Elessir Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Elessir Becomes Thane of Winterhold and a Nightingale

Latest post from my Elessir playthrough! Main action in this one: finishing up the Saints and Seducers plot, by taking out the second Seducers camp and then the mad conjurer Thoron; returning the Sword of Jyggalag to Staada; locating the remains of missing College of Winterhold apprentices; recovering the Helm of Winterhold and becoming thane of Winterhold; reforging the Arms of Chaos; and pushing the Thieves Guild plotline along to the point of becoming a Nightingale.

Play by play

  • Play dates: 10/20, 10/23-10/24/2023
  • Session numbers in this run: 25-27

Friday the 20th

  • Picked up again in Proudspire Manor
  • Discovered that the Dwarven horse is not making sounds, which is very weird
  • Boinged to Heljarchen to get within range of the last set of Seducer bandits, so I could start running the Solitude sewers
  • Dragon showed up so I had to fight it; pretty sure it didn’t kill anybody?
  • Threw the daedroth at the Seducer bandits and that made the fight pretty short
  • Daedroth even knocked one of the bandits right off the back of the cliff, LOL; had to tromp down there to look for where he fell
  • At which point I discovered that this bandit camp was right up the mountainside from Bronze Water Cave, which I don’t think I ever knew before!
  • Only found three of the four bandits, but I had the journal and that was the important part
  • Came back up the slope on the far side of Bronze Water Cave and wound up back in Heljarchen
  • Didn’t bother to get a room in the inn, since it was closing in on daytime anyway
  • Noticed Ahzadi’s Khajiit, including Kharjo, were on the way back to Riften
  • Tried to catch up with them, but got intercepted by a bunch of Saints bandits pissed off that I’d killed their leader
  • Once I finally caught up with them and gave Kharjo his amulet, near Kynesgrove, also got a bunch of Seducers bandits pissed off that I’d killed their leader; they got the news fast, clearly 😆
  • From there, headed into Windhelm to sell stuff and also get the info on the Sea Stallion out of the East Empire Company
  • Picked up the quest for the White Phial as well
  • Boinged to the College of Winterhold to start running the quest to find the missing apprentices
  • Noted that yep, unicorn Rigmor had returned here while I was riding the Dwarven horse
  • Got in late so slept in the Arch-Mage’s quarters
  • Took training in the Hall of the Elements
  • Leveled up to 47
  • Got a bunch of bumps in Conjuration off of Phinis, and finally bought Conjure Dremora Lord and Conjure Storm Atronach 😀
  • Also got Ebonyflesh off of Tolfdir
  • Went out hunting for the missing apprentices, and targeted Journeyman’s Nook first
  • Took out the bandits in there and got Borvir’s dagger, and most of the stuff in there as well
  • Hoofed it from there over to the plinth where Rundi’s dead body lies; took his dagger as well as some of the other stuff there
  • Rode back into Winterhold, and did another round of sleeping in the Arch-Mage’s quarters
  • Skipped training the next morning in favor of heading out to find the other apprentices
  • Next up: found the Talos shrine where Ilas-tei had died; got her ring
  • Overlapping with this: finding the sunken spot where the ship had gone down, Pilgrim’s Trench
  • Cast Waterbreathing and Candlelight to get down there and back up again quickly
  • Also cast Flame Cloak for RP purposes though I didn’t need it
  • Once I was back up, tried to divert to finishing off the plot by swinging over to the ritual site near Skytemple Ruins
  • However, killed by the first dremora summoned; thrown back to coming up out of the water
  • Switched off to dragonscale armor instead of mage gear so I could be better armored
  • Did take two of the ritual and this time was successful in taking out all three dremora; got their sigil stones for later
  • For now though swung back west to find the final dead apprentice, Yisra; got her necklace
  • Then went in to run Yngvild; had not taken Vekel the Man’s quest for the journals, but it automatically kicked in anyway
  • Ran the place pretty much as per previous playthroughs; sorry, ghosts of young women of Dawnstar
  • Got the Helm of Winterhold while I was in there, and the Stone of Barenziah
  • Returned to College of Winterhold
  • Did another round of training and gave Phinis the items from all the apprentices
  • Sold him and Tolfdir both some stuff
  • Then went down to Winterhold proper to check with the Jarl and give him the helm; got offer to be thane
  • Had already fulfilled three favor quests, so got thaned up
  • Boinged to Myrwatch and dropped off some stuff there, including the Blade of Winterhold, since i didn’t have anywhere else good to put it
  • Made the items to finish off the Arms of Chaos quest
  • Boinged back to Solitude
  • Sent Iona back to Riften so I could get Jordis on duty for a while
  • Blipped briefly down to Lakeview to try to make Jordis some dragonbone ebonsteel armor, but didn’t have enough dragon bones to actually fully improve it
  • What I did have was the fully improved Ebony Plate and a Nordic Ebony Shield
  • So I made her an ebony sword to go with all that and brought that back to Solitude
  • Got Jordis on follower duty and gave her the ebony gear
  • Once I got her out into Solitude, she started throwing some lines that made me side-eye her, see below
  • Headed down into the Solitude sewers to run that part of the Saints and Seducers quest
  • Looted everything I usually loot down there
  • As per previous playthroughs, Thoron was a hard fight
  • However, this time through, I didn’t actually have to pull a retreat to go stock up on healing potions
  • Throwing Elemental Fury helped a lot
  • Third time through Team Dragonborn was able to take him out, which of course also took out all the various summons he threw
  • Looted everything in the place, including the Sword of Jyggalag, which Lucien recognized and he warned me to be careful with it, because he didn’t know what it does
  • Came back up out of the sewers and sold a few things in Bits and Pieces
  • Got the courier with the request from Staada to meet, about which Lucien was intrigued but cautious
  • Thought about going ahead and talking to Gulum-Ei but instead parked in Proudspire
  • Saved there until next time

