This post is the second of a series covering my playthrough of the Project AHO Skyrim mod. Spoilers major and minor abound here, so be advised before you proceed. Note also that I found at least two significant loopholes in the mod’s story structure, and I go into great depth about those here.
In general this post is one of my longer ones, so buckle in for a long read if you want to have a look.
If you want my non-spoiler take on the mod instead, you can find that in Review of Project AHO mod (non-spoiler version).
Play by play
- Play date: 9/23/2023
- Session number in this run: 9
Some general notes
- Did a lot of running around in this session and it was large, so i’m going to do this by plot rather than chronologically
- Decided it was a moral imperative to steal anything I could get my hands on, and sold a lot of it to the Orc who’d initially captured me
- In particular, I stole everything in Shanath’s house; he didn’t notice
- Eventually this triggered Skyrim’s “Hired Thugs” mechanic, with some hilarious timing, more on this below
- Since I’m running Legacy, was able to access my stashed museum supplies and made an entire set of ringmail armor and a couple of new weapons; not a single person called me on this
- Got way too many characters mentioning the Amusing Mudcrab
Shanath really wants some tea
- Picked up where I left off in the farm in Sadrith Kegran
- Went back out into the town to try to find Jazbay grapes, which I did, finally
- Went back into the farm and finally found bees
- That let me go and make Shanath his tea, which he bitched about, and he ordered me to go make him another batch
- Had to return to the farm to get a couple more bees
- Made the tea’s second batch and Shanath bitched about that too
- Then he ordered me to meet him at the entrance to Bkhalzarf and stomped off to wait for me there
- Ran the side plot to help a farmer retrieve a lost ring for his wife, which required me to set a haystack on fire in the farm space
- Ran the quest to help the alchemist get bug glands for some perfume
- Ran the side plot to go drinking with the Orc who captured me
- Started collecting the pieces for the chessboard since that was a thing I saw on the wiki that I could do
- Did the spell testing plot with the other consul
- Did the amulet plot involving the two young lovers
- Ran the plot involving Dwemer ghosts and the Tonal Organ
Bkhalzarf, Round One
- Finally, reluctantly, sent Meeko home
- Headed down into Bkhalzarf with Shanath to retrieve some books
- Once we got the books Shanath wanted, we started working our way back out–at which point Yen-Ylu showed up
- Yen-Ylu wanted to know if Shanath was still in the library, but Shanath came running out after me and the two of them got into an argument
- And Shanath apparently triggered some kind of security mechanism by destroying one of the previously passive spiders that had tried to take a book from him
- This sent more spiders at us and a Prowler
- That fight was brutal, the Prowler kept one-shotting me every time it got me near me
- Third time through, though, I survived thanks to a tip on the mod wiki about where to climb to for a good sniping position
- Yen-Ylu asked me to go behind Shanath’s back to do him a favor, so that got my attention and made me willing to help him, and I let him take Shanath out of the tower
- Made my way back out on my own and did the thing with the Tonal Organ
- I couldn’t do everything though because I kept getting killed–and I decided to proceed to the part where the town let me go, because I wanted to go get my frigging housecarl if I had to slog through a gauntlet of super dangerous dwemer machines again
Getting my freedom back
- Got back out of the tower and reported back to Shanath’s house
- He screamed at me about talking to Yen-Ylu, accused me of conspiring with him, and ordered me out of his house and took my key–then chased me out of the house, and tried to attack me
- Marisa Verendas showed up at that point and told him to lay off; he ran back into his house and locked himself in there
- Marisa asked me to come to the council chamber to talk to her, and here’s the part where my thievery caught up with me, LOL
- Three Hired Thugs were by Marisa’s throne, and came at me for stealing stuff in the Council Chamber
- I killed the thugs, which, LOLOLOL, awkward
- Proceeded, regardless, to the part where the consuls made their pitch to let me go if I helped them
- When I agreed to do so, they took back my Amulet of Suppression and gave me back my stuff
- Then they sent me back out to talk to Yen-Ylu, who took me to the AHO and told me what it was, and that he was pretty sure that Shanath wanted to activate it–but there was a risk of it destroying the entire town
- He asked me to return to Bkhalzarf to charge up a control cube for him, for which I was going to have to acquire aetherium cores
- But before I did that, I decided I was going to have to get Lydia, if I was going to have to go back into the ruin full of Dwemer Automaton Death
- So I went back in and made it to the repository, and did kind of like the control panel with the secret code that Yen-Ylu gave me
- Took me a bit to figure out how to solve the puzzle, but once I did, a bunch of nooks with loot opened up and I looted the fuck out of those
- Then got back out into the main game
Back out into Skyrim for a bit
- Got outside and found my horse waiting right outside
- First things first: find Delphine and do something about the Kynesgrove situation
- Came out somewhere near the Riverside Shack
- Saw a giant nearby but didn’t engage
- Got spotted by a Blood Dragon that might have been the Bonestrewn Crest dragon?
- Mounted up and rode like hell to try to get out of its way
- Found two different nearby shrines while doing this: a shrine to Trinimac and an altar to Mannimarco (fuck no, not worshiping Mannimarco, yuck)
- Found something called the Temple of the Ancestors which smells like a future thing to care about when I run Moon and Star
- Swung around towards Kynesgrove–and got the innkeeper immediately running down yelling, as she does
- Was able to take out Sahloknir on my own, no sign of Delphine anywhere
- Finally found her taking potshots at the Blood Dragon, poised up on a rocky ledge in her leather armor
- Took out the dragon, though there was also help from giant and mammoth
- Saw the dragon send the mammoth flying during the battle and THAT was impressive :O
- This kicked Delphine over into her usual post-Sahloknir conversation; talked her through to the point of starting Diplomatic Immunity
- Then did a circuit of other locales
Solitude, round one
- Checked in at the museum and did a lot of inventory managing, and got more displays up
- I figure Kendeshel checked in with Auryen to let him know she’s still actually alive
- And probably had some quiet moments in the Safehouse quarters freaking the fuck out in private
- Then she got her shit together and went back out again!
