Kendeshel Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Kendeshel is Kidnapped and Sold into Slavery

This Kendeshel post covers my getting Runil’s journal for him out of Sunderstone Gorge, getting the thaneship in Falkreath, starting the building of Lakeview Manor, meeting Delphine in Riverwood, and getting on the road with her to go to Kynesgrove and kill Sahloknir…

At which point the plotline for the Project AHO mod kicked in. This post will include major spoilers for that mod in particular, so please be advised. If you think you might want to run this mod but don’t want the spoilers for it, please have a look at my Review of Project AHO mod (non-spoiler version) post.

Some minor spoilers as well for Legacy of the Dragonborn. Brief mentions of actions for the Book of Wonders quest, as well as changes I noted with the progression of the storyline in general, and certain tweaks the mod makes to AE Skyrim content.

Play by play

  • Play date: 9/22/2023
  • Session number in this run: 8

Pre-AHO stuff: Sunderstone Gorge

  • Picked up again at the museum
  • Did some experimenting with trying to repro a problem with the Adventurer Backpack duplicating when I sent it through the Display Prep Station
  • Placed assorted new items, including some Dawnguard style weapons since I could make those, and a replica of Noster’s helmet
  • Auryen showed up again and gave me a two-handed sword called Gravedigger; put the sword on display since it’s a two hander, and I’m not as fond of two handed weapons
  • Got the display count up to 255, and then proceeded with RP
  • Blipped down to Falkreath to try to get Runil’s journal quest, since I’d successfully acquired Noster’s helmet
  • This time Runil sent me off to Sunderstone Gorge
  • Fast traveled to Moss Mother Cavern to get within range of the place, and rode over on Heidrun
  • Got a spriggan vs. hagraven fight at the crossroads–and the spriggan turned Meeko hostile 🙁
  • Killed the spriggan, but since Meeko was attacking me, Lydia killed him
  • I was sad about that but was going to try to continue to play anyway–but then the game crashed and I was thrown back to Falkreath, just after coming out of the Hall of the Dead and talking to Runil
  • Did take two of going to Sunderstone Gorge, and this time just fast traveled to Hendraheim
  • Went over to Sunderstone Gorge on foot so I wouldn’t have to fuck around with the horse
  • Killed a sabre cat on the way down the hill
  • This time a couple of hunters spawned at the crossroads and that was fine
  • Took out the hostile necromancer at the cave entrance, then went in and started running the place
  • Killed once by the mages cluster about halfway through, but got through them okay the second time through
  • Also killed once by the mages in the boss chamber; second time through I got them, but they got Meeko, and that was not acceptable
  • Rolled back a bit from that, and third time through, took out all the mages and Meeko made it through safely
  • Got the word off the Word Wall (but still had no souls to activate it)
  • Ignored the Stone of Barenziah since as near as I can tell, Legacy has no interest in those unless I’m running the Thieves Guild and can bring in the Crown of Barenziah; not intending to run the Thieves Guild with this alt, so maybe in a future playthrough?
  • Got safely out of the cave
  • I think it was somewhere during this part of the session that I leveled up to 20? Took Stamina bump and second perk in Archery

Thaneship of Falkreath acquired

  • Took out a couple of bandits at the crossroads near Sunderstone Gorge
  • Returned to Falkreath to report back to Runil
  • Sent some stuff back to the museum via the shipping crates
  • Sold a bunch of things to Lod to unload
  • Got Runil’s quest reward, and this concluded my third favor quest
  • Reported back to the Jarl and got made thane, which resulted in my getting the Bow of Falkreath and activating a new museum display!
  • Bought the land for Lakeview and rode over there to check it out
  • Bandit fortification had respawned so had to take out the bandits there
  • Got to see the Bow of Falkreath causing one of them to get hit by lightning, nice
  • Took out the mudcrabs in the pond near Lakeview, then started building the house
  • Built the Small House structure, a couple of exterior things, and a couple of interior things until I ran out of logs
  • Boinged back to the museum to update the displays (including the Bow of Falkreath)
  • Then headed out again to try to do the Book of Wonders quest

