Elder Scrolls Online,  Gyllerah Playthrough

In Which Gyllerah Saves the Aldmeri Dominion and Quests into Coldharbour

This is a major point in Gyllerah’s playthrough, because, just shy of 200 total sessions with her, I finally hit the last big stretch of the game’s Main Quest. Which means: I finally made it into Coldharbour and began assembling an army to take on Molag Bal.

But before I did that, I also finished off the Aldmeri Dominion and the Mages Guild plots, which I found quite satisfying!

Play by play

  • Play dates: 4/27-4/30/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 195-198

Thursday the 27th

  • Did not run writs immediately because I’d blown just about all of my supply stock raising money to get that Crimson Oath shields style sheet
  • So had to start this session by running a bunch of treasure maps and survey reports
  • Boinged all over the place–and discovered two of the treasure maps were for areas I can’t get to because I don’t have the Murkmire or Southern Elsweyr DLCs
  • Fought at three dolmens and a harrowstorm while I was at it
  • Made my first visit to the Reach, since I bought that as part of the Dark Heart of Skyrim bundle 😀
  • Once I put a big enough dent in my backlogged maps and reports, finally returned to Alinor and ran my writs
  • Did a round of antiquities hunting on Artaeum
  • Boinged off to Reaper’s March and ran the Motes in the Moonlight portion of the Aldmeri Dominion quest
  • Chose Khali to bind the Dark Mane in the temple
  • (Forgot to talk to Shazah though to get the next quest, so had to plan to do that later)
  • Returned to Cliffshade and switched over to Healer build
  • Did more antiquities hunting since I leveled up to looking for Intermediate antiquities
  • Did a bit of treasure hunting on Auridon and Khenarthi’s Roost as well
  • Spent time working on my control bindings, set up a radial menu on the left trackpad for playing on the Deck

