Skyrim - A Game of Dragons

This anti-walkthrough thing was made with build 1.9.whatever-steam-decided-it-should-be
Dragonborn and Dawnguard were not installed as of this writing.
I don't know how well it will work on other versions, or with the expansions installed. That will come later.


Content Warning

This is Skyrim. It's a game about people who go around chopping each other's heads off.

If you don't like that, stop reading now.


Heads, you lose


The game starts with Mittens being carted to his death in a tumbrel, a sequence which seems to be impossible to skip.

While originally setting the game up under Linux, the graphics subsystem went mental and decided it had a 2GB graphics card instead of the 1GB unit actually installed. Skyrim greedily consumed everything it could, with the result that the game ran out of texture memory and quit as soon as the horse-thief was asked for his hometown. As a result I saw the execution scene approximately 14 times in a single day while tracking down the problem, and this has perhaps killed the experience for me.

Once at Helgen, they won't know who you are so the commander's lieutenant decides to have you summarily executed along with the others for no reason that is ever explained. The horse thief is shot and then you're led off to the block with the others.

Regarding the character creation itself, there is little to add. DMFA readers may find it amusing to create a female Khajiit and name her Destania (given the latter's predeliction for killing dragons).
Perhaps the most important point to bear in mind is that the 'weight' slider should have been called 'muscles'. It does not in fact turn your character into a tub of lard but instead makes them more buff - as a result of this misunderstanding I turned it all the way down when creating Mittens leaving him wasted and feeble-looking.

Unlike Rune where the protagonist actually does die in the first few minutes of the game, your beheading is interrupted by a gigantic flying lizard which somehow manages to sneak up on the executioner before demolishing the town. You then escape with either a Stormcloak or a Legionary, or in the case of Mittens, you follow one, get lost and separated and end up escaping with the other.

For reasons which I'll explain later, the Imperial Legion path seems to be the better of the two, strange as it may sound. For what it's worth, Mittens joined the Stormcloaks, but Lynx chose the Empire. Cuddles the Slayer is yet to choose a side as of this writing.

Fortunately, both men happen to live in the same village of Riverwood, so whoever you end up with, you get sent there to ask for help. Mittens had a confusing time there as the guy's relatives were so happy to have their son saved from the Dragon, that they offered Mittens baked potatoes each time he moved, something which made it very difficult to actually get any sense out of them and continue the quest.

Eventually you're sent to Whiterun to ask Jarl Bogroll for help. You then get sent to retrieve a stone tablet from Bleak Fall Barrows. This was relatively uneventful for Mittens aside from the fact that he was discovered to be either illiterate or chronically short-sighted, with each book displaying as a mass of coloured lines and no text (a common bug at the time).

Fortunately, notes and letters were legible but I was left with the awkward task of having to look up books on the UESP website using a second machine and reading them there, particularly annoying for those Snake-Fish-Doggie puzzles where the code is embedded in the text. By the time 'Lynx' was created as my second character, the problem had resolved itself and even Mittens was able to read properly.

The Jarl will now send you to the Western Tower, which is being attacked by a dragon. On the grounds that you're one of approximately six people who survived the attack, you're sent there to show them how you defeated the dragon.

The fact that Helgen was razed to the ground in the process is kind of glossed over, and it's only when the dragon actually appears that Mittens is finally given the chance to explain that his technique for dealing with a dragon consists of running like fuck while it's busy eating everyone else. Of course, by then it's too late.

It turns out a minor modification of this technique can greatly assist in actually killing the dragon so that you can continue on with the rest of the game: It consists of attacking like fuck while it's busy eating everyone else.

Once the dragon has finally had the shit kicked out of it, Mittens will devour its soul, which everyone nearby seems to think is really cool.
It should be noted that, as with tigers, dragon bones and reproductive organs command fantastic prices from alchemists and other practitioners of herbal medicine, so make sure you have enough carrying capacity to snag them as some other bugger will take them if you leave the corpse too long.


"I love you, Dead Dragon Carcass."
"I would kill for you, Dead Dragon Carcass."
"I would do anything for you, DDC."

--Dink Smallwood

When you return to Whiterun there will be the sound of a massive explosion with no obvious cause, which I wrote off as a bug in the game and ignored completely. All three times.

The 39 Steps

Jarl B will make you a Thane and then send you off to meet the Greybeards, which you have to do by going via Helgen. In theory it should be possible to take any route southeast of the mountain, but the game has other ideas and goes to great lengths to bar you from entering anywhere else south of the mountain for no obvious reason.

Once you arrive at Isengard or wherever it was, you will need to climb the 7000 Steps, a gigantically long and twisting path. There are lots of places where the path peters out so whether there are still 7000 steps is a mystery I don't have the patience to solve. It's quite possible it used to be the 10'000 steps before some of them fell down the slopes of the mountain.

The way is relatively clear. There will be a couple of wolves, who seem unable to resist attacking badass warriors with sharp swords in preference to the tasty, docile and defenceless goats and sheep which are scattered throughout. Wolves are easy to outrun anyway. Where things do get unpleasant is when the white snowy thing jumps down from the cliff. Unless you have bunked off the quest to do some kind of fitness crash-course, the thing will be able to slaughter you with two blows. Fortunately it is possible to escape by climbing on the mountain the other side of the path, assuming you're relatively adept at fancy footwork.

Once you arrive inside the monastery, the Beards will teach you loads of shit, including pieces of the magical shout of 'Fus Roh Da', which all my characters somehow pronounce as 'Fus Bach' although it has the same effect in practice. One of the first things they explain is that you can directly absorb knowledge from Dead Dragon Carcasses. Master Einarth is 'volunteered' to demonstrate how this kind of direct transfer works, though you do not get to eat his soul into the bargain.

Once the masters have taught you all these powers, they tell you that you're not supposed to use them, before sending you off to fetch a horn from a cave that can only be accessed using the special powers they tell you not to use.

The cave is in the bowels of the Ustenov tombs complex. I think the most dangerous part was the Frostbite spiders, which tend to attack you immediately after you've been burned. Fortunately, the spiders are not very bright and with only a little encouragement will set themselves on fire for you.

Instead of a horn you find a note, somehow left by Delphine in the cave which only the Dragonborn can enter. Delphine is a highly dangerous and fanatical innkeeper from Riverwood, who set the note up as a lure to help her find the Dragonborn. Exactly why she does this is not entirely clear since she doesn't seem to believe you're The One once you do arrive.

Mortal

Ustenov is conveniently close to Morthal, so you should probably stop off there afterwards to sell your loot. In particular, you'll have a lot of Black Mage robes which Falion The Angry will be happy to purchase after shouting at you about how much the town hates him. Morthal is just across the swamps, the chief annoyance of the area being that Mittens tends not to be able to wait or fast travel near bodies of water like this, just in case the slaughterfish somehow climb out of the water and kill him.

It's probably also worth doing the vampire quest while you're there, solving a murder mystery and then rounding up a posse to dispose of Movarth the Vampire and his friend, Evil Alva. I've never quite got the hang of the whole vigilante business - inevitably the lynch-mob only turn up at the cave after I've done Movarth in, and I'm not sure if this is by design or not.

In an interesting twist, Alva turned up at the cave still in her Morthal Citizen guise, and was not only friendly to me - indeed, attacking her gained me an assault bounty of 40 gold coins - but also began to attack her buddy Movarth. This help proved invaluable in killing him because he was extremely tough. In any case, no matter what happens, even if you cut off his head, suck out his soul and then turn his body to ash using a reanimation spell, he will still be back in his cave again a couple of weeks down the road.

Once this is done the Jarl - a delightfully weird old woman who can see the future - will offer you another Thanehood if you can help her citizens on two more occasions. It is worth making friends with her since it will make the later quests rather amusing.
Probably my favourite person-in-need is Bennor, whom you 'help' by beating the shit out of him and destroying his reputation, after which he goes away happy and keeps saying what a good friend you are.

Money

Money will be something of a limiting factor to begin with. I find that the best way to get yourself a steady income is through a combination of blacksmithing and enchanting. There are some startup costs - you will need to be able to trap souls, and you will need to obtain a few enchanted weapons of just the right type. If you have the money to start with, Falion (Morthal) should be able to sell you a soul-trap spell. Finding the enchantments is harder, though - keep looking out for them and try to beg, borrow or steal something an with Absorb Health enchantment upon it.
Once you have this, you'll need to decompile it on an enchanting altar. Fortunately the infamous coin slot has been removed since Oblivion or this would not be a viable method of earning a living. Once you know the spell, start mass-producing iron daggers at the most convenient forge, usually Whiterun. You will need to obtain iron bars, but these can be purchased, or if you're really hard up, manufactured from raw iron which you can obtain at lower price, or for free if you're happy to mine it yourself.

You will also need souls, and some means of trapping them. Soul gems can be found scattered throughout or purchased empty - petty ones will do, at least for now - Skeletons, Mudcrabs and suchlike will work and there are lots of these.

Once they are filled, you can start enchanting the iron daggers. I was able to sell them for about 230 gold a pop (list price 700), which was a significant profit over the materials. Eventually, if you can find a weapon with a Banish Daedra enchantment, decompile that, and you'll be able to churn out daggers you can sell for nearly a grand a throw. At this point the biggest chokepoint becomes finding people who can afford to purchase them in bulk, though since you're likely to be buying ingots on a fairly regular basis anyway, things should sort themselves out.


This is a dagger I see before me. Sadly it won't fetch the Recommended Retail Price, though.

This is also a great way to improve your smithing and enchanting skills. Amusingly, with the latter, I kept the skill book in Riften aside until I had 99 Enchanting points, and was so able to make myself into a Master by reading the beginners' book of enchanting.

On the subject of shopping, I should also mention that you should regularly stop in at the alchemists to see what they have. We are particularly interested in building up a massive stockpile of Abecean Longfin, Cyrodilic Spadetail and salt, since fish is the key to the universe. I would also recommend going for a brief swim now and again since Longfin and Spadetail do appear in ponds and rivers.

