Dawnguard,  Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Escapes the Soul Cairn and Finds the Location of Auriel’s Bow

This session was all about moving the Dawnguard plot along, finishing up adventures in the Soul Cairn and then moving on to Ancestor Glade, to do the necessary ritual to locate Auriel’s Bow. And now we’re getting into my favorite part of the whole Dawnguard quest line!


  • Session number in this run: 49
  • Began session in the Soul Cairn as before; finished killing the Keepers
  • Returned to Valerica to get the Blood Scroll
  • Durnehviir showed up and we had to fight him, as well as assorted Soul Cairn critters; defeated Durnehviir
  • Valerica gave us the Scroll; I helped myself to assorted things next to it too
  • Asked Valerica if she could help me regain my lost soul fragment; she pointed me at the offering box
  • Durnehviir spoke with me once he reconstituted, and asked me for the favor of calling him in Tamriel, he gave me the Shout to call him and the name Qahnaarin
  • Got distracted by wrong quest pointer on the way out
  • Got the rest of Jiub’s pages, and recovered my soul fragment gem in between doing those; returned pages to Jiub, and got his copy of his book and his locket
  • Finally returned to Castle Volkihar (probably much to the relief of Serana who did keep urging me to get us home)
  • Jumped to Fort Dawnguard and slept for the night
  • Discovered next morning ohnoez, Dexion Evicus has gone blind! And cannot provide any further reading of the Elder Scrolls! But he could tell us “sure, you could totally go to Ancestor Glade and try to get a bunch of moths to fly around you, and you probably will be okay because clearly the Elder Scrolls want you to read them”
  • Took the time to sell things to Sorine and Gunmar; bought iron from Gunmar for use at Heljarchen later
  • Made a bunch of exploding crossbow bolts
  • Went for a loot drop at Heljarchen; dug into my steel stash there to upgrade the Rune Axe
  • Fast traveled to Peak’s Shade Tower to get to Ancestor Glade; heard dragon in the distance, probably the Ancestor’s Ascent dragon re-spawned?
  • Got another Volkihar vampire squad attacking us; fought a spriggan earth mother in conjunction with them; Serana raised one of the vampires after killing her
  • Ran into bandits while working on getting to Ancestor Glade; Serana wound up raising one of them, too
  • Finally found the Glade, and played through it pretty much similar to Alarrah
  • Got the draw knife, a bunch of yellow mountain flowers, the bark sample, and then the seven swarms of Ancestor Moths
  • Read the Scrolls (and discovered that if you try to read the Sun or Dragon scrolls first, you will automatically read them again once you read the Blood Scroll); got the location of Auriel’s Bow in Darkfall Cave
  • Expected vampire squad, with thralls and gargoyles, ambushed us on the way out; got them taken out
  • Returned to Heljarchen to see about whipping up some Restore Health potions–and whoa, Revered Dragon! Serana and Golldir helped me kill it; well done there, steward!
  • Made a bunch of potions but didn’t have right ingredients for Restore Health, boo; also made a full set of dragonscale armor for Jenassa
  • Bopped to Solitude to drop off things and pick up things and sell things, including Jenassa’s armor and the dragonbone bow I brought out of the Soul Cairn
  • Landed in Solitude pretty late; got Serana’s interesting reaction commentary, and did a save right at the gate, expecting possible Traveler
  • And I did get him, and he wound up killing Erdi from the Blue Palace; rolled back to the save taken at the gates
  • Sold a bunch of stuff to Gulum-Ei at the Winking Skeever, since I could do that without having to head for the house; observed on the way out that Serana actually did the “drinking” and also “clapping” actions that I’ve seen other NPCs in taverns do
  • Tried to head for the house; Traveler, take two, actually killed me and threw me back to the point of coming out of the Winking Skeever
  • Take three, I finally got him into the spot where the walkway curves around towards Proudspire and the Blue Palace; this time got him safely killed before he could take out any named NPCs; mad beggar Dervenin got in on the fight, but I discovered he’s apparently also an essential NPC, because the Traveler did not kill him
  • Made it safely to Proudspire, and found Runa and Sofie arguing! Settle down, girls!
  • Jenassa was glad to see me, anyway! Though I couldn’t take her on as a follower with Serana already coming with me, so I had to drop off Jenassa’s new armor and bow for later exchange
  • Retrieved everything I wanted from my bedroom chest
  • Slept for the night at Proudspire, then sold things to all the shops to lighten the load; also bought all the healing potions I could get my hands on
  • Once Serana and I left Solitude’s front gates, saved for the night

Finishing the Soul Cairn

The first major stretch of this session was finishing up activity in the Soul Cairn–not only the main Soul Cairn quest, Beyond Death, but also the side quest Impatience of a Saint.

