Harrowhark Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Harrowhark Takes on the Thalmor and Becomes a Nightingale

Greatest hits action in this trio of sessions for Harrowhark–because it was Happy Fun Let’s Go Fuck Things Up at the Thalmor Embassy Time! Followed by the part of the Thieves Guild plotline where you get to join the Nightingales, which is where the really good parts kick in. <3

Play by play

  • Play dates: 2/26, 2/28, 3/2/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 39-41

Sunday the 26th

  • Picked up at Lakeview
  • Dropped off a few things to whittle down the carry weight and minimize the amount of gear to leave with Delphine
  • Rode with the boys over to Riverwood
  • Conversation between Inigo and Lucien about Inigo having dreams about eating sweet rolls in bed while being a sweet roll, hadn’t heard them do this one yet, snerk (Inigo, my good son, maybe you better cut back on the sweet rolls)
  • Reached Riverwood, and sold a bunch of stuff to Alvor
  • Went to the inn to talk to Delphine
  • Got stuck on the stairs into her bottom room between her at the bottom and Lucien and Inigo at the top, but at least got Delphine to tell me about getting into the embassy
  • Got back out again and headed off to Solitude
  • Entered the Winking Skeever
  • Lucien threw off a general ‘attention everyone has anyone seen a shifty looking wood elf’ remark, LOLOL
  • Sold things to Gulum-Ei, then went over to talk to Malborn; gave Shrouded Armor, Bow of Shadows, Ring of Surroundings, and a bunch of critical potions to him
  • Lucien got in another good line on the way out!
  • Headed over to the stables to meet up with Delphine; got outfitted in party gear, and headed over to the embassy
  • Ran the embassy; used Idgrod as my distraction, since she is my favorite way to pull that off
  • Got in and this was posssibly the easiest run i’ve had of the embassy yet
  • Helped myself to various silver items, because I am a thief 😉
  • Easily evaded the first guards
  • Got out to the courtyard and made it to the shadows by the solar
  • Threw the daedroth once to get it to attack a bunch of the outside Thalmor, then threw the scamp to get the rest of them
  • Got in, went invisible again, helped myself to more several silver items off of shelves
  • Ggot to the chest with the dossiers in it–and why hello there new things brought in by the Dark Brotherhood mod:
    • A dossier on Viarmo
    • An angry letter from Elenwen to Rulindil with all sorts of “we are so close to fucking over the empire” commentary in it
  • Yoinked both of those for later review then proceeded downstairs
  • Threw the dremora in to take out the two Thalmor torturing Etienne
  • Went back up to the upper landing to queue up for taking out the incoming Thalmor with Malborn
  • Muahahaha sneak dagger attack on one of them, then quickly killed the other one; looted both of them as well as the downstairs Thalmor
  • Freed Etienne, then got out through the tunnel trapdoor, threw the dremora ahead to clear the way
  • Took out the troll
  • Picked up the Stone of Barenziah while in there and other loot right by it
  • Got out safely and saw Malborn and Etienne run off
  • Boinged back to Riverwood, and saw horse and Inigo and Lucien all show up
  • Came in very late and saw Riverwood guards and citizenry attacking a thief
  • Thief was taken down but I helped myself to his stuff
  • Went in to follow up with Delphine
  • Again had the stairs issue but was able to get Delphine out of the way, so I could make it to the chest and get my gear; had to jump past Inigo and Lucien to get back out into the main room of the inn
  • Returned to Lakeview
  • Smelted a bunch of the things taken out of the embassy, for an excellent stash of silver, steel, and moonstone
  • Told Lucien and Inigo to wait for me in Lakeview; boinged to Markarth solo
  • Found Endon and sold him stuff stolen from the embassy, leftover jugs and goblets and things I couldn’t smelt, but also Thalmor gear
  • Talked to Calcelmo and agreed to take out Nimhe to get access to the Dwemer museum
  • Took out the spider, got the key to the museum, then ran the place
  • Got the Stone of Barenziah while in there
  • Then snuck my way through courtesy of Invisibility + Muffle
  • Tripped the valve to cause the nice big distraction
  • Got the rubbing of the big stone tablet
  • Aicantar almost spotted me, I think my Invisibility might have worn off just as I got to the door
  • But I got out again and safely away; jumped down the waterfall and was able to fast travel back to Lakeview from there
  • Picked up Inigo and Lucien again
  • Paused there for the night prior to returning to Winterhold to talk to Enthir and Karliah

