Dragonborn,  Merawen Playthrough

In Which Merawen Becomes Thane of Hjaalmarch and Also Defeats Miraak

This session was actually a couple of smaller sessions on the same day with a break between, but for purposes of this post, I’m still calling it one session. And this cycle of play started fairly low-key—but finished with a bang!

Because I finally became thane of Hjaalmarch, not a terribly difficult thing to do when I was level 65. And then I finally finished up the main Dragonborn plot, and took out Miraak!


  • Session number in this run: 68
  • Fast traveled to Morthal
  • Went to rupture locale nearby and closed the rupture
  • Went into Morthal proper to run the Laid to Rest quest
  • Took a room at the inn for the night, and asked Jonna about the burned down house; she pointed me at the Jarl
  • Went to see Idgrod the next morning and got her order to go investigate the house
  • Talked to the ghost of little Helgi, and agreed to play with her after dark
  • Found her grave, and the vampire Laelette; killed Laelette
  • Activated the coffin so Helgi could talk to me
  • Thonnir showed up and was all “well shit my wife was a vampire?” He refused to believe Alva was involved
  • Returned to Morthal to search Alva’s house
  • No trouble breaking into the place as I should damn well hope not with a Sneak of 100 and a Lockpicking of 99
  • Alva wasn’t in there, but Hroggar was, so we had to take him out
  • Found Alva’s journal
  • Reported back to the Jarl in the morning; got her reward for the evidence, but also her request to go clean out the vampire lair
  • Led the contingent of Morthal’s able-bodied fighters to Movarth’s lair; of course, only Jenassa and I went into the place
  • I got cocky! Killed not by Movarth but by one of his other vamps
  • Second time through, got my Sneak on and shot everybody until I had to get all in melee range with the last couple of vamps and thralls
  • Cleaned out the place and got Helgi’s farewell
  • Returned to Morthal, got Idgrod’s pointer to become thane
  • Tried to talk to her housecarl in the hall but he was focused on business
  • Went to the apothecary to see if Idgrod the Younger was in there
  • But before I could get there HELLO REVERED DRAGON
  • Took it out once it crashed just outside town—and Jenassa actually got in the killing blow as she jumped on its head and stabbed it, well done there my love
  • Then went in the apothecary and got Idgrod the Younger’s request about taking the letter to Whiterun
  • Spotted Gorm heading into the inn and got his request to take a letter to Solitude for him
  • Boinged to Whiterun; slept the night at Breezehome
  • Sold stuff to Belethor and Arcadia; dropped off letter with Danica Pure-Spring
  • Boinged to Solitude; dropped off letter with Captain Aldis
  • Returned to Morthal; slept at inn
  • Returned to the Jarl; yay, I’m thane! Also, hi Valdimar!
  • Went out to start the building at Windstad
  • Returned to mage college to resolve Aftershock quest
  • Then back to Solstheim
  • Made a bunch of potions, then sold stuff to vendors
  • Headed out next towards Fahlbtharz
  • Random encounters included another netch hunter party, lots of ash hoppers, an aggressive Khajiit, and a burnt spriggan
  • Oh hey a Thalmor respawned at the Abandoned Lodge? Wiki says any further thalmor there are friendly though; seriously? Friendly Thalmor? I roll to disbelieve
  • Reached Fahlbtharz; my rieklings showed up to fight the rieklings there
  • Heard dragon in the distance, possibly respawned at Saering’s Watch?
  • Got into Fahlbtharz and cleared the place
  • Got the third Resonance Gem from there, as well as the Visage of Mzund dwarven helmet
  • Got overloaded with loot so potion’d back to Raven Rock
  • Sold a bunch more stuff
  • Tried Kagrumez again but nope, no Reaver Lord
  • Killed jumping flame spider near Kagrumez
  • Headed for Skaal village
  • Spotted cave bear vs. rieklings, but apparently not my rieklings, as these ones were hostile?
  • Reached the village and settled the quest with Edla
  • Right then, time to talk to Storn, and <sniff> bye Storn
  • Frea urged me to go kill Miraak so her father’s sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain
  • Went to Miraak’s temple, backed up against some rocks near the Tree Stone, and read the Black Book right there with Jenassa nearby
  • Ran the full Waking Dreams level, got third word of Dragon Aspect, got Sahrotaar to take me to Miraak
  • Actually used Dragon Aspect in battle this time, which was cool—got to see the Ancient Dragonborn manifest to fight for me
  • Pulled a perk point off of Block and another one off of Two-handed, and put them on Alchemy to make my potions more powerful
  • Whole battle nearly got me up to level 66
  • Returned to Skaal village to tell Frea yep, Miraak is dead; she advised me not to let herma-mora take me further down his path
  • Arvak’d back to Raven Rock because I was overloaded, and to more or less say goodbye to the place and nab everything out of Severin Manor I wanted to take
  • (Though I figure that Merawen would make a point of regularly visiting in the future, they are her people)
  • Made a bunch of potions and got leveled up to 66
  • Sold things to Glover, Milore, Fethis, take care you guys, back in a few months maybe? Assuming I save the world from Alduin!
  • Arvak’d back to Windhelm; sold things to Revyn, Niranye, Oengul, Quintus
  • Arvak’d to Honningbrew; sold more things there and saved for the night

