In Which Shenner Investigates a Cult and Black Books
Mix of old stuff and new stuff in this session! I got the Ghosts of the Tribunal plot seriously underway, which necessitated not only visiting Fahlbtharz, but also investigating the Ashfall’s Tear cavern behind Raven Rock Mine. And then, just to move the main Dragonborn plot along a little further, I went to talk to Neloth and ran Nchardak!
- Play date: 8/17/2022
- Session number in this run: 52
- Started at Severin Manor; did some alchemy and enchanting, then went out and sold some things to the merchants, and did a little smithing to improve the Shadowed Netch Leather armor up to Legendary
- With that taken care of, headed to Fahlbtharz to run the place and find the forge
- Found the forge where a single heretic was busy in there, but he flipped out and immediately attacked me
- I took his stuff and got two simultaneous quests, one to go find out more about the cult, and the other to find more Fahlbtharz forge gems and recreate the sword Trueflame (cool)
- Also got a pretty bitchin’ looking ebony scimitar
- Then ran the rest of Fahlbtharz as per previous playthroughs
- Only killed once and that was entirely my fault as I foolishly threw flames at oil spiders, which exploded and killed me; other than that though no problems running the place
- Found an extra stalhrim bow, this one a bow of lightning, at the resonator puzzle 😀
- Got the Visage of Mzund, a Kagrumez gem, and the rest of the loot in the final chamber, then took the lift back up to the surface
- Dropped off a bunch of things at Severin Manor, then went back to Ashfall’s Tear to infiltrate the place, disguised in the robes and helmet of the unfortunate late Kenro; decided not to kill the cultists
- Made it unchallenged to the matriarch (more on this below), and convinced her to let me have a trial by combat; defeated her four followers, a couple of whom attacked Rulnik first
- HEY I’M OVER HERE YOU GUYS
- Won the combat and got the matriarch to accept me as an ally of the temple and give me three more quests to carry out in their goddess’ name
- Okay but hold that thought will you? I gotta go find out about these Black Books and resume working on kicking Miraak’s ass
- Headed out from the temple to go to Tel Mithryn
- Mage fight at Old Attius Farm, pyromancer won
- Hit the final Deathbrand chest and killed the three ash spawn there
- Then reached Tel Mithryn
- Did initial greeting with Varona after her conversation with Talvas
- Then went in to talk to Neloth, and on to Nchardak!
- Had to do it twice because Neloth got stuck coming out of Tel Mithryn the first time 😛
- So I killed the reavers and realized he hadn’t actually come with me, oops
- Fast traveled back to Tel Mithryn to get him and then he actually came with me to Nchardak properly
- Ran all of Nchardak including getting the Kagrunez resonance gem, and the loot off of various centurions, and the loot from the final treasure chest as well
- Ran the Black Book
- Killed once when I fell off the moving tunnel–but came back in and ran it properly the second time
- Talked to Hermaeus Mora; got the second word of Bend Will and ultimatum to get the secrets of the Skaal
- Took the Dragonborn Force power off the book
- Came back out of Nchardak, and cue Krosulhah; killed him with my ebony crossbow
- Very overloaded at that point so called up Daedric horse to boing back to Raven Rock
- Did some smithing and alchemy, and saved for the night
I have considerable food for thought here with the Ghosts of the Tribunal plot now being fully underway. This plot basically wants you to choose between wiping out the cultists, or joining them.
And I don’t quite feel like either option is truly appropriate for Shenner. This girl’s a Nord in Dunmer territory, after all, and she’s coming in here as a worshipper of Talos who has no connection to the Dunmer’s current religion, never mind their prior one. So she has no particular fucks to give about which Tribunal any given Dunmer is worshipping.
I do feel like, specifically because she is a worshipper of Talos, that she’d have some natural sympathy for religious rebels. She understands what it’s like to be living in a culture that’s explicitly trying to forbid you to worship the gods you want to worship, and who are specifically telling you your god is false. So she’s going to naturally bristle at anybody trying to go “die, heretic!”
But “I’m sympathetic to you because I understand religious persecution” is not the same thing as “I actually want to start worshipping your goddess.”
The plot, however, doesn’t give you a middle ground to speak of. It’s either “die, heretics!” or “I wish to start worshipping your goddess and join your ranks, where do I sign up?”
So I went ahead with the “where do I sign up?” option, and didn’t kill the cultists. And I think I’ll explain this narrative-wise by saying Shenner has at least a little bit of legit religious awe just from the sight of the Almalexia statue she saw when infiltrating the temple. (Because I gotta admit, that looked really cool.)
And okay yeah you can also make an argument that by the end of a full Skyrim run, the Dragonborn’s religious sympathies are pretty fucking murky, once you start collecting Daedric artifacts. Particularly if you actively agree to be the champion of this or that Daedric Prince. Once you go down that road, it’s a lot harder to claim you’re just, say, a Talos worshipper.
It’s got to be a bit of a mindfuck for this Nord lass who just grew up wanting to live a proper life in Talos’ name to now be on the radar of multiple Daedric Princes. And it cannot have escaped her notice that Talos never drops an artifact on her or talks to her at shrines.
So now here’s this cult worshipping Almalexia, and I think yeah, Shenner’s got some religious uncertainty going on here. She’s not necessarily going to commit to worshipping this goddess herself, but she’s coming into this with sympathy for religious rebels… and a bit of doubt about her place in the world as an ostensible Talos worshipper. I think I can see her reasoning along the lines of “well, all these Daedra keep trying to actively recruit me, but I never hear a word from the Divines, maybe Almalexia will say something? Who the hell should I be worshipping?”
