Elessir Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Elessir Becomes Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold

Swinging back around to Skyrim, and Elessir’s run in particular. Main action here: finishing up getting instruments for the Bards College; investigating what happened to the family in Frostflow Lighthouse; claiming Goldenhills Plantation; and doing a hard push through the rest of the College of Winterhold plot, running Mzulft and Labyrinthian, and then returning to the college for the finale.

Play by play

  • Play dates: 9/10, 9/13/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 15-16

Sunday the 10th

  • Started off in Lakeview
  • Boinged from there to Whiterun to sell stuff, then rode out with intent to head for Hob’s Fall Cave
  • Got surprise Blood Dragon on the road right by Pelagia Farm
  • Saw Alfhild Battle-Born draw a knife and yell YOU’RE MINE and a guard draw a bow, and then the dragon dropped right down out of the sky into the middle of the road
  • Team Dragonborn got in on the fight, and we all took out the dragon!
  • Didn’t see where Alfhild went though
  • Left some stuff in the chest at Tundra Homestead’s forge, need to remember to check that
  • Headed north from there, and fought and killed assorted critters
  • Got turned around a bit at the crossroads just west-ish of Heljarchen
  • Marked Shrouded Grove for the map, where I saw a couple of wolves, but did not head in there
  • Instead, got back on the road and headed for Wayward Pass; got through there and fought more wolves
  • Spotted large white wolf pack again, and this time they were fighting regular wolves!
  • Got a couple of white wolf pelts as a result, though we didn’t engage the main pack, and I saw that the white wolf pelts were more valuable than regular wolf pelts
  • Headed from there towards Hob’s Fall Cave
  • Took out a snow bear en route and also a cave bear
  • And a female sabre cat; spotted babies near her, too, sorry babies
  • Finally made it to Hob’s Fall Cave and headed in to run the place
  • Got the stash of spellbooks halfway through, and the Stone of Barenziah
  • Cleared the boss chamber, got the flute, and got out
  • Rode back towards Wayward Pass from there, intending to head to Stony Creek
  • Went past those white wolves again but did not engage
  • Spotted an ice mage vs. fire mage fight though
  • Got a little out of my way and wound up at Frostflow Lighthouse, so ran that again since it’s been a while since I last did that
  • Had to stay the hell out of the way of chaurus a bunch and I was down on healing potions
  • Actually ran out of arrows, that doesn’t happen often :O
  • So had to punt to throwing a bunch of flame atronach and also lightning
  • Only a few Falmer but we took them out
  • Got a trifle concerned when Lucien and Lydia vanished, but finally took out the last chaurus reaper and got the hell out, and noted with relief that Lydia and Lucien were both okay
  • Took the remains of Habd up to the lighthouse as per his final wishes, and got the Sailor’s Repose ability
  • Went back through Wayward Pass and found dead treasure hunter with a note pointing towards Bruca’s Leap Redoubt
  • Decided to see if I could go ahead and clear the Seducer bandit camp near Yorgrim Overlook
  • Answer: yes, but it took me two tries to do so
  • Got all the Seducer armor and the Demented Elytra
  • Got the note about the treasure in Crystaldrift Cave
  • Finally got back on the road again and headed to Stony Creek
  • Gathered 20 jazbay because I could and because it’s easier to do with Convenient Horses
  • Killed assorted critters
  • Hit the silver vein not far from Mzulft’s stairs
  • Finally reached Stony Creek
  • Set up a camp there and worked on improving Camping perks
  • Burned through a bunch of deadwood since I had 14 units of it and that stuff is heavy
  • Slept in the tent then got up the next morning to run the cave
  • Sent the Elytra Nymph off to wait for me at Myrwatch
  • Lucien started throwing lines about sensing something powerful and chaotic in the place
  • Made enough noise in the long twisty passage killing bandits that the one in the side room came out to attack us, and that wound up triggering the gas build up, ouch
  • But we took that guy out, and I cleared the side room to get the Stone of Barenziah as well as the lute
  • Headed back to the back chamber and took out the bandits back there
  • Got Ruin’s Edge and also mined the two moonstone veins in there
  • Came back out again, broke camp, and mounted up
  • Boinged to Solitude and sold a bunch of stuff
  • Checked in at the Bards College and got the instruments back to Pantea and Inge
  • Then came back out again and found Giraud at the Winking Skeever; gave him back the drum
  • Chatted a bit extra with him and told him what had happened at Dead Men’s Respite
  • Boinged back to Lakeview and got courier with letter from Tyra Blood-Fire
  • Let Lydia and Lucien stand down for a while
  • Built an enchanter table, and also started on the Storage Wing
  • Slept some and then got up in the morning to train Lucien and chat with him some more
  • Paused there until next time
  • Level ups note: forgot to note last few level ups, ended this session at level 33