- Enchanted some stuff and improved some weapons, including the Telvanni bow I made, which turned it into the my best bow
- Then went to go get Lydia
- Boinged to Whiterun to sell some stuff, and find Lydia
- HI LYDS I’M STILL ALIVE!
- Got her back on follower duty and boinged back to Solitude to drop off stuff at the museum
Solitude, round two
- Dropped off more stuff
- My plan was going to be to fast travel to Ivarstead to check in with Temba and give her bearskins, since I stole several in Sadrith Kegran
- But I got the alert that I couldn’t fast travel with enemies nearby–and went WHAT WAIT WHAT THE FUCK WHAT ENEMIES ARE NEAR ME IN SOLITUDE
- Answer: incoming dragon!
- So Lyds and I ran over to help the Imperial forces at Castle Dour fight it
- Once that was taken care of, sold a few more things
Ivarstead, Sadrith Kegran round one, Solitude round three
- Boinged to Ivarstead and dropped off bearskins with Temba to resolve that quest, finally
- Tried to return to Sadrith Kegran, only to realize I was short a couple of the books I had to return to the townsfolk
- Boinged back to the museum, figured out where the books were in the gallery library, and grabbed them
- Placed a bunch of others manually because the book return wasn’t doing it
- That got me up to 299 displays; couldn’t find anything else on me to kick it over the 300 mark
Back to Sadrith Kegran for reals this time
- Went back there with Lydia, and headed in to give the remaining books back to clear that quest off my list
- Then took Lydia into the Dwemer Ruin of Death(TM), and this took some time
- A bunch of the rest of Bkhalzarf was incredibly tough with half a dozen or more opponents at once
- What finally saved my ass: remembering I had the Time Break spell
- Took out a couple more Prowlers
- Finally found the chamber where I could use the lever to get access to the hidden room with the droid in it, so now I have Snippy the Dwemer Droid
- Tried to find the magicka absorber thing I was supposed to use to power up the control cube
- But I kept getting lost and circling through the same area of the ruin, and the Clairvoyance spell was not helping
- It got pretty late, so saved until next time, to give myself time to look up a proper description of where I needed to be
Level ups taken
- 21: Health bump
- 22: Magicka
- 23: Stamina
- 24: Health
- 25: Magicka
- 26: Stamina
- 27: Health
- 28: Magicka
- Perks taken:
- Light armor: third Agile Defender perk, Custom Fit
- Smithing: Arcane Blacksmith, Dwarven Smithing, Advanced Light Smithing
- Archery: third Overdraw perk
- One-handed: third Armsman perk
- Speech: third Haggling perk
Deliberately looking up spoilers
I did a lot of running around in this session, so I’m covering this in topics based on overall plots rather than purely chronologically. But first let me note a few things that weren’t specific to any one part of the mod’s main plot, or to any of its side plots.
I started looking stuff up on the Project AHO wiki, for a few reasons.
One: I wanted to find out what the quest rewards were and if they were going to be actually useful, so that I could figure out which of the plots I wanted to skip–because these people enslaved me, so why the actual fuck should I want to help any of them? But I wanted a little info on whether any of the quests were in fact worth running for their rewards. Especially if they were rewards that would serve the purposes of breaking out of the place.
Two: As I noted in my previous post, the mod seems to lean heavily in the direction of expecting the player to figure stuff out on their own. I had limited patience for this, especially in a plot where I had been forced into slavery.
Three: I wanted some advance warning about whether any of the NPCs were going to be offensive or racist above and beyond the core concept of “this town enslaves people, cuts out their tongues, and puts cursed amulets on them to sap their willpower”. If any side plot was going to throw egregious extra abuse at me and it was a side plot I could avoid, I wanted to know about that in advance.
Four: I also wanted to find out whether doing any of the side quests would actually turn any of the NPCs in my favor.
So all in all I had no compunctions whatsoever about looking stuff up. And it wasn’t even all that helpful anyway, since the mod’s wiki is not as detailed as I’d like, certainly not to the degree implemented on the UESP. I actually wound up getting more useful info off of Reddit threads about playing the mod.
I wrote in my previous post that I started doing the side quests with the idea that Kendeshel would do these only because she was scoping out the townsfolk, spying on their spaces, and seeing if she could find anything or anyone she could leverage to get the hell out.
There was not, unfortunately, much in the way of that. A couple of the NPCs chirped platitudes about how gosh, you were so helpful, maybe our families should be nicer to outlanders! But that was about it.
And all I could think was, yes, yes you should, and you should start by NOT FUCKING ENSLAVING PEOPLE.
And yes, I’m going to keep hammering away at this. Yes, slavery is canon in the Elder Scrolls lore. But you cannot expect a Dragonborn who has been enslaved to be anything but supremely pissed off about it. And a few saccharine lines out of an NPC or two about “gosh, maybe we should be nicer” is not enough to address the fact that these people have been capturing, mutilating, and enslaving citizens of Skyrim.
Shit, Kendeshel had even specifically become thane of Falkreath just before getting kidnapped. And I distinctly heard during that slave auction at the beginning of the plot that one of the other captives had been “harvested” from Falkreath.
So even aside from her own peril, Kendeshel was seeing signs that people were getting taken from spots of Skyrim where she is specifically in a position of at least some power and responsibility. She’s thane in Falkreath, that means the people of Falkreath are her concern. So she was also pissed off on those grounds.
I also noted in my previous post that I declared it a moral imperative to steal everything I could get my hands on, since this town had enslaved me. Even though I’m not intending to play Kendeshel as a thief. Seriously, fuck these people. You make the mistake of giving me free run of your town, you better believe I’m taking everything that isn’t nailed down, until I find something I can use to get the fuck out of Slaverytown.
