Y’know how I said at the tail end of Shenner’s last post that I was probably going to do something either in the Reach in general or Markarth in particular? Looks like the winds of whim dictated otherwise, because what I wound up doing instead was running the Blessings of Nature and Black Star plots, both of which are familiar territory, but which I had yet to do with this alt. Also did some fishing–and adopted Lucia from Whiterun as my first adopted child!
- Play date: 7/14/2022
- Session number in this run: 37
- Started in Markarth
- Sold a few things to Lisbet
- Smelted the ore and the dwarven metal strut I was carrying
- Improved the Holy Ebony Bow I’d gotten as loot at Ghorza’s forge; handed that off to Rulnik
- Went out and mounted up
- Rode eastward to find the overturned wagon to fish for the flin bottles for Ri’saad
- Encountered cultists en route
- And immediately after, unmarked Forsworn camp where the Forsworn had been fighting with Imperial soldiers; one Imperial survived the fight
- Passed refugee farmers as I found the cart
- Fished there, and got the flin! Boinged back to Salvius Farm since Ri’saad’s caravan was on site at Markarth; gave him the flin and got the Ring of Khajiit; also did a little shopping with him
- Boinged from there to Cracked Tusk Keep to get Kharjo’s amulet, which led to my learning about another bug (details below); got assorted loot while I was in there, out of the chest where the amulet was
- Rode from there to Falkreath; sold assorted loot to Solaf and Lod
- Boinged between the built houses to attempt building furnishings; wound up back at Heljarchen
- Had Rulnik stand down for a bit, here
- Set Smithing Legendary so I could free up the perks and keep leveling; dropped perks on Illusion to get towards Quiet Casting, Restoration to reduce spell cost, Alteration to get the first magic resistance perk; and a couple perks to improve Alchemy
- Did some smithing and made a few sets of leather armor to work on getting Smithing rebuilt
- Boinged back to Lakeview and did a bunch of smithing, enchanting, and alchemy
- Leveled up to 49; took Magicka bump; took Investor perk in Speech
- Boinged to Riften; invested in Elgrim’s Elixirs, the Pawned Prawn, Balimund’s forge; sold assorted things to both Bersi and Balimund
- Found Viriya and got her next fishing bounty for a seafood feast for Gisli in Solitude
- Boinged to Whiterun; invested in Warmaiden’s, Belethor’s, Arcadia’s Cauldron
- Talked to Danica and got the quest to go get Nettlebane (thought at the time that I could double this with going to Eldergleam Sanctuary for additional fishing, more on this below)
- Rode out on Swift Wind towards Riverwood
- Killed a mudcrab and a couple of wolves en route
- Reached Riverwood and invested in Alvor’s forge
- Went into the Riverwood Trader to invest there but accidentally grabbed the Golden Claw, OOPS
- Rolled back to coming back into the shop, then invested properly
- Came back out and OH SHIT Ancient Dragon; fought it but it killed Alvor :[
- NOT ACCEPTABLE, GAME, I LITERALLY JUST INVESTED IN HIS BUSINESS
- So rolled back THAT, to previous coming out of the trader shop
- No dragon this time, rode onward to Orphan Rock; no trouble running the place; got Nettlebane
- Boinged back to Whiterun to bring it to Danica; this time found Maurice actually giving her shit about the tree’s condition when I came in (more on this below)
- Geez, Maurice is a sanctimonious douche, but he’s a useful douche, so okay yes fine, Maurice, you can come with me
- Boinged to Atronach Stone to minimize the distance I’d have to bring him, aaaaaaaand FROST DRAGON; killed it thankfully before it could eat Maurice
- Saw second dragon in the background that might have been Viinturuth? it didn’t get close enough to engage
- Headed into the sanctuary and ran it as per prior playthroughs and let Maurice pray to get the sapling
- Then tried to fish but found no fishing spot; determined the quest journal description for Darkest Depths is fucked up 😛
- So boinged back to Whiterun to give Danica the sapling–and adopted Lucia!