Laid to Rest quest and becoming thane in Morthal

I had not actively planned to become thane of Hjaalmarch with this character—but I went ahead and did it just because it would let me build Windstad Manor and maybe spend some more money.

Plus, even though arguably the Laid to Rest quest was one I’m overpowered for at this point, I did like that quest when I ran it as Alarrah so I didn’t mind doing it again. And as Jarls go I kind of like Idgrod!

No significant differences here between how Merawen did it vs. how Alarrah did it, except for how Merawen was much better equipped to break into Alva’s house.

Still though it’s worth pointing out that even though I was pretty OP for this quest, this didn’t let me off the hook for being cocky. I did get killed once in Movarth’s lair. Not even by Movarth himself—I took him out pretty quickly. I got killed by one of his subordinate vamps, because I wasn’t paying enough attention to my health bar!

Now though at least I have Windstad Manor and Valdimar the housecarl. I’m pretty close to the endgame here so I’m not sure whether I’m going to actually bother to build out Windstad completely?

But on the other hand, I’d still like to do the high level mage college quests that require you to be at level 90 in the various schools of magic, and I am not there yet. Getting there might require me to reset my Smithing to Legendary so I can continue to level up at least for a bit. And building out the house would be a good way to restore it.

Also, let it be noted for the record that seeing your spouse do the “jump on a dragon’s head and STAB IT TO DEATH” maneuver is really badassed and I wish I’d have gotten a screencap of that. 😀

We interrupt this session recap for commentary about clothing

One other note for the record: just because I could, I swiped Alva’s outfit, just because it looked different from a lot of the standard outfits I run into.

And I had another round of a thing I’ve realized before: i.e., that clothing you pull off of dead enemies is gendered. Not just in the sense of “this is men’s clothing” or “this is women’s clothing”, but in how the clothing actually manifests on you once you pull it off your defeated enemy.

So if I kill a male enemy, and take his outfit, the exact same outfit will shift from being a “male” outfit on him to a “female” outfit on me.

With Alva’s outfit in particular, this was additionally annoying because when I tried to loot it off of her, the outfit presented in the UI as the “male” version. It also does that if I look at it in my own inventory UI.

It makes no sense to me that clothing would be treated this way. It seems like it makes the code in charge of clothing way more complicated than it needs to be. A lot of the outfits do this, too. The exact same outfit can look like a tunic and trousers on a male character, and turn into a dress on a female character.

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

What if I’m playing a woman and I want the version of the outfit that has a tunic and trousers? Why are you making me wear a dress?

