serana!
  • Made it to the northern shoreline; discovered Lower Steepfall Burrow
  • Was not able to take Jenassa into the castle with me; Serana refused to let her come along; had to send Jenassa home to Solitude
  • Went through the castle with Serana, mostly remembered how it went from Alarrah’s run before; killed several skeletons and gargoyles
  • Tried using the Dawnguard Rune Axe but quickly found it was not a match for using Dragonbane, I need to improve the Axe and try it out some more
  • Made it into Valerica’s laboratory; found the ingredients to open the Soul Cairn and had Serana partially soul trap me
  • Headed into the Soul Cairn with Serana
  • Found Arvak’s owner and got the quest to look for Arvak’s skull
  • Made it to Valerica; had the initial exchange with Valerica being super testy about her daughter being in cahoots with a vampire hunter, and then Valerica’s grudging apology and willingness to help us
  • Went to go kill the Keepers; killed Keeper number 1
  • Found the soul of Saint Jiub and got his quest to find his pages
  • Found Arvak’s skull and returned it to Arvak’s owner, who taught me how to summon him
  • Headed out to go kill Keeper number 2; saved for the night

Initial prep work: Heljarchen

It occurred to me, what with giving all the armor and weaponry to my various housecarls, that I really ought to also give better armor and weaponry to my wife! This was a side effect of marrying somebody besides a housecarl this time—it means I have more people to keep track of.

Still though, given that I wanted to periodically still let Jenassa be my follower (no sense in having a mercenary for a wife if you don’t let her periodically help you out with mercenary-like adventuring), it seemed appropriate to upgrade her armor and weaponry.

My initial idea on this was, get her some dragonscale armor to match what I’m wearing. I do have a lot of dragon material to work with!

What I did not have at Heljarchen, however, was iron. Because I’d been spending all the iron I’d been acquiring lately on building out Heljarchen! So the best I was able to do for Jenassa at the start of this session was glass armor.

And I flubbed that a bit, too. Because I had only a small amount of malachite, and didn’t realize that I was already carrying a glass armor and a glass shield in my inventory—so I inadvertently wound up wasting malachite on making another armor and shield, when I should have made boots instead to fill out a full glass armor set.

Still though, after also making a full leather armor set and upgrading that up to Legendary just to burn through my available leather some, I then decided I’d better visit the college for some training.

And since I’d be going to the college anyway, I wanted to also stop at the Atronach Forge and make another round of fire, frost, and void salts, so that I could make more of the exploding crossbow bolts! Scoured through all of Heljarchen’s storage containers and came up with 21 total Salt Piles. And I pulled a lot of amethysts, rubies, and sapphires out of my strongbox as well, then boinged over to the college.

Mage college visit

Got in my round of training for level 59. And also noted with glee that Faralda had a wider selection of spellbooks available for me to purchase now—since my Destruction skill had apparently gotten high enough to unlock some of the more kickass spells. Awesome. I bought those right up!

And while I was at it, I then popped down into the Midden to visit the Atronach Forge. Got in a bunch of creation of frost, fire, and void salts. But I think I may have triggered some buggy behavior? I thought I’d put in enough materials for 21 salts, because that’s how many Salt Piles I had. But I wasn’t able to make 21 salts initially; the gems and soul gems I put in kept getting used up and I had to add more.

(From what I see on the wiki, if you put different viable options for the same recipe into the offering box, you will burn one of each type of thing, rather than just one thing. Okay. So I did actually trigger a known bug with that. Oh well, it ain’t like I’m not swimming in gems and soul gems!)

More prep work: Solitude

Then I boinged over to Solitude to see if I could get Jenassa some glass boots.

Answer: yes. I sold a bunch of things to all the vendors, but was also able to buy malachite from Beirand and make Jenassa some boots to fill out a full set of glass armor for her.

And, fortunately, I did not see any sign of the Traveler.

So I headed on over to Proudspire, where I was greeted by Runa with a Red Mountain Flower. Aw, thank you honey. ❤️

Jenassa expressed her approval of the house again, and reminded me that she’d opened a store. She sounded kind of dubious (“if that is what you wish”) when I got her into follower mode and then said I needed to trade some things with her. But hopefully she will enjoy the better armor and weaponry!

Then I picked up the Blades armor, just because I missed it and wanted to work on my Heavy Armor skill some more! And with Jenassa at my back, I headed off to Robber’s Gorge.

Lost Relic quest

Clearing Robber’s Gorge wasn’t difficult, even with the added wrinkle of a dragon showing up partway through the battle. I didn’t even really see the dragon—I just heard it a couple of times and had to dodge fire it spit down at us.

Since I didn’t get a chance to engage it, I didn’t see whether it just flew off or whether it actually got killed. I was too busy working on taking out the bandits!

Some of whom did the thing where they were all “OHNOEZ please don’t kill me”—and then tried to attack me anyway. Yeah, I’ve heard that song before, bandits.