Merchants

A fairly important thing to note about Skyrim is that the merchants have a relatively static list of items, which means that you have to wait a week or so before they will restock, and this can get rather annoying.
Saving before you enter the shop won't help, and in fact makes things worse because the amount of money the merchant has left is not stored in the savegame. For example, say you sell loads of stuff to the merchant and take all their money. If you accidentally sell something you didn't want to lose, reloading the game will cause the merchant to have no money left after you reload, regardless of how much there was when you saved. And no, you don't get to keep your money.

However, there is a way to fix the problem. Both problems, in fact. As with most things in this game, it involves beheading people.

This trick is something I discovered it by accident in Windhelm, after the blacksmith didn't have the ebony sword I wanted and I flew into a rage and lopped off his head as punishment.
When I reloaded, I discovered that he'd restocked with a completely different set of new items, and a full purse. Still no sword, though, so I killed him again and reloaded. After a few more decapitations I was finally able to buy the ebony sword from him. This trick is particularly handy when trying to get fish and other precious alchemy ingredients from the vendors, but be very, very careful not to save after the kill.


Cuddles haggles with Belethor

As mentioned, this can also be used as a shortcut way to sell lots of things very quickly, since decapitation will refill the merchant's purse as well as their stock cupboard.

Meridia

At this point I did a little questing to make money and to level up a bit before going to see the mad innkeeper. During my wanderings I accidentally found Meridia's Beacon in a chest of drawers in a vampire stronghold. Meridia is the Daedric Princess of light and stuff. In the 200 odd years since Oblivion, she has relocated from Scotland to somewhere in the American Midwest and in doing so has acquired a pleasant twang in her accent that wasn't there before.

The move probably also has something to do with her only just noticing that her temple has been neglected for the last few centuries and is in a bit of a mess, acquiring that distinctive interior that most quest-related dungeons in Skyrim possess
Anyway, when you get to the temple, she manifests as a glowing orb and levitates you into the sky. When she stops talking you start to fall, and supposedly the game is sometimes too slow to catch you, leaving you a spread across the temple as a thin red stain.

Assuming you survive the conversation, you have to go through the temple, activating a series of pedestals to link the glowing beams of light together. Be careful not to stand in the way of the beam as it's dangerous stuff. Finally, in the basement, you get to meet some Necromancer guy who is pretty nasty (I was level 15 at the time) and is able to blast you with ice on an almost continual basis. When he dies, he turns into something almost as nasty again.

Once you've sorted him out, grab the sword and you're teleported into the sky again for a performance review. Again, this can end messily if she fails to catch you before you hit the ground.

Rannveig's Fast and the Forsaken Cave

At some point fairly early on, I suggest you visit Rannveig's Fast, an ancient burial site type thing which is populated by ghosts who keep warning you to run away because they can't control what they're doing.

The main entrance leads to a trap where you're supposed to step on the plate in front of the empty chest and fall into a cage. However, it is perfectly possible to go around the trap or even jump over it. The principal treasure here anyway is the Word, part of the extremely useful Kyne's Peace shout which makes wolves and sabrecats walk peacefully away instead of attacking you.

Alternatively, as I discovered on the last playthrough while trying to escape from a sabrecat, there is a back entrance balcony in Rannveig's, which is accessible from the mountains. So you can in fact, sneak in there, pick the lock on the inner door and smack the deranged warlock on the head with a minimum of fuss.

On the subject of ancient burial site type things, it's also worth visiting Forsaken Cave in the north when you get the chance, but since it is filled with Draugr, make sure you go armed with plenty of soul-gems to fill. I aborted on entering the burial chamber proper because I ran out of soul gems. When I returned to finish the job, the Draugr had become particularly fierce and by about Level 33, Curamil was flanked by several Draugr Druglords which was not the case previously.

Forsaken Cave also has one of the Death Words, though sadly I have never found those particularly effective unless you're trying to shout a chicken or rabbit to death.

Mammoth tusks the easy way

At one point I found myself in need of a mammoth tusk. Mammoths are hard to kill early on in the game, but I found a workaround. If you fast travel to and from Sleeping Tree Camp, or Bleakwind Basin, you should find that one of the mammoths will eventually spawn in mid-air. This can also happen when two of them collide, causing one to jump about 100ft into the air. Either way, it will crash back down to its death, thus allowing you to loot the goodies.


Dumbo this is not.

Why you can't cut the tusks off the skulls you find lying around is never explained.

I should perhaps also mention that giants do pack a most impressive punch.


Over the rainbow and into the light
I'm orbiting slowly, I'm high as a kite

-Threshold, 'Sanity's End'

Heads Missing In Action

About this point I went around buffing myself up in swordsmanship until I could decapitate people. For the uninitiated, this requires 50 points of Two-Handedness skill in order to obtain the 'Devastating Blow' perk. There is a counterpart perk for one-handed swords, and the 'Dance of Death' mod is also useful for fine-tuning.
By default, you can only kill folk messily if there are no other enemies nearby and the mod can disable this limitation. It balances out in that the other enemies will still be able to attack you while you're carrying out the execution, but it does give you a lot more flexibility when you're, say, trying to make a statement to the Thalmor.

It should be noted that this ability is available to your opponents as well - Bandit Chiefs and similar bosses (Orcs especially) are particularly good at removing your head for you, which has a certain poetic justice about it when you consider the Dragonborn was supposed to be beheaded at the start of the game.


Lose pounds fast with this one weird trick

So, around the time Cuddles became qualified to cut off heads, I happened to be wandering around Whiterun and ran into some little old lady who was understandably concerned for her son in the war. Talking to her kicks off the Missing In Action quest, which is fun.

As you probably know, her son is one of the Stormcloak sympathisers who has been 'disappeared' by the Thalmor, presumably along the lines of those other unfortunates you occasionally run into on the road. He is being held in Northmoor, a secret illegal plutonium reprocessing facility in the north west corner of the map.

The quest starts proper when you go to the old lady's house and speak to her, but you can make things rather easier for yourself by going there ahead of schedule, and chopping the heads off everyone in and around the facility. This will net you a substantial amount of Elven armour which you can lug back and sell on, though I prefer to keep the helmets as trophies in a chest in my house. Almost as importantly it will allow you to kill off the Thalmor Inquisitor, who is very nasty and would otherwise make life difficult during the rescue.

Once the Northmoor facility has been completely cleared of Thalmor, it's time to actually start the quest by visiting the Grey-Mane house, where you will be asked to investigate the disappearance of Thorald Grey-Mane. This investigation is complicated by a feud between the two rival families of Whiterun. You'll end up stealing a book from the BattleBorns, and once it's been pilfered, the Greymanes will ask you what to do about the rescue mission.

Tell them to wait, and head back to Northmoor alone. The Thalmor outside the building will still be dead, but a percentage of the ones inside will have respawned or been replaced. Once again, single-handedly massacre the entire complement of Thalmor warriors and gather up yet more Elven armour, before rescuing Thorald, who will say absolutely nothing about the dozens of stripped decapitated corpses scattered around the complex.
It is also worth unlocking the other cells in the jail, even though the prisoners will tend to remain put, either telling you to go away or saying that they have to get out - without actually doing so.

At the exit, Thorald says that it's not safe for him to return, but gives you a password to say to his mother, which will allow you to complete the quest in his absence.

While Thorald chooses to ignore the carnage, the Thalmor will not, and in fact go mental, unlike the NPCs in most games of this kind. Shortly after returning to Whiterun, a guard commented that I'd given the Thalmor a black eye, and a day or so later a Thalmor execution squad turned up in the wilderness with orders to dispense with me.
This is not a bad thing by any means, since it provides more armour to sell and more helmets for the box. What did trouble me slightly was how they knew it was me, since there were no survivors save Thorald and the prisoners, who probably don't know who you are anyway.

Party Time

Occasionally you may run into a band of revellers, I found them particularly common near Markarth. The party ends the moment you try to join in, but if you have a bottle of Honingbrew Mead about your person, it will earn you a Charmed Necklace (with the incredibly useful Fortify Carrying enchantment).

As such, it's a good idea to make sure you have a bottle of said Mead about your person at all times, just in case.

Of course, you could simply murder them and take the necklace, but considering they're the only happy people in the entire game, that would be rather harsh.

The Black Star

At some point you'll likely be told about the statue of Azura near Winterhold. This kicks off the quest for Azura's Star, as you will probably know if you played Morrowind.

Rather than speaking to her direct you are supposed to go through an intermediary (-> What happens if you don't?) Her agent will tell you that you need to find an Elven Mage in a place that has been threatened by water but untouched by it. This might be Ilinalta's Deep, or it might not, given that Ilinalta's is pretty leaky. Either way, the agent thinks it's Winterhold, so you have to go there.

Winterhold is, as Ren delicately put it, 'a hole'. It is your typical university town, with basically nothing else of note beside the College. However, it does also have a mage we need to talk to who lives in the inn. Whatever Azura actually meant, and whatever the Agent thought, the mage is pretty sure it's Ilinalta's Deep, so you end up going there anyway.

Ilinalta's is a good place to go for snagging soul gems and souls and the like, a leaky underwater castle full of skeletons, necromancers and their ilk. It contains two sections and the upper one of these is mysteriously caved in until the Black Star quest has been bootstrapped.

The Star will be found lying broken on a desk or on the floor next to a book, which describes how the soul-gem has been 'remastered', an anachronism dating from the last two decades of 20th century Earth which should have set off loud alarm bells with the game's proof-reading team.

Once you have the thing, you can take it back to Azura, which I did on the first playthrough. This was the most virtuous course of action, however, if you take it back to the mage guy in Winterhold, he can turn it into an endlessly reusable black soul gem, and this can be very, very useful when you want to go on one of those psycho rampages where you don't save afterwards.

Whoever you present the Star to, Malyn Varen is still kicking around inside it and you'll have to eat him. Malyn is not an easy kill, and his accent keeps changing depending on how angry he is.

It is worth returning to Ilinalta's every so often since most of the necromancers will respawn and often have empty black soul gems about their person. AFAIK you cannot make these yourself as was done in Oblivion, though you can buy them from Falion the Angry, or mine the geodes from the glowing patches of rock in Blackreach.

