Dawnguard,  Shenner Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Shenner Acquires Auriel’s Bow and Slays Lord Harkon

Just to go back and revisit Skyrim for a bit, here’s the next post in Shenner’s playthrough!

Double session post, in which I finish up the end of Dawnguard in Shenner’s run. Main action: speed-running Forgotten Vale so I could get Auriel’s Bow, and then heading off to Castle Volkihar to take out Serana’s father.


  • Play dates: 11/12, 11/16/2022
  • Session numbers in this run: 72-73

Sunday’s play

  • Picked up again by the frost troll’s lair in Forgotten Vale
  • Started running the Vale in usual sequence
  • Lost track of Serana after the first wayshrine though
  • Gogh kept up, but not quickly; lost track of him too around the edge of the lake where I had to fight the two ice wraiths by their chests
  • Accidentally summoned the dremora merchant while fighting the second ice wraith, and even hit him by accident, oops
  • By the time I got to the third wayshrine Serana still hadn’t caught up with me; tried to portal back to the first wayshrine to get her to catch up, but that didn’t work
  • Fast traveled out to Heljarchen for a loot drop since i was close to being overloaded anyway, even wearing the Daedric Boots of the Mammoth i’d bought off the dremora merchant; that actually let Serana catch up with me properly again
  • Dropped off a bunch of stuff in Heljarchen’s outside chest, then fast traveled back to the Vale
  • Wayshrined over to the third wayshrine again and began the run down to the lake with the dragons
  • Got the three moonstone veins
  • Tried to cross the lake to the Word Wall
  • The dragons emerged and eventually killed me >_<
  • Thrown back to coming out of the third wayshrine again, so not too far
  • Paused there and saved until next time

Wednesday’s play

  • Picked up again in Forgotten Vale
  • Killed the twin dragons
  • Summoned Durnehviir during the fight but I don’t think he actually engaged the dragon twins directly? Wound up taking them out myself after burning through a lot of healing potions
  • Decided to speed run the rest of the Vale as much as possible; skipped the underwater chests, at least a couple of orichalcum veins, and some other bits of the Falmer hive between the fourth wayshrine and the Glacial Crevice; I was running pretty heavily loaded and didn’t want to carry any more than absolutely necessary
  • Didn’t have to kill the frost giant with the emerald paragon, he was already dead when I got to him; apparently either Serana, Gogh’s storm atronach, Gogh himself, my summoned Seducer archer, or I killed him before I actually got up there
  • Called in the dremora merchant to sell stuff to him when I needed to bring the load back down
  • Burned through a bunch of ingredients when I found the Falmer tent with an alchemy table
  • Burned through several Elixirs of Strength and also a couple of Fortify Carry Weight
  • Made it out of Glacial Crevice
  • Fought the diamond frost giant, then started running the next Falmer hive
  • Killed once by Falmer Warmonger, and thrown back to coming out of the crevice
  • Re-killed the diamond frost giant
  • Ran the rest of the Falmer hive, mostly avoided picking up stuff if I could, aside from the third Unknown Book
  • Called up the Ayleid Lich both times through this part and noted that the lich actually resurrected a Falmer, HA
  • Reached the final wayshrine, then ran the Inner Sanctum on minimal mode
  • Took out the ruby frost giant
  • Confronted Vyrthur and his frozen minions, which went easily enough, between me, Serana, Gogh, Gogh’s storm atronach, and my summoning up a Seducer warrior
  • Took out Vyrthur; due to the USSEP, he had an Ancient Falmer Crown along with his armor
  • Got the bow from Gelebor, and got him to bless all my elven arrows
  • Boinged with Serana and Gogh back to Heljarchen to drop off a bunch of things
  • Did enough smithing to reach 60, and also level up to 68; took Arcane Blacksmithing perk again, and Magicka bump
  • Improved Auriel’s Bow up to Legendary, and improved the Ancient Falmer gear as well
  • Boinged to Fort Dawnguard for the finale
  • Forgot to talk to Sorine before launching the “let’s go kill all the vampires” Isran speech, oops, will have to swing back to her later to turn in the schematic
  • Went to Castle Volkihar for the attack! Made it through without being killed once; two casualties for the Dawnguard, though
  • Shot down another bone hawk to get bone hawk bits to see if I could make any jewelry
  • Went into the Soul Cairn for unfinished business:
    • Got Arvak’s skull back to his owner and got the summon spell
    • Got the Conjure Boneman spell
    • Alerted Valerica Harkon was dead
    • Dropped off a bunch of soul husks with Morven Stroud on the way out and got a couple items I could take home to sell
  • Returned to Valerica’s lab, and parted ways with Serana so she could maybe have quality time with her mom and then go hang out with the Dawnguard
  • Boinged back to Heljarchen, and did some stashing of things in more appropriate places
  • Boinged to Whiterun to sell stuff but got in too late, so couldn’t sell to anybody but Elrindir
  • Boinged to Windstad and dropped off the books I brought out of the Soul Cairn that I’d snurched from Valerica’s table inside the boneyard
  • Boinged back to Forgotten Vale to run the paragon portals
  • Boinged to mage college to sell the Unknown Books to Urag
  • Got five rounds of Conjuration training from Phinis (and finally bought the Conjure Storm Atronach and Conjure Dremora Lord spells)
  • Boinged to Bloodchill Cavern to drop off the paragons and Harkon’s sword (forgot to drop off his armor, will do that later)
  • Boinged to Whiterun and this time got in early, and sold stuff to Adrianne
  • Paused there and saved until next time

