Elessir Playthrough,  Skyrim

In Which Elessir Recovers a Third Elder Scroll and Confronts Alduin

Slowly closing in on the end of my 2023 catchup posts! This one is back to Elessir’s Skyrim playthrough.

Main action here is finishing up in Blackreach, and discovering to my chagrin that I’d left Septimus’ Lexicon behind when I left with the Elder Scroll; retrieving the Lexicon, taking it back to Septimus, and meeting Hermaeus Mora; confronting Alduin for the first time on the Throat of the World; and running Ancestor Glade to discover the location of Auriel’s Bow.

Play by play

  • Play date: 12/19/2023
  • Session number in this run: 42
  • Picked up at Sinderion’s field laboratory
  • On the way out Serana and Lucien got stuck at the door of the laboratory
  • Tried to use the console to move Lucien to me but that didn’t work
  • Then tried the same trick with Serana, which did work, and that also freed Lucien so we could proceed
  • Started running the rest of Blackreach and hunting for crimson nirnroot as you do
  • Managed to mostly elude Falmer–not entirely, did have a few fights, but got to stay out of the biggest and most Falmer-heavy areas
  • Also did not bother to get into it with the giant stomping around
  • Or try to call the dragon to fight with it (I’ll save that for Kendeshel’s run)
  • Wound up with a couple extra crimson nirnroot as well
  • Made it to the Tower of Mzark and got the Elder Scroll
  • Got out again and noticed issue with the damn door not letting Lucien and Serana and Thistle through; didn’t think of what this implied at the time
  • Nabbed some loot from the nearby abandoned camp
  • Horse-Call’d to get unicorn and fast traveled to Heljarchen Hall
  • Got a courier with a Letter from Calcelmo; he wanted one of the Dwarven Ice Bolts I bought from Sorine at Fort Dawnguard
  • Dropped a bunch of stuff off at Heljarchen, then boinged to Fort Dawnguard
  • Confirmed that yep, Dexion sure is blind, OHNOEZ
  • Got directive to go to Ancestor Glade
  • Was legit torn as to whether I should do that first, or go to the Throat of the World–because at this point Elessir’s aware of two things threatening the world, so he has to pick and choose which apocalypse to deal with first
  • Decided on Alduin–but then realized MOTHERFUCKER I LEFT THE LEXICON AT MZARK, because I still had the directive to get it transcribed
  • Since I’d gotten out of Mzark without the Lexicon, the fast travel marker for it never activated
  • So I had to fast travel to Alftand to get back into the damn place
  • As soon as I showed up we got a trio of vampires and a dragon, so we had quite the fight on our hands until we took everything out
  • Speed-ran down into Alftand and mostly met no opposition, except for a Dwemer spider or two we missed the first time
  • Zoomed right back down into Blackreach and aimed for Mzark
  • This time since Lucien was actually properly with me he threw off some nice lines
  • Got the fucking Lexicon this time, got out through the tower, and properly triggered the fast travel marker and the opening of the gate
  • Then boinged off to give the Lexicon to Septimus, and got his directive to get the blood samples
  • Decided Elessir took the route of maybe not wanting to call Mora a demon right out of the gate, even if he is actually thinking it
  • From there, finally boinged to the Throat of the World to check in with Paarthurnax
  • Lucien was all “Have fun in the past! I wish i could come with you!”
  • And it’s still nice to be able to watch the whole cutscene without it being buggy
  • Got Dragonrend!
  • Returned to the present, and HI ALDUIN YOU BIG SCALY BASTARD
  • Cue the fight! And Serana and Lucien helped!
  • Did pretty well this time smacking Alduin with Dragonrend
  • But there was a bit of dodginess between when I finally beat him down to minimum health and when he actually took off to escape
  • Lucien got in his line about not trusting Hermaeus Mora just as I was moving to talk to Paarthurnax
  • Got directive to go trap the dragon
  • But at this point Elessir opted to swing around to the other apocalypse, since I figured by then Serana was champing at the bit
  • So boinged to Lakeview to do a supplies check
  • Heard Rayya throw a remark about a fight but didn’t see anything actually nearby to attack
  • Headed off on foot to go to Ancestor Glade even though it was getting dark, or tried to
  • Because I realized I was hearing giant noises, but there was no visible giant, ergo he’d spawned inside the house again
  • Had to go in with the console to turn off collision, so I could get in there and take the giant out
  • Second time in the session I needed console aid!
  • Took out the usual set of bandits by the river
  • Lucien threw his line about how if he were a Jarl and an adventurer showed up to ask to trap a dragon in his palace, he’d either hit them or arrest them or both
  • Reached and ran Ancestor Glade
  • Got the ancestor moths all following me, and read the scrolls
  • Oh that’s where Auriel’s Bow is!
  • Talked to Serana after
  • Cue the attack by the Volkihar squad! Took all of them out
  • Gathered up the loot and returned to Lakeview
  • Did another drop of supplies and smelting down of anything that could be smelted
  • Also considered which things were less critical, so I could whittle down the inventory as much as possible to hit the Forgotten Vale
  • Saved there until next time