Book of Wonders questing, and reaching Riverwood

  • Hoofed it to Frost River and found the keystone there
  • Boinged to Half-Moon Mill and bought logs (this time from Hern, not Hert, so good to know he can sell me logs)
  • Boinged to Lakeview and finished building the interior of the Small House
  • Hi Rayya! Please mind this house for me, and now you have a bed and a cooking fire and everything
  • Rode over to Riverwood from there, or near Riverwood anyway, to try to find the Snow Elf shrine
  • This took a little doing and I had to circle around near Helgen to get near the place
  • Took out three wisps and a wispmother near South Skybound Watch
  • Finally found the shrine and activated it
  • Next item on the agenda: went to Riverwood
  • Didn’t see Mandyn Hlaalu in the Sleeping Giant, so punted to talking to Delphine to kick off the Kynesgrove part of the main quest
  • Talked her through the convo and took least hostile options this time, then got on the road to Kynesgrove
  • Killed assorted wolves between White River Watch and Valtheim Towers
  • Stopped by the toll bandit because I was not on Heidrun at the time, and told her I didn’t have the money to pay her toll
  • We took her out! But I didn’t bother to run the whole tower, we had important work to do!
  • Kept on from there, and made it to Mixwater Mill
  • Aaaaaaaand Project AHO plot showed up

Project AHO commences

  • Got stopped by an Orc in a red robe, Shaglak, who claimed I was the one he was looking for in fulfillment of a prophecy–but it was bullshit, as he was stopping me entirely as a distraction
  • I got knocked out and hauled off to Project AHO plot, and woke up in a cutscene about a slave auction with other captives
  • Shanath Selthri bought me, along with a vampire
  • I woke up later in a cage in Shanath’s house and learned I had on an amulet constraining me from leaving the town, Sadrith Kegran, a secret settlement of House Telvanni in Skyrim, which apparently was trying to restore House Telvanni’s “greatness”
  • And although these people usually cut out their slaves’ tongues, I still had mine
  • Shanath ever so generously let me out of my cage for a bit and allowed me to explore the town
  • Went out to do that, by way of scoping out the place and looking for anything that would let me get the fuck out of there
  • Found a mudcrab that’s clearly a callback to the Mudcrab Merchant in Morrowind, and okay lol that’s kind of cute
  • Ran a side quest in which a citizen asked me to investigate noises under her house
  • These turned out to be caused by a creature called Slyboots, who seemed to be some form of spriggan, turned into something more monstrous
  • Talked to the town’s Consul about this (during which conversation I got her lofty comment about slavery being part of Dunmer culture, and wow, seriously lady, fuck off right into the sun)
  • I explicitly chose to let Slyboots go, because fuck this town, I hope Slyboots eats a few of you on the way out
  • Shanath sent me off to talk to Varen Rendo, the smith, to pick up a staff; Varen was also an asshole
  • Met Ra’zhirra, a Khajiit who seemed to be the only other slave in the place who still had his tongue; he offered to sell me information and dropped hints at me about how to contact him if i needed him
  • Started grabbing anything I couldn’t that wasn’t marked “Steal” (and some things that were, more on this later), including a couple of things that turned out to be chess pieces, from what I saw reading up on the mod
  • Returned the staff to Shanath, who then ordered me to take the corpse of the vampire he’d bought and drop it into acid
  • This required me to go talk to the town alchemist, Tamina Elenil, and get chauric acid from her
  • Filled a barrel in the cage room but had an awkward time actually putting the dead vampire in it; I only got the corpse onto the barrel, though this seemed to be enough to satisfy the quest
  • Took the guy’s stuff but he had only another Amulet of Suppression on him and Ragged Clothes, same as me
  • Shanath ordered me to make him some tea, and was bitchy about my not knowing what kind of tea he liked
  • Had to go off to talk to Tamina the alchemist about this tea question; she told me I could find the ingredients for it in the farm
  • But I had trouble finding the farm, because the mod’s map was not terribly easy to follow, and quest markers weren’t well implemented either
  • After a lot of derping around, finally found the entrance to the Mycelium
  • Nabbed a few soul gems while in there
  • Found the door to the actual farm area, finally, and the farm did look pretty amazing
  • But no quest markers, so I derped around a lot looking for thistle, Jazbay grapes, bees, and fly amanita
  • Found some of these things but not all of them, and finally saved there until next time