Tuesday the 28th

  • Picked up again at Lakeview
  • Boinged off to College of Winterhold
  • Did more training in the Hall of the Elements; got several more bumps in Alteration, Conjuration, Illusion, Destruction; still not able to get Colette to bump me in Restoration
  • Headed down to the Frozen Hearth to check in with Enthir and Karliah
  • Got Enthir to translate the journal
  • Karliah asked me to meet her back at the Ragged Flagon and gave me the Nightingale Blade
  • Boinged down to Riften
  • Headed into the Ratway, the long way; reached the Flagon and found Karliah
  • Did the confrontation with Brynjolf, Vex, and Delvin
  • Presented the journal and we opened up the vault, and yep, Mercer sure did rob the Guild fucking blind
  • Brynjolf asked me to go break into Mercer’s house
  • Went to talk to Vex about Vald
  • Talked to Maven about erasing Vald’s debt and getting the Quill of Gemination for her
  • Used Waterbreathing spell to get down to the bottom of the lake; broke into the chest on the bottom of the lake and recovered the quill
  • Resurfaced only to see incoming Ancient Dragon
  • Started trying to fight it, only to discover that I’d come up out of the water near Goldenglow Estate–and the mercenaries there started shooting, oops
  • Ran ashore finally looking for the dragon, and Riften guards from the back gate and Snow-Shod Farm got in on the hunt
  • Spotted a guard fighting a mercenary, presumably from Goldenglow?
  • We finally took out the dragon
  • I’d leveled up to 47 earlier but finally took the level up during this fight; took Stamina bump and additional perk in Archery (because trying to shoot at the dragon here, kinda needed the damage bump)
  • Looted dragon and returned to Riften
  • Gave Maven the quill and got the document letting Vald off the hook
  • Went to Mercer’s back gate to have a word with Vald
  • Spotted Shavari on the way, why hello there Khajiit Thalmor spy!
  • Vald promptly gave me Mercer’s key and ran off about his business, why thank you Vald
  • Shot down the ramp and broke in as per usual procedure
  • Went into Sneak as soon as I entered the place
  • Interior bandits spectacularly oblivious, even with two followers sneaking along right behind me and not invisible
  • Helped myself to every single object I could find, with intent to smelt the fuck out of those
  • Made it down into the tunnels and past the traps; Lucien and Inigo had a bit more trouble getting past the swinging blades but did make it
  • Fuck yeah Chillrend \0/
  • Got the other tasty loot, Bust of the Gray Fox and the gems, as well as the evidence of Mercer’s plans
  • Jumped down into the warrens to get out and OH HEY LOOK THALMOR!
  • Called up the dremora and let him and the boys take out the Thalmor wizard and two soldiers, and then looted all their stuff
  • Tromped back into the Flagon from there and sold all the Thalmor loot to Tonilia
  • Reported back to Brynjolf and had the followup conversation with Karliah about needing to meet Mercer on equal footing
  • Paused there for the night

Thursday the 2nd

  • Picked up at the Thieves’ Guild
  • Went topside so I could go to Nightingale Hall with Inigo and Lucien
  • Played out as per prior playthroughs, though heh, Inigo observed that the place smelled sneaky
  • Hurray I’m a Nightingale!
  • Agreed with Brynjolf and Karliah’s proposal to become Guildmaster later; for now though returned to Riften
  • Went back down into the Ratway to retrieve Esbern, and got him on board with coming to see Delphine
  • Killed a couple more Thalmor, Gissur, and Shavari on the way out
  • Emerged from the Ratway and fast traveled to Riverwood
  • Entered the Sleeping Giant for Esbern and Delphine’s reunion <3
  • Agreed to meet Delphine and Esbern at Karthspire
  • Stopped at Lakeview first to do inventory management; smelted a bunch of things and left the materials in the supply cache
  • Boinged to Whiterun and sold stuff
  • Rode out from there to go the long way to Karthspire
  • Fought on the way: Vuljotnaak!
  • And just after downing the dragon, also found bandits pretending to be Imperials
  • This did not go well for the bandits
  • That got me loaded up right good, so rode to Hendraheim
  • Smelted a bunch of the items off the bandits and left materials, including dragon bits, in the chest by the forge
  • Returned to the ride; killed a couple of bears en route
  • Just shy of the bridge to Karthspire, a Blood Dragon; took it down when it crash landed just across the river
  • Crossed the bridge over into Karthspire
  • Found Delphine and Esbern, and started running the place, by which I mean, cutting a swath through a bunch of cranky Forsworn
  • While there, also retrieved the corrupted heart to finish up the Crypt of the Heart plot
  • Started running Karthspire and Sky Haven Temple
  • Inigo: “This place smells portentous”
  • Found Alduin’s Wall, agreed to go to the Greybeards to ask about the Shout
  • Got Dragonbane and the Blades armor from the back room, and hit the boss chest on the way out
  • Got back out again, and fast traveled to Lakeview by mistake before realizing I should have gone to Hendraheim first to pick up what I’d stashed there
  • Boinged back there to get that stuff, then boinged back to Lakeview
  • At which point I realized I had enough dragon bits to try to make more Scout armor; worked on that for a while
  • Paused there for the night

