In Which Harrowhark is Inducted as a Bard, Then Goes After Mercer Frey
Four session post, just because I’ve been more in a mood for Harrow than Kendis this week. And because I fell behind doing Harrow’s posts! Main action in this post is all about Harrow finishing off the Bards College plotline, and then returning to Thieves Guild action! Time to go after Mercer “Murderous Lying Bastard” Frey. 😀
Play by play
- Play dates: 3/12, 3/14, 3/16, 3/17/2023
- Session numbers in this run: 46-49
Sunday the 12th
- Picked up at Windstad Manor
- Did a little lute practice and bumped bard skill up to 25
- Boinged back to Solitude to see if that was enough to get Malukah to clear my lute trial
- Did more tidying up of books waiting for her to get up, because books had fallen all over the east classroom on the upper floor, too 😛
- Got Malukah to clear my lute test, and pass me on to Viarmo finally!
- Went to talk to Viarmo and got the directive finally to go to Dead Men’s Respite
- Decided to return to Lakeview first and tidy up the inventory, then rode out from there
- Got vampire + vampire thrall encounter, which went a little differently than usual because I accidentally yielded to the vamp, see below
- Proceeded on my way
- Passed hunter on horse
- One of the boys took out a skeleton near Shriekwind Bastion, I didn’t even see it before it was down
- Got zombie horde just past Half-Moon Mill; took a while to kill all seven of them
- While I was working on that, heard a dragon in the distance but didn’t actually spot a dragon
- Reached the fisherman’s spot right at the edge of the lake; something had killed the fisherman, possibly the last zombie?
- Fished the lake but didn’t get anything interesting; mounted up back up and kept riding
- Somewhere in here I went past the Old Orc who wanted a good death, but did not bother to engage with him
- “It’s too damned sunny for me to kill somebody who isn’t actively trying to kill me. But if you really want a good death, you might try jumping up and down on that glowing dragon burial mound near my farm? Just a thought.”
- Made it to Rorikstead, at which point Nahagliiv showed up, so we had to take him out; this was too far away from the site where we fought the zombies to have been the dragon I heard, so maybe that other one was Vuljotnaak?
- Very overloaded by this point so rode over to Goldenhills to unload stuff
- Picked up a small amount of profits from Illia
- Did a little smithing and improved weapons
- Dropped off a bunch of non-critical stuff in the chest by Goldenhills’ smithing stations
- Swapped off to the Nightingale armor
- Mounted up again and headed out
- Passed Thalmor cutting cross-country but they didn’t bother me
- Killed a wolf
- Reached Crabber’s Shanty at the river and did more fishing
- Blood Dragon dropped down out of the sky right on me, so took him out with the Nightingale Blade
- That wound up putting me very near Dead Men’s Respite
- Dropped my tent and made a campfire to spend the deadwood in my inventory
- Killed a nearby bear going RAR, hey, shut up bear, you’re scaring our horses!
- Ran Dead Men’s Respite, which was rather significantly easier at level 51, I’d say XD
- Didn’t have to worry about Svaknir fighting Olaf for me, just got into it directly with him
- Got the word for Whirlwind Sprint, and got out with the ruby claw, the verse, draugr loot, Olaf loot, and boss chest loot
- Broke camp, mounted up, boinged back to Solitude
- Gulum-Ei wasn’t in the Skeever (I wonder where he sleeps?)
- Did some smithing at the forge to wait for Beirand to show up
- Sold Beirand, Fihada, and Sayma assorted things to lighten up the load
- Bought more common clothes at Radiant Raiment, as I realized I’d left the clothes I was carrying back at Goldenhills, oops
- Returned to the Bards College and also realized I’d left rolls of paper at Goldenhills, so no making new spellsongs yet, oops x 2
- Did another round of tidying in the classroom as the damn books had fallen over again
- Went downstairs and parked by Viarmo to queue up talking to him about getting the verse
- Saved for the night
Tuesday the 14th
- Picked up at Bards College
- Had the “hi, I got Olaf’s verse” conversation with Viarmo
- Filled in the verse with him, and went to court to watch him present it to Elisif
- Hurray, the festival is un-canceled!
