|The Guardian Stones, with Asteria in the background|
Continuing the adventures of Willam Kingsman in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim using an alternate start mod. Previous posts in this series are here.
Erandur and I weren't happy in Riften, despite the lovely (for Skyrim) weather. And I was curious about this 'Dawnguard,' so we checked it out. Their fortress is a short distance from Riften, deep in a mountain valley.
[The reason I hadn't seen this in my previous plays of Skyrim is because I didn't own Dawnguard, the first DLC for the game. I still don't own it, and I've certainly never pirated it, but I've got it now. I don't know why. I suppose it must have been released as a free download at some point, and Steam automatically updated my game. But I didn't realize I even had it until recently.]
The Dawnguard fortress is ancient, but the group is apparently brand-new, still getting settled in. Their leader, Isran, is a very hard man, and I'm not entirely sure I trust him. But I don't know what he'd have to gain from lying to us, either.
Anyway, there was a Vigilant of Stendarr at the fortress, too. Apparently, the Hall of the Vigilants near Dawnstar has been wiped out by vampires, and that caught my attention. After all, the people of Dawnstar took me in when I was shipwrecked. So I agreed to check it out, though I warned Isran and Vigilant Tolan both that it might take me awhile to get there.
|A lovely walk through Skyrim,... at first|
As it turned out, it's likely to take us even longer than I expected, with all that's been happening. For starters, we got lost. I thought we'd head west, and then north, but the roads weren't marked, and we stumbled on an Imperial officer who wanted our help in retrieving a magical artifact from an ancient tomb.
At least, I thought that's what he wanted. But it turned out that he wanted us to do it for him. Yeah, officers, huh? I probably should have refused at that point, because it was nearly the death of us. Erandur never complained, but I still feel bad about taking him in there. Of course, there's no question that I would have died if he hadn't been along.
We ended up facing the most dangerous foes we've seen yet, in just one tough fight after another. We used up nearly every potion we had, and were very lucky to survive at all. I didn't think we'd ever get to the end of it, but eventually, we found the mask (naturally, an extremely powerful undead was wearing it) and returned... to discover that our 'Imperial officer' was an imposter.
I should have known. Have you ever seen an officer without a horde of enlisted men to do his bidding? I don't know why I wasn't more suspicious. I suppose I was just anxious to help the Emperor, given the circumstances of the revolt here in Skyrim. At any rate, we were forced to defend ourselves once again. So now I've got a magical mask of my own, I guess. :)
[This really was a very tough dungeon - and a big one, too. We kept running into such tough battles that I thought I was almost to the end of it any number of times, but it just kept going and going and going. So it was 2 AM real-time before I'd finished it! It was fun enough, but I hated the traps that I could neither shut off or bypass - even on the way out again. I could get through them OK, but my AI follower really struggled.]
|Erandur at Ivarstead - changed some, hasn't he? :)|
Afterwards, Erandur and I traveled on, eventually stumbling onto the main road to Helgen. Of course, after my praise of the weather down there, it rained all the way to Ivarstead, and even past that. But we spent the night in an abandoned alchemist hut, and it was nice and clear the next day.
So we were able to spot the dragon - yes, a dragon! - above Helgen before we got to the town. The whole place had been destroyed. We searched the keep for survivors - while it was continuing to crumble around us, in fact - and eventually discovered an injured imperial soldier where he'd escaped into a cave. He'd grown up in Riverwood, which wasn't far away, so we took him there.
[Normally, you start this game in Helgen, but I've been using that alternate start mod. That's been fun, but in order for dragons to start showing up, I needed to start the main quest by going to Helgen and then following the normal beginning of the game for awhile. I won't describe this stuff in great detail, because everyone who plays the game goes through this. (I've played this part of the game three times already, myself.) If you haven't played Skyrim, it might be a spoiler, and if you have, it would be boring to dwell on the details here.]
|Bleak Falls Barrow|
The townspeople asked us to take news of the dragon to Jarl Balgruuf in Whiterun, which I was happy to do. When we got there, the jarl himself thanked me very nicely (he ordered troops to Riverwood to defend the town), and then asked if I'd do him a favor, retrieving a stone tablet from Bleak Falls Barrow.