Running the Forgotten Vale

This was definitely the fastest I’ve blasted through the Forgotten Vale. I still love the place to pieces, but I’m definitely also in a mood to finish up Shenner’s playthrough and free up some of my gaming cycles, so I can proceed to do a modded playthrough.

That said: I did still take the time to admire how frigging gorgeous the Vale looks with Ultra tier graphics. I saw yet more examples of richly detailed branch shadows falling over the ground at various angles, and I love that so much. <3 It really helps make the game feel more alive to me.

It was an amusing, and also surprising, change of pace to actually not have to kill the frost giant with the emerald paragon. I’m legit not sure how that happened. But having both Serana and Gogh along on this run, both of whom are capable of ranged attacks (Serana via ice spikes and Gogh via his storm atronach), probably helped. So did my summoning a Dark Seducer archer when the Falmer up on the bridges overhead started trying to shoot at us. I even got in on the shooting action a couple of times, just to see if I could hit one of those Falmer myself with arrows.

It’s also distinctly possible that Serana and/or Gogh and/or the Seducer could have actually run up there when I wasn’t looking, for more close-ranged fighting.

So I’m not sure at all which of us actually killed the frost giant! It could have been any one of us!

Kind of an amusing side effect of having an actual posse following me through this game. 😀

I think that by and large I do prefer doing Dawnguard before Dragonborn. But there’s an important exception to note here, and that is, it was super useful being able to summon the dremora merchant while running the Vale. As I’ve written before, the place is a loot smorgasbord. I have yet to run it, in six playthroughs and counting, without having to pop out at least once for emergency loot dropoffs. Sometimes two or even three times. But being able to call up the merchant did take some of the pressure off!

However, pro tip: it’s just not polite to accidentally summon your dremora merchant when you’re trying to fight an ice wraith, and then accidentally hit said merchant when you’re aiming at the ice wraith.

I blame this squarely on how I’m alternating between a PS4 controller and my Nintendo Switch Pro controller a lot, now. Because I need the PS4 controller to play ESO on my Mac–but I use the Nintendo Switch Pro controller when I’m playing Skyrim on the Win11 VM. The Steam Deck’s button layout is more like the PS4’s layout. But I also have the actual Switch. So that’s four different means of gaming, and the button layouts are more or less evenly split between my various gaming means.

I’m going to have to figure out what to do about this. The most obvious solution that presents itself is doing some button remapping in Steam. But from trying this before, I know that Skyrim’s UI doesn’t catch up to reflect my changes, and I find it confusing to have a UI that doesn’t actually agree with the button layout.

I feel like switching buttons around on the PS4 controller and/or the Steam Deck would be best, to get them in line with what I got used to on the Switch. But there are questions here of whether I can get Skyrim’s UI to agree with that, and whether it’ll screw up playing ESO.