Losing the plot

Once you have got sense out of Delphine, she will send you off to Kynesgrove where Alduin is raising another dragon from the dead, and after she's watched you devour the unfortunate creature's sentience, she will tell you that you have to crash a party at the Thalmor HQ near Solitude disguised as a partygoer and learn whether the Thalmor are controlling the dragons.

This sounded such a fantastically bad idea that while Delphine ran off to prepare, Mittens ran away, holing himself up in Winterhold and signing up for a 5-year master's degree in practical and theoretical magic.

Arniel Gane, don't do it again...
Arniel Gane had a strange hobby
Collecting clothes, moonshine washing line
They suit him fine.

Back to school

While Winterhold College comes highly recommended, it does have a rather low number of attending students, only just edging out Dhark's Hero School with a student headcount of approximately 10, including you.

The courses are fairly comprehensive, and the class will be immediately sent off to do some fieldwork in Saarthal, possibly in an attempt to get away from Ancano, the rather unpleasant Thalmor state school inspector. At the site, Mittens gets collared by someone from the legendary Psychic Monks demo group and the slightly eccentric Tolfdir discovers a magic ball and goes into raptures of delight.

Once he has informed the arch-mage and been interrogated by the Thalmor school inspector, Mittens is sent off to Fellglow to retrieve some books about the Eye. Once this is done the school inspector drags you to the Arch-mage's chamber where the Psijic does some cute temporal magic and then leaves saying there was a mistake.

Ancano is furious, and this is a good time to use the KILL command on the console. Since he's essential he can't die, but it is fun to watch him crawl about the floor in obvious agony while the Psychic Monk leaves, brutally kicking him out the way as he goes.

Eventually, after going to see The Oracle, visiting some paranoiacs in a Dwemer ruin at Mzulft and helping set up their magic detector, the school inspector will go completely mad and try to take over the world using the magic ball. The Arch-mage is rather annoyed about this and attempts to reason with him. Something happens and you wake up slumped against the wall. The deputy head tells you to find the Arch-mage, which may take some time as he has been scattered over a wide area.

The deputy head then sends you off to grab the Staff of Magnus from Labyrinthian where it turns out that the late Arch-mage had secretly murdered several of his friends and used their souls to trap some horrible thingy which you now have to kill because it still has the Staff of Magnus.

Once everything else is done, you'll be intercepted by another Thalmor school inspector, who offhandedly mentions that he's going to kill you. Apparently he hasn't appreciated that you've just massacred countless undead fiends, a wispmother, a skeletal dragon and a very powerful liche, so snicking the head off an uppity High Elf is trivial in comparison.

Back at college, the situation has gone critical and the deranged school inspector has generated a forcefield around the entire campus.

On the third playthrough this got very, very ugly because the entire faculty were trying to kill some of the magic anomalies, one of which had materialized inside the forcefield, preventing the staff outside from being able to reach it, while leaving them in a frothing rage and impossible to talk to until the thing had been destroyed.
To make things even worse, a dragon attacked the campus, and once beaten to a state where it could no longer fly, peformed an emergency landing in the courtyard, i.e. within the forcefield.

After cheating my way through the forcefield to kill the two opponents, Tolfdir - who had apparently fallen off the bridge and was somewhere near the bottom of the ravine - finally told me how to get through the forcefield, while also dropping the bombshell that the rogue school inspector had killed again, leaving the school without a deputy head either. To make things worse still, Phinis Gestor was injured by my attempts at killing one of the stray magical anomalies, and decided that I had to be turned into a pretty rug if it was the last thing he ever did.

Inside the lecture hall, Anacano has become invulnerable to harm, a situation which can only be remedied by using the Staff of Magnus to close the Eye up, and smacking him about a bit before he can open it again. High on the power from the Eye, he is a ferocious opponent and the situation was made worse still by Phinis' attempts to asssassinate me, until I clouted him over the head with an artifically-sharpened Daedric Greatsword (see the section on 'Fish' later if you'll like to try this at home).

Once Anacano has finally been dispensed with, the Psychic Monks turn up to dispose of the Eye (hopefully in an environmentally-friendly manner since it is probably not RoHS compliant). Having attended the school for approximately three days and turned up to one lecture, you get put in charge of the college by default since most of the senior staff are now dead and the others are too scared to take the job.
Phinis apparently did not agree to my being promoted and promptly redoubled his efforts to kill me.

Diplomatic Incident

Once you finally go back to Delphine, she'll tell you that the plan is to pretend you're some VIP so that she can get you invited into a party at the Thalmor Embassy.

Things can get a little interesting here if you've already completed the civil war quest in favour of the Stormcloaks, since the Thalmor will have been sent packing and the Embassy shut down, but in that case they do manage to get together one last time for some kind of reunion.

But I digress. First you must meet a contact in Solitude, a charming city where they chop some poor sod's head off without trial the moment you enter.

Roggvir's execution is something that's been covered fairly extensively on Youtube. As soon as you enter, Roggvir will be executed. It's not possible to keep the guy alive, since even if you protect him to the best of your abilities, he will drop dead of a heart attack around the time he would otherwise have been beheaded. However, you can teach the authorities that public executions are a very bad idea.

My favourite approach is to stop at the gate just outside Solitude, and then slap the guard in the face, quickly nipping through the entrance before he can recover and arrest you. When you enter the city, the angry guard will follow and the crowd will disperse in a panic, including Roggvir, who you will probably find dead in a doorway some time later.

However, it is also well worth taking Roggvir down with the KILL command prior to his execution.

The execution will proceed thusly:

Capt. Aldiss: "Roggvir, you allowed Ulfric to escape after he murdered the high king. You are guilty of treason."
Crowd: "Boo! Don't let him speak!"
Roggvir: ...


I don't think he's going to say much.

At this point, Captain Aldiss will try to shove Roggvir's corpse down onto the block. This doesn't work, and he just lies there gazing at the dirt.


"That made the execution a little awkward. In fact, they're still stood around like lemons."

Then, dead Roggvir uses the last of his strength to say:


"On this day, I go to Sovngarde."

Then they will all stand there without dispersing.

If you play the execution scene normally and then resurrect him afterwards, Roggvir gets a little confused and starts playing with the grindstone.

The DISABLE command can also be fun. If you make the executioner disappear, Roggvir will make his own head fall off like Toran can in Pagan.

I managed to get Roggvir executed three times in a row by enabling and re-enabling him at the appropriate moments. This had the interesting effect of starting the execution slightly further on each time, so on the last occasion they attempted to cut off his head even though it was already lying on the floor.

As an attempt to prolong Roggvir's life I once entered Solitude by killing a horse and getting arrested, thus dumping me outside the jail at Castle Dour. However, the execution scene will kick off as soon as you approach it, and the inn where you need to meet your contact is immediately opposite the execution square.

One final note about Roggvir - if you did win the civil war in the Stormcloaks' favour, it is possible to make it this far without ever seeing the execution, since by doing that the first time you'll be entering Solitude is as part of the liberation army. Sadly, everyone will still talk about Roggvir's execution so it must have taken place shortly before the city fell.

Coup

On one occasion, I decided to avenge Roggvir, running amok and slaying all who had watched the execution. Eventually I made my way into the Blue Palace and decided that a spot of armed revolution was in order. Once those who opposed me were slain, I installed a new High King.


Bow before your new master

...it would certainly be more decisive than Elsif at any rate.

Infiltration

Anyway. To recap, prior to entering the Thalmor embassy, you need to meet your contact in Solitude, who will offer to smuggle in any items you need during the mission. I wasn't sure what I'd need, so to make things maximally awkward, I gave him various contrabands such as stolen jewels, moon sugar, skooma, black soul gems and a soul-stealing sword to smuggle in, just for the hell of it.

Realistically I'd suggest smuggling in some good armour, the best sword you have and perhaps some black soul gems too, depending on just how much you hate the Thalmor.

Once this has been arranged, Delphine will provide you with some party clothes. No other outfit will do - even the Archmage's regalia won't see favour, which is a little dim since being introduced as the new Archmage would certainly give you the street cred needed to enter the party in the first place.

Once inside, look for Idgrod, Jarl of Morthal. If you did as I suggested and became friendly with her, she will take great delight in ruining the party by making an alarming prophecy and giving you the time you need to break into the rest of the complex.

After that, it's mostly a matter of murdering your way to the Ambassador's private quarters, and then the dungeon where you can interview some poor wretch before releasing him, rescuing your contact and slaughtering all opposition.

It may at this point be worth mentioning that said contact turns up later in Windhelm, shadowed by a Khajiit assassin named J'Datharr, who loiters around outside the city pretending to be part of the trade caravan and doing such a horribly bad job of it that he'll still be hanging around on his ownsome even when the real traders are gone.

What I did on my most recent playthrough was to pickpocket the assassination orders, and then amputate his head.

Things got a little interesting a few days later when a trio of thugs turned up to 'teach me a lesson'.
That didn't go quite go as they had intended, but as I rifled through their corpses, trying to figure out who I'd pissed off this time, I discovered that the hit had somehow been arranged by J'Datharr during the 3 seconds or so between my stealing his orders and his head coming off.


"It was clear from the start that we weren't going to Learn anything and it was equally clear that we'd be crazy to try any Teaching."
-- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Intermission - Fish

As has been hinted at, the secret of the universe is fish. Specifically, potions brewed from Abecean Longfin or Cyrodiilic Spadetail with a liberal helping of salt will produce a mind-expanding drug that allows you to perform the sort of miracles the Dragonborn should rightfully have been able to do in the first place.

There is a trick to this and you'll have to be a decent alchemist in the first place. You will also need two enchanted items - a circlet or something of Fortify Alchemy, and a necklace or something of 'Fortify Restoration'. The Fortify Restoration enchantment can be hard to get hold of, but occasionally 'Helmet of Minor Restoration' or something will show up. Try and make sure it's a pure fortify restoration spell and not one of the combined enchantments, as I'm not sure those will work.

The basic idea is this - you stockpile somewhere between 50-75 of the appropriate kind of fish and ideally as much salt as you can possibly get. Any combination will do - Longfin and salt, Spadetail and salt, or Longfin and Spadetail. I would personally suggest fish and salt because salt can be had at any inn or trading caravan, while the fish have to be caught in the wild or obtained at great expense from an alchemist who will usually need to be beheaded a few times before they have any in stock.

