Elessir Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Elessir Investigates Ruins and Caverns, and Becomes Thane of Haafingar

Back to Elessir in Skyrim! Main action in this post: running the Fall of Winterhold quest for the Immersive College of Winterhold mod, and then running Runoff Caverns, one of the few areas in Anniversary Edition content I hadn’t actually played through yet. And as a tasty after-dinner mint, I also got Elessir thaned up in Solitude!

Play by play

  • Play dates: 10/13, 10/16-10/17/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 22-24

Friday the 13th

  • Picked up at the College of Winterhold
  • Headed down into the Midden to start the Fall of Winterhold quest; took me a while to get started
  • Found the area with the smithing equipment that I already knew about
  • Checked the door that I could unlock with a key, and unlike with Harrow’s run, figured out how to get through the gate to the room beyond
  • Found several draugr bodies, and then triggered the arrival of a bunch of pissed off wraiths
  • Good hard fight, they killed me several times, until Lucien and Iona and I finally took all of them out
  • Derped around a lot looking for the room with the old College entrance exam
  • While doing this, also spotted an altar nook to the left of the Atronach Forge, more on this below
  • Went into the ruins, spotted the child ghost, and started following it
  • And did finally find the room with the entrance exam and the spellbooks
  • Tried to focus on following the child ghost this time, which helped things move quicker
  • Found the room with the child skeletons and the toys
  • Found the Temple of the Gods
  • Took the Elder’s journal and also looked into the Mirror of Mara
  • Woke up the draugr and had to fight them
  • Followed the child ghost down into the Hall of the Dead
  • Took out the giant draugr
  • Finally made it to Nofur Spear-Ear and took him out
  • Spotted both child ghosts after the battle, with the boy ghost kneeling over his sister, maybe?
  • Meanwhile OHNOEZ I have released the dragon priest!
  • Made it out through Skytemple Ruins, and took out the final Draugr Deathlord on the way out
  • Then went at it with the dragon priest Beinaarkh and the dragon Kahvozein
  • This took multiple tries, they kept killing me >_<
  • Had to take cover a lot just inside the ruins and snipe at the dragon from there
  • Threw out a flame atronach a lot, and then later a scamp to use its ability to throw frost magic
  • Started using the Elemental Fury Shout again, and that helped
  • Last time through I was not even sure how we killed the dragon priest, because his corpse fell down onto the path to lower ground, and I didn’t see if Iona or Lucien got him
  • But got the good loot off of the dragon, including the Conjure Daedroth spell
  • And got the good ring off of the dragon priest
  • Headed back to the college on foot and had some thoughts about the underside of the college bridge, see below
  • Made it back up to the college and retrieved my horse
  • Sold stuff to Birna in Winterhold on the way out
  • Boinged off to Goldenhills to check in there and get profits from Marcurio
  • Aaaaaaand had a dragon show up–which died right on top of my tomatoes XD
  • Boinged off to Riften and decided to go after the unicorn
  • Got frightened woman en route, who’d escaped from Mistwatch, so now I have the quest for that
  • Killed a couple more critters on the way to the unicorn–and when I reached her she was fighting a couple of bears!
  • Tamed her, then returned to Riften and registered her with the stables; she got named Rigmor
  • Also bought the elven armor for her
  • Headed off to Largashbur to check in and give Atub her troll fat and Daedra heart
  • Ran that pretty much as per prior playthroughs
  • Elessir was not impressed by Yamarz’ attempts to bribe him into killing the giant 😉
  • Yamarz got himself squashed as per usual, so took out the giant with Team Dragonborn and got the hammer
  • Returned to Largashbur for finale and got Volendrung
  • Boinged to Hendraheim and dropped off the coral claw, Dawnbreaker, and Volendrung there
  • (Realized I haven’t run Yngol Barrow with Elessir yet, not sure I care though? Since mostly I just wanted the claw)
  • Did not advance in level in this session so finished out still at level 44
  • Saved at Hendraheim until next time

