Harrowhark Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Harrowhark Helps Vilja Find a Bottle

This is a double session post! I would split these up into individual posts–except that a good part of the first session had to get retconned due to very strange aggressive behavior from Lydia! So I redid a lot of that content in the session after, and I’m bundling the two together in this post.

Got a whole lot of quests started, and most notably of the bunch: I have now met Vilja, since I’m running her follower mod! Lots of commentary on her and everything else behind the fold.

Play by play

  • Play dates: 11/27, 11/28/2022
  • Session numbers in this run: 4-5

Sunday’s play

  • Since I had the quest to go talk to Cicero, I went over to find him
  • Marked Battle-Born Farm and Tundra Homestead officially for the map
  • Also marked Whitewatch Tower for the map; guards there were fighting three bandits, so I jumped in to help, then looted the bandits
  • Found and talked to Cicero; convinced Vantus Loreius to help him with the wagon wheel, and got payment for it
  • Went back to Whiterun to try to sell things, and successfully did so at Warmaiden’s
  • But then ran into a weird problem with Lydia attacking Elrindir as soon as I went into the Drunken Huntsman; WTAF, Lyds?
  • Wandered around Whiterun instead and found the new NPCs at all their market stalls (more on this below)

The part of Sunday’s play I had to retcon because WTAF, Lydia?

  • Went to the Bannered Mare to see about picking up quest leads and noted several interesting changes
  • Got a bounty lead from Hulda for the bandit leader at Silent Moons Camp; could not immediately find Saadia; got M’Sharra’s diary off the table in the side room
  • Found Vilja and got her initial quest started (and initial impressions of her below)
  • Went out of Whiterun and triggered another weird aggression bit with Lyds when we passed Uthgerd the Unbroken on the road to the meadery–and when Lyds attacked her, Vilja also got into the fight
  • Tried a couple times to get past that, kept rolling back to stepping through the Whiterun gates; finally bypassed the problem by fast traveling to Tundra Homestead, and then working my way south to the meadery
  • Found the two thieves Vilja was looking for, who were freaking out because the bottle they’d stolen from her had actually spoken to them and cursed them; got the bottle back from them without a fight and gave it back to Vilja
  • Vilja gave me more of her backstory and we agreed we’d go find Eldergleam Sanctuary together
  • Returned to Whiterun at that point and rented a room at the Bannered Mare
  • Found Saadia and got her first encounter done
  • Slept and got up the next morning, and headed up to Dragonsreach–at which point Lydia killed Uthgerd again in front of Heimskr’s preaching spot; this time I let it stand
  • Entered Dragonsreach to talk to Proventus to give him Adrianne’s sword and get the Bow of Shadows quest from him, since I’d gotten the bounty for Silent Moons–only to have Lydia freak out again and get in a fight with everybody in Dragonsreach, including the Jarl, WTAF^2
  • Rolled all the way back from that to when I’d come out of Warmaiden’s with Lydia earlier, because I had no frigging idea what was freaking out on me, and that retconned everything I’d done at the Bannered Mare and with Vilja