Friday the 28th

  • Ran writs
  • Did a bunch of antiquities hunting on Artaeum; raised enough money to make a little progress acquiring iridium grains
  • Finished the plotline for making Shazah the mane, which first required finding Shazah at Moonmont and picking up where I left off with that
  • Made my way across Reaper’s March to the city of Dune, which turned out to be quite large
  • Helped fight off a Daedra attack by killing assorted atronachs and shutting down some portals
  • Then accompanied Shazah on the Two Moon Path, and saw seriously grim futures if she fucked it up o.O
  • Particularly grim to see the Bosmer invoking the Wild Hunt, and the Silvenar turning into a werewolf and having to be slain by the Green Lady, yikes; and the Veiled Heritance overrunning Summerset and killing Queen Ayrenn
  • Followed Shazah to the Den of Lorkhaj, and had to fight her sister in Dark Mane form, as well as Javad Tharn
  • Khali’s spirit was freed and sent on to reunite with their dead parents
  • Took out Javad Tharn
  • Hurray, Shazah gets to be Mane! Elsweyr is saved!
  • Ayrenn alerted me she needed to talk, and she gave me word that the need to take out Molag Bal had grown stronger, and asked me to meet up with Razum-dar to make some arrangements in Skywatch
  • BUT FIRST: went to go talk to Valen in the Harborage
  • Varen showed me a projection of Mannimarco being tormented by Molag Bal
  • Then returned to the Harborage and was asked to be the new fifth companion of the Five Companions
  • Then had the conversation with the others about the ritual that will give me power to fight Molag Bal, but which will require me to choose one of the others to die, which again, yikes
  • Did not get an obvious next step to do after talking to all of them though, so diverted off to finishing up the Mages Guild plot
  • Had to visit Sheogorath’s “guest house”, the Chateau of the Ravenous Rodent, to get the last book–and take out his “Uncle Leo” who was a flesh atronach, yikes
  • Raided a bunch of containers for food items
  • Got signs though that Valaste was falling apart after working so hard on translating all the recovered books–which came to a head once we did the ritual to go to Shalidor’s island, Eyevea
  • Eyevea was overrun with Golden Saints and Dark Seducers, so Shalidor worked on busting into the Mages Guild building, while Valaste and I patrolled the island and recovered various important crystals, killing Daedra as we went
  • Valaste got progressively loopier as we did so
  • When we reported back to Shalidor and broke into the Mages Guild hall, Shalidor demanded Sheogorath retreat from the island
  • Sheo made his right hand man Haskill fight me, which did not go well for Haskill, though I didn’t actually kill him
  • Sheo gave me a choice: he bails but takes now-bonkers Valaste with him, and I get a book that would give me additional power (two skill points!), or, he cures Valaste and I forgo the book
  • I took option B, and Sheo buggered off with Haskill
  • The now-not-batshit Valaste gratefully gave me a staff
  • Shalidor cast a spell that gave me eidetic memory, which would let me remember every note and book I’ve ever read, and permanent access to Eyevea
  • Finally boinged back to Skywatch to find Raz and set up the assault on Coldharbour
  • Raz directed me to talk to Vanus Galerion; with Vanus, visited both High King Emeric and Jorunn the Skald-King, who were grudgingly willing to come to Stirk and negotiate with Ayrenn about an assault on Coldharbour
  • Initial negotiations did not go well, all three rulers stomped off in a huff
  • Molag Bal manifested and opened up some portals, sending in big nasties that I had to fight, and I had to close the portals
  • This got the leaders at least willing to all agree to send in the Fighters Guild and the Mages Guild to attack Coldharbour, so Vanus fired up a portal for us to all do that
  • But of course it went wrong, our forces did not all arrive together
  • I came in alone and found Cadwell, who burbled at me about finding the Hollow City
  • Had to call in Ezabi to unload some stuff
  • Made it over to the Hollow City after navigating my way through a somewhat confusing maze of rocky formations
  • Discovered a Groundskeeper who walked me through the apparently abandoned city and told me about its history as a city previously dedicated to Meridia, which had nearly fallen to the forces of Molag Bal, but Meridia yoinked it into Coldharbour and kept it under her protection
  • The Groundskeeper advised me to use it to set up a home base while working on rescuing important personages: the lost King of the Ayleids who’d helped defend the city, and Vanus Galerion
  • Started exploring a bit to try to find how to rescue one or the other of them
  • Got out into the wastelands around the city, and found various ingredients to harvest; this was kind of fucked up, LOL
  • Also found assorted zombies to kill
  • Stumbled into a side plot involving a couple of mages who had been experimented on and fused into one body that kept changing appearance depending on whose soul was active, a Dark Elf or a Khajiit; they asked me for help separating them
  • Ran a whole series of tasks getting ingredients for them and creating components to finally separate them; had to kill a bunch of Dwemer automations to do this
  • Chose to let Zur the Khajiit be the one who lived; he gave me a portal back to the Hollow City after that
  • Decided to call it a night at that point, and wayshrined back to Alinor for inventory management
  • Then logged out from Cliffshade for the night

