Harrowhark Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Harrow Gains Intelligence for the Guild and Regains Some Followers

Double session post, in which Harrow gains some vital intelligence for the Thieves Guild; takes over a mage tower near Morthal; fights bandits at Embershard Mine, the Saints bandit camp, and Knifepoint Ridge; and takes Lydia and Lucien back on as followers, despite having become a vampire.

Play by play

  • Play dates: 12/24, 12/26/2022
  • Session numbers in this run: 12-13

Saturday’s play

  • Started off just inside the East Empire Company warehouse
  • Nearly got spotted by a guard a couple of times, but went invisible with the Bow of Shadows and fixed that problem–and got lucky because i accidentally shot arrows a couple of times and damn near gave myself away with that shit 😛
  • Used the Bow to make it on around the warehouse
  • Nabbed several clothing items off the shelves, including the noble clothing items I usually get, which were renamed this time because of mods
  • Made it to the office and nabbed the map, then made it into Brinewater Grotto
  • Eluded all the bandits; some of them spotted me when I accidentally triggered a trap, but they didn’t catch me
  • Made it through the water to the area where Gulum-Ei was hanging out with the final two bandits, who I took out, one via flame atronach and the other when she came up for close fighting
  • I took her down– then raised her and sicced her on the other bandit, which let me finally take him out too
  • Negotiated with Gulum-Ei and got him set up as fence
  • Looted all the chests and stole a few other loose items off the shelves
  • Got out past the horkers without having to kill them thanks to the Bow
  • Emerged from the grotto near the Dainty Sload and derped around a little trying to find an alternate path back to Solitude, but no luck, so snuck out past the ship without alerting it
  • Returned to Solitude and sold a few things at Bits and Pieces
  • Checked Angeline’s for useful ingredients for the Hedge Mage armor, and oh good she had honeycomb!
  • Gently lied to her about not having been to Whiterun (Harrow attempting to hide her identity)
  • Returned to my horse and set off for Morthal
  • Then went back out and got my horse and set out for Morthal
  • Killed by frostbite spiders on the road–like, three or four of them? Yikes?
  • Thrown back to coming out of Solitude
  • This time fast traveled to Morthal
  • Decided to claim Myrwatch, mostly to see if the place had useful ingredients, so rode over there by cutting through Morthal
  • Sicced the flame atronach on the chaurus outside; looted the dead guy for his journal; set the flame seal and got into the place; no luna moth wings though
  • Boinged into Whiterun
  • Khajiit were on site so bought a boatload of ingredients from Ri’saad (but no luna moth wings, damn)
  • Arcadia likewise had none
  • Tried to hire Jenassa because I think Harrow’s legit feeling lonely, and also was kind of hoping to get a steward for Goldenhills–but the Bosmer Armor mod broke hiring Jenassa, oops
  • Boinged to Falkreath to check with Zaria and see if she had any luna moth wings; answer: no
  • Considered riding to Haemar’s Shame to meet Barbas, but killed by zombies
  • Thrown back to Falkreath
  • Briefly interacted with the Khajiit there who had a dialogue prompt but not an actual spoken line; was tempted to go do Moonpath to Elsweyr but not right now
  • Instead boinged to Hendraheim
  • Then went over and killed Aesrael finally for the elven hunter armor
  • Put away a bunch of stuff, slept the day, and oh hey look back at stage four
  • Mounted up and returned to the road
  • Got a subtitle of a bandit sobbing; didn’t see what was going on, but when I turned the horse around, I did see what looked like a group of bandits coming out of an encounter; decided to not get close enough to find out what they were on about
  • Finally found luna moths around a signpost, caught one, and had all the ingredients for an initial round of fortifying on the Hedge Mage Armor, awesome
  • Rode towards the watchtower; passed possibly two different sets of Imperials? Though one set might actually have been Thalmor, it was dark and I couldn’t tell from a distance
  • Also spotted Vigilant Vampire Hunters going after a vampire–and it seemed in my best interests to not interfere with that
  • Finally got bored of riding and just fast traveled to Riften to check in
  • Gave Delvin the swiped map; informed him I’d done the bedlam job and got payment for that
  • Got him to give me a final job in Markarth
  • Got a round of Sneak training off of him
  • Reported in to Vex and got her to pay me for the Sweep Job; tried to take another job in Markarth, I was curious if the mod would let me do that, but no? Apparently I need to go do Delvin’s job and we’ll see if that unlocks doing other cities again
  • Reported to Mercer about my findings; got his payment for Solitude and the directive to go meet him at Snow Veil Sanctum
  • Went to talk to Tonilia to get her swap out my Guild armor; also sold her some things
  • Saved there for the night

