Kendis Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Kendis Becomes Harbinger and Joins the College of Winterhold

Meanwhile, back on the werewolf playthrough, I made it to Ysgramor’s Tomb to purify the spirit of Kodlak of his lycanthropy, and as long as I was right nearby, I also joined the College of Winterhold!

Play by play

  • Play date: 1/11/2023
  • Session number in this run: 19
  • Picked up at Lakeview
  • Got Lydia to hire a carriage driver, and also got her on active following duty
  • Took carriage to Winterhold
  • Ducked into the inn as soon as i arrived to warm up and rent a room
  • Saw intro conversation with Nelacar but not ready to deal with him yet
  • Slept until morning, then mounted up and headed down towards Ysgramor’s Tomb
  • Dropped a campsite near the shoreline so I could warm up again, because COLD AS BALLS
  • Had Lightning carry me over to the island with Ysgramor’s Tomb on it
  • Rode around the edge of the island so I could get up there; thankfully didn’t take too long to get inside
  • Greeted by Vilkas who told me he wasn’t going in with us
  • Put Wuuthrad on the statue to activate the gate, and Aela, Farkas, Lyds and I headed in
  • Got killed a few times going through but tried to mitigate by regularly quicksaving
  • Also tried not to take much because disrespectful to take stuff in this case, even if the ghosts of former Companions were attacking me
  • Finally made it to the end and cleansed Kodlak’s spirit; he declared me Harbinger
  • Cleared the boss chest and got Ysgramor’s Shield and a glass sword, among other things
  • Let the others hang out in the tomb while Lyds and I went out to the Word Wall
  • Hit up the gold vein while out there, since at least that side of the island wasn’t quite so stupidly cold
  • Returned to Lightning and got thrown off course a little as I tried to get back 😛
  • Damned good thing I’d dropped a campsite on the shore because I had to stop there to warm up and sleep; once I did that, headed back up to the town and then up to the college
  • And it was still treacherously cold, so I had to take Faralda’s bridge test while in “Freezing” status
  • Went up to talk to Mirabelle and become an apprentice; did initial tour
  • Did not immediately follow Mirabelle back to the Hall of the Elements once she showed me my room, because fuck it’s cold outside, andI just need a nap gimme a moment please
  • Got to the class; for once told Tolfdir safety should be most important, about which the rest of the group was not impressed, heh
  • Otherwise the class played out the same; had a bit of a problem getting the ward cast, though, since I kept running out of magicka
  • Proceeded to the part where we needed to go to Saarthal; went down to fetch Lightning and get going
  • Passed ice wraiths on the way but didn’t dare stop to fight them; I think Lydia may have killed them?
  • Made it to Saarthal and got down to the entrance
  • Went in with Tolfdir and Brelyna (Onmund and J’zargo respawned inside the door as per usual)
  • Ran Saarthal pretty much as per usual; got vision, killed draugr
  • Tried not to take too much loot because Redguard sentiments here–until I got to the part where the Draugr Deathlord in the big mid chamber managed to Shout my axe out of my hand
  • After we killed her I had to hunt around for the axe, booooo–did eventually find it though, which was good as it was still doing better damage than the glass sword I’d found
  • Tolfdir caught up with us
  • Ran the battle with Jyrik without too much trouble
  • Got Tolfdir’s request to go back and report to the Arch-Mage; did, but not before camping outside to rest up and wait until morning
  • Made it back to the college and reported in; got Arch-Mage’s instruction to report to Urag
  • Urag told me about Orthorn making off with the books to Fellglow Keep
  • Found Phinis on my way out so got him to train me four rounds in Conjuration, which let me unlock the level up to 27
  • Bought spellbooks for Frost Atronach and Bound Bow off of him
  • Went to Hall of Countenance and took a round of Destruction training from Faralda
  • Went over to Hall of Attainment to take a nap and take the level up; took Health bump and Apprentice Alteration perk
  • Returned to Hall of Countenance and got five rounds of training with Colette in Restoration; paying for last round required me selling her a bunch of soul gems
  • Finally ready to return to Whiterun
  • Killed the expected snow bear riding south from Winterhold
  • Stopped at the Whistling Mine to warm up by the smelter
  • Swung down just past Stillborn Cave
  • Killed a couple rounds of wolves when I veered off the road and down to the trail that led east
  • Got to “Freezing” again but staved it off a bit with a hot soup
  • Did finally drop a campsite to warm up again not far from Windhelm
  • Had to take Lightning into the water to get over to the side where the stable was
  • Finally took the carriage back to Whiterun
  • Did a round of shopping, making replacement food, making replacement camping supplies, and improving gear
  • Parked in Breezehome and saved for the night

Winterhold is a miserable pit, but does it also have to be a freezing miserable pit?