Saturday the 29th

  • Ran writs
  • Ran antiquities on both Artaeum and Eyevea
  • Notied that yes, you can run writs on Eyevea without being attacked, useful; also LOLed at one of the antiquities being Sheogorath’s Madness Cube; felt like that needed to look like a Rubik’s Cube
  • Boinged back into Coldharbour and started running more main plot; picked up two simultaneous side plots
  • First one: freeing captive mages in the Library of Dusk, which had me talking to a mage projecting to me and asking me to destroy some lenses
  • Got in to free the mages from the library; they’d succumbed to a mind-altering spell, and I had to kill several dopplegangers before I found the actual mages and was able to break them out of the spell’s influence; sent them off to safety
  • Last mage rescued was Telenger the Artificer, who had a portal I had to go through to recover one of the Lights of Meridia; this put me up on a floating bit of rock high overhead
  • The Ayleid King pinged me with a projection, telling me I’d be able to jump down off the bit of rock to the others below
  • The other plot had me looking for lost members of the Fighters Guild
  • Found their abandoned camp and a pointer about the motes of light hovering in the area
  • Followed some blades pointing in specific directions
  • Came across a Bosmer, Faraniel, who told me she was a member of a tribe who’d pledged to protect the forest for Molag Bal and killed all trespassers; she’d found a dead Fighters Guild member and the other one, a Khajiit, had run off
  • Faraniel clued me in as to how to use the motes of light to disguise myself and also see her people’s Shadow Runners
  • This part was difficult, had to use bark off of spriggans to touch the motes of light, which was required to let me actually see the Shadow Runners
  • Got into a distracting fight which let the Khajiit run off to safety; went over to talk to him afterwards, and he suggested getting Faraniel to help the anti Molag Bal effort
  • Found Faraniel again squaring off with a lamia, and had to talk to them both
  • Faraniel wanted me to convince her people to bail on their agreement with Molag Bal
  • The lamia told me the Bosmer had been killing their eggs–and really not okay with that–but went ahead with recruiting Faraniel
  • She sent me off to do an honor deed to get the attention of their council of elders
  • Persuaded her that killing the lamia champion would be enough, because not pleased with the idea of killing all of them, including their eggs
  • Killed the champion, and that got me access to the council
  • Spoke with four NPCs to get pointers on how to actually persuade the council, then successfully persuaded all of them
  • They opened up access to a ruined passage for me which got me another Light of Meridia crystal, and another ping from the Ayleid King
  • Had to break him out of the Lightless Oubliette, which required me to go through several more steps to get to him
  • Had to first unlock the prison door by gathering the Flameshadow, Mindshadow, and Lifeshadow crystals, which required me to kill a boatload of atronachs, and also quite a few soul-shriven scourges that made zombie noises
  • Finally got into the prison and had to place a couple of the Lights of Meridia on sconces, then do a bunch of rotating of crystals to make a web of light to break the king out
  • He fired up a portal back to the Hollow City and we boinged back there
  • Got an objective to introduce the king to the Fighters Guild and give him an opportunity to take command of them since their leader had been killed
  • Also got a bit more interesting commentary out of the Groundskeeper about additional survivors showing up, and how these efforts would lead to an army “worthy of Meridia’s blessing”
  • She also had a line about Darien! “An exceptional fellow”
  • Which alerted me that Darien Gautier was about to reappear in Gyllerah’s narrative
  • She noted as well that Cadwell had been bringing in survivors, and, good that Cadwell was actually helping out
  • Confirmed indeed that Darien Gautier was on hand in the Fighters Guild headquarters
  • By then it was late so called a halt there
  • Wayshrined out to Alinor for inventory management
  • And parked in Cliffshade for the night

Sunday the 30th

  • Ran writs in Alinor
  • Then jumped right back into it in Coldharbour
  • Headed east out of the Hollow City to try to track down how to rescue Vanus Galerion
  • Kept finding a Khajiit with his dead mate just outside the city but couldn’t see how to trigger a plot to help him
  • Found the Court of Contempt and triggered the plot there to rescue more mages
  • This required me to destroy yet more crystals (Molag Bal’s forces do seem to love their crystals)
  • Broke a couple extra NPCs out of cages and brought them to rendezvous with the guy who gave me the quest
  • Also had to fight a boatload of dremora and scamps, as well as the main judge boss who’d captured the three mages
  • But got them safely out and returned via portal to the Hollow City
  • Then, finally, took off to rescue Vanus Galerion
  • Which required me to get into the Black Forge to find and free his essences so that they could rejoin and rebuild his body
  • Once I rescued Vanus, we then proceeded to destroy the Great Shackle that was in charge of powering the Dark Anchors
  • Finally got Vanus safely back to the Hollow City
  • The Groundskeeper then told me the major people were now on hand for a council of war but there were still other allies to rescue and asked me to make a choice
  • My choice was logging out for the night!