Monday the 16th

  • Picked up again at Hendraheim
  • Went out with Lucien and Iona to run Lost Valley Redoubt
  • But first stopped to run Gloomreach since I hadn’t actually ever been in there
  • Then came out and started running Lost Valley Redoubt, which took a few tries, see below
  • Then finally got past that initial point, and made it past the first Briarheart and to the hagravens
  • Took them out and got the word for Become Ethereal off the wall, and got boss loot
  • From there rode over to Cradle Stone Tower and took out the hagraven in there
  • Made camp by the tower since it was super late and I wanted to start running Runoff Caverns in daylight
  • As soon as we got there I found the body of the Dwarven horse, which absolutely delighted Lucien, it was adorable how into it he was <3
  • Started running the place and Lucien launched into good commentary as soon as we were in
  • Found initial camp with a dead mercenary and some backstory in a journal about the situation here
  • Did a lot of long, winding traversal of this initial part of the cavern until I could get to the other side and lower a drawbridge; more on this section below
  • Got weighted down pretty quickly as I got loot, and left once for a loot dropoff back at Hendraheim before returning
  • On the second venture in, got another large-ish winding area where I had to find a couple of levels before finally getting to the part with the seasonal zones–and a shitton of lightning strikes
  • Found dead mage who was the employer of the mercenaries, with a journal describing what was going on, while at the same time Lucien sussed the problem
  • There was a machine called a “weather witch” going apeshit in the caverns, and four zones all representing the seasons; my objective was to close down the conduits for each zone, so that the machine could be deactivated and the weather damage could be kept from escaping into the rest of Skyrim
  • Started with the Spring one which was fairly easy; had to kill a bunch of spriggans to get past various bendy roots that reminded me of the Eldergleam
  • Found a Dwarven drone fly that would supposedly protect me against some of the poisonous miasma in the place, but honestly didn’t feel a need to launch it (I should try it at some point just to check it out)
  • Got the conduit gem from in there, as well as the Dwarven Spring mask
  • Moved on to run the Autumn section next and this was a weirdo kind of farm, with a bunch of very strangely colored wheat; the goal here was to get a sample of each color of the wheat and place it in a bin
  • This area was also the area with the rest of the parts of the Dwarven horse, so I took my time to find all of those, too; Lucien got very excited by finding these!
  • Also got the Autumn mask
  • Had to kill assorted Dwemer machines in here including Harvest Centurions
  • Ran the Summer section next, which required me to activate a repair spider to futz with assorted waypoints to deactivate the conduit
  • The place was hot AF because most of it was flooded with lava, and also there were fire traps and flame atronachs
  • Best part of this section though was Lucien being so delighted about the spider <3
  • Last but not least ran the Winter section and boy howdy do you not want to run this in Survival Mode, see below
  • Had to run it without Lucien and Iona, and I was overloaded, so it took me a very long time to get through that part
  • FINALLY got to the conduit and shut it down, but realized on the way out that I hadn’t found the Winter mask
  • Got out of the Winter section to rejoin my followers
  • We had a final battle with more mercenaries and the apprentice of the mage who’d been killed, but we prevailed and then proceeded to the boss battle
  • This required us to head up some stairs to a final chamber with a gigantic dwarven spider in there
  • The spider had different kinds of elemental attacks, but Team Dragonborn took it out fairly easily
  • Got the Turn of the Seasons spellbook on the way out and read it to activate the perk
  • As soon as we got out of the cave, went over to reassemble the dwarven horse, and Lucien’s reaction to this was delightful, see below <3
  • When I mounted the vamidium, Rigmor started heading off
  • Returned to Hendraheim to pick up the loot I’d stashed there–and then an Ancient Dragon showed up, so we had to fight that
  • Afterwards, discovered that I had way too much crap to actually ride the horse, or fast travel :O
  • But I wanted to get rid of all my crap and did not want to leave it stashed at Hendraheim, so went fuck it and just hoofed it all the way to Whiterun
  • Killed en route:
    • Assorted sabre cats
    • One assassin
    • There may also have been a wolf in there somewhere?
  • Pretty sure we went past some Thalmor with a prisoner, but I only spotted them out of the corner of my eye
  • Also very studiously avoided a giant not far from Barleydark Farm
  • Did the combo of Sneak + drawn bow + Whirlwind Sprint to cover the distance
  • Finally made it to Whiterun and started selling stuff
  • Got down to a weight where I was still overloaded but at least able to take the Dwarven horse to Lakeview
  • Saved there for the night
  • Level up for this session: cleared 45 during the long push through Runoff Caverns, and took the second Magic Resistance perk in Alteration

