In Which Harrowhark Gains a Sapling and a New Companion
This was a long, busy session in which quite a bit happened: going to Falkreath and getting in good with the Jarl by killing a bandit chieftain for him; clearing out zombies at a ritual site; getting Nettlebane, and then later, acquiring a sapling to replace the ailing Gildergreen; finishing out the furnishing of Breezehome; getting Vilja some help with her mysterious bottle; and last but not least, picking up a new follower, Lucien!
This is a big post with a lot of commentary and a lot of screenshots. Because not only did I find Lucien and try him out as a follower, I also actively decided against keeping Vilja, because she annoys the fuck out of me.
Play by play
- Play date: 12/16/2022
- Session number in this run: 8
- Picked up again in mostly unfurnished Breezehome
- Stopped at the guard barracks on the way out to check that book in there and get the quest to find the Orc bandit at Embershard Mine
- Set out with Vilja and Lydia towards Falkreath
- Stopped at the stable to get the Wild Horses book and map–but did not go after the red horse, i want the black one for Harrow
- Vilja and Lydia actually sang together on the way, call and response, kind of turlutting, and that was really charming <3
- Cut through Riverwood and took the road towards the Guardian Stones
- Just past the fork towards Lakeview, spotted the bandits from the Treasure Map 1 camp fighting a frostbite spider
- Got close enough to take a potshot at the spider, and then the bandits started fighting us; Vilja and Lyds jumped in on the battle and we made short work of them
- Took all their stuff, including the treasure map; this got me overloaded so it took a while tromping over to Falkreath
- Passed the usual hunter and horse I see on this road
- Saw someone mining one of the iron veins by the lake shore, but wasn’t sure if it was the hunter that belonged with the horse–from the back, they looked like a potential Vigilant, but I didn’t get close enough to be sure
- Fought a passing skeleton near the entrance to Shriekwind Bastion
- Passed another Afflicted Refugee going past the Roadside Ruins
- Reached Falkreath, and had the guard ask me about a dog; told him I’d only seen wolves
- Talked to Lod and got the quest to find the dog; sold him assorted bandit loot
- Sold other things to Solaf as well
- Arrived too late to talk to the Jarl so went in to rent a room at Dead Man’s Drink
- Spotted an unfamiliar NPC in there, Larethia, who appears to be put in by the Bosmer Armor mod; she has the same voice as Jenassa; did not however try to hire her
- Read the book in the room to trigger the Dying Wish quest for later
- Slept, then got up to go talk to the Jarl
- On the way out, found Lucien! He asked if he could tag along with us, and offered to pay for the privilege; didn’t really have the option to be dubiously accepting of this, pretty sure Harrow is not thrilled about having a dude tag along, but he offered three hundred septims and to keep paying her
- Went in to talk to the Jarl, got the quest to take out bandits for him, he sent me to Bannermist Tower
- Set out from Falkreath, now with three followers, and headed for Bannermist
- Made it partway, stopped to mine an iron ore vein–and the game crashed >_<
- Restarted but wasn’t thrown back too far, picked up when Vilja, Lucien, Lydia, and I came out of the Jarl’s longhouse
- Headed off to Bannermist, take two
- Spotted a Khajiit with a wagon just outside Falkreath and ooh hey I think that’s the person to find out about doing the Moonpath to Elsweyr stuff :O
- Also found Barbas! Told the Daedra dog that actually, kinda busy right now; he told me to come meet him at Haemar’s Shame if I changed my mind
- Killed a frostbite spider on the way
- Found the bandits at Bannermist attacking… something? Didn’t see what they were shooting at so not entirely certain they weren’t attacking each other; woke up the flame atronach and GAME ON; took out the bandits and got as much of their stuff as I could carry
- Fast traveled back to Falkreath–aaaaaaand boom DRAGON
- Guards and Team Dragonborn and even the aforementioned Khajiit got in on attacking the dragon when it landed just outside the gate; slurped up its soul and looted it
- Tromped back through the gate, and sold the dragon bits and a bunch of other items to Solaf to unload
- Parked in the inn again
- Gave Vilja a bit of time to give me more of her backstory, which involved her family trying to force a marriage she didn’t want on her, and the guy she refused apparently stole her flute
- Vilja also even asked me if she shouldn’t talk as much? Heh, surprisingly self-aware of her, but couldn’t get the setting to take? Will have to try again before I boot her from the playthrough entirely
