Ysani Playthrough

In Which Ysani Slays Falmer, Dragons, and a Thalmor Assassin

Here’s another double session post, covering the play I did on Saturday 4/9 and Sunday 4/10! Lots of places visited in these two sessions, including Nchuand-Zel, Liar’s Retreat, Ironbind Barrow, and Bleakcoast Cave! And also, two different named dragons fought and slain, Nahagliiv and Viinturuth, as well as a pesky very bad kitty, the Thalmor assassin J’datharr.


  • Play dates: 4/9-4/10/2022
  • Session numbers in this run: 74-75

Saturday’s play

  • Got some sleep at Vlindrel Hall, then went and ran Nchuand-Zel
  • And getting in there showed me that yep, that spider Nimhe sure does re-spawn, so out of the goodness of my heart I re-killed her for Calcelmo
  • First Falmer kill in there let me get the first blood sample for Septimus
  • Found the missing four members of the expedition and got their journals (duplicated as it happened); also got the next schematic for Sorine
  • Got overloaded getting loot on the way out
  • Also got killed once finally by a Falmer because i wasn’t paying attention! But threw a dremora in his face next time through and that was that
  • Got out safely and found Calcelmo to tell him I’d solved the question of the expedition, and he paid me 1500 gold
  • Headed over to the smelter to smelt some of the stuff I got off the Falmer
  • Waited by the forge till morning so I could sell stuff to Ghorza; also sold stuff to Lisbet and Endon
  • Returned to Vlindrel Hall and dropped off the journals onto my bookshelves there
  • Did some enchanting to burn through charged-up soul gems, and that let me level up to 66
  • Took a health boost and the perk for casting expert Destruction spells at half magicka
  • Headed out on foot
  • Ran into two different sets of Thalmor, one trio heading towards Markarth and the others with a prisoner heading east
  • Felt like the first set was a bit too close to Markarth to play ‘let’s piss off the Thalmor’
  • Did not get a chance to engage the second set of them because some cultists showed up and i had to fight those guys; Thalmor were gone by the time my dremora were done slaying the cultists
  • Got surprise second sample off one of the cultists because they turned out to be a Dunmer
  • At that point I was close enough to Karthwasten that I started poking around for Liar’s Retreat, and found it!
  • Saved for the night

Sunday’s play

  • Started running Liar’s Retreat
  • LOTS of Falmer right out of the gate in that place, and lots of slain bandits
  • Threw the dremora ahead of me into the thick of things
  • Found one of the slain bandits was a Bosmer so got a sample off that one
  • Charged several soul gems fighting Falmer hand to hand, and wound up decapitating one with my dragonbone sword, whoa, not sure I’ve ever done that before? I’ve seen ME decapitated, and the dremora doing it, but I don’t think I’ve seen myself get that critical hit!
  • Started searching the place and found the back corridor where the Falmer had broken in; more dead bandits back there, and live Falmer and spiders
  • Found a dead orc bandit to get a sample from, making four of five
  • Finally reached the spot where Rahd the bartender had been sacrificed but did not see his hammer
  • Backtracked, found one live bandit who came at me, and a few more bandits coming in who were apparently not part of the slain group, but came in to find the carnage and attacked me
  • Finally checked the wiki, and learned that yep, the hammer is supposed to be with the body of Rahd but may or may not have fallen off the table where he was sacrificed
  • Went back to get the hammer, then finally returned to the exit to get out
  • Hoofed it eastward from there; found Cliffside Retreat
  • Also found Chillwind Depths, where I killed a bear
  • Saw random orc across the river might have been one of those pick a fight with you characters?
  • Also saw Alik’r warriors hassling another Redguard woman; one of them actually yelled for help but didn’t see why
  • Did not go close enough to Robber’s Gorge to engage
  • Found bandits near Rorikstead, AND three vampires hassling Dawnguard novice Hakar
  • Vampires gave me Sanguinare Vampiris but yeah not doing that this run
  • Killed ‘em all! And also the sabre cat who tried to eat Hakar afterwards
  • Tried to get on Arvak to keep going, but next up: Nahagliiv buzzing Rorikstead, and WELP WE CAN’T HAVE THAT NOW CAN WE? Took care of that problem with fire atronachs and Nightingale Bow
  • Got back on Arvak again to keep going, but ran into cultists
  • Passed M’aiq the Liar, and shortly thereafter, Talsgar the Wanderer
  • Then two pissed off necromancers (another round of Malyn Varen’s disciples); quaffed up to get my carry weight bonus improved so I could fight the second necromancer
  • Called Arvak back up and then went the rest of the way to Whiterun, where I sold stuff to Warmaiden’s
  • Stopped at Heljarchen to drop stuff off, then hoofed it onward from there
  • Hostiles encountered: frost troll, pissed off random Dunmer
  • Made it to Ironbind Barrow! Ran the place, completed Beem-Ja’s treachery plot; got next word for Become Ethereal; also loot off the unmarked ruin up the hill behind the exit
  • Headed towards Windhelm and saw another dragon, which turned out to be Viinturuth!
  • Fought and killed another frost troll, and vampire masquerade trio, then killed the dragon
  • Arvak’d up and rode into Windhelm
  • Enchanted a bunch of stuff, then sold a bunch of stuff to Oengul and Niranye
  • Tried to hoof it out, but discovered Khajiit outside the city–with the extra Thalmor assassin!
  • Ran back into the city to hit the cornerclub and found Malborn there; got him to tell me he was in danger so I could go back out and confront the assassin, which I did; scratch one very bad Thalmor kitty
  • Played around exploring on the very eastern edge of the map and made it into the upper right corner; had to veer west for a long swim across the water towards the college
  • Found Bleakcoast Cave which i hadn’t found before, which was full of trolls; cleared the place and also found the camp south of the cave with an unowned horse
  • Found a Light Armor skill book there and read that, which leveled me up to 67; took a magic bump, and dropped another perk on Destruction to improve damage of lightning spells
  • Saved there for the night