For the main Soul Cairn quest, I pretty much picked up where I left off, finishing up killing the Keepers and then reporting back to Valerica. As expected, Durneviir showed up when she took us to the Scroll’s location. So we all had to fight him, as well as the assortment of Soul Cairn critters (bonemen, mistmen, and wrathmen) that showed up to jump into the melee as well.

Once I took out Durnehviir and things calmed down again, Valerica turned over the Blood Scroll (and did not object when I helped myself to a lot of the ingredients and potions surrounding the box that held it). And I took the time to get the pointer from her about how to restore the missing bit of my soul.

Thus, with her advice about how to find the gem that contained that fragment, I set out with Serana to go get that thing, as well as the remaining pages for Jiub’s side quest.

Serana, bless her heart, did keep urging me to get us home and pointed out quite correctly that the faster we did that, the faster we’d be able to deal with her father. But that said, I’d also made Jiub a promise to get his pages back. I wanted to go ahead and do that, as opposed to coming back later to do it, because:

  • According to the wiki, there was a risk of the game crashing if you left the Soul Cairn without finishing Jiub’s quest;
  • It was a new thing! And I wanted to get it finished up!

So I did get it finished up. I did actually have the same thing happen to me in this run that happened with Alarrah’s–i.e., I got thrown off by the quest marker wanting me to return to the portal back to Castle Volkihar. So I had to temporarily turn off that marker, and turn on the one to find the gem with my bit of soul in it.

And both before and after finding the gem, I found the rest of Jiub’s pages. I note without hesitation that I had to resort to the wiki to do this. Because the pages did not have quest markers to follow, and I didn’t want to flail all over the Soul Cairn at random trying to hunt them down. Because, after all, Serana did have a point about the whole “needing to get back and deal with her father” thing.

Another thing I did during the hunt for the pages was locate Morven Stroud, another of the souls that still retains a fairly high amount of his personality from his living days. And I sold him 25 soul husks in exchange for a random item out of his inventory. It was a spell tome I already had, Frostbite, so it was only good for selling later. But it was at least another new thing to do.

(A new thing I did not do yet, and which I’m not sure I want to bother with, is tracking down and killing the Reaper. I may or may not do that when I come back to the Soul Cairn later to tell Valerica it’s safe for her to emerge.)

Once I had all of Jiub’s pages, I returned to him to let him have them. He happily gave me the one copy of his first book, as well as the Locket of Saint Jiub.

Then, doubtless to Serana’s relief, I finally got us back to the portal and back into her mother’s laboratory in Castle Volkihar. From there, I went out onto the balcony for nearby convenient fast-travel goodness, and blipped us back to Fort Dawnguard.

Unseen Visions quest

Once I got up the next morning game-time, I made the now-expected discovery that Dexion Evicus had gone blind as a result of his prior attempt to read the Sun Scroll that had been locked away from Serana. Ohnoez! Our Moth Priest is blind? Is all lost?

No! Also as expected, he gave me the info about how I could go to an Ancestor Glade and conduct the appropriate ritual to read the Scrolls myself. With added encouragement about how hey, I’d found multiple Elder Scrolls and they have minds of their own, so maybe they actually wanted me to read them and I wouldn’t go blind or crazy trying to do it!

Heh. This whole idea amused me the first time through, and it amused me again, just for how the game up to this point had hammered home the concept that only the Moth Priests could safely read the Elder Scrolls–and then only after years of training to do so. Yet I, the Dragonborn, apparently can read three of them in one go if I just do the right ritual?

Sure! Let’s do this! How hard can this be? 😀

Snarking aside, I do like this part of the quest line quite a bit. Ancestor Glade is a lovely location to visit, and I do like working towards an objective that requires action other than just “see enemy, hit enemy, get enemy’s loot”.

And it played out mostly the same way it had when I did this as Alarrah, with a few minor exceptions:

  • Taking the time to make a whole bunch more exploding crossbow bolts before I left the Fort, because EXPLODING CROSSBOW BOLTS
  • Used Peak’s Shade Tower as fast travel landmark, and had random vampires to fight as well as bandits
  • Serana’s line about “you went as white as the snow” after I read the Scrolls is kind of hilarious when said to a Dunmer; if a Dunmer goes that pale, better doublecheck she’s still alive, y’know?