About treasure maps and survey reports, and also, the Reach!

I was a little surprised and disappointed to realize that some of the treasure maps I’d been accumulating were completely useless to me–because I didn’t actually have the DLCs they were located in.

I touched on this issue some already in regards to set stations for master writs, so the same commentary applies here. It’s weird to me that the master writs and treasure maps that can spawn for you can point at DLCs you don’t have, but the survey reports don’t do that.

However, I learned from Amy in the Guild that she happily accepts treasure maps that Guild members can’t use. So I chucked the two I couldn’t use at her.

That said, I did still get a lot of mileage out of the treasure maps I had that I could use! And I do find it fun hunting around looking for that stuff.

And, as part of this, I made my first foray into the Reach, since I’d bought that content as part of the Dark Heart of Skyrim bundle! As a Skyrim player, even though I’m not typically fond of Markarth per se, I still found it neat to swing by there.

As I’ve done with other parts of Skyrim implemented in ESO, I inevitably found myself looking for familiar landmarks. “Ah, yes, Left Hand Mine will be over there, and there’s the path I’d be taking if I were heading to Arkngthamz and Dushnikh Yal!” And such. 🙂

To my eyes, the Reach looks a bit more desolate in ESO than it does in Skyrim. It seemed like the vegetation was sparser, which made ESO-Reach more remind me of the Ashlands in Morrowind, really! By which I mean, the game Morrowind, not ESO Morrowind. The area was pretty monochrome overall.

Not sure if this was a question of my running ESO in High quality, vs. running Skyrim on Ultra? I may be missing a bunch of graphics I’d see on higher quality settings. Curiosity dictates I’ll need to compare what I see in the Reach on my Mac vs. when I play on the Deck.

Finishing up the Aldmeri Dominion plot

I gotta hand it to the part of this plot where Shazah and I saw visions of what was going to happen if she didn’t successfully become the Mane. The future of all three of the peoples of the Aldmeri Dominion was super grim. The Bosmer succumbed to the Wild Hunt, cumulating in the Silvenar becoming a werewolf and having to be put down by the Green Lady. And the Altmer were overrun by the Veiled Heritance, who killed Queen Ayrenn.

That latter in particular was a heaping helping of yikes. Not only for the gutpunch of seeing my own Queen killed, but also for the foreshadowing of how the Thalmor eventually overthrow the Altmeri monarchy and take over the Summerset Isles.

(When I look this up on the wiki, I don’t see an explicit tie in the lore between the Veiled Heritance and the xenophobic version of the Thalmor that shows up in the Fourth Era. But it seems pretty likely to me that the same xenophobic tendencies in Altmer society that drove the founding of the Veiled Heritance manifested again later in the Thalmor. Because enough of the Altmer NPCs I’ve seen in ESO are racist in some way that those tendencies are clearly pretty widespread across their society, and that kind of shit doesn’t stay buried forever. Plus, the wiki does make it pretty clear that the Thalmor as a faction in general trended towards xenophobia through the Second Aldmeri Dominion and straight into the Third.)

And entirely unsurprisingly, once I went with Shazah to the Den of Lorkhaj, I had to fight her sister in Dark Mane form. Because of course I did.

Plus, I had to kill Javad Tharn. Said it before and I’ll say it again: what is it with the entire House of Tharn being imperialistic assholes? And trying to take over Elsweyr in particular? Javad was gunning for Elsweyr via subverting the Mane, and I’m given to understand there’s at least one more Tharn also trying to take over the province in Northern Elsweyr’s zone plot.

Here, too, is a place where I feel like I maybe shouldn’t have been the one to take out the primary antagonist. Shazah striking the final blow against Tharn would have had some good narrative weight, and would have helped her avenge her sister.

Other than that, though, I found the finale of this plotline very strong. And Shazah and I saved Elsweyr, and she got to become the Mane!