Monday’s play

  • Picked up at the Thieves Guild
  • Went out to get my horse
  • Did a lot of bouncing around in this session because I was legit not sure exactly what I wanted to do
  • First up though decided to run Embershard because I had the pending quest for the orcish plate armor
  • Boinged on horse to Guardian Stones to get nearby, then hit the mine
  • Took me three tries:
    • First time: got killed by final group of bandits
    • Second time: damn game crashed once I finished off all the bandits and tried to go back outside, augh
    • Third time: made it through, with strategy of hiding in a convenient corner and repeatedly throwing the flame atronach down into the heart of the forge area, and periodically sniping bandits with the Bow of Shadows when possible
  • Got a lot of orcish plate pieces out of that, in addition to other loot
  • And during running Embershard was when I leveled up to 22; took Health bump and first Alchemy perk
  • Boinged around a couple places after that, trying to track down ingredients for next round of fortifications on the Hedge Mage armor
  • Boinged to Solitude and discovered Gulum-Ei was not in the Winking Skeever, this might become a problem
  • Also discovered Angeline didn’t have the ingredients I needed, and neither did Zaria when I boinged to Falkreath
  • Visited Edward’s grave while there, and got the note off the dead Khajiit that pointed at Knifepoint Ridge
  • Boinged to Whiterun; Arcadia also didn’t have what I wanted
  • Decided that what I really wanted to do next was stuff that required followers–so I went back to Breezehome and got Lydia back on duty
  • Boinged back to Falkreath, and this time picked up Lucien, who had reverted to his prior fine clothes since I blew away the Bosmer Armor mod
  • With both of them re-engaged, boinged to Western Watchtower to try to take out the Saints bandit camp
  • Passed some Thalmor, who kept warning us off, but never got pissy enough to actually get in a fight with us, damn 😉
  • Killed once, thrown back to exiting Falkreath with Lucien and Lydia
  • Take two, boinged back to Western Watchtower
  • This time got an assassin and took him out; oh hey look another set of Shrouded Armor!
  • Outfitted Lucien in the enchanted orcish plate to give him a replacement set of armor
  • Re-did the battle with the bandits and this time we got them; cleared the loot out and freed the eltrya nymph
  • Saw a sabre cat rampaging through Barleydark Farm just across the way, yikes? It killed two cows, the dog, and the farmer
  • Spotted a wolf barking at us nearby as well
  • Ri’saad’s Khajiit came along the road headed for Markarth, so sold Ri’saad a bunch of the bandit loot
  • Also saw two giants headed our way from the other direction; probably the Sleeping Tree camp giants? Stayed the hell out of their way
  • Finally mounted up and headed west, with intent to go to Knifepoint Ridge–but the fucking game crashed again
  • This time didn’t throw me back far, only to the point of being back on the farm post-bandit-fight
  • Re-did riding to Knifepoint
  • Amusing commentary noted from Lucien:
    • <stage whispered> I don’t think Lydia likes me.
    • That’s a magnificent horse you have there!
    • Vocalizing the main Elder Scrolls theme, LOL, “kind of catchy”
    • Riffing on “Sound of Silence”: “Hello Ragnar my old friend, it’s time to take your head again”, LOL
  • Reached and ran Knifepoint Ridge, but only partially, just enough to fight the exterior bandits and take out the bounty hunter with the Daedric plate armor
  • Gave Lydia the Daedric plate
  • Overloaded so yet again had to hunt for the horse
  • Boinged to Hendraheim to do inventory management
  • Saved there for the night

More about the mod situation

I came to a realization over the last couple of Harrowhark sessions: that I was dragging hard on the idea of getting the Dark Brotherhood plot started. Even with running the Dark Brotherhood for Good Guys mod, apparently my brain is just balking hard at the idea of joining that faction.