And honestly, I found it kind of ridiculous in how easy it was for me to re-equip myself. Especially given that I’m also running Legacy of the Dragonborn, which gave me access to the Stash Supplies spell. So even though my enslavers had stolen all the stuff I had physically equipped, I still had access to all of my museum storage. Which meant I had access to a huge stash of ingots and leather to make things from.
So in short order, I soon had a couple of new weapons and a full set of ringmail armor. And strangely enough, nobody seemed to question why the new Redguard n’wah was making herself armor and weapons at the forge.
This was a huge loophole, absolutely. But I exploited it without hesitation. Because again, these fuckers enslaved me, and if I’ve got magical access to my stashed crafting materials, I am damn well going to take advantage of that.
I really do feel like I should not have been able to do that, though. This is the same problem Skyrim proper has when you run the Forsworn Conspiracy–because you get thrown into Cidhna Mine without anyone seeming to account for the possibility that you might be a very powerful mage. If these slaver assholes had a lick of sense, they’d also have any magically inclined captives leashed so they couldn’t cast any spells. The Amulet of Suppression drained my magicka and stamina every time I got near the exit out into Skyrim. Why wasn’t it keeping my magicka down the whole time? If Sadrith Kegran is going to this much trouble to take slaves in Skyrim to begin with, I can’t believe they weren’t constraining any potential mages.
What happens if they take somebody capable of summoning dremora lords? Or two dremora lords? Maybe the Dragonborn can’t kill people directly as long as the amulet is still active–but is that going to keep her from ordering summoned dremora lords to deal fiery death to every single slaver in the place on her behalf? Especially if she’s still able to talk?
(Now, I did see on the wiki that all NPCs are Essential until your amulet is removed. So okay yes fine, even summoned dremora lords wouldn’t be able to kill anybody for me. But that’s a question of mechanics of the mod, rather than of plot. And I maintain that this is still a plot hole that should have been closed.)
At the very least, the amulet should have severely hobbled my magicka regeneration rate. Or hobbled my max magicka enough that I couldn’t cast anything more significant than, say, Candlelight or Magelight.
Likewise, I found my suspension of disbelief strained by how easy it was for me to steal things all over the place. Mind you, there’s only so much I think the mod could have done with this, just because it’s also very easy to steal stuff all over Skyrim. But it was nevertheless hilarious that I stole everything in Shanath’s house and he didn’t confront me on it once. I feel like having his shelves and tables and things suddenly completely fucking bare should have gotten his attention! Not to mention how I was suddenly armored and armed.
Shanath: “N’wah! WHERE ARE MY INGREDIENTS? My shelves are empty!”
Me, with half a dozen potions I just made with all of his ingredients in my inventory: “I have no idea, ‘sir’. Why on Nirn would I know how fast you use your ingredients? I am just an n’wah.”
Shanath, narrowing his eyes: “Why are you wearing armor, slave? Why are you armed? Speak!”
Me, with a forced smile and an ‘I am going to end you at my earliest opportunity’ stare: “Oh, this? The smith ordered me to help him work the forge and chop firewood, ‘sir’. And he gave me protection from the heat of the smelter, ‘sir’. Will that be all, ‘sir’?”
Shanath: “You will not bring that axe anywhere near me. I forbid it.”
Me, the smile turning feral: “I wouldn’t dream of it, ‘sir’.”
Shanath, waving a hand around imperiously: “Then go! Go to the alchemist! Get me more ingredients! Buy everything in her stock if you must. Take these 3,000 septims!”
Me: “Right away, ‘sir’.” And later, in Tamina’s shop: “My ‘master’ needs new ingredients, here, what can I get with 2,000 septims? Thank you ever so much.”
The Amusing Mudcrab
I found the Amusing Mudcrab on my own in the previous session, just hanging out around some other mudcrabs, and I did legit LOL about that at the time.
However, after that, every time I dealt with any NPC who could sell me things, I kept getting farewell lines where they said, “If you see the Amusing Mudcrab, give him my good wishes.” Or something to that effect.
And I had to side-eye that. It was a great homage to Morrowind to have the Amusing Mudcrab in there to begin with, but having NPCs keep mentioning him over and over and over ruined the joke. Especially given that the NPCs explicitly called him “the Amusing Mudcrab”.
Which pushed the joke from “cute homage” over into “trying way too hard”. “Hey! Hey! Wink wink nudge nudge, we did a funny thing! Did you find the funny thing? Isn’t it funny?”
It is funny, mod! But ease off on trying to emphasize it! Let the funny stand on its own strengths.
Especially since, as I will emphasize yet again, these people had enslaved me. I was not exactly in a mood to react to any of those tips about the mudcrab with anything except “Ha ha ha, yes, you have a mudcrab, now fuck straight off into the deepest pits of Coldharbour, you slavemongering sons of skeevers.”
Shanath really, really wants some tea
I finished up the fetch quest to get Shanath his tea. Which, as I’d been warned by reading up on spoilers, I’d have to do twice. Because of course Shanath bitched about the first batch and the second batch.
And, demonstrating that this particular little fetch quest really served no plot purpose except to underscore that Shanath is an abusive son of a bitch, he stopped whining about the tea and ordered me to meet him at the entrance to Bkhalzarf, the Dwemer ruin underneath Sadrith Kegran. He stomped off to wait for me there.
Have fun waiting over there, asshole. I’ll get to you eventually. I got things to do.
The Lady’s Ring quest
And by things, I mean, side quests.
I took the quest The Lady’s Ring, which required me to help Tadys Andavel find a lost ring he’d wanted to give to his wife. He’d misplaced the thing somewhere in the farm.
The quest required me to set a haystack on fire–and yet again, my suspension of disbelief was strained, because there were other NPCs in range and apparently nobody thought my setting a haystack on fire was a problem? Or that I could, in fact, set things on fire with magic?