Frankly, I was dreading it, expecting the tough enemies we'd encountered in the previous crypt. And Bleak Falls Barrow was infested with both bandits and undead. But this assignment wasn't nearly that tough. [Normally, you get this assignment before you have a follower, but I had Erandur with me, so it was probably easier than it should have been.] However, we got back to Whiterun just in time for a dragon attack on the city!
This time, we killed it. But... something weird happened when the dragon died. The Nords started calling me "Dragonborn," and Jarl Balgruuf made me a thane of Whiterun - which is an honor, certainly, but I hardly have a place for the pretty young housecarl who came with the title, who said she was sworn to defend me and mine. (I was awarded just the title and the housecarl, note, not an actual house or any land at all.)
Anyway, this all seemed to be happening very quickly, and no one really knew anything about it, supposedly, but the Greybeards on High Hrothgar. So Erandur and I headed up the mountain to get some answers.
Of course, it was in a freezing-cold blizzard. Just my luck, huh? I was better prepared for the cold this time, but it was snowing so hard that we couldn't tell night from day. In fact, it took us all day and most of the night to get up the mountain and back down again.
I don't want to talk about what the Greybeards told me. I thought about it all the way down the mountain again, wondering if that mystical mumbo-jumbo was really true or if they were as loony as living all alone at the top of a mountain would make anyone. Well, they want me to go to a ruin far to the northwest, and we're heading in that direction anyway, so... we'll see.
|The end of the dragon attack on Whiterun|
In Whiterun, the priestess of Kynareth had asked us to retrieve a magical weapon for her, since we were going to be near Helgen anyway (or near enough, at least). So we did that, taking it away from a nasty coven of witches. But on the way back, we were attacked by another dragon!
That first dragon had breathed fire, but this one breathed some kind of cold attack. Still, it was just as big and just as dangerous. And it caught us in the open, on the bare tundra near Helgen. Poor Erandur took a beating as the dragon focused its attack on him. But that let me stand off and shoot arrows into it, so we finally took it down. (And again, I apparently absorbed its "soul." That's really a strange experience!)
When we got back to Whiterun, we took Nettlebane - a rather dull dagger, to my eyes - to Danica Pure-Spring, as requested. But she wouldn't touch it. Long story short, I agreed to travel to the Eldergleam Sanctuary to retrieve some sap for her. And furthermore, I agreed to let a pilgrim accompany us! (I'm beginning to think that everyone recognizes a soft touch when they see me.)
And yeah, the first bandit we encountered, Maurice foolishly rushed forward - with no armor and only a woodsman's axe for a weapon - and then quickly turned around to run away again, when the bandit proved to be more than a match for him. So we had to chase after the bandit who was chasing after Maurice, just to save the life of our foolish pilgrim.
And that proved to be the pattern of the whole trip! Luckily, we didn't encounter anything particularly dangerous, or Maurice would never have made it. At the very end of the journey, with the cave entrance ahead of us, we heard a dragon swoop down, but we got inside just in time. (Just in time for Maurice, at least. That dragon was waiting for Erandur and I when we left again later.)
|Skyrim sure is pretty, where there's no snow|
I've got to say, though, that our pilgrim proved to be very useful, once we got to the sanctuary. So, despite everything, I'm glad we had him along. We ended up taking a sapling back to the priestess, rather than the sap she'd requested, but I think that was the right decision. And she seemed happy enough with it, too.
But I'm tired of Whiterun. [I've already seen most of the places around Whiterun in my first two starts of the game, so I want to get to a part of Skyrim I haven't seen yet.] There's been so much happening, all at once, that I need some time to think. So Erandur and I are going to head west for awhile.
Yeah, we need to go back north again eventually, but I'm in no big hurry to head back into the cold. So we're just going to explore a bit to the west. Who knows what we'll find there?
Note: Again, this whole series can be found here.