- Went to go talk to Jorn about the festival being back on, and got told to come back and talk to him after dark
- Went off to the forge and turned a ruined book and some linen wraps into paper rolls
- Returned to the Bards College and made some more spellsong books, and learned them
- Derped around a bit more with shopping
- Returned to the College to check in with Jorn; got back a little too early, but finally got him to proceed with the festival after 8pm
- Got the same festival bug that I saw in Shenner’s run, with the participants being in a frozen state as soon as Viarmo gives his speech and proclaims me a bard, so had to do the same console command to finish the festival quest
- Got the quests to get the instruments from the various professors, though this required me waking up Giraud to do it; did not feed on him, though I was given a prompt to do so
- Went out to fish since it was raining, but of course as soon as I stepped out of Solitude the weather cleared up; still, went down to fish regardless, and mark the Solitude Sawmill for the map
- Got an Ancient Dragon right after that! Took it out, though it took out a guard
- When that was done, headed over to take out the vampire leader in Pinemoon Cave
- Fought some frost trolls on the way
- Cleared the place pretty quickly, and yep, it’s still gory, Harrow definitely didn’t like going back there
- Returned to Solitude to sell loot (and decided to sell the guard gear I got off the guard the dragon killed)
- Attempted to check in with Sybille to let her know the vampire was dealt with, but she was asleep in her quarters
- Commenced a circuit of the instrument quests
- Boinged down to Halldir’s Cairn directly since I’d marked it for the map in a previous session
- Ran that place without any issues, got the drum and got out
- Was even able to jump down the tunnel on the way out without Become Ethereal
- Thistle just boinged down there though it made an alarming noise when it did so!
- Rode over to Falkreath; passed Thalmor on the way, did not engage
- Sold things to Lod and Solaf
- Stopped at Lakeview to drop off stuff
- Went over to the Guardian Stones on foot to hit the fishing spot near there; still didn’t catch any interesting rainy weather fish
- Boinged to Shor’s Watchtower so I could head over to Stony Creek Cave
- Killed a troll on the way in, just near the dock
- Fished there too but still nothing interesting
- Ran the cave, got the bandits in the back, and the Ruin’s Edge bow
- Then got the last bandit in the room with the boss chest; this time that bandit was not a fugitive crewmember of Kjar’s, LOL
- Got the Stone of Barenziah, got the lute, and got out
- Boinged to Bloodchill Cavern; dropped off a couple items there
- Doublechecked to see if I had any raw malachite there, answer, no
- Rode from there northward to Hob’s Fall Cave
- Spotted what looked like a pack of white wolves in passing, did not engage, that was a few too many wolves for comfort; forgot to take a screenshot, damn
- Reached and ran Hob’s Fall Cave
- Got the nifty spellbooks out of the chest partway through, got the Stone of Barenziah, got the flute, got out
- Boinged back to Solitude; sold stuff to unload
- Found Pantea out wandering the market, so gave her the flute back
- Returned to the Bards College and returned instruments to Inge and Giraud
- Went to Blue Palace, again noted Sybille was asleep
- Bought enchanter area and porch decorations for Proudspire from Falk
- Returned to Proudspire
- Taught Lucien one of the spells from the chest, since half of those spells were ones I knew already, so I can use them to train him
- Saved in Proudspire for the night
Thursday the 16th
- Started off at Proudspire
- Boinged over to the College of Winterhold to try to sell some stuff
- Didn’t get to sell much but did do training in the Hall of the Elements
- Got bumps in Alteration, Illusion, Destruction, and Restoration (and apparently I need to initiate a conversation with any of the trainers if they’re not actually in the mode of throwing the training bumps)
- This took me up to level 52, took Magicka bump and Poisoned perk in Pickpocket
- Taught Lucien the Elemental Bolt spell (which proved problematic, see below)
- From there, boinged down to Riften to sell additional things
- Mounted up and rode over to Avanchnzel from there
- Had goblins vs. bear fight near Largashbur
- Reached and ran Avanchnzel without any particular problems, for me, anyway
- Lucien started throwing the Elemental Bolt spell at various dwemer mechanisms—and hit Inigo, this did not go well, see below!