Once we got the Scrolls read and I knew where to go next (Darkfall Cave), it was time to head out. Got the expected vampire ambush squad, but we took them out with only minor difficulty–my minor difficulty being, running low on healing potions! So I had to take care to pay strict attention to my health bar, and back off when necessary to throw a healing spell on myself.

(Side note: having spent more time building up my magic with this character, it is handy to be able to throw a healing spell on myself. But I need to see about shifting from using the low-level Healing spell to using Close Wounds instead, if I want to be able to heal myself more quickly in combat!)

Supply run to Heljarchen

And since I did in fact run out of healing potions, once we got safely out of Ancestor Glade, I decided to blip back to Heljarchen to take stock of my available ingredients and see whether I could create some Restore Health potions.

When we came out of fast travel there, I got a surprise: fast travel dragon! At my house! And not only a fast travel dragon encounter, but my first Revered Dragon encounter of the game.

So Serana and I leapt into combat with the beast. Surprisingly, steward Golldir also jumped in to help out, but I didn’t notice that until the very end of the fight when I saw his subtitle about “guess it must have run off”. At which point i went OH HEY good job helping out there with the combat, steward! You get a raise! Help yourself to the gems in the strongbox in the front hall, okay?

Also worth noting about that battle with the Revered Dragon: it actually had lines during the battle. Lines which I’m pretty sure were actually Shouts? Because all the random dragons can do Shouts of various types, but only the upper level dragons start throwing around things besides the fire and frost attacks, or Unrelenting Force. Starting with Revered Dragons, you also get Drain Vitality Shouts. And I’m pretty sure that dragon tried to throw that Shout.

It didn’t hit me, though, that I noticed? It may have been attacking Serana. Or Golldir. I don’t know! Because it happened fast enough in the heat of battle that I wasn’t sure it was even a Shout.

After that little bit of excitement, I did what I’d come to Heljarchen to do to begin with: see about making some potions. I did not have appropriate ingredients to whip up healing potions, though that didn’t stop me from making a bunch of other potions to sell later (because I also expected I’d be stopping in Solitude).

I also raided my cache of building supplies again, and got enough dragon bits and iron and leather to make a full set of dragonscale armor for Jenassa. Did one round of improving it to Legendary as well, since I had enough materials for that; would have taken it farther, only I discovered that all of my smithing-boosting apparel was in Solitude!

Serana kept following me around as I did all these things. And, because she will in fact do that, she took her own turns at the alchemy table as well as my armor workbench outside. She’d used the grindstone back at Fort Dawnguard, too. I never see her have any change in behavior by using crafting stations, but it amuses me nonetheless that she does.

(It makes me wonder if with a little more work on the code, you could get Serana to make actual potions at crafting stations which she could then actually use for herself. Or if you gave her the appropriate materials, could she improve her own armor and weaponry? If NPCs are clever enough to use crafting stations, I feel like they ought to actually be able to accomplish something doing that. But only if they have materials to do so, given them by the player.)

Supply run to Solitude

Next, I blipped over to Solitude.

Narrative-wise I feel like Serana was probably chomping at the bit to get to Darkfall Cave at this point. But I also feel like Merawen would tell her point-blank, “Look, that interloper who came to Castle Volkihar with me, who you made me send home? That was my wife, and she lives in Solitude with our children, and I need to stop there and see them before we do anything else. Also, we need more supplies.”

It also makes for interesting narrative, though, that I got Serana’s reaction lines to Solitude as soon as we showed up in the city. I remembered her having a reaction to the place when I took her there as Alarrah, but this time through, I actually heard her lines properly as well as seeing them on-screen, since right now I’m playing with subtitles turned on.

Serana tells the player that she’d been able to see Solitude from Castle Volkihar: “From the castle, you used to just be able to see Solitude over the mountains. It’s exactly what I imagined.”

She had a line as well about not realizing that the Solitude mill was so big. And, when I popped briefly into the Winking Skeever to sell stuff to Gulum-Ei, I noted with amusement that Serana threw off the sorts of reaction motions I often see NPCs doing in taverns: clapping when the bard is performing, and waving their arms around as they’re drinking.

Which certainly suggests Serana was kind of pleased to be there! I take this as fuel to imagine that Serana responded well to seeing how a normal human city currently functions in Skyrim. I figure this would be appropriate fuel for later convincing her to get her vampirism cured.

