Elessir Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Elessir Seeks Azura’s Star and Joins the Thieves Guild

Time to get caught up on Elessir! Main action here: going after Azura’s Star; fighting Tyra Blood-Fire (right after slaying an Elder Dragon); acquiring the Headman’s Cleaver; joining the Thieves Guild; and taking out a nest of skooma dealers to work on the thaneship in Riften.

Play by play

  • Play dates: 9/16, 9/19, 9/30/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 17-19

Saturday the 16th

  • Picked up at the Arch-Mage’s quarters in the College of Winterhold
  • Fixed the bridge!
  • Took five rounds of Conjuration training with Phinis
  • Did some alchemy in the Arch-Mage’s quarters
  • Did a bunch of training in the Hall of the Elements
  • Also paid Colette for five rounds of Restoration training
  • Found the note lying around about the apprentices missing from the college, and got the quest to ask Phinis about that
  • Headed out to visit the Shrine of Azura
  • Killed a couple of sabre cats that were first fighting each other, and then came at us
  • Found an unfamiliar location: Hoarfrost Grotto, apparently a location from Cutting Room Floor
  • Also marked the Sightless Pit for the map
  • Took out a frost troll and a couple of wolves
  • Reached the shrine and talked to Aranea, and got her directive to look for the elven mage in Winterhold
  • Fast traveled back to Winterhold and went into the Frozen Hearth to talk to Nelacar
  • Bribed him to get info out of him
  • Then talked to Brina and got her to sell me the Coral Dragon Claw
  • Talked to the Jarl on the way out and got the quest to get the Helm of Winterhold at Yngvild
  • Boinged to Lakeview for supplies check
  • Boinged to Tundra Homestead to pick up stuff I’d left there–and got an Elder Dragon!
  • Team Dragonborn took it down
  • Between that and the dragon bits in the chest at Tundra Homestead’s forge, got heavily overloaded
  • Headed over to Whiterun to sell stuff
  • Picked up some ebony and quicksilver to make the missing pieces of Ebony Mage armor I didn’t have yet
  • Boinged back to Lakeview for additional supplies arranging
  • Couldn’t enchant the Ebony Mage gear up so stuck with the purple robe for now
  • Went back on to ride over to Ilinalta’s Deep
  • Took out skeletons en route near Shriekwind Bastion
  • Reached Ilinalta’s Deep and took out a mudcrab, then headed in to run the place
  • No particular problems, even from the two powerful mages
  • Got the broken Star and Malyn Varen’s grimoire
  • Then got out again and returned to Lakeview
  • Saved there until next time

