Harrowhark Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Harrowhark Gets Down to Business for the Guild

Double session post, in which the overall theme is “doing quests for the Thieves Guild”, and seeing how the Thieves Guild Alternate Routes mod impacts things!

And oh yeah: now I know where Vilja disappeared to when I dismissed her.

Play by play

  • Play dates: 12/20, 12/22/2022
  • Session numbers in this run: 10-11

Tuesday’s play

  • Started off at Candlehearth Hall in Windhelm
  • Nabbed the book for the studded dragonscale armor while I was in there
  • Went to the house of Clan Shatter-Shield to nab the Golden Ship Model for Vex
  • Thought about trying to feed on one of the Shatter-Shields then decided against it, partly out of curiosity to see what would happen and partly because I feel like Harrow would have tried to hold out a little longer
  • Went over to break into the Aretino house; spotted usual conversation between the kid and his nurse about Aventus; broke into the house, found the kid, and got his contract to take out Grelod
  • Boinged back to Riften to turn in the model; got new job from Vex and used the option to park it in Markarth
  • One of the thieves, possibly Vipir, commented about not liking my eyes, they had a bad hunger
  • Thought about hitting the orphanage but decided to hold off for now
  • Boinged to Whiterun to pick up stuff, and also to see if followers were there
  • Lydia was in Breezehome as expected; I take the liberty of assuming for narrative purposes that Harrow got in and out without Lydia spotting her
  • Picked up a bunch of things
  • Did assorted smithing; made a Chainmail Mage Hood to try it out, also assorted types of Bosmer headgear
  • Sold assorted things to Belethor and Adrianne
  • Went up to Dragonsreach and destroyed assorted items on Farengar’s table; bought a bunch of spells from him; he had an opening line about my skin being pale as the snow, was I scared of sunlight?
  • But left the city without doing as much as I wanted, for RP purposes, figured Harrow was feeling really uneasy about being spotted in Whiterun as a vampire
  • Boinged to Hendraheim instead, partly to see if Vilja was there
  • Dropped off assorted things there, including Dawnbreaker, because boy howdy does Harrow not feel right carrying that around
  • Rode from there to Markarth because I didn’t have it on the map yet
  • Outran a sabre cat and a couple of wolves because I didn’t feel like stopping for them, and because I’d reached stage four and my stats were all heavily nerfed being outside
  • Did not see any obvious change in my appearance as I progressed through the stages, now that I was already vamped
  • Passed Ri’saad’s Khajiit near the shrine of Dibella
  • Somebody yelled help about the second wolf I went by, not sure what kind of NPC he was, didn’t stop to check
  • Made it to Markarth stables and dropped off Tormod
  • Went into the city–and cue the opening Forsworn attack! And Eltrys dropping me the mysterious note!
  • Went into the inn and determined that yes, I can in fact still rent a room as a stage four vampire even despite the “as a blood-starved vampire you are hated and feared” messaging
  • Zonked out for 12 hours in the nice dark room
  • Then got up and ambled over to the overseer’s house; waited until 1am, then broke in
  • Took a nibble on the sleeping orc; I assume for narrative purposes that Harrow was strong willed enough to make her first feeding not actually kill the guy, despite her being stage four
  • Apparently feeding while invisible is the safest way to do it, I used the Embrace of Shadows power, which definitely has better vamp night vision, significantly more clear than the Khajiit level, or default vamp
  • Nabbed the three items and satisfied both Vex and Delvin’s jobs at once
  • Returned to the inn and parked in the room
  • Saved until next time