- Finally solved this problem by explicitly disabling that spell for Lucien (which I could do either via the MCM or via conversational prompts to ask him to stop casting that spell, so that was useful to know)
- Did of course get overloaded but not so much that it caused me any issues
- Dremora, Lucien, and Inigo were more than a match for the centurion at the end; I barely had to hit it at all
- Climbed down from the balcony to return to the horses when we got out
- Boinged from there to Lakeview to do inventory management and a bunch of crafting
- Leveled up to 53, took Stamina bump and Eagle Eye perk in Archery
- Boinged to Whiterun to sell more stuff
- Boinged back to Lakeview
- Did a little derping around with mods
- Saved there for the night
Friday the 17th
- Picked up at Lakeview
- Slept a bit in coffin to get bonus
- Rode out from there to go to Shearpoint and Irkngthand
- Brief flyby dragon near bandit spot close to the Guardian Stones, but it rendered kind of jerky? Only saw a big shadow and heard a brief truncated roar
- Stopped at Guardian Stones and tried out the Dragonstone, since I had 14 souls on me; bought a perk point and dropped it on Enchanting
- Proceeded through Riverwood and on over to Tundra Homestead
- Killed bear near the path up to the Shrine of Talos
- Reached Shearpoint and found the dragon du jour, which was the lowest tier of dragon; Team Dragonborn took it out
- And heh, good, Inigo had a different line about my taking the soul this time, observing that I got a power rush when I did that, but warning that energy is borrowed; I like this better than the dragon souls equals drugs lines
- Next we took out Krosis, and I got the words of the Throw Voice Shout \0/
- Proceeded from there carefully to Irkngthand because I had to find a good way down the mountainside and past the giant camp
- Killed all the exterior bandits
- Both of the horses managed to follow us up the fortifications, LOL
- Got inside and saw the initial bandits Mercer had killed
- But hey, one of them was still alive this time and actually had dialogue, nice; he died after a few lines, though, Mercer stabbed him but good
- From there, dropped into Sneak and started creeping my way through the place
- Called up the dremora to fight a few spheres for me
- Made it past the spinning fire traps to finally reach Karliah and Brynjolf
- Paused there and saved for the night
Books fall, nobody dies (yet)
The books falling off the shelves thing in the Bards College does appear to be an ongoing problem. And not only in the library on the main floor, but also up in the eastern classroom on the top floor of the building. I have now visibly seen books wobbling and falling off the shelves.
Fortunately, the Tidy Up mod does at least let me set any books that fall back into place. But I’m real confused as to what keeps causing this. Also curious as to whether it’s related to the invisible books bug I’ve observed.
Issues like this have cropped up all over Skyrim, both in the vanilla game as well as in the Creations that got rolled into the Anniversary Edition. I’ve seen items fall off of weapon racks all the time. And a few of the new houses have issues with objects just falling out of place when you enter a room. I’ve seen Hendraheim and Myrwatch both do this.
What I don’t know yet is, if there is a known general cause for why objects don’t stay in place. I presume that there is some kind of collision issue that prevents objects from staying put? But I don’t know enough about the behind the scenes mechanics to understand this for sure yet.
I may research it further just because I’m curious, and now my QA Engineer brain is engaged! I want to know more about this buggy behavior.
Surprise standing down in fight with other vampire
I knew intellectually that it was possible to back out of a fight by shielding your weapon, and assuming that your opponent actually accepted your surrender. This is not however a thing I’ve had a chance to really actively do in any of my playthroughs.
This time, however, I did it entirely by accident! I had another of those vampire and thrall encounters near Lakeview, and killed the thrall. But I accidentally yielded to the vamp, which I had not meant to do, I hit the wrong button on my controller by mistake.
The vampire did in fact accept the yield, and stopped being hostile! So there’s an amusing narrative question to be settled here as to what would explain Harrow backing off.
I don’t think she’d have stood down from attacking the vampire if she thought he was trying to explicitly attack a thrall trying to escape him. Or, if this had played out like this encounter usually goes, with the thrall being used as bait to bring in a victim for the vamp.
But I can definitely see a scenario here of the other vamp realizing that his thrall had in fact attacked another vampire. And one who in fact had two armed friends backing her up. So let’s say this happened:
Harrow: “Your thrall just made the last mistake of her life. Are you sure you want to double down on her error? Think very carefully before you choose.”
