Dawnguard,  Ysani Playthrough

In Which Ysani Discovers and Rescues a Vampire

With this session, I officially got the Dawnguard plot underway! Found and rescued Serana at Dimhollow Crypt, and escorted her home to Castle Volkihar–with a stop along the way at Deepwood Redoubt and Hag’s End, where I confirmed that why yes, if you have Serana with you, you can in fact get the Ancient Shrouded Armor normally only available there if you’re in the Dark Brotherhood!


  • Play date: 3/16/2022
  • Session number in this run: 51
  • Set out on foot from Dayspring Canyon
  • Saw Vigilant Tolan ahead of me in the canyon up until the exit into the broader map
  • Passed Orc skooma dealer after Dayspring Canyon
  • Hostile creatures dispatched: spriggan-controlled deer just south of Riften; three cave bears; two sabre cats; one troll
  • Discovered for the map: Snapleg Cave
  • Total veins mined: two iron, one corundum
  • Reached Nilheim and ran it, and it was a much easier bandit lair to run with dremora! Let Jordis and Dremora lead the way for clearing the place (sidebar: fuck you, Telrav, stern letter to follow)
  • Reached and cleared Valtheim Towers, because Ysani was not in the mood to humor toll bandits
  • However, that got me overloaded; tromped back towards Whiterun
  • Found dead Breton woman lying near two dead bandits; apparently one of those bandits was supposed to be holding a necklace, but I couldn’t find one?
  • Sold a pile of loot to Mallus
  • Doublechecked Warmaiden’s, and oh hey look boots and a helmet for Jordis; bought those
  • Fast traveled to Heljarchen for building, and Jordis volunteered to be steward, lol; so I guess I get to have all three built houses with two housecarls on site? Works for me!
  • Did some more building in the storage wing, also crafting some armor to burn through materials and bump Smithing back up
  • Jordis hon, I need you back on duty, and here have a helmet and some boots
  • Onward to Dimhollow Crypt!
  • Total veins mined: two corundum veins just past Fort Dunstad
  • Discovered for the map: Hall of the Vigilant
  • Reached and ran Dimhollow Crypt, and again, quite easier with a housecarl and two dremora
  • Freed Serana; got the spellbook for Necromantic Healing; also the word for Drain Vitality off the Word Wall
  • As soon as Serana and Jordis and I came out of the crypt, boom, DRAGON; got that problem dealt with
  • Heh, Serana is possibly the only NPC in the game who does not throw a “holy crap you absorbed its very soul” line if she sees you kill a dragon?
  • Quaff-traveled from there to Solitude to sell a bunch of loot to Gulum-Ei
  • Hoofed it from there towards Deepwood Redoubt
  • Fought en route: cultists, two frost trolls, and a sabre cat
  • Overshot a little and wound up having to circle back around Volskygge
  • Made it to Deepwood Redoubt, and Serana started resurrecting every Forsworn in sight, like she does
  • Having Serana and Jordis and dremora meant that yeah, no problem whatsoever getting through this dungeon; more on this below
  • Unthinkingly re-read the Red Eagle book and triggered a second instance of the quest, oops
  • Made it to Hag’s End, and ha yes Serana even resurrected the Ancient Dark Brotherhood Assassin, more on this below as well
  • Apparently all this time I hadn’t realized there was a unique dagger on the altar? But it probably got blown off the altar by the hagraven’s attacks, because I couldn’t find it; oh well, Bloodthorn is only a steel dagger with a very short soul trap enchantment on it, and I have two better daggers anyway
  • Fast traveled to Lost Echo Cave to get within range of Castle Volkihar; hoofed it from there
  • Killed en route: another frost troll, and two of three horkers charging at a hunter trying to shoot them; this seemed rather lopsided odds, so I wanted to help the hunter
  • Headed on over to the castle; played this as previous, because yeaaaaaah hard pass on the vampire thing there, Harkon, I’m feeling dubious enough as it is about setting foot in this place; also, you seem like a dick
  • Harkon booted me back outside to my presumably shocked housecarl; went back to the main shore with her
  • Located Northwatch Keep and spotted a Thalmor on guard outside; I SEE YOU THALMOR MOTHERFUCKER, if I weren’t already busy dealing with vampires, your guard shift would be a lot more exciting
  • Mined an iron vein
  • Spotted two bandits vs. ice wraith; dispatched one of the bandits as well as the wraith, the other bandit I think the wraith got?
  • Boinged to Heljarchen to drop off stuff and have Traveler-free place to crash now that Dawnguard plot is active
  • Did a bit more building with materials on hand and finally got Heljarchen an enchanter table built, so I enchanted up a bunch of the items I’d amassed for later selling
  • Saved for the night


With Jordis volunteering to be steward at Heljarchen Hall, this means I’m three for three this session in having a housecarl volunteer to be steward of a built property. So that means that Heljarchen, Windstad, and Lakeview all have two housecarls stationed at them. Which is good for those houses, having two people there at level 50 means they’re all pretty well defended.

Not so much for Vlindrel Hall, Proudspire, and Honeyside. Breezehome has Argis at it just because that’s where the family is headquartered. But if I move the family off to Proudspire, that still leaves three houses unoccupied. I do kind of wish you could hire personal stewards for those houses too! I may investigate later if there is a mod for that, once I have the Steam Deck.

Because the houses in the cities might not be in danger of being attacked by bandits, giants, or draugr–but they could still be robbed. And dragons do periodically raze the cities. With Whiterun and Solitude, there are also threats of war! So having somebody on site at those places would be nice, from a purely in-character perspective.

