Kendis Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Kendis Takes Windhelm for the Empire and Gains a Dwarven Home

Another three-session post, with major action being the ending of the Skyrim Civil War, the slaying of Ulfric Stormcloak, and my beginning work on becoming Brunwulf Free-Winter’s thane. With a side helping of catching the Butcher, and then later checking out the Dwemer-themed home called Nchuanthumz!

Play by play

  • Play dates: 2/27, 3/1, 3/3/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 39-41

Monday the 27th

  • Picked up again at Lakeview
  • Returned to Whiterun to sell things
  • Re-did checking up on Rulnik and resolving the Dying Wish quest
  • Re-did checking in with Vilkas at Jorrvaskr and getting the rescue quest, which again was Jervar at Halted Stream Camp
  • Took out all the bandits, both outside and in, and then escorted Jervar out and got him back to Whiterun
  • Returned to Vilkas to resolve the quest
  • Went back out again and decided to ride overland to the Winterhold Imperial Camp
  • Made it as far as the bridge near Whiterun, only to have an Elder Dragon show up! Fought it right in front of Honningbrew
  • Casualty: one guard
  • Looted the dragon and resumed riding; no other significant encounters till Lyds and I went past Fort Fellhammer; didn’t get close enough to actually fight those bandits, but they did see us and shoot at us briefly
  • Eventually made to the camp, and got Rikke’s orders to head to Fort Kastav
  • Saw that Hadvar’s squad was just a short walk north of the now-abandoned Seducers bandit camp
  • Dropped a campsite nearby, to sleep and wait for nightfall
  • Then broke camp and snuck over to get into the fort; ran the place with no trouble
  • Took out first few Stormcloaks and freed the Imperial prisoners, then broke out into the courtyard and fought the remaining Stormcloaks
  • Hurray, the fort is ours!
  • Looted a bunch of Stormcloaks (I think I looted like ten of them)
  • Tromped slowly back to where I’d left Yngvi and mounted up
  • Boinged to Solitude and sold a bunch of Stormcloak loot to unload, to Beirand and Fihada
  • Reported to Tullius; got promoted to Legate and told to report to the Eastmarch Imperial Camp for Happy Fun March on Windhelm times
  • Boinged to Heljarchen to do more building
  • Boinged to Lakeview and worked on improving armor, thinking I’d take the Imperial Dragon armor to the Windhelm battle
  • Saved there for the night