Monday the 23rd

  • This was basically a hard push through a bunch of Thieves Guild stuff
  • Started off in Solitude
  • Dismissed Jordis from following me ‘cause yeah, not a fan of her additional lines turning her into an “I just want to have a husband” goober
  • Then went out with Lucien thinking I would then first go find Staada and give her the sword of Jyggalag
  • Headed over there and did that, then did some fishing at the Solitude mill; caught the Ring of Phynaster
  • Headed back into Solitude, and stopped to sell things to Ma’dran’s Khajiit on the way in
  • Entered the gates–and for no apparent reason, Jaree-Ra ran up and attacked me :O
  • Investigated this for a bit (see below) but finally just restarted the session (which cost me the Ring of Phynaster, daaaaaaaang)
  • Picked up again in Proudspire Manor and re-did dismissing Jordis
  • Told Lucien to stay put for a bit in Proudspire as well, then went over to talk to Gulum-Ei in the Winking Skeever
  • He asked me to get the Firebrand Wine for him
  • Went over to the Blue Palace to do that, then got Lucien back on duty
  • Followed up with Gulum-Ei, gave him the wine, and got the information
  • Followed him out as he headed to do the docks; took my time, and stopped and sold stuff to Ma’dran’s Khajiit
  • Rigmor also followed me up from the stables, so I parked Rigmor back at the stables and explicitly told her to wait there
  • Ambled my ever so casual way over to the docks, and broke into the warehouse
  • Getting through the place was a little trickier with Lucien and a time or two we did get spotted, but made it through the third time
  • Reached and ran Brinewater Grotto with no issues and got Gulum-Ei on board as fence
  • Got out again and horse-called Rigmor to be able to ride off
  • Swung over and re-did talking to Staada, and gave her the Sword of Jyggalag
  • From there, went down to Riften to check in at the Guild
  • Took out a dragon outside the city, and killed it at Dravin’s farm
  • Got five rounds of Pickpocket training from Vipir the Fleet
  • Checked in with Mercer and got directive to meet him at Snow Veil Sanctum
  • Checked in with Tonilia, had her upgrade my armor, and sold her some stuff
  • Did a supplies dropoff at Lakeview
  • Boinged to Windhelm stables to go to Snow Veil Sanctum
  • Ran the place as per usual
  • Made it through to the cutscene as per usual, and woke up out in Karliah’s camp
  • Convo with Karliah was interrupted by a very rude snowy sabre cat; Karliah, Lucien, and I killed it
  • Resumed the conversation with Karliah, and got directive to go talk to Enthir about the journal
  • Went to Winterhold to take care of that, and got Enthir’s directive to talk to Calcelmo in Markarth
  • Boinged to Markarth to deal with that
  • Went with Lucien into Understone Keep and talked to Calcelmo
  • Got directive to kill the spider, and did so
  • Told Lucien to wait for me by the city gate because I did not want to try to take him through the Dwemer museum
  • Took me a couple tries to run that without being detected; Fortify Sneak potions helped, and better timing of when to dash for the door to unlock it