Other vampire, looking cautiously from Harrow to Lucien and Inigo, and back again: “It seems that your choices in thralls are superior to my own.”
Inigo: “We are not her thralls. We are her friends.”
Lucien: “And we don’t go around luring in travelers to try to feed her, either.”
Other vampire, smirking, weapon still drawn: “If you say so.”
Harrow, sheathing her own weapon: “I don’t care if you don’t believe us. Just be glad I’m not in the mood to fight you. Our kind have it bad enough in this land without us fighting each other. Go about your business before I change my mind.”
Other vampire, warily: “I don’t suppose you’d allow me a drink off your–“
Harrow, Lucien, and Inigo, in unison, weapons back up: “NO.”
Other vampire, pulling a hasty retreat, trying to save face as he goes: “I suppose I will let you live this time, then.”
Harrow, smirking: “If you say so.”
Bards College conclusion
Once I got to the point of finishing all of Malukah’s tests, she congratulated me on being perhaps the fastest student to work their way through the College, and she also gave me a spiel about spellsongs and how they worked. Which was kind of funny, given that I’d already discovered them and written myself a few!
And I also have a bit of a question about that, given that Malukah explicitly said that this is knowledge they don’t teach most bards. Yet, the scriptorium is right there in the classroom. Presumably available for any student to just walk up to!
I feel like if this is higher tier knowledge, that scriptorium might need to be in a less public room? Or maybe most students interpret the scriptorium as “here are supplies we can use to write out songbooks or sheet music”. Yeah, that would make sense.
Still though, it was a little weird to get that info from Malukah after I’d already successfully created some spellsongs. I feel like maybe that shouldn’t unlock in the scriptorium until after the player’s had that conversation with her.
Then she handed me off to Viarmo–at which point the usual vanilla Bards College stuff kicked in, and I was able to proceed to Dead Men’s Respite, doing King Olaf’s Burning, and getting the lost instruments. So all of that was pretty standard, as per other playthroughs.
A few notes about that, though. One: running Dead Men’s Respite is definitely easier at level 51, ha! Nothing in there gave me any troubles, up to and including King Olaf himself. I feel like I waited way too long into Harrow’s playthrough to run the Bards College–level 51 made Dead Men’s Respite a bit too easy, IMO. So maybe running it in the 20’s or 30’s for level purposes might be a good compromise, just because when I run it too early, I find it too challenging!
Two: Had the same thing happen that I saw in Shenner’s run, where the conclusion of the Burning of King Olaf left all the festival participants stuck there in festival mode. Fortunately, the same fix I did during Shenner’s run in the console worked here, too. (Little surprised this remains unfixed, at least in mods? At least it’s a single command in the console to fix…)
It does amuse me though about how fast the festival gets underway as soon as Jorn gives you the go-ahead. You head into the college to talk to Jorn: no festival outside! Come back out again: festival! LOL. It’s like every single festival attendee was hanging out ready to set up as soon as Jorn came out. 😀
Three: I would just like to note for the record that while I did have to wake up Giraud to get him to give me the quest to go get Rjorn’s drum, I dutifully avoided trying to feed on him. I’m pretty sure it would be considered socially unacceptable to snack on your professors. 😉
Four: Likewise, running the three quests to retrieve the instruments was a breeze at Harrow’s current level. So yeah, I will need to try to remember to do the Bards College earlier in any future playthroughs. Just a bit more appropriately leveled that way.
Five: My bunny Thistle made a slightly alarming noise when it jumped down the escape tunnel ahead of me! But it did survive the fall, because it’s set Essential. Whew. Don’t scare me like that, bun!
Inigo: “It is very good of you to take care of this small creature. It is very helpful, bringing you those ingredients for your alchemy.”
Lucien: “Kind of sweet, really! I mean, you’re a vampire and all, and yet you’ve got this adorable little bunny!”
Harrow, who would be blushing if she still had enough blood in her system to allow for it: “What? I like bunnies, is that so weird?”
Revisiting Pinemoon Cave, and a couple thoughts about Sybille Stentor
Yep, I think Harrow’s still rather disgusted by the place. And a little surprised that Sybille Stentor actually wanted her to return to the place to clear it of additional vamps. Which, come to think of it, is a real interesting question. Does Sybille have a background with whatever vamp leader she wants killed there?