Wednesday the 1st

  • Picked up at Lakeview
  • Boinged to Whiterun to sell some things
  • Boinged from there to Shor’s Watchtower to get to Eastmarch Imperial Camp
  • Fought on the way: a skeever who tried to attack me on Yngvi, immediately followed by a Blood Dragon dropping right out of the sky in front of me, RAAAAAR
  • Took out the dragon, then rode to the Imperial camp
  • Got orders from Rikke to help troops retake Fort Amol
  • Rode the long way over to Fort Amol from the camp
  • Passed some Stormcloaks who did not react to my wearing Imperial Dragon armor, LOL; one of them even bitched about faithless Imperials
  • Shortly thereafter found cultists, and they wanted to pick a fight, so took one of them out–and the other two were actually stomped on by the nearby very, very cranky mammoth
  • Made it over to Fort Amol, and found the squad primed to raid the place
  • Yngvi came in with us since I rode him straight to the gate
  • Called up Dark Seducer Warrior at least once, but really this was all about Lyds, Yngvi, and every other Imperial; I mostly just looted 13 fallen Stormcloaks
  • Found after the battle that Yngvi had buggered off–but then realized I had the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal! Which has passive Detect Life! Put it on and eventually found Yngvi hiding in the trees back by the bridge leading over to the nearby abandoned prison
  • Fast traveled back to the Eastmarch Imperial Camp from there
  • Checked in with Rikke and FUCK YEAH now it’s time to go march on Windhelm!
  • Commenced the attack!
  • Noted in passing that Susanna the Wicked was in fact lying dead in the graveyard
  • Made it into the palace with Rikke and Tullius, and this time I killed Ulfric
  • Went back outside for Tullius’ final speech to the army
  • Then started derping around a bit to see if I could do pending local Windhelm quests
  • Kinda blocked getting to any of the other parts of the city because of barricades, so attempted to go out through the gates and back in again, which let me reach Sofie by Niranye’s house
  • Adopted Sofie!
  • Was not able to make it to the docks to talk to the beggar, but did make it to the White Phial to give the cracked phial to Nurelion
  • Stepped out again and rode over to near the Shrine of Talos
  • Dropped a campsite there and left Yngvi by it, then hoofed it back to Windhelm
  • Still couldn’t get to the docks from inside the city, so went back out again and just frigging swam over there 
  • That let me get at the beggar and give him alms
  • Boinged back to my campsite and had the fight with Tyra to get the ebony plate armor
  • Did a circuit through the three built houses, Lakeview -> Windstad -> Heljarchen, gathering materials for building
  • Discovered that Sofie had reached Lakeview, but was stuck in the same rut Lucia is in, so yeah gonna hafta move the kids
  • Built at Heljarchen until I ran out of iron
  • Boinged back to Lakeview to drop things off
  • Boinged back to Windhelm; found Imperial guards now stationed, and war fortifications gone
  • Got Oengul’s quest to get Freydis’s sword, just to see if that makes him less cranky at me
  • Docks were now reachable, so went out to talk to Kjar and close out that minor quest item
  • Had to break into Hjerim to start running Blood on the Ice
  • Played that out the same way as previous playthroughs, i.e., talking directly to Wuunferth rather than accusing him publicly
  • However, while going into the Palace of the Kings the first time, talked to the steward before I realized I didn’t want to actually publicly accuse Wunnferth
  • Did buy Hjerim though!
  • Went straight out to the Stone Quarter after talking to Wuunferth
  • Arivanya just strolled right into the area, and it took a while for Calixto to show up and attack her
  • Lyds and I attacked him as soon as he tried to go for Arivanya
  • Took me a few minutes to realize he’d retreated wounded into the White Phial, so headed in there after him
  • Returned to the Palace of the Kings to report that the murderer had been taken care of
  • Steward thanked me and told me he’d spread the word to the guards; I bought decorations for Hjerim while we were talking
  • Went over with Lydia to check out the place, and saved there for the night
  • (Forgot to note when this happened in the session, but did hit level 42 at some point; took Health bump, I think? And also, next Alchemy perk)

Friday the 3rd

  • Picked up again at Hjerim in Windhelm
  • Went over to Palace of the Kings to check in with Brunwulf Free-Winter
  • Got the offer to become thane–however, saw that I’d fulfilled only 3 of 5 favors
  • Went over to Uttering Hills and ran the place to get Freydis’ sword (no difficulties running, still feels weird running it when not a thief, LOL)
  • Brought the sword back to Oengul and he took it, but I did not see the favor count increment
  • Aso didn’t see it increment when I gave a coin to Silda, so I may have some issues becoming thane in Windhelm?
  • For now, rode out on Yngvi to head for the new dwarven home to check out
  • Had a little trouble finding it because of failed attempts to find the right path off the road, but finally reached it, tucked into a cave right behind Kagrenzel
  • Immediately noticed that the cave is tagged as ‘Quick Test Cell’ when you go in, LOL
  • Also noticed an extra door over the actual entrance into Nchuanthumz
  • Found some bandits in the initial cave as well as the front chambers of the place, took out same
  • Also took out multiple skeevers
  • Found the dead body of Seeks-Ancient-Artifacts, and instructions for reactivating the dwarven sphere overseer, as well as the manufactory
  • Also reactivated a dwarven spider renovator and set it to clean up one part of the house
  • I like the concept but not a fan of how it’s in the middle of fucking nowhere, and literally right next door to another ruin that is actively full of Falmer (more on this below)
  • Meanwhile of course overloaded after looting all the bandits, so came back out to get on Yngvi
  • Boinged down to Riften
  • Sold a bunch of things to Balimund and Bersi
  • Parked in Honeyside and did a little enchanting and alchemy
  • Decided to stop there for the night

Re-rescuing Jervar from Halted Stream Camp

Let it be noted for the record: I am slightly disappointed that when I re-did rescuing Jervar from Halted Stream Camp, the second time through I did not get a Thalmor vs. Stormcloaks vs. Bandits free-for-all at the camp’s entrance. Damn. Because that was fun to watch. 😀

I was likewise disappointed to trigger an issue I’ve seen in previous playthroughs: the ore veins in the place had respawned, but I was not able to actually mine them. Damn. Part of why I bothered to actually re-run Halted Stream was the hope that I could actually get all the veins mined, and take that iron over to Heljarchen for building. Alas, it was not to be!