The description of the mod still sounds interesting to me, at least in theory. But Harrow’s story appears to be shaping up in a direction of “ethical vampire”, a notion I got from Dara–that Harrow’s a vamp who isn’t going to kill victims if she can help it, but will only take enough blood to make sure she survives. I’m having a hard time coming with a narrative that allows for this and joining the Dark Brotherhood. Or, for that matter, siding with the Volkihar vampires in Dawnguard.

I’ll need to think about this. As of this post, I actually went back and got Lydia and Lucien as followers again, and the idea I’m playing with here is that Harrow called upon them to deliberately keep her in check. This suggests to me that I might be able to go into the Brotherhood if Harrow is explicitly avoiding killing innocents, and a thing about this mod is, it’s supposedly addressing that very question.

So I’m not going to delete the mod yet. But I need to work out how the narrative might go here. If Harrow’s turned back to Lydia and Lucien to keep her from going overboard as a vampire, it’s possible she might eventually learn from one of them that the Brotherhood could be a outlet for her more aggressive hungers.

A mod I did wind up deleting, though, was the Bosmer Armor one. Because it’s got a bug that breaks the ability to hire Jenassa, and while I don’t expect to use Jenassa regularly in this game, I want the option to do so. There’s supposedly a patch that fixes this problem, but it’s not clear to me that that patch is specifically available for the Special/Anniversary Edition. The only patch I could see that mentions fixing this outright on Nexus was explicitly for the previous version of Skyrim.

While I was taking out the Bosmer Armor mod, I also installed Starsight Eyes. I don’t think this’ll actually have a huge impact unless I de-vamp Harrow, and maybe do the Face Sculptor again. But we’ll see if I notice anything different before then.

Another change I made: I decided I just legit do not like the SkyUI menu changes. I find navigating through them awkward with controller buttons, and I don’t like the layout of information it presents. I particularly missed not having a breakdown by material type when I’m at a forge trying to smith something.

On the other hand, some of the other stuff I’m running in this load order does expect SkyUI to be present. So instead of yanking SkyUI entirely, I installed Hide SkyUI, just to turn off the menu parts and leave the other underlying parts intact. This has so far caused me to have to explicitly turn off some warning messages, and I hope this isn’t a thing I’ll have to do every time I start a new Harrow session. But it does at least address the problem.

But I’m not done tweaking the load order. While reading up further on Inigo (I needed to doublecheck where I could actually find him), I saw that there a few patches for him I’ll probably need to install. More on this soon.

Meanwhile, back with the Thieves Guild

Started off the action here where I left off, sneaking through the East Empire Company warehouse for the Scoundrel’s Folly plot. Which remains a high point of the Thieves Guild for me. <3

This time through though, I had to do it with the Bow of Shadows. I am very glad that I took the time to get that thing at the beginning of this run, because otherwise I would not have been able to make it through, I think. And the Sneak bonus from being a vampire had to have helped as well.

The one problem I ran into though was my tendency to accidentally shoot an arrow when I meant to put away the bow, or draw it again. This is, I think, the consequence of having to change button layouts all the time between the Steam Deck and the Switch.

Likewise, making it through the Brinewater Grotto part of this sneakfest was helped immensely by having the Bow of Shadows. I almost got caught once when I accidentally triggered a trap and got spotted–but the bandits in question didn’t catch me before I dove into the water and got out of range.

It was a rather satisfying necromancer power move to kill one bandit, raise her, and then sic her on the other final bandit I needed to kill. 😀

I did the usual final negotiation with Gulum-Ei to get him set up as a fence, though as I discovered later, he didn’t actually show up back at the Winking Skeever when I checked. This may be a problem later, and I’ll need to see if he’s there next time I go to Solitude.

Returning to Solitude to sell off loot and look for Hedge Mage Armor ingredients did give me a little bit of character opportunity, with Angeline’s questions about whether the player has been to Whiterun. This was an uncomfortable reminder to Harrow that she was explicitly hiding from Whiterun, so she gently lied to the woman about whether she’d been there. I think though that this contributed to her returning to Lydia and Lucien later.

And now I’ve got the visit to Snow Veil Sanctum queued up. Getting to that is part of why I wanted backup–because that’ll mean getting to the general area of Windhelm, and I’d kind of like to hit up the Seducers bandit camp and Yorgrim Overlook on the way to get the dragonscale armor.