Getting through and out of Blackreach

Had that thing happen again where Serana got stuck on the porch of Sinderion’s field laboratory. And this time, since I also had Lucien with me, he got stuck as well. I’m not clear on whether this is just a Serana thing or whether it directly impacts all followers, though. I say this because moving Lucien off the porch directly to me didn’t seem to work–but he did move to join me once I used the same command to move Serana.

I think under most circumstances in which you have Serana as a follower, you’re not going to have anybody else as a follower–at least if you’re running an unmodded game. Serana makes you dismiss any other follower you have with you, after all. (Though I now wonder whether she’d succeed in chasing off Delphine and Esbern.)

But Lucien is a custom follower, and Serana doesn’t interact with him. So it’s possible that I’ve managed to trigger some kind of weird edge case that’s a combination of two problems:

  1. Serana getting stuck on that porch, and
  2. Blocking any other followers you have with you, custom or otherwise, from getting off the porch as well

UESP says this is a Serana-specific bug, but this is not quite accurate in my experience. Reviewing my previous Blackreach posts, I see that most of my prior mentions of this bug do indeed involve Serana. With one exception. Back in Shenner’s playthrough, I saw Rulnik’s conjured familiar and Gogh get stuck in that same spot. And in that case, I had Rulnik with me, not Serana.

By contrast, the Elder Scrolls Fandom wiki says this bug can impact “some followers”. Conflicting info, as I did note in a prior playthrough.

So the interesting question for me here is, what Serana, a conjured familiar, and Gogh the goblin would all have in common to make it more likely for them to trigger this bug. And relatedly, what makes it happen more often with Serana vs. any other follower.

And I would like to note for the record that GODDAMMIT ME STOP FORGETTING TO PICK UP THE LEXICON ON THE WAY OUT OF MZARK. This session made the second time I did this, because I did it while running Harrow, too.

Turning yet again to the UESP wiki, I see this very problem called out in the Bugs section of the Discerning the Transmundane quest page. They do provide a workaround I’ll need to keep in mind for any future playthroughs.

But from a bigger picture perspective here, I think what vexes me about this bug is that the lift out of the Tower of Mzark doesn’t work correctly in general unless you have the Lexicon with you. When I ran Harrow’s playthrough, I didn’t notice at the time that the exit from the tower was wonky because I’d gotten ahead of both Inigo and Lucien, and they didn’t come out of the tower at the same time I did. They only caught up when I fast traveled away from there.

In Elessir’s session here, though, Serana, Lucien, and Thistle the bun were all actively blocked from exiting the lift with me. Presumably because the lift code is checking whether I have the Lexicon with me, because the Raldbthar, Alftand, and Mzinchaleft lifts do not have this problem as far as I know. (And now I’m going to have to doublecheck!) And this makes no sense.

The Lexicon’s presence or absence in your inventory should not be the determining factor for whether you can properly exit the lift. And for that matter, whether you properly discover the Tower of Mzark fast travel location on your way out. At no other point in the game does having or not having a particular object control whether you can mark a map location for later fast travel, after all.

I’m of two minds though about it being possible to leave the tower at all without the Lexicon. On the one hand, I feel like Skyrim shouldn’t hand-hold the player here; the player should not be immune to the consequences of their own fuckup. On the other hand, it’s really fucking irritating to find you made this particular fuckup only after going off and doing other things. In Harrow’s run, I didn’t discover the problem until two sessions later! I was lucky with Harrow’s run in that I managed to get back on foot quickly enough to the tower that it hadn’t reset. But I forgot I could do that in Elessir’s run, and speed-running Alftand again just to get to the bottom, get back into Blackreach, and get the damn Lexicon was tedious indeed.

Which leads me to wonder what an ideal playthrough according to me would do to fix this problem. Or rather, these two problems.

One: fix the exit from the lift. Again, whether you have the Lexicon in your inventory shouldn’t determine whether exiting the lift works correctly, for you as well as any followers you may have with you. This by itself would mitigate the irritation of discovering you left the damn Lexicon in the tower, because it’d let you quickly fast travel back, get back in, and retrieve the thing ASAP.