  • Got the rubbing and got out okay
  • Got Lucien back on duty, then boinged back to Winterhold
  • Met up with Karliah and Enthir at the Frozen Hearth and got the info on the intel in the journal
  • Karliah gave me the Nightingale Blade and asked me to meet her at the Flagon
  • Boinged down to the Flagon to do that
  • OHNOEZ Mercer has taken all the treasures
  • Talked to Brynjolf and got directive to search Mercer’s house, and talk to Vex about Vald
  • Talked to Vex
  • Got another five rounds of Pickpocket training from Vipir since I’d leveled up
  • Went out to find Maven and got the directive from her to get the Quill of Gemination
  • No issues getting the Quill thanks to casting Candlelight and Waterbreathing
  • Got the Quill, gave it back to Maven, and got document clearing Vald’s debt
  • Got him to give me the key to Mercer’s house and then ran the place
  • Bandits didn’t notice me or Lucien 😆
  • Got in, got all the loot, got Chillrend, got the plans
  • Returned to Brynjolf to report in
  • Karliah asked us to meet her at Nightingale Hall, so we went over and became Nightingales
  • Had to save here

Tuesday the 24th

  • Picked up where I left off in Nightingale Hall, and Brynjolf pitched making me Guildmaster
  • Told me to meet him and Karliah in Irkngthand
  • But before I did that, boinged back to Lakeview to drop off things
  • Improved Chillrend up to Legendary
  • Boinged to college of Winterhold to make void salts for improving the Nightingale armor
  • Hunted around the Midden for ruined books, but didn’t find any, so couldn’t make the Conjure Staada spellbook yet
  • Improved the Nightingale armor at the Midden workbench
  • Boinged back to Lakeview and saved there until next time 

Overall level ups taken for these sessions

  • Went from 47 to 49

A few thoughts on the Dwarven horse

Lucien’s delight about it notwithstanding, I’m not sure I actually like the Dwarven horse you can get from running Forgotten Seasons.

For one thing, it doesn’t seem to play nicely with Convenient Horses. And if I’m in a modded playthrough, I need Convenient Horses, period. So kind of disinclined to use a mount that doesn’t talk to it. From what I see on Nexus, nobody’s patched the thing to hook in to that mod quite yet.

Main issue I noted in terms of compatibility with that mod: I don’t get access to the command to let me swap off to other horses if I want to, if it’s my active horse. At this point Elessir has Hildr the regular horse, Rigmor the unicorn, and the Dwarven horse. I’ve seen in Kendeshel’s run, where she’s got a lot more horses, that Convenient Horses is good for letting me swap between them if I want to. But if the Dwarven horse isn’t as integrated well as the other types of horses, this makes it less attractive to me as an option.

For a second thing, Elessir’s run has an issue with the horse not actually making any noises whatsoever. I know as of this writing that this issue doesn’t repro in Finds-The-Way’s playthrough–so something about Elessir’s run is triggering the problem, presumably something in his load order. It is not clear to me what, if it’s a Convenient Horses problem or something else.