Anybody mind if I set anything else on fire? BECAUSE I HAVE SOME IDEAS ABOUT THAT.
This was only a 100 gold reward quest, so not terribly useful by itself. But at least with the gold, I was able to build up ability to buy stuff, and make new gear to replace the stuff they took when I was captured.
A Nostalgic Aroma quest
I did this one just because I figured that the town’s alchemist would probably be someone I’d want to ingratiate myself with–because why yes, poisoning my enslavers is a strategy, amirite?
Also, Tamina clearly didn’t like Shanath very much, so she struck me as a potential good source of information as well as a source of useful ingredients.
The reward for this quest was a bottle of Telvanni Bug Musk, which I know exists in Morrowind. In that game, it’s a 40 point bump to the Personality stat. In Skyrim, with this mod, it’s a 40 point bump to Speechcraft. So potentially very useful in the right situation. I’ll need to hold this in reserve for a special occasion, if I run something that requires passing a hard Speech check.
And this plot also put me in the path of interacting with the Orc who captured me, which leads me to…
Dealing with Shaglak
Shaglak, a.k.a. Yargol gro-Shak, was the Orc who’d captured me to begin with. By definition, he should have had the top slot on the list of People In Sadrith Kegran I Wanted to Punch.
But he actually wound up falling to position number three, just because ironically, he turned out to be the only character in the place who showed any remorse whatsoever for taking slaves.
Also, while I could have punched him, it would just have pissed him off and probably made him and anybody else in range kill me. So while I had to talk to him anyway as part of the perfume quest, I also started taking his other dialogue options in the name of pumping him for information.
I led with the line “You said they’d cut out my tongue”, which struck me as a legit question to throw at the guy. Because as I said in my previous post, why didn’t they bother to cut out my tongue when they did it to every other slave they’ve captured?
And I think Kendeshel probably did this through gritted teeth and with her best faked smile, but I then went with asking him if he needed help with anything. Which led to him inviting me to the inn for some drinking.
(Which, lol, whut? You’re actually going to deign to drink with the slave? Well okay fine, my dude, let’s go get hammered!)
Going to the inn, in turn, led to Shaglak burbling his way through his backstory at me. Apparently he was left in the woods as a baby, after his mother gave birth to him in Narzulbur. And for whatever reason, Marisa Verendas decided to adopt him rather than enslaving him. So he captured slaves to please her–but felt bad about it!
And after I woke up after the drinking out in the farm and came back to find him later, he actually apologized to me for capturing me, because I’d apparently taken the time to get him to the alchemist to treat his cracked tusk.
This made him officially the only person in this fucking town who actually apologized for enslaving me.
And Kendeshel probably had to sourly brood over exactly what the fuck she’d been thinking, if she got the guy treatment rather than killing him. Narrative-wise, it’s actually pretty good story fodder. It shows that even if she’s supremely pissed off at her enslavers, even if she has an opportunity to try to kill the guy who captured her because he was drunk enough to be helpless, she got him treatment from the alchemist instead.
Though I assume that this was a question of her being drunk enough herself that her better nature was able to break out through her rage. ;D
Pieces for the chessboard
Another reason I was grateful I looked at the wiki was that I saw that there was a buff you could get, Strategist, if you completed the chessboard in the council hall. This buff seemed incredibly useful, because it triples how many atronachs you can call. As someone extremely fond of summoning flame and storm atronachs, this is highly relevant to my interests. Particularly for later on in this run. I definitely want to see what happens if I have this buff and the Twin Souls perk in Conjuration.
Am I going to be able to summon a squadron of storm atronachs? Fuck yeah.
To fill the chessboard, I had to find all of the chessboard’s pieces which were scattered all over various homes in the town. I started grabbing some of these when I saw them, but at least in this session didn’t pursue it fully. Since my stuff had been taken, I did not have a stock of lockpicks. (And it didn’t occur to me at the time to make more, since I can do that at a smelter, thanks to Ars Metallica. I really need to work on bolstering my lockpick count!) Which meant I wasn’t going to get into any house that was actively locked.
Nor was I really in the mood to just waltz into everybody’s spaces and take these things. It didn’t feel narratively right, either. I was still enslaved and even if nobody was actually going to challenge me, it felt weird to me to just freely wander into people’s homes.
I did follow up on this after the main plot of the mod was over, though. More on this later!
A Legacy of Ancestors quest
This was the spell testing plot that you can do with the town’s other consul, Erver Milo. I am very glad that I read up on the wiki, because I found out that this one had as a quest reward a spell called Time Break. Which basically acts like a souped-up version of the Slow Time Shout.
Which, I might add, I don’t have with this alt yet. So I very, very much wanted to get my mitts on this spell.
I took this as yet another information-gathering expedition, and an especially important one, because this guy was one of the power figures in the town. I definitely see Kendeshel as wanting to target him for scoping.
Still, there was a measure of strain to my suspension of disbelief. Because Erver Milo apparently saw nothing weird whatsoever about teaching a slave powerful magic. Using me as a guinea pig, sure, I buy that. But then actually teaching me the spell he was trying to reconstruct?
Why in the world would he want to do this for a person his town had specifically enslaved?
The only way I can make this make any narrative sense in my head at all is if:
- Helping other people in the town was starting to get me enough of a rep that Erver was willing to take a chance on me, and possibly also
- The wiki pointed me at strong hints that Marisa might have actually murdered his wife, and if that’s so, I could very easily see this guy deciding to act against her. In which case, I could have been a useful tool for that objective.
Anyway, I got the spell. And it was a very good thing I did so, because having it saved my ass later when running the final stage of the plot, once I got Lydia back.
Signs of Attention quest
I didn’t initially intend to run this one, because it had to do with encouraging the progression of a romance. And boy howdy was I disinclined to give any fucks about blossoming young love amongst my enslavers. Or, for that matter, a father’s relationship with his daughter. But I accidentally stumbled into it taking dialogue options, so went “well, what the hell” and just ran it anyway.
