Dawnguard,  Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Slays Lord Harkon Then Catches Up On Side Business

This session saw the conclusion of the Dawnguard plot, with the slaying of Lord Harkon, Serana’s father. And with the Dawnguard plot over and done, I took care of a lot of side business after that!


  • Session number in this run: 53
  • Fast traveled from Solitude to Fort Dawnguard, to report in to Isran
  • Isran rallied the troops, and we all went to Castle Volkihar for the frontal assault
  • Took a couple of tries for me to get to Harkon, intervening vamps got me a couple of times—possibly a reflection of higher difficulty setting? But also because I find it harder to track combatants in a full-on group melee like this
  • Third time through I remembered to cast Stendarr’s Aura and Stoneflesh, which helped a lot; also, I am carrying around healing potions for reasons
  • Fought everybody with Auriel’s Bow on general principles, because I busted my ass to get this thing, you better believe Imma shoot vampires with it
  • (Also, the sunburst explosions are really cool)
  • Casualty of the battle on the Dawnguard side: Durak the orc
  • RIP Durak 😢
  • Got Harkon slain, and got to epilogue with Isran thanking Serana
  • Told Serana I’d love to have her along on further adventures; kept her along to go pop back into the Soul Cairn and get her mom
  • Told Valerica Harkon was dead; missed the conversational path to get her to take my Soul Husks, but meh, not like I’m coming back into the Cairn anyway so I don’t care about the extract potions
  • Got Valerica back to her laboratory and permission to take anything I needed; didn’t bother, I have plenty of ingredients and soul gems, thanks!
  • Went with Serana out on the balcony; asked her if she’d ever thought about curing her vampirism and got her along the path of going off on her own to deal with that
  • Returned to Solitude for family time and also crafting and selling!
  • Ha, Sofie adopted a fox; how the hell did this kid find a fox in Solitude?
  • Nabbed all the ingredients and most of the chest stash
  • Made several potions
  • Wandered out to sell stuff at vendors
  • Summoned Arvak to get me to Heljarchen with all the crafting materials
  • Built a lot of things all over the house
  • Improved all the armor and weaponry I want to give to Jenassa 😀
  • Also some improvement on the Blades armor and Nightingale weapons
  • Used up all my dragonscales, and am not in a position yet to make better smithing gear
  • Returned to the Forgotten Vale for paragon loot!
  • Got Unknown Book Vol. 2 and also Auriel’s Shield
  • Headed off to mage college for training with all the trainers
  • Bought additional spells from Tolfdir, Phinis, and Drevis
  • Oh hey look my ingredients in the Arch-Mage’s quarters respawned! Thank you, whatever staffer at the college restocked my room 😀
  • Tried to go to the Midden, but rudely interrupted by the arrival of a Revered Dragon
  • And yeah, that sure is a Drain Vitality Shout that dragon tried to throw at me!
  • Stupid dragon you be shot with arrows now
  • Heard somebody, possibly Sergius, yell “Those fools are actually fighting!” Hey y’know what’d be helpful? HELPING ME FIGHT OFF THE DRAGON ATTACKING THE COLLEGE. Just a thought!
  • Take two of trying to go into the Midden, I was able to get in there and make a bunch of void and fire salts
  • Headed back to Solitude for a bit more inventory management
  • Sofie intercepted me on my way to the house and asked if I’d brought her anything, so I gave her a wooden sword
  • She charged right back to the house with it, and started whacking on the practice dummy in her and Runa’s bedroom while her fox looked on, and lol, she knocked over the basket with the rolls of paper in it in her enthusiasm
  • Saved there for the night

General commentary

The ending of the Dawnguard plot, in this session, worked out to be very, very similar to how I did it with Alarrah. Much of what I said in that post applies here, in terms of Harkon putting up a good fight.