Wednesday the 13th

  • Started at Lakeview, and got Lydia on duty along with Lucien
  • Rode out sorta the long way to get to Swindler’s Den and get that book for Rustleif
  • Passed Thalmor on the way but not in their vicinity long enough to piss them off
  • Swindler’s Den had respawned so took out all the bandits between us and the book, then got out again
  • Rode from there over towards Goldenhills to run the plot to get that
  • En route, passed a giant fighting with a couple of sabre cats
  • Stayed the hell out of the way of the giant, then looted the sabre cats and the nearby dead skeever
  • Ran the Goldenhills plot as per usual
  • The wolves didn’t come immediately at us by the well, just because Realistic Animals and Predators was in effect, but they did finally come at us once I mined the nearby iron vein
  • There was a sabre cat as well, so we took that out
  • Took custody of the farm
  • Planted some stuff, and confirmed that the objective to plant crops does in fact let you plant ingredients
  • From there, boinged to Dawnstar to drop off the book
  • Heard Seren raising the possibility of their moving to Hammerfell with Rustleif, because she’s worried about the war
  • Gave him the book and got the Smithing bump
  • Boinged to Myrwatch and dropped off Halldir’s Staff and a bunch of books
  • Boinged to Lakeview and dropped off ingredients and smithing supplies
  • Boinged to Hendraheim and left the Torchbug in a Jar there
  • Boinged to Whiterun to sell stuff
  • Doublechecked the Hall of the Dead: oh good, Alfhild Battle-Born wasn’t killed by that dragon (And I did in fact see Alfhild out in the city shortly thereafter)
  • From Whiterun, rode eastward to get to Mzulft
  • Got a dragon right by Honningbrew, and Farkas of the Companions was going by, so he actually got in on the fight! Way to go Farks!
  • Cranky fire-flinging Imperial at the spawn point near White River Watch
  • She was wearing mostly ebony armor so grabbed that for outfitting of future housecarls, most likely
  • Camped out for the night just shy of Valtheim Towers, near the Ritual Stone
  • In the morning, wolves attacked right by Valtheim Towers, and the toll bandit was all SOMEBODY HELP, so we killed the wolves
  • The bandit then tried to hit us up for the toll, and I took the Intimidate option, because Elessir was NOT amused by this woman having the gall to hit us up for 200 gold after we killed the wolves for her 😛
  • She accepted the “we pay you nothing and i don’t kill you” option; smart move, bandit plunderer
  • Considered heading up to Hillgrund’s Tomb to recruit Golldir for the farm, but decided against it, in the mood to get somebody else on duty there for this playthrough
  • Ran into random ice mage on the way into Eastmarch’s tundra; took him out and took his stuff
  • Took road route that led us through Darkwater Crossing
  • Saw some Stormcloaks wandering around but they didn’t get hostile at us
  • Tried talking to a couple of the NPCs but nobody had any interesting quest prompts
  • Marked the Atronach Stone for the map
  • Rode onward from there towards Mzulft
  • Cleared the storehouse and got the first of the aetherium shards, then ran Mzulft
  • Killed once partway through by Falmer, and then killed once again by the large group of Falmer in the room just before the centurion; otherwise got through okay
  • Skipped some of the side rooms with chaurus in them since i was running pretty heavy on the inventory
  • Got the focus stone off that last group of Falmer
  • Took down the centurion and cleared that room of its key and other treasure
  • Made it to the oculory and confronted Paratus
  • Had some trouble remembering how the hell to focus the damn mechanism, i always have to look that part up
  • Got him to spill the beans about where the Staff of Magnus is
  • Got the vision from Nerien on the way out
  • Pretty sure somewhere in Mzulft is where I leveled up to 34; took Magicka bump and Ebony Smithing perk
  • Fast traveled back to the college
  • Played through breaking through Ancano’s shielding, everything go boom, OHNOEZ THE ARCH-MAGE IS DEAD
  • Ran down to help Winterhold with the magic anomalies
  • Ran back up to report to Mirabelle; she gave me the torc and Savos’ amulet, and I headed out to prep for Labyrinthian
  • Got a couple more anomalies on the way out
  • Accidentally hit a guard with Dawnbreaker though and got a bounty; rolled back from that to coming out of the Hall of the Elements after talking to Mirabelle ;P