Saturday was not that eventful a session by itself, but it turned out to be a real nice prologue for the action in Sunday’s session!

Nchuand-Zel was not new to me at this point, but like other things I’d run before, I discovered this time through that it was a lot easier with dremora.

And after doing that dungeon, the other main notable thing about Saturday’s play was running into two different sets of Thalmor and not trying to piss off either one. LOL. Ysani has, perhaps, grown shockingly mellow about the Thalmor; I think maybe hitting the embassy got a great deal of her need for vengeance out of her system.

(Mostly, anyway. I did take out the Thalmor hit-cat J’datharr, after all! See below on that.)

Liar’s Retreat

Next major point of interest: finding and running Liar’s Retreat, one of the few places left in the game that I hadn’t actually run before. Fairly standard bandit hideout type place, but with the added complication of a bunch of Falmer having broken into the place from underground. When you show up, in fact, the Falmer are in the middle of wiping out the last of the bandits!

This now makes the second place I’ve visited in the game where Falmer have specifically broken through walls and slaughtered the inhabitants–the first one being Frostflow Lighthouse. This underscores, I feel, that the Falmer are fucking dangerous. And it raises real interesting questions for me as to their overall motivations.

Clearly at least some of them have no problems whatsoever with breaking into surface-dweller buildings or inhabited caves, and wiping out whoever they find. But why are they doing this? Any player who’s explored the right places in Blackreach knows there are Falmer slaves down there. So are they looking for more slaves to capture?

(And I’m still wondering exactly how the Falmer enforce keeping slaves, especially armed ones. Since the Falmer Servants in Blackreach are armed.)

Are they looking for food? Are Falmer numerous enough now in Blackreach and Dwemer ruins in general that they have to raid the surface in order to feed their numbers?

Are they looking for goods they can’t make themselves? Falmer spellcasters I’ve fought almost always have elemental staves, and multiple Dwemer ruins with Falmer in them have alchemy tables that the Falmer are obviously using. Likewise, forges. The Falmer have clearly been making their own chitin armor, but are they getting better at utilizing metal? Are they cluing in that surface-dwellers might in fact have better weapons?

Here’s a fun thought: are they looking for revenge against the Dwemer? Do they remember the Dwemer? Is there any possibility descendants of the original Falmer slaves might be equating surface-dwellers in general with their former Dwemer overlords?

So many fun questions to ponder here!

And at any rate, I liked running this place. It was a legit decent-sized bandit hideout–or at least was, before the Falmer broke in and trashed the place. And it was legit grim seeing bandit blood all over everything. Creepy as well to find the spot where the Falmer had broken in, and the tunnels beyond that, containing the inevitable frostbite spiders as well as the final table where the unfortunate Rahd had been sacrificed.

Had to rely upon the wiki though to confirm that yeah, Rahd’s weapon Longhammer was supposed to be there on the table with him. Shocked, shocked I say, to find that the weapon was glitchy and hard to spot!

The second round of bandits coming and going “WTF JUST HAPPENED HERE” at the end was a good touch, too.

All in all, satisfying place to visit!

Roadtrip action, and Ironbind Barrow

Lots of further amusing encounters on the road between Liar’s Retreat and the next major spot I wound up at, Ironbind Barrow.

Vaguely surprised that Dawnguard novice Hakar actually managed to survive the melee I stumbled into that involved four bandits and three vampires all hitting me at once! And he managed to survive long enough for me to kill the sabre cat that tried to eat him afterwards, too.

(Didn’t think to check for the cache key and orders he was supposed to have dropped, though! I wonder if I’ll run into him again at some point? For his own safety I kind of hope not, because seriously, son, go back to Fort Dawnguard and do some more drills.)