Thursday’s play

  • Picked up at Markarth
  • Set out on horseback to head towards Riften
  • Encountered en route:
    • Vampire masquerade (hey, assholes, surprise, I AM ALSO A VAMPIRE)
    • Some wolves, dispatched
    • A sabre cat, dispatched
    • Some zombies, dispatched
  • Practiced raising things, did one of the vampires, also one of the wolves
  • Reached Hendraheim and holed up for the day
  • Did some smithing
  • Went over to kill Aesrael for the Elven Hunter Armor plot
  • But shortly after I did so, the fucking game crashed
  • Thrown back to coming out of Hendraheim just before setting out
  • Decided to fast travel to Falkreath instead
  • Went over to the Hall of the Dead; it was open, and Runil stirred in his bed and sat up as I came over, nice touch from Immersive Citizens probably
  • Gave him the journal back, and got him to train me in Conjuration
  • Passed his assistance Kust on the way out who said “You have the look of a killer”
  • Boinged back to Thieves Guild
  • Checked in with Vex and Delvin; got both of them to give me a couple more Markarth jobs
  • Sold a few things to Tonilia
  • Set out to try to run Goldenglow; noted that I could get out of Riften by the new restored extra gate, which gave me pretty much a straight shot to the lake
  • Went differently this time, was not entirely sure Goldenglow wasn’t impacted by mods? But also came out from a different angle which might have thrown me off
  • Got spotted setting fire to the hives; chased by a couple of mercenaries, tried not to fight them as I ran for the water, but also tried to hit the third hive on the way out; made it to the water but also realized I’d set four hives on fire, not three, oops
  • Had a little trouble finding the sewer entrance as well, again I think because I came at the island from a different angle this time
  • Not entirely sure the quest marker loaded right; because my sound got screwed up and I had to save and reload; when I did that, the quest marker for the sewer was where I expected it to be
  • Made it in, and into the basement without too much trouble
  • Spotted by that final basement guard and didn’t want to fight him so rolled back to immediate previous quicksave–and realized well hell, I have the Bow of Shadows, Instant Invisibility, enough to get me down the stairs, fuck yeah!
  • So got down there and hit the chest and the safe and got the bill of sale
  • Retrned to the Guild; Brynjolf ripped me a new one for burning four hives instead of three, denied me my cut, and sent me to Maven in the Bee and Barb
  • (Forgot to record where it happened, so I’m putting it here; leveled up to 20, took Health perk and took Muffled perk in Sneak)
  • Found a courier on the way to talk to Maven who gave me the notice about the museum in Dawnstar
  • Maven also ripped me a new one; I had dialogue options from the Thieves Guild mod to not take any of Maven’s shit, but I actually declined them; Harrow bided her time here
  • Sent to Whiterun to talk to Mallus in the Bannered Mare
  • Realized hey, that may be where Vilja went–which I confirmed as soon as I walked in, spotted her in the Leather Scout Armor near the counter; did not get close enough to engage
  • Found Mallus and got the job from him
  • Went over to the meadery and explored the mod’s options for warning Sabjorn to call off the tasting
  • Still had to plant the poison and take out Hamelyn and a bunch of skeevers and spiders
  • Softened Hamelyn up a bit with the flame atronach before pelting him with ebony arrows
  • Mallus was not pleased that I double crossed him, though; this has cost me a fence but ah well I should still have the others 😉
  • Reported back to Maven and got to be all “oh darn Sabjorn cancelled the tasting, whoops”
  • Maven was not pleased! I was though about getting to tell Brynjolf “we’re the Thieves Guild, not her lapdogs” 😀
  • Proceeded to get the Scoundrel’s Folly quest from Mercer
  • Boinged to Markarth first though; ran the two new jobs
  • Snacked on Ogmund (discreetly, because I was stage four at that point and could do Embrace of Shadows)
  • Then boinged to Solitude
  • Bought a bunch of new clothes at Radiant Raiment, including various kinds of mage robes–and heh, promptly got snarked at by Taarie about whether I’d stolen the robes off a real wizard
  • Gave Noster a gold coin; also gave him the passphrase for the Gray Cowl quest and got a note off of him
  • Finally went into the inn; took a room and slept until nightfall
  • Went down to talk to Gulum-Ei
  • Stole the Firebrand Wine Case for him
  • Then got him to spill the dirt about Karliah
  • Followed him off to the docks
  • Guard warned me off from the warehouse, but I ignored him and made it in
  • Saved for the night just inside the warehouse

Being a brand new baby vampire

This pair of sessions does double duty in getting Harrow seriously started in the Thieves Guild–and seriously started as a vampire.