You will also need to have ingredients for other, more useful potions, such as Fortify Enchanting (Snowberries, Spriggan Sap, Hagraven Claw, Blue Butterfly Wing) or Fortify Smithing (Blisterwort, Glowing Mushroom, Spriggan Sap, Sabrecat Tooth).

So. What you do is make a couple of Fortify Restoration potions, drink one, take your enchanted items off and put them back on again, and this will increase the power of your potions. Handled carefully, and with suitably powerful alchemy perks, this will allow you to create a feedback loop, resulting in potions of astonishing power and thus making Mittens the foremost alchemist of the age, and probably most of the ages which came before.


The secret of the universe IS fish.

In earlier builds of the game, this was easier because you could simply drink, brew, drink, brew and assuming you had a high enough alchemy skill to begin with, the system would go into overdrive very rapidly. In later 1.9 builds they cracked down on it, so you must be very careful to drink the potions in ascending order of power, e.g. 12%, 15%, 20%, 25% or whatever. If you break the sequence it will actually reduce your alchemical prowess, so be careful. I found the best way to proceed in this restrictive new world was to save, drink a potion and then reload if it didn't boost your powers suitably.

Once you are able to make potions of suitable strength, run off a batch of Fortify Restoration potions in case you need to restart the process quickly at some later date, and then start churning out Fortify Smithing and Fortify Enchanting potions. Be very careful with the Fortify Enchanting potions, by the way - I would not suggest going much above 100'000% since if the effect is too powerful, the universe will crack open (i.e. the game will lock up) when you use the enchanting altar.
I would suggest your first creation be a Circlet of Alchemy, since this will allow you to create powerful potions at a later date. Be aware that you can throttle the effect of the enchanted item by using lower-end soul gems, which can be useful since a too-powerful enchantment can be awkward in certain circumstances (e.g. you may end up with an item which can't be recharged because something has overflowed internally).

Fortify Smithing is more tolerant, but again, be very careful. One of Mittens' first creations was a suit of armour which had more than 2 billion armour points. Those who know their two's complement math will probably have seen this coming - the thing effectively had -2'000'000'000 armour points, which meant that if something scratched Mittens or he stubbed his toe, the armour would enter some sort of resonance and destroy him instantly.


Note that the damage only displays the first 3 digits.

One of my other notable creations was a Poison of Slow, one of the more expensive potions in the game. Given the way the merchants mark up their goods, I was able to sell it for all the merchant's money (taking a big, big discount since the list price was about 800 million gold pieces). Once they offered it for sale, the amount had again wrapped around and I purchased it for about -1 billion gold coins.
Sadly, someone had put some degree of protection in against this eventuality and although I got the potion back for free, the game balked at conjuring up the billion gold pieces I was owed out of thin air.

Regardless, Fish Potions will allow you to sharpen swords so that they can cut through dragonscale like pudding. This is very handy for instantly removing the head of someone you have taken a strong dislike to, and you can balance it out by skimping on the armour. Even with enhanced armour, attacks like lightning or fire will tend to go straight through it making certain foes a challenge while still allowing you to run rampant.

Which leads us neatly on to...

Intermission - Thalmor (and other road-users)

As you must have noticed, you will occasionally run into Thalmor death squads, a trio of Thalmor Justicars who roam the land, kidnapping Nords and night and then marching them to some secret prison camp where they can be tortured to death or quickly and quietly disposed of. The Imperials are also in on this game too, a fact I took into account while trying to pick a side for the Civil War quest.

This kind of thing is not something I take particularly kindly to, so my usual approach is to come up to them and remove their heads before they've quite figured out what's going on. These death squads are especially prevalent on the road between Whiterun and Rorikstead, and I have been known to run up and down that stretch of road for the express purpose of finding them and freeing their souls and their prisoner.

This approach occasionally has the eye-opening effect that once the death squad is dead and their prisoner freed, said prisoner will scuttle off and inform the local authorities that you have just murdered an innocent band of Thalmor in a senseless and unprovoked attack. This was a particular problem in earlier builds of the game, and if you're worried about it, the safest option is to free the prisoner first (causing the Thalmor to turn violent) and then killing in self-defence. This doesn't always work out too well since unless you have a fish-enhanced sword the prisoner is often dead by the time the Thalmor have been done away with.


Dead Nazi Elves

At one point after the main questline was completed, I took down a bunch of Thalmor, with no witnesses or bounty. Unfortunately the event had happened too close to the Western Tower near Whiterun, and while I was officially crime-free, the guards somehow intuited that I was responsible for some kind of atrocity - even though they had no idea what - and attempted to kill me as I rode past.

This was particularly inconvenient because if I attempted to defend myself that actually did count as a crime. Eventually I summoned Odahviing, who happily incinerated the lot of them, and at the same time provided a hefty measure of plausible deniability.

It is worth noticing that other NPCs on the road will also react adversely to your secretly murdering people - it's like they can smell it or something. Mercenaries, Imperial escorts for noblemen and so forth will all go into a frothing rage over something they're not quite sure of.
This happens with disturbing regularity to Talsgar the Wandering Bard and about half the times I've met him, it's been because he's come bounding over the hill with a sword in his hand and murder on his mind.


I've heard better songs from him.

As your level increases you will also run into crazy violent people and drug peddlers. The latter are particularly entertaining if you point out that drugs are illegal, since they'll turn violent and you'll be completely within your rights to behead them and get the drugs for nothing.

Unless you have kicked off the relevant quest already, you will also tend to come across a pair of redguards hassling a redguard lady. This can get amusing if you decide to go all head-choppy on them, though I wouldn't recommend saving afterwards - it's a bit mean, after all.
Taking out the lady, for example, will cause no reaction except that the redguards will stare at you with a sort of 'What did you do that for..?' expression.
Killing one of the two brothers will result in a similar lack of action except that the other brother will usually go over to the corpse and say something like "I'm going to find whoever did this...!" completely ignoring the fact that 'whoever did this' is still standing over the corpse with a freshly bloodied sword.

Finally, it's worth mentioning the nobleman on a horse. Horses in Skyrim are very odd creatures, especially the ones carrying noblemen. What you usually see is an Imperial guard acting as an escort, and following him a horse with the nobleman on it. This is all very well, but the nobleman is a shit and threatens to have the guard kill you if you get within range.

If, as above, you've done something which has driven other folk into a frothing rage despite the lack of bounty, the escort will tend to come for you anyway. If the escort is killed for any reason, the Nobleman will see or otherwise determine what has happened and you'll have a 1K bounty for murder. At this point things are going down the pan so I generally take out the rude and aggressive nobleman too.


What a charming bloke.

Now things get really weird because the horse is now the last witness, and unlike most animals is quite capable of presenting the authorities with an accurate account of the crime plus a detailed description of the murderer. This is unfortunate because it means you will now have to kill the horse as well in order for the bounty to be cleared.

At this point the horse will likely be trying to kill you to avenge its master and escort, kicking and screaming and biting. The game doesn't check for any of this when trying to use the horse, so this is a quick way to subdue them. Climb on the horses back and the conditioning will take over, the beast will become docile and happy to carry you all across Skyrim. That's until you get off again, at which point it will remember that it was trying to kill you.
It is worth noting that if you are riding a horse that has seen you kill, although docile it will somehow alert the authorities to what you have done.

Grassing you up to the authorities isn't the only trick horses can do. While it seems to have been toned down a little in later updates, horses are well-known for being able to climb slopes approaching 80 degrees and similar feats of levitation.


Physics? Fuck THAT, I'm a horse!

Riften

Once you have the data from the Thalmor files, you will need to go to Riften to rescue some crazy old man. You don't have to do this immediately since the Thalmor want to time their kidnap operation with your rescue operation and will gladly give you as long as you need to prepare.

Riften is a dump, which is wholly in the palm of a collective of immortals known as the Thieves' Guild. It's so scummy that the guards will actually charge you for the dubious privilege of entering at all, even if you've just saved their town from a dragon attack. Mind, it is possible to sneak up behind them and pickpocket the key while they're distracted by the monster is having its fun.

It is also possible to persuade the guard that asking for money is corruption and that he could lose important bits of his body if someone accidentally told the Jarl. All the same, Riften is particularly run down and besides a couple of useful characters such as Balimund, not really worth the money to visit.

Once you enter the town, you will run into a number of unsavoury characters. One of them, Maul, is standing by a wooden support post, and calls out threatening comments. He gets very angry if you brush him aside. If you've found any of the Unusual Gems, he will accuse you of stealing them (even if you found it in a cave or inherited it upon becoming Archmage). 1 star, would not talk to again.

On the bridge, another thug named Sapphire is threatening a harmless stable hand. She appears to be an rookie, and as such is still mortal, so you can take a two-handed sword and lop off her head right there on the bridge in the middle of the conversation. Indeed, the plus side of Riften being so seedy is that things like this are considered perfectly normal by most of the inhabitants of the town.

While the guards couldn't care less about some low-level thief being killed in what is basically gangland violence, the Thieves' Guild will get extremely pissy about your casually beheading one of their own and any Guild operatives in the vicinity will come after you with a view to returning the favour.

This can go badly because most of the Guild operatives are immortal, as mentioned. Maul can be subdued for a short time by beating the shit out of him, but the odious Brynolf is totally immune from any harm you can mete out short of the DISABLE command. Fortunately, if you jump onto the roof of the well in the middle of the market square so they can't get at you, they will eventually calm down and go away, a handy trick since this is a fight you cannot win.

It is worth mentioning at this point that the game has the same blithely optimistic attitude towards murdered NPCs that New Vegas had, in that when you enter or leave a building such as Mistveil Keep, it will gather up the body parts and carefully move them to their usual location for that time of day. Hence, you will occasionally come across Sapphire's severed head lying in the middle of the street, or bobbing in the canal for no obvious reason.

Besides Balimund - a decent enough guy who can train you up to 75 in smithing - one of the few noteworthy folk in Riften is the Argonian jeweller named Madesi. If you talk to him, he will offer you a quest whereby you retrieve for him a set of various gems and precious metals and he pays some kind of reward for your efforts.