Here’s an interesting thought: Sybille wants to take out the vampire that turned her. But I can also see her not wanting to risk blowing her cover at the Blue Palace as Elisif’s court wizard. Hence, drafting me to do her elimination work for her.
Relatedly, I tried a couple of times to come back and tell Sybille the deed was done. But each time I found her asleep in her quarters. And unlike with Giraud, I did not disturb her, on the general grounds that Harrow has enough sympathy for a fellow vampire that she’s not going to bother her when she’s trying to get some goddamn shuteye. Particularly given how in Skyrim’s general society, being nocturnal is going to be considered extremely fucking sus.
The wiki says Sybille shows up in the court after 4pm. I will have to check back at an appropriate hour.
Important safety tip: Lucien apparently can’t be trusted with AoE Destruction spells!
So yeah, I thought, “Hey, it’d be cool if I could use some of these extra copies of spellbooks to train Lucien in more magic! Let’s teach him Elemental Bolt! What could possibly go wrong?”
Pissing off Inigo, that’s what could go wrong. As I rapidly discovered while running Avanchnzel, and Lucien started throwing Elemental Bolt around at incoming automatons. He started pissing off Inigo by doing this, since Inigo was getting caught in his blasts!
And the boys started fighting multiple times, too. Inigo kept winning the fight, since Lucien’s squishier than he is, and making Lucien drop down into the bleedout crouch. I was alarmed by this the first time I saw it, and ran over to heal Lucien–only to see him jump up and start attacking Inigo.
Fortunately, this was fixed easily enough. I was able to actually talk to Lucien and use his “let’s talk tactics” conversational prompt to ask him to not cast that spell. Also good to know that I could just get into Lucien’s MCM and toggle spells in his list from there, too!
I’m really digging how configurable Lucien is as a follower. And unlike with Vilja, his conversational prompts for getting at his stuff seem to be more naturally phrased. I really like that part too.
So heh, a conversation maybe like this:
Harrow: “Boys? Boys! Quit it, you two! You’re both pretty! Don’t make me turn this entire ruin around!”
Inigo, smelling of singed fur and looking peevish: “Someone needs to better practice his Destruction spells.”
Lucien, looking winded since Inigo did just kick his ass: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I thought I had the hang of this one, and that sphere was coming at us, and I just didn’t quite think enough–“
Harrow: “So stop casting that one for now. We’ll work on it. And since you damn near fried half of Inigo’s tail off, you work on healing him. Right now.”
Lucien: “Absolutely, boss. Really sorry about this, Inigo! I’ll do better!”
Inigo: “Hmph. I will forgive you, my friend. Maybe when my fur stops smelling of smoke.”
And speaking of Lucien
While running Avanchnzel, just after we reached the big room with the two centurions on tables, Lucien threw off a line asking if we could stop for a moment so he could study some stonework. Inigo gently talked him out of it, and suggested that perhaps this was not the safest place in the world for him to conduct studies!
Lucien accepted this, though his scholarly instincts were apparently hollering at him about this:
“Fair enough. I just feel like I’m wasting an opportunity here. I suppose I can study and walk. Walk and study.”
Inigo finished off the conversation by reminding him to look out for traps!
And heh. This was definitely one of their cooler conversations. Very much in character for the both of them.
More on Inigo reacting to my absorbing dragon souls
He appears to have backed off comparing my absorbing dragon souls to using skooma. Good, because that was starting to be annoying!
But this doesn’t mean he likes it. And he had a couple more interesting lines on the matter:
“If you get some kind of dragon soul related illness, do not complain to me.”
“You feel powerful when you do that don’t you? Remember that all energy is only borrowed, my friend.”
That latter one I definitely liked better than many of his other reactions. It felt more insightful.
Another round of derping with mods
The mod count for this playthrough is now up to 87!
I discovered a repro of an issue reported with Campfire: Sayma in Bits and Pieces having increasing numbers of backpacks stacking up in her merchant chest. So I went ahead and pulled in this mod.
I also saw that Lucien had a couple of add-ons to give him additional dialogue for both the Creation Club/AE content and Beyond Skyrim: Bruma. Since I have yet to head to Bruma with this playthrough, and just because dialogue in general doesn’t seem too risky to update this late in the playthrough, I went ahead and nabbed both of these.