Tuesday the 17th

  • Did short epilogue to the previous session
  • Picked up again at Lakeview
  • Did some building of remaining furnishings in the house to cut down on my backlog of building materials, blew up a couple of things for enchantments, and did a little smithing
  • Leveled up to 46 pretty shortly into this; took third Magic Resistance perk in Alteration
  • Stashed a bunch of items temporarily in the chest in the house’s front room
  • Fast traveled directly to Runoff Caverns
  • Got in there just long enough to get to the Winter section and find the mask, now that I’d seen in the walkthrough video how to do it
  • Fought a couple more automatons in there, including a frosted dwarven centurion, but nothing the conjured daedroth couldn’t handle
  • Got the mask and got out again
  • Returned with Iona and Lucien to Lakeview
  • Got courier with the note to trigger The Cause quest, since now I was at level 46
  • Tested forging one of the masks onto the Dwarven crown to close out the quest finally
  • Went with the Autumn mask since it has the enchantment I’d vaguely consider using at some point (though it is highly unlikely I will do so)
  • Boinged to Solitude to sell more of that loot
  • Got it all sold and tried to see if i could make it to 25,000 to buy Proudspire
  • Cleared 22,000, so boinged down to Goldenhills to pick up my next round of farm profits, and that kicked me over the mark
  • Returned to Solitude and took a room at the inn
  • Got up in the morning and bought Proudspire from Falk, though did not have gold enough left to start decorating it
  • Reported in to Elisif and immediately got thaned up, fuck yeah <3
  • Went to find Proudspire and HI JORDIS
  • Jordis threw a line about wishing she could go with me
  • Saved there until next time

Fall of Winterhold quest

This time through, it took me a while to get the Fall of Winterhold properly started. Since this is a plot I’ve only run once, I haven’t memorized all the nuances of it! And I’d forgotten some initial things from Harrow’s run, like, where to find the room with the spellbooks and the old College of Winterhold entrance exam.

Also, in Harrow’s run, I’d found a room that I could get to by opening a door with a key off of a dead draugr. But I also had to get through a gate to reach the room beyond, and in Harrow’s run, I hadn’t figured out how to do that. This time through, I actually found the handle to open that gate up.

Inside the room, I found several draugr bodies, but nothing else obviously interesting–until I stepped on a particular area of the floor. Which then immediately triggered the arrival of a bunch of very pissed off wraiths. These were very similar in appearance to the corrupted shades you see in Kilkreath, but unlike those shades, these were a tough fight. They killed me a few times! But I finally made it through and succeeded in taking all of them out with Lucien and Iona’s help.

However, aside from that, I couldn’t find anything else actually interesting about this room. There was no sign of any useful loot or additional clues about Winterhold’s history.

One other detail I want to note here that I’m pretty sure I didn’t notice as Harrow: to the left of the Atronach Forge, I spotted an additional hallway that led to a spooky-looking altar. This thing is definitely an addition of the Immersive College of Winterhold mod, and its purpose is apparently to make black soul gems out of empty grand soul gems.

I had spotted the necromancer book lying on the table with the manual for the Atronach Forge, I think? And I noticed in this run too that that book was definitely written by the Order of the Worm. Presumably the altar is from them, too? As a note to Future Me, the altar only works after midnight, though. It threw me an error when I tried to activate it, saying as much.

Elessir being a Dunmer, and the Dunmer being very against necromancy in general due to their traditions of ancestor worship, I should think he probably has grown up believing necromancy to be wrong. So he’ll probably hold to the same overall stance all of my previous characters have done: not raising any undead thralls for the most part. And not going out of his way to capture black souls, but being practical enough to take advantage of them if he does.

All of which means he probably won’t ever use that altar. And I kinda feel like he’ll want to take custody of that necromancer book and seal it off in the special chamber in the Arch-Mage’s quarters. Hmm.

Additional note to Future Me: the entrance exam room is after you enter the ruins, yes.

