DA1: Vampires and Vigilants Wherein our hero makes new friends, kills new enemies, and loses something of great value.
I barely have time to descend the seven thousand steps before Delfine's bird finds me. She has a plan: there will be a grand fete at the Thalmor Embassy two months hence, and I'm to be the guest of honour. In the meantime, I find myself staring at the map of dragon cairns, wondering what to do with the information at hand. I hear their roars on the wind now and again, and the taprooms whisper of attacks on travelers, outposts, villages. Yet every mound I find is undisturbed, and I'm not entirely sure how wise it would be to dig one up.
Another plan, then, and one that all but falls into my lap when of a night Quintus and I are beset by vampire fledglings and their horrid dogs. That orc in Solitude spoke of something called a 'Dawnguard', some order established to fight this menace. My interest in their cause is, in truth, only passing, but can it truly be a coincidence that vampire attacks have begun to plague Skyrim at the exact same time as dragons rising from their very graves?
Quintus says yes. Yes it can. How glad I am of a friend to keep me grounded.
It turns out that the directions I received are of little use. I ride to Riven and beyond, but this Dawnguard fortress is hidden from friend and foe alike.
Along the way, I come across a trail of blood, but it leads only to a troll, and what remains of his hapless victim. It's not all useless, though, as the troll's hilltop cave offers a view of a tower. I cannot make out the device on the banner, but I spy people. Could this pathetic heap of rubble be the fortress? I'm in the right area ...
It isn't, but it's almost as good. The Vigilants of Stendarr know what I seek, and direct me.
... even if their directions are little better than the orc's.
So, I had to turn my quest compass back on for this one. Take a look at that map. That greyed-out tower to the east is our goal. The quest compass leads me to the Bassus arrow. I have no idea what's up with the quest marker to the south, because there's nothing there, and the compass doesn't lead in that direction anyway. It's like I'm playing Morrowind again, trying to make sense of NPC directions. Turn left at the dog. If you reach two netch, keep going, but if you reach three netch, you've gone too far. Unless it's Tuesday.
Finally, after a brief foray into a crevice in the mountains, I find what I'm looking for.
I'll admit, things could be worse. If nothing else, it's a proper fortress, and that orc from Solitude is doing a good enough job of murdering straw targets with his crossbow. The less said about the timid farmboy come to stutter his way into the Dawnguard, though, the better. Warm bodies are distinctly not better than nothing when one's fighting a menace whose ranks swell with every kill.
Inside the fortress, Isran, the Dawnguard leader, is arguing with a Vigilant named Tolan. I enter late, but from what I can make out, Isran was a member of Stendarr's order until he decided their priorities didn't align. I'm tempted to point out that the Vigilants of Stendarr might in fact be more useful vampire hunters than an old man, an orc and a farmboy, but I hold my tongue.
For the best, perhaps. I'd have felt rather foolish, given Tolan's news: the Vigilant Hall has fallen, and his order has been nearly wiped from Skyrim's map.
I make my introductions, and am asked to go to Dimhollow Crypt, where both vampires and Vigilants have been poking about in search of something. Vigilant Tolan tells me that he'll meet me there. I can't say I'm thrilled at the news. Their ilk react poorly to so many of the things I do.
Tolan is wearing Witchplate Armour, which I believe was made by somebody other than the creator of Immersive Armours and eventually folded in. I kind of like it and kind of don't, though I think the crux of my indecision is that it's built on the basic steel armour, which I dislike. An actual plate version would be very Bassus-y.
Onward, then. Dimhollow Crypt is a long, long ride away, nestled into the mountains south of Dawnstar. We stop in Riften to make some preparations. I'll not walk into a den of vampires without some means of purging their disease.
That torch might have been more useful inside the cave. I get the sense that things have gone poorly.
Sure enough, Tolan charged in without me. Sure enough, he's dead and I'm not.
I try to revive him, to allow him one last chance at carrying out his mission, but his body does not twitch at my call. So be it. I don't much like the idea, but I'll raise a vampire instead. Perhaps she can tell me what they're all searching for.
I have recently complained about Conjuration leveling very slowly. It seems that the Apocalypse summons just don't do enough by way of raising skill level, but reanimations actually cause it to not-so-slowly tick up while you have a minion up. Our strategy has changed some. Quintus will mostly be of use whilst securing a suitable corpse, but the bulk of the work will be done by reanimated beasties. We'll find Quintus a more permanent body once we've got enough Conjuration skill to keep my reanimations for the long term.