Sunday’s normal play, picking up again

  • Went out from Whiterun with just Lydia this time, and aimed for High Hrothgar to go see the Greybeards
  • Near White River Watch, had a dog get hostile at me, and the dog’s owner, a hunter, attacked me as well when I killed it
  • Rolled back again to coming out of Whiterun, and this time made it successfully past the White River Watch spawn point
  • This time instead of hunter and dog, got M’aiq the Liar (with a black hood instead of his usual golden one!), and the dead bouncer from Cragslane and pit wolves
  • Killed those wolves, and several other wolves as well en route to Valtheim Towers, including a bone wolf
  • Reached the toll bandit and successfully intimidated her, so didn’t pay a toll
  • Proceeded towards Ivarstead
  • Attacked by random Argonian, Lyds and I killed him; took most of his stuff and gave his Steel Soldier armor to Lydia (it actually looked pretty good on her)
  • Bit harder to navigate in the dark with this modded playthrough, but successfully made it to the zigzag uphill trail after killing a couple more wolves
  • Reached the little ruined spot with wisps flying around (which didn’t attack me); got the Conjuration spellbook there
  • Killed the regular troll near the river
  • Talked to the innkeeper in Ivarstead; got the quest for Shroud Hearth Barrow and a bounty lead for Treva’s Watch
  • Slept the night and got up the next morning to head up to the Greybeards
  • Got Klimmek’s supplies quest
  • Killed by wolves on the way up, just past the second emblem; thrown back to coming out of the inn so did take two of going up the mountain
  • Fewer wolves this time so made it successfully to fourth emblem
  • Gave Lydia the steel greatsword i’d gotten off the Argonian as well
  • Tried to go around the frost troll but was not successful and it killed me and Lyds both
  • Thrown back to quick save just after fourth emblem
  • Second time through we killed it
  • Made it safely up to High Hrothgar after hitting the rest of the emblems and getting the Voice of the Sky blessing
  • Ran the initial training with the Greybeards as per usual; got the new Shout words and the quest to go get the horn of Jurgen Windcaller
  • Came back out of High Hrothgar and fast traveled down to Ivarstead
  • Why hello there Miraak cultists! Got both of them taken out with little trouble
  • Klimmek had been present when the fight started, but ran off to the nearby bridge to get out of the line of fire; I went after him, and gave him the word I’d dropped off his supplies; got his payment
  • Fast traveled back to Whiterun with intent to sell stuff and see if Lydia was still a killing machine
  • Arrived late at night and found that Elrindir was not at his counter in the Drunken Huntsman! And likewise, Hulda was asleep in the Bannered Mare, so I couldn’t get a room!
  • Parked in the Bannered Mare and saved until next time

Monday’s play

  • Picked up where I left off in the Bannered Mare
  • Re-did meeting Vilja, up through the point of giving her back her bottle, and telling her we could find the Eldergleam Sanctuary together
  • Headed back into Whiterun to pick up additional quests
  • Khajiit were on site! So sold a bunch of loot items to Ri’saad, and got his quest note for Saints and Seducers
  • Confirmed I could enter the Drunken Huntsman again without Lyds attacking Elrindir
  • Went to the Bannered Mare and tried to get another bounty note off of Hulda, but no sign of that in her dialogue prompts; got a rumor about the Shrine of Azura though, and also got the bounty letter about Crowstooth
  • Bought a boatload of spellbooks from Farengar in Dragonsreach, and destroyed several items on the enchanting table
  • I think here was where I leveled up to 7? Took a Stamina bump and put a perk point on Smithing–on “Basic Smithing”, since the Smithing perks have been rearranged!
  • Vilja offered to play rock paper scissors, Lydia was not impressed, LOL
  • Overheard the Jarl’s kids arguing, conversation I hadn’t heard before! Possibly brought back in by Cutting Room Floor?
  • Passed Danica on the way to Warmaiden’s, so got the quest to go get Nettlebane from her, to get The Blessings of Nature started
  • Got Adrianne’s quest to take the sword to her father, and went back up to Dragonsreach to do that; also got the quest from Proventus to investigate assassination rumors!
  • Hulda was out as I headed to Arcadia’s shop (Immersive Citizens!), and threw a line about hearing the guards talking about me being Dragonborn, cool
  • Went into the Hall of the Dead and Vilja and Lydia both killed skeletons, way to go
  • Read the note by the cheese but didn’t take it (seemed appropriate to leave it there)
  • At the stables, found the dead groom and his note about Silent Moons Camp; took his spellbook of Detect Life
  • Passed Anoriath out on the plains on the way up to Silent Moons Camp
  • Reached the camp and Vilja warned about there being bandits
  • Called up a flame atronach with that shiny new spell
  • Atroncha, Vilja, and Lydia proceeded to kill all the exterior bandits, excellent
  • Looted the lot of them, and also the lunar forge; while there, got the assassin’s journal and the two smithing skill books
  • Overloaded so Whirlwind-Sprinted back to Whiterun
  • Did a bunch of smithing at Warmaiden’s; smelted ore and made jewelry; improved all my Leather Scout Armor
  • Sold some stuff to Elrindir in the Huntsman
  • Went up to Dragonsreach to deal with the assassin, who killed me the first time, but this only threw me to coming into Dragonsreach
  • Second time I called up a familiar as less likely to hit civilians, which triggered Vilja asking me to teach her to summon something, like a cat or a skeever, LOL
  • This time we took out the assassin, so FUCK YEAH! Bow of Shadows! \0/
  • It was late but I woke up Proventus anyway because I figured he’d want to know the news; got his reward
  • Blew up some more things on Farengar’s enchanter table
  • Leveled up to 8; took a Magicka bump; dropped a perk point on Alteration to bring down cost of casting novice spells
  • Sold a few things at Belethor’s
  • Saw Amren and his wife Saffir hanging out inside Belethor’s on a bench, so talked to Amren and got his quest to get his family sword, which pointed me at Redoran’s Retreat
  • Went over to Warmaiden’s to check out what the new smithing bump lets me build, and ooooh chainmail mage robes :O
  • Saved at that point