And this time through, I noted that I already had all three spells you can find in there, including Waterbreathing. So visiting this room turned out to be entirely optional, heh. But I still like getting the exam document anyway as a trophy of the run!

This being my second time through on this quest, I didn’t spend nearly as much time derping around in the ruins. In no small part because it’s so damned dark down there, and I remembered derping around in the dark being one of the aspects of this quest that I didn’t like all that much. Plus, I knew after the first run that there wasn’t any particular value in wandering off too far from the path the quest wants you to follow.

So this time, I just focused on following the child ghost as best I could!

Speaking of that child ghost, I got a glimpse of the two child ghosts after fighting Nofur Spear-Ear–and I’m not sure I saw that during Harrow’s run. I didn’t say anything about it in her post about this quest, anyway. What I saw was the boy ghost kneeling next to the other one–his sister, maybe?

I kind of wonder if Nofur Spear-Ear was their father. But if so, still not sure why the child ghosts would show up in that chamber, particularly if their skeletons were way back over in that room with the toys in it.

All of which ties into what I said during Harrow’s run, really: that I like a lot of the ideas this quest has, but they don’t coalesce well into a narrative. I have to just guess after the fact who these characters might have been.

As with Harrow’s run, the final fight with the dragon priest Beinaarkh and the dragon Kahvozein was a doozy. I came in at a higher level than I’d done as Harrow, this time–and even with that, it was still a challenge. I will need to keep this in mind when Kendeshel’s run gets to this point; it’ll be interesting to see if she has an easier time with it, if I get her up past say level 50 or so before I tackle this quest.

Sidebar about the bridge into the college

Hoofing it back to the College of Winterhold on foot gave me an opportunity to get a look at the underside of the reconstructed bridge. Which looked weird to me. There were some dark bits underneath the ends of a bunch of what still looked like broken bridge columns.

That got me to wondering if the original form of that bridge had had columns that went all the way down, back when it was first built? Or at least, more of a structure beneath those broken columns?

Did the Great Collapse actually destroy most of the bridge, leaving only that much thinner ribbon of stone to traverse the gap? Because what’s left certainly looks like it could fall apart with a severe enough earthquake. I suppose that College magics are holding it together for now–presumably the same magics that allow the Arch-Mage to fix that bridge with this mod, in fact. But what happens if those magics fail?

Getting the unicorn

Registering the unicorn at the Riften stables got her named Rigmor. I’m still not a fan of that name, really, just because it sounds too much like “rigor mortis”. But just discovered to my surprise that it’s actually a female given name, not a male one.

So okay! I guess the unicorn is female in this run.

Also, I gave her some elven armor, even though I also saw to my satisfaction that Convenient Horses does work with the unicorn. And lets you outfit said unicorn with the various types of gear. I just happen to think the elven armor looks best. 😀

Running Gloomreach

I stopped in here just because in all the playthroughs I’ve done to date, I’d never actually gone in there before. And now I can say that I have, at least.

It’s a small-ish Falmer hive that looks like it used to be a mine. Mostly not much in there, but I did at least get a skill book for Restoration.

But overall, not terribly interesting. I’ll just have to remember in future runs that it could be useful for a quick XP bump. But it’s mostly skippable.

Running Lost Valley Redoubt

I ran through Lost Valley Redoubt just because it was my easiest path to get to Runoff Caverns, really. But as I knew from previous runs, the place is itself useful. And I did want the word off its Word Wall, and the Speech bump you can get by jumping off of Bard’s Leap Summit.

Getting through the initial bit of this was surprisingly challenging, though. One of the Forsworn archers kept sniping me hard. And once, something I did managed to piss off the scamp I’d summoned–who then turned its frost magic on me. Oops.

It didn’t help either that I’d somehow lost Iona. But once I went back for her, and got her unstuck, getting through the opening bit of this ruin got easier. And I was able to make it through to the Word Wall, take out the hagravens, and get the boss loot.

(Though I held on doing Bard’s Leap Summit until after I ran Runoff Caverns!)

And speaking of Runoff Caverns…

I finally ran this dungeon, one of the few bits of AE content I hadn’t actually seen yet. And this was great. But since that was also a very long dungeon to adventure through, let’s break this down into sections.