- Talked to Lucien a little as well just to try to learn more about his background; he chatted about being a scholar and studying at all the colleges in Cyrodiil and being particularly interested in a specific Dwemer ruin; mentioned his father is looking into it for him and is supposed to contact him when he finds out anything
- Got up next morning, checked back in the Jarl’s longhouse and actually found him in the side room at the map table! What is this weird new world of the Jarl sometimes actually moving around XD
- Got the Jarl to pay me for the bandit work, and got the pointer to become thane, but decided not to deal with this right now
- Instead, went back outside and boinged to Whiterun
- Went to Dragonsreach and paid Proventus to furnish out the rest of Breezehome
- Dropped off a bunch of things in the bookshelves and chests
- Next item on the agenda: going to get Nettlebane
- But also decided to hit the zombie site just because it seems in character for Harrow to look into that; went there first
- Discovered Fort Neugrad on the way
- Got up to the ritual site and Team Dragonborn (all four of us + atronach) had at the zombie horde we found there
- Grabbed a bunch of their weapons and got overloaded as a result
- Got stuck climbing down the rocks and had to drop a few of the weapons to fast travel my way out; fast traveled just to Fort Neugrad even though it was in sight, so that I could have the others catch up with me; may or may not try to find the weapons I dropped later
- Hoofed it over to find Orphan Rock; hagraven was formidable, and I had to take cover from her staff of fire to avoid being fried while I was trying to take potshots at her with the Bow of Shadows
- We finally took her out, though she fell down the cliffside, so I had to climb down to search her and get Nettlebane
- Boinged back to Whiterun
- Stopped at Warmaiden’s smelter to smelt down all the zombie weapons; nice stack of steel ingots as a result
- I think here was where I leveled up to 12; took Stamina bump and first perk in Alchemy
- Got courier with the invitation to dinner at Bloodchill Cavern (which will definitely require later followup)
- Sold things to Belethor, then went to the temple to speak to Danica
- Maurice muscled his way in on our quest; set out from Whiterun with the larger party in tow
- Encounter at White River Watch spawn point: bandits disguised as Imperials; they didn’t get far with their ruse
- Next stop: Valtheim Towers
- Toll bandit tried again to toll me; this did not go well for her; Lydia, Vilja, and Lucien all rampaged through the tower
- Mined the iron vein behind the back tower
- Found Meridia’s Beacon in the boss chest!
- Swiped all the bandit stuff and stashed it in the chest near the front entrance, so I wouldn’t have to carry it all the way to the Eldergleam
- Mined the iron vein across the river
- Our party was big enough to alert the giant at Cradlecrush Rock–and much to my amazement, Vilja and Lucien actually killed it, wow
- Lydia dropped into recovery state but I realized I didn’t have the Healing Hands spell, damn
- Marked Mixwater Mill for the map
- Then made it to the sanctuary; heard dragon overhead but it didn’t come down to engage
- Vilja and Lyds had a conversation about Amulets of Mara, see below
- Proceeded into the sanctuary; found usual two NPCs, Sond and Asta; Asta was not happy I’d brought Nettlebane as usual
- Also found Vilja’s NPC Anesia to ask about her bottle; Anesia asked me to take a note off to a pilgrim at nearby mill
- But first, Eldergleam; let Maurice do his thing, and got the sapling
- Went out to give the pilgrim Jelena the note; got a book to take back to Anesia (although she didn’t actually take it out of my inventory when I tried to give it back to her)
- Returned to Anesia and Vilja; Vilja said Anesia agreed to help but needed assorted ingredients; she asked for my help gathering them, and I also got an opportunity to verify for her that yes, she could still hang around
- Asta threw me a line about no longer being welcome in the sanctuary
- Boinged back to Valtheim Towers to pick up the stashed loot; briefly forgot which map Treasure Map IV was, but then realized oh right, that’s the Pelagia Farm one
- Proceeded to Whirlwind Sprint my way back to Whiterun with the others following
- Vilja chatted about a potential book to find to help her with her ingredients quest so got an objective to look for that in alchemy stores
- Attacked by Dark Brotherhood assassin! Who actually dropped Shrouded Armor :O
- Saw who I think was Uthgerd the Unbroken riding by on a horse!