Initial museum stuff and pre-AHO action

I started off this session just actually trying to reproduce a problem I’d had with the Adventurer Backpack duplicating itself when I sent it through the Display Prep Station. I could not get the issue to reproduce again, even though I tried multiple combinations of various other scenarios. Hopefully this was just a one-time glitch. I’ll need to keep an eye on this, though.

Auryen giving me Gravedigger this time was when I finally clued in that his giving me these various artifacts was tied to how many displays I had up in the museum. Only learned this when I looked up Gravedigger on the LotD wiki, though!

So now the question is, I guess, how many more artifacts he’s just going to up and hand me based on my display count. We’ll see!

The game seemed bound and determined to throw spriggans at me to threaten Meeko, swear to gods. Got another situation where Meeks was turned hostile by a spriggan–and was only able to recover from that because the game crashed on me, and threw me back to a point prior to that attack. Honestly, that was a relief! After working so hard in the previous sessions to keeps Meeks the hell away from spriggans, I was sad to have it happen again. And I was on the verge of just bidding the poor doggo adieu when the crash saved me from having to worry about it.

Which is going to be one of the few times ever that you’ll hear me being grateful for Skyrim crashing. ;D

This gave me a second wind in keeping Meeko alive in Sunderstone Gorge, too. I really should have left him outside there, what with all the powerful mages in there capable of flinging fire around. But I’m still not in the habit of remembering to do that.

Really, I should just adopt a kid soon, if nothing else for doggy adoption purposes! And that’ll solve the problem for me.

I was legit tempted by keeping the Bow of Falkreath in my inventory, just because I really liked the idea of the thing periodically dropping lightning on my enemies’ heads. But while I did see it do that once to the bandits near Lakeview, it didn’t actually seem to help in the fight much. So I wound up leaving the bow in the museum.

My plan here had been, running the Book of Wonders quest, and maybe also talking to Mandyn Hlaalu at the Sleeping Giant in Riverwood. But I couldn’t find him there, so I punted instead to talking to Delphine and moving the game’s main quest further along. The idea here was, going to Kynesgrove would put me near-ish to Winterhold, and maybe I could take the cart from Windhelm to get up there and find the third place for the Book of Wonders quest. And while I was there, also stop by the College of Winterhold.

Didn’t work out that way, though. Because the plot for Project AHO fell on my head and went you’re going to run this now.

The big problem with the start of Project AHO

Let me note out of the gate that I don’t object necessarily to the idea that an Orc and his backup could kidnap the Dragonborn. As of this point I was level 20, and still relatively inexperienced.

And I do kind of like that Shaglak had a bullshit spiel about “GASP! It’s you! The one fulfilling the prophecy!” That’s actually a clever approach given how the main game makes such a big deal over your being Dragonborn. This does kind of prime you to expect NPCs to react to you as special. So to have an NPC doing this specifically as a bullshit distraction was cool.

But to have this happen when it did, while I was running along with Delphine to Kynesgrove, strained my suspension of disbelief really hard. Because I wasn’t alone. I had two other women with me, both of whom were experienced fighters, and one of whom was explicitly sworn to protect me and all I own with her life. You cannot tell me that Lydia would not have run over, greatsword swinging, the instant she saw a group of hostiles attacking her thane and trying to drag her off.

And given how urgent Delphine is at this point of the main quest about trying to make damn sure you don’t get killed on the way to Kynesgrove, I can’t buy that she wouldn’t have also tried to intervene in what was happening.