It took a while to finish it, just because while I had gold and silver in my backlog of stashed ingots, I didn’t find a flawless amethyst until well into the end game of the main plot for this mod.
Also, it pissed Kendeshel off a little that she had to sacrifice some of her personal stash of materials to help out these people in any way. But she put up with it in the name of working towards her end game.
But I did finally repair the broken amulet. And it did at least result in the young lad of the pair of lovers, Maren Dwyn, chirping to me about how maybe the town’s families ought to be nicer to outlanders.
Here’s that amulet, kids. Now go tell your parents you think slavery sucks.
Tangential note here: the young lass of the pair of lovers, Aryni Sendu, was supposed to be a skilled huntress whose father was not letting her actually use her skill. I saw her more than once firing her bow at a target, a target which proved to give me a useful supply of ebony arrows. Aryni never protested that I swiped all her arrows, either!
Forgotten Art quest
I definitely wanted to run this one, just to learn how to make a new type of weaponry, Telvanni bows and arrows. Partly because I thought they looked cool, and partly because fuck yeah, I’m going to learn to make anything I can use against you assholes later.
Also, Merano Rendo, the smith’s son, kept getting shit from both his father and Shanath Selthri, apparently because he really didn’t want to be a smith. So he seemed like a prime candidate to turn against the others, if possible.
This plot turned out to be expensive, though. Because I had to dip into my backlogged supplies in my museum stash, and make a bunch of things to sell to Shaglak. And I was not thrilled about selling these people weapons. Or anything else, for that matter.
But it had to be done, because Tamina refused to fork over the bone dagger she had that was apparently the only thing that could get the necessary scrapings off of Tel And, the giant mushroom that was the core structure of the town. And she wouldn’t give it to me unless I gave her 1,000 septims.
Lady, look, I’m a slave, do I look like I have that kind of money? Though, snerk, if Shanath had had a strongbox in his house, I’d totally have broken into it and stolen every septim he had.
So I got the dagger, and I learned from Merano how to make Telvanni bows and arrows. Yet another round of “the NPC doesn’t think letting a slave make weapons is a potential problem”.
I made myself a bow, and it turned out to actually do more damage even than my beloved Bow of Shadows/Obfuscation. I’m going to have to think about how Kendeshel is going to feel about having this bow around.
Shadow of the Past quest
This one I wound up running in parallel to the end of the mod’s main quest, just because it’s in a side branch of Bkhalzarf. And wow, the areas it covered were some of the most impressive and stunning visuals in the entire mod. I really do like the mod’s conceptions for ancient Dwemer aesthetics.
Plus, the ghost I was interacting with, Kuovin Nrezalf, was fun. I LOLed at his line about how “they’re starting to build a new aetherium forge at Bthalft tomorrow”. Ha! Nice callback there, mod! Excellent callback to one of my favorite parts of main Skyrim. <3
The actual quest reward, sadly, was less interesting to me. I liked the general idea of the Tonal Organ and of the various melody cubes you could play on it. But the melody cubes had been set up to let you play a bunch of pieces of music from other games as well as a few movies, and that seemed, shall we say, problematic in terms of intellectual property.
But more practically, I didn’t see this as something I was going to care about as soon as I was done with the mod. It’s not like I’m going to come back to Sadrith Kegran once I clear out my last remaining unfinished business there. (More on this a couple posts after this one.)
Speaking of intellectual property, one of the spaces I investigated while running this quest also had a Lord of the Rings callback. Because I found a thing that looked like Sauron’s gauntlet, and it had the One Ring on it. I couldn’t interact with this at all, it was just a visual.
And while it did make me LOL, that’s also too much immersion breakage for me there. I say this as a diehard, lifelong Tolkien fangirl, too.
I was very reluctant to do it, but as the main plot for this mod progressed, I finally sent Meeko home, for two reasons.
One, while I feel like it comforted Kendeshel immensely to have her dog around, Bkhalzarf is seriously full of dangerous Dwemer automations. And a spectacularly, stupidly high number of pressure plate traps. I knew for sure that if I tried to bring Meeks in there with me, he’d get killed.
This did in fact happen once. So for a while, I just told him to park it outside the most dangerous part of the ruin.
And two, I also knew there was going to be a droid follower I could pick up, which I wanted to try. And I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to have Meeko and this droid follower at the same time.
(And if you’re going “wait, droid? What is this, Star Wars?”, then you’re not wrong. Hold that thought.)
Let’s say, narrative-wise, that Kendeshel had discovered that even though she’d managed to re-arm herself, she still wasn’t able to fight her way out. So maybe she managed to command Meeko to get out and go home.
Legacy of the Extinct Race quest
This was the second to last part of the mod’s main storyline, and was the part where actual interesting action started up. Because it required me to follow Shanath down into Bkhalzarf, where he wanted to retrieve some books.
I knew from the wiki that starting the run through this place would have Shanath offer me either armor and a weapon, or mage robes and a staff. This is another part of the plot where I have to stop and boggle, because why in gods’ names is this guy voluntarily arming his own slave? Yes, fine, he knows I can’t actually kill him, but or at least he thinks he does. Is he sure about that, though? Have they stress-tested the Amulets of Suppression? Because I gotta tell ya, a pissed off Dragonborn seems like a scenario they had not planned for when crafting the damned things.
Also, by the time I started this part of the action, I was already armed with my new ringmail armor and weapons anyway. So I showed up for this action already armed. And Shanath didn’t notice. Snerk.
(I did in fact switch off to the ringmail partway through running the ruin, just because it was giving me better protection than the chitin armor Shanath gave me.)
This place had a mind-bogglingly high number of pressure plate traps. Way, way too many. Since I got yanked into this plot at level 20, I had not had the chance yet to unlock the Light Foot perk–and hadn’t thought to do so, because this character is not a thief. So I wasn’t as concerned with building up her Sneak tree!