- Made it back into Whiterun
- Sold a bunch of weapons and armor to Ulfberth in Warmaiden’s
- Went to the temple to give Danica the sapling and resolve the quest
- Went up to Dragonsreach to destroy several things on Farengar’s enchanter table
- That let me level up to 13; took Health bump and first perk in Enchanting
- Bought a bunch of new spellbooks from him
- Returned to Breezehome and did a bunch of alchemy to burn through gathered ingredients
- Lydia and Vilja had another conversation about Vilja being concerned about diets, feh, but at least it ended amusingly, with Lydia offering to find her some spiders, and then giving her a sweetroll
- Tried on several different outfits, including the Shrouded Armor
- Also kept fur armor with sleeves off one of the slain bandits in this session, pleased to see Practical Female Armors in effect
- Saved until next time
Going to Falkreath
Started off this session with the intent to go to Falkreath, and with that IC excuse in mind, I popped into the guard barracks by the Whiterun gate just so I could have a peek at that book that gives the pointer to find the Orc bandit in Embershard Mine. The game gives me no actual way to play this, but I take the liberty of assuming that Harrow popped in there with the intention to ask about the best route to take to get to Falkreath.
And now that I’ve got a horse for Kendis, I definitely also wanted to get a horse for Harrow. So I stopped at the stables on the way out and picked up the Wild Horses book and map, but I did not go over and get the same red horse for Harrow. I want to vary it up a bit and I think the black horse that hangs out near Falkreath might actually suit Harrow better.
Vilja flipped into “charming” mode and got some singing going with Lydia, to my surprise. Vilja does a lot of wordless improv, and this time she got Lydia going with her on it, which worked surprisingly well. Lyds has a deeper voice than Vilja, and the call and response thing they got into fell very nicely on the ear.
I’d been wondering for a while why, every time I take the road past the bandit site and the future back access to Lakeview, I keep running into skeletons. According to the wiki, those skeletons are apparently guarding an unmarked burial site near Shriekwind Bastion. I have not, I think, ever actually seen that burial site. Now I’m curious, though, and may have to look for it.
In and around Falkreath
Mods made their presence felt pretty much as soon as I showed up at Falkreath. It’s not as heavily changed as Whiterun, but there are new banners up in various places, at the gate and inside the Jarl’s longhouse.
And the Jarl, like Balgruuf in Whiterun, had on different clothes. I saw him move around as well, when I’m usually more used to him just hanging out on his throne. When I returned to let him know I’d taken out the bandits at Bannermist, he was over in the side room on the left, looking at the map along with his housecarl and the Imperial officer that hangs out in there.
Speaking of Bannermist, I was a little surprised that Siddgeir in fact sent me there for his bandit quest rather than Embershard. I went back and checked all my previous playthroughs, and can confirm now that in every playthrough on the Switch, Siddgeir sent me to Embershard.
Shenner’s playthrough is the only exception. And like Shenner, Harrow is a non-Switch playthrough, and in particular, a playthrough with the USSEP. So I’m real curious about whether the USSEP fixed a bug here that allows Siddgeir to actually choose one of the random locations he’s supposed to choose from, as per the wiki. Or if, on the other hand, the Switch build just has a bug about this on its own.
I’ll have to see whether Kendis gets sent to Embershard!
Three other notable things about visiting Falkreath this time:
- I found who I expect is the Khajiit who will take me to Elsweyr for the Moonpath to Elsweyr plot. I am not ready to run that yet, but it’s good to know where the contact character is.
- Found an unfamiliar NPC in Dead Man’s Drink, Larethia, who I determined was put in by the Bosmer Armor Pack
- I also found Lucien, who was hanging out in Dead Man’s Drink!
I liked Larethia’s character design, but I found it highly distracting that a) she was hanging out in the room you’re led to if you rent a bed for the day, which means there’s a complete stranger just standing there when you’re trying to get some goddamn sleep; and b) she uses the exact same voice and lines as Jenassa, which I find kind of distracting. So it’s not likely I’ll hire her.
While I was in the rented inn room, though, I did read the book lying there to trigger the Dying Wish quest for later.
Picking up Lucien as a follower, I think, is adding to a problem I’m already seeing with Vilja: namely, a collision between my desire to play a character who by nature is grim and antisocial, and my desire to try out these various interesting follower mods in this run.
Which means that right now, at least, I’m treating this as a situation where Harrow is picking up these followers against her own inclination. She’d just as soon be traveling alone, yet these people are coming into her orbit and it feels like a consequence of her being a thane and a Dragonborn. So for now she’s putting up with it, even though they keep being super cheerful at her. And wanting her to <shudder> chat and make small talk.
Lucien falls into the same mode as Vilja, from what I saw in this session. He’s mostly a scholar, and at least starting out, he appears to be very much in the mode of “oh Divines no, I’m not a fighter, so can I pay you to let me tag along and watch my back?”
He is apparently prone to making extremely silly jokes, which I feel like will eventually make Harrow want to pull his every bone out of his body. It already doesn’t help that he’s a dude; I’m pretty sure Harrow is not the slightest bit thrilled with having a man in her company. She’s putting up with him for now because of his gold. But I’m going to have to keep an eye on this.