And finally, back to the Main Quest, round one

Tail end of the Aldmeri Dominion gave me a hook back into the Main Quest, finally, as Queen Ayrenn pulled me aside at the Mane’s ascension ceremony for a word. She wanted to send me off to Skywatch to rendezvous with Razum-dar, and make arrangements to step up the game on going after Molag Bal.

But before I enacted my Queen’s wishes, I went back to the Harborage to check in with Varen and the Companions. And first up, Varen showed me some of what was happening to Mannimarco in Coldharbour, i.e., he was getting tortured by Molag Bal.

I did not know this was coming, again, well done past me on not reading in too much depth in advance on the wiki. So there was a fair degree of yikes here, both for me as a player and me as a character.

But I think Gyllerah had less yikes than I did. I don’t think she took any pleasure in the sight of Mannimarco being tortured. But I also don’t think she had any sympathy for him. He was, after all, the guy in charge of the Worm Cult, and who explicitly killed her.

So I think Gyllerah was mostly on Team Let The Motherfucker Fry, here.

Varen and the others asked me to be the replacement for Mannimarco in the Five Companions. Aww. I like you guys too. Well, most of you. Yes, I’m looking at you, Tharn.

Got in some really sweet little exchanges with Lyris, who swapped commentary with me about what we hoped to do once we made it through all of this. Lyris cracked jokes about “pushing out a few whelps”. And also asked me if I liked mead. I figure at this point, especially after running most of the Western Skyrim plot with her, the only correct answer was “duh, of course” and to drink with her. 😉

After that, I got to a plot point I had known was coming: learning that I was going to have to choose one of them to die, in order to let Abnur Tharn do the ritual necessary to stop Molag Bal.

And even though I knew about this one, still, it had a pretty decent dramatic punch.

Of course, I had to kind of LOL that Tharn explicitly excluded himself from being chosen on the grounds that he’ll be the one casting the ritual. And of course, Sai, Lyris, and Varen all wanted me to pick them.

I’ve already chosen Varen for this; this is not a tough choice. Under no circumstances was I going to off Lyris, I like her too much, particularly after firing up the Western Skyrim plot. And I’m not going to stand in the way of budding romance by offing Sai Sahan, either.

Which leaves Varen. And honestly, it was this guy’s hubris that got all of Tamriel into this mess to begin with, so sorry, Prophet. You’re going to have to die.

Later, after I finish up a bunch more other plots.

Finishing up the Mages Guild plot

This was good solid fun. I’d already appreciated the earlier Southpoint plot where Sheogorath got to up his mad, mad game and be an active threat, and that was in play here too as well.

Having to quest through Sheogorath’s so-called “guest house” was only the opening act of this stage of the plot, though it was certainly an entertaining one. I raided a bunch of containers all throughout this part. Which, perhaps, was not a good idea lore-wise; I can see a strong argument for it being foolish to steal food out of a realm controlled by the Daedric Prince of Madness.

But fuck it, I wanted the ingredients for recipes. 😉

The real meat of this part of the plot, though, was focused dead center on Valaste. The plot had been setting her up up until now as having been fairly miserable all her life, and as I played out the rest of the action, I saw signs she was actively falling apart. By Sheogorath’s design, too–because he dropped gleeful commentary at me about making sure that Valaste read that last book really closely. He was clearly working to actively drive her bonkers and claim her as one of his own.

And when Valaste’s mind fell over, it fell over hard. She went right over the edge once she translated the last book, and got progressively loopier as she and I patrolled Eyevea.

But here’s the part of this that interests me from a character arc perspective: how much of this was Sheogorath actively pushing her into madness, and how much of it was her having been already primed for it due to the events of her life?

Once we actually broke into the Guild’s hall on Eyevea and did the final confrontation with Sheogorath, Valaste was bubbling bonkers effervescence. She chirped on the way in about how she could “hear Uncle Sheo”. And when Sheogorath dropped his final ultimatum at me about choosing whether to send Valaste on to the Shivering Isles, she squealed in girlish delight about getting to go with him.