  • Boinged to Myrwatch first, thinking I’d set out from there, but realized I’d rather stash all my ingredients and building mats at Lakeview; did leave some books at Myrwatch though
  • Boinged to Lakeview
  • Retrieved a bunch of things off the horse and stashed most of the building mats
  • Smelted my ebony ore, and used that and the two ingots I had to improve my ebony sword and the two pieces of ebony mage gear I had
  • Dropped off ingredients in the ingredients barrel
  • Put enchantments on some gear to prep for heavy duty mage running
  • Put on the purple conjuration robe I’d picked up, the ebony mage boots and gloves, and the black cowl I got off the ice mage; also confirmed I can in fact enchant earrings
  • Slapped a frost enchantment on the ebony mage boots and magicka regen on the gloves, too, and magicka regen on the cowl
  • All this enchanting kicked me up to level 35; took Stamina bump and Summoner perk in Conjuration
  • Boinged to Whiterun to sell more stuff to help whittle down the carry load
  • Then rode from there towards Labyrinthian; cut a path about halfway between Silent Moons Camp and Bleakwind Basin
  • Dragon landed right on top of us near a grove of trees! Regular dragon, reasonably quick kill
  • The fight alerted the bandits over at Silent Moons Camp, since their dots activated on the HUD, but they didn’t come over to fight with us
  • Also wasn’t close enough to piss off the giants or the mammoths
  • Proceeded from there to find and clear Greenspring Hollow
  • Rode past Drelas’ Cottage next; hung out there for a few minutes to see if I could trigger anything that might make Drelas run out
  • Got a frost dragon! May or may not have been the Eldersblood Peak dragon? Took it out, no sign of Drelas though
  • Also took out a nearby sabre cat
  • Wandered around a bit until I got a good path to Labyrinthian
  • Fought a couple of frost trolls on the way in as you do
  • Parked Hildr and then headed in to run the place
  • Did not get Telekinesis spell off the table in the first room, dang! Got Paralysis Rune instead, which I already knew
  • Killed once by the skeletal dragon; second time through, threw my flame atronach in there a few times just to thin out the crowd of skeletons, and succeeded in taking out the dragon
  • Had a little trouble getting Lydia past the gate once I opened it, it kept closing before she could come through, until I got positioned well enough to get her to immediately follow me
  • Threw Unbounded Flames down onto a couple of draugr further down in the long spiraling path, just to see how that spell worked; answer: pretty damn well actually
  • Got the Equilibrium spell as per usual in the side room with the dead conjurer and the alchemy lab
  • The hallway with the spellcaster traps of doom was already disrupted for the most part, so I went through there on the first try
  • Got overloaded from grabbing things
  • Made it to the Slow Time Word Wall and got that Shout unlocked
  • Nabbed the three ebony ingots
  • Finally made it to Morokei, and Lydia and Lucien did a lot of the work here; I parked on some of the higher levels of the chamber and sniped at Morokei when I could get a bead on him
  • Finally took him out and got the Staff of Magnus and his mask
  • Nabbed boss chest loot and extra chest loot on the way out
  • Actually killed once by Estormo! He got me with lightning
  • Second time through I let Lydia, Lucien, and flame atronach take him out for me, then got the hell out of Labyrinthian
  • Frost troll outside so sniped it from the ledge, then threw Become Ethereal so I could jump down
  • Whistled to get Hildr over, and put a lot of stuff on the horse to get unburdened
  • Fast traveled to Winterhold
  • Showed up on the bridge and Tolfdir unfortunately blocked the way with a frost atronach, dang^2
  • Tried to get around it and fell off the damn bridge, ouch
  • Thrown back to getting on Hildr back at Labyrinthian
  • Take two! This time made it up to Tolfdir and initiated the charge to get back into the college
  • Killed a couple times by Ancano and/or magic anomalies, because I ran out of healing potions and soul gems to recharge the staff
  • Worked out the correct timing to start actually attacking the Eye, and finally took out Ancano
  • Cue the Psijics showing up to take the Eye, and Lucien boggling that they actually made me Arch-Mage XD
  • Took custody of the Arch-Mage’s quarters and robes
  • Saved there until next time