On the first playthrough, it took a month - realtime - before I was able to find the two flawless sapphires he wanted, and once I had done so, the scaly bastard offered a 200gp reward for the pair of them.

Considering they had a list price of 500gp each, this was extremely insulting, and it is fortunate for Madesi that he's essential (thus invulnerable) because otherwise his head would have gone straight into the canal to keep the late Miss Sapphire company.

Fortunately, two can play the swindling game, and it is possible to scam him instead. To do this, initiate the quest and when you return to him, make sure you have exactly two flawless sapphires in your possession. First, ask what he has for sale, and sell him both sapphires, which should net you around 400 gold pieces.

Once this is done, without exiting the conversation, tell him that you found the sapphires, and he will give you an extra 200gp reward for the two gems which you no longer possess, thus proving that you can eat your cake and still have it afterwards.

End of the World is nigh

While the game really, really wants you to talk to Brynolf and become some kind of small-time con, it is probably better to ignore him completely and just ask the staff in the Bee and Barb. You may need to pay them a tip, but it's worth it to avoid having to talk to Brynolf.

From here you just have to go into the Ratway, removing important body parts from anyone who objects, until you get to the Flagon, an underground pub largely full of people who cannot be killed. Fortunately they tend to be non-hostile. You might need to give the barkeep some money before he'll tell you where the crazy old man is, or if you've played the game before you can probably just ignore them and head straight there.

The crazy old man will tell you that the world is about to end, but agrees to come with you anyway. Then the Thalmor start attacking.

After meeting up with the innkeeper again, you head off to an old ruin in Forsworn territory.

Since I don't believe I've mentioned them prior, the Forsworn are a bunch of terrorists attempting to reclaim the western third of Skyrim. Their method of achieving this is a little unorthodox and mostly seems to consist of decapitating deer, giant rats and other defenseless animals who have no political agenda whatsoever.

Forsworn camps are made up largely of rank-and-file Forsworn, Forsworn Villagers, and then some nastier ones such as the Ravagers. At the top of the heap there is invariably a Hagraven overseeing everything along with their deputies, the highest-ranking human members of the Forsworn - the Briarhearts.

Originally I assumed that 'Briarheart' was simply some kind of rank or moniker like "stone-hearted" or something, but it turns out that they are literally briar-hearts, in that each one has had their heart replaced with a vegetable. One of the sites around Bards' Leap actually has a pair of Hagravens performing this delicate operation.

Unfortunately for them, this resurrection technology appears to stop at cardiac replacement - there is no such thing as a Briarhead.

Furthermore, as Ren points out, if you're able to pickpocket a Briarheart, you can actually steal the vegetable from his chest cavity, causing him to drop stone dead.

Once you have wiped out the Forsworn in their camp and any passing dragons, you'll make your way into the complex and open the door by cutting your wrist, a feat Cuddles somehow managed to achieve without removing his ebony armour.

Inside you look at a pretty carving, figure out that you need another shout in order to save the world, and then the two crazies will reluctantly decide that you will need to ask the Greybeards because they don't know what it is. So it's back to the mountain again, and the mutual antipathy between the two groups of crazy old people will make itself felt.

However, it turns out that they don't know the shout either, so you will need to go up to the top of the mountain to meet their extremely ancient and very big leader, Mr. Paathurnax. Like in Fallout 3 I had a pretty good idea what was coming, and would have been crushingly disappointed had their leader just been yet another crazy old man.

Mr. Paathurnax is a lot like Treebeard in most decent adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, speaking slowly and deeply and frequently regressing to his native tongue. While you can have some rather interesting discussions, he doesn't know the shout either because it was designed to drive dragons mad and he kind of falls into that particular demographic.

However, he does have a suggestion - steal an Elder Scroll from somewhere and hope. Having played Oblivion, you may know that these are, or at least were, kept in the bowels of the White Gold Tower and tended by a bunch of blind monks. Logically the thing to do would be to go there, since all you'd really have to do is head south over the Gerbil Mountains and murder anyone who tries to stop you.

However, we can't do that, since having Cyrodiil as well as Skyrim would have doubled the size of the game and only made it work on decent computers instead of the underpowered boxes it seems to have been built for. So we'll have to try and find one inside Skyrim itself.

No-one knows where one of those might be found, and it didn't seem to show up on the magic detector in Mzulft either, but it's worth checking Winterhold College, just in case they happen to have one.

Smooth scrolling

Despite the fact that you're in overall command of the College and have been very helpfully bringing him a constant flow of incredibly rare books and scrolls, the librarian is not especially polite when it comes to the subject of Elder Scrolls.

However, he does have a couple of books about them, including one almost as deranged as 'In Watermelon Sugar' by Richard Brautigan. Smitten by the strange yet endearing prose, you head off to find the author, who has excavated a cave in the middle of an iceberg, and takes the crazy old man theme to even greater heights.

It turns out that the Dwemer, whose information technology is orders of magnitude greater than it was in Morrowind, have made a device not unlike the magic detector, which is capable of electronically decoding an Elder Scroll without the usual side-effects, such as becoming a blind monk, a crazy old man or both.

So, the guy gives you a blank Dwemer USB stick and sends you off to find the machine, which is somewhere in Blackreach, a vast, Falmer-infested underworld hidden beneath most of Skyrim which the gold, iron and silver mines all seem to have missed somehow.

While there are many entrypoints to Blackreach, my preferred one is at Raldbthar, which is more-or-less directly west of Windhelm, or East Northeast from Valtheim Towers. The game does not like this at all and is very insistent on your going via Alftand instead.
This makes things a little annoying because the game refuses to tell you where the machinery is, pointing instead to the nearest exit from Blackreach because it wants you to go all the way back out of the underworld so you can come in via the other entrance and end up in exactly the same place anyway.

If you're wondering why I'm being so stubborn about this, entry via Alf generally involves decapitating a fellow catperson, so I try to give it as wide a berth as possible.

By exploring the Dwemer ruins in Blackreach you should eventually find the right building anyway. If I remember right, it's close to (but not inside) that large complex lit by a huge glowing ball suspended from the roof of the cave. You should normally be able to find it by following the Northwest wall in a southwesterly direction, where it curves off to the west.

Once you get there, you are supposed to perform two tasks with the machinery - programming the USB stick with the decoded contents of the Scroll, which can be achieved by randomly stabbing buttons until something happens, and finally, opening the podule up so that the Elder Scroll inside can be removed.

This seems a bit of a shame since something that can get sense out of an Elder Scroll without breaking the reader would be a world-changing discovery, so rendering it inoperable strikes me as being a wee bit irresponsible. That said, unless Alduin is stopped, there won't be a world left to change, but maybe we can put it back in the machine later, eh?

Once you've got the Scroll, you don't strictly have to return back to the mad old man. To be honest, it's better for him if you don't, since opening his magic box will prove rather terminal to him. You can if you like, but I won't be dealing with it here.

Back to the mountain

Back on the mountain, Mr. Paathurnax shows you where to read the Scroll, at which point you'll have some kind of acid flashback, see the secrets of the universe and watch a couple of very ancient heroes duff up Alduin by yelling at him and reading one of the Scrolls.


Up, down, sideways, forward and back
Our children submit to lysergic attack

-Threshold, 'Sanity's End'

Afterwards, Alduin, who has been busy stuffing himself with dead people's souls, shows up in person giving you a chance to practice yelling at him yourself. Once he's been shot down, you can beat him up with a sword, but don't overdo it.

While it is possible to just sit there whacking Alduin like a pinata, it won't get you very far because you can't actually kill him and the plot won't move any further while he's still on the ground. You certainly won't get any candy out of him and reading the Scroll like the Ancient Heroes did doesn't seem to be much use either.
Rather unhelpfully, Mr. Paathurnax will urge you to keep hitting him anyway, when what you really have to do is stop attacking so that Alduin can limp off into the distance.

After that, the question of exactly how Alduin has been doing his soul-nomming party trick crops up. Mr. Paathurnax suggests imprisoning one of Alduin's friends at Dragonreach Tower in Whiterun and torturing them until they confess.

This is a bit of a hard sell with the Jarl, who understandably doesn't want a full-fledged dragon attack on Whiterun, so he makes a few excuses, one of them being that the civil war will get in the way. This means you have to do something about the war first, which Jarl Bogroll is probably betting will be impossible.

Naturally, this excuse won't fly if you've already won the civil war first - like Lynx did - in which case you'll go straight onto the Dragonreach part. Otherwise, you will need to broker a ceasefire using the Greybeards as intermediaries.

Ceasefire and cease singing

Arranging the ceasefire was every bit as annoying as I'd remembered. First, you have to get both The General and Ulfric to agree to go into the same room together, which they don't want to do. They get particularly shirty if you don't join their respective causes there and then, although telling them that the world's about to end does seem to help.

It is interesting that as soon as you enter the respective HQ, one of the guards will tell you where to find the local inn, as if you'd somehow blundered into the seat of power by mistake.

In the case of Ulfric, I decided to go and visit the inn anyway, to try a few experiments on the local bard.

Inside most inns there will be a resident singer, who stands in the corner and plays music or sings songs. It can be fun to slay them in mid-song, e.g. "We're the children of Skyrim, we fight all our lives... and when Sovngarde beckons, every one of us " -SNICK-

The other patrons react in an interesting way to your silencing the bard - they will actually clap their hands.


My next song is called 4'33...

Shortly afterwards they suddenly realise that the bard hasn't got a head anymore and at that point things turn ugly. That said, if you're able to defeat the oncoming guards, some of them will eventually start clapping again, presumably because the bard has finishing singing. Using the KILL command also works well because there are fewer repercussions.

There is also a song about Ragnar the Red, whose words offend a warrior maiden and she casually beheads him for no satisfactorily explained reason. The song ends at this point with the maiden apparently getting away with murder. However, applying this exact same form of censorship yourself is not looked upon as favourably, and if it's the bard's ugly red head rolling around in the floor, the patrons will be after yours too.