Happy Fun Fuck Things Up for the Thalmor Times

I was pleased to see that even though I’ve had Lucien and Inigo as followers for a while now in this run, there are still conversations they can have together that are new to me! Like the one with Inigo telling Lucien about dreaming about eating sweet rolls while being a sweet roll. Which he described as “tasty and debilitating”. LOLOLOL.

Inigo, my good son, maybe you better lay off the sweet rolls for a while? You’re a Khajiit, your sweet tooth is truly majestic, I get it? But yeah, I think Lucien’s right, you’re playing a dangerous game. 😉

Once I reached Delphine to get my Thalmor Embassy action on, I triggered an issue which could have been caused by Lucien and Inigo, could have been caused by Noble Skyrim changing the look of buildings, or maybe both?

I wound up getting trapped on the stairs between Delphine at the bottom of the stairs and the boys at the top of the stairs behind me. I was able to have the necessary conversation with Delphine, but it took a bit of maneuvering afterwards to get the boys to let me through so we could get out of the inn again.

And once we reached Solitude and I had to talk to Malborn in the Winking Skeever, Lucien let out with this just so very Lucien line:

“Hello everyone! If I could have your attention please. Has anyone seen a shifty-looking wood elf? No? Nobody? Looks like we’re on our own.”

To which I-as-player had to just LOLOLOLOL. I-as-Harrowhark, however, was very likely less amused.

Harrow, grabbing Lucien by the elbow and hauling him with vampire strength back over towards the door: “Will. You. Please. Be. Less. Obvious.”

Lucien: “Oops? Wait, what did I do?”

Inigo, very softly, so only they can hear: “My friend, when you need to speak to a spy, it is best to not publicly announce that you are looking for the spy.”

Lucien, blushing: “Ooooo. Right. Sorry! Shutting up now. Quiet as a temple mouse.”

And this, my dude, is why the Dragonborn isn’t taking you on stealthy missions. ;D

To be fair, though, Lucien got in another good line on the way out:

“Well then. I suppose you’re off to this party full of evil racist elves. Best of luck. I’ll see you on the other side.”

This was possibly the easiest run I’ve had through the Thalmor Embassy yet, really. It helped immensely that I could be invisible on demand. And that I could summon things to clear that courtyard. Muahaha.

As per previous thief-based playthroughs, I cheerfully swiped as many silver items as I could get my mitts on. Partly because those were the most valuable items, and partly because I knew I’d be able to smelt them later, with this playthrough being modded.

But really, the most interesting part of running the embassy this time was a couple of extra items that were brought in by the Dark Brotherhood mod I have running: an angry note from Elenwen to Rulindil, bitching at him for interrupting her and ranting about being so close to having the Emperor in Thalmor control, and also a dossier on Viarmo.

LOL. I kinda feel like a note ever so conveniently dropping hints about Evil Thalmor Plans might not want to be the thing Elenwen just leaves lying around on her desk? But then, there’s totally Thalmor arrogance in play here, she doubtless had no conception that a sneaky assassin/thief/Dragonborn might be raiding the place.

Bet you don’t think the Dragonborn is mythical now, do you?

I need to review that dossier on Viarmo, though. Because Elenwen’s note also dropped hints about the Emperor’s cousin, and I know that’s Vittoria in Solitude. So gonna be curious about whether I can get anything out of Viarmo about that.