Frostflow Lighthouse is not a dungeon I run all that often in my Skyrim runs, but since I stumbled across it kind of by accident this time, I decided to go ahead and give it another shot. And it was a stiff dungeon to run! Lucien and Lydia both had trouble following me in, which meant that at the end of it, it was just me and my flame atronach against the chaurus. And I ran out of healing potions and arrows.

I don’t think I’ve ever run out of arrows before! Clearly I need to stock Elessir up on more arrows!

Meanwhile, I continue to love that Lucien comments on everything. He was fascinated by our finding an elytra of a different color, and also by the note about the treasure in Crystaldrift Cave. Boy’s got a nice healthy mix of scholarly interest and interest in treasure. ;D

He had commentary about Ruin’s Edge, too, which I am not sure I remember him doing when I had him following Harrow? I noticed him commenting on how he sensed a source of power as we were heading into Stony Creek Cave–which certainly speaks to his general magical abilities! And he suspected it was chaotic and dangerous, and therefore probably something we shouldn’t allow to be in the wrong hands.

Later on, back at Lakeview, he had interesting things to say about the bow as well. All in all I continue to appreciate the work Lucien’s creator put into him. <3

Speaking of NPC commentary, I was surprised and pleased when I took a few extra moments to chat with Giraud after giving him Rjorn’s Drum. I wound up telling him what happened in Dead Men’s Respite, and he was blown away by this. He even told me I should absolutely write that down for the Poetic Edda! Ha! Excellent bard reaction there.

Not to be outdone by other chatty NPCs, Lydia, who has a bunch more lines in this load order than she does in unmodded Skyrim, threw me this line at Lakeview:

If you’re leaving town, I wouldn’t mind coming with for a while.

LOLOLOL. Somebody is bored with being a steward, clearly. Even though she actively volunteered for it.

Well, since you asked so nicely… ;D

I was also surprised and pleased to discover that once you get Goldenhills Plantation and unlock the objective to plant crops, that doesn’t mean the crops specifically have to be food. You can also plant alchemical ingredients. I like that, it means that if you wanted, you could plant the whole damn farm to be an alchemy supply farm. That might actually be beneficial for Rorikstead’s economy if all the other nearby farms are planting food crops!

Prepping to gear up in mage gear for Labyrinthian let me confirm that I could in fact enchant earrings. Mind you, I’m not sure I like the look of them on Elessir. But I went with them for the magicka regen enchantment anyway, and the cowl hid them regardless.

I do kind of wish you could make other styles of earrings, though! I think a smaller gold earring style on him would look good. (And a quick check of Nexus suggests that there are other mods I could look into about this. For future playthroughs, though, not this one.)

Lucien got in yet more amusing commentary while I was doing my enchanting run at Lakeview. He chirped out something about “You’re enchanting!” And then backpedaled hard as he tried to explain that he hadn’t meant it like that, LOLOL. I think Elessir looked up archly from the enchanter table, threw him a devilish grin, and drawled, “You sure you aren’t trying to flirt with me?”

Running Labyrinthian this time, I tried out the Unbounded Flames spell, since I had open space enough to cast that without impacting Lucien or Lydia. That worked spectacularly well. Fried a draugr with that. I just need to be really certain I can cast it without any friendly NPCs in the way.

I was vaguely stunned that the Hallway of Spellcaster Trap Doom, where I have been fried on many a prior Labyrinthian run, was already disrupted. The three soul gems in the back were already out of place, so the traps weren’t firing, and I easily dislodged the other two. I think maybe the traps got disrupted by a draugr throwing a Shout? Because I did hear that just before I reached that spot.

And, LOL, I forgot I wasn’t running Cloaks of Skyrim in this run. So I was briefly surprised Morokei didn’t drop a cloak. I think what this tells me is, I do need Cloaks back in my rotation!

When I made it back to the College for the final fight with Ancano, I had to do it a few times before I finally worked out the timing of when to actually hit the Eye with the Staff. I have got to remember to hold on throwing the staff attack until Tolfdir actually yells for me to do so. This’ll help me save charge on the Staff, and ideally make it less likely that Ancano will have time to call more anomalies. And hopefully, that anybody else with me will help me kill him.

And Lucien being absolutely flabbergasted that the player gets made Arch-Mage still makes me LOL.

Favorite Lucien lines

When we cleared the Seducer bandit camp:

Ooh, a journal. Love a good journal, they’re always full of clues. Step one of being a bandit leader – write down your evil plan. Never fails.

And speaking of bandits, I daresay Lucien’s been training up his skill in the fine art of sarcasm:

Svarig, indeed? Sounds like someone we need to chat to. I’m sure they’ll be entirely reasonable and non-violent with us.

Warning about sensing a powerful thing inside Stony Creek Cave:

Whatever it is I can sense in this cave, we can’t let these bandits keep it. There’s no knowing what they might use it for!