Anyway, once you've rounded up representatives of both sides, you then go back to the mountain to hold the peace conference. This is annoying since everyone seems to hate each other. There doesn't seem to be an opportunity to say anything like "I'm the fucking Dragonborn, so shut up and agree to a temporary truce or I'll throw you all off the mountain" so you have to pander to them and try to find a solution which both sides will grudgingly accept for the time being.


"We will have peace... When you and all your works have perished!"

Markarth generally gets pawned off to the Stormcloaks during the ceasefire agreement. This kind of political shift can be handy for you since the change in administration will also clear your bounty for that region.


"If you tell me it's a package, I'm out of here."

While in Windhelm, it's worth mentioning that the 'Harsh Master' quest in the docks is an interesting one, in part because the quest giver promises you a year's pay.
This turns out to be 1500 gold coins. It is not clear how this is supposed to work out economically, since at the regular market prices this allows them to eat a single apple every two days, and that's assuming they don't want anything extravagant like clothes, shoes or drink.

How To Torture Your Dragon

Once the ceasefire is agreed, the Blades will give you the name of a dragon to summon, and then present their own demands, in that you kill Mr. Paathurnax. At this point I'd just back away slowly and head to Whiterun as quickly as possible. By the time you get to Dragonsreach, the Jarl will have got everything ready for your magic trick.

And so, Mittens went out onto the balcony and summoned Odahviing, who duly arrived with a hail of fire. After that, things got a little hairy, because unlike Lynx and Cuddles, Mittens had not yet discovered the secret of making fishion-powered swords and Odahviing was being particularly uncooperative.

Things were just about getting under control when something very bad happened.


Okay, men... hold him down... hold him down!

 


Mr. Mittens? I have a letter for you!

 


RAWRRR

At this point, Odahviing broke free and slew everyone present. This happened many times because owing to some terrible, terrible fluke, the Courier's entry precisely coincided with Odahviing's own arrival. Since the Courier forces you into immediate dialogue with him, and since combat now carries on in the background, the dragon had free reign to slaughter and kill while Mittens was distracted.

It was only by tapping through the conversation as fast as possible and a lot of luck that I was finally able to grab the letter and finish beating the dragon into submission before he could massacre everyone.

Anyway, once Odahviing has had suitably large amounts of shit kicked out of him, he will surrender, unlike the other dragons who will keep on fighting and killing with no thought of retreat. For all that the dragons are ancient and wise, you'd have thought that by now they might have realised this is a bad idea since everyone who tries it ends up with their soul destroyed, but sadly this never seems to click.

I suppose it's possible that they insist on attacking the Dragonborn at any opportunity because they're sacrificing themselves in a desperate bid to take me down so the souls of their comrades may live on, but there's a bit too much random violence against other people for that explanation to really make sense.

"I am a man and quarry to no one. If a wild beast attacks me I will kill it.
If the Dirdir wish to act like wild beasts then they must suffer the consequences."

--Jack Vance, The Dirdir (Planet of Adventure quadrilogy)

But I digress. Odahviing promises to be your best buddy and to show you how Alduin has been breaking and entering into Heaven, just as long as you promise to let him go.

There's not much more to be said about that, except that you can, AFAIK, only ever get to Skuldafn once, so while you're there, make sure you go everywhere, see everything and kill everyone, especially that creepy guy with the mask if you are collecting such things. You will also be able to learn one of the words of Storm Call, which can be useful (as long as you don't have a follower - it tends to zap them too).

Heaven

"How do you feel? You look sick!"
"I'm the Kwisatz Haderach. I don't get sick."

 

Okay, so now you're alive, but in the afterworld. Or at least, the afterworld that Alduin has been visiting, since like Skyrim itself, Sovngarde Belongs To The Nords and outsider scum like you aren't welcome. Now, this does pose certain interesting questions like whether the Dragonborn can also chow on the souls of the dead, and whether Alduin has been breaking into the Altmer, Argonian, Khajiit afterworlds also, or whether he's going to deal with those later once he's done eating all the Nords.

If you have done the Civil War quest, you will find the losers from that adventure kicking around. Ulfric, for instance, will be all broody and repentant. On the Imperial side, General Tullius is not there because he's not a Nord, but his sidekick is, which strikes me as a bit shitty if they were best friends and are now separated forever. Ah well, maybe there's some kind of exchange trip scheme.
Dead King Torygg is also wandering around in the mist, though like most of the dead dudes he doesn't say much.

Once you're done checking out the mists, next stop is the big castle thing in the distance. It's guarded by a guy with the very un-nordic sounding name of 'Tsun' who will only let you across the bridge if you beat him up. Running past him won't help, since lightning will zap you dead - even in god mode or with the Become Ethereal shout.
Similarly, jumping off the bridge or the waterfall will also kill you outright - you'll plunge through some kind of death zone which will cause you to die in mid-fall since otherwise you'd survive and the game doesn't want to have to deal with a mess like that. Plonking you back at the start of Sovngarde like when you fall through the floor might have been a better solution, though.

Inside the castle, there are comparatively few Nords kicking around, protected from Alduin by their demi-god, Shor, who you don't get to meet because apparently 'he's too bright'. The game won't let you go around slaying the folk inside Shor's Hall - not even the bards - so your sword will be permanently sheathed and you can't shout either.

While most of the folk you're likely to meet are simply cookie-cutter folk called 'Sovngarde Hero' or something, there are a few notable figures such as Ysgramor, Jurgen Windcaller, Olaf One-Eye (whose shade is also at the barrow in Dead Man's Respite, somehow) and probably one or two more. Roggvir is nowhere to be found.


Anyway, the three legendary heroes who were the last to smack up Alduin want to have another crack at him. If you spend too long interviewing famous dead people, they will get bored and run out of the castle without you. It is worth noting that you only get to go into the castle once, ostensibly for the purposes of recruiting these three, and as soon as you go out again they'll lock you out.

The Three Heroes don't seem to understand the concept of speaking in turn and will instead speak simultaneously in a confused babel of voices which is impossible to understand.

Outside, the four of you stand in a row and yell at the mist for a bit until it disperses. This takes quite a lot of work, causing one of the heroes to have doubts - after all, if you can't even win against some droplets of water, you're going to have a tough time with the biggest and baddest dragon of them all.

Finally, Alduin shows up, at which point you can yell Dragon Rend at him again and then start smacking him up like a pinata. This time he will actually break apart, but you still don't get any candy.

End of the world - indefinitely postponed, sorry for any inconvenience

Once Alduin has been defeated, you're free to run around Sovngarde for a bit, though now that the mist is gone you'll find it's a lot smaller than you thought. The heroes will do the 'Praise them with great praise!' bit stolen right out of 'Return of the King' and then Tsun will prepare to send you home.

The offer does seem to be open to return upon your death despite your not actually being a Nord at all, but I dunno how good an offer that is - being the only Khajiit in Sovngarde doesn't sound at all fun.

Once you return you'll be back on the mountain, where Mr. Paathurnax and Odahviing will say hi, while the other dragons do some kind of flypast in your honour. Mr. Paathurnax is kind of despondent because apparently Alduin was his older bro. He decides to try and teach the other dragons to behave sensibly so that you won't have to crack them open and feast on their delicious souls.

The praise you get for saving the world seems to diminish with distance. The dragons are ecstatic that Alduin won't be bossing them around anymore, and Odahviing promises to come if you call. The Beards are all very impressed and pleased.

Back at Whiterun, Jarl Bogroll doesn't give two shits and won't acknowledge that you've saved his soul at all... while at Karthspire, the Blades are having a strop because you've only killed Alduin and not Mr. Paathurnax as well, and promptly 'thank' you by telling you to go away.


The Blades really do want Mr. Paathurnax dead, even after his repentence and quite refuse to budge on the matter. Quite why is never adequately explained, though they will attempt to argue that all dragons are evil, and that even if they weren't, Mr. Paathurnax must still be executed because he committed crimes before he redeemed himself.

This line of reasoning might carry more weight if not for the fact that Mittens is himself half-dragon and was sentenced to execution at the beginning of the game. Being a hero tends to be a very messy business and Mittens has killed an awful lot of people while trying to save the world.

So yeah - today the Blades only want Mr. Paathurnax dead, but the "he must die for his crimes" argument says all too clearly that tomorrow it'll be Mittens head rolling across Solitude square because of the crimes he's committed too.

Golf

While in Riften, I manufactured a stupidly powerful bow as an experiment. In the market, just next to the forge, there was a cabbage sat on the wall. Shooting it proved a good way of testing the bow's power level, and with suitably fishy potions I was able to get the bow so it could project the cabbage from one end of Riften to the other in a single shot.

So I took the bow to the tundra outside Whiterun and decided to play golf.

Cabbages work really well for this, though I haven't yet tried smaller objects such as tomatoes. I imagine they'd be harder to find afterwards.

Before you ask, the heads of your enemies don't work.


Looks like he hit the tree, Jim.

Markarth

Since we've now completed the principal plotline, it's perhaps worth looking at some of the other outlying towns which we didn't have to visit during the main quest.

Let's look at Markarth first.

Karthwasten Mine

Before we go to Markarth itself, it's worth a quick detour to the village of Karthwasten. This is a small mining town, one of the few in non-Nord ownership. Partly because of this, a number of sellswords have occupied the mine in an attempt to make the owner sell up to the corrupt, monopolistic Silverblood family in the city proper.

This could have been better programmed. While the chief sellsword has a full set of lines, his followers appear to have been lobotomised, every one of them saying "We are in control of the mine... No sudden moves..." in a flat, robotic voice as they trudge into the mine.


NO... SUDDEN... MOVES...

While it's possible to slaughter the lot in the village itself, it's more fun to wait a while, talk to the village head, and then follow them back down into the mine and then kill them all.

Once you've reported that the mine is safe to enter, the miners will go back in. If you want a laugh, go back into the mine quickly and wait a while. As the miners slowly percolate through the caverns you will hear the occasional "What happened...?!" and similar exclamations as they encounter the remains of the sellswords.