Tuesday the 19th

  • Started at Lakeview; did a little inventory cleanup
  • Then went to Whiterun to sell things
  • Boinged to college to sell more things and get training
  • Dropped off the Staff of Magnus and Malyn Varen’s grimoire in the secret holding room in the Arch-Mage’s quarters
  • Then slept and got up in the morning for training
  • Leveled up to 39; took Magicka bump and Adept Conjuration perk
  • Took five rounds of Restoration training with Colette
  • Did more training with the others
  • Leveled up to 40; took Stamina bump and Adept Illusion perk
  • Then set out to get horse and boinged to Windhelm
  • Gave alms to beggar on the dock, then went out to meet Tyra Blood-Fire and kick her ass
  • Fought ice wraith by the river, and then an Elder Dragon
  • Lololololol Tyra ran down to see what was going on as I absorbed the soul
  • Then once I was up at the shrine, she came up to meet me and then turned hostile
  • Lydia and Lucien mostly took her out, and I got her armor and other loot
  • Right on the heels of that, got cultists! Also took them out
  • Called Hildr because I was overloaded at that point
  • Decided to take an inn room at Kynesgrove because fuck Windhelm
  • Got the frost salts quest from the mage there
  • Headed out towards Riften
  • Fought or otherwise passed en route: lots of wolves, sabre cats, a frostbite spider, a couple of bears, and an assassin
  • Mined silver ore vein
  • Passed Ahkari’s Khajiit and stopped to talk to them; killed a cave bear with them when it showed up
  • Talked to Kharjo and got his quest for his moon amulet pointing at Treva’s Watch
  • But then the damn game crashed; thrown back to coming out of the inn at Kynesgrove
  • Packed some stuff on Hildr this time to unload, then set out again in the same direction
  • This time got another sabre cat and additional critters, and another assassin
  • Passed the Khajiit again, and got Kharjo’s moon amulet quest again for Treva’s Watch
  • Reached Shor’s Stone, and stopped to talk to Filnjar and sell him stuff
  • Got his quest to clear Redbelly Mine of the spiders
  • Went in there to do that and also hit the three iron veins while in there (iron, not ebony, because the USSEP swaps this mine as iron with Northwind)
  • Also stopped to talk to Azadi and talked him out of having a brawl; got the note from him about “we’ll be in touch”
  • Proceeded to Riften and killed more critters on the way
  • Reached Riften, talked to the guard at the front gate, and called him on his bullshit
  • Just as I was doing this, some bandits showed up and provoked all the guards into a fight
  • Heard some barking but wasn’t sure if there was a stray dog around or what; tracked the sound of the barking and found a female dog and puppies back in a nook <3
  • Then came back and looted the dead bandits before actually heading into the city
  • Talked to Maul and got the pointer from him to talk to Vex about the unusual gems
  • Talked to Balimund and got his quest for the fire salts, and sold him more things
  • Headed in to the inn and had initial conversation with Brynjolf; agreed to talk to him in the market
  • Rented a room with Keerava
  • Got pointers from her for the Blood in the Water quest and the Missing Merchant quest
  • Then got up in the morning and sold a few more things to Bersi and Hafjorg
  • Got Hafjorg’s quest to get the ore sample
  • Went out to the fishery and did the rounds there
    • Got quest for the juvenile mudcrab from Viriya
    • Got initial quest from Swims
    • Got the Lexicon from From-Deepest-Fathoms
    • Got Wujeeta her healing potion so I can come back and hit her up later for the info on her skooma dealer
  • Talked briefly to Lucien and got him to tell me about wanting to go to the Dwemer ruin his father was trying to find for him
  • Got courier with the note from Fijeh for the Interception quest and the letter from Lucien’s father
  • Showed that to Lucien and got the info from him about the ruin being on Solstheim
  • Went outside to the stables, then asked Lydia and Lucien to wait out by the horses in case the pickpocket attempt went very, very badly
  • Came back inside and commenced Brynjolf’s plan, and I did in fact get caught dammit
  • Talked to Brynjolf and got directive to head down into the Ratway
  • Retrieved Lucien and Lydia
  • Got the note about the ghost off the door and headed down there
  • Got intercepted by the two at the door this time
  • Unfortunately for Hewnon and Drahff, Team Dragonborn outnumbered them and we kicked their asses
  • Proceeded to find Gian the Fist actually trying to attack the skeever cage? He must have been seriously stoned, LOL 😆
  • Lyds took him out, I think; I didn’t even try
  • Also, I was distracted by the ghost and the dead Vellonius lying over there; got Vellonius’ stuff and proceeded onward
  • Fought the final lowlife before reaching the Flagon, and took the key off the Pickpocket lying on the floor nearby
  • HI BRYNJOLF! Gods this place is pitiful, but okay yes sure I’ll take your next test
  • At which point I proceeded to go back topside and not extort the shopkeepers; promised all three of them I’d cover their debts
  • Then returned to the Ratway and claimed my place in the Guild
  • Had initial convo with Mercer and got the Goldenglow quest
  • Went to talk to Vex and got her scoop on the sewer entrance, and on the Unusual Gems
  • Got a Windhelm sweep job from her for later
  • Then talked to Delvin, and got his “we are so fucking cursed” spiel and a Windhelm Bedlam job from him
  • Talked to Tonilia and got the Thieves Guild armor, then sold stuff to her as well
  • Talked to the Face Sculptor and attempted to do some tweaks to Elessir’s skin tones as previously planned, just to make them a bit more consistent looking despite my current load order in this run
  • Went back to Lakeview after that for winding down and doing a bunch of crafting
  • Tried making various types of armor that I finally had access to make
  • Really not a fan of either the Mercenary armor or the Hedge Knight armor; the latter in particular is stupidly bulky, even on Lydia
  • Retrieved the two fish I already had in my aquarium for the Fishing quest
  • Boinged to Whiterun so I could buy crafting supplies
  • Worked on improving Lydia’s Witchplate and Lucien’s Dwemer robes
  • Also improved both their crossbows and an ebony battleaxe for Lydia
  • Improved my stuff as well and decided I was in the mood to switch back to Crimson Archer + Red Cowl for a bit
  • Blipped back to Lakeview and saved there until next time
  • Additional level up: forgot to note when this happened, but hit level 41, took Quiet Casting perk \0/