My new ally and I--and I'll add that I'm not entirely comfortable with a vampire by my side--fight our way through more vampires and some Draugr, and ultimately come to a place that clearly was not built by the same hands as the rest of the cairn.
These fights are a little easier than they could have been, mainly because of Fire of the Master. TES vampires are, of course, incredibly weak against fire. My strategy, as a result, is mostly to pick them off with minions and occasionally Gate one over. If they start magicking me up, life is distinctly not good. In general, having now played with a few different kinds of character, I strongly recommend some ranged capabilities for every foray into Skyrim Redone. Gate is awesome (note, though, that it's Apocalypse and not SkyRe), but sometimes being able to actually engage at range is better than being able to pull an enemy closer.
In the centre of the room is a strange ... device, I suppose, made up of braziers that slide along the ground. I find the corpse of a Vigilant nearby and read through his notes on this place--which he believes was built by an ancient vampire clan--but he offers no clue to the mechanism's workings. In the end, I find that the braziers catch when they are placed properly, and push each around until I have a merry little fire going.
Truly, we all could learn something from the security of Skyrim's crypts.
The floor falls away, and reveals ... a woman? And ... and more importantly: that. I know what she has on her back from the moment I lay eyes on it, and my heart begins to race. An Elder Scroll. For a moment, a brief and terrible moment, I consider killing her and taking it for my own. Quintus urges me to see reason, but the urge passes. I am not that man any longer.
But when she opens her eyes, I wonder if perhaps I should be. Vampire. I suppose that ought not come as a surprise.
She's not violent, at least. She introduces herself as Serana, tells me that she does not know how long she has been hidden away, and asks that I deliver her home. I ... don't see why I should, but the Scroll. The Scroll. I must know what this is about.
So be it. If nothing else, she'll be another sword in the dark places of the world. I'll just take care to ensure that she's not at my back.
And, as it turns out when still more Draugr attack, she's a rather good one.
I may already have mentioned this, but I'm too lazy to go back and check. UFO allows you to ask your follower what they're good at, and brings up a little character sheet. What we learn from Serana's sheet (on page two, which lists resistances and base damage and isn't pictured here) is that she does about three times the damage Bassus does.
And when the gargoyles themselves burst forth from stone and attack, I'm glad to have Serana by my side.
It's SO DARK. This particular cave is bizarrely dim even without the lighting mod I have installed. It makes sense because vampires, but it makes it pretty hard to get good shots. Executive summary: there are gargoyles now. You kill them for ore.
We find our way out, and into the night. Which, under the circumstances, is probably for the best. I drink one of the Cure Disease potions I bought in Riften to chase any trace of the vampire's curse from my veins, and ask where precisely home is.
It's in the northwest corner of the bloody country, well beyond Solitude and Dragon's Bridge.
Serana's horse is a flaming abomination from the very pits of Oblivion.
I race back to the Dawnguard fortress, and into the waiting arms of vampiric attackers.
Isran, at least, knew that this was inevitable, and came prepared. The vampires fall without a single Dawnguard casualty. I break the news that a powerful and well-fortified vampire clan have gotten their hands on an Elder Scroll. He takes it well, all things considered.
I am glad, as I ride back north, that he's no fool. Isran knows that we cannot strike against Castle Volkihar yet, and sends me to find some men and women who just might make it possible. But my first stop must be Winterhold. The vampires tested me sorely; I will need more preparation against their ilk ...
... and against the dragon that swoops down into the College courtyard.
I bought two new spells that will be memorized if we're heading into more vampire combat: one is a fire damage aura that will decrease the resistance of affected enemies even further, and the other is a Cure Disease spell. The former is a SkyRe spell, and I believe the latter comes from Apocalypse. I've also spent all remaining cash on Enchanting training, and put a small fire enchantment on my mace to boot. Our Enchanting is now at 50 or so, though I've not yet sunk any perks into it (and, of course, Enchanting is of limited usefulness without those).
Also, Deadly Dragons is beginning to pay off. This latest attack hurled little meteor showers about, and was generally a pain in the ass. Of course, there's no better place to fend off a dragon attack than Hogwart's.