I have not been able to find any player threads anywhere talking about this, either. I have seen mods that add actual machine noises to the thing, on the grounds that its default behavior is to have it make the same horse noises that standard horses do. People appear to think–justifiably, in my opinion–that this is weird.

I will have to see if the noise issue repros in Kendeshel’s run, now. If it does, this will underscore the possibility of Convenient Horses being at fault, since I’m running that in both of my current modded playthroughs. But I’ll also need to dig into xEdit a bit and see if I can identify any obvious conflicts.

I’ve also posted to the Forums page for the mod up on Nexus, to see if anybody has any useful insights.

Aside from buggy behavior, though, I’m just pondering whether I like the thing aesthetically. Or from a practicality standpoint as well. One of the big things about the Dwarven horse appears to be that it has infinite health and stamina. But given how I usually use horses, I haven’t seen this being a huge blocker for me. And given how the Wild Horses and the unicorn are all marked Essential and cannot be killed, how much health they have seems kind of irrelevant.

But I’ll experiment with it some more. The idea of armoring the thing seems kind of pointless given that it is in fact made of metal. I’m curious though about whether I can actually rename it at a stable, as I can the Wild Horses and the unicorn. I’ll have to find out.

New geographical insights

Still finding out things about Skyrim that I hadn’t known before, even after two straight years of playing this game, and that pleases me.

This time, the thing I learned was that the second of the two Seducer bandit camps that you need to clear is just up the hillside from Bronze Water Cave. I found this out after my conjured daedroth walloped a bandit clear down the cliffside, and I had to tromp down there (while overloaded) to look for where he fell.

And I realized, while looking down the cliff, that I could see what looked like the exterior of Bronze Water Cave. When I actually got down there, I confirmed this, marking Bronze Water Cave for my map.

Of note here: while up on the cliffside by the bandit camp, looking down across the lake, I saw some weird graphical glitches that I think were located at the points where you’re supposed to use the aetherium cores for the fishing quest. But since it was down in the distance, I don’t know for sure. I should doublecheck if this repros closer up.

And now I have a better idea of the geographical layout in that immediate area. Given that I have a hard time visualizing that kind of thing, that was useful information to acquire!

Meanwhile, what the hell, Jordis?

I don’t know if this is a factor of this being the first time I’m running Skyrim with a male Dragonborn, or a factor of one of my mods adding in a bunch of lines, or what… but wow, Jordis threw a bunch of lines while actively following me that made me side-eye her, hard.

Example number one, a line to the effect of “I just want to find a good husband and raise a family of my own.”

Example number two, in the general market area while it was still too early for anything to be on sale: “Do you have anything exotic? Something no other woman would wear?”

Jordis, honey, who the hell were you talking to? The merchants weren’t out yet! And for that matter, nobody out in the general square sells clothes! We weren’t standing anywhere near Radiant Raiment! So were you talking to me? Do I look like a clothing merchant to you?

Example number three, she had a line to the effect of wondering whether I was her “gallant hero”.

Bleah. For a woman who’s specifically called Jordis the Sword-Maiden, all of this was very off-putting.

And I mean okay yes, fine, there’s nothing that says a woman who’s good at the sword can’t also want a husband and a family, and unique feminine clothes when she’s not tromping around in armor. Or that she can’t be swayed by the idea of a “gallant hero”.

But it all seems pretty damned unlikely to me. A woman who’s good enough at the sword that she is explicitly called “Jordis the Sword-Maiden” should be her own goddamned gallant hero.

I’ve had Jordis as a follower before in prior playthroughs, and none of these lines ever happened before. But she was also following me on the Switch, without mods, and I was playing a female character at the time. So either this is stuff she says when the Dragonborn is specifically male, or, it’s stuff that got added in by one of my mods. Relationship Dialogue Overhaul, maybe? Which does add in a bunch of lines.