I feel a slight letdown about how easy it is to just get started feeding on NPCs as a vampire, and on controlling vampire abilities in general. And I attribute this squarely to how many vampire-related stories I’ve either read or watched in pop culture! So many pertaining to newbie vampires having trouble controlling their hunger! And given that the game makes me have to train for the Greybeards to accept me as Dragonborn, I feel kind of weird about how “RIGHT THEN you’re a vampire now! You can feed on NPCs, have fun with that!”

It would, I’d think, take significant strength of will for a brand new vampire to not rip the throat out of the first person they tried to feed on. Hell, given how every single vampire lair in the game is a bloody mess, up to and including Castle Volkihar, you could make a very strong argument for any vampire in the game lacking sufficient will to avoid ripping the throats out of their victims.

But I guess that the game is doing the player the solid of assuming that they do, in fact, have sufficient strength of will. You are, after all, the Dragonborn.

So I guess I’m running with the idea that Harrow, once she turns, tries to be careful. She’s trying not to snack on anybody unless absolutely necessary, and she’s trying to be discreet about it. So far she’s only let herself feed on someone if she’s already breaking into their house anyway, for the Guild.

I do kind of wish you had the option of turning, say, an enemy bandit into a snack–as a normal vampire, anyway. You do apparently get a “power bite” attack if you’re a Vampire Lord, but right now Harrow doesn’t have that option. If she did, I expect she’d restrict herself to snacking on fallen hostiles.

NPCs started remarking upon my appearance once I changed, with comments like “your skin is pale as the snow, are you scared of sunlight?” And “I don’t like those eyes you’ve got.” In earlier posts, I commented that it makes little sense to me that the people of Skyrim don’t recognize a vampire on sight, just because every single vampire has visibly discernible traits, like those glowing eyes. It makes even less sense to me now. I have a hard time buying that few enough people in Skyrim have actually seen a vampire that they don’t know the signs. 😀

But hey, this is the same game where there’s a vampire NPC living right in the court of Solitude. And where you can, apparently, walk right into Fort Dawnguard as a vampire without resistance. (Or so I’m reading; I need to put this to the test once I’m ready to run Dawnguard with Harrow.)

Of the lines I’ve gotten, the one that actually hit the best for RP purposes wasn’t even vampire-specific. Kust, Runil’s assistant in Falkreath, has a line that he gives the player: “You have the look of a killer.” I feel like this hits home more than just commenting on Harrow’s pallor or the look of her eyes, and I envision Harrow sliding him a thoughtful silent glance on her way out.

So yeah. Trying to get used to the various effects of vampirism. I do like that the nerf to your Health, Magicka, and Stamina gets worse the longer you go without a feeding. So far, though, other than that, the only other downside I see to being a vamp is the weakness to fire. All of these though should be things you can counter with suitably enchanted items. And given that stage four gives you Embrace of Shadows, which is 180 minutes of guaranteed Night Eye + invisibility, that seems like a damn strong argument for staying at stage four.

I need to work out the proper timing of how long to hang onto stage four, though. Because it only belatedly occurred to me, while starting to run the East Empire Company Warehouse for the Scoundrel’s Folly quest, that I really should have hung onto that ability for maximizing my ability to get through there undetected. Especially given that I don’t have the Throw Voice Shout with Harrow yet. But I did think of another solution, as I write below!

Getting back into Whiterun

I did get back into Whiterun a couple of times this session, once for a supply run and once to have to talk to Mallus. For narrative purposes I assume that Harrow did so gingerly, and only got back into Breezehome at night, while Lydia was asleep.

Because Mallus was at the Bannered Mare, this by extension let me actually identify where Vilja went when I dismissed her. I spotted her near Hulda’s counter, easily notable from afar because she was still wearing the Leather Scout Armor.

Again for narrative purposes, I take the liberty of assuming Vilja didn’t spot her. I’ve taken to wearing cowls, which would easily hide Harrow’s face. And Vilja, bless her heart, is probably not the most observant person in the world.

I think Harrow spent as little time in Whiterun as possible, right now. She really doesn’t want to risk Whiterun realizing she’s turned. Especially Lydia and Vilja.

I did see while looking up stuff about Vilja that people tend to find she’s really only best served for a male Dragonborn playthrough, and that they often just leave her parked in the Bannered Mare when running a female Dragonborn.