Nor do I buy that I somehow just lagged behind Delphine and Lydia long enough that they got far enough ahead that they couldn’t get back in time to save me. Again, because urgency. I was not in a position to plausibly stop unless something was actively on fire and was in the way of keeping me from getting to Kynesgrove.

Even if I had stopped, I don’t buy that Delphine and Lydia didn’t notice. Since Delphine in particular has lines to the player about how “we can’t afford any delays”, she would absolutely have whirled around to see what the hell made me lag behind her.

Since running this plot, I’ve learned that there is an additional patch mod that lets you actually control when you want to launch Project AHO. I really wish I’d known about that before I set up this load order. Because it was frustrating to me that I was yanked out of an urgent main quest situation, and thrown off into this mod plot instead, in a way that just did not feel plausible to me at all.

Let me emphasize: this is not because I somehow think Shaglak and his backup couldn’t capture me. I think it was absolutely plausible for them to jump me. I just don’t feel like it was reasonable that Lydia and Delphine didn’t see what was happening, and had no chance to intervene.

And when I check my screenshots, I even see that when Shaglak is talking to me, Delphine is in the background. She is three hundred percent in visual range of what’s going on. There is no believable reason why she would not have immediately seen what happened.

Now, because I’m a writer and I think about these things, there are a couple of ways I can think of to make Project AHO’s start make more narrative sense:

  1. Shaglak, or one of his backup, had magic that let them teleport away immediately. Such magic exists in the Morrowind and I think also Oblivion games. It’s not a thing you can do in Skyrim without mods, but there’s lore precedent for that type of magic to exist. So maybe they used something like that to get the hell away just as Delphine and Lydia realized, too late, that something was going down. It doesn’t even have to be a spell one of them cast, per se. Maybe Shanath or Yen-Ylu cobbled together something out of Dwemer tech that let them teleport home.
  2. Shaglak had enough backup with him that Delphine actually saw that she and Lydia would be severely outnumbered and would have their asses handed to them if they tried to intervene.

Dara, when I mentioned this to her, pointed out that paralysis spells also exist in Skyrim. It’s possible that they hit not only me with one of those, but also Delphine and Lydia. This would effectively keep the other two women from intervening to save me.

And if they did have some sort of limited-capacity teleport, maybe they could only take one captive at a time. Which would explain why they didn’t just nab Delphine and Lydia along with me.

I could also see them thinking, three armed women traveling together. Maybe grabbing all three of them would be stupid. Let’s just grab the one who might get us the most money in the auction!

Or maybe some combo of all of these things, maybe. Dara liked the idea of paralysis combined with a limited teleport.

Then there’s the question of what happened next, after the slavers made off with me. Game mechanics interfere here some, at least in Lydia’s case. As some of the actual Skyrim quests do, Project AHO auto-dismissed Lydia from following me, which meant it threw her back to Breezehome to wait for me. But I don’t believe for a moment that Lydia didn’t start trying to search the entire area, including yelling fiercely at anybody in Mixwater Mill, until she found her thane. Her buggering back off to Breezehome makes no sense at all.

Delphine, though, I could see being practical enough that she could have pulled Lydia back from rushing off blindly in random directions and yelling at any citizens in the mill. I could even see that Delphine might think Lydia should go back to Whiterun with the express intent of getting help.

So Delphine could stay in the area and thoroughly scout the place. As a Blade, she surely has much better stealth and scout chops than Lydia, and could reconnoiter quietly. I’m going to assume for narrative purposes that this is in fact what Delphine did.

Here’s one more thing about the mod start that stretched my suspension of disbelief: it auto-dismissed Lydia. But it did not auto-dismiss Meeko.

So when I got captured, the slavers also apparently brought my dog?

Given that Meeko or any other dog following you joins you in battle, I don’t buy that Meeko didn’t leap in to start biting people as soon as he saw me in danger. That he survived to actually follow me into Sadrith Kegran could tie into the idea that Shaglak and his men had some way to teleport out of there. Maybe there was no fight, and Meeks came through with me because he leapt at me just as Shaglak fired off whatever spell or mechanism took them back to Sadrith Kegran.