And to be honest, I was not entirely unsympathetic to the idea of Valaste embracing the idea of going with Sheo to the Shivering Isles. She seemed actively happy about the idea, particularly the part involving seeing all the butterflies.

On the other hand, at this point she was also batshit crazy, so I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of her making a call on this herself.

Nor was I entirely comfortable with the idea of accepting power from Sheogorath at the cost of somebody else’s mind breaking. So I told him to restore Valaste’s sanity, and declined to take the offered book.

Result: Valaste was relieved I helped her get her mind back under control, and gave me a staff. (But then proceeded to stand just outside the Mages Guild and not do anything else in all subsequent times I visited Eyevea, so not entirely sure I made the right decision here!)

And Shalidor granted me eidetic memory, which lets me remember each and every item I read throughout the game. Not sure entirely how useful this is, given that I can always look stuff up on the wiki.

But he also gave me permanent access to Eyevea, and that is kind of neat. It gives me a second place to scour for antiquities, as well as access to a couple of set stations and several fishing spots.

Onward, then, back into the Main Quest!

Main Quest, round two

With the Mages Guild squared away, I finally followed up on Ayrenn’s directive to go find Razum-dar in Skywatch.

Which led into some more stuff I did not know about in advance: namely, rallying the three alliances into a joint assault on Coldharbour. Well… I knew in general something of this nature was going to happen, but I didn’t know the specifics. And I didn’t know that this was going to lead into a lot more mileage that didn’t involve the Five Companions in any way, shape, or form.

I was legit surprised to not see any of them involved in the negotiations on Stirk. Now, in Varen’s case that’s kind of a no-brainer; he’s been clearly keeping himself in hiding on purpose. Because again: his hubris was responsible for this entire mess to begin with. But given that Lyris was my primary gateway into running the Western Skyrim plot, it felt very strange to me to be running into Jorunn the Skald-King and not have Lyris on hand.

For that matter, it felt weird to me that Jorunn didn’t show any sign of having met me before. But I suspect that I’m playing things out of chronological order here, which is as I’ve said way too easy to do on this game.

One other thing I’ll note about Jorunn: something about his voiced lines during the negotiations between the rulers struck my ear oddly. He didn’t sound the same to me as he did in the scenes I played with him in Western Skyrim. The wiki says he has just the one voice actor, so I suppose I can chalk this up to a question of the Main Quest lines for Jorunn being recorded at a much earlier point than the ones for Western Skyrim!

I knew already that the game was nine years old as of this year, having dropped originally in 2014. From what I see on the wiki, the Western Skyrim content dropped in 2020. So that’s a six-year difference between Jorunn’s Main Quest lines and his Western Skyrim ones. Certainly a long enough span of time during which the actor got gruffer and older-sounding in his delivery.

But really, this was just an observation, not an objection!

And aside from that little observation, this part of the plot was definitely dramatic. I liked the three rulers coming together in highly tense negotiations, comparable to the peace conference at High Hrothgar in Skyrim, and with every bit the same level of hostility between the factions. Only here, the motivator to assemble was Molag Bal fucking the world up, rather than Alduin and the dragons.

Only in this game, the negotiations were a lot more volatile, and made more so by the arrival of Molag Bal himself, or at least a projection of him, showing up to cause havoc and open portals to give his minions access to the entire encampment.

All hell broke loose. I had to kill assorted nasties and close the portals, and that finally got all three rulers willing to agree to send in the Fighters Guild and the Mages Guild. (Which was the main reason I wanted to get both Guilds’ plotlines finished up before getting to this point!)

And with the Guilds finally given leave to head into Coldharbour, Vanus Galerion tried to fire up a portal to get us all in there…

Back into Coldharbour

… and of course it went wrong. I wound up there all by myself, with no sign of any of the other forces around me. I did find Cadwell, which struck me as noteworthy given the last time I’d seen him, he was in the Harborage with the Companions.