J'zargo, brave as he is, tries to make sense of these dark days by pretending nothing has happened.
We'll all have to find our own ways to cope.
I think it makes a certain amount of sense to follow the Dawnguard story for now, though we could also break off here under the pretext that Isran's friends can't be found. One is somewhere near Winterhold, IIRC, and the other is down around Markarth (which might be fun, considering the bounty on Bassus's head), so any adventures in or around will work out. Any requests?
Hey loving the let's play, is making me start a new Skyrim play-through using your mod list. Rocking a paladin build using two handed weapons, a crossbow, and restoration magic. I to noticed that it was crazy dark in the vampire cave, it seemed that for some reason the lighting sources in that cave light significantly less space then they do elsewhere. I think you should go ahead and go down the Dawnguard line till the end, then have that be the point when the two months for the main quest have expired, and pick up with the main quest again until another nice cutoff point.
1. Conjure Draugr Warrior
2. Fires of the Master
3. Brutal Reanimation
5. Circle of Scorn
6. Soul Trap
7. Aura - Grand Blaze
8. Cure Disease
9. Stream of Life
A few changes to our walking-around spells. Since we're facing off against vampires, I pack the fire aura and a Cure Disease. The latter pays off almost instantly, because I head out overland and meet no fewer than five bears, eight wolves and three saber cats on the way to the Reach, and am diseased thrice.
Taking the fire aura instead of the melee damage aura frees up a lower-level spell, and I elect to buy Soul Trap. I've gathered up quite a number of empty gems, and filling them up will allow us to level Enchanting and, of course, Conjuration.
Sorine Jurard, the first of Isran's putative allies is, I am told, researching Dwemer ruins near an orcish stronghold somewhere in the Reach. That sounds not unlike the tower Quintus and I found so many weeks ago. Unhappily, it's very close to Markarth, and I'm forced to eschew a relaxing trip by oxcart. I doubt the Reach guards have forgotten my brief dalliance in their city, and I'd sooner not have some well-meaning bumpkin brazenly steer his carriage to a checkpoint.
As it turns out, I run into legal problems rather more swiftly than that, when I chance upon a skirmish between Stormcloaks and Imperial forces and have them all turn on me.
Something amusing about the Grand Blaze aura (and, presumably, all the other damaging auras). The text reads that it does damage to enemy creatures, but it seems that guards patrolling the various Holds count if they're in ... I dunno, let's call it a heightened state of awareness. Passing a regular guard seems to be no problem, and they're perfectly happy to have you walk around aura'd up in cities, but those patrols leading prisoners about and the ones fighting with Stormcloaks seem to be interpreted as a threat. So, y'know, SURPRISE!
Also, woodland animals (very slowly) drop dead as I pass.
I ride to Whiterun, and from there strike west. The trip brings back memories, and I decide to pay some old friends a visit.
Bilegulch Mine is rich with orichalcum, which will serve me well. I also find something interesting in one of the chests--a pair of enchanted gauntlets that ought to serve as a fine tribute if for whatever reason I need to speak to the orc chiefs.
These have been cluttering up my inventory for ages and I need to get rid of them. I actually picked them up on one of the very first adventures into Forsworn country, but I won't tell anyone if you don't.
On that note, if anybody's aware of a mod that allows you to store quest items somewhere (or one that makes them weightless), I'd appreciate the recommendation.
I ride near Markarth, keeping to the wild when I can, but that's no easy task in this place of crags and wind. Mercifully, the only guards I chance upon are a Thalmor patrol who seem more interested in whatever unfortunate they've black-bagged. A part of me wants to help the man, but I can ill afford to draw attention here.
Sorine Jurard is nowhere to be found, and the local stronghold's chieftain has seen nobody of her description, even after I present him with the gauntlets. Arkay, however, sees fit to grant me his divine provenance. The gauntlets are none other than the Forgemaster's Fingers, an ancient artifact stolen from this very orc! He is so impressed that he calls me blood-kin, and directs me to another stronghold north of Kolskeggr Mine.
The trip across the Reach proves no safer this time around.
Forsworn are everywhere, and I begin to worry for the miners of Kolskeggr.
Damn. Too late. I arrived too late. Poor Pavo, who not weeks ago hired me to clear this mine out, has fallen to a counterattack.
Stranger still, he apparently sorted his affairs before his untimely death, and wrote me into his will. I must have made some impression.