Saturday the 30th

  • Started off at Lakeview
  • Went out with Lucien and Lydia and aimed for Lost Knife Hideout
  • Fished on the way at Guardian Stones; heard dragon but did not see dragon, so fishing was peaceful
  • Caught carp which I needed for Fishing quest
  • Also fished at Riverwood but did not catch remaining needed fish, a glassfish
  • Dead witch and mis-summoned flame atronach near White River Watch
  • Saw toll bandit out but sucks to be you, lady, I’m on a horse and I am not stopping
  • Made it to Lost Knife Hideout with no trouble, and ran the place
  • Only hit a couple of iron veins and the gold veins, but couldn’t be arsed to look for the corundum
  • Planned to go to Avanchnzel next, but actually wound up going to Treva’s Watch just because that was a little closer
  • Got killed a couple times on the way through
  • And once between I was playing in the VM and the damn screensaver kicked on, which got me distracted long enough for me to die ;P
  • Severely overloaded by the time i got out, but nothing that my housecarl, Lucien, my summoned atronach, and Lucien’s summoned atronach couldn’t handle
  • Got Spectral Arrow spell off of Stalleo
  • Camped by Stalleo’s little camp for the night once I finally came out of the fort
  • In the morning mounted up on Hildr and boinged to Riften 
  • Sold a boatload of stuff, to Bersi, Balimund, and Tonilia
  • Gave Balimund his fire salts
  • Did a little fishing and caught the glassfish, so checked in with Swims and got his next quest
  • Found Wujeeta and got her pointer to her skooma dealer
  • Headed to the graveyard and found the dead thief for the Gray Cowl quest
  • Heh, a guard was kneeling by him, presumably checking him for signs of life? But this is Riften after all, she was probably picking his pockets, or trying to because I grabbed all his stuff ;D
  • Went down into the Thieves Guild and bought Shadowfoot Sanctum from Vekel the Man
  • Got his Yngvild quest since I’m going there anyway to find the Helm of Winterhold
  • Talked to the Face Sculptor again but could not find any useful way to make Elessir’s ears shorter
  • Dropped off a bunch of things
  • Went to the Jarl to go “hey, did you know there’s a skooma dealer around here?”
  • Got her objective to go to Cragslane and clear that place too
  • On the way out, gave Marisa some ice wraith teeth
  • Went outside the gate aaaaaaaand DRAGON
  • Took it out, though there was an alarming moment when I saw the mother dog and her puppies in the immediate vicinity, NO NO PUPPIES GET OUT OF THE WAY
  • Nothing killed that I could see though, except for the dragon
  • Mounted up and continued
  • Stopped in Shor’s Stone and sold Filnjar a few more things, including loot from skooma dealer bastards; also got his ore sample to bring back to Hafjorg
  • Proceeded from there to Cragslane
  • Cleared that place pretty quickly, then came back out again and boinged back to Riften
  • Lydia kept throwing lines about Riften drowning in a sea of sin and wickedness; Lydia, sweetie, maybe you don’t want to know what your thane is about to be up to; sent her back to Lakeview to mind the place
  • Did some crafting and made a couple more pieces of Snow Bear armor to try them on; I didn’t entirely hate that set and will keep it around in case I feel like wearing it
  • Also hanging onto the Vanguard pieces I snurched off of Cragslane bandits
  • Slept down there and got up in the morning
  • Checked in with the Jarl who promised me a title in Riften as soon as I buy Honeyside, but I was flat out of money
  • So boinged back to Lakeview to stash all the crafting mats I’d built up
  • Saved there until next time

Now I’m the Arch-Mage… yay?

Now that I’ve fixed the bridge, I think once I run the ruins of Winterhold stuff, I may turn over the position of Arch-Mage to Tolfdir. Partly because I want to see what playing through that option is like, and partly because it actually feels accurate for the character. Not only because of who he’s based on (the character I wrote in Faerie Blood and Bone Walker is not exactly the kind of guy who’d want to be in charge of an entire college of full of mages), but also because Lucien actually pointed out quite correctly that he’s lacking a fuckton of solid qualifications.

I’ll have to think about this, though. It would lose me access to the Arch-Mage’s quarters, and the sanctuary I can get to as a result of running this mod. So we’ll see where this leads.

Going after Azura’s Star

On the other hand, I had no qualms at all about sending Elessir over to visit the Shrine of Azura. This dude is a Dunmer. And while I feel like he’s probably not very religious at all, he probably had at least a niggling little grain of conscience that suggested he might at least go pay a respect or two at a shrine set up by his own people in territory that’s by and large hostile to them. Well, that and maybe Azura nudged him. LOL.