Delayed Burial quest

I was a little surprised to see the Delayed Burial quest, the one which sends you over to talk to Cicero next to Loreius Farm, start on me without me actually being near Cicero. But after checking the wiki as I write this post, I saw that the original intention was that you could start this quest if you overheard a conversation between a couple of NPCs at the Whiterun stables, but that conversation had been cut from the game release.

So I suspect that it got restored by Cutting Room Floor, and that I apparently overheard that conversation? But it went by so quickly that I didn’t notice it at the time. It may have happened while I was heading back and forth between the watchtower for Dragon Rising?

Since I had the quest, anyway, I went over to Loreius Farm to satisfy it. Mind you, I haven’t played this encounter since Alarrah’s run! So I’d legit kind of forgotten what Cicero looks like, LOL.

I played this out pretty much the same way I’d done it with Alarrah, i.e., persuading Vantus Loreius that helping the stranger was the right thing to do. Which tells me something about my character: right now, Harrow does have a moral compass and means well enough, even if she’s pretty reserved.

And that in turn suggests that I’m going to need to play her being turned into a vamp as something that happens to her, vs. something she seeks. For the time being, though, she’s trying to fit in around Whiterun, since they went to the trouble of making her a thane and all.

Housecarl goes berserk and fights everybody, town crier update at 11

Returning to Whiterun from talking to Cicero set off a weird chain of events, though. I got back into the city and successfully sold things at Warmaiden’s, then thought to try to sell other things at the Drunken Huntsman.

Only when I walked in, Lydia immediately attacked Elrindir. For no apparent reason. She did this three or four times, to the point of actually killing him, and finally I just rolled back to the point where I’d come out of Warmaiden’s. Because WTF.

I tried to proceed through more Whiterun activity, but interspersed with that, Lydia kept doing this. She attacked Uthgerd the Unbroken in a couple different places, and then later in Dragonsreach, actually got into a melee with the steward and the Jarl and the Jarl’s brother.

I have no idea what caused any of this. But I’m also not a hundred percent convinced it’s a mods problem, just on the grounds that when I went poking around about the problem, I found references on the wiki to NPCs in Dragonsreach being sometimes prone to this problem. (See the Bugs section of the page I linked to.)

But given that I’ve never seen this problem before in a non-modded playthrough, or with the USSEP run I did with Shenner, this certainly suggests it’s a problem related to mods.

I was going to let the last time Lydia went at it with Uthgerd stand (because hell, for all I knew, maybe Lydia was pissed at Uthgerd insulting her or something, and these are Nords we’re talking about here). But then she got aggro in Dragonsreach, fighting the Jarl, and that seemed super problematic. Like, “I’m going to lose my housecarl if she keeps this up and picks a fight with a character who can kill her” problematic.

So I wound up rolling clear back to that first coming out of Warmaiden’s, which cost me all of the first attempt at interacting with Vilja, as well as the Silent Moons leader bounty I got off of Hulda. And instead, I took Lyds out of Whiterun entirely and went off to see the Greybeards, in the hopes that this would let all involved NPCs calm the hell down and be less aggro when I came back.

Happily, this worked. But I’ll be keeping an eye on this as this playthrough proceeds.

Changes in the Bannered Mare

While I’m on the topic of the Bannered Mare, I did notice changes in there the various times I popped in across these sessions.

First and foremost: Hulda doesn’t stay behind the counter. I assume this is a change from Immersive Citizens? I approve.

Second: There was a new dialogue prompt with Hulda to ask her if I could perform in the inn! Cool! Presumably this comes in with the Bards Reborn Student of Song mod. 😀

Third: Mikael, the inn bard, kept moving around the room while singing, vs. just standing in one spot.

Fourth: I was in and out of the Mare a few times, but noted at least twice that Hulda had a conversation with Mikael about what songs he should be performing. I like this, too!

Vilja and her initial quest

My main point of interest in going to the Bannered Mare for this run, though, was to meet Vilja. She is one of the new followers the various mods I’m running introduce, and I was very curious to see what she’d be like!