Claiming Myrwatch and hunting for other ingredients

I wound up claiming Myrwatch partly because I just wanted to get into the place and see if it had the ingredients I needed to fortify the Hedge Mage Armor. But the prospect of a well-defended mage tower had to have struck Harrow as potentially useful, as a place for her to hide from the sun if nothing else.

Kept boinging around to various places, hoping to track down luna moth wings. Doing so in Whiterun led me to discovering the bug with hiring Jenassa–because apparently, if you’re running the Bosmer Armor mod, the follower it creates breaks Jenassa. And that was no damned good.

As a player, I was legit disappointed I couldn’t hire her. As I discovered in Kendis’ run, I can’t hire Jenassa for a stewardship anyway, at Goldenhills or anywhere else. But even aside from that, I think Jenassa would be a good match for Harrow as a follower.

I did finally manage to nab the correct ingredients for an initial round of fortification on the armor, though. Still working on the second, as of this post.

Getting Lydia and Lucien back on duty

I am definitely having a conflict here between what I felt like a character named Harrowhark ought to be doing, and what I actively enjoy as a player. I set this character up with the idea that she’d be a vampire and a necromancer, and a probable assassin. But all of that implies a lot of running solo.

And as a player, I often better enjoy the parts of the game that are better served by having followers. Hell, a big part of what I enjoy about the game are the parts that actively involve you having a high profile, helping out citizens, becoming thane, and such. Which directly contradicts the whole “go off and sulk in Castle Volkihar when you’re not out trying to snack on tasty, tasty bandits” thing.

So now I need to think about how to balance “what I was hoping to do with this character” and “what I actually enjoy playing as a player”.

For now, I’m assuming that Harrow had to have an extremely awkward conversation with both Lydia and Lucien–and explain to them that she’d been infected when they’d fought the vampires at Movarth’s lair, that she was struggling to not kill anyone, and that she did not want to die. She begged them for help, to keep her in check if she showed any sign of endangering someone, and to watch her back during daylight hours.

For narrative purposes, I’m going to assume that Lucien was simultaneously horrified and fascinated. He’s a scholar, so I figure he can take this as an opportunity to study a non-hostile vampire up close.

Lydia is definitely going to be challenged by this, because holy shit my thane is a vampire. She has to take this as a potential black mark against her as a housecarl–because Harrow got infected on her watch, after all. I’m seeing Harrow finally talking her into helping by telling her point-blank that she is authorized to kill her on the spot if she goes crazy from bloodlust and attacks someone.

Harrow: “You swore to protect me and all I own with my life, right?”

Lydia: “But… you’re a vampire now. Doesn’t this mean you died? I didn’t protect you from that.

Harrow: “I don’t know if I died or not. I just know I still have my mind and my thoughts and my memories. And I remember your strength and valor. You are a warrior of Whiterun. If you’re not comfortable with serving me now, I’ll accept that. But look at this way. If you stand watch over me, you’ll know if I lose myself to the blood hunger. If I… kill someone innocent. And you’ll do a service to your Jarl and your city if you put me down before I can do that.”

Lydia: “What about Lucien?”

Harrow: “I want him along to document what we do. What’s needed to help… someone like me… live in the world. If it can be done at all, and what has to be done to cure me if that’s at all possible.”

Lydia: “What about Vilja?”

Harrow, looking away: “She said outright she doesn’t like vampires, and that vampires see normal folk as food. I don’t want her to see me like this. I don’t think she’d take it well. She’s a delicate soul.”

Lydia, quietly: “I think you’re right. That’s probably wisest.”

Harrow, turning back again: “But you, you’re strong. You’re a warrior of Whiterun. And I can’t think of anyone else I’d trust with this task but you. Can you do this for me, Lydia? Be the bulwark between me and the people of Whiterun?”

Lydia: “You’re asking me to kill you.”

Harrow: “Don’t get me wrong. I do not want to die—” She chuckles, darkly. “Well, any more than I already have, if that’s what happened to me when Movarth’s lackeys infected me. Nor do I want to take an innocent life. I’ve taken blood, Lydia. I won’t deny it. I’ve had to, to keep from starving. I swear to you by all the Divines that those I’ve fed upon so far, I’ve left sleeping in peace in their beds. But I do not know how much longer I can master this. I’ve been very, very hungry. And I would much rather have you put a crossbow bolt between my eyes than rip out the throat of someone in the city that’s made me a thane. Will you do this for me, Lydia?”