Entirely unsurprisingly, Winterhold is a kick in the teeth in Survival Mode. Both in Winterhold proper and up at the college, I kept seeing messages that “The air is treacherously cold” or “The air is frigid” the entire time I was there. Even during daylight hours. It doesn’t help that it’s constantly snowing in Winterhold, either, at least within the town proper. Up at the college it periodically actually stops snowing, but not often! Or at least, it didn’t during this session.

All of which underscored for me the cognitive dissonance of the Dragonborn being the only person in all of Survival Mode who has to care about the temperature. If conditions are that horrible in Winterhold, then absolutely, every single NPC, up to and including the mages at the college, should be wearing more layers of clothing than they actually do.

Especially at the college. Going from class to your sleeping quarters and back again shouldn’t be a recipe for hypothermia as soon as you step outside the door. The mages keep talking about how they keep losing apprentices, but oddly, nobody ever says “five apprentices froze to death last month”. Or, for that matter, “we were going to have a class of ten new apprentices, but the bridge froze up and half of them fell off because they couldn’t walk across the ice on it!”

At least in the case of the mages, I feel like they should have enough magical know-how to explicitly set up enchantments all over the place to warm the place up. Or at the very least, have some of those same braziers the Holds have by their gates! Okay sure fine, I can buy Winterhold being poor enough that they haven’t been able to make any of those–after all, they don’t have a local smith–but the mages should be another story. They have those magical fires to set on the bridge to let people through. You’d think they could do a few others that explicitly just give off heat.

And I should think that any really clever Arch-Mage should be able to offer that to the current Jarl of Winterhold. I’ve written before about how I really feel like the college ought to offer to help rebuild the city, even if they aren’t responsible for the Great Collapse, just by way of trying to reestablish ties to Winterhold and maybe make the town less cranky at them.

A little gesture like “okay so as a starting point, will you let us warm your homes for you?” could go a long way. Winterhold might be slightly less of a miserable pit if the townsfolk at least had warm homes. Not to mention, warming the place up a bit might actually aid in rebuilding, you know? If workers could be assured of not freezing to death, they might be better equipped to actually rebuild the ruined structures in the town!

Relatedly, why on earth is there not a Fortify Warmth enchantment? We know from Sergius at the college that:

“Enchanting services are one of the few things that keep us in touch with the rest of Skyrim.”

Why don’t those services include Warmth enchantments? A whole helluva lot of Skyrim is, after all, cold as balls.

Now, there’s a war going on, sure. And while I could see the college just raking in the septims if the Imperials or the Stormcloaks showed up and said “enchant all our armor so we don’t freeze to death on the battlefield and we will pay handsomely”. (Arguably, the Imperials might have a bigger budget for that? But Winterhold is a Stormcloak Hold so Imperials might have trouble actually getting up to the college…)

On the other hand, I could also see Savos Aren explicitly refusing any enchantment contracts that would involve them in either side of the war.

Continuing this theme of all of Winterhold being a frigging icebox, it struck me as very strange that parts of the island that Ysgramor’s Tomb is on were in fact warmer than either the college or the town. I was able to go out onto the side of the island where the Word Wall is, and have a brief burst of the air actually not being treacherously cold. There was sun, even.

The weather code for Winterhold just generally seems fucked, is what I’m saying here. The wiki does explicitly say that Winterhold in particular (the city, not the region) is set to always be snowing, as I think I’ve called out before. But I see no actual in-world justification for this. Particularly when you can go a little ways out of town in any direction and have the snow actually stop.

Basically, it just seems extra cruel to me to make Winterhold always snowing, on top of it being the poorest and most miserable of the Holds in all of Skyrim. Let ’em periodically have a sunbreak, for fuck’s sake!