Markarth II - The Forsworn Conspiracy

Markarth is the one place which makes Riften look like a paradise in terms of corruption and general living standards. For example, as soon as you enter the city proper for the first time, bad things will happen, to whit, some guy will attack a woman in the market.
If you save before entering the city it's trivial to mark who it is and then behead them immediately before they've had a chance to draw the dagger. In most places this would be foul murder, but this is Markarth, so everyone makes up some story about how the murdered man was actually a Forsworn agent who nearly stabbed a passing shopper.

Some guy slips you a note, a guard comes along and does the "Nothing to see here" routine, and the Forsworn Conspiracy quest begins in earnest.

First, as the note instructs, you'll need to go to the Shrine of Talos. This will be a bit of a head-scratcher unless you've read up on the history of the town and discovered that Talos worship has been grandfathered in after Ulfric beheaded most of the town.
I did not know this - even on the third playthrough - but I did know that there are lots of Talos shrines scattered around, and since Imperials have banned Talos, , it didn't occur to me that there would be a shrine inside the city so I figured they meant one somewhere in the wilderness until I checked the location marker in the map.

There you will meet Etrys, the guy who slipped you the note in the first place. He'll send you to do a bit of snooping around, up to and including Thonar Silverblood himself, who is the real ruler of Markarth.

Most of the investigations are dull, but Thonar is interesting because you'll need to pick the lock on his room to see him at all, after which he gets understandably annoyed, until someone else sneaks in and murders his wife. Things get rather hard to follow at that point because the attacker will generally try to reanimate the murdered wife, causing her to disintegrate when he is killed in his turn. Having a follower only makes things worse, since by the time you get downstairs all you'll have is a bunch of corpses and a heap of ashes, with no clue about what happened and your companion refuses to tell you. Thonar gets very pissy and blames it on you, regardless of the fact it would have happened anyway.

Afterwards, you go back to the shrine and find the body of Etsy, and the guards who have just murdered him in front of Talos himself.


Framing the Dragonborn might not be the smartest move.

They will then attempt to pin this murder on you, stating to your face that they're framing you because you know too much. Openly conspiring to pervert the course of justice, they had to be replaced, purging the city of their corruption by fire and the sword. In any case, when your only prospect is spending the rest of your life in a silver mine, you don't have a lot to lose. So I decapitated them all and calmly left the building.


Q.E.D.

To say it's a frame-up wouldn't be fair or right

I was then accosted by more guards, who attempted to arrest me on the same trumped-up charge. They lost their heads too, without Mittens even breaking a sweat. This went on for about half an hour, the streets of Markarth running red before I finally thought to look at the journal and discovered that the only way to continue the quest was by turning myself in. None of your enemies ever surrender in this kind of game so it quite simply hadn't occurred to me.

It is interesting to note that if you have a companion such as Kharjo, they will get off scot-free, no matter how many guards they have helped you kill during the romp through the city. Realistically he'd most likely end up beheaded with Mittens forced to watch - something which has precedent in Markarth since this was done to Braig's daughter prior to his incarceration. She hadn't done anything, whereas Kharjo has killed many men.

However, for reasons the game doesn't even try to explain, Kharjo is permitted to keep his head, doesn't end up in the mines (vaguely sensible as you'd want to keep the two troublemakers apart) and is in fact allowed to roam the city freely without so much as a parking ticket. Furthermore, he has great confidence in your ability to escape since he'll be waiting outside the secret exit to the jail the moment you do emerge, despite the fact you've been given a life sentence.

Back inside the silver mine, Mittens got chatty with some of the other prisoners, and found that Borkul was the only thing standing between himself and the mad old man who was behind the Forsworn Conspiracy. While there are presumably less violent methods of approaching the quest, I was less than pleased with my lot and in no mood for any bullshit. So I had Mittens kill Borkul by breathing dragonfire on him until he died.


Borkul originally played guitar with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

Unfortunately this upset the other prisoners who were now after my blood, and I had no health potions or similar items to replenish myself. Should you wish to try this at home, I suggest preparing healing spells and running round and round the main chamber in a loop, running up the scaffolding and jumping off, healing yourself as much as possible while the other prisoners are a suitable distance away.

Once I was finally able to retrieve the key from Borkul's corpse, I hid inside one of the cells in sneak mode until the other prisoners calmed down and went away. However, they never really forgave me and would again be incensed to violence and murder if they so much as heard Mittens moving around.

The Mad Old Man was of a similarly brutal frame of mind and proved extremely difficult to kill, not least because he had a very powerful lightning spell and I had a small screwdriver.


Putting the 'mad' into Madanach

In a fair fight, Mittens would simply have lopped off his head as was done to the guards, but his combat skills had all been ploughed into two-handed swords of which there were none to be found inside the mine.
Things went very badly against the psycho old man until I remembered that Khajiit have claws, took off the gauntlets I'd found and by a combination of healing spells and ripping his face open I was finally able to take him down.

At this point the game became rather confused. There are supposed to be two basic ways of completing this quest - the first is by killing the mad old man, in which case Thonar will be invulnerable when he appears after you leave the mine. He will thank you for solving his problem, pardon you and give you all your stuff back for your trouble.
The alternative option is to join forces with the mad old man, in which case Thonar will appear as an ordinary mortal and attempts to kill you himself. Since the old man had had a psychotic reaction to Borkul's death and was unable to talk, this was a non-starter for me.

However, in my case the game had quite literally lost the plot. The old man was dead, so Thonar appeared in his invulnerable form, but he was in a killing rage because he apparently thought I'd helped the old man and this made things rather awkward. I finally sorted out the problem by casting calming spells on him until he stopped attacking, at which point he was able to thank me and return my stuff.

Still angry after this ordeal, I went straight to the Jarl to demand some form of compensation and/or kill him. I was promptly made a Thane, which was good because by this point, not only was I able to decapitate the entire legion of guards, I could also summon storms, dragons and long-dead heroes to wreak a terrible vengeance on the city and I would have done so had the Thanedom not been forthcoming.

That said, being made Thane of Markarth is a bit like being made Prince of the Bog of Eternal Stench. It is, after all, a city whose wealth is derived entirely from prison labour and repressing the poor. The only bright side is that now the primary quest for Markarth has been completed, Thonar is no longer flagged as Essential, so you are finally free to lop his head off.

Incidentally, I am told by Ren that if you do side with the mad old man, the Forsworn will cease to be hostile should you meet them in the wilds, at least in one location.


Apparently Madanach is also a racist.

The only other Markarth-related thing which immediately springs to mind is the Nchuand-Zel excavation site, one of the quests kicked off by the Jarl's court wizard. This will involve cutting your way through a spider-infested cavern, the way through being blocked by an imperial legionary, recently deceased.
This has an interesting side-effect in that to get through you must first move him out of the way, since otherwise Mittens will keep slashing and mutilating the corpse in preference to hitting the spiderwebs blocking your way.

Falkreath

Doggy!

Falkreath is a medium-sized town chiefly noted for its graveyard. It has several Daedric quests, the more annoying of which is for Clavicus Vile, and relates to his dog. The guards will pester you endlessly about the dog, stopping you as you walk down the street, and it's almost worth doing the quest just to get them to shut up. It is also one of the few towns which is open-air and therefore exists in the real world, as opposed to Markarth or Whiterun which are sequestered in some other dimension.


Kharjo starts to get tired of the guards' ceaseless questioning

The other quest is kicked off by visiting said graveyard, at which point you will come across a priest and two parents mourning their child, who has recently been murdered.

Bizarrely, when talking to Mathies in this time of his greatest loss, your first dialog option will typically be "I have cabbages to sell!". This will trigger some kind of reflex action and Mathies will forget his bereavement for a few moments while processing the transaction.


Honest coin for honest work.

If you do wish to talk about his daughter, he will become sombre again, and imparts the important knowledge that the murderer was a guy called Sinding who is currently holed up in the jail while they figure out what to do with him.

JP (to Sofox): "You've killed the priest, you've killed the grieving husband and now his wife has gutted you like a fish."

Sinding is actually a nice guy who just has this problem that he occasionally turns into a monster. If you agree to help him he'll go all doggy and break out of jail, which makes the guards suspicious.

Eventually, after beating up a particularly large deer, you'll need to go to Bloated Man's Grotto, which will have been specially tricked out for the occasion.

Immediately inside, you will see a dying Khajiit warrior known as J'Kier, who says his piece and then expires. Ignoring him will cause him to die very loudly just as you get out of range, so the 'survival-through-neglect' technique doesn't work here.
Resurrecting him by means of the console does have interesting effects in that he will be happily walking around again, hale and whole, until he says his piece, at which point he will collapse and sit there nursing his wounds as before. Then he will say his piece again, but this time not expire. Talking to him repeatedly will cause him to go through his lines over and over again.

Then you'll come across Sinding again, who is in dog mode. His catchphrase is "Never thought I'd see you again!" which he will say each time you approach him.

Incidentally, when talking to Sinding at this point you are supposed to choose between killing him and helping him against the other hunters. It is possible to duck out of the conversation by pressing TAB instead of selecting "I've been told to kill you", which will cause Sinding to simply say "Hmm hmm."

Note that doing this will not actually help - the place will be entirely devoid of hunters except for the initial two corpses by the fire.

If you go back around the loop again, Sinding will intercept you as before, hailing you again with his favourite greeting. If you then choose to kill the hunters, they will finally spawn and you can go around killing them. If you have one of those fish-enhanced swords, be very careful since it's possible to both agree to help Sinding and then accidentally kill him.

Once the hunters have had the shit kicked out of them in a suitably terminal manner, Sinding will say he's grateful and will stay in the cave away from other people. This is a half-truth, since he has a tendency to suddenly remember he was supposed to be in jail. Indeed, you may sometimes run into him as he treks back past Whiterun. Fortunately they don't seem to be quite as rabid about werewolves as they were in Bloodmoon, and people will usually just ignore him and pay no mind.

For some reason it is not possible to tell Mathies that Sinding was possessed by an evil Daedric Prince and therefore not in control of himself when their daughter was killed.

Paranoia

Another possible quest involves the paranoid ex-Jarl of Falkreath, who asks you to steal a letter from the local blacksmith, the one who wants a dog so badly that he'll get the guards to pester you endlessly about it.

