Finally made it to the mage college in Harrowhark’s playthrough, which is later than I’ve historically done it! But it was particularly satisfying this time, because I’d kind of forgotten that I have the Immersive College of Winterhold mod installed. And I finally got to start seeing it in action. 😀
Also, I have acquired Bloodchill Cavern–which plays out significantly differently if you come into the place as a vampire.
Play by play
- Play date: 1/6/2023
- Session number in this run: 18
- Picked up where I’d left off at the bandit camp after fixing the Balance of Power quest
- Rode over to Whiterun and sold a bunch of things to Belethor and Adrianne
- Bought a bunch of iron and corundum and steel
- Boinged over to Lakeview to start work on the bedroom wing
- Stashed materials down in the cellar
- Gave Valdimar several of the Dark weapons from the bandit camp; also gave him the studded dragonscale ‘cause I’ll definitely get more and he needs better armor and weaponry anyway
- Next up: boinged to Heljarchen to get close to Bloodchill Cavern
- Went through Wayward Pass and found quite the melee: bandits vs. ice wraiths vs. an ice wolf
- Team Dragonborn cleared out that mess
- Proceeded on over to Bloodchill Cavern–which, I discovered, plays out differently if you’re a vampire, see below
- This punted me back to Stage One, so I got slightly less squishy
- Took over the place from the waiter
- Found the vampire royal armor, however, Hedge Mage is still giving me better bonuses; had a filled Grand Soul Gem, so dropped a Fortify Magicka Regen enchantment on the Hedge Mage armor
- Left the Demented Elytra Nymph there, because two pets is one too many pets following me around
- From Bloodchill Cavern, rode over to the Shrine of Azura
- Fought a couple of wolves on the way
- Reached the shrine with no problems other than a serious business blizzard
- Got Aranea to tell me about being Azura’s champion, and that I should go find the elven mage
- Headed over to Winterhold; killed three Death Hounds en route
- Made it into the town and reached the inn
- Found Nelacar and passed persuade check to get him to tell me about the deal with the Star
- Stayed inside overnight even though the innkeeper went to bed
- Headed up to the college next to join up, and have the initial test with Faralda
- She asked me to conjure a flame atronach this time–and Lucien had snarky commentary about that, he was surprised that was all that was required for me to get in
- Nobody in the college objected to my tromping in there with a posse of three following me 😉
- Immersive version of the college looks neat!
- Immediately noticed novice mage boots had small bonuses to fire and frost and shock resistance
- Got the initial stages of the mage college plot underway; did initial class with Tolfdir; got quest to go over to Saarthal
- Headed over there on horse with my boys; killed a couple snow bears on the way
- Had to wait for Tolfdir to catch up
- The other students didn’t show outside but they spawned once Tolfdir and I went in
- Played out this part of the plot as per usual
- Having three followers on hand certainly made it easier to get past the draugr
- Valdimar had good lines about leaving some gold for the dead out of respect, and also how the craftmanship in the place made him proud to be a Nord
- Made it pretty quickly through to Jyrik; quicksaved out of caution, which turned out to be a damned good thing, because the game locked up and I had to restart
- Second time through we took Jyrik out pretty quickly
- Got directive to go back to the college and report to the Arch-Mage
- Hit the boss chest and the Word Wall on the way out
- Boinged back to college
- Had to temporarily walk down the bridge to get the boys to follow me because inigo’s horse was blocking my access up the bridge ;P
- Got back into the college and explored the changes in the Hall of the Elements and the Arch-Mage’s quarters
- The Arch-Mage was asleep though so I waited nearby till he woke up; would have been very bad form to snack on the Arch-Mage
- Told him about the situation in Saarthal; he sent me off to talk to Mirabelle
- Came down the stairs to find Faralda warning me Ancano was looking for me
- Went to explore the Arcaneum a bit; talked to Ancano but did not have the conversation I expected yet about Saarthal
- Got the Telekinesis Arrow spellbook and notes, and the journal about the unicorn 😀
- Found Mirabelle and had a new little conversation about how classes were called off because Tolfdir was busy, and she pointed me at Urag about the books, which let me pick up as normal
- Got the pointer to go to Fellglow Keep
- Found Faralda again and bought Adept-grade mage boots off of her, also Adept hood, though I had to sell her most of my soul gems to do it
- Then I got the conversation I expected with Ancano, fishing for info about the Saarthal situation
- Boinged back to Lakeview to regroup
- Went over on foot towards the Lady Stone
- Had the vampire thrall/Blooded Vampire encounter Kendis had, huh!
- Swam over and hit up the stone
- Saved there for the night
Getting Bloodchill Cavern
I think I must surely have noted this when I did Shenner’s playthrough and read up about how to deal with getting Bloodchill Cavern–but for some reason, it didn’t stick with me that I’d have different circumstances coming into the place as a vampire!