Still though, I’d have thought that they wouldn’t let Meeko actually stay with me. I would absolutely expect that they’d put him into a cage somewhere, and very likely away from me. That’s assuming that they didn’t just outright kill him for his meat. I can’t imagine that people willing to kidnap me as a slave would hesitate to do anything to a dog trying to protect me.

I suppose it’s also possible that Meeko somehow found his own way in, maybe if he was sniffing out my trail. But if he did that, I’d expect that Lydia and/or Delphine would be following him! So they’d at least have some idea of the general vicinity of where I was, and they’d eventually find the door into the place. So I have to assume this didn’t happen.

Given what happened in the mod, I’m going to assume that the slavers decided separating the dog from me was more trouble than it was worth. And probably also threatened to kill him if he became a problem or if I became a problem. And I’ll assume that at least initially, Kendeshel didn’t try to make an obvious problem of herself to protect not only herself, but also the dog.

Slave auction cutscene, and more exposition

The slave auction was a suitably grim scene for the overall core idea of this story, where I had to watch a few other NPCs being bid on before they got to me. That dialogue also established a few key points:

  1. I was somewhere underground, with a bunch of lighting and flora very similar to Blackreach
  2. The slavers had taken captives from both Falkreath and the Windhelm docks
  3. They were willing to immediately kill any captive that didn’t sell to someone, as they did to an old Argonian they’d taken

Along with a captured vampire, I got bought by an asshole Dunmer named Shanath Selthri. Which led into my waking up in Shanath’s place, where I additionally learned that:

  1. I was in a secret Dunmer settlement called Sadrith Kegran, which was apparently striving to restore House Telvanni’s greatness… somehow?
  2. I was wearing an amulet cursed to suppress my willpower
  3. Despite having been threatened with the removal of my tongue to keep my silent, I had not, in fact, had my tongue removed; I was still able to talk

So let’s unpack some of this before I go any further.

I really, really wish that the plot of this mod would have let the Dragonborn push back against the idea that Sadrith Kegran was trying to restore House Telvanni’s greatness. How exactly they were planning on doing that while living in a secret settlement under Skyrim, and kidnapping Skyrim citizens and enslaving them, was not exactly clear.

And to be sure, this grandiose plan of the town, coupled with how I’d been dragged in there as a slave, sure as hell did not put me in a mindset to be the slightest bit sympathetic to them.

Especially after I saw them haul the old Argonian off to be slain and made into a purse. Eeew.

Also, I want to side-eye how despite how every single other slave NPC in this plot (the n’wahs, as the people of Sadrith Kegran kept calling them) had had their tongues removed, I and one other NPC (more on him later) were the only exceptions to this. Now, you can’t cut out the tongue of the Dragonborn without that being a game-breaker for the actual main Skyrim content, so clearly, the mod couldn’t actually do that to me.

Because here’s the thing: if the Dragonborn has no tongue, that means they cannot enunciate Words of Power. And if you can’t do that, you are fundamentally deprived of your ability to Shout. Which, again, is game-breaking, since it wrecks the entire core concept of who you are in Skyrim.

So okay, yes, you know your story can’t do this because otherwise it would break Skyrim’s core content. But that doesn’t let you off the hook narratively speaking. If you’re going to throw the Dragonborn into a plot where it is standard practice for slavers to cut out the tongues of their captives, there has to be a solid narrative reason why you are somehow spared this fate. Just ignoring it entirely makes the story weaker. And I don’t feel like the mod did quite enough to shore up this particular plot point, unfortunately.

Here are some options about how this might be addressed.

One: Tweak the slavers’ standard practice so that they threaten to rip your tongue out if you make the slightest sound they don’t like, and that includes screaming, weeping, whimpering, or whatever. I think it’s reasonable to assume that most slaves would be so traumatized that they couldn’t help but vocalize their terror, and wind up getting their tongues ripped out anyway. Others might be so traumatized they might be forced into muteness anyway. Stronger willed slaves, in which category the Dragonborn certainly qualifies, could figure out real fast that they’d better keep their mouths shut and speak only when spoken to. This seems to me like the simplest option, since it could be addressed just by changing a couple of lines of dialogue.