First section of the ruins

The opening bit of it was a bit too long for my money, but that was the only bit of it I didn’t completely like. And to be fair, part of this was on me because of course I got overloaded as soon as I started taking loot. So it took longer to tromp through there!

In fact, I got enough loot that as soon as I finished the initial bit of the cavern and lowered the drawbridge to lead back to the exit, I actually exited the place so I could go back to Hendraheim for a loot dropoff.

The other thing I’ll say about the initial stretch of this dungeon was that there were some enemies–periodic dwarven automatons as well as mercenaries. But none of them were particularly challenging, certainly not for my level 44 Elessir. Your mileage may vary if you come in at a lower level.

Area just past the first drawbridge

The second area, just after the drawbridge, was also more trouble that I liked. Part of that is on me–because I got overloaded again, of course. So I was moving around way slower. But I also had a bunch of trouble finding the second of two levers necessary to lower more drawbridges and get to the main area I needed to reach.

Note for Future Me: that second lever is in the middle of the lowest level of that part of the dungeon. Don’t forget to make use of light sources, Future Me!

Once I came back in, though, I was able to proceed to the really interesting part: the area with the underground lightning storms, and the four seasonal-themed side branches you have to run in order to shut down the weather machine that’s going bonkers.

Spring area

All of the seasonal areas were fun in different ways. The Spring area had a profusion of gorgeous flowers all over it, but also a bunch of creatures running around. I spotted a deer, a couple of wolves, and a bear. And lots and lots of bunnies!

How the hell all these critters have been surviving down in these ruins is probably an exercise best left to the reader. 😀 But maybe the critters have access to ways back out into the rest of Skyrim?

Autumn area

Autumn, though, I think I actually liked the best visually. I got the nicest screenshot opportunities in that area, as y’all can see in the gallery for this post. And the various weird types of wheat in there raise a bunch of questions! What the hell were the Dwemer doing to their wheat crops to get all those various colors? Were they supposed to do different things? Did they have different nutritional properties? Were they trying to make different types of wheat useful for different alchemical recipes?

The overall objective here was to gather samples of all six kinds of wheat, and go place them in the correct repositories. This turned out to be simpler than I expected, though. All six of the wheat types had a sign by them, with a symbol that clearly corresponded to the repository you’d have to use. But I got all six samples before I tried to place them, and so when I activated each one, it just took the correct sample. I didn’t have to pick and choose.

I will have to play this area differently with either Finds or Kendeshel, and try placing the samples one at a time to see if that changes behavior. And I’ll try to get extra samples of the various wheat types, just so I can see later if I can do anything interesting with them. (It’d be cool to be able to make different colors of bread!)

There were several automatons to fight here, smaller ones as well as Harvest Centurions. Nothing out of the ordinary in terms of difficulty, though.

The other main thing about this section was that it was also where I needed to look for the rest of the parts of the vamidium. About which Lucien got very excited! The tricky bit of this though was that the quest markers for the parts (and, for that matter, the seasonal masks) didn’t activate until I got close enough to the objects in question. So I did a considerable amount of exploring the area, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Additional note to Future Me: explore this area thoroughly on additional runs through here!

Summer area

The Summer section worried me some. From what I’d seen on the wiki, the idea here was to activate a repair spider that would go around and futz with assorted waypoints, which would allow you to deactivate the conduit.

The problem with this: the section was hot as fuck because most of the place was flooded with lava. Also, there were flame and/or steam traps, and flame atronachs as well. The wiki warned about the possibility of your summoned repair spider maybe getting damaged, and require you to have to go back to the start of the section to call in another one.

Given my already being overloaded, this did not seem like a happy prospect!

That said, Summer was less worrying than I expected. Operating the spider was easy enough; it had a control rod similar to the one in the Dwemer museum, which, conveniently, I’d recently played with so I had fresh in my mind how that was supposed to work. Some of the waypoints had to be turned on, but certain critical ones had to be turned off, and once I figured that out it was easy to have the spider do its job. And the spider managed to make it past every single trap I did. So I didn’t lose it once.