And speaking of the Thieves Guild…

So far, the Thieves Guild Alternate Routes mod is awesome. I’d already really liked that it gave me the option to avoid extorting the shopkeepers in Riften, and in these two sessions, I also experimented with a couple other things it does.

One: once you start taking the side jobs from Delvin and Vex, you have the ability to focus them on one city at a time. This is super helpful if, like me, you stack them by taking a Sweep and a Bedlam Job at the same time, which you can do by hitting the same location once to satisfy both jobs. I appreciate not having to go through half a dozen rounds of “quicksave then reload then talk to Vex again” until I finally get the location I want.

Two: The first couple hops in the main Guild plot, Loud and Clear (the Goldenglow Estate plot) and Dampened Spirits (the Honningbrew Meadery plot) have a couple of alternate options for you to take in case you really want to stick it to Maven Black-Briar. I played Loud and Clear more or less straight, but did try one of the alternate options for Dampened Spirits.

Which is to say: warning Sabjorn to cancel the tasting with the captain of the guard. This keeps Sabjorn from being arrested, and you get to go back to Maven and tell her “Looks like Sabjorn canceled the tasting, whoops”. You also get to tell Brynjolf “We needed to show her we’re the Thieves Guild, not her lapdogs.”

The one consequence of this which I feel may put a player off going this route is that this does cost you Mallus as a fence. So if you’re running this mod, think about whether pissing off Maven is worth it to have one less fence! I’m not entirely sure I like not having access to Mallus as a fence; with the route I took in this mod, he remains at Honningbrew as Sabjorn’s assistant, and now he’s not at all pleased with me, unsurprisingly. Snerk. On the other hand, I pissed off Maven, so, net win!

Your mileage may vary. 😉

Loud and Clear quest

On the way out to run Goldenglow Estate, I noticed one of the changes to Riften courtesy of Cutting Room Floor: restoring a back gate that’s walled off in the vanilla game. This gives you a much quicker way out of the city, if you’re coming out of the Thieves Guild secret entrance. But this also meant I came at Goldenglow from a weird angle, and my perceptions of where I needed to be were thrown off.

Getting onto the island was weird, and I’m not entirely sure why. It could have been because this is a modded playthrough, but I sure as hell noticed a lot more bridges that I’m used to with Goldenglow, and a lot more mercenaries out.

I actually got spotted by mercenaries while heading for the hives. And because I got spotted, I was clumsier than I’d have liked. I’d set two of the hives on fire, and tried to hit the third while running for the water, before the mercenaries could catch up with me. Only when I hit the water did I look back and realize there were four hives burning.

And after I’d burned the hives, I also had trouble finding the hidden sewer entrance. I’m not entirely sure the quest marker loaded for this correctly, again perhaps because of mods. But I noticed my sound was getting screwed up, so I had to restart the game–and when I did, the quest marker was in the right place.

It’s distinctly possible, though, that I threw myself off by coming at Goldenglow from a different angle. In Merawen’s and Faanshi’s runs, I came at it from the north side of the lake; in this one, I came at it from the south. So it’s equally likely that I just happened to spot parts of the estate I never saw before, which happened to put me in greater line of sight to the mercenaries out. I don’t know!

Apparently, with the Thieves Guild mod active, I could have gotten up to Aringoth and talked him into supporting the Guild–but only if I hadn’t burned the hives. Which I had. So I went ahead and aimed straight for the basement so that I could get the bill of sale and get out again.

I got spotted once by the final mercenary in the basement, and didn’t want to fight him, just because I prefer to run this plot without killing anybody if I can avoid it. And I started to fret over what to do about this. My prior strategies for getting past this point have been Invisibility potions, the actual Invisibility spell, the Throw Voice Shout, or shooting arrows into the opposite corner of the room to distract the mercenary long enough to dive for the stairs.

I didn’t have Invisibility potions or spells, and I wasn’t at stage four vampirism at this point. So I didn’t have access to Embrace of Shadows. So I was going to try the arrow shooting trick when I realized something important: I had the Bow of Shadows.

Which turns you invisible as soon as you draw it.