Meanwhile, though, I needed to actually get to Proudspire. And, as I pretty much anticipated, this proved a little difficult due to the Traveler showing up.

I’d expected he would. Which is why, as soon as I landed in Solitude with Serana, I saved right by the front gates. I wound up reverting back to that save on purpose once–because when I found the Traveler the first time, he killed one of the NPCs from the Blue Palace. Not happening, you vampire bastard.

Second time through, he actually killed me. This didn’t throw me all the way back to the gates, but it did throw me back to the point where Serana and I came out of the Winking Skeever.

Third time through, I got him at the point where the street turns towards Proudspire Manor. This seemed like a good place to fight him because the only other people in range were city guards–at least at first. I did see the mad beggar Dervenin jump in on the fight, which alarmed me when I saw him do that thing where an NPC with critically low health kneels down looking pitiful. But then I realized–wait, that means he’s an essential NPC, maybe? Looked it up and confirmed, yes, he is an essential NPC. Good. I’m not sure I’m going to bother to do the Wabbajack quest with Merawen, but I might just because I did like it! And I’d be sad if the poor mad beggar dude got killed before I could do that.

Finally, this time, got the Traveler killed. And Serana and I proceeded to Proudspire.

Coming in the main entrance, I was greeted with the spectacle of Runa and Sofie arguing! Which, I feel, was probably refreshingly normal to Merawen. I didn’t even have to tell the girls to stop fighting, though. As soon as I showed up they settled down.

Jenassa was pleased to see me! But I couldn’t give her her apology presents yet, because Serana was still my active follower, so I couldn’t get Jenassa into follow mode. Her response to my trying was the standard “Looks like you have someone already” line. In her case though, I strongly suspect my lady had a bit of snark going on about how that vampire chick that called her an “interloper” is still following me around.

So oh my yes, Merawen’s going to have to have a very, very long chat with her spouse later. And make with some major groveling. And major commitment to letting Jenassa come with her to Solstheim, as well as to the next major parts of the main plot.

I wound up clearing out the chest by my bed in Proudspire of almost everything in it (except for the Shield of Solitude), and replacing that stuff with the dragonscale armor for Jenassa, as well as the dragonbone bow I’d brought out of the Soul Cairn (and which I’ll also be giving her). I still feel a little silly carrying around multiple sets of armor, but on the other hand, I like being able to trade off between the various armor types on a whim.

So I got the Blades armor back, as well as the Nightingale and my own dragonscale armor. Once I finish Dawnguard I’ll be standing the Dawnguard armor down, because the risk of vampire attack will go down. At that point I will at least be able to whittle down the armor sets to three!

Left a few minor things still in the chest (like a couple of clothing items I’ll probably try to put enchantments on later), but carried a bunch of other things off to the vendors to sell. I sold all the things I didn’t need, and also got Angeline and Sayma both to sell me all the healing potions they had.

And, I suspect Angeline’s kindly “I hope your parents are proud of you” line at me probably means more to Merawen now that she’s been having conversations with Serana about her fucked up family dynamics. Merawen still won’t actually tell Angeline her entire original family in Morrowind is dead, though!

I haven’t triggered the line with Serana yet in which I tell her my parents are in fact dead–but I probably will. And I envision that Merawen would probably also tell her that since her original family is dead, that’s why it was important to her to establish a new family with Jenassa, even going to the trouble of adopting orphaned Nord children. (I’d have adopted Dunmer kids–there are probably plenty to adopt in Windhelm–but the game doesn’t give me that option!)

Once I got all the selling done that needed to happen, I went outside the gates with Serana, and then saved for the night.

Next time

Off to Darkfall Cave, finally, as the prelude to getting into Forgotten Vale and reaching Vyrthur and Auriel’s Bow.

Since tonight’s session lands on a Saturday, hopefully I’ll be able to make a dent in the Forgotten Vale portion of the Touching the Sky quest! Not sure I’ll make it all the way to getting the bow, but we’ll see!

And since the Forgotten Vale is my favorite part of the entire Dawnguard quest line, I will take a bit more time to savor it properly. I’ve been charging through a lot of familiar territory as Merawen faster than I did as Alarrah. As I’ve written before, mostly this is because I find I’m not as interested in gathering all the loot. But there is so much to do and see in Forgotten Vale that I’ll feel like I won’t do it justice if I don’t pay it proper attention!

So stay tuned for that to begin next post. 😀


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.