Shenner Playthrough

In Which Shenner Quests Through the Ratway

Main theme of the action in this session: adventures in the Ratway in Riften! Not only did I rescue Esbern from the Ratway, I also acquired Shadowfoot Sanctum. And Dawnfang and Duskfang. And a pet skeever. And I recovered a lost bow!

Also, made some progress on the fishing plots, and did more building at Windstad.


  • Play date: 7/4/2022
  • Session number in this run: 32
  • Started in Honeyside
  • Went out to do a little fishing; did not get a goldfish at the Riften Fishery fishing spot
  • Went back in and waited until I could sell stuff to Balimund; unloaded Thalmor loot on him; also sold stuff to Bersi
  • Went into the Bee and Barb and talked to Keerava; got a bounty to kill a bandit leader at Rift Watchtower; also got the pointer to the Ratway for Esbern
  • Went back out through Honeyside, and oh hey! I have a fishing spot right at the bottom of my own stairs \0/
  • Finally caught another goldfish
  • Went over to Merryfair Farm and talked to Dravin Llanith, the Dunmer farmer, about getting back his bow
  • Came back into Riften through the gate
  • Sighted Shavari
  • Headed down into the Ratway
  • Notice from the Riften guard on the door into the Ratway! Warning citizens not to go down in there because of reports of a ghost
  • Hi Drahff, hi Hewnon, you lousy bastards <STAB>
  • Found Gian the Fist actually trying to fight with the skeever outside his door, which triggered my fight music; took out the skeever and then took out Gian
  • Spotted the ghost and followed her into a whole new section of the Ratway
  • This part was neat, nice large section with multiple skeletons and journals speaking of a backstory of mages trying to seal away a Blades captain who’d gotten corrupted by Dawnfang and Duskfang
  • Breaking the curse on the ghost captain allowed me to take the blade
  • Went back out of the vault and found the caged tame skeever
  • But then also realized I could have gotten a full set of Blades armor and a Blades sword off of the slain guardian; went back for that
  • Derped around a little more till I found the dead pickpocket with the key for the skeever cage; sent Skritch to go hang out at Dead Man’s Dread
  • Found the door to Shadowfoot Sanctum
  • Got into the Ragged Flagon
  • Spotted Gissur the Thalmor agent; also spotted a strange lack of Thieves Guild people but they eventually came out of the back; most of them, unsurprisingly, wouldn’t talk to me
  • Talked to Vekel, though, and could in fact actually buy Shadowfoot Sanctum even though I’m not in the Guild, so that was interesting to find out! Bought it and also bribed him to tell me where Esbern is
  • Went to go explore Shadowfoot Sanctum which turns out to be quite nice, I see this as my future Guildmaster headquarters 😉
  • Headed down into the warrens; immediately fought initial three Thalmor agents
  • Explored a little while longer till I finally found the side passages with the chest that had Dravin’s bow
  • Finally went to Esbern and told him straight up I’m Dragonborn, which got him to let me in
  • Came out again and the next set of Thalmor attacked, but Esbern, Gogh, and Rulnik mostly took care of it
  • Stopped at the Sanctum to drop off Thalmor papers in the safe, and Thalmor gear in the chest by the forge
  • Did not locate the secret exit out at that point; got safely out of the Ratway the more usual way
  • Cue Shavari, once I was out on the lower level of the docks! And cue dialogue from the upper level of the market about people fighting! Apparently they were looking down from up there, LOL. Team Dragonborn took her out
  • Attempted to fast travel straight to Riverwood and cue ELDER DRAGON–which killed Alvor the blacksmith
  • NOT ACCEPTABLE, so rolled back to just after killing Shavari
  • Fast traveled this time to the Guardian Stones and rode towards Riverwood from there
  • Spotted the Elder Dragon in the distance, and this time when it came at us we were outside Riverwood, so that was okay
  • Made it safely into Riverwood and had the conversation with Delphine; told her I’d meet them at Karthspire
  • Went to Lakeview to drop off a lot of materials
  • Did a little smithing; improved Dawnfang and Duskfang (which is apparently the sword’s official name); made dragonscale helmet and gauntlets
  • Did a boatload of alchemy to burn through ingredients
  • Leveled up to 44; took Stamina bump and next Light Armor perk
  • Boinged to Whiterun to sell stuff; Khajiit tents were on site but empty; sold a few things to Belethor and Arcadia instead
  • Gave Mila her goldfish to resolve that fish bounty
  • Boinged back to Riften
  • (Riften stuff not entirely in order but there was a lot of activity here)
  • Sold assorted things to Bersi, Balimund, and Brand-Shei (a couple of times, off and on through Riften activity)
  • Got Nivenor to give me the key to her place so I could find the note from the stranger stashed in her strongbox, which I then also retrieved
  • Re-entered Shadowfoot Sanctum to retrieve stashed stuff there so I could sell it (but left the Thalmor stuff in the safe)
  • Also discovered where the secret exit is, down in the water by the forge; came up by the docks
  • Fished at the fishery dock but accidentally picked up the fishing rod there
  • Found Viriya and got the next quest from her, fishing contest in Morthal
  • Went back over to Faldar’s Tooth and found the cage bandit note about where to find Bloodthirst
  • Then fished by both Faldar’s Tooth and my fishing spot at Honeyside; finally caught a pygmy sunfish
  • Went back into Riften; tried to drop the extra rod back in place but it went into the water; dove in to try to find it but no luck
  • So fast traveled back to the docks (lol, unicorn landed there too) and put my own original fishing rod there, just out of general politeness
  • Slept at Honeyside
  • Got up the next morning and found Swims, who did not give me a new quest but who did give me the Argonian fishing rod and gold for his lucky fishing hat
  • Boinged back to Lakeview
  • Grabbed all the building materials useful for house building but left behind higher value things of interest for armor and weapons
  • Boinged to Windstad; confirmed I’d built out the primary beds so dunno why Iona has been hanging out at Honeyside?
  • Built a few more furnishings in the cellar, enchanter tower, and kitchen; built out the library wing and most of the alchemy tower
  • Dropped off materials down in the cellar
  • Saved for the night