It doesn’t even really make sense if you try to handwave it as “because the culture of the Nords is gendered!” It… kinda isn’t? Because by and large, women in the game, either as player characters or as NPCs really, aren’t constrained by gender into certain roles. So it makes no sense to expect women to have to always go around wearing dresses. A bunch of them, particularly the Nord women who are warriors, would probably be a lot more comfortable in tunics and trousers anyway.

Also, what if I’m a non-binary player? The game doesn’t give you the option for a non-gendered character, but if you want to try to play as one as close to one as you can get anyway, it’s annoying to be limited to one gender’s clothing or the other.

Now all that said, in the grand scheme of “buggy and/or annoying behavior I have encountered in Skyrim”, this is by no means severe. It’s not outright game-breaking. It is, however, annoying. And I might be more annoyed about it if I weren’t cisgendered. I could very much see how a genderfluid/non-binary player would have more grounds here to be annoyed than I have, even.

And if you are going to be make outfits be gendered depending on the gender of the player, then for fuck’s sake, at least make them consistent. If I’m about to pull an outfit off of a female enemy I just took out, show me the female version of the outfit in her inventory list. And in mine, once I have it. It’s annoying to see the “male” version listed when that’s not what it looks like when I wear it.

But anyway, back to the recap!

Running the Fahlbtharz dungeon

I finally remembered, once I was actually on my way in there, that Fahlbtharz is the dungeon with the huge chamber full of spinning gears you have to navigate across. Multiple times, in fact.

And I seem to recall I found that difficult as Alarrah; I certainly did as Merawen. It takes tricky navigation to get yourself across those gears, and if you fuck it up, you can fall off them into the water. Which is exactly what happened to me.

Fortunately this is recoverable, there are stairs up out of the water to get back to the place where you need to jump back down onto the gears to proceed. However, it’s still annoying.

There’s no Word Wall, Dragon Priest, or Black Book in this dungeon, so I might not have bothered with it a second time—except that it does have a Resonance Gem in it. And I’d seen reports on searches that suggested that if you run into that bug in Kagrumez with the Reaver Lord not spawning, one possible fix might be to get that additional gem from Fahlbtharz and try again.

Otherwise, it wasn’t really worth my time. I very much do not need the gold. And since I’m not generally a fan of the look of dwarven armor, the Visage of Mzund helmet is not terribly interesting to me.

On the other hand, I do like the boiler puzzle. And even though I found the gears challenging to navigate, they aren’t boring. And it’s an interesting change of pace from other dungeons in the game, even other Dwemer ruins.

Aside from all that, I did have riekling backup going through here. And I think I lost a riekling? I started with three, but by the time I finished the dungeon I was down to two of them following me around.

No sign of them when I left the dungeon though. I hope the little guys got out okay!

Kagrumez take two: still nope

With a third Resonance Gem, I tried to go back to Kagrumez to see if I could get the Reaver Lord to spawn. Answer: nope.

So guess I’m not running that dungeon with this playthrough. Oh well!

Back to the Skaal village

Practically speaking, I’m pretty sure Edla realized by the time I got back that her son wasn’t leaving the village. I’d like to think the guy actually told his mother about our little chat.

Still though, I did have to check in with her to get that quest resolved. And once I did that, it was time to go talk to Storn and move the main Dragonborn plot along.

This second time through, it was no less dramatic to see Storn resigning himself to having to be the shaman who gives up the secrets of the Skaal to Hermaeus Mora. Particularly given that Storn’s dialogue while Mora has him tentacle-nabbed suggests that he’s fighting against the Daedra.

I also have got to give props to the voice actress who did Frea. She has a brief line where she screams “Do something!” And those two words have a lot of anguish packed into them.

Mind you, I’m pretty damn sure there was fuck all I could do at that point; Storn’s passing is critical to the plot. I did however determine that I could draw my weapon. But killing a Daedra? Not a thing the game lets me do. Sorry Frea!

Dragonborn vs. Dragonborn: fight!