Needing to go over a bunch of narrow pipes and bridges was a little daunting, just for purposes of not falling into a fiery lava death. But none of those pipes or bridges were any worse than, say, any of the pipes you need to walk over when running Avanchnzel. So none of them were any real issue.

And while there were flame atronachs, none of them were anything I couldn’t solve with a well-placed arrow shot.

I did get a little turned around, just because I missed one of the initial waypoints to activate, and was confused as to why I wasn’t done yet when I hit what I thought should be the last one. Future Me, take note: the waypoint I originally missed was close to the place where I originally found the spider, and off to the left of that.

All in all though my favorite part of this whole section was again due to Lucien. The repair spider was fun by itself, but what made it delightful was Lucien’s reaction to it. He promptly christened it Bartholomew, announced he and it would be best friends forever, and praised it repeatedly for doing its repair work. And when we left that section, Lucien told it it was the best spider friend a Flavius could ask for, and that he would indeed miss it. It was charming and wholesome and I loved it. <3

And truth be told, I was kind of sad too that we couldn’t take the spider with us.

Winter area

Last but not least, I hit the Winter section. This one I actually had to do by myself, for… unclear reasons, really. I suppose it had to do with how the place was structured to make you have to do a lot of steep jumps into icy water, a complicated enough layout that followers might have trouble following you through there.

That part didn’t worry me per se. The part that did worry me was that the wiki made it sound like it’d be using Survival-Mode-style cold mechanics! I was deeply relieved that this was not in fact the case. Because if I’d had to run this part with the cold mechanics from Survival Mode active, it would have been fucking brutal.

Specifically because of those jumps into icy water, in fact. Because as I know from looking up stuff about Survival Mode, icy water can in fact kill you pretty damned quickly. And you have to do jumps like three or four times in this area of the ruin. So let me emphasize this heavily:

Don’t run this area in Survival Mode unless you are feeling very adventurous and you are very prepared. Bring hot soups and torches and the Flame Cloak spell. The ability to make a campfire to warm up, if you have the carry capacity to allow you to bring fuel for it, would probably also be wise. Seriously, prepare yourself properly, Future Me or whoever else is reading this post!

All the jumps sure made it an interesting place to traverse–but of course, by this time I was also overloaded, so it took a while! And I had to be careful with how long I stayed underwater, too. Even though I was casting the Waterbreathing spell and that thing has a duration of 60 secs, that can cut it tight if you’re overloaded. And therefore slowed with your moving speed in the water.

After a long and arduous trek, I finally got to the conduit gem and pulled it, which shut down that section’s conduit. But I only realized on the way out that I had not yet found the Winter mask. AUGH.

I checked a walkthrough video to see what I’d missed, and realized I wasn’t going to get back to that section easily. I’d have to come back in later after the plot was done.

So I got out of the Winter section to rejoin Lucien and Iona, and finish out the overall dungeon.

Giant spider boss

I did rather like the giant spider boss machine at the end, which pulled a trick similar to Halldir: i.e., cycling between different kinds of elemental attacks. That made the fight a bit more interesting!

But Iona, Lucien, a regularly summoned daedroth, and range shots from me, we took it out fairly easily.

Got the Turn of the Seasons spellbook on the way out, read it, and activated that perk. We’ll see if I get any noticeable use out of it.

Reassembling the Dwarven horse

After we got out of the ruin, I went over to put the horse back together. Which just involved my activating the horse body, and that was kind of anticlimactic, really. There wasn’t an interesting visual or anything, at least not that I saw. I just got Lucien squealing in delight about it working, and I turned around, and boom, dwarven horse.

I guess the game handwaves the expectation that your Dragonborn somehow manages to figure out how to put the thing together again and get it working. Though this might have been a bit more plausible if we’d found, say, a schematic for it lying around somewhere or something. 😀

All that said, I was delighted by Lucien’s reaction. He was all OMG IT WORKS, and full of glee about how many sketches he was going to make and how all his colleagues in Cyrodiil were going to lose their minds. And see, this, this right here, is what I think scholars should be doing in reaction to fantabulous Dwarven machinery rediscovered and reassembled by the Dragonborn! They should be flipping their shit! This is what I would want to see in response to the AHO and Snippy, too!