I have played Skyrim for many, many, many hours. I have never seen this happen. I love this game.
I dare not even take the time to bury Pavo, but if nothing else I can read the rites. The stronghold is on the other side of a mountain not far away, but the path is too circuitous for my liking, and I cut straight overland, through the town of Karthwasten, where the Silver-bloods--having apparently recovered quite well from the death of their patriarch--have sent thugs to wrest the mine from the villagers.
Nobody here but us Imperials.
My shortcut proves interesting ...
... but not ill-advised. The dragon falls to the combined might of Quintus and I, and we learn the first word of a new shout, one that allows me to attack with a speed and ferocity that I have never quite possessed.
Finally, Sorine, who seems ... perhaps less friendly towards Isran than he towards her.
If the zombie apocalypse rolls around, you just know she'll be ready.
In the end, she agrees to help if I'll aid in her research. A mudcrab has stolen her dwemer gyros, and ...
I don't find a mudcrab, but I do find a satchel full of dwemer artifacts and reason to suspect that solitude may not have been entirely kind to this poor, lost soul. Come to think of it, she does smell of skooma.
My business in the Reach concludes without the local guards taking an undue interest. Still, no reason to take stupid risks. I decide to ride to Solitude across the back country, until a howling storm forces me to shelter in a crypt held by bandits.
Bandits, at least, no longer constitute much of a risk. Garcon, my wine.
The groans of my new Khajit friend wake me from slumber. Something moves in the crypt. Outside, the storm has not abated. I have little choice but to find whatever walks these halls before it finds me.
Bandits. A dozen, at least, fall by our hands. But it seems they have delved too deeply and too greedily, because the Draugr have awoken.
The threat is no more, and perhaps I should not risk anything further before carrying out my duties ... but ... well ... Draugr.
These particular Draugr have been bound to protect a number of treasures, among them a black soul gem.
My fingers tremble as I touch this artifact, this crystal. Such power, the power to bring about eternal joy or else a miserable enslavement, does not belong in just any hands. I will hide it away from the world and perhaps, if Arkay is kind, Quintus and I shall find a new companion.
In the very depths, beyond bandits, lesser Draugr and a veritable army of venomous spiders, the king of Volskygge sits upon his throne. I end his servitude...
That knife thingy is for the Alteration Master Quest, which, interestingly enough, I've never actually done. This whole place, in fact, is new to me, and I'm in for a little surprise. Skyrim, ladies and gentlemen. *mumble, mumble* hours, yet new Draugr spring eternal.
Behind the throne is a corridor that leads outside, into the chill night air. The storm has stopped, but something else booms and hisses: a dragon wall, with an unopened sarcophagus laid before it. Honestly, now. It'll take something more to surprise Blind--
WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
The ... I can only call it a 'creature' reveals itself to be some sort of lich, and its arcane assault chills me to the very bone. It is not until I trap it against the cliff wall that I can catch up to it. Quintus outflanks the creature, and together, we finally drive it from this world.
Alas, this is one of the dragon priests with a light mask, which is of basically no interest to us.
No more risks. I ride to Solitude, and arrive in the morning. I stay only long enough to store the Dwemer armour that has carried me through so many battles, and to forge a new suit and shield from the ore of Bilegulch.
In vanilla, Orcish and dwarven armour occupied a strange sort of space. Orcish armour was better than dwarven, but orcish weapons were inferior. Moreover, a quest perk existed that made dwarven armour 25% more protective, which made it flat out better than orcish for everything despite being lower on the smithing tree and despite being much easier to make (there's basically endless dwarven gadgets and gizmos laying about ready for melting).
In SkyRe, this is no longer the case. Orcish is just better. The set bonus for orcish armour is a 15% damage increase to orcish weapons, which is unspectacular, but basically a good thing. (And certainly more useful than the dwarven bonus to damage against bots). The other thing that's nice is that it's lighter. This is relevant, as I can't yet buy the Heavy Armour perk that makes worn armour weightless, and consequently can't sprint for more than perhaps four seconds without draining all my stamina away. Given the movement penalty of heavy armour, that's not ideal.
Also, I've spent a few of my gathered souls to enchant it, but nothing big (I don't like wasting Greater or Grand souls without at least a few perks in Enchanting to make it worthwhile). SkyRe does add a few new enchantments, including run speed, so I've been able to shave about 7% off the 16% heavy armour penalty.