(As I write this, it occurs to me that I leveled up a lot once I started running Bkhalzarf, and in fact should have spent some of those perk points on the Sneak tree so I could get to the Light Foot perk. Dang. That’s on me. Take note of this, Future Me, in case you want to run this mod again! Also anybody reading this who might want to try it, too.)
So I couldn’t go a few steps without triggering another pressure plate, and for most of them, that meant I kept triggering hostile automations or traps that smacked the hell out of me. And I was severely underpowered for this. I got killed repeatedly fighting off a bunch of the automatons.
Especially the Prowlers, which were the mod’s special custom version of Dwemer Centurions.
That said, I also want to note that I did like the Dwarven Sentinels. These were also custom automatons, which looked like skeletons and made skeleton noises, but which were made out of dwemer metal. A bunch of them dropped Ancient Dwarven Swords and Ancient Dwarven Greatswords, too. (Regular dwarven bows and arrows, though.) Neat.
I really did also like the Great Hexagonal Library. Stunning visuals here as well, and a whole hell of a lot of obtainable books and scrolls. I did not fully explore this area while I was running actual plot, but I did come back to it later to look at what I missed.
On the way back out, with the books Shanath had ordered me to find, Yen-Ylu showed up. This was the one remaining significant NPC I hadn’t met yet. It wasn’t clear to me exactly what his history with Shanath had been, but what I observed strongly implied they were possibly former colleagues who’d turned into rivals.
I had just enough of a chance to talk to him to also learn that he was one of the few people in Sadrith Kegran who actively found slavery distasteful. He has a line to the player about how if it’d be up to him, he’d make the town give up slavery and find some other way to make their coin.
I really, really wish that the mod had given me a dialogue option to let me push back on that. Because the only thing I had been expressly forbidden to talk about was my identity and my past, so that tells me Kendeshel could absolutely have given this guy a dirty look and said, “I suggest you make it up to you.”
He also asked me who I was, to which I could only reply that Shanath had forbidden me to speak of my past. Yen-Ylu’s answer to that was “it didn’t suit me somehow” to serve Shanath. I really wanted to push back on that, too.
Because slavery doesn’t suit anybody, motherfucker.
That said, he also wanted me to go behind Shanath’s back to do some stuff for him, and that got Kendeshel’s attention and made her at least willing to help him out.
First, though, we had to deal with the first of the Prowlers. Fighting that thing was brutal. It one-shotted me both times it got at me. And the only thing that saved my ass the third time through was a tip from the wiki, about climbing up on the rocks around the open area where the fight was taking place.
It took me some effort to actually figure out where I could get to that would put me into sniping position, and not be within reach of the Prowler. Once I did that, though, I was able to survive the fight. And to be sure, Kendeshel had zero fucks to give about whether the two Dunmer assholes got killed.
Yen-Ylu finally got Shanath out of the place, though why Shanath agreed to go with him is anybody’s guess, given that the two of them apparently hated each other. This left me alone to try to do Yen-Ylu’s favor quest for him (getting things out of the repository), as well as doing the Tonal Organ (as described above).
But ultimately I decided to get out and do the part where the town finally offered to let me go. Because if I was going to come back in here and repeatedly run the gauntlet of Dangerous Dwemer Automation Death, I wanted my frigging housecarl back.
So I got out of the tower and reported back to Shanath’s house. He proceeded to scream at me about talking to Yen-Ylu, accused me of conspiring with him, and then ordered me out of his house and confiscated my key.
FINE BY ME! Sayonara, dickweed!
But because Shanath was a lot more stark raving bonkers at this point on top of being an asshole, he came running out after me, screaming about how I was supposed to be his loyal servant.
Listen, motherfucker, you enslaved me. This is not a situation that inspires loyalty. Fuck you, fuck your entire town, fuck your entire House, fuck each and every one of your ancestors, and fuck the guars you all rode in on.
Yet again, though, the mod didn’t actually allow me to confront him directly. Not even in terms of physically defending myself–I’m even just talking verbally. It required the arrival of Marisa Verendas to get Shanath off my case.
Freedom of Choice quest
Shanath stomped off back into his house, and that left Marisa to ask me if I’d come speak to her in the council chamber, “when I had a moment”. Snerk. Like I had a choice in my schedule in this place?
But this was the part where my thievery caught up with me, heh. Because when I arrived at the council chamber, Skyrim’s Hired Thugs mechanic had kicked in, the mechanic that can happen if you steal stuff from any citizen in the game. There were three armed Nords standing right there by the thrones, and they ran over to start beating me up.
They yelled “this’ll teach you to take stuff that doesn’t belong to you”–which is pretty fucking hilarious when delivered to a slave. Who, I might add, had had her own belongings stolen when she was captured.
It was however also kind of jarring this time. Because all three of the thugs were Nords, and so they also kept yelling standard Nord combat lines like “Skyrim belongs to the Nords!” Which really is out of place in a secret Dunmer settlement trying to re-establish the “greatness of House Telvanni”, snerk.
Anyway, it took me three tries to fight the thugs. The first couple of times I hit other NPCs by accident, so that pissed off everybody else in range and caused them to swarm me.
I REGRET NOTHING! I’D STEAL YOUR CLOTHES RIGHT OFF YOUR BODIES AND THE FOOD OUT OF YOUR MOUTHS IF I COULD!
Ahem. Heh. Third time through, I finally killed the thugs without hitting anyone else. And that made me realize that this was also a loophole in the mod’s plot. Because I was, in fact, able to kill them.
In theory, since I was still wearing that Amulet of Suppression, I should not have been able to kill anyone in the town. Yet I was able to kill the thugs–because they were a standard Skyrim game mechanic, and not part of the mod!