Returning to Hendraheim

Starting to ride the Dwarven horse did of course mean Rigmor headed off back towards the College of Winterhold. So I returned to Hendraheim to pick up the loot I’d stashed there. And while doing that, I realized that the Dwarven horse wasn’t actually making any noise.

Which struck me as super weird. The wiki claims that the thing supposedly makes horse noises, but for me, at least in Elessir’s run so far, it’s totally silent. I will need to see if this repros in Kendeshel’s run, as well as Finds-The-Way. It’s not clear to me yet whether this is caused by a mod, or what.

Once I got back to Hendraheim, and after we killed the Ancient Dragon that showed up, I also discovered that there is apparently an upper limit to how much crap I can carry while trying to also ride a horse. When I picked up the loot I’d stashed, I had so much crap in my inventory that the horse flat out would not move once I mounted up. And I couldn’t fast travel on it either. I’ll need to see if this repros as well, on a living horse, or if it’s a thing specific to the Dwarven one.

Second visit to Runoff Caverns

Here’s the thing about Runoff Caverns: I really enjoyed running it, it was a nice large dungeon and fun to explore. But honestly, most of the rewards aren’t terribly interesting to me. I’m not a fan of the heavy, clunky Dwemer armor, and it is highly unlikely I will ever wear the Dwarven crown thing.

The Turn of the Seasons perk right now seems like the best reward out of the set. Though only two out of its four possible effects seem most useful to me, and they’re weather dependent, so who knows if I’ll actually see them having an effect on my game?

I am ambivalent about the horse. I like it in theory, but the thing with it not making any noises weirds me out a bit. And given how I usually use horses, I’m not seeing a huge advantage over using that horse vs. any of the ones that come in via the Wild Horses creation.

That said: I am also a completist, and I didn’t want the questline for the Dwarven Crown just hanging around unfinished in my journal. So I did take a quick second run back into the ruin, just so I could go into the Winter section long enough to get in, get the Winter mask, and get out again. Which was fortunately a lot faster when I knew where I was going, and was not overloaded at the time!

Lucien even had a few nice lines about finding that final mask and attaching one of the set to the crown, too. So honestly, most of the enjoyment I got out of running this dungeon, aside from just the challenge of going through it, was how well Lucien reacted to everything.

I’ll have to see how well I like it in the other playthroughs I have active right now, which lack Lucien. Pretty sure I’ll still enjoy the run just for the challenge of it, and Kendeshel will certainly find value in taking all these interesting artifacts off to the museum. Not sure how much Finds-The-Way will get out of it, though!

Getting thaned up in Solitude

Last but not least, I closed out this set of sessions by selling a boatload of loot in Solitude, and then picking up enough farm profits to finally buy Proudspire Manor. Which also let me get named thane of Haafingar! So now I have a home base for Elessir in Solitude, and Jordis is an available housecarl.

But I have some thoughts about that, which I’ll go over in my next Elessir post.

Notable Lucien lines

Mind you, a huge amount of the enjoyment I got out of running this dungeon was due to also running Lucien as my follower. Lucien has a bunch of delightful reactions to Runoff Caverns, and that definitely kicked my enjoyment up another few notches! I do highly recommend having him along if you want to tackle this area.

He had commentary about pretty much everything, as he usually does; his creator is very thorough. But the bits that amused me the most were how he was absolutely over the moon about finding the parts for the Dwarven horse and getting it working… and also, how charmed he was about the friendly repair spider we had to use in the Summer area of the dungeon.

Of course, Lucien generally always has good lines! So here are the ones I liked from these sessions:

While running Gloomreach, he did raise a good point:

“I wonder if baby Falmer are any less horrifying.”

But that said, I also do sometimes question how this boy’s mind works:

“Which would you rather be eaten by? Chaurus or Falmer?”

Lucien immediately spotted the broken horse body near the entrance to Runoff Caverns, and also knew what he was looking at:

“Oh gosh, look at that! I think it might be… yes, it’s a vamidium! Broken, sure, but still! That must mean there’s a Dwemer ruin nearby. Perhaps in that cave?”

He also susses why seeing lightning strikes inside a cave is a very bad sign:

“Divines, what on Nirn is going on in here? Could it be… oh no, this is bad, this is very very bad!

