Harrowhark Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Harrowhark Becomes Arch-Mage and is Kidnapped by the Brotherhood

So this was a nice big eventful session, which involved recovering the Staff of Magnus from Labyrinthian, becoming Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold, and getting kidnapped by Astrid to kick off the Dark Brotherhood plotline!

Play by play

  • Play date: 1/19/2023
  • Session number in this run: 23
  • Started at Lakeview
  • Rode over to Labyrinthian
  • Killed a couple of frost trolls getting up to the front entrance
  • Parked horses by the steps and started running the place
  • As expected, place was easier than normal with three total followers
  • Killed once when I hit the spell trap soul gem corridor, but that was my only death
  • Overloaded by the time we made it to Morokei, but that didn’t matter, because Inigo killed him, go Inigo ❤️
  • Got the staff and noticed Morokei had a cloak–which I actually found two copies of, because there was one over by the boss chest too
  • The boys took out Estormo for me as well
  • Got back out of the place, and had to jump down off the ledge and go through another frost troll before finally making it back up the steps to the horses
  • Mounted up and fast traveled to Winterhold (because college fell off the map like it does at this point of the plot)
  • Tromped on up there and whipped out the staff to break through the magic barrier
  • Actually killed once by Ancano, because I was too busy focusing on hitting the Eye with the staff and he zapped me to death, oops
  • Second time through, held out of the way enough that the others were able to kill him for me while I deactivated the Eye
  • Got proclaimed Arch-Mage and given the robe and the key to the quarters
  • Went up to check the place out in depth
  • Lolololol Lucien had strong opinions about my being named Arch-Mage
  • After exploring the changes to the Arch-Mage’s quarters, tried to report to the Hall of the Elements but got in there too late for classes
  • So set out again (cue Lucien probably going “BUT BUT BUT you just took over the place, are you sure you should be leaving?”)
  • Boinged off to Morthal to try to buy the land for Windstad
  • Got in there late and rented a room at the inn
  • Went to bed and OH YEAH RIGHT DARK BROTHERHOOD! Kidnapped by Astrid, OHNOEZ
  • Felt honestly a trifle weird actually killing one of the captives? But went through with it, and took out Vasha the Khajiit, who calls himself “a defiler of daughters”
  • Got Astrid’s official invite to come to the Brotherhood sanctuary
  • Came out of the shack to find that Inigo and Lucien had in fact caught up with me there
  • Overloaded and horses still back in Morthal, so tromped on foot with Lucien and Inigo back into Morthal–at which point I noticed Valdimar was missing again
  • Made it back into Morthal 
  • Bought the land for Windstad; mounted up and rode over there
  • Built the Small House structure
  • Boinged to Whiterun and sold stuff
  • Boinged to Lakeview to check on supplies there
  • Still no Valdimar, WTF
  • Saved for the night

Lucien wins for best lines in this entire session

So I’ll say first and foremost that Lucien was a goddamn delight in this session! He was fun in Labyrinthian and later on at the College of Winterhold.

These are paraphrased from memory, since I didn’t catch screencaps of all of his specific lines:

  • (on entering Labyrinthian) “So let’s look for the staff! It could be on a plinth… or wielded by an undead sorcerer-mage. Fingers crossed for the plinth!”
  • (later on, after we’ve had a few rounds of Morokei smacking me with his magicka drain): “I’m getting a horrible feeling we’re moving more and more away from the plinth option.”
  • (upon seeing the Psijics and Tolfdir up and decide I’m Arch-Mage): “Did I hear them right? Did they really name you Arch-Mage? With all due respect… that’s insane! How many classes have we taken? And they want you to run the place? We’re never here! And we have commitment all over the place already!”

His very strong opinions about the player becoming Arch-Mage particularly tickled me, because he’s not wrong. Because let’s get real here, it’s pretty batshit how the Dragonborn can pretty much take over every single major faction in the game and become thane of all the places, as I’ve talked about at length before.