Onward then to taking on Miraak. As Alarrah, I read the Black Book at Severin Manor. As Merawen, I actually read it right by Miraak’s temple. Did that partly for convenience (it is close to the Skaal village), and partly because I wanted to see if there was any obvious change in the place once you defeat Miraak.

But before I could answer that question, I actually had to do the part where I defeated Miraak!

I feel like he was less of a pushover this time, probably due to playing on a higher difficulty level. Reviewing Alarrah’s post about taking Miraak out, I see that he did come close to killing me a couple of times in that run—this time, too. But I feel like I had to work harder to beat Miraak’s health down.

This time through I also took advantage of the Dragon Aspect Shout. I wanted to see how it’d look on me to have the flashy “dragon” light effects covering me (answer: badass), and also whether it’d be useful in battle. This Shout comes with the added bonus of summoning an Ancient Dragonborn to fight for you if your health drops low enough, and I did see this happen. So that was a fun new cool aspect about this battle.

Another thing I noticed this time through that I missed on the first playthrough, because I had subtitles turned on this time: Sahrotaar’s dialogue to me included a dragon word I hadn’t picked up on before, “thuri”. I went looking for what this means, and found this page on thuum.org that says this word essentially translates to “my king/overlord”.

Note that this is being said even to me, a female character. Again, an example of the game not really being gendered. The dragons don’t care that I’m female. They just care about the strength of my Thu’um!

Still a little sad though that Sahrotaar doesn’t survive the fight.

Once Miraak was down, I returned to the Skaal village to let Frea know it was done. Let her give me the warning again this time to not let Hermaeus Mora dominate my destiny.

(Possibly easier said than done, lady! The Daedra do have a way of pushing themselves into your affairs.)

And she told me that the All-Maker had made me Dragonborn for a reason. This actually has a little more narrative weight, I think, if you play through Dragonborn first before taking out Alduin. Because this way, you can totally read this as “the All-Maker made you Dragonborn so you can save the world from Alduin”.

Going home

Packed up in Raven Rock at this point, and nabbed everything I wanted to bring back to the mainland with me. I think about the only thing I didn’t grab was all the books on the various shelves. I may or may not go back for those, depending on how much time I have left on this alt. As it happened, I walked out of Severin Manor with my Carry Weight at over 2000!

Sold as much as I could to the vendors in Raven Rock, and then Arvak’d my way back to the mainland, hitting Windhelm and Honningbrew to sell more things. And that’s where I left off when I finally saved for the night.

I feel like I probably should have gone to say bye at Tel Mithryn? But only a little. Neloth is a chode. But Talvas and Elynea are nice!

Still though I feel like Merawen probably will semi-regularly come back to Solstheim. Her people are here, and this is the biggest gathering of Dunmer she’s found outside Morrowind proper. I don’t think she’d want to turn her back on that.

So whether or not I come back to Solstheim before I finish playing Merawen will be the interesting question. We’ll see!

Next time

I did just level up to 66, so my next immediate goals are going to be selling off as much excess loot as possible, and then hitting up the mage college again for another round of training.

I don’t feel quite ready to dive into the main plot yet though. I may take a few days doing low-key stuff and work up to that.

Some things I’m thinking about here being:

  1. I’d like to see if I could make it to 90 on my schools of magic, so I can do the mage college quests for that
  2. I still have a few more Shout words I can go look for
  3. And a few more Dragon Priest masks, I think?
  4. I just got Windstad Manor and I feel like I should at least do Valdimar the courtesy of building it up so he has someplace to sleep 😉
  5. Huh this means I should probably go find somebody else to be steward at the place, too!
  6. And I want to swing by all three built houses and get ‘em to hire bards and carriage drivers
  7. There are still side plots in multiple places that I haven’t done yet
  8. There’s that draugr hive right by Windstad that I haven’t run yet, I did like that dungeon, and the NPC Anska who’s there

The overall point being, I still have stuff to do even aside from the main plot. So I’m not quite ready to bail on Merawen yet.

As to what I specifically want to do next? Good question! Probably get all the stuff sold, and go get the training, and start working on building Windstad up.


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.