Lydia is silent for a long moment. Then she finally draws in a deep breath and lets it out again, and says, “My thane, how much blood do you need to survive?”

Harrow, blinking, as this was not the question she expected: “A few sips was all I dared take from the two I fed upon. Every few days. The hunger seems worst if I go four days or longer…”

Lydia: “Then you can take your sips from me. If I can sustain you, then that’ll be safest. As for your other request–“

Harrow, barely daring to hope: “Yes?”

Lydia: “Let me pick the crossbow, and we have a deal.”

Harrow, grinning for the first time she can remember in a very long time: “The best crossbow my money can buy you.”

Bandit hunting!

The main reason I wanted Lydia and Lucien back in this session, anyway, was because I wanted to take out that Saints bandit camp. And I knew that wasn’t going to happen solo, even if I’d cleared level 22.

(Forgot to note where I cleared level 21; I did 22 in Embershard, I think?)

Even with a rebuilt follower squad, it took some doing to take down the Saints. I was killed once. This suggests I better go after the Seducers bandits only after I have Inigo.

It helped, though, that I outfitted Lucien in the orcish plate armor. And after we took out the bandits, I gave him a bunch of the weapons we’d taken from them, too. So now he should have a selection of weaponry he can use.

On the way to the Saints bandits the second time, I had another Dark Brotherhood assassin show up. I am not sure if I approve of the random assassins all having lootable Shrouded Armor now? It does kind of reduce the coolness factor of that set if the armor’s easily acquirable now, without even having to engage with the Brotherhood at all. Also, I’m slightly disappointed that the Shrouded Armor isn’t nearly as expensive or high level as the Dark Brotherhood armor in Morrowind. 😀

The other notable thing about the Saints bandit camp, though, was what happened after we cleared it out. Because it turned out that the bandit camp was literally right across the road from Barleydark Farm, added in by Cutting Room Floor. And I happened to see, while mounting up and riding back to the road, that a sabre cat was rampaging across the farm.

And before I got over there, the sabre cat succeeded at killing two cows, the farm’s dog, and the farmer. Yikes.

I was quite surprised by this, especially given that I’m running the Realistic Animals and Predators mod. But I suppose this is a consequence of this farm being out in the middle of nowhere, definitely far enough away from Whiterun that it can’t be easily defended. This stretch of road is even too far away from Whiterun to have guard patrols. Which, I suppose, may be part of why Barleydark was left out of the final game?

It’s also possible, I suppose, that the sabre cat had been in a fight with a nearby wolf, because I saw a wolf as well. But maybe the sabre cat decided the farmer and his animals were better prey?

Anyway, now that farm’s owner is toast. And there’s this farm sitting there. I feel like if I were running Survival Mode, this would be a thing I could take advantage of. As it happens, looking up Barleydark Farm tonight, I see that it’s parked near an unmarked location I totally didn’t know about, but which I glimpsed just exploring the farm–a nearby ruin, with puzzle pillars. I’ll have to check this out further later.

On the way to Knifepoint, Lucien had enough amusing lines that I’ve decided I definitely like him better than Vilja. And yeah, I’m going with the headcanon that Harrow got him back on board Team Dragonborn for the sake of having a scholar around to document what’s going on with her. I particularly liked his trying to sing the main Elder Scrolls theme, and calling it “catchy”. I see what you did there, mod. 😉

But I also liked his riffing on “Sound of Silence”! So yeah musical jokes, definitely a good way to get me to like a follower. Quite looking forward to seeing the musical humor Lucien apparently gets into with Inigo!

Next time

With Team Dragonborn restored (mostly), I’m feeling like working my way back to Riften. There’s a bandit leader to take out at Treva’s Watch. And in Riften, I can arrange to get Inigo into my company.

Once Inigo’s on board, I want to work my way northward. Maybe take out the dragon at Skyborn Altar, and then work my way over towards Yorgrim Overlook and the Seducers camp. That should put me in plenty close range to sell things in Windhelm, and finally, to aim for Snow Veil Sanctum.

And somewhere in here, I gotta work in stopping in Riverwood to have a conversation with Delphine about the Horn. Because I feel like Lydia would remind Harrow she needs to do that.

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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.