Two: If you want to get a little more complicated but without making huge changes to the story, take advantage of how the slaves are already being forced to wear amulets cursed to take their willpower. Expand that curse a bit and make it also take the slaves’ voices. That way you could enforce silence even on the Dragonborn, without permanent, game-breaking physical trauma. And it would have the added benefit of a real solid reason why a higher-level, more powerful player character wouldn’t immediately Fus-Ro-Dah everything and everyone in the place. Call it a modified version of the Muffle spell, maybe. Instead of it making you able to move more quietly, it actually makes it impossible for a target to talk. Slap that puppy as a curse onto the slave amulets, and boom, instant enforced silence.

Then you tweak the plot a little to account for when the Dragonborn gets their voice back. Maybe the amulet can be adjusted to let you have your voice back if your “master” (scowl) thinks you’ve earned it. Which could have the side benefit of also giving you a motivation for doing the side quests in the town. Maybe that part of the curse is lifted off your amulet if you are perceived as “helpful” enough.

Three: This is the hardest option and would require some serious thought about how to make this lore-friendly: i.e., actually make good on the threat of removing the Dragonborn’s tongue. But have a way to reverse it. A mage character who’s a genius in the school of Restoration, maybe, who’s invented their very own powerful spell that can regrow lost body parts. Including, say, a lost tongue. And getting on that mage’s good side would be a powerful motivator, and a significant plot milestone.

Or, a mysterious spellbook discovered in the depths of the ruin you have to explore, a piece of lost Dwemer lore. This mod’s already doing some custom spells (more on this to come in future posts), so I could see this being an eventual doozy of a quest reward, and critical to acquire to regain your ability to Shout.

Or, if you really wanted to be out there, take advantage of how this plot is centered around ancient Dwemer technology as well as Dunmer culture. Come up with some sort of Dwemer thingamabob that could restore the Dragonborn’s ability to communicate even without their original tongue. Maybe it’s a speech synthesizer that broadcasts their thoughts? The lore says that the Dwemer had miters that allowed them to engage in a form of telepathy, so I think you could argue that a version of this geared for short-range and audible broadcasting is a reasonable extrapolation of that. (I’d have to be pretty fucking solid tech, though, to be able to withstand the release of the Thu’um!)

I could very easily see such a thing being some sort of funky Dwemer helmet or crown. Or something placed into the Dragonborn’s throat, some sort of metallic implant, maybe with an aetherium core. I could see some players really grooving on that. It would, however, have to be very, very well done, since it’d be a permanent change to the player’s appearance in third person mode, or if you go to talk to the Face Sculptor and get into the character appearance UI again.

I wouldn’t want this to be the only solution, though. Maybe have that as a potential outcome if the player specifically wants to go that way. But have one of the other options available as well, if the player wants a less drastic solution.

For purposes of Kendeshel’s narrative, I’m going to assume that option one here is the one that actually happened–that she was permitted to keep her tongue specifically because she was smart enough to keep her mouth shut. And also, smart enough to realize that while she was the Dragonborn, she was still a very inexperienced Dragonborn, and knew only two Shouts. So she kept her cool for the moment, because she didn’t want to risk pissing them off enough to make them slaughter Meeko, or herself.

And there’s one other possibility here I’ll consider, but I’ll get into that in the final post about this story–because it ties into events towards the end of the plot. Stand by for that.

And at any rate, once I had all the exposition dumped on my head, my asshole “master” Shanath ever so graciously told me I was free to go out and wander the town. But not for too long! Because I was going to have work to do.

So off I went to explore.

Sadrith Kegran and its people

I will say without reservation that the visual design work in this mod is great. In this part of the proceedings I mostly just got a look at the town itself, but it was absolutely impressive, evocative of both Morrowind and Blackreach.

Too damned bad the place is inhabited by people whose economy is built upon the backs of slaves.