I also noticed that even though I’d given her glass armor, Jenassa still got beaten up enough in battle that she yelled about yielding at least once. Note to self: Jenassa still needs dragonscale armor. And it needs to be improved up to the same grade of armor I’m wearing! Nothing but the best for my wife!

Once the bandits were cleared, I poked through the camp until we found the chest that contained the Dawnguard Rune Axe and other loot. I also got the keys for getting down into the cave, but didn’t bother to do that; I may follow up on that later. But the Axe was my real goal, so after I got that, I decided to go ahead and move out.

Went back to Solitude on foot since it wasn’t terribly far away. And ran into a few cultists and vampires on the way, like you do. This time there were also Vigilants of Stendarr on hand, and for once, they were actually alive and fighting the vampires! Nice to see the Vigilants actually getting to survive something.

Got back into Solitude just long enough to get Jenassa an ebony bow and also give her my dragonbone sword. And I dropped off most of the armor I was carrying at Proudspire, limiting myself to the Dawnguard armor for now just because I’m going about Dawnguard business; I’ll need to come back and get the rest of the armor later!

Then it was off to rendezvous with Serana.

Chasing Echoes quest

Made it safely to the northern shoreline, which actually gave me some pretty neat views of Castle Volkihar I hadn’t seen before. And along the way, I discovered Lower Steepfall Burrow.

However, after Jenassa and I took the boat over to the castle, I discovered I couldn’t bring Jenassa with me. Serana refused to budge another inch until I “got rid of the interloper”.

Uh, honey? That’s no interloper, that’s my wife.

Still though, I had to send Jenassa back to Solitude. It wasn’t even enough to tell her to wait—I had to actively dismiss her. Serana kept throwing a line about not letting just anybody into the castle where she grew up.

So, reluctantly, I sent Jenassa home. I expect Jenassa is going to have opinions about this, though, next time I return to Solitude! Merawen is going to have some explaining and apologizing to do! And this will definitely be another reason to show up with much better dragonscale armor by way of an apology present.

And I’ll definitely have to bring Jenassa with me to Solstheim.

At any rate, once Jenassa had departed, Serana was willing to escort me into the back end of her family’s castle. This played out pretty much the same as it had done with Alarrah, including fighting assorted skeletons and gargoyles, as well as a Giant Frostbite Spider. As with a lot of other familiar territory in this run, I did not go over the place in as much depth as I had with Alarrah, just due to less interest in getting every last scrap of loot.

(Which is not to say I didn’t get any loot during this trek, because I did! I just didn’t try to loot each and every piece of furniture or chest I passed. Just some of them!)

I solved the moon dial puzzle and eventually made it to Valerica’s lab without any issues. In the lab, I did spend a little more time grabbing interesting ingredients, even aside from the three specifically needed to open the Soul Cairn. And a few soul gems as well. They were not marked in red, so! Serana didn’t give me any grief about swiping things, either. I will just take this as proactively anticipating Valerica’s later permission to take anything I need from the place! 😉

As I’d done with Alarrah, I opted to have Serana partially soul trap me rather than turn me into a vampire. And with that done, we made it into the Soul Cairn.

Beyond Death quest

This kicked in automatically once we entered the Soul Cairn, and while I didn’t finish up the entire Soul Cairn run, I did make significant progress through it.

Mostly, it was the same as how Alarrah ran it, with one exception: I also found the soul of Jiub, or, as he likes to call himself, “Saint Jiub the Eradicator, hero of Morrowind and savior of the Dunmer”. I was slightly sad that, as a Dunmer, I had to tell him I had in fact never heard of him!

He was definitely one of the more lively souls in the place, retaining a fairly strong sense of his living self, though his memory and awareness of time had certainly blurred. So I went ahead and took his quest, since it’ll have an interesting locket as a quest reward.

I made it as far as finding Valerica and getting the quest to kill the Keepers to bring down the barrier around her prison. And I killed two of the Keepers, though it took me a few tries to actually do so. The second one killed me once, and I also got killed once by some of the other undead-like creatures that roam the Cairn. Plus, I had to roll back once when I forgot exactly how the portals work to get to and from the place where I killed the second Keeper.

By the time I figured that out, I’d had to roll back killing the second Keeper. So it was on the way to doing that again that I finally saved for the night.

Next time

Finishing up the Soul Cairn! I need to:

  • Finish killing the Keepers
  • Find the rest of the pages of Jiub’s book (I have one page, I need to find nine more)
  • Confront Durnehviir
  • Get the Blood Scroll from Valerica
  • Recover my soul fragment so I can safely take it back into myself
  • Get the hell out of the Soul Cairn

That will probably take all of a session right there. But if time permits, the next thing after that will be to return to Fort Dawnguard and discover that OHNOEZ, Dexion Evicus has gone blind! So Serana and I will need to go to Ancestor Glade and get prepped for me to read the additional Scroll!

(And while we’re at the Fort, I will definitely make some more exploding crossbow bolts on general principles of EXPLODING CROSSBOW BOLTS.)


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.