But Jervar was grateful to be rescued, so there’s that. <3

I had a minor bit of oddness just keeping track of him on the way back to Whiterun, but realized that this, as is often the case, was because I’d forgotten to turn on the damn quest marker. This is what I get for having so many quests to keep track of at once, I lose track of which ones I actually have active!

Taking Fort Kastav

The interesting thing for me about running Fort Kastav this time through was caused by this being an Anniversary Edition run: i.e., that Hadvar’s squad for taking over the fort was hanging out right by the now-abandoned Seducers bandit camp.

Which tells me that if I’d run events in this playthrough in a different order, it might have been possible to show up to fight those bandits and then go straight into taking over the fort! And that in turn raises the question of whether, in that scenario, Hadvar’s squad would be close enough to actually run over and join in on the fight, or whether they would remain in wait mode for you to join them to help break into the fort.

Taking Fort Amol

I had legit forgotten that there was one more fort to take before Happy Fun March on Windhelm times: i.e., Fort Amol.

This did however give me an opportunity to ride over the long way, which I was in the mood for. Still trying to do less fast traveling when I can, just because I do like that this makes for more adventure. And on the way, I encountered some Stormcloaks!

I hung out in their immediate vicinity, just long enough for them to go by and throw off bitchy commentary about “faithless Imperials”. Given that I was standing right there in the Imperial Dragon armor, I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t react to that!

Probably, a truly proper Legate would have called them out right then and there, but heh, I wasn’t in the mood. So I figure Kendis smirked underneath her helmet, thinking, “Y’all just head on back to Windhelm. I’ll be there soon enough to kick all your asses.”

Once we actually reached the fort, this played out pretty similarly to the others. I didn’t do much of the actual fighting–in no small part because Amol has closer quarters than some of the other forts, and I got overloaded pretty quickly doing looting, so I didn’t have much speed and room to maneuver. So I let Lyds, Yngvi, and the various other Imperials do all of the fighting while I spent time looting 13 different fallen Stormcloaks.

And, side note for Future Me: after taking Fort Amol, I did see that Yngvi had buggered off. But this time I remembered that I was carrying the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal. Which is useful not only for a carry weight bump, but also for it having a passive Detect Life ability on it. So using that, I was actually able to find where Yngvi had gone without having to throw constant Detect Life spells. Very, very helpful! Just have to remember to take the damn thing off before I get back to any location that has guards.

Taking Windhelm

The assault on Windhelm went faster this time, because I knew what to do: get in, get through the barricades to the Palace of the Kings as fast as possible, and then confront Ulfric and Galmar.

Which was not to say I didn’t encounter fierce resistance, because I did. But I got through okay, and reasonably quickly, with only a few rounds of having to rely on my stock of healing potions.

This time through, I actively killed Ulfric myself. Which is definitely the most bloodthirsty choice and perhaps not the one this character’s original namesake would have done–but Skyrim!Kendis, I feel, probably felt extremely pissy at this man once she got the slightest whiff of his being a passive asset of the Thalmor.

(Note: as of this writing I have yet to run the Thalmor Embassy with Kendis. But for narrative purposes, I’m going to take the liberty of assuming Kendis has heard some things courtesy of the Remnants.)

Also, I dragged his corpse and Galmar’s a little ways down a side corridor I hadn’t seen before–I think that side corridor must lead down to the kitchen? I mostly just wanted to get them out of immediate sight, because it’s fucking weird to be walking into that throne room later with Ulfric’s dead body on the floor!

Particularly after I swiped his clothes. LOL. Though I only remembered afterwards that his bracers are broken when worn by females in unmodded runs, so I’m not going to actually be wearing his clothes. But I took them for trophy purposes anyway!

War aftermath

I didn’t leave Windhelm immediately after concluding the attack and taking Ulfric out. Which let me discover a few things.

One: The city doesn’t immediately reset. I derped around a little just after the fighting, just to see if I could pick up on any pending local quests. But while I did that, the fight music kept playing, things were still on fire, and barricades were still up to various other parts of the city, like the more residential areas.

