In Which Kendis Raids the Thalmor Embassy and Marries a Mage
Three session post, so there’s a lot of action in this one! Main highlights: raiding the Thalmor Embassy, retrieving Esbern from the Ratway, marrying Rulnik (and finally settling him and the girls in Whiterun, to get Lucia and Sofie the hell out of Windhelm), and other assorted side action!
Play by play
- Play dates: 3/9, 3/11, 3/13/2023
- Session numbers in this run: 44-46
Thursday the 9th
- Picked up at Lakeview
- Attempted to ride out with Gogh–but didn’t make it out of the area right by the house, a melee broke out!
- Two frostbite spiders showed up and I dismounted to fight them
- Then a dragon showed up
- Nearby conjurer was alerted by the fighting, and I think she got into it with the Golden Saint archer I summoned for the dragon, while Rayya ran over and started getting in on the action too
- Finally took out the dragon, then mounted up
- Stopped at the Guardian Stones and did some fishing; did not catch a replacement glassfish, but did catch a spadefish
- Killed a wolf on the way into Riverwood
- Reached Riverwood and checked in with Delphine; got the plan to hit the Thalmor Embassy
- Fished at Riverwood’s fishing spot on the way out
- Rode over to Whiterun and killed a couple more wolves on the way
- Sold a few things in Whiterun
- Headed towards Goldenhills
- Spotted Alduin en route, working on resurrecting Nahagliiv, but he did not complete the resurrection; I think this is because I hadn’t actually run the embassy yet
- Passed Imperial trio + prisoner
- Killed an assassin somewhere along this road too, and a sabre cat
- Made it to Goldenhills and slept there for the night
- Picked up profits from Golldir and he gave me like 24,000 gold, fuck yeah! Because I need to go buy some houses! I still need Proudspire and Vlindrel Hall! \0/
- Headed out from there and fought respawned bandits near Rorikstead; summoned a Saint, and Team Dragonborn took ‘em out
- Reached and ran Robber’s Gorge; got the missing hunting bow for the Companions quest
- Overloaded at that point, but that’s what having a reliable mount is for!
- Rode onward through Dragon Bridge and headed for Solitude
- Passed Thalmor + prisoner; for now, let them be
- Reached Solitude and sold bandit loot to unload
- Realized I wanted to try to get a bliss bug thorax before leaving Solitude–so re-ran the entirety of the sewers, which had respawned; no bliss bugs, but I got a heaping helping of everything else from there, including more amber
- Found Malborn in the Winking Skeever and gave him critical things
- Rendezvoused with Delphine and got the invite and party clothes
- Used Idgrod for distraction again, because she’s awesome about it (and to think her housecarl wants to depose her) <3
- Got into the back with Malborn and got my gear; favored the Remnant armor
- Started chugging Invisibility potions to charge through the place
- Barely made it past the first wizard; he felt me go by and he and the other two guards got alerted
- But I made it past them and out into the courtyard, then to the shadows by the solar
- Started summoning things to kill the outside Thalmor: bear, and then a bunch of Golden Saint
- Took out most of the outside Thalmor, didn’t get the wizard, but he was out of range when I ran for the solar door so that was okay
- Blew the last couple of Invisibility potions getting over to the evidence chest
- Then made it downstairs, and stayed the hell out of the way while throwing more Golden Saint at the soldier and Rulindil–though I had to get in the last blow on Rulindil to take him out
- Threw bear at the soldiers bringing in Malborn, though I stabbed one of them as well
- Killed the troll and did not take the Stone of Barenziah in there, as I’m not running the Guild with Kendis
- Saw both Etienne and Malborn escaping safely from the cave, with Malborn’s usual bitching about being hunted for the rest of his life (interesting, he didn’t throw that line for Harrow)
- Boinged back to Riverwood and checked back in with Delphine to get my gear
- Got the plan to go to Riften to find Esbern
- But first, boinged over to Whiterun to sell a bunch of stuff and check in with Vilkas; got his payment for the retrieved bow
- Slept the night at Jorrvaskr
- Boinged down to Lakeview to stash a bunch of stuff
- Used additional amber to make gauntlets and also improve up the other amber pieces I’ve made; now just lacking a shield
- Made several jewelry pieces
- Leveled up to 44; took Stamina bump and Insightful Enchanter perk