Advancing the fishing quests

A mix of good action in this session! So I’m going to go over this in terms of general areas of action, vs. chronological order. There was a lot of overlap here.

First up: fishing! I was delighted to discover that there’s a separate fishing spot right at the bottom of the back stairs out of Honeyside. So that’s two immediate fishing spots available right in Riften, the one at the fishery, and the one at Honeyside. Very convenient. <3

And the one at Honeyside also let me finally get another goldfish, which in turn let me satisfy the bounty to bring a goldfish to little Mila in Whiterun. This was one of the situations where AE content didn’t sound quite as stilted dialogue-wise, because Mila used the same lines children do in general when they want to adopt a pet.

It was charming, too, to see her run off to put the goldfish into a trough of water.

Getting that bounty resolved had two immediate results. I was able to go back to Viriya and ask her for her next fishing work, which pointed me at the fishing contest to be had in Morthal. I peeked ahead on the wiki, so I have an idea of what’s coming with that–and that promises to be fun. 😀

I also forgot to call this out in the highlights above–but I got a courier with another note from Mila asking if I could bring her another goldfish, on the grounds that the first one is lonely and needs someone to play with. Aww. <3 I think that’s actually kind of adorable. I can just imagine the kid flagging down a courier in Whiterun and going, “Will you take my note to the Dragonborn pleaaaaase? Tell her I want another goldfish!”

The next fishing-related thing I want to note here is that I accidentally picked up the fishing rod located at the fishing spot at the Riften Docks. I did not mean or need to do that. But when I tried to drop it again to replace it, the damn thing fell in the water! I was not able to retrieve it, so I left my own fishing rod there instead. Game mechanics do not seem to require that, and I don’t actually know if a fishing rod would spawn there again? But at least from a purely in-character perspective, it just seemed polite to leave a rod there if I accidentally lost the one that was there before.