Two: Access to the docks was likewise blocked. So I couldn’t get down there to visit the beggar for Tyra Blood-Fire’s quest. Or, for that matter, to talk to the sailor Kjar about his missing crew member, since I still had to do that too. I wound up having to just swim over to the docks from outside, so I could get to the beggar and finish up getting the ebony plate armor.

Three: Oengul the smith did not immediately get pissy at me and start calling me a milk-drinker. While the city was still in this state, he greeted me as he’d done previously. Once the city reset later, though, he totally started calling me a milk-drinker.

Four: I was however able to get into the White Phial, and give Nurelion back the cracked phial.

Five: I didn’t see Sofie by the door out to the docks, but I was able to find her by Niranye’s house. At which point I adopted her, just to see if that would kick Lucia back out of the rut she was stuck in. (Answer: no. So I’m definitely going to have to proceed with the attempt to get married just so I can try to move the kids to a new house!)

Running Blood on the Ice

Since this is a civil war playthrough and I’d just taken Windhelm for the Imperial, this meant I could actually get Hjerim. But that required me to first actually run Blood on the Ice.

But since I did just take the city for the Empire, this also meant that the quest’s start was broken. I had noted on the way through the city, during the attack, that Susanna the Wicked’s body was lying in the graveyard. When I came back later, post-war, she was still there. So were witnesses to the death. But as I’d seen in Delga’s playthrough, I didn’t get a guard to initiate investigations with.

So I punted to doing a workaround proposed by the wiki: just picking the lock on Hjerim to get in. So that auto-started the quest.

From that point, though, I played it out the same way I’d done on previous playthroughs. Including just going to talk to Wuunferth directly, just because I don’t like the option of accusing an innocent man.

The other main difference here was how fast I got to the Stone Quarter, and what I observed about how that played out. This time I was there in time to see Arivanya just stroll right into the area, and stand around doing nothing until it was time for Calixto to show up and attack her.

Which begs the question: why on earth was she walking around by herself, at night, in a city known to have a fucking murderer on the loose?

(For that matter, she’s an Altmer. I have to also side-eye the idea of why an Altmer would feel safe wandering around Windhelm by herself in general, in a city also known to contain elf-hostile racist pricks like Rolff and Angrenor. Most of the racism in Windhelm is thrown at the Dunmer and the Argonians, to be sure. But I have a hard time buying that this same set of people wouldn’t also be super-hostile to Altmer. Given that the Thalmor, by and large, are Altmer.)

I hung out for a bit in the market just waiting to see when Calixto would show, which also meant that I triggered multiple random chat lines from the nearby Imperial guard–who was, I might add, standing in the midst of what looked like a bit of war rubble. (So I’m pretty sure Windhelm, like Whiterun, retains at least a bit of post-war damage.)

(Maybe the presence of that guard was enough to let Arivanya feel safe wandering into the otherwise deserted market?)

Once Calixto showed up, though, we were able to take him out pretty quickly. Since Lyds and I were already on hand, we kept him from killing Arivanya! Though this time, he also tried to run into the White Phial to escape from us. So I had to run in there after him.

HI NURELION! HI QUINTUS! ‘Scuse me a minute while I kill this asshole, he just tried to kill somebody outside. Sorry about the mess, I’ll get rid of him for you. Ciao!

Possible blocker to the thaneship

When I got the offer to become thane in Windhelm, I saw that the counter for favors was set to only three of five. And shortly thereafter, noted a problem: that even though I did two things that should have counted as favors, the counter did not increment. Neither bringing Oengul Freydis’ sword or giving a coin to Silda seemed to budge it.

Which strikes me as a potential problem. I’ll need to try a couple of other thaneship quests, either inside or outside of Windhelm, just to see if I can get this unblocked. I want to pick up Calder as my housecarl, dammit!

Exploring Nchuanthumz

This was one of the few bits of content from the Anniversary Edition that I never explored in Shenner’s run, so I was highly interested to check this out.

It took some doing to get to, though. Because Nchuamthumz is right on the eastern edge of the map, about halfway between the top and bottom corners. It’s literally right next door to Kagrenzel, which is itself a trifle difficult to find. The right path to get up there is a trifle obscure, and I haven’t run Kagrenzel all that much so far specifically because I keep forgetting how to find the damn place.