I could definitely see Elessir feeling salty about Azura nudging him into doing something for her, but she is one of the Reclamations. And he is a Dunmer. He’d do it. Grumpily, but he’d do it. And if Azura’s own priestess points at him and goes “You! Azura wishes you to be her champion”? He’s not going to back out of that.

All of which plays into his going to talk to Nelacar in the Frozen Hearth, too. Even if Lucien’s ragged on him for being named Arch-Mage, Elessir’s smart enough to take advantage of it when he needs to, and Nelacar did acknowledge his position. Of course, Nelacar did then squander his chances by waving the All Daedra Are EEEEEEVIIIIIL flag.

Not a good take to present to a guy whose people actively worship the Daedra. So yeah, Elessir had no more patience for this guy than any of my other characters have. And arguably even less.

Fight with Tyra Blood-Fire

Running the plot to fight Tyra Blood-Fire was unexpectedly hilarious, because as I got near the shrine location where I was supposed to meet her, an Elder Dragon showed up. And Skyrim’s mechanic to have nearby NPCs run over and gawk kicked in, once the dragon was down and I absorbed its soul.

She ran down to see what was going on, and I only got “holy shit, you’re the Dragonborn” lines out of her! Until I actually when went up to the shrine.

I had to wait a minute or two for her to actually walk up to meet me. Once she finally did though, then she turned hostile. Lydia and Lucien mostly took her out, really. But regardless, I got her armor and other loot.

I am willing to headcanon her being reluctant to come back up to the shrine and fight me, if she’d just literally seen me absorb a dragon’s soul. She clearly had psyched herself up to confront me to begin with; she had after all sent me that latter. But even given that, seeing me eat a dragon’s soul had to have given her some pause!

Brynjolf the shyster, and Elessir not being all that great at pickpocketing

One new-to-me thing I should talk about, though: I’m not sure if I ever knew this before, but LOLOLOL, the shakedown at the Riften gate was totally Brynjolf’s scheme. I stumbled across this taking different dialogue options with him this time, through. If I ever found this before I forgot it; I can’t find references to it in my prior posts. But I am delighted to have discovered this. It is three hundred percent on brand for Brynjolf.

Also indicative of how at least some of Riften’s guards are clearly corrupt as fuck. HA.

I was simultaneously chagrined and relieved that I actually got caught trying the pickpocket attempt for Brynjolf’s plan. Chagrined because I completely fucking forgot to quaff the Fortify Pickpocket potion I had on me–and relieved because this means Brand-Shei gets to stay out of jail!

On the way into the Ratway, I triggered a thing I had not found before, a conversation with the thugs Hewnon and Drahff added in by Cutting Room Floor. I was running that mod in Harrowhark’s playthrough, but I did not trigger this conversation at the time because I never confronted those guys directly. I just sniped them from the shadows, because Harrowhark was alone at the time.

Hewnon and Drahff taking out Thieves Guild hopefuls

This time through, though, I came down there with both Lydia and Lucien. And actually set off that conversation with them, in which they revealed they’d been killing prior candidates for the Guild that Brynjolf sent down. Which raises a lot of questions for me, because WTF?

One possibility here is that Brynjolf actively recruited these guys to test any candidates he sends down into the Ratway. But that would also imply that he is okay with them killing anybody who can’t make it past them. Which would make Brynjolf out to be rather more cold-blooded than he is in a vanilla Skyrim mod, and a hypocrite to boot, given that he makes a big point to the player about not killing people on Thieves Guild assignments.

Possibility number two: Mercer Frey, on the other hand, is absolutely enough of a cold-blooded bastard to recruit these guys to interfere with any of Brynjolf’s prospects. His interests are served if he keeps the Guild weakened, because a weakened Guild can’t get in the way of his ultimate plans. But while I could see these two goons revealing they were acting on the Guildmaster’s orders, that might be too big of a hint to the player about Mercer in fact being a cold-blooded bastard. And the Thieves Guild plot only works as well as it does if the player doesn’t know too soon about how big a bastard Mercer is.

Plus, it still presents Mercer as someone willing to bring about the deaths of potential Thieves Guild recruits, which the player would be right to call him on in conversation.