The next of Isran's allies is Gunmar, a hunter and smith in the forests of Riften. I find him stalking a bear, and help him to kill it before breaking the news that we're beset by vampires with an Elder Scroll.
He is less than thrilled with Isran--a theme begins to emerge--but agrees to return to Fort Dawnguard.
I do likewise...
... And find that Isran has been busy. Palisades have been built outside the fortress, and many more vampire hunters walk the grounds.
I meet up with Sorine and Gunmar, and find myself blinking into a burst of light.
Isran, satisfied that we aren't vampires, asks me to come see him without so much as a word of greeting for the people he had me fetch. I'm beginning to understand why labour relations might be strained
But perhaps this is important enough that we can allow a few niceties to slide. Serana has returned, and--thank the Nine--the scroll with her. When I ask what the vampires want with it, she reveals that her father has been hunting for the keys to a prophecy.
Sounds grand. I think this scroll had better stay right here with us for the moment.
The actual quest--find two people, a satchel, and a bear--was not terribly exciting, but dragons and such always liven things up. Coming soon: a hunt for a Moth priest.
DA3: Moths Wherein our hero enters a strange, dire place.
"Your eyes," she says, voice heavy with assertion.
"What about them?"
Serana grins. "A not-quite-blind Imperial with considerable magic at his beck and call? Call it a hunch. I'd rather not run off in search of a Moth Priest if there's one standing right next to me."
How does one answer a charge like that?
"I'm not one of them."
"That certainly explains why you immediately recognized this thing on my back as an Elder Scroll."
"I'm not one of them."
She doesn't believe me. I wouldn't either. But it's the truth, or at least as much of it as I feel the need to voice. I can't help Serana to decipher her scroll. I simply don't know enough. If perhaps I'd been less rash as a young man. If perhaps if I hadn't tried to take what might have been mine with time. If perhaps I hadn't been cast out to stumble in the dark for those three terrible months: dead eyes, dead heart.
But then, it is in the dark that one finds Arkay. There is always dawn.
"I can't translate it. Don't ask me again."
We travel in silence, for a time, on the trail of a man to translate this prophecy. I question the world, and grease its collective palm. Grey robes. Dead eyes. I find, in the end, an answer: Dragon Bridge.
He was here. Night has fallen, but there is no time to lose. We must--
This is a Forest Dragon, the first new dragon type DD has thrown at me. Purists may be irked to learn that this particular beastie spits globs of acid and not, as is right and proper, clouds of poisonous gas. The readme tells me that it also has the ability to turn forest creatures against the player, but there aren't any to be had in the middle of Dragon Bridge. In the end, this is probably the easiest dragon fight I've had so far. The globs are easier to dodge than the usual stream of fire/ice, so there's not really a whole lot the dragon can do to me in the absence of local polar bears or what have you.
The dragon dispatched, we head south.
I am shocked to learn that vampires have captured the Moth Priest. Shocked.
Where would we all be without the fine tradition of cataloguing one's misdeeds in print?
We track the vampires to a cave, and dispatch them with extreme prejudice.
The moth priest is trapped in some sort of eldritch cave. We break him out with a key taken from the vampire alpha, and are summarily attacked. Luckily, a mild drubbing brings the priest around. He introduces himself as Dexion, and when informed of our plight agrees to travel back to Fort Dawnguard, a trip that would be a great deal more pleasant if not for the constant threat of vampire attack, and the priest's tendency to cast probing looks my way when he thinks I can't see.
Dexion reads what he can, but the prophecy is no less vague for his efforts. He says something about Auriel's Bow, a powerful artifact, and about endless night brought down upon Tamriel--in the end, not much more than we already knew.
To decode the prophecy in its entirety, we must go in search of two more Elder Scrolls. Serana believes that one of these is in the keeping of her mother, who hides where Volkan would never think to look: within Castle Volkihar itself.
This ... seems unwise, as far as destinations go.
Serana leads me to a secret way into the castle, which in turn leads down into a catacomb.
It is not uninhabited. In addition to the skeletons typical of such places, we come across a feral vampire and her army of dogs...
... a garden with a moondial whose cunning mechanism allows entry to a secret area below the castle ...
... and a number of gargoyles, some a little more obvious than others.