- Did a boatload of alchemy and enchanting as well
- Saved for the night
Saturday the 11th
- Started in Lakeview; did a little inventory management
- Boinged to Whiterun to sell things
- Went to Jorrvaskr to check in with the Companions
- Got another quest from Vilkas, another iteration of the “recover a lost family heirloom” quest; this one wanted me to recover an iron war axe from inside Shimmermist Cave
- Rode over to Tundra Homestead
- Blood Dragon showed up, but it was a flyby
- Fished at the fishing spot; didn’t catch anything interesting except for an iron Helmet of Minor Magicka
- Rode over to Shimmermist
- Ran the place in full for the first time
- Killed a handful of Falmer in various places
- Falmer Gloomlurker and the centurion at the end were a pretty decent fight; called in Golden Saint Warrior to help
- Came back out and boinged back to Whiterun
- Returned to Jorrvaskr late but Vilkas was waiting; gave him the report and got my cut of the pay
- Boinged next to College of Winterhold
- Got five rounds of training from Phinis; still not up enough to get the Conjure Storm Atronach or Conjure Dremora Lord spells, damn
- Sold him and Faralda a bunch of my crafted enchanted jewelry
- Next stop: Riften
- Asked Keerava about where to find Esbern, got her pointer to the Ratway; take that, Brynjolf!
- Headed for the door and then hired Marcurio on impulse, just because I hadn’t hired him before
- Headed down into the Ratway
- Got the note at the door which triggered the quest to get Dawnfang & Duskfang; did not however run that quest for now
- Instead, basically fought my way through the place, and didn’t bother with stealth
- Made it down to the Flagon; bribed Vekel the Man for info, then headed to the Warrens
- Cue Thalmor round one! And cue summoning Golden Saint again to round out Team Dragonborn!
- Made it down to Esbern
- Cue round two of Thalmor, right in front of Esbern’s little hideout
- Salvianus actually got in on the fight! Aw thank you, pitiful mad soldier! Let him go about his business, after, and made my way out of the Ratway
- Lost track of Esbern, got out with just Gogh and Marcurio
- Hit Thalmor Round Three on the way out
- Got out of the Ratway, and finally, cue Shavari! BAD KITTY! <stabs>
- Fast traveled from there straight to Riverwood–at which point an Elder Dragon showed up and alarmed the town
- Took it out, thankfully before it killed Alvor, because bless his heart, he tried to get in on the fight and his kid was right there, so good, she didn’t have to see her father die ;P
- Once all was clear, headed into the inn, at which point Esbern caught up and the conversation with Delphine played as per usual
- Told Delphine I’d meet them at Karthspire, and let them head out
- Boinged back to Whiterun and sold more things
- Boinged to Heljarchen, at which point Marcurio volunteered to be steward; I let him, because he seems kind of boring really and he’ll only level cap at 40
- Rode back down to Whiterun, and took out cultists on the way
- Decided to marry Rulnik! Took him off to Riften
- Got the Book of Love quest from Dinya since I found her first in the temple; she gave me the objective to go to Ivarstead
- Once I talked to Maramal, did a bit of enchanting and alchemy in Honeyside to kill time
- Did some general shopping to get things out of my inventory and to see if anybody was selling decent wedding clothes; answer: not so much
- But I did buy Rulnik master-tier Alteration robes, gave him Savos Aren’s mage circlet and amulet, and enchanted my ebony dagger for him to give him a better backup weapon than that iron letter opener he gets by default. Wedding presents! <3
- Tried to have him live at Lakeview; however, he and the kids did not show up there
- Boinged over to Windhelm and confirmed, yep, he was there
- Boinged back to Whiterun and bought the kid’s room for Breezehome
- Boinged back to Windhelm and had Rulnik move himself and the kids
- Boinged back to Whiterun, and saw Lucia and Sofie coming out of Breezehome
- Saved there for the night
Monday the 13th
- Picked up at Whiterun
- Rode over to fish by Tundra Homestead
- Got a few items I wanted to sell, so returned to Whiterun and sold them
- Boinged briefly to Lakeview and dropped off a few things, HI LYDIA
- Boinged to Riften and bought ebony and an ebony shield from Balimund
- Made Iona a suit of ebony armor
- (I think it may have been here that I leveled up to 45? Took Health bump and Apprentice perk in Restoration)
- HI IONA! You’re on tap for housecarl duty!