There were however at least a few differences. One, I did get killed a couple of times going into the castle in the first wave of the fight. This might have been a matter of the increased difficulty setting I’m on in this playthrough. But it might also just be a matter of how, so far, it’s more difficult for me to process things like “oh shit, my health bar’s almost down, I need to take another healing potion”, if this is a judgment call I have to make while four enemies are converging on me at once.

As I noted up above though, casting Stendarr’s Aura and Stoneflesh before I leapt into battle helped a lot. Stendarr’s Aura in particular, just for the extra edge it gives against undead enemies.

Two, this time through I did try to make a point of taking out as many enemies as possible, not just Harkon, with Auriel’s Bow. I figure, I went through all that trouble to get the thing, it ought to damn well be my primary weapon in the final Dawnguard battle!

Plus, I really just like the impressive bright explosions when you fire Sunhallowed Elven Arrows with it. BOOM. 😀

Three, I didn’t document this in Alarrah’s post so I don’t remember for sure whether the Dawnguard lost any of its people in her playthrough. I kind of feel like maybe they did, and in particular, I may have lost Durak in that playthrough too?

But I don’t know for sure. So for the record, I’ll also note that the Dawnguard lost Durak the orc during the battle. Sniff. RIP Durak. 😢

Four, I actually had Serana with me this time as I went back into the Soul Cairn to let her mother know it was safe for her to emerge. So Serana got to see that Valerica did safely return to the castle.

I felt a little weird though about taking Serana out onto the balcony after I talked to Valerica, and doing the whole “so, have you thought about not being a vampire maybe?” thing. I did take the more tactful approach to this, so as to not upset Serana, and the simple fact that she agrees she needs to go do this suggests that the idea was already on her mind.

But it sure does seem to set her up for awkward conversations with her mother in the future! “Hi mom, having fun restoring the castle? Surprise, I’m not a vampire anymore!”

And it raises interesting questions about how Valerica feels about the prospect of her daughter being mortal again. Or for that matter, if she would also consider becoming mortal again, if she’s spent so much time in opposition to Harkon. Would she want Serana to come back to the castle if she’s mortal? Would she consider a scenario where she becomes the only active vampire in the castle, and any other residents are her mortal descendants?

Also, what does this mean in regards to the family’s prior history with Molag Bal? I can’t imagine he’d be pleased if a family he’d previously specifically made pure vampires turns their back on his gift. Or even just Serana in particular. Is Serana going to have to consider committing herself to a different Daedra just to make sure she has protection against Molag Bai?

(LOL, hey Serana, I hear Meridia really dislikes the undead!)

Paragon loot run

No real changes here from how Alarrah did it. I kind of don’t feel like I’ll actually use Auriel’s Shield? Mostly because it’s not clear to me what armor I’d need to be wearing to have it be part of a matching set.

In theory from what I’ve seen it’s supposed to be an ebony shield. But it looks like an elven shield, and there isn’t any heavy elven armor. So it seems like I’d wreck my Matching Set bonuses if I tried to wear that shield with something else.

Still though it is super gorgeous and if nothing else I want it on one of my shield racks!

Also, I’m glad I got the book out of the paragon run so I could take it to Urag with the other three.

On future playthroughs I will need to figure out if I can work the paragon loot fetching into the main Forgotten Vale run. It does require backtracking to the Paragon Portal, but once you have all the wayshrines active that should be easier? I’ll just need to remember to try this once I get past the point of taking out Vyrthur and having Gelebor’s wayshrine activate at the Inner Sanctum.

Solitude and family time

It’s nice to see the kids in Solitude doing the same sorts of adopted kid things Lucia did in Alarrah’s playthrough! Only now I have two kids, so there’s double the potential for amusing kid interactions.

I have yet to see either Sofie or Runa playing with the other Solitude children, hopefully they will do that?

And it totally amused me to see Sofie run off to practice with her wooden sword, only to trip over the basket with the paper rolls in it. Careful, kiddo! Gotta work on your form!