And the first impression I had of it was, unfortunately, a couple of minor but still very obvious bugs. The entrance to the home is inside Frostroot Cave. But the entrance into Frostroot Cave is labeled “Quick Test Cell”. As a person whose day job is software development, I can certainly understand why that particular bug was deemed “not a shipstopper”, because it’s not.

It is, however, a blatantly obvious bug that cannot help but present itself to the user, and it gives a very bad impression. So even though it doesn’t actually break any functionality, I’m surprised this bug hasn’t ever been fixed.

Thankfully, the actual Frostroot Cave didn’t seem to have any functionality bugs and was a perfectly decent frosty cave, with a scattering of bandits to fight. But I did find the second bug at the end of that cave, which is where the door into the actual home is located. That door had an extra door overlapping on top of it, which meant I had to open the door twice to get in there.

Again, not a serious bug. Not a shipstopper. But definitely weird.

Now all that said, once I got into the actual space, I didn’t see any further issues. And I was able to proceed to actually exploring it properly, and form some impressions of it. And I have two overall big impressions of it, which are kind of contradictory.

One: I really like the idea of this home. I particularly like the little quest you need to do to renovate it, since reactivating the manufactory and waking up a couple of the dwemer machines still in it is thematically appropriate for the home. And since you have to make the renovator spider do cleanup three times, it spreads out the reward of seeing the home being fixed up, which is a really neat idea.

Two: On the other hand, I also feel like the place is actually too large. From what I see on the wiki, once you do that initial mini-quest to reactivate the manufactory and set the spider to cleaning the place up, the manufactory is never needed again. So that seems like a waste of a lot of space.

If you’re running an unmodded game, it is definitely way too large for the number of people you’d be able to settle in there–yourself, a spouse, two children. Mods may help with this, but not everybody can run mods. Like, say, if you’re running the AE on the Switch.

Three: And even aside from questions of the size of the place, I take some issue with its location! Because it’s in the middle of fucking nowhere on the map, in one of the snowiest and most remote areas of Skyrim. The only thing immediately near it is another Dwemer ruin, one which is actively full of Falmer. And which, furthermore, has a broken lift in it that will kill you if you try to use it, and you don’t have the fortune of being able to use the Become Ethereal Shout.

Paul points out quite correctly that by the time we got around to having the Anniversary Edition, there weren’t too many places left to put houses on the map that weren’t in the middle of nowhere. But still, I feel like “right next door to a Falmer-controlled ruin” is really not the safest place to settle a family!

And if by some lucky chance you manage to avoid the Falmer, let me just list out these attributes of it:

  1. Large and sprawling and mostly not-inhabited
  2. Full of mysterious noises and seemingly defunct machines which may or may not wake up again
  3. Extremely remote location
  4. Horrible weather

All of which, to me, spells out a recipe for a Dwemer-flavored Skyrim edition of The Shining. (No mead and no bards make Dragonborn something something?)

So I have a real hard time imagining how any reasonable Dragonborn would want to actually put a spouse and two kids in there.

And oh yeah one more thing: boy howdy am I glad I didn’t try to get in there with Survival Mode still turned on. Because this is right smack dab in the middle of one of the “Freezing” areas on the Survival Mode map, and I would very easily have either risked freezing to death or burning through like three or four different campsites just to get to the place.

I’m going to conclude the little quest to renovate the home, just because I do want to see what it looks like when it’s cleaned up. But I don’t expect I’m going to want to use it as a primary home in this playthrough. We’ll see if seeing it in its completed form changes my mind!

One more thing worth noting: I finally read the transcription of both of Seeks-Ancient-Artifacts’ journals given in the game, and this bit leapt out at me about how Nchuanthumz was built:

I have arrived in Skyrim to solve a single mystery, to find the lost sanctuary of Nchuanthumz. According to legend, it was built by the famed Dwemer architects, Klorgic and Duramac, the latter of whom is said to be a distant relative of the great Dumac Dwarfking.

While the two began as rivals, through mutual respect and admiration they eventually became friends, and over time, much more.

Whoa, game! Are you telling me this place was built by queer Dwemer? Well, that’s certainly awesome, but it still doesn’t change my beef with its location. ;D

Next time

I want to do a couple of the Riften-area side things: hitting Avanchnzel, and running the Blue in the Face quest so I can pick up Gogh!


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.