- Went into the basement and oops, already had a shield
- But here, Iona have some ebony armor and a helmet and a shield! Also, this ebony sword and this fine stalhrim crossbow!
- Went back out and got Yngvi and mounted up
- Boinged to Avanchnzel so I wouldn’t have to ride past Largashbur and maybe kill off what one or two orcs are left there ;P
- Rode down from Avanchnzel to get over to Angarvunde
- Killed a bear on the way, only to discover it had taken out a noble and Imperial soldier escort, but not the horse! The horse was nearby!
- Reached Angvarvunde and ran the place with no problems; Medresi got squashed, but I got the word for Animal Allegiance off the Word Wall there
- Boinged back to Riften to see if I could give Dravin his bow; answer: YES! Because in this game he hadn’t actually died yet!
- Fished by Honeyside’s stairs, and hurray, got a glassfish finally!
- Boinged next to Ivarstead to do the little plot with Fastred; this time I convinced her to elope with Bassanius, since her mom said she’d cover for them; got objective to return to Dinya
- Boinged to Falkreath to give Zaria the glassfish
- Then did the plot with the disguised skooma bottle and the very surprised skooma addict guard; got the Ring of Surroundings from Zaria
- Mounted up and headed over to Cracked Tusk Keep; ran that place with no troubles, and got the shards of the Razor
- Set out to ride west to Markarth (since I haven’t been there at all yet with this alt)
- Spotted a hunter doing some hunting, did not disturb him
- However, disturbed the hell out of the Elder Dragon that showed up right by Falkreath Watchtower (didn’t mark it for the map but pretty sure that’s where I was)
- Got pretty overloaded, but also heard another dragon in the distance
- So rode onward past Half-Moon Mill
- Second dragon turned out to be Vuljotnaak, so took him out too
- Very overloaded by this point, so headed over to Hendraheim
- Passed Scavenger NPC on the way, didn’t bother to engage with him
- Did a little smithing, had enough dragon bits on me that I was able to improve my entire set of studded dragonscale
- Stashed several expensive weapons and armor bits down in Hendraheim’s armory
- Saved there for the night
It was kind of hilarious to go past a Thalmor trio with a prisoner on my way to Solitude to work on actually infiltrating the embassy. 😀 Because while I do rationally know that that’s a standard random encounter and that the prisoner they’re escorting is just a generic prisoner, he did look kind of like Etienne, the guy you have to rescue in the embassy’s dungeon!
So it makes a bit of nice narrative connection to just assume a headcanon here that I actually saw them hauling Etienne in to interrogate him. Because then I can assume Kendis thought holy shit I saw them bringing in this guy, and make a point of rescuing him.
Once I actually hit the embassy, I used Idgrod as my distraction again. Just because I’m very partial to her crack about old women being able to get away with anything. She’s delightful. <3
Running the embassy as a non-stealth character meant I had to rely on the Remnant armor, since its various bonuses all seemed pretty critical for a non-thief. And since I didn’t have the Invisibility spell with Kendis yet (and still don’t as of this writing), I also had to rely on a boatload of Invisibility potions.
But even given the potions, that didn’t let me off the hook for watching where I was fucking going. I’m not sure if I actually bumped into the wizard from the second floor coming down the stairs or what, but I definitely got close enough to him that he sensed I was there. So I ran like hell past him and got around to the door out into the courtyard.
He started yelling, but ha! Made it out of range. Fuck you, Thalmor! I’m invisible.