On one occasion the Jarl had locked himself in his own home, so to show him the letter, I had to pick the lock and break in. I figured he couldn't complain, given the circumstances. As in The Prisoner, the Jarl is convinced it must be in some form of code, but without a Honeywell minicomputer to decipher it there's very little to be done.

After this, the Jarl will tell the deep, darkest secrets of his ancestry, and how his grandfather is a vampire. If this happens inside his house, Kharjo will stand there just looking all around the house, bored out of his mind by the shocking revelations. However it is also possible to have the secret conversation in the pub, surrounded by half the town.

The vampire has a nice castle with an icy arena inside it. The throne room has has a sort of arena filled with wolves and dead things. On the first runthrough I didn't yet have the Kyne's Piss shout and Kharjo kept trying to kill the wolves so I made him wait outside.

When I finally entered the arena, the vampire's right-hand-woman said something like "And who's this...?", to which the master vamp replied "Nevermind, he will do well for the next event."

At this point he released the wolves, so all he got to see of the 'event' was me leading the wolves off into the depths of the complex and returning later once I'd locked them in the store cupboard, which was like herding rabid cats.

Dark Brotherhood

As you probably know, the Dark Brotherhood quest is kicked off by visiting some kid in Windhelm, who is praying to the Dark Brotherhood to murder Grelod, the head of an Orphanage in Riften. You can visit the kid and talk to him, in which case the murder becomes a quest objective.

My preferred tactic for this is to walk calmly into the orphanage, and take the abusive old crone's head off with a Daedric Greatsword. In a modern society this would traumatise the poor orphans, but fortunately this is not a modern society, this is Skyrim, where people are publicly beheaded for entertainment value, or because they boasted in a tavern. As such, the children are used to seeing people's heads come off and in fact think it's really, really cool. Indeed, they will typically go over to Grelod's corpse so they can point and laugh.

The assistant staff do not think this is cool at all, and will rush around the building like headless chickens, no pun intended. In typical Riften fashion, Grelod will not be missed and there will be no bounty for her murder.

It is definitely worth mentioning that there is nothing stopping you murdering Grelod prematurely. Should you do this, the Windhelm Kid will be even more impressed because you've terminated the victim before even being asked to do so.

I could write reams about how losing Grelod could screw those orphans over completely, since if the orpanage does close, the kids will be reduced to pickpocketing on the streets and finally being hanged or beheaded for theft, which was the traditional solution to the problem of juvenile delinquency prior to the late 1800s.

If you are curious as to what their future may be like without Grelod - cruel as she was - look up 'The White Slaves of England', a gut-wrenching look at how the young and poor were exploited during the Industrial Revolution, and a fascinating example of investigative journalism circa the mid 1800s. The text and images are out of copyright and there are scans of the series floating around the 'net.

Anyway, enough of reality. We're playing this game to escape from that, right? So. What's supposed to happen next is that, once you've spoken to the Windhelm kid and killed Grelod, the Dark Brotherhood will want to hire you. The next time you sleep, you'll wake up in a hut somewhere for the job interview.
However, there is a certain problem in that Mittens doesn't need to sleep.

If you go too long without sleeping, the Dark Bros will realise that something is amiss and try a different tactic. And so, about a week or two later, long after Mittens had forgotten about Grelod, a courier arrived bearing an ominous note that contained just the words "WE KNOW."

This confused me.


"We know"

While I figured it was probably about my having killed someone, I had been assailed by Thalmor execution squads, assassins, necromancers pissy about me eating Malyn Varen's soul, vampires pissy about my killing Movarth Piquine, bounty hunters sent to remove my head, Forsworn, drug peddlers, more necromancers pissy about me eating Malyn Varen's soul, random psychopaths at the roadside, Dragons, undead fiends, mercenaries, dead Thalmor assassins pissy about my stealing their orders, more necromancers pissy about me eating Malyn Varen's soul and gods alone know who else.
Add to that the deaths of several hundred bandits, dozens of Thalmor and Imperial Justiciars, and a couple of passing Orcs who called me a 'milk drinker' and some more necromancers pissy about me eating Malyn Varen's soul, and I was at a loss as to exactly which killing the mysterious writer was concerned about. Given the Dark Brotherhood hand, I figured they were most likely mad about the large number of assassins they had been sending after me, now recently decapitated.

Anyway, as and when you do go to sleep, you'll end up in a shack somewhere, even with Kharjo and your House-Carl du jour watching over you. Astrid the female brother (?) will mention Grelod the Kind, and say that you killed her. She does this even if you asked Kharjo or another follower to kill Grelod for you, though for some reason they don't wake up in the shack.

You are then presented with a couple of prisoners, bound and ready for execution. Someone in the room has had a hit called on them and you have to decide who needs to be killed. It didn't take me long to decide that the one person who most needed to die was Astrid herself, and pleasingly, this is a valid answer. A quick blast of 'Fus' will knock her off her shelf and get her in a position where her head can be removed quickly and easily.

Once the prisoners have all been freed, you'll be able to pick Astrid's pockets at your leisure, and remove the pretty armour.

There is a mod which alters the lustre of the Dark Brotherhood armour, arguably going overboard since it attains a smooth PVC sheen like some kind of medieval Catwoman costume. While this can be quite pleasing on the eye it does make the Dark Brotherhood look like some kind of freaky BDSM club.


"Fool, none may know our secret!"

Anyway, after this has been done, you will gain the ability to go up to the guards in, say, Whiterun, and proudly announce that you've murdered the leader of the Dark Brotherhood. This will have you sent to an Imperial outpost at Dragon Bridge, where you are asked to break into one of their safe houses and slay all within, just like I wanted to do in Oblivion but wasn't allowed to. This remains true even if Skyrim has become an independent state - the Imperial outpost remaining fully functional even under Ulfric's rule.

Incidentally, Ren highly recommends the Dark Brotherhood quests, so I'll certainly try joining them one day, but today is not that day. IMHO it doesn't seem a terribly safe career option since they've already promised my soul to Sithis and the Night Mother. I can easily imagine the name on my third contract simply reading "yourself".

Hag's End - Quest for the Shinies

If you want to get hold of some Dark Bro'hood armour but don't want to get involved with them at all, this is also possible.
For example, you might like the bent appeal of dressing up as a Dark Brotherhood member when killing Grelod the Kind and talking to Aventus the Windhelm Kid, or perhaps you want the armour but would still prefer to keep your options open about joining/killing the Dark Brothers.

There is, you see, a set which you can obtain from Hag's End at more-or-less any point in the game. The only prerequisite is that you visit the Ritual Stone east of Whiterun, since you will need its freakish powers for this to work. When you're ready, Hag's End is in the northwest, more-or-less directly south of the Northmoor reprocessing plant.

Hag's End is accessed via a Forsworn-infested complex known as Deepwood Redoubt and usually you'll need to fight your way in. However, I have noticed that by climing around the side you can drop down off the mountain and land just in front of the entrance, in which case the Forsworn will assume you are one of them and say things like "Need anything...?" as you walk past. I'd still hurry if you can since this confusion won't last forever.

The complex will exit into a closed valley - Deepwood Vale - which contains the entrance to Hag's End proper. It may be possible to climb over the mountains and get in directly, or it may be dimensionally isolated like the inside of cities such as Whiterun. This is left as an exercise for the reader to determine.


'Scuse me, are you a hag...? You are...? Right, in that case I'll have to end you.

Inside the complex itself you will find a number of hags or witches, backed by a Hag-Raven who has the annoying ability to teleport when you attack her, causing her to reappear in various locations as if to taunt you. The power is not foolproof, though, and if you've been making strange weapons that can do 600 damage points or more, you can take her out before she has a chance to go anywhere.

Note that death will not actually stop her from teleporting, and you will find her corpse dumped outside where the final confrontation would have happened.

Anyway, fighting hags and the like isn't really why we came to Hag's End, though it can be entertaining and you'll need to behead your way through at least the first few rooms before you get to the throne.

Behind this throne is a secret door leading to a dead assassin with the Brotherhood gear. Supposedly a lever will open this door when the right quest is enabled, but since I've murdered the Dark Brotherhood, that's not going to happen. The lever itself is disabled and does not appear until the quest is actually running, but there is a way to get the armour out.

As mentioned, you'll need to visit the Ritual Stone, so if you haven't done that yet, do it now. Stand on the dining room table and use the Ritual Stone power, which will reanimate all corpses in a wide area that are suitably intact (headless corpses are very sensibly ignored by the algorithm underpinning the spell). Now the dead assassin has become an undead assassin.

This isn't the end of it because he's still trapped behind the door which cannot be opened. Indeed, it was a casual blast of the Ritual Stone power and the subsequent "where the hell IS that corpse I reanimated...?" that keyed me into this at all. Anyway, the point is that he's technically a follower, so if you quickly head out of the building, he'll magically pop up outside as well. Then it's just a matter of using something suitably sharp to end his life again and you can help yourself to the pretty armour.


Knight in Shining Armour

What this will do to the actual Dark Brotherhood quest I wouldn't like to say.

Trevor's Watch

After becoming Archmage, I took up a hobby of finding books for the librarian. One of these was 'Last of the Ayleid Kings', which at the time was located in a fort known as Treva's Watch. I was a little unsettled by the prospect of massacring everyone in the fort over one book, but I figured they probably can't read anyway.

When I got to Treva, I discovered that the true owner of the fort, Mr. Stalleo, was outside and the place had been overrun by villains. Stalleo believed that Mittens was one of the Companions, something which Mittens did not bother to correct.
Once the former occupants were all safely dead, I had a terrible trouble getting the gate open - it was night and I simply could not find the lever and the Clairvoyance Spell took me to some other location entirely.
This difficulty was probably to do with the fact that the lever was on the opposite side of the complex and had no possible mechanical linkage with the gate. For your records, it's in the hut where you emerge.

After that, Stalleo was extremely happy to get his castle back, though the very next time I came down that way he'd been kicked out on his ass again. I was half expecting to receive a letter from The Companions saying "We Know.".


To Be Continued...

That's all I have for now. Eventually I'll add a subsection covering the Civil War quest and various other things which weren't included initially.


Made with Kate, TextPad, Nano and Talos knows what else

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