Noting also for the record: neither Inigo nor Lucien followed me into the embassy. Or even did the thing I’d seen in a previous playthrough, with Argis the Bulwark showing up in the kitchen when I got that far. So apparently both of those custom followers are set to let you go through the embassy by yourself.

Running the Dwemer museum, and translating Gallus’ journal

All of this pretty much played out as per previous playthroughs–including leaving followers behind, when running the museum.

I already knew from past playthroughs that trying to take a follower through the Dwemer museum would be a goddamn problem. And I figured that having two followers would just compound my chances of the museum guards spotting us, no matter how stealthy I personally was being. So I told Lucien and Inigo to hang out at Lakeview while I went off to raid the museum.

And as always, this museum run is why I consider Invisibility critical for a thief. <3

One thing that amused me though when I came back to Lakeview: I found Inigo actually working at the armor workbench in the armory room! He threw off a line about both relaxing and being productive. So good to know he’s able to use crafting stations if he’s in wait mode.

Lucien, likewise, was sitting at the table in the dining room when I came in. I have yet to see him actually use a crafting station, though.

Talking to Enthir and Karliah about the journal was as per previous playthroughs too. I think I’ve said before, and I’ll say here again, though it’s weird to me to have Enthir be all “if you’re ever in Winterhold and need help getting rid of problematic stuff, come talk to me!” My dude, I am your Arch-Mage. I think it’s a safe bet that I will, in fact, at least occasionally, show up at the college!

LOL. Enthir’s like this after the Thieves Guild plot is over, too. He shifts over to always asking me if Delvin sent me, and seems to forget I am in fact his actual boss. 😉

Returning to Riften, confronting the Guild, and breaking into Mercer’s place

Vaguely confused that I was able to actually fast travel to the Thieves Guild marker in the graveyard–but maybe I’m conflating that with the mage college becoming unreachable by fast travel at the end of the mage college plotline.

This time through, I hadn’t yet gotten to the point of having the Volsung dragon mask. Or, for that matter, the charm Viriya gives you at the end of her side of the Fishing quest line. I did not in fact have any item at all with the waterbreathing enchantment, which worried me a little.

But what I did have was the waterbreathing spell. Which, I discovered, did give me enough time to get down to the chest at the bottom of the lake, break into it, get the quill, and get back to the surface. So good to know that that’s an option, for future playthroughs!

Coming back up out of the lake and right into SURPRISE ANCIENT DRAGON ATTACK was certainly an adrenaline rush. So was realizing that oh shit I’m too close to Goldenglow, since that started pissing off the patrolling mercenaries and making them shoot at me. At least one of them made it to the main shore, at which point he was intercepted by a guard and killed on the spot. So that was exciting, even aside from the usual excitement of trying to take down the dragon.

Inigo, let it be noted, is really getting into the groove of taunting dragons when we fight them. 😀

Now, unlike with the Dwemer museum, I did let Inigo and Lucien accompany me into Mercer’s house. Because really, not too much heavy risk of those interior bandits being a problem! And Brynjolf had outright permitted killing anybody who got between me and finding evidence.

But I hardly had to worry. The bandits inside Riftweald Manor held up to their fine tradition of being spectacularly oblivious, even when I had two followers sneaking along right behind me. Followers who, unlike me, were not casting regular Invisibility spells! So we got through the house with no problem at all, and I did cheerfully help myself to a lot of the more portable items as well.

Getting the boys past the traps down in the tunnels was a bit more of a challenge. But this is what giving your followers good armor is for! And possibly also Follower AI that lets them periodically catch up with you if you get too far ahead of them. Lucien may or may not have done that? But I did explicitly see Inigo struggling a bit to get past the swinging blade trap.

Let me also note that for about two seconds, when I jumped down through the escape tunnel out of Mercer’s secret lair, I’d forgotten that I also had the part of the Main Quest where I need to find Esbern in the Ratway activated. Which meant: Thalmor in the Ratway!

This, however, was nothing my two backup boys and a summoned dremora couldn’t handle. 😀

Joining Team Nightingale

I do always love the little ceremony to get Nocturnal’s blessing for the player, Brynjolf, and Karliah to become Nightingales–though I gotta admit it felt a little weird this time, in the wake of having run the Summerset plot in ESO. A bit of oh shit Nocturnal oh no wait she’s okay in this plot going on there.