Once I got into the shadows next to Elenwen’s solar, I started doing some summoning to try to clear the way to the door. This worked pretty well. A round of bear, followed by a bunch of rounds of Golden Saint, took out almost all of the external hostiles. I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually get the wizard who’s usually stationed at the door of the solar, but that was okay. By the time I made a run for that door, he’d moved, and he didn’t make it back in time to stop me.
From there I was pretty much home free. I ran out of Invisibility potions making it to the evidence chest, but after that all I had to do was run downstairs and take out Rulindil and the soldier torturing Etienne. And then take out the last two Thalmor bringing in Malborn.
It is never not satisfying to throw a summoned angry bear into Thalmor faces. 😀
One last point of interest: Malborn threw his usual line bitching about being hunted for the rest of his life as we exited Reeking Cave. He did not, however, throw that line for Harrow. Not sure why! Presumably one of her playthrough’s mods impacted his behavior?
Brief note about amber armor
I have found enough amber as Kendis now that I’ve got an almost complete set of amber armor for her. I’m still not sure I actually like the look of the amber armor, mind you. But I need to finish out the set, and get it improved up to Legendary, and then compare it to dragonscale and Remnant to see how it stacks up. I want to see if it winds up being better or worse that the other sets, which will influence how likely I am to actually wear it.
Shimmermist Cave, revisited
Running another side quest for the Companions finally gave me an opportunity to run Shimmermist Cave all the way through. And now that I know for sure that there’s a Falmer settlement in the depths of that cave, it raises a real interesting question for me. Shimmermist is really frigging close to Whiterun, and more specifically, to Battle-Born Farm, Chillfurrow Farm, and Tundra Homestead.
Exactly how bold are the Falmer about coming out of that cave at night? Do they? Exactly how much do they know about that big city sitting right there?
I think this is possibly the closest I’ve seen a Falmer hive to one of Skyrim’s big cities–with the exception of Nchuand-Zel, which you can access via Calcelmo’s excavation in Understone Keep in Markarth.
I should think that it’d take some really fucking bold Falmer to attack either Whiterun or Markarth, though. And I’m not convinced they’re that bold.
In fact, there’s this line of random guard dialogue in Whiterun to consider, too:
“You know I saw something near Shimmermist Cave to the northeast. Some sort of creature. Small and wicked, never seen its like before.”
So at least one guard has actually sighted a Falmer outside near that cave. But he did not engage. Which suggests that the Falmer are wary of going up against a large city.
But speaking as the owner of Tundra Homestead, I’m real frigging dubious about the safety of that house. And of the garden behind it.
All that aside, though, it was kind of neat to actually run the place in full. It was not quite as big as some of the other Falmer caves I’ve run, but still large enough to be interesting. The most notable feature of it, though, was it being another of those places where casting Candlelight or getting out a torch made the environs a little too, well, shimmery. The mist that gives the place its name was certainly visible all over, and that’s the stuff that reflected light sources a bit too much for my ease of view.
It was not all purely a cave, either. There was even a bit of Dwemer ruin down at the very bottom of the cave, and a centurion to fight at the end. Which means this is also possibly the closest to any of the major Holds that I’ve seen Dwemer ruins, again with the exception of Markarth.
Getting Esbern out of the Ratway
I don’t think I’ve commented before that it’s kind of wacky that Delphine explicitly tells you to talk to Brynjolf in Riften, to get a lead on where Esbern might be hiding in the Ratway. So it’s not clear to me whether the original intent of the dev team was for the player to actually join the Thieves Guild–because as I’ve written before in earlier posts, if you try to talk to Brynjolf, you won’t get him to help you without triggering the Thieves Guild plotline.
I’ve gone back and reviewed my older posts, and I see the following, re: who I talked to to get the intel on Esbern’s whereabouts:
|Kendis||Keerava and Vekel|
So my general tendency here is, non-thieves hit up Keerava for the intel, thieves hit up Vekel the Man. Except for Shenner and Harrow. In Shenner’s case, I figure she already knew where the Ratway was, so she wasn’t above bribing people down there for the intel. And in Harrow’s case, by the time it came up with her, she was already in good with the Guild. So it made sense to just talk to Brynjolf.