I had to call in Ezabi to unload some stuff–and immediately de-summoned her afterwards, just because calling Banker Kitty into Coldharbour seemed rather mean to Banker Kitty! (And I find it kind of hilarious that Ezabi is willing to port into Coldharbour but not willing to enter Cyrodiil. LOLOL.)

And my spottyboi doggo kept following me loyally even in Coldharbour, too. What a good doggo. <3

It didn’t take long for me to find the Hollow City, where I met the Groundskeeper. And I do know who she actually is: i.e., Meridia! But Gyllerah didn’t know this yet as of this session, so she came in rather wary but willing enough to try to get a foothold in the one semi-safe place available to her in this hell dimension.

This was the point at which I also went “holy crap I have a whole extra zone’s worth of quests to do before I finish up this plot line?” Because I’d somehow missed that yes, Coldharbour was going to throw all this extra mileage at me before I finally circled back around to dealing with the finale of the story.

The Groundskeeper handed me both the backstory of the Hollow City and my two primary objectives: rescuing the lost King of the Ayleids, and rescuing Vanus Galerion. So I went out into the surrounding wastelands to try to figure out how to pull this off.

Which put me in a position to start harvesting ingredients as I would wandering around any other place in the game, too. I found this kind of amusing in a fucked-up way, and I think Gyllerah felt the same. This was a weird little spot of familiarity against a background of hellish danger.

Similarly, I find kind of hilarious that reaching this part of the Main Quest meant I could wayshrine into and out of Coldharbour. It seems to me getting into and out of Molag Bal’s realm of Oblivion should not be that easy! But of course, as the Vestige, I get travel privileges NPCs don’t, so!

(That said? I did see the entire Main Quest, as well as the Fighters Guild one, having people opening portals into Coldharbour right and left. So apparently it’s easier than you’d expect for NPCs to get into and out of the realm, too.)

And this also set me up to start working my way through this zone’s side plots.

The Soul-Meld Mage quest

I liked this one, with the core idea being a couple of mages being the subject of an experiment that fused them together into a shared body. Their body kept changing appearance based on whose soul was the “active” one, the Dark Elf Gadris or the Khajiit Zur.

They asked me for help getting them separated, which required me to find them a bunch of components to set up an appropriate ritual.

I chose Zur to be the survivor, though I was a little regretful about Gadris having to give him his existence. I liked both characters, and liked that they were trying to work together as best they could. The situation they’d been forced into seemed dire enough that it was a wonder they’d retained any sanity between them at all.

The Library of Dusk quest

This one was also pretty good. I liked the overall idea of the trapped mages succumbing to mind-controlling spells, and my having to get in there and break them out of it.

Into the Woods quest

I picked up this one in parallel to the Library of Dusk one, and this one was a larger deal, as it tied more directly into the overall Army of Meridia arc in which I had to recruit allies and survivors into the city to turn it into a base.

This is, however, one of those plots I wanted to like more than I did.

I did like the overall idea of the Bosmer tribe forced into serving Molag Bal and killing all trespassers in their forest. But I was not a fan of how difficult it was to actually do the part involving following a Shadow Runner to where I needed to get to. This took me at least ten or twelve tries, because I kept getting interrupted by attacks from local hostiles. And the timer on the motes disguising me kept running out as well, requiring me to have to go find another one and start over.

After much effort, I finally hit on the right strategy combo of a) triggering the disguise aspects of the mote, b) staying in Sneak, and c) sprinting to follow the Shadow Runner as fast as I could, so I could elude any other hostiles and keep up with the guy as he led me to where I needed to go. But wow, was it annoying to take so long to get there.

And here’s the other part of this plot that bothered me: when I got to the point of having to choose which side I had to ask for help, the Bosmer or the lamias, the lamia NPC told me the Bosmer tribe had been actively killing her people’s eggs.

Now, I liked Faraniel and wanted to help her tribe. But the idea that her tribe had been actively killing the lamias’ children bugged me. Not quite enough to decide to recruit the lamias instead… but definitely enough to give me pause, and enough to make me persuade my way out of killing all the remaining lamias as well. That would not have been a fair fight. I got Faraniel to agree to my just killing their champion.