I have to explain this in my head by assuming that for whatever reason, presumably because the will of the Dragonborn is strong enough to overcome the magic on the amulet, the curse on it was beginning to fail. There’s precedent for this! A bunch of things happen to the Dragonborn all throughout Skyrim that would drive any lesser mortal batshit crazy, and the player comes through those unscathed. (Reading the Black Books, for example. Or if you want to consider AE content, learning how to smith Amber and Madness ore.) I think it’s totally reasonable narrative-wise for the Dragonborn to eventually overcome the amulet’s curse on the sheer dogged strength of their rage.
So with that having just happened, I think this put a whole different spin on the ensuing conversation with Marisa that the mod could not possibly have anticipated. And I had an entire scene fall out of my brain for how that conversation went. I wrote it up as fic! 😀
And oh yeah, one more thing about this conversation with Marisa, which I didn’t catch until I started reviewing the screenshots I took: her dialogue mentions Shaglak getting lucky capturing “the Dovahkiin himself”.
Where I’m playing a woman in this run.
I’m willing to cut a little slack in other parts of this mod for it being fan produced content, but not on this. At the very least they should have taken the time to do two versions of this line and then deliver the one appropriate to the player’s chosen gender in the game. Skyrim itself gender checks the Dragonborn, so any decently produced mod should do so as well to maintain play consistency.
But anyway. I have a lot of other thoughts about how this mod ends, which I’m going to do in a final writeup post. For now, I’ll simply say that I saw no moral way I could accept the offer of being a free citizen of their town and a member of House Telvanni. And the only reason I grudgingly proceeded with the “save the town” plot path was that I realized it would also cause the deaths of the slaves there if I let the town be destroyed. Which really bothered me. Even if the citizens of Sadrith Kegran need severe repercussions for their slaving behavior, the slaves don’t deserve the Dragonborn’s vengeance.
But I did at least proceed with the less vengeful “don’t actually let the town be destroyed” option. Since, as I wrote up in the fic I linked to, it also occurred to me that Kendeshel could unleash some vengeance on Shanath Selthri! Because seriously, fuck that guy in particular.
After talking to Marisa and Erver, I went back out to talk to Yen-Ylu. He wanted me to charge up a control cube for him, which was the part that required me to head back into Bkhalzarf.
And that was the point I decided to jump ship so I could go get Lydia.
Breathe the free air of Skyrim
As soon as I made it out through the exit into the outside world, I found my horse. LOL. I still had Heidrun in “follow me” mode at this point, so there the horse was, right there by the door. Which doesn’t make much practical story sense (why wasn’t Heidrun stolen by bandits? Or eaten by bears?), but I’ll take it!
What a good and smart horse. <3 Kendeshel probably went oh thank Divines you’re alive, and hugged her neck and fought off tears for a few moments.
Then my next immediate agenda was to deal with the Kynesgrove situation. Because Kendeshel hadn’t forgotten why she was going through Mixwater Mill to begin with, and probably had a hefty amount of fear that maybe Kynesgrove had already been destroyed. Not to mention whether Delphine and Lydia were alive. Since she’d seen no sign that the slavers had taken Delphine and Lydia, and all.
So off I went to Kynesgrove. And the fight with Sahloknir immediately commenced, starting with the frantic innkeeper running down the road, and continuing through Alduin resurrecting the other dragon, and finishing with my taking Sahloknir out.
By myself. Which, admittedly, was weird. Even right around Kynesgrove, I saw no sign of Delphine.
But once I took out the dragon, I did trigger the objective to talk to her. So I had to find her. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look very far. She was a short distance away, parked up on a ridge–and as it happened, taking potshots at another dragon that showed up.
I shall assume for the story that Delphine was still in the area, continually scouting to try to find out what the hell happened to me. She probably heard rumors of other suspicious disappearances right around Mixwater Mill. And I’ll handwave the question of why she never found the door into Sadrith Kegran by assuming that maybe they put up some kind of Illusion spell to hide it?
Both women probably had a burst of OMG YOU’RE ALIVE, but since there was still a dragon to be dealt with, I expect that was brief.
Taking out the Blood Dragon had some unexpected assistance, too: a nearby giant and mammoth. And I even saw the dragon wallop the mammoth and send it flying, which was very impressive. I really wish I’d caught a screencap of that, but it happened too fast for me to react!
And this also means that even though Delphine didn’t see me kill Sahloknir, she did see me kill the Blood Dragon and take its soul. So we could proceed with the next phase of the main quest, where she fesses up to being a member of the Blades, and comes up with the idea of infiltrating the Thalmor Embassy.
(Which, given Kendeshel’s background, is going to be extremely relevant to her interests.)
Checking in at the museum in Solitude doubtless included Kendeshel finding Auryen to let him know she was still alive. And he probably had some very probing questions about where exactly she’d been, not to mention if she was all right.
I do not recall swearing the Dragonborn to secrecy about the town’s location being a condition of my release–and even if Marisa had insisted that I not reveal the location of the town, I have a real hard time accepting that Kendeshel would have actually upheld such an agreement, made under duress.
This makes sense to me if and only if Kendeshel managed to get Marisa to agree to taking no further slaves past the ones they already have. Kendeshel would not have liked that. But I could see that being a concession she could wring out of Marisa in exchange for not betraying their existence to Skyrim at large.
In which case I can also see Kendeshel telling Auryen in private that while she’d been promise-bound to not share Sadrith Kegran’s existence publicly, she’s telling him on the grounds that he’s got enough connections that he could arrange to keep watch on the area on the sly. From what I’ve seen in Legacy’s content so far, Auryen has trader contacts all over Skyrim. I could see him discreetly passing the word that his contacts should take extreme care journeying through Eastmarch, and report back to him if they see any signs of mysterious disappearances. He’d probably also pony up for extra guards to protect any of his contacts in the area.
And if Auryen’s contacts did see any signs of anyone else going missing, I imagine he wouldn’t hesitate to drop words in the right ears to do something about the problem.