So I drew that thing and bolted for the stairs, home free.

Lesson to be learned here: if you’re running the AE on a Thieves Guild playthrough, get the Bow of Shadows early. It will save your bacon. And as I write this, I realize as well that this will help me make it through the East Empire Company warehouse!

Returning to the Guild, I found that both Brynjolf and Maven were pissed off about my burning four hives instead of three. This wasn’t a blocker, but I feel like Maven’s fury was unfair! She had a line about “burning down the estate”, which I did not do, thank you very much. I burned one extra hive. And given that I got spotted by mercenaries while I was doing it, I feel like it’s reasonable to assume that they put out the fires, or else yelled for someone to do so while they tried (in vain) to find me.

This did cost me my cut of the job, though. Lesson to be learned here: be real careful about how many hives you burn.

Dampened Spirits quest

This one was where I took more advantage of the changes implemented by the Thieves Guild mod. Specifically, I tried out the option of warning Sabjorn to cancel the tasting, with the express goal of sticking it to Maven.

Given that she was bitchy about my burning four hives instead of three, heh, I figure Harrow was not pleased by that and took the opportunity to poke back at Maven when she could. I was amused by being able to come back and tell Maven, “Looks like Sabjorn canceled the tasting. Whoops.”

And the line to Brynjolf about showing Maven we’re the Thieves Guild, not her lapdogs, was good too.

The main consequence of playing it this way, though, is that I lost the ability to use Mallus as a fence. Which, appropriate, given that I double-crossed him. But I’m not entirely convinced losing a fence was worth it to me to piss off Maven, because this mod’s changes do not appear to have any real long-term impact on Maven’s power in Riften. It just gives you a bit of an opportunity to be bitchier at her.

Still though I can work with this, just because I also feel like this worked well as Harrow’s attempt to avoid screwing over a citizen of Whiterun. Where she is still thane, even if she’s trying to hide from them now due to being a vampire.

So right now I’m feeling like this mod’s worth it to me for the other aspects, but if I run it again on a future playthrough, I may just skip the parts where you can fuck with Maven. Your mileage may vary!

Other than that, I still had to get down to the skeever nest and plant the poison, and I still had to kill Hamelyn. That part proceeded as per the vanilla game. And I was able to take out Hamelyn reasonably quickly, what with being able to throw the flame atronach at him, as well as shooting him at close range once he finally came over to try to engage me in melee. He was a reasonably easy kill at that point.

Scoundrel’s Folly quest

Hitting three consecutive stages of the main Thieves Guild quest in one session is a new record for me, even if I didn’t get to the point of finishing Scoundrel’s Folly. I attribute this to needing to divert back to Markarth to run another round of jobs there!

But before that, when I showed up in Solitude, I stopped in at Radiant Raiment and bought a bunch of new clothes, just because I wanted to see what the selection was like with this set of mods. I bought several types of mage robes and boots and cowls in different colors from Endarie inside the store.

And just after I left, I ran into Taarie, the other sister, who said and I quote:

“Are you a member of the College, or did you just steal those robes from a real wizard?”

Bitch, I just literally bought these robes from your store. C’mere, wanna see what kind of a wizard I am?

.oO (Note to self: throwing the flame atronach in Taarie’s face in the middle of the street is not worth pissing off the guards no matter how satisfying it would be. Break into her room, then set her on fire!)

Ahem. Anyway, then proceeded through the plot more or less as per normal.

I got challenged by a passing guard on my way to the docks, but didn’t note his line, which was something to the effect of “there’s nothing for you at the warehouse, take a walk.” Couldn’t find a good quote for it on the wiki. Suffice to say though that Harrow ambled innocently onward.

And then promptly broke into the warehouse.

I was concerned at the point I saved as to to exactly how well I’ll make it through that warehouse without an Invisibility spell or the Throw Voice Shout. But as I worked on this post, I went “duh” and realized that the Bow of Shadows could probably save my bacon here, too.

Next time

Picking up where I left off in the warehouse, and indeed taking advantage of the Bow of Shadows to ease my way through the place! We’ll see if I can make it all the way to Gulum-Ei after.


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.