And like Vilja, he appears to be musically inclined. He tossed off a line of Ragnar the Red that, honestly, sounded better than any of the vanilla male bards in the game!
But, also like Vilja, the vibe I’m getting off of him is that he’s very likely not going to be a good match as a follower for this Dragonborn. We’ll see if this impression continues.
He had amusing commentary once we killed the dragon in Falkreath, and legit seemed surprised that he’d participated in that. Which, as a scholar, seems appropriate for him. But when he also asked if he should call me “Your Thaniness” or “Thaney-pie”, that was another legit teeth-grinding moment. I expect Harrow gave him a death glare, and reconsidered whether his gold was worth letting him hang around.
However, for now she’s putting up with him. Because despite his protestations, he does appear to be capable of setting things on fire. On purpose, in combat, as opposed to on accident. And Harrow does approve of being able to set things on fire.
More on Vilja
Vilja has become a problem.
Since this is the session where I finally made it to the Eldergleam Sanctuary, it meant getting a little progress on Vilja’s overall quest. And this basically was a thing where NPC number one asked me to go deliver a note, NPC number two asked me to deliver a book, and then Vilja herself asked me to help her gather ingredients she has to give to NPC number one to get help with her mysterious bottle.
And Vilja ever so daintily asked me to look for the ingredients for her. And also hold on to the list. And also help her find a book that helps her identify some of these ingredients. I get that this is because I’m the player character, so it falls to me to actually carry out these quests. But the way Vilja asked me to do it just rubbed me the wrong way, coming across as the “helpless ditzy blonde asking her strong companion to do all the difficult stuff for her.” And this isn’t even particularly difficult stuff.
Which is the core of my problem with Vilja. She waffles between “sweet and charming” and “helpless ditzy blonde”. When she’s charming, I like her quite a bit. I do really like several of the interactions she has with Lydia, when she’s talking about books or music. The thing I mentioned earlier in this post, where she and Lydia were improvising music together, was really cool.
But when she’s in the helpless ditzy blonde mode, especially when she whinges about diets and weight, she sets my teeth on edge. And I’m sick and fucking tired of the weight commentary in particular.
As I said in my last post about this, it makes no goddamn sense to me whatsoever that a Nord woman, especially a Nord woman from Solstheim where a few extra pounds might be what keeps her from freezing or starving to death, would give the slightest fuck about her weight.
I’m irritated enough by this that I had a hard time giving a fuck about the parts of this session where she gave me more of her character background, or about her personal quest proceeding once we reached the Eldergleam Sanctuary.
I also had a hard time getting engaged with the conversation she had with Lydia on the way into the sanctuary re: where to buy an Amulet of Mara. Lydia expressed surprise that someone like Vilja wasn’t spoken for (a line I know the mod is repurposing from vanilla Skyrim’s available line). This led into Vilja being quite adamant about how she thinks the whole custom of marriage by amulet is bullshit, and I have to admit, I want to sympathize with her on that. This character isn’t entirely annoying the fuck out of me. Every so often I really do like her and this was one of those times.
(Note: that particular conversation had issues at the end, though. Lydia diverted into one of her opening lines to the player about being appointed to be a housecarl, and that made no goddamn sense in the context of the conversation. So the coding there wasn’t as smooth as it should have been.)
Overall, though, the times when Vilja’s annoying the fuck out of me outweigh the times when I find her charming. So I’ve decided I’m going to have to ditch her from my playthrough. But I can’t just uninstall her mod, because uninstalling a complex mod mid-playthrough is a very bad idea. So my options here are:
- Find a way to dismiss her and stop traveling with her; I actually got this opportunity while finishing up Eldergleam Sanctuary, and honestly, I should have taken it at the time.
- She is not marked Essential by default, so it’s possible she can be killed. So at this point I’m kind of thinking, I need to see where I can take her that the risk of that rises. I would not enjoy actually killing her myself, but I am not above seeing how many dragon lairs or other dangerous areas I can hit before she gets offed.
- I could be meaner to her and drive her off that way. She apparently does have dialogue options with her that allow you to be meaner to her. But I’m not taking them, because as a player, I wouldn’t enjoy being deliberately cruel to a follower, particularly a follower who’s been specifically engineered to have her disposition to you shift depending on how you treat her. And I feel like Harrow, while surly and antisocial by nature, isn’t necessarily deliberately cruel.
But I came up with a way to handle this. See the post for the session after this one!
A Daedra’s Best Friend
Since this was Harrow’s first visit to Falkreath, it also got the opening hook for A Daedra’s Best Friend onto her radar. And I did find Barbas.