Meanwhile, though, I charged pretty fast through the majority of the Vale. I hit all the most interesting bits, while also skipping the parts I don’t get as much satisfaction from–like diving for the underwater chests, or running the entirety of the Glacial Crevice, or going into the side caves that have the shellbugs. Still plenty enough to keep me busy!

Having the Ayleid Lich available to summon had the amusing side effect of having something following me that could also resurrect nearby dead opponents. So I actually saw a Falmer resurrected by the ghost lich rather than by Serana!

Taking out Vyrthur’s frozen minions as well as Vyrthur himself went well, certainly better than Faanshi’s playthrough. But Shenner’s running two Difficulty tiers lower, so that stands to reason!

I still kinda gotta giggle at how Gelebor only does twenty arrows a pop for you when blessing your Elven arrows for you to make them Sunhallowed. I can only imagine this:

Gelebor: “I can help you with acquiring Sunhallowed arrows. If you bring me Elven arrows, I can do the proper santifications for you.”

Me: “CAN DO!” *plops down 645 Elven arrows* “How much time do you need?”

Gelebor, taken aback: “I… I can only do twenty at once. This… may take a while.”

Serana: “I found a bunch more Elven arrows on the way in here. Can you do those too?”

Gelebor: “Do you all really need that many arrows?”

Serana: “Let’s just say your brother wasn’t the only vampire we have to kill.”

And speaking of killing vampires

Of course, right after getting Auriel’s Bow, I naturally had to proceed to the finale of Dawnguard, the part where we all go to Castle Volkihar and wipe the place out.

This, too, went more easily than Faanshi’s run. I made it through without dying myself, though two Dawnguard NPCs were not so fortunate. RIP, Beleval and Ingjard. You fought valiantly, feast well in Sovngarde!

After the battle, I did my by-now-habitual epilogue of returning to the Soul Cairn to find Valerica and give her the all-clear. This time through I also had the extra unfinished business items to take care of–i.e., returning Arvak’s skull, and getting the spellbook I hadn’t picked up before. As I’ve written before, having the ability to summon the Daedric horse means the ability to summon Arvak is less critical. But I do like Arvak. <3 He actually has a little story around him, as opposed to the Daedric horse.

I also shot down a second bone hawk, only to learn later that that still didn’t give me enough bits to make jewelry. So apparently you need to shoot down at least three of the things? I don’t think that’s interesting enough to me to try again, unless I do so with my forthcoming vampire playthrough. I feel like somebody actually living at Castle Volkihar might be more interested in shooting down the bone hawks on a regular basis. Any other character, though, not so much.

And I did a few other loose ends as well, the usual return to the Vale to run the paragon portals, and taking the Unknown Books to Urag at the College of Winterhold. This time, having the AE meant I was also able to put these items on display in one of my homes. Right now I’m kind of defaulting to Bloodchill Cavern as having the best display area. But I feel like in future playthroughs, I ought to be more circumspect with how many homes I pick up, just to minimize the confusion of “where the hell should I leave all this loot?”

The operative phrase there being “ought to be”. Because I am also aware that the magpie factor here of collecting all the shiny homes will absolutely be in play. 😀

Next time

I’ll probably go back to Septimus’ stronghold and give him the blood samples, just to get that done and dealt with, and give Shenner access to the Oghma Infinium. Which should be interesting, I want to see how Hermaeus Mora will behave given that I’ve already run Dragonborn.

And I’ll check in at Fort Dawnguard and give Sorine her schematic. Kinda not feeling inclined to go after the rest of them, because as previously noted, I have a way better crossbow at this point than the one Sorine’s schematics will let me build. But I will at least get her this one!

That’ll also give me a chance to give Dexion the Blood and Sun Elder Scrolls.

Then I think it’ll be time to start sending Shenner through the end game. Which will mean taking the Dragon scroll to the Throat of the World, and commencing the first battle with Alduin!

That will probably be plenty for a single session.

There’s plenty more I could do with the AE content, but at this point I’m feeling like saving the stuff I haven’t done yet for a fresh character would be good. So Shenner’s close to done. Two more sessions, probably. Maybe three? We’ll see. And we’ll see if she clears level 70 on her way out.


Editing to add

  • 11/24/2023: Restored missing gallery.

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.