It’s just as I feared. This place is a Weather Witch. I’d heard the legends, but I never imagined I’d visit one. But it’s out of control! We need to shut it down, or all of Skyrim could be in danger.”

While we were entering the Spring section of the ruin:

“Ahh, sniff that fresh spring air. Down at the bottom of a Dwemer ruin. Weird, isn’t it? Sort of magic, sort of technology, very clever.”

Lucien does know his lore:

“The Dwemer did a lot of research into the Ehlnofey, or Earth Bones. It led them to experimenting on Lorkhan’s Heart – and that didn’t end well.”

And he got super excited when I started finding other bits of the Dwarven horse:

“Ah, excellent, a piece of that vamidium from outside! Splendid. I wonder if the rest of it’s somewhere around here? We could put it back together!”

LOL, not that Lucien is shy or anything:

“Phew, feel that heat! It’s like a furnace down here – must be the Summer section! Let’s disable that conduit and get out, before I melt into the world’s most handsome puddle.”

I was sad that I didn’t capture Lucien’s initial line when we found the Dwarven repair spider, which he promptly christened Bartholomew. But I was definitely charmed that he kept encouraging it!

“You’re doing a great job, Bartholomew! We’re all so impressed.”

Oh right, non-Dunmer do tend to get a little overheated, don’t they, said the guy whose people hang out next to active volcanoes:

“Looks like that’s the last of the coolant valves, so hopefully we can consider the Summer conduit disabled. Now can we please leave? I think my sweat’s starting to boil.”

Truth be told I was kind of sad we couldn’t keep the spider, either:

“Thank you for all your help, Bartholomew. You were the best spider friend a Flavius could ask for, and I shall miss you very much.”

I think Elessir was slightly surprised that of the three people in his party, he’s the one least likely to deal well with the cold, but he’s also the one going in there to deal with it:

“Ooh, feel that cold air. I think this one’s a bit chilly for me. Tell you what, I’ll stand guard outside, you nip in and sort out the conduit. Sound like a plan?”

I imagine Iona was stifling a snicker inside her helmet at this one:

“Welcome back! How was Winter? Horrendous, I imagine? Believe it or not, a horde of ravenous Daedra tried to follow you in, but luckily, I was here to fight them off. Honest.”

Lucien, for a pun like that, remind me to kill you after we’re done with this battle:

“It’s shifted into Spring! Honestly, I’ve had enough of evil tree magic, can’t it just leaf us alone?”


“And last but not least, a lovely Autumnal storm. Gosh, this year’s flown by.”


“Finally, it’s over! I wasn’t sure that fight was ever going to end. Well, without that metal monster running the show, this place should start to settle down. We did it! Go us.”

This one in particular delights me, this is Lucien reacting to the successful reassembly of the Dwarven horse! And I love this, because this is how a scholar should be reacting to the successful reassembly of a Dwemer machine! Because this fucking rocks. Also, I am charmed AF by the mental image of Lucien happily making three dozen sketches of the horse:

“Oh. My. Word. It works! It acfually works! We have a genuine original working vamidium! I’m going to make so many sketches. My colleagues back in the Imperial City are going to lose their minds!”

And this commentary of Lucien’s, after I went back and got the last of the masks, makes me absolutely convinced Lucien would be perfect for Legacy of the Dragonborn if his creator ever whips up a bunch of lines for him:

“Looks like that’s the last of the masks! These really are quite remarkable artifacts, it’s so exciting to get to see them like this!”

And he keeps geeking out about this, too, when I add one of the masks to the Dwemer crown:

“Look at that! The Dwemer Crown is amplifying the enchantment on the mask. It’s like the magic is resonating somehow. I love it.”

Next time

Elessir’s next post is going to feature discovering the fates of lost College of Winterhold apprentices; finding the Arms of Chaos; finding the Helm of Winterhold and gaining a thaneship there, too; slaying a conjurer with a penchant for enslaving the ghosts of young woman; and running the rest of the Saints and Seducers action, including taking out Saints and Seducers bandits, and the mad conjurer Thoron in the Solitude sewers.


Editing to add

  • 11/26/2023: 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.