This does raise some questions about Delphine’s background with the Guild, though! Since she wants to send you explicitly to Brynjolf, she clearly considers him a contact. But does that mean Delphine has a history of swapping info with Brynjolf?
I don’t think we can just assume Delphine is in the Guild; what’s known about her in the lore doesn’t seem to support that. But given that we do know that Delphine has spent a lot of time in hiding to evade Thalmor detection, it seems totes reasonable that she would have utilized the Thieves Guild as allies.
(And heh, now I’m wondering if there are any Delphine/Brynjolf shippers out there. It’d be kind of hilarious if he were an old boyfriend.)
But anyway, all of this is incidental to Kendis getting into the Ratway this time. I went the route of talking to Keerava with her, just because Kendis has seen that shyster Brynjolf already and isn’t impressed. But then, I already knew from Delphine that Esbern was probably in the Ratway. I still also talked to Vekel the Man… for no particular reason, I think? Force of habit? Doublechecking the wiki, I see that talking to Keerava would have been enough for me to get Esbern’s location. But I still had to go through the Flagon to get into the Warrens, so.
On the way out of the inn, I succumbed to a sudden impulse and hired Marcurio as a temporary follower. This was partly because I’d neglected to get Lydia back on duty, and just wasn’t in the mood to go back for Iona (though I did get her on deck later). But also, I just hadn’t actually tried this guy out as a follower before. I’d been kind of put off by his shown dialogue on his wiki page, just because it makes him come across like a conceited jerk.
I decided to give him a shot, anyway, just to try him out and see for sure how he came across.
Answer: he didn’t particularly stand out, actually. With him as my backup, I didn’t even bother with stealth heading down into the Ratway. And we made pretty short work of getting down into the Warrens, including taking out any and all Thalmor who showed up.
Because let’s get real here: the Harbinger of the Companions does not really have stealth in her repertoire, LOL. And also, when your backup is a guy who fights with Destruction magic, also not so much with the stealth!
For the record, I got Dravin’s bow since I ran the Ratway the long way, which sent me past the relevant chest.
Nothing particularly different about talking to Esbern this time. But I was amused by how, as soon as we got out of his little hideout, we got jumped by a second round of Thalmor. And that fight was joined by Salvanius, surprisingly! Aw, thank you, poor mad ex-Imperial-soldier dude. He’s apparently still got enough fighting instinct to join in on a fight with the Thalmor!
Proceeded onward to Riverwood, and after fighting that Elder Dragon (which, again, thankful it did not kill Alvor), I let Delphine and Esbern head to Karthspire. And went ahead and ditched Marcurio when he volunteered to be steward at Heljarchen. He didn’t strike me as terribly interesting in the Ratway. While he was perfectly acceptable backup in the Ratway, he didn’t show much actual personality. And, according to the wiki, he level caps at 40. So that seems adequate for being a steward, certainly. Not so much for when I’m out actually adventuring, and I’ll be past the 40’s in my own level soon enough.
Let me note for the record that I put serious consideration into having Kendis’ spouse be Vilkas. Of the dudes in the Companions, he’s the one with the most interesting personality, and he’s also significant to the overall Companions quest line. So I feel like Kendis has justification to consider him as a potential romantic interest.
However, I ultimately chose Rulnik instead for a couple of reasons. One, I just like Rulnik better as a character. And two, Vilkas caps out at level 50, whereas Rulnik caps at 75. So this makes Rulnik a more effective follower for a lot longer.
I’m not entirely satisfied with the idea of repeating myself. But Rulnik level capping at 75 also means that of all the male NPCs you can marry (without mod assistance), he’s actually the highest leveling one. All the other closest contenders, like Vilkas or Farkas or the various male housecarls, cap out at level 50.
And it’s pretty damned likely I’ll want to take Rulnik to Solstheim with me, when Kendis runs Dragonborn. So his being able to keep up with me levels-wise is important.