And now I’m dying to know how he’s going to react to my taking over the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. And Castle Volkihar. Muahaha.

And also: I didn’t miss that “how many classes have we taken” bit there, pal. I’m pretty damn sure Mirabelle didn’t consider you, Inigo, and Valdimar to also all be signing up for the college. But now that I’m Arch-Mage, yes, you can be an apprentice too. There, aren’t you glad I took over?

Running Labyrinthian

As I pretty much expected, running Labyrinthian went a lot quicker with three followers coming with me.

Hit all the high points of the place, including grabbing the Telekinesis and Equilibrium spellbooks, finding the loose malachite ore, and mining the gold veins (both of which actually worked, since this run includes the USSEP).

Inigo actually took out Morokei, not me. The boys also took out Estormo for me. Which was fabulous, given that I was overloaded! But maybe not so much for purposes of getting my own goddamn experience points. 😉

Though as with earlier playthroughs, it does make Estormo’s bluster about “You don’t stand a chance!” really pitiful. Son, how exactly did you think “vampire with a posse of three heavily armed followers” was going to go for you? If by “you don’t stand a chance” you meant “… of not being bored silly”, well, that you might be right about. Come back and talk to me when you’re more challenging. Oh no, you can’t, you’re dead. Ciao!

Also noteworthy: Cloaks of Skyrim had a small impact here, though it seemed a little buggy. Morokei had a cloak in his ashes after Inigo took him out, tagged as “Cloak of Morokei”. But I found another one by the boss chest on the way out. Which makes me wonder if all the dragon priests are going to have multiple cloaks? I’ll need to go find out!

Taking out Ancano and becoming Arch-Mage

Main notable difference with this part of the plot this time through is that I noticed lines out of Tolfdir I’m fairly sure I hadn’t heard before–i.e., he reacted to the arrival of the Psijics. This may have been dialogue restored by Cutting Room Floor?

And, as I noted above, Lucien had some strong opinions about the goofiness of my being named Arch-Mage. He’s not wrong. And maybe in another playthrough I might actually utilize the functionality of abdicating in favor of Tolfdir? But for now I am not going to, in no small part because holy crap the changes to the Arch-Mage’s quarters courtesy of Immersive College of Winterhold are coooooool.

I really like the revised layout of the quarters, which removes a lot of the random clutter in favor of a bunch of weapons racks, armor mannequins, and bookshelves. Because clearly, Immersive College of Winterhold knows what Skyrim players like to collect. 😁 There are a couple of new little hidden panels in the walls that contain expensive stuff. And there’s an orb that gives access to an entire separate room where particularly dangerous items and sensitive papers can be stored.

The mod page on Nexus talks about one of its goals being to provide a place to store some of the particularly dangerous artifacts you can get hold of during a Skyrim playthrough, because it never made sense that you’d get all these powerful weapons and things and just stuff them in a chest somewhere. I very much like the idea of the College of Winterhold taking custody of these things and storing them under protections.

Likewise, I was quite impressed by the addition of the Temporal Shift spell, which appears to be a powerful teleportation spell that can move you and followers to a dais at the college. The idea here appears to be, if you get into deep shit, you now have a magical exit plan. Awesome. I will have to look for an opportunity to try this out.

My favorite thing about the entire overhaul of the Arch-Mage’s quarters though is a lot simpler: automatic Candlelight spells triggering at the crafting stations as soon as you walk up! 🤩

Because holy crap that’s such a very, very mage thing to do. And a very Arch-Mage thing in particular. The Arch-Mage of the college should have access to that kind of convenient little quality of life spell like that! And it makes me go “so if area right under the floor is enchanted to throw up a candlelight spell that goes away when you walk out of that area, why don’t I have a candlelight spell I can actively dismiss when I don’t want it anymore, hmm?”