If it adds this dialogue in for Jordis, though, I’m going to have to rethink its place in my load order. If Bethesda made audio files for those lines and didn’t have them in the final game, that strikes me as a good decision on their part.

This will require a bit more research. If this is a thing caused by RDO, if I could at least figure out how Jordis’ extra lines are added, maybe I could deactivate them.

For now, though, I will not be using her as a follower for Elessir again. He’s already passed level 50 as of this writing, anyway, and all the housecarls cap out at 50. So they’re all now less useful to me regardless. I had Jordis stand down again as quickly as possible, after using her to run the Solitude sewers.

Sorry, Jordis. But if this instance of you is all dewy-eyed and gushing about a gallant hero, wow are you not the person to be following Elessir around. That would drive his namesake up a fucking tree, and this version of him isn’t pleased about, either.

Also, what the hell, Jaree-Ra?!

The second big WTF of this set of sessions was coming back into Solitude after giving the Sword of Jyggalag back to Staada–and having Jaree-Ra attack me for no apparent reason as soon as I came in through the gates. This also got Lucien into combat mode!

I tried to roll back to coming in through the gates a couple of times, but each time, Jaree-Ra ran up and just started wailing on me. Then he’d eventually run off, and Lucien would wind up over on the side next to where Roggvir got executed.

The console wasn’t helpful. I tried hitting them both with “stopcombatalarmonactor”, but that didn’t have any obvious effect. Or, at least, any effect that actually lasted. I think I was able to get Lucien to temporarily stand down, but he went right back into combat mode as soon as Jaree-Ra was close enough.

Then I tried not going in through the gates, after the part where I was fishing, and instead tried to head west from the city. My thought here was that I’d go run the rest of the Brothers in Irons plot.

But then I ran into a couple of Vigilants of Stendarr at the spawn point near Meridia’s temple–and they also attacked me for no apparent reason. What the actual fuck?

At this point, I said “screw it” and started the whole session over. I didn’t repro the problem after that. I still don’t know what caused it. Jaree-Ra’s been peaceful all the times I’ve gone past him since.

Running the East Empire Company warehouse

This time through, I explicitly wanted to try running the East Empire Company warehouse with Lucien, just to see if I could. Answer: yes! Though getting through it with a follower was a little trickier than running it solo.

I did get spotted a couple of times, and got killed by guards. But third time through, I made it through okay.

And this time, I explicitly avoided stealing the Noble Clothes off the shelves, partway through. Part of this was expecting that Elessir was very laser focused–but the other part was that he was also not hugely in a hurry to take legitimate goods in front of Lucien, either. Lucien never utters a word of recrimination about being involved with the Thieves Guild. But he is so relentlessly perky that at this point in the playthrough, I do feel like he’s kind of Elessir’s better angel.

This did not, however, stop me from taking the map to bring back to Delvin. 😉

Finally we made it into Brinewater Grotto, and ran that part with no problem at all. Between Lucien and being able to summon a dremora lord, none of the bandits we encountered stood a chance. Nor did the doggo who attacked us midway through. I didn’t deliberately go after the dog (I never do, because DOG), but it came out to join the fight when we got into it with the closest bandits. And Lucien took it out, while scolding it, “Bad dog! BAD!”

Once we got to Gulum-Ei, got him on board with being my fence, and got the actual info on Karliah, I did also totally loot all the nearby shelves on the way out. Because that was bandit loot! And therefore fair taking.

Snow Veil Sanctum

Main things to note about Snow Veil Sanctum this time through:

One, Lucien did not follow me into the place. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, but didn’t know for sure. In Harrow’s run, I’d explicitly had her make Lucien and Inigo wait at her camp. Good to have it confirmed though that Lucien respects the “your follower can’t come in here with you” constraint on the place.

Two, Mercer did snark at me about my sneaking this time. It’s still not entirely clear to me what his threshold about that is. I’m pretty sure it’s just a matter of how high your Sneak stat is, and I don’t think Elessir was out of the 50’s yet as of this session.