(Of course, that raises the question of who the hell will watch the kids when we go to Solstheim! But heh, I can totally see Kendis deciding to tell them to hang out at Jorrvaskr. Because what could POSSIBLY go wrong with recruiting the Companions to be her personal babysitters? :D)
Resolving the bug with my family housing
Once I married Rulnik, I was able to confirm that nope, just telling him to live with me at Lakeview did not resolve the issue I’d seen with Lucia and Sofie getting stuck at Windhelm. Rulnik bounced over there with them.
Which strikes me as a really weird bug. I am not finding any mention of this situation on the wiki–but it seems like it all got triggered by Lucia having that initial problem of being stuck in the “I need to get my things” loop she was in after I adopted her. Which I never saw in any of my prior playthroughs, even on the Switch.
I do kind of wonder whether it was relevant that I adopted Lucia when the only house I had available with kids’ beds was Lakeview? Or that I hadn’t actually chosen a spouse yet?
Thankfully, anyway, I was able to resolve the situation. It just required buying the kids’ bedroom at Breezehome, then telling Rulnik to move the kids there. Whew.
Whiterun still looks battered around the edges since it’s post-war now. But at least’s not fucking Windhelm. And I don’t have to worry about the girls talking to that asshole Rolff.
Running side quests with Iona
I did swing back to get Iona on housecarl duty, after marrying Rulnik. Which let me have backup for doing assorted side quests.
I was a trifle startled by finding a bear that had killed the noble and Imperial soldier escort NPCs I sometimes see. This was perhaps the first time I’d ever seen both of those NPCs dead at once as part of the same encounter.
Likewise, I was surprised to see that the bear had not killed the noble’s horse. I will assume that that poor creature made it safely to the nearest stable. Or at the very least, that some other kind traveler came along and adopted it. (Because the other option is, some other bear came along and ate it after Iona and I left.)
According to my tag history I’ve run Angarvunde exactly one time before, with Merawen. So it was nice to come back to this dungeon, since it’s not one I’ve run as much! Still kind of sad for Medresi, whose treasure fervor clearly got way, way ahead of her practical sense. If only she’d listened to her frightened excavation team, she might have not gotten squished by that ceiling spike trap!
It was a relief to discover that in this game, Dravis hadn’t actually died yet. So I was able to bring him his bow! Why thank you, I will accept these gems! Try not to die, okay? And if you see a dragon coming, take some goddamn cover and don’t try to fight it yourself.
I ran Fastred’s little love triangle plot this time in favor of Bassanius. Partly because I’d done it in favor of Klimmek the first time, during Ysani’s run… and partly because once I thought about it, Klimmek seemed a little problematic in terms of age difference. Klimmek’s supposedly old enough that his knees can’t take the trip to see the Greybeards anymore–and yet, he’s apparently in love with a girl who’s young enough that she’s living at home with her parents, and needs their permission to get romantically involved with someone?
Klimmek is a nice guy, I like the character, but if he’s old enough that he’s got bad knees from trudging up and down the 7,000 steps, maybe a girl that young isn’t really a good match for him?
And also, this seems like a contradiction to Dinya’s dialogue. As I understand the plot, Fastred and her love triangle are supposed to be an example of young love, in contrast to Calcelmo and Faleen in Markarth. But Klimmek is very clearly not young.
Note to Future Me: there’s a much shorter way to get to Cracked Tusk Keep, if I’m in Falkreath. It’s practically due west. Just head west of the city, and look out for the tiny side road. It leads straight there. I don’t have to circle around to it from that gate at the bottom of the map!
Last but not least, learned something about which dragon mounds are which. I’d thought that the one I saw glowing, not too far off from Goldenhills, was Vuljotnaak’s mound. After checking maps today, I saw that that was not the case. Pretty sure the one I saw glowing, in both Kendis’s and Harrow’s runs, was Nahagliiv’s.
Still working my way west, with first main action item being stopping in Markarth. I want to get the plot hook for running Crypt of the Heart, so I can follow up with that when I go meet Delphine and Esbern at Karthspire!
And since I’ll be at Markarth anyway I may go ahead and run the Forsworn Conspiracy. We’ll see!