(Plus, I can apparently make my own fishing rods? So there’s that.)

Additional fishing both at the Honeyside spot later in the session also got me a pygmy sunfish, which I needed to be able to finally satisfy the pending quest with Swims-In-Deep-Water. That actually took a little doing, because I had to wait for him to wake up and emerge from Haelga’s bunkhouse. I finally went in there and talked to him there rather than the fishery, but that was still fine for purposes of quest resolution!

He happily paid me for the lucky fishing hat, and gave me an Argonian Fishing Rod, which is the next tier up of rods. Apparently those up the chances of catching large fish? Which will raise questions here of whether I need to care about keeping a regular fishing rod as well.

What he did not do, though, was give me another quest. I had a dialogue prompt to ask him if he thought I was ready for another challenge, and he actually said no! Which gave me a prompt to say I’d talk to Viriya instead. Apparently the next quest on Swims’ quest line is going to be prompted by getting a courier note? The wiki is not clear on this next quest, there aren’t many details there. So I guess I’ll just need to wait for that courier to show up, and play the fishing contest in the meantime.

(And I note with amusement that I think I’ve actually already caught all the fish required for that next quest, just because of having fished in Dawnstar! Lololol.)

I’m really enjoying doing the fishing, as I think I’ve said in previous posts. More than I thought I would, in fact! It helps that there are interesting quests to do, but also, I really just like the mechanics of how the fishing is done. It’s rather relaxing to have a quiet thing to do in Skyrim, in between all the dragon fighting and bandit hunting and whacking Thalmor upside the head. <3

Advancing the Gray Cowl quest

For somebody who’s not actually joining the Guild, Shenner does appear to be attracting artifacts of Nocturnal. LOL. And I am kind of interested to see where this Cowl plot is going, even though it involves thievery!

So I actually did a little bit on this plot in this session, convincing Nivenor to let me go investigate what the “stranger” left in her strongbox. Where I found a note and a forged deed, and instructions to go deal with Gisli in Solitude. Which means an actual bit of plot activity involving Gisli, which is kind of cool. Mostly I only see her in the context of her bitching about her brother. And if this plot lets me fuck with Erikur, great. 😀

Dawnfang and Duskfang

Next up: adventures in the Ratway!

Since I’m not running the Guild with Shenner, I wanted to take the time to explore some of the other things to do in the Ratway instead. Two of these are things you can do with the AE content, one of them is a mini-quest from the original content that I just hadn’t bothered to do before.

Of these, Dawnfang and Duskfang was definitely the most interesting! And it has a nice starting touch with a warning notice pinned to the door of the Ratway, from the Riften guard.

This adds a whole new section to the Ratway that you can explore, and an interesting backstory about a Blades captain who’d been corrupted by a cursed weapon, and locked away by mages trying desperately to secure him. This did not go well for the mages, as you discover when you get down there. Most of them did not survive the attempt. Your goal when you arrive is to take out the ghosts of the captain–as his soul had been split in three by the magic forced upon him–in order to take down the barrier and retrieve the blade. In the process, you also reunite the captain’s ghost with the ghost of his wife as well. Which is kind of sweet.

From a gameplay perspective, I really liked this. Nicely laid out section of the Ratway, with additional hostile skeletons you have to fight in addition to the captain’s ghosts. Fun to play through!

From a narrative perspective, I do kinda have to raise my eyebrows, though. Because the whole point of this backstory is that the weapon in question, Dawnfang and Duskfang, is cursed. It’s supposed to have driven Lorant Bouchard, the Blades captain in question, mad. And it made him dangerous enough that an entire guild of mages set up this complex spell trap to hold him and the blade in custody!

So I’m all… wait, so now the Dragonborn is coming in there, and taking down this magical trap and liberating a blade that drives its wielder crazy? And there’s a second blade as well with similar problematic powers? How is acquiring these blades a good idea?