While we’re shopping in Solitude:

Oh, I’ve heard about this place – the famous Solitude Fletcher that sells all those fancy crossbows. My mother would have a ball in here.

Observations on Ruin’s Edge, once we’re safely back at Lakeview (and note spelling of recognise, clearly UK English spellings are in effect here, not surprising given that Lucien’s creator is British). This also raises interesting questions about how, exactly, Lucien found out that the Champion of Cyrodiil got this bow:

Do you know, if I’m not mistaken, I actually think I might recognise that bow. It’s hard to say for absolute certain, but I’m fairly confident that what you have there is Ruin’s Edge. It’s from the Shivering Isles. Used to belong to Syl, Duchess of Dementia, until she gave it to the Champion of Cyrodiil as a reward for some favor or other. It’s supposed to have quite the enchantment. It can paralyze you, silence you, demoralize you or even drive you mad. Should come in handy, but… do be careful where you point it, won’t you?

While teaching him how to cast Strangulation:

You do teach me friendly-sounding spells, don’t you?

When we were going through Mzulft:

I wonder how different the world would be if the Dwemer were still around.

And it’s worth noting here that Lydia also threw a line on this very same idea (note small d on dwemer here, that’s how it showed up in the subtitle):

I often wonder where we’d be if the dwemer were still around.

I am now headcanoning that they actually said these lines pretty much at the same time! And Lucien and Elessir both blinked and looked twice at Lyds, who replied, “What? Just because I’m a housecarl and good at fighting doesn’t mean I don’t think about things.”

More from Lucien on Dwemer ruins, and his ancestor Octavius:

Octavius wrote a lot about his experiences with Dwemer ruins. They almost killed him. Many, many times.

Lucien on Ancano, and he does have a point:

I knew we couldn’t trust that Ancano. I mean, could anything about him shout “Clearly Evil” any louder?

After we take out the magic anomalies in Winterhold:

Team Lucien one, Team Magical Glowy Wyrm Things, zero.

Lucien really does need to work on his phrasing when he’s not trying to flirt:

Gosh, you’re enchanting. No, I mean… that’s literally what you’re doing. Not that you’re not enchanting, but I meant to say… that is… ahem. Never mind.

I noted this line in Harrow’s run when I ran Labyrinthian, but noting this again here because LOL, Lucien does have some level of genre savviness:

Keep an eye out for the Staff. It’ll either be on a plinth, or wielded by an ancient undead sorcerer-lord. Fingers crossed for the plinth.

Lucien has OPINIONS on Labyrinthian:

This place is great! Undead dragons, ghostly wizards and a big scary Magicka-draining voice. What could be more fun?

Continuing to demonstrate his genre savviness, the deeper we get into Labyrinthian:

I have a horrible feeling we’re leaning distinctly away from the plinth option here.

And he also has opinions on the Thalmor, after we take out Estormo:

Gods, the Thalmor just don’t give up, do they? Now I’m even more desperate to give Ancano a piece of my mind.

I think this resulted in the following exchange:

Lydia: “Me, I want to give him a piece of my sword. And by give, I mean, stab him with it.”

Elessir: “I hate to break it to you, Lucien, but she’s right. Stopping Ancano’s going to require a bit more than harsh language.”

Lucien, ruefully: “Well, I try to be non-violent if I have the option. We, uh, aren’t going to have the option here, then?”

Lydia and Elessir both shake their heads.

Lucien: “All right then. Maybe I should break out that delightfully friendly-sounding Strangulation spell?”

And last but not least, Lucien’s delightful rant about why the hell the player gets made Arch-Mage at the end of this plot:

But… but… I mean, with the greatest of respect… that’s insane! How long have we been members of the College? What qualifications do you have? Divines, how many lessons have we actually attended? Because that is a very small number, I can assure you. And now they want you to run the whole place? We’re hardly ever even here! We have so many other commitments it’s actually ridiculous. Thank the Divines I studied in Cyrodiil because this place? This place is totally off its rocker.

Next time

Now that the College of Winterhold’s main plot is done, this frees Elessir up for his next major faction plot, which will probably be Thieves Guild.

But before I do that, kinda feeling like doing the extra post-Arch-Mage College of Winterhold stuff. Now that I know how to adjust the brightness on the Steam Deck properly, maybe I can get down into the Winterhold ruins and actually be able to see what the hell I’m doing down there.

Also kind of feeling like running the plot for Azura’s Star. We’ll see what I’m in the mood for next.


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.