And two: narrative-wise, I could see Septimus being crafty enough to put a little enchantment on the Lexicon. Because who knows? The Dragonborn could indeed forget to pick up the damn thing when it’s inscribed. Or it could be lost somehow on the way through Alftand and down into Blackreach. What if the Dragonborn gets attacked by Falmer who steal all their stuff? (Yes, I know, this can’t actually happen in-game, but I’m talking purely from a narrative perspective here, and what Septimus may or may not be clever enough to work against.) Make the enchantment subtle, just enough to nag you about forgetting something, maybe, if you get outside a certain range of the Lexicon.

Or hell, just a spell to teleport the damn thing to you, even. In an Anniversary Edition playthrough, you get spells to teleport every single pet you can have to you. A spell to teleport the Lexicon back to you would arguably be within that established pattern, and arguably also even more useful!

Narrative liberties taken here

All the above said, I’d also like to note that player error here should not reflect upon Elessir! He is not stupid enough to go all the damn way down into Blackreach and forget to properly finish one of the two tasks he was there to do in the first place. And given that he had not one but two followers with him, I don’t believe for an instant that neither Serana nor Lucien would realize that oh shit we’re forgetting something. Lucien especially, given that ancient Dwemer tech is his scholarly jam.

So I am declaring narrative amnesty here, and merging the second visit to Alftand with the first.

Which means that from a story perspective, I shall assume that the first visit’s set of vampires and the second visit’s set of vampires were one and the same. So, fighting three vampires on the way in, as well as the dragon.

I will also assume that Lucien and Serana were properly with me when we fetched the Elder Scroll and the Lexicon. Because again, I don’t buy that even if the Lexicon did slip his mind, that Lucien or Serana wouldn’t clue in and grab it on the way out.

Serana: “Hey, aren’t we forgetting something?”

Lucien, grabbing the Lexicon off its stand: “Ooh hey, good catch. Shouldn’t try to leave without this! We did promise to bring it back, after all.”

Elessir, trying not to look too sheepish that he forgot to grab the thing himself: “I’m not convinced he’ll remember he actually sent it off with us.”

Lucien: “Fair point, well argued, but a promise is a promise.”

Also, I want to call out that Lucien had a nice line along the theme of “OMG we have an Elder Scroll! I can’t wait to write my father!” Pretty sure I remember noting that line during Harrow’s playthrough, but I’m noting it again just because I love Lucien’s enthusiasm here.

And I can’t help but think Elessir would be all “Just in case you lost count, this actually makes three Elder Scrolls.”

Lucien: “I know! Isn’t it amazing? My father is never going to believe us!”

Relatedly, I’ll note that Lucien did actually ask to see an Elder Scroll even before we got this one. So clearly he’s able to react to any Elder Scroll acquired, even if it’s not specifically the Dragon scroll. Which means he’s got at least a little bit of situational awareness to Dawnguard-related events, if you haven’t gotten the Dragon scroll before you get the Blood or Sun ones.

Unrelated to any of the above

Seems to me like a Dragonborn who’s any type of mer might be inclined to look rather askance at being asked to get blood samples from all known types of mer, heh.

And apparently the extractor doesn’t working on living specimens? After all, Elessir is a Dunmer, that ought to be a free blood sample right there. But I could certainly imagine the Dragonborn having a difficult time trying to get living volunteers to donate samples.

Notable Lucien quotes

When we’re down in Blackreach looking around for crimson nirnroot, and one presumes “the mood” is “questing around a dimly lit giant cavern trying to avoid all the Falmer”:

“The lighting down here is lovely. Really sets off the mood.”

My money’s on “retrieving the Elder Scroll” here, Lucien:

“Just look at this machine! Remarkable. Light enters from above and then these lenses must focus it onto particular points… but for what purpose?”

Lucien demonstrates an appropriate grasp of the situation re: the World-Eater:

“Now that we have the Elder Scroll, I suppose we’d best head back to Paarthurnax. Alduin’s not going to deteat himself, after all.”

Does Lucien ever turn off his scholar brain? No, no he does not:

“Just look at these mushrooms! The sheer scale is astounding. I wonder if their growth is linked to the crystal formations.”

Lucien getting really excited about retrieving the Elder Scroll from the Tower of Mzark:

“We actually have an Elder Scroll… I can’t wait to write to my father about this!”

Lucien being wistful that he can’t come with me into the past when I read the Elder Scroll at the Throat of the World:

“Well, there’s the Time-Wound. I suppose you’d better get reading. Good luck in the past! I wish I could come with you.”

And here’s Lucien being wary about Hermaeus Mora, which goes to show that he has learned a thing or two during his time adventuring with the Dragonborn:

“You do know you can’t trust him, right? Deals with Daedra never, ever go well. At least this one doesn’t actively want us to kill anyone we know.”

Next time

Elessir’s next post will feature running the Forgotten Vale to move the Dawnguard plot further along!


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.