But this time through, I actually told the Daedra doggie that I was busy and had things to do. Part of this was motivated by already having three followers; adding in Barbas on top of that seemed like a bit much.
Part of it was also that I do find Barbas irritating in terms of how often he gets in your way. And not only gets right up in your face, he actively pushes you in whatever direction he’s moving in, and this may or may not be a direction you want to go. So this time through I think I want to minimize how long I need to deal with Barbas.
And also, I was legit curious to see what he’d do if I told him I was busy. The answer being, he tells you to come meet him at Haemar’s Shame if you change your mind.
The Rising Dead quest
If I weren’t playing a budding necromancer in this playthrough, I might have skipped this one. I was underwhelmed by the zombies added to Shenner’s playthrough, and didn’t feel like this quest line added much of interest, as I wrote before.
However, Harrow is a budding necromancer. So I felt like it’d be in character of her to want to check this out. If nothing else because her gut reaction to the anonymous letter she received would have been, simply, Interesting.
I don’t think she’s told any of her current companions about her ability to raise dead things. Given what sent her to Helgen, she wouldn’t think it’s safe to tell any of them about this. (Which, by extension, might have meant that when Vilja asked me to tell her about my adventures prior to meeting her, Harrow would have explicitly left out the part about how, after killing her would-be rapist, she raised him to stab him again.)
But she would have wanted to check out this ritual site anyway. And if any of the others asked her about this, she wouldn’t even have been lying when saying that clearly, we can’t have zombies roaming the land, now can we?
But still. There’s this niggling little interesting in the back of her brain.
I didn’t actively plan to run Valtheim Towers at this point. But the toll bandit struck again, demanding 200 gold from me. I tried to do the Intimidate check again, but actually hit the wrong one, which resulted in the toll bandit snarking about how it was going to be damned difficult for me to pay a healer once she bashed in my head.
Of course, that resulted in Team Dragonborn then rampaging through the place.
Blessings of Nature quest
Aside from the parts of visiting the Eldergleam Sanctuary that specifically involved Vilja, heh, Maurice muscling his way in on this quest probably provoked Harrow into thinking Oh for fuck’s sake, another one?
I found myself having a lot of thoughts about this plot in general, which I wrote up in Alternate possibilities for the Blessings of Nature quest.
But at least in this playthrough in particular, I figure Harrow tried not to be surly. But wow, four people tagging along behind her, and one of them a religious snob, started to get hardcore under her skin.
After we’d taken care of Vilja’s side quest, I got an opportunity to actually part ways with Vilja. Which, honestly, I should have taken. But I didn’t think to do it at the time, and it was only after I got back to Breezehome that Vilja went off about her weight again. AUGH.
Other thoughts on Vilja’s quest
Since The Blessings of Nature intersected with Vilja’s own quest once I got to Eldergleam Sanctuary, there were a few changes the mod put in.
There was an additional NPC inside the Sanctuary, Anesia. This is the person Vilja wanted to talk to about the mysterious bottle she’s carrying around. And this woman did two things I found kind of annoying:
- She wanted to talk to Vilja alone, so she asked Vilja to ask me if I’d go run an errand and take a letter over to a pilgrim at the nearby Mixwater Mill–as opposed to just asking me directly, since i was literally standing right there watching this conversation. So that seemed unnecessarily complex.
- She also got in a line telling me about a vision she’d had about a man who could help me satisfy my mission with Whiterun without causing harm. Meh. I respect the Vilja mod’s attempt to give the player another chance to go the sapling route (because as I’ve written in my separate post, I have issues with the Blessings of Nature plot in general). But doing it like this felt kind of heavyhanded. Especially given that I had Maurice with me. I feel like that should have been a point, narrative-wise, in which Maurice would have butted in and gone “what’s this about causing harm?”
Also, I didn’t like that the two women added in by the Vilja mod here were wearing the exact same blue dress that Asta also wears. I get it, it’s a pretty dress, I like it too. But it’s really visually repetitive to drop two more NPCs wearing the exact same outfit into a specific area.
And while I’m on the topic, why was Jelena just standing outside at the mill? Didn’t she have a camp?
(Yes, I know, she didn’t have a camp because that would have been additional work to implement in the mod. But when I was already beginning to find the mod in general kind of annoying, my ability to suspend my disbelief was getting strained.)
I’ve already played the session after this one, and a whole lot of critical things happened in that session. Most notably of which were Harrow getting infected with Sanguinare Vampiris in Movarth’s lair, ditching all three of her followers (not just Vilja), and running off to join the Thieves Guild in Riften. Muahahaha.