- Sent her to Lakeview; boinged there to pick up building materials
- Boinged to Heljarchen and built out the bedroom and storage wing structures, and a bunch of furnishings
- Then boinged back to Lakeview
- Discovered Lucia had adopted a fox! Welp that was fast, but well she is now living in the woods
- Boinged to Shrine of Azura to start the Star quest
- Got the pointer to go find Nelacar, and went to talk to him at Frozen Hearth inn
- Talked to Nelacar, who notably greeted me as Arch-Mage; I think this may be the first time I actually ran this plot after finishing the college plotline? Bribed him to tell me where the Star was
- Came out to try to head out–and ANCIENT DRAGON, which wound up frying me
- Thrown back to coming out of the inn; second time through, killed the dragon
- Invested in Birna’s store
- Boinged back to Gromm’s Pass to pick up Gogh, because I felt guilty abandoning the little guy! His cave is bleak and lonely
- Boinged back to Heljarchen to pick up Rulnik, then boinged to Ilinalta’s Deep
- Plowed through the place pretty well; got the Star
- Came back out and boinged back to the Shrine
- Ancient Dragon showed up; went up to talk to Aranea and Azura and to be sent into the Star
- Killed by the dremora in there though, ow >_<
- Thrown back to coming out of Ilinalta’s Deep
- Went back to Lakeview for an equipment check; swapped out to the Imperial Dragon armor
- Also made a boatload of potions, including Resist Fire
- Realized I was carrying an ebony sword with a Banish Daedra enchantment on it and that seemed helpful? Kept that, but shucked as much as I could to get under Carry Weight
- Boinged back to the shrine
- This time an Elder Dragon showed up; killed it, but had to leave the dragon bits at the base of the shrine so as not to get overloaded
- This time through, was able to take on the dremora at close range; the ebony sword didn’t banish them, they were too powerful, but that was okay with the dragon armor on
- Got close enough to Malyn Varen to stab him
- And now I have the Star!
- Boinged back to Lakeview
- Heh, Lucia: “Is that your pet, mama? He looks really scary!”
- Swapped back to studded dragonscale
- Did a bit more smithing and enchanting to level up to 50; took another Magicka bump; took first Recovery perk in Restoration tree
- Saved for the night
My first goal of this session was to go find that spot where I’d need to fish up bottles of flin to return to Ri’saad. On the way to doing that, I found an unmarked spot I hadn’t encountered before: a Forsworn camp just a little ways off the road, where it is apparently common for the three inhabitants to be found fighting with Imperial soldiers.
I discovered this entirely by accident, too, right on the tail end of fighting a trio of Miraak cultists. I saw three additional red dots pop up on the HUD, and before I had actually found the new hostiles, I saw Swift Wind run off in that direction. When I followed, I found Forsworn fighting Imperials. All right then!
The arrival of Team Dragonborn meant that one Imperial did wind up surviving the fight. The Forsworn did not have that luxury.
Recovering the bottles of flin for Ri’saad was definitely one of the easier and more straightforward fishing quests. It had a nice reward, though: another of the artifact rings, this time the Ring of Khajiit, which apparently lets you move 10% faster and allows you to cast a spell called Hide. I am not sure what the Hide spell actually does, because it does not appear to be documented on the wiki? Searches suggest it may cast Invisibility. I will clearly just have to try it out and see!
Note though: one of the big draws of the Fishing content for me is that it gets you access to several nifty rings. Looking forward to trying this one. Even if my Tolkien nerd brain wants to make jokes about bearing rings of power. 😉
Next item on the agenda: recovering Kharjo’s Moon Amulet from Cracked Tusk Keep. This led to my accidental discovering of another bug, but in the sense of “this is a bug the USSEP attempted a fix for”, rather than actually directly triggering it.
The problem is that Cracked Tusk Keep apparently never respawns in unmodded Skyrim. But it’s still also a potential spot that can be randomly selected if you get Kharjo’s amulet quest. And if you happen to get his quest after you’ve already visited Cracked Tusk Keep–as I had, because I had to go there as part of getting the pieces of Mehrunes’ Razor–then the amulet can’t spawn there. So you can’t actually complete the quest.