I tried again to fix the MCM problem, but was not successful. But because I am an SDET, and investigating weird problems in software is what I do for a living, I did a little bit of a side test.
I saved out from Harrow’s game, and using the exact same load order, launched a new game and let it run just long enough to get through the opening dialogue in the cart. That let the mods kick in and throw various messages about MCMs being activated. At which point I learned two things:
- Yes, starting a new game properly launched me an MCM for Immersive College of Winterhold
- Sounds of Skyrim launched three MCMs, since the mod I installed for that was actually a bundle of three smaller mods
So in that test, I saw a total of 12 MCMs activate. In Harrow’s playthrough, I have 8.
I even tried briefly reactivating Annas NPCs. While that did turn on an MCM for that mod, it did not wake up the MCMs for Immersive College of Winterhold and Sounds of Skyrim.
All of which tells me is that something about Harrow’s run in particular is problematic, as opposed to a problem with the mods or with my load order. I am not sure what the problem could be.
I don’t want to dig too further into it though. I’m aware that there are tools that let you clean up save files and such, but I do not have experience with them yet. And Harrow’s playthrough is far enough along that I don’t want to break anything in it. Well, break it further, perhaps.
Beginning the run through Irkngthand
Last but not least, I was in the mood to swing back to Thieves Guild stuff. So I headed out to hit Shearpoint on the way, because I still hadn’t gotten the Throw Voice Shout yet. And then it was time to hit Irkngthand!
Coming in there with two followers, the ability to summon a dremora lord, and two horses that were also inclined to help out at least on some of the fighting meant that we made short work of the bandits outside of the place. It also meant that both of the horses followed us up the fortifications. LOL.
Given that I’m going to be coming out of this place some distance away, I shall take the liberty of assuming that Inigo and Lucien get the horses down again. 😉
Noting for the record as well that neither Inigo nor Lucien followed me into Irkngthand. Good. Since your followers aren’t supposed to be able to come in there with you, it was appropriate that they were blocked from doing so.
The main new interesting thing about starting the run through Irkngthand this time was that just after I found the dead bandits, I discovered that the last one was actually still alive. Critically injured and on the way to dying, but he managed to gasp out a few lines about how “shadows don’t move like that”, and how he didn’t even see what killed his companions. Or what attacked him and shoved a blade into his side.
I had the opportunity to ask him who’d done this to his group, but he didn’t know. He was just freaked out over what had happened, and after a few lines, he did finally die.
I don’t know what mod put this conversation in, but I really liked it. Is it a critical conversation? No. But it adds an extra delightful nuance to the whole creepiness factor of how Nightingales can fight. And how Mercer, in particular, came into Irkngthand as a stealth killing machine.
Since I loves me some Nightingale sneakiness, it’s good to be reminded from NPC interactions how targets of the Nightingales would react to them. That bandit should absolutely have been freaked out.
I expect the bulk of my next session will be making it through Irkngthand! At which point I’ll acquire the Nightingale Bow.
After that, not sure yet. Finishing up Thieves Guild action is kind of fighting in my head with Dark Brotherhood for what I want to do next. And getting Dawnguard underway is nagging at me, too.
I want to get Serana on deck. Partly because I want to see how her lines differ when the player is also a vampire, and I want to see how she interacts with Inigo and Lucien.
But also, I’m getting kind of tired of the negative aspects of being a vamp–the hard nerfs to your stats during daylight hours. I could play Harrow as more nocturnal, but I don’t really want to. If nothing else just because it makes it more difficult to sell stuff, when most shops close up at 8pm.
And the Dawnguard plotline should finally hand me a reason to find out about how vampirism is cured, in character. As a player I know what to do, of course. But Harrow hasn’t heard yet. And I feel like that as soon as she knows she just needs to go talk to Falion in Morthal, she will absolutely do it.
Which also means, playing Dawnguard with her in favor of the vampires doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. I know I started this playthrough with that as a potential goal, but I just cannot see her choosing to join Clan Volkihar and becoming a vampire lord when her storyline has gone in a direction of her trying to be an ethical vampire, and curing herself as soon as possible. Joining Harkon’s clan would be the exact opposite of that development.
But we’ll see.