Though that said, from what I’m seeing about these blades on the wiki, their abilities aren’t that hugely different from other weapons in the game? Notably, the Nightingale Blade, which slurps both health and stamina. And you can find any number of non-named enchanted blades that eat health or stamina or magicka, which aren’t even Daedric artifacts.

So Dawnfang and Duskfang’s big thing mostly appears to be that it changes names and powers depending on time of day, and it also gets more powerful if you kill more creatures with it. I kinda feel like, though, if you’re going to set up a whole big backstory about how a weapon is cursed and corrupts its wielder, there ought to be a risk of that for the player!

It wouldn’t even be tough to implement, really. Skyrim already has the concept of a cursed item you can’t unwield: i.e., the Ring of Hircine, if you’re running the Ill Met by Moonlight quest. So you could easily having the sword throw a message saying “Dawnfang does not want you to unwield it!”

But I suppose they decided against that to preserve player choice in wielding what weapons they want?

Which I can’t exactly argue with. And, heh, this wouldn’t be the first thing in the game that would normally break other mortals, but which does not break the Dragonborn! I’m looking straight at you, Amber and Madness Smithing.

And now I also have an extra set of Blades armor, as well as a Blades sword. I will need to get that improved up maybe for handing off to a housecarl!

And, since this whole plot also has an extra side bonus of acquiring Bloodthirst, I went right back to Faldar’s Tooth and located the note about that. Fortunately it was still in Cleared status so I didn’t have to do anything but just walk back in and retrieve the now-spawned note that pointed to Broken Fang Cave.

One side note: there’s a slight bug with the dead body of an NPC you find. The corpse is tagged as ‘Vellonus’, but all the various journals and notes that you find call him ‘Sellonus’.

Skritch the tame skeever

The Pets of Skyrim content has a tame skeever in a cage down in the Ratway, a skeever you can liberate if you find the dead body of the pickpocket who’d been the previous owner.

And there are questions here of why, exactly, you would want a tame skeever?

All the various pets appear to have a special ability, and Skritch’s one is finding food items. I feel like that might be slightly more relevant if you’re running Survival Mode, but even then, food items aren’t exactly uncommon?

At least Skritch looks slightly less nasty than standard skeevers, and doesn’t have blotchy fur. So that’s something.

This is indicative of the whole Pets of Skyrim concept, I think. Because I am mostly ‘meh’ about that entire plotline, and have been sending the pets off to various of my homes to get them out of the way. I think the only real use I could get out of any of them is as carry weight extensions? I’ll have to try that at least and see if that’s useful at all.

You can stick an Animal Pack on both Hilda the goat and Skritch the Skeever, but that only gives them a working carry weight of 40 (39 really, because the actual animal pack itself weighs 1). So that won’t let you have them carry much.

Anyway, now I have a pet skeever. Yay?

Recovering Dravin’s bow

Dravin’s bow being hidden in the Ratway was not an AE quest; this is a thing you can do in pre-AE Skyrim. But I hadn’t ever bothered before, just because Dravin Llanith is not an NPC I normally interact with. He’s the Dunmer farmer who owns Merryfair Farm, just outside Riften.

So you actually have to stop at his farm to talk to him, if you want to find out about his bow having been stolen. The reward he gives you isn’t terribly impressive objectively–five leveled gems–but that’s kind of a nice gesture on the part of a working farmer, so I accept that!

Mostly, the main interest here for me was that his bow was in a chest in the part of the Ratway I haven’t seen much. It required a little bit of extra exploration, once I was down in the part of the Ratway where Esbern is hiding. There was a whole other side tunnel that leads down to the right chest, so getting to see a new bit of the Ratway was kind of cool.

Also, it’s worth noting here that Dravin and his wife are in fact Dunmer farmers. Riften in general seems to have a decent number of Dunmer NPCs as well as Argonians, which I like. Say what you will about Riften’s corruption and it being the home of the Thieves Guild–but at least it’s way less shitty to its non-Nord inhabitants!