(I haven’t yet been able to find any mods that explicitly lower the snow chances in Winterhold down to something slightly less horrid. But I’m real curious as to whether such mods exist. Not that I could run them on the Switch, but maybe in a future playthrough…)

And oh yeah: I forget where exactly in the session it happened, but I did see that I could get to “Numb” status after “Freezing”. So really, my goal here should be to stay out of “Numb” when in cold areas. And have enough campsite supplies on me to drop a campsite immediately if that happens.

Running Ysgramor’s Tomb

Though it did seem weird to me that the weather was actually kinder on that little island than it was in Winterhold proper, it was still challenging getting to it. I had to drop a campsite just to get down to the shore, a site which I used again on the way back.

I was killed a few times, sometimes in one shot from archers. This is becoming unacceptable! I need to bump up my Light Armor rating and I need better armor than the Orcish Scaled I’m currently wearing. According to the wiki this stuff is slightly worse than dragonscale. But it’s also heavier, and that’s also a consideration here.

And clearly I’m going to need something for health regeneration. I’d consider going after the Lady Stone as I did for Harrow–except Kendis is on the Steed Stone now and that, I think, is of higher importance.

Anyway, after a few bumps, I did finally make it through the tomb and do the purification of Kodlak’s spirit. So now I’m Harbinger. Yay?

I had Lyds along on this run and I was slightly surprised that she was actually able to follow me into the tomb. None of the Companions gave her shit about being there, either. Though I think, in character, they might have been justified in doing so…? But I could see this as a situation of their tacitly accepting my housecarl as an “unofficial” Companion, maybe, once they’ve seen her fight.

Joining the College

Above complaints about the weather also applied once I did Faralda’s test on the bridge to join the mage college. There she is, standing out there by the seal on the bridge, just wearing mage robes and boots in air that the game is telling me is “treacherously cold”. You cannot tell me she didn’t have some kind of warmth enchantment on her clothes, or some pocket orb of heat keeping her from freezing on that bridge. Or that she wasn’t throwing firebolts at the seal every five minutes just to keep it warm, so she could stand in the ambient heat.

Come to think of it, that was probably why she wanted me to throw a firebolt at it!

Still, though, I figure Kendis had to be fighting to keep her teeth from chattering, and to actually focus on the ask being put to her. “Y-y-yes I can cast a firebolt, *zap*, there, can we go inside now? Please? Seriously, if you just let me up there to get to a fire, you don’t even have to teach me all that much magic, I just want to warm up for Divines’ sake!”

Relatedly, I’ll take the liberty of assuming Lydia explained to Mirabelle, once I collapsed into the bed in the Hall of Attainment rather than immediately following her back out again, “My thane is exhausted. She just became Harbinger of the Companions, and cleansed lycanthropy from the spirit of her predecessor Kodlak, so she needs a bit of a nap. I’ll make sure she gets to the class, don’t worry!”


This played more or less as per usual, with the added fun of actually trying to get to Saarthal in Survival Mode. Heh. After having just shown up at this college, being asked to go back out into the snowy, snowy wastes probably had Kendis rethinking the whole “studying magic” thing!

And I did try to minimize how much loot I took, just because I’m trying to hold to this idea of Redguards having respect for honored dead. I’m not going to say Kendis didn’t take anything, but I did try to hold it down to within reason! Though I’m willing to have her take any draugr that actually attack her as fair game for looting.

The Draugr Deathlord Lydia and I fought partway through the dungeon was a case in point! Particularly after she used the Disarm Shout to knock both my and Lydia’s weapons out of our hands. Lyds had a backup. I had the glass sword I’d found in Ysgramor’s Tomb, but I switched off to the Bow of Shadows to help Lyds with the fight, so I never had the chance to switch to the sword.

But that axe I had was a Skyforge Steel Axe. It was a Companion weapon. And by gods, I wasn’t leaving that room until I found it. It took me an annoyingly long amount of time to do so, till I walked over the right section of floor with the right viewing angle.

Returning to Whiterun

I could be slightly less fretful about Winterhold being stupidly cold if there was a way to get out of there quickly in Survival Mode. There isn’t. My best option was to ride south to Windhelm and take the carriage from there.

Arguably, I should have swung over to get the dragonscale armor… but by the time I got to Windhelm, this session had already gone on a fair bit and I didn’t want to spend more campsites getting over there and back. So getting that armor will have to wait for another time.

Next time

Fellglow Keep presents itself as an immediate option here, though I need to take stock and see if that is in fact what I’m in the mood for. I need to evaluate the quest journal!


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.