Third possibility: Hewnon and Drahff are acting on their own, and don’t give a fuck about interfering with potential new Thieves Guild recruits. This would fit in better with the Guild’s status when the player first finds out about them, because they’ve fallen so low that they can’t even prevent a couple of lowlifes like Hewnon and Drahff from killing people in the Ratway.

Or, perhaps more specifically, can’t be bothered to actually do anything about it. The Guild has their secret access into the Flagon via the graveyard, so they can easily ignore the entrance where Hewnon and Drahff are lurking. I could also see that while several individual members of the Thieves Guild could easily take these guys in a fight, they’re trying not to kill people if they can help it. In fact, Mercer may specifically have ordered them to avoid killing anybody if they can help it.

And they probably can’t afford the Dark Brotherhood. Snerk.

Brynjolf in particular is pragmatic enough to know that the Ratway is full of thugs and killers, even aside from everybody in the Guild. So while he might be disappointed if a promising candidate never makes it to the Flagon, he’d go “oh well” and go back to hawking his Falmerblood Elixir until he can find another possible recruit.

So I think I’ll go with option three here for my headcanon.

Screw your intimidation tactics, I’m not that crude

And I specifically avoided extorting the shopkeepers, since I’m running the Thieves Guild Taking Care of Business Redux mod, which lets me do that. Plus, I feel like that’s appropriate for Elessir. His namesake would not necessarily have cared about pissing off the shopkeepers per se, but I do think the character I wrote would find such tactics really fucking crude. Plus, there’s a little bit of sowing chaos here, if Elessir specifically undercuts Brynjolf’s intimidation plan, and the whole trope of “rogue with a heart of gold”, which is absolutely part of the original character.

Queueing up the Thieves Guild side jobs

I have not yet actually run them as of this writing, but I did queue up a Windhelm job with both Vex and Delvin. And did not actually have to explicitly tell them to focus on one city at a time, either.

My open question here is going to be, how well this version of the mod handles the side jobs. This is a newer version of the same mod than the one I tried in Harrow’s run, where the side jobs were active borked. So we’ll see how this holds up.

Lesson learned, or not learned as the case may be

I was really kind of grooving on the look of the Ebony Mage gear in Immersive Armors, even though I took the trouble to set it to be Light Armor rather than Unarmored in the mod settings. Which is based on my past experience with finding pure mage outfitting making me too squishy, since I rarely get to the point of being able to reliably cast the higher tier Mage Armor spells.

But I also discovered that the hood for the Ebony Mage gear doesn’t play well with Elessir’s ears. The ends of them clip through the hood.

I wound up visiting the Face Sculptor twice in these two sessions, with the second time specifically to see if I could do something about the ear problem. Answer: no. I could not see an easy way to adjust Elessir’s ears the correct way to solve the problem–i.e., to make them a little shorter, but otherwise not change their overall shape.

There might have been a way to do this using the Sculpt functionality, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that while playing with a controller on my VM. I kind of suspect that’s expected to be done with mouse and keyboard? But don’t know for sure.

Ah well. I will probably just need to not use that gear even if it does look rather badass on Elessir. Armor it is!

Taking out the skooma dealers

Me, in the court of the Jarl in Riften: “Hey, did you know there’s a skooma dealer around here?”

Laila Law-Giver: “Yes, but my guards are idiots and can’t actually set foot in the warehouse to take him out. Can you do any better? Quietly?”

Me: <goes to warehouse and stabs the hell out of the skooma dealer, then goes back to the jarl> Was that discreet enough for you?

We shall not mention to the Jarl that I did in fact appropriate all the skooma, both in the warehouse and in Cragslane Cavern. 😉

After doing that, I already had enough favor quests queued up to proceed straight to getting the thaneship in the Rift. I’d given Balimund his fire salts and Marisa her ice wraith teeth, and from what I see on the wiki, giving Wujeeta a healing potion also counted. So all I have to do now is buy Honeyside.

But I didn’t have enough money for that, not after having just bought Shadowfoot Sanctum. I’ll get to buying Honeyside soon enough, I’m sure.

Next time

Goldenglow is calling, and Elessir will answer! Now that I’m up in the low 40’s with Elessir’s level, I’ll probably do a hard push through the rest of the Thieves Guild main plot so I can get up to level 46 and be able to get the best possible Chillrend.

There may or may not also be a break to go run the Thalmor Embassy. Because fuck those guys. 😀 We’ll see if I can get my Conjuration up enough to call Dremora Lords!

And oh yeah: I need to finish off getting Azura’s Star, but improved fire resistance is called for first.


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.