Meanwhile, this session, more than most, drove home for me how the best strategy I’ve got for playing on a higher difficulty level right now is “run all the dungeons and lairs with an entourage”!

This worked very well with Delphine and Esbern while going to Karthspire, and it worked equally well here with Serana. It was particularly hilarious with Serana, just because she’s essential and a powerful necromancer. So going through Deepwood Redoubt and Hag’s End that way, with Jordis and the dremora as well, was kind of hilariously easy.

Just as importantly, though, I was able to confirm the thing I wanted to try to begin with by bringing Serana to Hag’s End: that why yes, I could in fact use her as a means to get at the Ancient Shrouded Armor normally available there only if you’re in the Dark Brotherhood!

The way this wound up working was that as soon as Team Dragonborn came in through the entrance to Hag’s End, Serana’s necromojo kicked in and resurrected the assassin. I didn’t actually see him at first–and I was a little afraid I’d missed my chance to yoink the armor once Serana resurrected other enemies later.

But it turned out to not be a problem! Because when I climbed down from the hagraven boss terrace down to the entrance and went back in, I found the ash pile that was the remnants of the assassin. Which was out in the main room despite the fact that the assassin had been behind a locked door.

(Because yes, Serana’s a powerful enough necromancer that she can resurrect bodies that aren’t in her line of sight, apparently! Lololol. And those resurrected thralls change zones when you and Serana do!)

And in that ash pile: the Ancient Shrouded Armor. Mission accomplished!

One other new aspect to running Hag’s End this time as well was that I learned from the wiki that there’s apparently a unique dagger to be found on the altar when you face the final hagraven! I’d never realized this before! It’s a steel dagger called Bloodthorn, and it has a three second Soul Trap enchantment on it.

But apparently because that hagraven can throw Destruction spells at you, it’s very easy for that dagger to be blasted off the altar. Which makes it super hard to find.

This turned out to be the case this time, too. I poked around the entire balcony area for any sign of that dagger, to no avail. Nor did I see it when I climbed down the rocks back to the main entrance.

But then, it wasn’t a great loss, really. I’ve already got better daggers, not only Mehrunes’ Razor, but also my dragonbone dagger with a better Soul Trap enchantment on it. So while I was slightly disappointed to not find it on general “I am a completist and like to collect the shiny unique weapons” grounds, I won’t actually miss this one much.

Next time I play Hag’s End, though, I’ll need to keep an eye out for that dagger! Maybe come out in Sneak mode so the hagraven doesn’t immediately try to fry me? We’ll see!

Also, I have not forgotten that clearing Northwatch Keep might very well be a thing Ysani need to do on general anti-Thalmor principles. Maybe as a palate cleanser after wiping out the Volkihar vampires later!

Lastly, just wanted to call out a little detail I never actually noticed before: that if you’re playing as a thief, and you help Maven Black-Briar take over Honningbrew Meadery, the sign outside the place totally changes to read Black-Briar Meadery! This is very easy to miss on the tiny Switch screen, particularly now that I’ve got a few playthroughs under my belt and am very likely to waltz right past things I think are familiar. Which just goes to show you that it’s valuable to periodically pay attention to stuff, you never know what neat little detail you might see that you never caught before.

Language commentary

Interesting terms observed:

  • Grotte de Brisejambe: Snapleg Cave (lit. “Grotto of Breakleg”)
  • Bastion des Vigiles: Hall of the Vigilant (lit. “Bastion of the Vigilant”)
  • Redoute de Noirbois: Deepwood Redoubt (lit. “Redoubt of Blackwood”)
  • Jetée de Glaceflots: Icewater Jetty (lit. “Jetty of Icewaves” or “Jetty of Icetides”)
  • Château de Nordguet: Northwatch Keep (lit. “Castle of Northwatch”)

Two additional notable things I’ll talk about here:

One: Even though I’m playing in French, the Black-Briar Meadery sign was still in English. Which mostly does not surprise me. Translating a game as large and complex as Skyrim had to have been a time-consuming process, and there are multiple levels of translation they must have had to consider:

  1. The voice lines
  2. The text UI, all of the menus and item descriptions and such
  3. Any graphical assets that would have required translation

A thing like the Black-Briar Meadery sign in front of Honningbrew falls into category number three here. They would have had to do a new version of the graphic that would have shown the translation they wanted, and they would have had to make it fit into the same general space occupied by that sign in the world.

Doublechecking the wiki, I see that Hydromellerie Roncenoir would be the translation of Black-Briar Meadery. So that’s 23 characters in French, vs. 19 characters in English.

Paul tells me that they could probably have fit the French text into the same space for that sign. German, though, would have been a whole other story!

(Sidebar: I am totally going to play Skyrim in German at some point, too!)

And two: this being the session where I found Serana, I got to enjoy the performance of that character in French. Right out of the gate, I noted with pleasure that the French voice actress does a great job. Serana is one of the most expressive characters in the entire game, with a wide variety of lines.

And at least on this first introduction to the French version of the character, it seems like the French voice actress does her justice. <3 Pretty close match as well in terms of overall timbre of her voice and rhythm of how she delivers her lines.

Next time

Now that Serana’s dropped off at Castle Volkihar, I think I may go ahead and swing by High Hrothgar to take care of talking to Paarthurnax, just so I can get the Clear Skies Shout.

Then I’ll head on down to Fort Dawnguard and check in with Isran.


Editing to add

  • 11/21/2023: Restored missing gallery, and added play date and session number markers.

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.