I mostly like her, but have two immediate reactions to her that are more ambivalent.

For one thing, she’s gorgeous, but her character design doesn’t quite fit in well with the general look of Skyrim and all the other NPCs around her. She pops out of her surroundings in a strange way. Dara got a look at her on my screen, and went “whoa” at the sight of her, so she saw it too. And she described it to me in a way that seemed apt: that Vilja comes across as a photograph in the middle of wood cuts of people.

Secondly, I’m unsure about her accent. It doesn’t fit well with that of folks around Whiterun. I doublechecked and saw on her mod page on Nexus that she’s supposedly from Solstheim–so either she’s a traveling Skaal, or else from Bujold’s bunch of Nords, or from some group of Solstheim Nords that isn’t actually on camera in Dragonborn? And it occurred to me that her odd accent might actually be Skaal. I’m going to have to take her to Solstheim with me and see if she sounds more at home in the Skaal village.

Aside from those things, I’m really rather charmed by her!

She’s super chatty, be warned. This may eventually annoy me but for now, I kind of like it. I particularly like that she even initiates conversations with Lydia! She talked with her about reading, asking if Lyds had read anything lately, and chatting about how she was trying to get through Mysterious Akavir. Lydia, bless her heart, couldn’t remember the last time she’d read anything. Clearly, reading is not high on her agenda. 😉

This wasn’t the only conversation I heard her have with Vilja, either. Which resulted in several lines coming out of Lydia that I had never heard before, and I’m real curious as to what the mod creators had to do to get those lines.

Vilja also has some strong opinions about Nazeem, LOL. She uses the word “jerk”, and she’s not wrong. Though I expect Lydia has something to say about that, probably along the lines of “The word you want is asshole”, while Harrow smirks at the entire conversation.

She quite happily went into follow mode even though Lydia was also following me; pretty sure she has her own follow AI? It’ll be interesting to see if this means I can have her along once I reach Dawnguard, or if Serana will dislodge her.

Like Vilja, the thieves I had to track down at the Honningbrew Meadery had odd accents. The main one I talked to, the Nord, sounded like the voice actor was possibly Irish?

And after dealing with them, Vilja fessed up to more of her backstory, which led to my agreeing to help her find the Eldergleam Sanctuary. But it also led to a conversational point where she asked if we’d met before–clearly intended to help establish your history with her, and even make her a long-lost friend or long-lost lover. Which is kind of cool. I also didn’t miss the joke snuck in there about her having existed before as an Oblivion mod, either. 😉

Now, all of the initial encounter with Vilja was something I had to do twice, as I noted above, thanks to the retcon caused by Lydia going berserk aggro at everyone. But once I got past that part and re-did the Vilja encounter, I did get her safely back onboard as my new extra follower and pal.

I strongly suspect Harrow is way, way more charmed by this woman than she’s willing to admit.

Going to see the Greybeards

In between Vilja Take One and Vilja Take Two, I took Lydia out alone so I could just get her out of Whiterun for a while. One of the possible solutions I’d seen looking up the aggro problem was that if I could get Lydia out of the city for at least a day of game time, in theory everybody’s aggression levels should reset. So I wanted to try this, and after all, I did also need to go see the Greybeards for initial “because Harrow is a baby Dragonborn and needs to learn her Shouts” purposes.

I had one last gasp of possible weird aggro stuff going on when I got attacked by a dog at the White River Watch spawn point. And that was the dog attacking me, not Lydia, mind you. Not surprisingly, given that I killed the dog, its hunter owner came after me too.

But this was problematic. So I rolled back to coming out of Whiterun and tried again, and this time got through okay since I had a different encounter spawn at that point. Onward!

Getting to successfully intimidate the Valtheim Towers toll bandit was very satisfying. Harrow has no time for your bullshit, toll bandit. And you would be advised to keep this in mind next time she comes through there and is able to raise skeletons to make your life very difficult.

Action-wise, nothing was particularly new about heading to Ivarstead, though it did give me an opportunity to judge what navigating the wilderness looks like at night in this playthrough. Answer: if I’m under the cover of trees, pretty frigging dark. But I did also get a lovely look at auroras, which I’d been hoping to see with the sky mod I’m running!

What did stand out, though, was that I was actually able to kill that damned frost troll near the fifth emblem. And it only took me two tries. Not bad for level 6! It helped a lot that I got up to a good higher vantage point and started sniping the frost troll when i saw Lydia engage with it. And that I had a bow capable of doing fire damage! Pretty much essential for killing that damned frost troll.