Namely: in order to initiate the attack by the vampires in the place, I actually had to feed on an NPC. I kinda didn’t want to, because it went against my whole idea of Harrow trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy and not make her followers freak out on her and try to take her out. But the vampire version of taking over Bloodchill Cavern explicitly wanted me to take that action. If I hadn’t, I would not have been able to proceed with getting the house.
Which means that if Lucien, Inigo, and Valdimar hadn’t clued in already that I was a vampire (and Valdimar, as the newest member of Team Dragonborn, might not have clued in), they sure did clue in as soon as they saw me feeding.
Headcanon-wise I kinda feel like Harrow must surely have clued in Valdimar, though:
Harrow: Look, if you’re going to be my housecarl, you need to be aware that I’m a vampire.
Harrow: Put down the damn sword, man, give me a moment, will you? I’m trying not to harm people. And I can use all the help I can get pulling this off.
Valdimar, to Lucien and Inigo: Did you know this?
Lucien: Oh yes. I’m taking a lot of notes for scholarly research about whether a vampire can in fact live without undue harm to the uninfected.
Inigo: I knew as well. I am working off my debt to her for having shot her.
Valdimar: Wait, what? Did you shoot her before or after you knew she was a–?
Harrow, interrupting: That’s not important right now. What’s important is, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, what’s the difference between her and the vampires that tried to take over Morthal? Answer: the damn vampires trying to take over Morthal were the ones that infected me, and unlike them, I’m not going to eat you. I’m trying not to take any more blood than absolutely necessary until we can figure out if I can be cured.
Valdimar, dubiously: You will do no harm to the people of Morthal, or of Skyrim?
Harrow: Doing everything in my power to keep from it. Will you help me?
Valdimar: Very well. I will continue in your service and help you find a cure.
And with all this in mind, there’s a real strong question here of, how the hell can I explain Harrow feeding off Parven, the guy at the feast?
The wiki says he was already enthralled. I can maybe see a scenario where he explicitly volunteered to be fed upon, when he realized Harrow was a vampire. And Harrow–who was at Stage Four at the time–couldn’t exactly turn down a voluntary offer.
And once the other vamps in the room started snacking on the guests, she and her posse were really more concerned with how the Dawnguard came running in, and had to fight them off. Because as far as the Dawnguard was concerned, Harrow was just as much of a target as every other vamp. So I’ll take the liberty of assuming that Harrow’s boys were explicitly defending her from the Dawnguard.
And further, I’ll take the liberty of assuming that Harrow was rather cooler of tone to the waiter vamp as she took over the place. Because territorial vampire. “Your master said I get this place. Now get out.”
So now I have Bloodchill Cavern. I spent a little time reacquainting myself with the place, including looting gear and clothes off all the fallen casualties of the battle–which gave me multiple pieces of Dawnguard armor, as well as crossbows, LOL. And I found the vampire royal armor, and amused myself by basically dressing up in the exact same outfit as Serana.
The challenge I found though was that the Hedge Mage Armor is still giving me better overall protection, now that I’ve fortified it a couple of times. So I’m kinda thinking, even though the vampire royal armor looks pretty cool, I’ll stick with the Hedge Mage stuff. If nothing else, just so I don’t look exactly like Serana once I do start running Dawnguard. 😉
But I’ll keep the vampire royal stuff anyway. I may want to wear it later once I take over Castle Volkihar. Muahaha.
Starting the quest for Azura’s Star
Next up, since I was in the area anyway, rode on over to the Shrine of Azura to initiate that quest. And this is where Survival Mode in Kendis’ playthrough is definitely impacting how I’m feeling in this playthrough. Because I kept mentally going “oh shit, blizzard, I have to camp”. Except Harrow doesn’t.
Hell, as a vampire, she even has buffs against cold. So I figure she was kind of fine riding on over to the shrine in the middle of the night in a blizzard, even though her boys were maybe not so much.
And heh, even as a vampire, I’ll play this quest in Azura’s favor. Just because I still don’t like Nelacar’s “all the Daedra are evil, I tell you, EVIL” attitude. Which is particularly hilarious when the guy’s saying it to a vampire. Particularly a vampire who’s trying very hard not to be evil.
So I figure Harrow doesn’t have too much sympathy for a guy who decided to start killing mage students just to further his research.
Lucien had a couple of good lines once we hit the inn, though. He commented about it being nice to be in from the cold–at which point I figure Harrow realized oh shit, right, her little coterie is not as impervious to the cold as she is, right now.
So for their sakes, she hung out in the inn overnight. I couldn’t actually rent a room because Immersive Citizens had sent the innkeeper to bed, and, well, I kinda feel like it’s rude to go waking somebody up just so you can ask them if you can sleep in the place. Maybe Harrow told her boys to get some sleep and left money for the innkeeper on the counter, anyway.