But what I love most of all, what I really love most of all, is that OMG THIS MOD LETS ME FIX THE BROKEN BRIDGE INTO THE COLLEGE. And all I had to do was hit the second focal point on the bridge, and suddenly, boom, I have an intact bridge leading up to the college entrance!

Which, admittedly, seemed kind of anticlimactic? I’d have preferred something with a little bit more actual in-character explanation, like, an opportunity to say to Tolfdir, “So let me get this straight, some prior Arch-Mage dropped an enchantment on that focal point that could restore the entire bridge and none of you actually used it before now? What the actual hell? Do you like risking life and limb every time you cross that bridge? Or are some of you actually able to levitate, in which case, clue me in on that spell, yo?”

(Heh, I can envision Faralda’s answer to this: “Well, I was kind of using it as an extra test for applicants, you’d be surprised how many people turned right around and bailed as soon as they saw they had to follow me over that—”

Harrow: <stern scowl>

Faralda: “Okay, so you don’t want apprentices falling off the icy bridge. Got it!”)

Or, if there’s a whole extra Fall of Winterhold quest I’m supposedly able to run now, I’d have maybe liked to see the bridge restoration be part of that. I feel like fixing that bridge should be a much bigger deal than just “hit the focal point, boom, you’re done.”

But that said: I’ll take it! Because intact bridge.

Meanwhile, the Dark Brotherhood!

I legit kind of forgot that the next time I’d sleep in a bed would cue up my getting hijacked by Astrid, lolololol.

So now that’s happened. And it felt very, very weird playing it through in favor of actually joining the Brotherhood, this time. I think my headcanon here is going to be, Harrow decided to at least talk to the captives, stalling for time until she could figure a way out of this–because she wasn’t sure if there were any other assassins hiding outside the shack, or what. And also maybe not entirely sure of what all Astrid was capable of.

And as it happened, as soon as Vasha the Khajiit called himself a “defiler of daughters”, that sealed his fate. Because that was not a good thing to say to Harrow given her backstory, oh my no.

So now that secured me an invite to show up at the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary. I’ll have to see how this plays out.

I noted with interest that when I came out of the shack, Lucien and Inigo had followed me there, just not into the shack itself. So apparently I’ll have to headcanon that I got swiped out of the inn, and the Brotherhood made off with me too quick for them to stop it? But they kept up well enough to figure out at least where I went?

I’ll assume that they just arrived as soon as I came out, anyway. Because I feel like if those boys had been seriously tracking me, they would not have waited around outside. They’d have broken in to help me out.

Real interesting question here as well about how Harrow would have answered their inevitable questions about WTF just happened. I’ll need to think about whether Harrow actually told them straight up that the Brotherhood took her. Or if she told them about it more in the sense of “the Dark Brotherhood knew about Grelod, and they wanted to make me an… offer.” I’ll need to think about this.

And I’ll also have to see later if I can get back into the shack, and if the other two captives are still there. The wiki seemed to think that the captives would never despawn in vanilla. But it also says this has been fixed in the USSEP. Curious to confirm.

Valdimar once more MIA

While dealing with being kidnapped by Astrid, I noticed Valdimar had vanished again. And he didn’t show up at any point after that, until I stopped playing that session.

I may have to see if he magically shows up at Windstad now that I’ve got the place built. If he doesn’t, I’ll have to see about using the console one more time to move myself to him, and do the same trick with making him get on his horse again to break him out of that loop.

Which does raise an interesting thought: this could be a side effect of fast traveling with multiple horses involved? I think I need to find out if he vanishes when I fast travel when on my horse, vs. when I fast travel without bothering to mount up first.

Next time

I’m queuing up a big ol’ pile of quests in Harrow’s journal and I’m feeling like working on whittling down some of those side quests, I think. And working on Windstad, maybe more on Lakeview.

Next priorities after that though will be seeing about visiting the Sanctuary! And checking out the deal with the Fall of Winterhold quest in the Midden at the college.


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.