And before anybody @’s me, yes yes yes, I know, slavery is part of the Elder Scrolls lore. I knew I’d be facing a slavery plot going into this mod to begin with. I’m just saying, given the circumstances of the plot, Kendeshel went out for the first time into Sadrith Kegran with her number one priority being getting the fuck out as fast as possible.

What citizens I began to meet were a mix of graciously condescending, unthinkingly accepting the status quo in their town, rude, or outright, blatantly cruel.

With this going on, while I did admire the hell out of the design of the place, I was very much not in a mindset to want to get to know any of these people or solve their problems for them with their favor quests. I did start doing the side quests, but I saw Kendeshel as doing this only as a means to ingratiate herself into situations to scope out these people and look for anything whatsoever that would let her escape.

For that matter, I also decided that it was a moral imperative to nick anything and everything I could get my hands on, even things that were marked “Steal”. I’m not intending to play Kendeshel as a thief in general. But this situation was urgent enough that I think she overrode her usual scruples on that, on the grounds that “these assholes kidnapped me, fuck it, I’m taking anything I can find that might keep me alive until I get out of here.”

The first side quest I ran involved strange noises coming from underneath a citizen’s house. Investigating this led me to meet Marisa Verendas, one of the two Consuls of the town. Who rapidly earned the number two position on the list of People in Sadrith Kegran I Wanted to Punch, just because of her lofty assertion that her town engaged in the slave trade because it was “part of Dunmeri culture”.

I found this attitude infuriating. Again, yes, I know it’s in the lore that Tiber Septim explicitly agreed to allow Morrowind to keep slavery legal, in order to gain its alliance with the Empire. And yes, I know it’s lore-appropriate for Marisa Verendas to have this attitude.

This doesn’t mean my character is obliged to agree with it or tolerate it. Especially when my character has been fucking enslaved. Funny how all the Dunmer who keep airily saying “slavery is our ancestral tradition and right” don’t seem interested in being slaves themselves! They’re just interested in enslaving other people.

At this stage of the game it was still early in the plot, so I feel like it was appropriate for me to not confront this idea. Yet. I am very frustrated that the mod didn’t give me an opportunity to confront the idea at all, though. More on this in my next post.

Anyway. The source of the noises was a creature called Slyboots, who appeared to be some sort of mutated spriggan who’d been subjected to experiments. I made a point of letting the creature go. And was slightly disappointed that it didn’t eat anybody on its way out.

Next I had a task to destroy the corpse of the vampire that Shanath had also bought, because that vampire apparently did not survive experiments Shanath was doing. He ordered me to fill a barrel in the cage room with chauric acid, which I had to acquire from the town alchemist. In theory, I then had to drop the corpse into the barrel. In actual practice, I couldn’t actually get the corpse into the barrel. I tried to lift it with the usual game mechanic of holding down the A button until I could move the corpse, but that was extremely awkward. I was only able to get the corpse sorta kinda onto the barrel.

This was apparently enough to satisfy the quest, though. And I took the dead vampire’s stuff, though he didn’t have anything on him besides another Amulet of Suppression and ragged clothes, same as me.

Really, really wish I could have destroyed that amulet. But I couldn’t do anything to it, not even drop it into a smelter. (I would up selling it to Shaglak later. This was not a morally satisfying option.)

Speaking of stealing things, I also met Ra’zhirra, a Khajiit, who was apparently the only other slave in the place who still had his tongue. I learned from him that he could sell me information. And I also learned from the Project AHO wiki that if I gave him enough money, he would eventually offer to be a fence, since he wanted to save up enough money to get the hell out of Sadrith Kegran. This made him an extremely useful NPC to know, and I spent quite a bit of time looking for him later, so I could try to give him more money. More on this to come.

Shanath Selthri and his tea

Let me talk more now about Shanath Selthri, the character who bought me during the auction.

This guy is irascible, vindictive, and comes across even in the early stages of the plot as a trifle batshit. He reminded me very strongly of Neloth in Dragonborn, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was intentional. After all, he’s a Telvanni wizard, super cranky, and only concerned about himself.