Lucien also got in a comment about visiting the college, which segued nicely into the next major phase of this session!
Immersive College of Winterhold
I’d legit kind of forgotten that I have this mod active in my playthrough. But once I actually got up there to the college, I realized with delight that oh yes, this is a thing! And had great fun exploring what changes I could note to the college on my initial visit.
Faralda asked me to conjure her a flame atronach this time, and that provoked more good reactions out of Lucien, who was slightly appalled that getting into the college was that easy. Of course, he wasn’t actually applying for entry, so he had the luxury of snark. Heh.
I did find it a trifle distracting that nobody, Faralda or Mirabelle or Tolfdir or even the Arch-Mage, seemed to be the slightest bit perturbed about my showing up to gain admittance to the college with three armed escorts. Given that the college is justifiably a trifle paranoid about trouble from the local Nords, I would Mirabelle at the very least to look askance at a new apprentice showing up with a large party.
Mirabelle: Ah, you must be one of the new apprentices, but… these other gentlemen with you? They are…?
Valdimar: She is thane of Hjaalmarch and I am her housecarl.
Lucien: I’m a scholar recording her adventures! And I’m ever so curious about the college, I promise I won’t be the slightest bit of a problem. She’s teaching me a bit of magic too, you know.
Inigo: I am also in her service. I owe her for having shot her.
Harrow, firmly: They won’t get in the way. But I can tell them to wait for me in Winterhold if having them here would be a problem.
Mirabelle, eyeing the lot of them: This is highly irregular, but I’ll allow it for now. Just be aware that if your group causes any disruptions, senior members of the college will respond accordingly.
Inigo, stage-whispering to Lucien: What do you suppose that response would be?
Mirabelle, who totally heard him: Summoned dremora lords.
Lucien, nervously: We will totally not be a problem.
Harrow: .oO (Ooh, when do I get to learn how to summon dremora lords?)
Heh. And once I was in, I immediately started noticing visual changes all over the place.
Some of them, I think, were caused by Noble Skyrim. The style of paving in the courtyard looked like similar changes I saw in Whiterun. But others were very clearly part of the college mod:
- New windows all over the place
- A spiral staircase in the Hall of the Elements, leading up to a new level where mages eat meals
- An orrery in the Arcaneum 😀
- Overhauled Arch-Mage’s quarters, with lots more bookshelves and storage racks, this place is now a much more useful home space, awesome
- Changes to the mage boots, with the boots giving bonuses for fire and frost and shock resistance, very cool
- New college guard NPC patrolling the grounds, wearing reinforced mage robes
- Other new NPCs there taking classes
- Mirabelle telling me my classes were temporarily suspended with Tolfdir still in Saarthal
- All the little living nooks in the Hall of Attainment actually have doors with this mod, how nice
And I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the changes with this mod. Looking forward to more exploration. 😀
Main college quest line
Did the initial stages of this, and certainly, having three followers along made running Saarthal easier.
Going into Saarthal gave me an opportunity to appreciate Valdimar a little more! He started throwing off lines about our making a good team, after he and Lucien and Inigo took down enemies together. And he had good reaction lines to the craftmanship in the ruins making him feel proud to be a Nord, and that while he acknowledged there would be treasure in the place for the taking, we should still leave some of it for the dead, out of respect.
I really like that. And specifically because Valdimar asked for respect to be paid to the dead, I didn’t take each and every septim I got my mitts on. I left some of the loot behind! Though I figure any draugr that actually came at me, anything they were carrying was fair game. 😉
I also liked a small tweak to the tail end of the Saarthal quest. This time through, the Arch-Mage actually sent me to Mirabelle, not to Urag. And Mirabelle had a good line about Tolfdir not being available to teach the regular classes, since he was busy at Saarthal–and so I should proceed with the research. A small change, but nonetheless a good one, emphasizing that actual classes need to happen at the college. And that the Saarthal situation was a disruption to that.
Heading back to Lakeview
In the interests of doing a circuit from Ilinalta’s Deep to Fellglow Keep, I boinged back to Lakeview and hit up the Lady Stone nearby, because I wanted the regeneration bonuses off of it to try to make me less squishy during daylight hours.
This led me to having the same sort of vampire thrall/blooded vampire encounter Kendis had just had in her playthrough, which surprised me! I couldn’t remember ever having that encounter before, and here it showed up in two different playthroughs, fairly close together.
Going to proceed to run Ilinalta’s Deep, which I’m expecting to go rather more easily than usual with my large party. We’ll see how well I’m able to get us all past the two major necromancers in the place.
Time permitting, I’ll then swing over to Fellglow Keep and run that place too.
Editing to add
- 11/25/2023: Restored missing gallery.