And three, as happened during Finds-The-Way’s playthrough, my conversation with Karliah out at her camp was rudely interrupted! This time by a snowy sabre cat, which Lucien, Karliah, and I proceeded to dispatch.

Dwemer museum

I did not want to take Lucien with me through the Dwemer museum, just because I knew that place was going to be harder to sneak through. So I had him wait for me by the city gates, because I was pretty damn sure Lucien would get spotted.

Hell, I got spotted more than I wanted to. What got me through okay: potions of Fortify Sneak. And being real damn careful about my timing, to dash for that locked door that you have to get through to get past the first set of guards.

Once I was past that point, though, I was home free.

Searching Mercer’s house

Given how I’d been taking the “be as bitchy as possible at Maven” approach in the Thieves Guild for Good Guys mod, I’m pretty sure this means by definition that Elessir was not pleased about having to go hit up Maven for how to get Vald off the hook. Heh. I did not, however, have any different dialogue options with her this time.

So I’ll have to just assume that Elessir and Maven both played it cool as cucumbers to each other, recognizing a purely business transaction when they saw one.

I did take Lucien into Mercer’s house with me, and we had no issues whatsoever getting through the place. Mercer’s house bandits, as I know now from multiple thief playthroughs, are not paragons of alertness. So Lucien and I waltzed right past them, down through Mercer’s Suspicious Wardrobe, and into the tunnels under the house.

Becoming a Nightingale

I am slightly disappointed that Lucien doesn’t have anything to say about the process of becoming a Nightingale, even though he followed me straight into Nightingale Hall and saw Nocturnal appear with his own eyes.

This also being the first time I’m doing a playthrough as a guy, this is the first chance I’ve had to see the male version of the Nightingale armor on me. I do of course already know how it looks on Brynjolf, but Elessir is of a slenderer build. And I do think I like the look of it on him!

Notable Lucien lines

Lucien, you may want to rethink your phrasing here, that imagery is not coming across how you think it is:

“Right, I suppose we’d better see if we can find another handy journal! Consider my eyes thoroughly peeled.”

I do take you to all the best places, don’t I? I am the best boss:

“Ah, now this sheds a bit more light on the situation. Thoron, the chap behind all this, is hiding in the Solitude sewers. Sounds splendidly smelly.”


“Well, here we are, these are some sewers and they are beneath Solitude. And they smell delightful. Let’s find this Thoron chap and get out of here post-haste.”

“Goodness me. This is remarkable. Some kind of super-sized root network. But you don’t just get roots on their own. Is there a city-sized tree somewhere we’ve all missed?”

“Don’t you think all that gold is just a smidge… much? I’m sure you have a lovely personality, no need to overcompensate.”

“That sword… do you know, I think it might be the Sword of Jyggalag. Be very careful indeed with it, I’m not actually sure what it does.”

“This place is bizarre. It’s like part of the Shivering Isles is leaking through into Mundus. I can’t imagine that’s a good thing.”

“If there’s someone out there smithing more of this madness ore for Thoron’s minions, we need to put a stop to it. Don’t you agree?”

“Weeeeell… she seemed nice.”

“Gosh, yes, I think this actually is a genuine Heart of Order. You get these from Jyggalag’s Knights of Order, but you don’t see many of them these days. Definitely merits considerable further study. Thank you for this. Here, let me compensate you for it, it’s only fair. No no, I insist.”

“That Drone Fly is stunning. Imagine the intricacy of the engineering inside that tiny little chassis. It boggles the mind.”

“That amber is most peculiar. Definitely rather face-like, wouldn’t you say? And also, is that a hint of magicka I detect? And… the faintest whiff of cheese?”

Next time

Elessir’s next post will feature going to Irkngthand to kick Mercer Frey’s ass for him, going to the Twilight Sepulcher to return the Skeleton Key, acquiring the hammer Nerveshatter, and then jumping back to the actual main quest for the game for a bit. From running the Thalmor Embassy clear up to talking to Paarthurnax! So a busy, busy post.


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.