And there’s a whole quest that involves having to make this guy some tea, too. Which also has strong echoes of Neloth, since that’s a character trait you see when you run Dragonborn.

Problem is, he doesn’t have nearly the same panache as Neloth. Which is not entirely fair of me, I admit, because Neloth is of course voiced by a professional actor who had the chops to infuse him with a great deal of flair even if Neloth is an asshole. (Which he is! But he’s performed so well that I kinda adore him anyway.) Shanath was solidly performed, certainly for a fan produced mod. He just wasn’t on Neloth’s level.

Also, Neloth is not entirely without ability to appreciate the actions of others, and most importantly, he isn’t keeping slaves in Tel Mithryn. I know from reading on the UESP wiki that Neloth does have a history of having kidnapped young women before in Morrowind, so he’s not blameless by any stretch of the imagination. But the lore also says he abandoned that practice. The important thing here being, Neloth is not entirely horrible. He has certain nuances to his character that make him interesting to interact with. He’s sometimes even genuinely funny.

Shanath, by contrast, is entirely horrible. He’s not only the guy who buys you from the slave market, he’s also the murderous asshole who has a history of repeatedly buying slaves and then destroying their corpses when they die for whatever reason. So there’s absolutely nothing to like about this guy, at all. He’s just cruel and crazy.

I even learned when talking to Tamina that Shanath’s either so insanely self-focused, stupid, or maybe both that he has no idea that the rest of the town absolutely knows that he’s been destroying his slaves, even though he thinks he’s being subtle. Again, this is reminiscent of Neloth, who blithely assumes that everyone in Raven Rock will clamor to serve him when the Dragonborn has to get him a new steward. Neloth comes across though as so powerful a wizard that he’s just full of the arrogance that comes with having been so powerful for so long. Shanath probably has that same thing going on, but since he doesn’t have anything redeemable about him at all and is in fact more batshit than Neloth, it just makes him seem like an idiot.

Tamina in particular also has Shanath’s number, because she told me when I asked her about the tea recipe that in her opinion as an alchemist, Shanath was drinking that sludge for purposes of intoxication more than anything else.

The tea quest was another opportunity for Shanath to be abusive, as well. He screamed at me about not knowing how to make the tea he wanted.

“Well, pardon the fuck out of me, ‘sir’, for not being telepathic or having the foresight to learn about your tea preferences before I got dragged here and enslaved.”

Not that Kendeshel said this out loud, of course–because mouthing off to your enslavers is not a wise move. But she was absolutely thinking it.

The other problem with the tea quest was that it highlighted for me that Project AHO has issues with its quest markers. As I said in my non-spoilery review, the mod’s general philosophy seems to be to encourage players to try to explore and find out things on their own. I like that to a point. And if you’re going to have quest markers in place at all, for gods’ sakes, make them actually point in the correct direction. Don’t make me derp all over the map trying to figure out where the hell I need to be.

Especially for something so simple as a fetch quest. And okay yes fine, I’m a slave in this context, it makes narrative sense that I should be forced to do things that are incredibly tedious. But past a certain point, that also becomes a lot less fun to play. (I ran into this problem later with the end stages of the main story, too.)

Since there were no quest markers pointing at potential places to get ingredients, I had to resort to reading the Project AHO wiki as well as searching for Reddit or forum threads for help. Doing that, I learned I was going to have to run this tea quest twice. Because Shanath is that kind of a dickweed.

The farm space was, I say freely, gorgeous. But it was also frustrating to have to comb my way through there in search of the ingredients I needed–because of the circumstances of why I was there to begin with.

Basically, I needed a lot more balance between “hey, we set up this gorgeous area for you to run a plot in”, and “that plot makes you a slave”. Some damn quest markers pointing at where the ingredients were would have helped a lot.

Next time

A bunch more playthrough of Project AHO, doing a bunch of the side quests and getting far enough along in the plot that I was able to get my freedom back. But I also had to choose whether I was going to help the town.


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.