Right after that was Me Vs. Named Dragon encounter number one: Nahagliiv, buzzing Rorikstead. And cultists! And M’aiq the Liar! And necromancers pissed off about my killing Malyn Varen! All the best road encounters, really, all except a Thalmor execution squad. Where are those Thalmor bastards when I want them? 😀

And, after Heljarchen, a frost troll and a pissed off random Dunmer before I finally reached Ironbind Barrow! I’d had this place waiting a while on the quest journal and right then was as good a time as any to run it.

So I went ahead and did the place. This time through I noted that Salma actually actively fought Beem-Ja herself, once he attacked me. I am legit not sure if I remember her doing that before? I like it, though, just because it adds some narrative weight to Salma’s story.

Plus, I got what I wanted to get in there for: the next word of Become Ethereal (which satisfied the pending quest on my journal), as well as the weapon with the Fiery Soul Trap enchantment!

Onward into Windhelm

Between Ironbind Barrow and Windhelm, I took out the one remaining named dragon I’ll get to before either going to Solstheim, or proceeding with the main plot: i.e., Viinturuth! With a bonus side helping of another frost troll, as well as a Vampire Masquerade trio.

Once I reached Windhelm, though, the main action there was discovering the Thalmor assassin sent after Malborn. And unlike the last time I tried this, this time I was able to actually provoke him and get him to fight me directly. I was legit relieved to see Malborn had safely made it to the cornerclub, though I suppose that kind of stood to reason given that I found J’datharr outside the city first!

I believe this brings my total of Thalmor slain this time through up to 22!

Slightly surprised as I write this, though, to realize that it was actually Ri’saad’s caravan who was camped out outside Windhelm for this, not Ma’dran’s. Ri’saad’s group usually travels between Whiterun and Markarth, but it was definitely all of his group at Windhelm this time.

Bleakcoast Cave

After taking out J’datharr, I headed north to see if I could trigger any encounter that would get me, if not actual Thalmor, then at least some other Altmer.

I didn’t find any Altmer opponents, but I did wind up in the northeastern corner of the map. And I found the eastern edge of the map there, too! At which point I had to veer west, and do a very long swim towards the mage college.

While doing that, I amused myself with the thought of Ysani boggling at her ability to do that swim. Because we’re talking icy water that should surely give even the hardiest of Nords pause. Yet I was able to do the whole distance without the slightest problem. And given that this is dainty little Ysani I’m writing about, I’m thinking this gave her no small amount of pride. Between that and holding her own in hand-to-hand combat with Falmer, she’s come a long way from the slip of a girl who had to hide in the Western Watchtower during her first dragon attack!

That swim ended in one more place that was new to me: Bleakcoast Cave. Which was a large cave full of trolls, fairly easily cleaned out. And just after that, I found a small abandoned camp with a living horse just south of the cave. Paused there for the night after reading the Light Armor skill book.

Language commentary

Interesting terms observed:

  • Refuge du menteur: Liar’s Retreat (lit. “Refuge of the liar”)
  • Repaire de la falaise: Cliffside Retreat (lit. “Den of the cliff”)
  • Tréfonds d’Âprebise: Chillwind Depths (lit. “Depths of the fierce north/chill wind”)
  • Grotte de Mornecôte: Bleakcoast Cave (lit. “Cave of gloomy coast”)

Found another discrepancy which actually turned out to not be a translation problem–because the Lost Expedition quest calls one of the lost researchers both Staubin and Staubs, depending on which bit of text in your objectives you’re reading. This carried over into the French build.

Interesting to me that two different places with the word Retreat in their name in English have different translations in French. Refuge for Liar’s Retreat, and repaire for Cliffside Retreat.

Took me a little work to figure out the translation for Chillwind Depths. Tréfonds appears to cover the Depths part of the name. And bise, it turns out, is a word for cold/chill wind, specifically the north wind. (Source) Which amuses me given that I previously knew this word as meaning kiss!

The Apre- part of the name, at least according to the map, threw me for a loop. It looked like most of aprés, which I know as the word for after, and that didn’t make any sense in context. But then I discovered that the name is actually spelled Tréfonds d’Âprebise, according to the Elder Scrolls wiki. I.e., a with a circumflex on top, â. And âpre means hard or fierce.

Which means a bit of extra poetic nuance in the name, in the French version. And I kind of like that.

Next time

Given that I left off right at that abandoned hunter’s camp, I’m going to see about finding the remains of the hunters in question, and see if one of them is an Altmer.

Then I need to swing by the college for some training, and also selling these assorted staves I’m carrying around. I was going to go to Septimus’ outpost next, but I still lack an Altmer blood sample. And I think I may have to swing all the way down to the Shrine of Talos near Lakeview to get that sample.


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.