Relatedly, once Kendeshel returned to Whiterun, I expect she had a very fervent conversation with Lydia. Who apologized profusely for failing her and letting her be captured, and for also being in Whiterun rather than looking for her. I’m going to go with Delphine asking her to return to Whiterun to keep watch over Breezehome, and be on standby in case she managed to track down who took me.
Kendeshel, for her part, was probably just deeply relieved to see her.
Lydia surely must have been confused as to why her thane doesn’t immediately report what happened to the Jarl in Dragonsreach, too. And, for that matter, why her thane agreed to help these people out at all.
Kendeshel: “I didn’t like it either. But they did agree to let me slay the bastard who bought me.”
Lydia: “Oh, that makes sense. Where is he, my thane, and how big a warhammer do I need to bring to help you cave in his skull?”
Back to Slaverytown
Then it was back to Sadrith Kegran to run the rest of its main plot.
Even with Lydia, going back into Bkhalfzarf the Dwemer Death Pit took some time. Having Lydia with me meant she did trip off a bunch of those pressure plates (and see previous commentary re: there being a gazillion of those). More than once, we were facing groups of six or more automatons.
And even though I kept finding these Dwemer Statuettes that triggered bumps on every single one of my skills (appreciated, but baffling, because why exactly were the statuettes doing that?), which meant I leveled up rapidly at this stage of the game, I was still having trouble keeping Lydia and myself alive.
What finally turned the tide on this was remembering that I now had the Time Break spell. This saved my ass repeatedly and made it actually possible to successfully fight my way through six or more automatons at once.
Lesson to be learned from that: you definitely want to get that spell during the course of this plot, if you’re coming into it without already having the Slow Time Shout. And depending on how my words of Slow Time you have, you might want to get the spell regardless. Because my rough impression here was that the spell actually lasted a little longer than the times I’ve thrown Slow Time in previous playthroughs, with only one or two words of it available.
Also, the Stash Supplies spell I turned on in Legacy’s settings let me loot the place with impunity. There was a huge pile of loot to be had, definitely way too much to carry at once. Having that spell turned on meant I didn’t have to worry about making loot caches to come back for later. I spent a lot of time just flinging loot into the Clutter Chest to look at later.
This was the part of the run where I also finally reached the secret room that contained a custom droid follower, which brings me to…
Snippy the Dwemer Droid
Here, the mod rode a very thin line between “fun” and “immersion breakage”.
Because here’s the thing: Snippy is pretty much a Dwemer-fied version of BB-8 from Star Wars. To the point that even though he’s made out of Dwemer metal and has coloration appropriate to that, he otherwise looks and sounds exactly like BB-8.
I can–barely–accept it as plausible that the Dwemer might have created a thing like Snippy. And I don’t even particularly mind that he’s a custom automaton with unique functions.
But having an automaton that is this blatantly modeled on a Star Wars droid is just a bit too much immersion breakage for me. And I say that as someone who actually loves Star Wars, and who thought BB-8 was adorable. Your mileage may vary on this.
I’m also very ambivalent about Snippy’s functionality. The toggle-able light is really useful, and so is the ability to charge soul gems. But I gotta ask how the hell Snips is actually doing that. Soul gems get charged with souls. So is he tapping into the Soul Cairn somehow? Or into some sort of reserve of soul energy somewhere down in Bkhalzarf?
Or is he doing it with an aetherium core? In which case, that raises questions of whether it’s safe. The Forgotten City mod throws around an unspoken but very strongly implied idea that aetherium is radioactive, which is a real interesting thought. If I spend the rest of Kendeshel’s run with Snippy following me around, am I going to be bringing a rolling cancer source through every population center in Skyrim? ;P
Even aside from how exactly Snippy is doing the soul gem charging, I have a real hard time buying that such a contraption following the Dragonborn around wouldn’t make every single scholar in Skyrim go WHAT THE HELL IS THAT AND CAN I STUDY IT. Starting with Auryen at the museum, in fact.
And Calcelmo right behind him. That dude flings you courier letters the instant you buy any Dwemer item whatsoever from any Skyrim merchant, he’s clearly got eyes all over the province. I should think Calcelmo in particular would damn near swoon at the opportunity to study a unique, functioning Dwemer automaton up close. Particularly if he doesn’t actually have to enter another Dwemer ruin to do it.
All that said, now that I do actually have Snippy, I am certainly going to take advantage of that. Because I worked my ass off to get him.
At the time, I wasn’t sure whether he’d eat my pet follower slot, and this is part of why I sent Meeko home. (I found out later Snips does not eat the pet follower slot, so I needn’t have worried, but this was the safer option for purposes of keeping Meeko alive, anyway.) Lydia and I had to go through one of the most dangerous bits of Bkhalzarf to reach Snippy’s treasure room–which required us to go through a large open area with something like twelve pressure plates.
And of course Lydia triggered one, which set off a wave of Vicious Dwarven Sphere Guardian Death.
I was killed repeatedly by this, and I’m pretty sure Lyds got diced at least once. What finally let us survive the onslaught was backing off into the corridor, with me behind Lydia, throwing Time Break a lot and throwing heals on her so that she could keep fighting.
I’ll say this, too: some of the visuals throughout this fight were kind of neat, with silhouettes of the spheres in a hazy background as they kept coming at us. That’s going to be nightmare fodder for Kendeshel for a while.
Once we were finally through that, I got into the secret chamber, found the control thingamabob, and took over Snippy.
Which left my final objective at that point getting to the magicka absorber to power up the cube for Yen-Ylu. But I was having trouble finding the right place to do that, and wound up saving until next time so I could look up tips for how to pull that off.
Finishing off running Bkhalzarf, and proceeding to the part where I kill Shanath “Batshit Bonkers Slavemongering Asshole” Selthri, and take over the AHO.
Editing to add
- 11/25/2023: Restored missing gallery.