When I showed up in Shenner’s modded build, though, I discovered that the place had respawned–kind of. I found no orcs outside the place, and just two inside, one random one as well as the named chief, Ghurzul. So apparently the USSEP tweaked things just enough to let you actually come back and get the amulet if you need to.
Good to know for the future! Whether on a modded run, or an unmodded one.
After that, the next item of note is that I set my Smithing skill Legendary, which marks the first time I’ve done this in this run. The way Shenner’s skill tree is shaking out, Smithing is the thing she’s leveled up the fastest, so I figured redistributing some of those perks over to some stuff that needed more help would be called for. And I’m pretty much always smithing things, so.
This let me to more easily finish leveling up to 49. And that in turn let me unlock the Investor perk in Speech. Since I’m not playing a thief this run, I figured leveling Speech further up is kind of critical, just so I can improve my ability to sell all my stuff all over. 😀
Queued up the next Fishing quest, which apparently calls for making a seafood feast for Gisli in Solitude. Now this one, I kinda gotta scratch my head over. Presumably there are plenty of cooks already in Solitude? A city which, also, is right there on the Sea of Ghosts and has access to lots of regular seafood. Exactly how finicky an eater is Gisli that she apparently can’t get good seafood right there in the city anyway? She really feels like she has to actually send out a bounty for somebody to come cook for her?
Also, kinda taking issue with this as a quest objective just because this involves cooking, not fishing!
But, well. I’ll do it anyway just because I want to finish the quest line!
And minor issues with the Fishing quests led me to choosing the Blessings of Nature quest to do next, just because I hadn’t done that with Shenner yet. But it turned out that the main reason I chose to do this was actually mistaken! In my quest journal, the description for where to find Underground Fish explicitly mentions Eldergleam Sanctuary as a place to find those kinds of fish.
The quest journal, however, is mistaken. Even after I finished up the quest, and did three or four circuits of the entire cavern, I found zero spots to fish anywhere. So that was vexing, and if I’d been QA’ing that code, I’d have called it out. It’s not game breaking, but it’s definitely misleading. Because reading your quest journal is core functionality of the game; it helps you decide what you want to do and what steps you have to take to do it. And if that journal is communicating inaccurate information, that does impact game play even if it doesn’t outright break it.
So, warning to Future Me and anyone else running the Fishing content (whether you’re running the actual Anniversary Edition, or whether you’re running a Special Edition build where that content is available): be aware you can’t fish in Eldergleam Sanctuary. You’ll have to try a different location instead for Underground Fish.
Now that said, I’m not sorry I ran the Eldergleam quest, just because it let me witness a bit more character interaction I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before when playing on the Switch. I.e., when I showed up in the Temple of Kynareth to bring Danica the knife, I saw Maurice actively confronting her about the state of the Gildergreen. And actually giving her shit about its condition, while she tries to protest that she hasn’t had time to deal with it what with having to work on healing the victims of the ongoing war.
And I looked at that and went “Wow, my dude, you’re an even bigger asshole than I thought you were before!”
Mind you, I still let him come with me to the Eldergleam Sanctuary and did the version of the quest where I let him pray to Kynareth and get the sapling. But after seeing that little exchange, I’m feeling salty and disinclined to let him come with me next time I do this quest.
It also raises an interesting question. This conversation joins several others I’ve seen as examples of conversations I never heard on the Switch. So now I have multiple examples of this, and it’s still not clear to me whether this is a question of running the USSEP, or whether this dialogue was explicitly left out of the Switch build, or what. Knowing what I know about how the software release process works, it would seem absolutely plausible to me that certain non-critical exchanges might have been left out of the Switch build in the name of improving its portability.
But this is entirely conjecture on my part since I have no way of knowing for sure.
Next up: decided to go ahead and adopt Lucia! Because I do have multiple houses in general, and multiple houses in particular with children’s beds. I went ahead and sent her to Lakeview on the general grounds of a) proximity to Whiterun, b) already watched over by two of my housecarls, and c) is not stupidly remote. Because yeaaaah not sending her to Bloodchill Cavern or Dead Man’s Dread.
And adopting Lucia let me actually see her react to Gogh, when I brought my goblin buddy back to Lakeview later. “Is that your pet, Mama? He looks really scary!”