I was really kind of charmed by Inigo remarking that Nightingale Hall smells “sneaky”. And he and Inigo tromped right into the place behind me, of course, with neither Brynjolf nor Karliah objecting. Which, I feel, strikes me a trifle oddly. I should think that your follower(s) shouldn’t be able to come with you into this place, if part of the whole point of being a Nightingale is secrecy?

But at least in this situation, Lucien and Inigo already know I’m a frigging vampire. So how much more surprised can they be with the whole “signing on as the sworn servant of a Daedric Prince” situation, honestly?

Retrieving Esbern, Alduin’s Wall, and the Ebony Spell Knight Armor

Right on the heels of pledging to Nocturnal, I returned to the Ratway to retrieve Esbern–just because running that part of the Thieves Guild plot coincided well with this part of the Main Quest. This time through I hadn’t had to talk to Vekel the Man about Esbern’s whereabouts, I got that information directly from Brynjolf.

Which meant I didn’t get a chance to confront Gissur until after I got down into the Ratway, talked to Esbern, and was on the way out again. This let Team Dragonborn take out two more Thalmor, Gissur, as well as Shavari, who didn’t bother to wait until I was out of the Ratway before choosing to attack me.

Fast traveled off to Riverwood as soon as we emerged, talked to Delphine, and got the plan to reconvene at Sky Haven Temple.

I was in the mood for a ride, though, just to see what adventuring I could do before I got there.

Answer: fighting Vuljotnaak, fighting bandits pretending to be Imperials, and fighting a Blood Dragon! With a heaping side helping of bears.

And since this finally let me get to Karthspire, I took the time to get the corrupted heart to finish off the Crypt of the Heart quest as well. So now I have the Ebony Spell Knight Armor. Yay! Don’t know if or when I will shift to using it, this feels like a potential post-de-vamping thing, I think heavy armor may look better on Harrow at that point.

And oh yeah! Lucien got a fun remark in, on the way out of Sky Haven Temple. He noted his lack of surprise at the whole reveal of needing to find out about a Shout from the Greybeards–just because of the whole “I’m Dragonborn” thing, and all. Hee.

Scout armor

Once the action in Sky Haven Temple was done, last thing I did was to regather my supplies and return to Lakeview. I realized I had enough dragon bits on me to build more of the Scout Armor set!

But I discovered a couple of things pretty quickly.

One: not really a fan of any of the headgear options with this set. There are a few different types of helmets you can make, and I don’t really like the look of any of them. There are hoods too, but I don’t like how the hood sits on my head, vs. how, say, the Hedge Mage hood does, or the Thieves Guild hood, or the vampire-style ones.

Two: The helmets, hoods, and capes available for the Scout Armor set all seem to have mesh issues. There is a patch that addresses this, but it only fixes the hoods and capes, and doesn’t fix the helmets. So I feel like if I try to make a serious attempt at using this full armor set, hood + cape is the way I’ll need to go, though I’ll need to install the patch for the meshes first.

So now this means I have four light armor sets all kind of competing for my attention: Scout, Nightingale, Shrouded, and Hedge Mage. I’ve been sticking a lot to Hedge Mage just because I really like the look of it, right down to the left glove missing some fingers, heh. But I’m also to the point that the Hedge Mage armor isn’t competitive numbers-wise with the other sets. I’ll need to do some more armor refinement, I think, before I take Harrow into her next round of adventuring.

Next time

Good question. I’m at level 47 now, which is fairly far along. I have several bigger-picture questions to consider next for Harrow, which are:

  1. Main quest wise, I need to return to High Hrothgar, have that first meeting with Paarthurnax, and get the directive to find the Elder Scroll–mostly because I want that Clear Skies Shout
  2. It’s close to time to think about running Dawnguard, and most importantly, am I gonna have Harrow join Clan Volkihar or not?
  3. And do I do Dawnguard before I do Dragonborn? Really kinda wanna go to Solstheim just to follow up on Lucien’s plotline, but on the other hand, I’m also running the mod that adds additional Serana dialogue and I really want to have her available to go to Solstheim with me, soooooo that kind of presupposes doing Dawnguard first.

Though right now I still also have a boatload of other side quests on Harrow’s quest journal. So before I commit to running Dawnguard, and that probably is coming up next, I want to knock some of those down.

Especially the Cause–since I think I have that Stranger’s Plea note, now? I better check!


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.