But anyway, all of that is background to what it was actually like to play this part of the plot.
Getting to the forge in Fahlbtharz was easy enough. It was an extra room accessible early in the dungeon, just past the point where you have a control panel with 10 buttons on it.
A character named Kenro, one of the Hands of the Tribunal Temple, was in there and immediately flipped out and attacked me. He wasn’t difficult to kill, and doing so gave me a couple new objectives: I could infiltrate the cult, wearing his robes and helmet, or I could go find the place and just kill them. And at the same time, I got objectives to reforge the weapon Trueflame, which he was trying to do in the forge. I got an “Unenchanted Weapon” off of him, as well as a pretty bitching ebony scimitar. 😀
And once I ran the rest of Fahlbtharz, I returned to Raven Rock so that I could then infiltrate Ashfall’s Tear. Of which I definitely have a few “you should really just relax” types of thoughts. Which of course I’m going to document here, because that’s the whole point of doing a commentary section on this post!
First up: I like the idea that you’re able to put on robes and infiltrate the cultist space. This was useful during the Cause quest, too. On the other hand, I’m coming in there with two heavily armed followers, one of whom is a goblin, and they are obviously not cultists. Now of course the problem here is that while I can get a regular follower to equip armor and weapons, I’m pretty sure I don’t have a way to get a follower to put on specific clothes. And I definitely don’t have the ability to do that with Gogh.
So I feel like for narrative purposes I should have at least been able to tell Rulnik, “Maybe we better get you a disguise, too?” Or at least be prepared to respond to a challenge from one of the guards.
“Halt! Who are these others with you, Hand of the Temple?”
“New initiates. Let us pass.”
“The… goblin… is an initiate?”
“DO YOU QUESTION THE WILL OF THE GODDESS?”
Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten away with that exchange in character, since Shenner is not Kenro, and there’s no way a female Nord would have been mistaken for a male Dunmer, even if she’s wearing his helmet.
BUT STILL. I feel like my headcanon is that she’d have tried it. Or maybe have gotten Rulnik to wear the robe and helmet, if he could do a better impersonation of Kenro. Snerk.
Second: I’m real confused by how exactly the layout of the temple is supposed to work given how close it is to Raven Rock Mine. The place turned out to be way bigger than I expected, with the main part of it being further underground that I’d have anticipated, and far enough underground that I’d expect it to be sitting pretty much on top of the mine. If not actually sharing space with it. It just feels topographically improbable, is what I’m saying here.
Third: with an allegedly secret temple of this size, how the hell did Raven Rock not notice it was getting built? Particularly with the very large statue of Almalexia in there? Did they sculpt that thing from scratch inside that cavern without smuggling any material in? Was the cavern already big enough for them to do so? Did they have to dig any of it out? If so, did the miners working the mine ever actually notice the extra digging sounds?
Of course, I can now also amuse myself with the thought that maybe the town is actually mostly perfectly aware the temple is there, and nobody ever actually TALKS about it, particularly around the Reclamation Temple. Snerk.
“Oh yes sure we ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY worship the Reclamations. See you in the temple!”
I feel like this would make for amusing conversation between Shenner and Glover Mallory, too.
“So hey, Mallory… non-Dunmer to non-Dunmer here, give it to me straight… how does the worship work around here?”
“Half the town is worshipping the Reclamations and the other half is worshipping the Tribunal, even if they all show up in the Temple. Everybody knows it. They just pretend not to so we can keep the town going without killing each other. “
LOL, so yeah, all of that is really “you should really just relax” at some level–and yet! The fact that I’m coming up with all this food for thought about it ultimately tells me that so far I’m really enjoying this plot. It takes some extra heft as well now that I’m actually playing Morrowind, and have an increased appreciation for who exactly the Tribunal were. Because I also feel like that if Shenner had any idea whatsoever about the nature of the Tribunal, she’d probably have very different opinions about whether to help this cult. 😉
Overall, this plot is shaping up nicely as one of the more complex ones in the AE content. Mind you, I’m still getting really simplistic dialogue from the new NPCs, and a lot of info given to me in notes and/or journals. But as I wrote earlier in Shenner’s run, I’m okay with that given what I know about the Creation Club being Bethesda-licensed content created by the modding community.
It was kind of hilarious though that when I did the trial by combat, the various people I had to fight were hellbent on attacking Rulnik first. Uh, you guys? Hey! I’m over here.
After all that action was over and I got the matriarch of the temple to give me a few more quests, I then returned to mainline Dragonborn action.
Which meant heading over to Tel Mithryn to talk to Neloth, and run Nchardak! The only trouble I had with that was Neloth being glitchy following me out of Tel Mithryn–I had to come back for him once I realized he hadn’t actually followed me to Nchardak. And he didn’t catch up even after I killed the various reavers.
Fortunately, this problem solved itself once I fast traveled back to Tel Mithryn. Neloth spawned outside and then followed me properly. And I was able to run Nchardak as per previous playthroughs.
I think I actually got more loot this time, though? Possibly because of the improved visibility of things on the PC build. I feel like I actually found and fought and/or looted more centurions this time.
I had trouble once running the Black Book level. The responsiveness of moving on my PC build, I think, was a factor here. Because I had to have my timing exactly right to move correctly off that mobile tunnel. I had even less buffer for that than playing on the Switch, I think.
I’ve got several more sessions on Solstheim in me, between the rest of Ghosts of the Tribunal as well as the side plots. Plenty of spots to hit still!
I think I’ll continue with spacing the newer stuff in between all the stuff I’ve done before.
So next time I need to do another visit to Kolbjorn Barrow, and go after one of these masks I’m supposed to be getting for the Tribunal Temple!