Shadowfoot Sanctum

Now here’s the other big interesting thing I figured out this session: you can in fact buy Shadowfoot Sanctum even if you’re not in the Thieves Guild. Vekel the Man is perfectly happy to hand you over the key if you hand him the gold.

So even though I’m not planning to run the Guild with Shenner, I went ahead and bought the place anyway just to see what it’s like.

Answer: pretty swanky, especially given that it’s down in the Ratway. The main entrance to it is a couple rooms over from the front door of the Flagon, in that same room with the sunshine coming down from above onto the plants in the center of a chamber. And once you get down through a watery tunnel, you find a nice little forge area that leads to the living quarters.

Standard assortment of a main living room, kitchen, master bedroom, and children’s bedroom. Plus a pretty nifty wardrobe with a false back panel that leads to your hidden trophy room, which has all the same sorts of special locations for the various important artifacts you can find in the game. The false panel’s a nice touch, given that Shadowfoot Sanctum is intended primarily for thieves. <3

And on my second visit to the place this session, I did also find the other entrance, the submerged access by the forge which leads you up into the water around the Riften docks. Useful perhaps for making unobtrusive entrances or exits!

Overall not quite as ornate as Bloodchill Manor, much closer in size to Tundra Homestead, but not quite as cozy as Tundra Homestead either. I like it. And I totally see this as future Guildmaster digs. <3

Shit, I feel like the Guild should just give you the place, really, once you take over. Maybe it was Gallus’ former hideout and Mercer didn’t want to claim it because it was too close to the Flagon and put him at risk of discovery, hmm?

Getting Esbern to Delphine

First notable thing about getting Esbern out of the Ratway this time: I had Shadowfoot Sanctum at that point, so I was able to stash the stuff I’d swiped from the Thalmor embassy in there, as well as the gear I stole off their agents. I kind of feel like if you have your own hideout in the Ratway, this adds a different nuance to the urgency of getting Esbern out of there.

If you’ve had the Sanctum for a while before you find Esbern, it seems to me like it becomes a little weirder that you don’t know Esbern is down there already. Particularly if you’re involved with the Guild. But I suppose this can be handwaved by saying that the Sanctum, as well as the Guild’s part of the Ratway in general, does seem to be in a slightly less horrible part of the place. Nobody from the Guild ever goes down into the Vault or the Warrens, after all.

And even if you have only just acquired the Sanctum, as I did in this session, this suggests that you might be real, real concerned about the safety of the place if Thalmor agents have already been on the loose in the Ratway. I feel like Esbern’s multi-lock door would be a real good idea to have on the Sanctum’s main entrance, particularly if you’re the Guildmaster. A single key doesn’t seem like it’d cut it! You want to keep out the Thalmor and any members of the Guild who might get uppity ideas about raiding their Guildmaster’s house.

Second notable thing about getting Esbern to Delphine: fast traveling straight to Riverwood, only ELDER DRAGON. Which promptly killed Alvor the blacksmith, a situation I found NOT ACCEPTABLE. So I rolled back from that and redid the arrival at Riverwood, this time fast traveling to the Guardian Stones instead and riding in on Swift Wind.

I still got a dragon, but that time through it actually landed to engage outside Riverwood. No NPCs put at risk. Much better.

Building epilogue

Last but not least, worked on building out more of Windstad, just in the name of trying to make it to level 46 before I go catch up with Esbern and Delphine at Karthspire.

What’s mostly notable about that: I have no idea why Iona is stuck back at Honeyside, given that I did build out the beds at Windstad, so it’s not like she doesn’t have a place to sleep?

I did at least build out most of the rest of the structure I wanted at Windstad. I set up the Library and Alchemy wings, and did many of the furnishings for each.

Next time

Two more levels to go before Karthspire time. So I expect there will be some more fishing, and possibly also running some bounties just to clear them. Maybe Arkngthamz? Or Forsworn Conspiracy?

Or maybe following up on that Gray Cowl plot!


Editing to add

  • 11/22/2023: 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.