It beat her down into recovery mode a couple times but did not kill her. Also, note to Future Me: better armor on Lydia when hitting High Hrothgar is a good idea as well!

After visiting the Greybeards, I got the Miraak cultists on cue as soon as I set foot in Ivarstead. Notable thing about this was that Klimmek was nearby when I arrived–but he also ran off during the resulting fight, getting out of the way! This may have been Immersive Citizens at work.

And one more notable post-Greybeards thing: as soon as I made it back to Whiterun, I went into the city to try to see if Lydia had calmed down. But I noticed two immediate things, both of which appeared to be a result of my arrival time being late:

  1. Elrindir was not at his counter in the Drunken Huntsman
  2. Hulda was not at her counter in the Bannered Mare

This also appeared to be the result of Immersive Citizens, and this change does make sense, actually letting citizens sleep! But the obvious consequence of this is going to be, I will have to plan accordingly when it comes to selling things. And to getting rooms to sleep in if I don’t have a house in a town yet.

Changes in Smithing

I knew this was coming because I did after all install the Ars Metallica smithing mod, but I was still surprised when my Smithing leveled up while I was smelting! And also while I was mining ore! This is certainly going to make me able to level Smithing a lot faster in this playthrough.

The tiers of perks in Smithing have been rearranged, interestingly, though I am not a hundred percent sure if Ars Metallica caused this or if one of the other mods did. I noticed this when I hit level 7 and tried to drop my first perk point on that skill. The bottom tier trait is now called “Basic Smithing”.

“Advanced Armors” on the Light branch of the skill tree has been replaced with “Advanced Light Smithing”, and “Orcish Smithing” has been replaced with “Advanced Heavy Smithing”. Both of these new categories have gotten changed descriptions that allow for making the types of armor previously in those spots, but also, light or heavy equipment. It’ll be interesting to see what that actually involves.

And now that I’ve got “Basic Smithing” activated, that means I’ve got access to new kinds of chainmail-enhanced mage gear! Cool.

Getting the Bow of Shadows

On general “because the Bow of Shadows is absolutely necessary” principles, I took the time to run this entire quest!

Notable aspects of this:

  1. On the way to Arcadia’s to get the business ledger copy, I went by Hulda–who actually threw me a line I usually hear from guards, i.e., that all the guards were talking about my being Dragonborn. Citizen gossip! Awesome!
  2. This was also the first time I’d set foot in Arcadia’s shop, so that gave me the opportunity to see what it looked like with the new mods
  3. Vilja and Lydia both killed skeletons in the Hall of the Dead so all I had to do was find the note by the cheese
  4. Went by Anoriath out on the plains while on the way to Silent Moons Camp! This I suspect may be a result of Cutting Room Floor? Because he was supposed to be able to be out hunting
  5. Vilja had a lot of commentary about bandits!
  6. She also had commentary about seeing my conjure things, ha
  7. The assassin killed me the first time, but only once, and WOO now I have the Bow of Shadows
  8. It was pretty late by that point game-time but I woke up Proventus anyway, to tell him the problem had been taken care of

Next time

I have a lot of quests started on the journal now. But I don’t feel like I’m quite to the level of being able to take on the witches and the hagraven to get Nettlebane back, not quite yet. So Vilja’s going to have to hang on.

I also know from Shenner’s run that I am not ready to take on the Saints bandit camp or Crowstooth, either.

A return to Ivarstead may be in order? Just to get Shroud Hearth Barrow dealt with. And possibly also Amren’s sword.

But there’s also Ustengrav and the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. Which would put me in Morthal, and in range of Laid to Rest, and Movarth and his vamps!

I will need to think about this.


Editing to add

  • 11/25/2023: 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.


  • John D Brantley

    As you go on with Vilja you’ll get more ways to control interactions, including the ability to make her less chatty. I have occasionally seen issues with hyper aggression, but not to the extent you report.

    • Angela Korra'ti

      I’ve seen a few things show up on my powers list re: controlling Vilja already, yeah. I should probably find out what those do!

      Re: the aggro problem–so far I’ve only had this one weird instance of it, really. It’ll be interesting to see if it happens at any other point. Like I said, not sure if this is a mods thing? Or if it is, which of the mods I’ve chosen might have caused it.