Also, I very much want to know where the hell in Solitude she found a fox. 😆

Mage college time

Main point of interest here being, I was able to get several more interesting spellbooks for higher-level spells, as well as a couple of lower-level ones I didn’t have yet. Trying to see if I can get all of the possible spells in all of the various schools of magic.

Finally got Bound Bow from Phinis, and Ironflesh from Tolfdir. These higher-level spells though are going to necessitate me continuing to buy the perks that will cut their casting costs down. I can throw Destruction spells around pretty well at this point, but the other schools still eat a lot of magicka, so I need to work on that. Maybe I need to alternate between throwing perk points at magic, and throwing them at Heavy Armor.

Also, for fuck’s sake, mages, help your Arch-Mage out more often when fucking dragons show up in the courtyard, okay? Instead of standing around making snarky commentary? I mean honestly.

Note also: the dragon that showed up at the college this time was another Revered Dragon. So apparently I’m now going to have those show up more often, now that I’m high enough level for them. It’ll be be interesting to see if I get far enough along levels-wise to start seeing Legendary Dragons show up.

(And by ‘interesting’ I mean ‘scary’. Because the Revered Dragons are giving me a tough enough fight to suggest that when I finally go after Alduin, he’s going to be even scarier than he was for Alarrah.)

Lastly, very useful to find out that the ingredients shelves in the Arch-Mage’s quarters do eventually respawn! Nice! Because I needed more void salts!

Building things at Heljarchen

I think I kind of knew this already, but a thing I was reminded of when doing building and improving work at Heljarchen this time was, I can usually stack a crafted potion on top of a purchased potion for additional bonuses.

So I was able to do this with purchased Blacksmith potions and crafted Fortify Carry Weight potions. Which helped me make more inroads on improving my Nightingale and Blades things.

Next time

Damn good question! As a player my goal with this overall run was to see whether it made sense to do Dawnguard and Dragonborn and then finish up the main plot.

I’m still not entirely convinced it makes narrative sense, just because once you go down the path of the main plotline far enough, the stakes get laid out and are indeed pretty damned high and urgent. You don’t get much more urgent than “this dragon is going to destroy the world”.

But that said—the game also robs that of a bit of its urgency. Because you don’t have any data to go on to know when Alduin is going to destroy the world. There’s a big difference between “Alduin is going to eat the world tomorrow oh shit we’re all going to die make your peace with the Divines NOW”, and “Alduin is going to eat the world in the next twenty years, so can we discuss a game plan maybe?”.

In-game, all you know is that Alduin’s going around resurrecting dragons. You don’t confront him yourself until round one up on the Throat of the World. So you can’t really know exactly how much time you have before you really, really need to do something about this dragon.

I discussed this with Dara and she was quite correct in that it makes gameplay sense to not get too specific about it. Because it helps encourage the whole open-world point of the game, i.e., you can play it in any order that you like.

So thinking about it, I feel like I have some wiggle room here to play it the way I’m thinking. Hell, I can see Merawen going, “For all I know, this asshole on Solstheim might be in league with Alduin, and if he’s going to keep sending his cultists after me, I better go do something about this so I can actually not be blocked from dealing with Alduin after that.”

So yeah. Dragonborn is probably next. But I gotta prep some for that, particularly if I’m going to take Jenassa over with me. I need to give her her armor and new weapons.

And I know from Alarrah’s run that Solstheim is a considerable investment of time all by itself, so I’m not going over there for an extended stay without my spouse! Particularly given that Jenassa is also a Dunmer, and if there’s anybody else in this game that’s going to understand how much it wigs Merawen out to set foot on Solstheim, it’ll be another Dunmer.

This time, at least, the kids won’t be left alone. Jordis will be there to watch over them! But I’ll need to think about periodic trips home to see the girls and my housecarl, just to remind them that yes, their mothers exist and we’re okay! We can stay for a few days but then we have to go out again! Here, Jordis, have another pile of gems to pay for food for you and the kids!


Editing to add

  • 11/17/2023: 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.