LOL. But also, I feel, not fair to Gogh! Because he’s not a pet! He’s a person! Shit, he’s almost as tall as humans or elves! And he’s a tool user and has a spoken language and everything! But I guess the intention was to set him up similarly to the riekling followers you can get on Solstheim, so.
Side note to this: I did in fact go back and get Gogh from Gromm’s Pass. Just because I felt a little guilty just leaving him there! The cave is not exactly hospitable, after all. I was vaguely surprised that the place hadn’t respawned, but I ran into no hostile goblins when I went in to get Gogh back. So I cannot help but think he’d be lonely in there all by himself, and unable to get back to Cyrodill!
And I specifically wanted him back anyway, because I wanted both him and Rulnik at my back for running the quest for Azura’s Star.
Interesting thing about that when I got it started: Nelacar, when I found him in the Frozen Hearth in Winterhold, actually addressed me as Arch-Mage! Which suggests that Nelacar maintains enough communication with the college to know when there’s a change of power. Between that and his explicitly telling the player that he hangs out in Winterhold so that he can maintain access to former colleagues, I kinda gotta be amused by this. And I feel like, if I were writing this out in prose, I’d want the Dragonborn to be able to call Nelacar out on his bullshit.
Me: “So let me get this straight. You want to work with college mages, you’re living close enough that you could walk right up into the college if you so chose, and you’re even paying enough attention to college affairs that you even know I’m the new Arch-Mage… but you do not want to actually be part of the college?”
Nelacar, stiffly: “I believe I have made my reasons for this clear. Because the college exiled Malyn Varen for his work.”
Me: “Work which seems explicitly designed to make Azura’s artifact trap only the souls of people rather than lesser creatures. Yet you’re sitting there telling me that Azura is the evil party?”
Nelacar: “Azura drove Malyn insane!”
Me: “Do you have actual proof of that, or are you just assuming she did it because she’s a Daedric Prince? Have you ever considered the possibility that Malyn Varen might simply have been a raging psychopath?”
Nelacar: “He was my friend, damn you! He would never have killed anyone before! Why aren’t you considering the possibility that Azura destroyed him?! Are you a Daedra worshipper?”
Me: “Who I worship is irrelevant. What is relevant: you told me yourself that Varen was desperate to save himself from dying and that that drove him insane–then you turn around and blame it on Azura. I don’t see the hand of a Daedra at work here. I see the hand of a man so desperate to save himself that he was willing to do anything it took to achieve that goal, even if it meant killing students. And I see you so desperate to deny evil committed by your friend and colleague that you’ll blame it on Daedra rather than face the impact of his deeds. Savos Aren made the right call, if he kicked Varen out of the college. Speaking as Savos Aren’s successor, I would have done the exact same thing.”
Nelacar: “But Azura drove him mad! All Daedra are evil!”
Me: “Come back and talk to me when you can actually prove Azura did anything. Until then, spare me your prejudices. And be warned: as I am the new Arch-Mage, and the Dragonborn, if I find you conducting any work at all that puts either members of the college or the people of Winterhold or anywhere else in Skyrim at risk, you won’t have to fear the Daedra. You’ll have to fear me.”
Yeah. Because I mean honestly.
Anyway, ran the quest, got the Star. And before I went to Ilinalta’s Deep, I made a point of getting both Rulnik and Gogh on duty, just because I was not entirely confident in getting past the higher-tier mages inside that lair. With the full Team Dragonborn on deck, though, I made it through pretty swimmingly.
The real challenge in this plot was getting through the final confrontation inside the Star. The dremora fried me the first time through, but this was a problem I could solve with the proper equipment. By which I mean: the Imperial Dragon armor! With that equipped, once I went back to Lakeview to get it, being set on fire by dremora became much less of a problem.
Still working on whittling down smaller side quests before I dive into either Dawnguard or Dragonborn (most likely Dragonborn). But I also still need to go talk to Arngeir and get to the point of meeting Paarthurnax, and get the Clear Skies Shout. So likely to do that soon too!
Editing to add
- 11/23/2023: Restored missing gallery.