And I did at least like the part where I had to talk with a few NPCs to get pointers about how to make my case to the council of elders. That was interesting conversation all around.

Light From the Darkness quest

The Bosmer quest led me straight into rescuing the Ayleid King, finally. And there was a lot of puzzle-solving to be had here, which was kind of cool. Plus, it gave me a reason to use some more of these Lights of Meridia crystals I’d been collecting.

But I had to fight a bunch of atronachs as well as soul-shriven basically acting like zombies. I don’t think Gyllerah was very happy about having to kill other soul-shriven; she probably had a lot of visceral “that could have been me” reactions every time she had to kill one.

Rescuing the Ayleid King and getting him safely back to the Hollow City led me to getting more interesting commentary out of the Groundskeeper. Not only did she drop some commentary about building an army “worthy of Meridia’s blessing”, but also dropped a remark about “the knight, Darien. An exceptional fellow.” (And, LOL, this of course is a big stone hint about the Groundskeeper’s true identity, since she seems awfully interested in that one specific knight.)

At which point I went holy crap Darien?

Because lo and behold, I found when I went into the Fighters Guild building that yep, Darien Gautier was right there.

That had to stopped Gyllerah cold. I can see her wrestling back an involuntary cry, and then getting herself quickly under control as she realizes that a) Darien is wearing unfamiliar Breton armor, and clearly had not yet committed to being Meridia’s knight yet, and b) he also clearly has no idea who she is.

So yeah, hard oh… right on Gyllerah’s part there before she made herself get back to business.

But I can also definitely see her going out of her way to make damn sure Darien survives the coming fight.

Hall of Judgment quest

Last up in this post, another Coldharbour side quest, this time rescuing yet more captive mages. This bunch had fallen into the clutches of the Court of Contempt, and getting them out was a fairly straightforward “destroy some crystals, bring down some magical barriers, and kill the big bad” kind of plot.

Which meant yet more allies to return to the Hollow City!

Vanus Unleashed and Breaking the Shackle quests

Last but not least, I also had to rescue Vanus Galerion, the Guildmaster of the Mages Guild. I’d already had a bit of interaction with him, even before accompanying him to arrange the negotiations on Stirk. But this part of the plot line had me dealing with him a lot more directly.

I’d had the impression of him before, and had it underscored again here, that wow he’s full of himself. Not quite to the point of being an active asshole about it, but he sure as hell doesn’t hesitate to sound off about his own greatness.

But I’ll say this for him. Splitting his own body up into three essences (representing his Magicka, Stamina, and Health) to keep Molag Bal from fully using him to power the Dark Anchors was an impressive power move. And it seems appropriate for the guy who’s supposed to be one of the most powerful mages who ever lived! Certainly I haven’t seen anything to rival this stunt out of the powerful mages in Skyrim.

Also, Vanus does appear to at least periodically remember that rewarding someone for their efforts is a good idea. 😉 And he had the wisdom to realize he was being stupid when he thought he could take on Molag Bal all by himself. So he’s not entirely self-centered! He did give me a spare staff as a reward for freeing him. Gee, thanks, Vanus, but I’ve got a few of those myself.

Once I got him back to the Hollow City, I had another little interesting chat with the Groundskeeper, who dropped another hint about her true identity as she spoke of sensing others out in the darkness that needed rescuing–and asked me to choose whether to go and rescue them, or to allow the council of war to proceed now that the major players were back safe. She also spoke of recruiting an army “worthy of Meridia’s blessing”.

Gosh, you’d think she has direct personal knowledge of what’s worthy of that! 😉

Next time

Way behind on doing Gyllerah posts, so the next one’s going to have a bunch of days covered in it, to get me caught up. Main action: more Coldharbour side quests, and then finally finishing off the Western Skyrim plotline!


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.