Skyrim Wiki
College of Winterhold
Under Saarthal
First Lessons
Quest Giver
Staff of Magelight
Quest Objectives

Upon being pressed by his students for more practical lessons in magic, Tolfdir decided that a field trip to the ancient ruins of Saarthal was in order.


Meet Tolfdir outside Saarthal[]

When you arrive at Saarthal (if you were travelling from Winterhold, follow the wooden walkways down to the entrance of the excavation site. Tolfdir and your fellow students will be waiting for you. The lock into Saarthal cannot be picked so you do need Tolfdir around. If no one is there yet, try waiting for an hour or so and they will show up. Talk to Tolfdir and tell him you are ready and he will let you all in.

Follow Tolfdir[]

Once you are in, just follow Tolfdir to the bottom level of the excavation. At the bottom, Tolfdir will initiate a conversation with you. He will tell you to go find and help the archaeologist/historian Arniel Gane and to assist him in any way he tells you to.

Find Arniel Gane[]

Head through the doorway that is directly in front and follow the long winding corridor to another large cavern. Follow the walkways to the other side. At the second pillar you will reach an apparent dead end, but the ramp down is on the right hand side, hidden in darkness if your settings are too dark. When you reach the other side, you will find Arniel hunched over a table. Speak to him to continue.

Search for magical artifacts (4)[]

Arniel will now ask you to search for some magical artefacts that might be lying around the place. Your compass will now have 4 new markers, all very nearby. Just wander around and pick up the 3 rings and 1 amulet to complete the quest. When you pick up the amulet, bars in the alcove will slam down, trapping you inside. Tolfdir will show up so speak to him and explain the situation. He will tell you that the amulet is connected to the trap somehow.

Use the Saarthal Amulet to escape the trap[]

To escape the trap, wear the amulet, then simply shatter the wall where you found the amulet. The bars will then be raised so go back out and speak to Tolfdir. He will ask you to follow him to explore Saarthal further. Before you do, run back to Arniel and give him the magical artefacts (though this does not seem to yield anything). Tolfdir will walk slowly into the new passage, so follow him down.

Follow Tolfdir[]

Once the both of you reach an empty room with a desk in the middle, your vision will blur and Nerien will show up to you in a vision. He will give you a prophetic warning and you have no choice but to listen. Once he is done, he will disappear and you will have to speak to Tolfdir again.

Tell Tolfdir about the vision[]

Tell him what happened and get some information on the Psijic Order if you wish. Once you are done talking, he will walk to the wall opposite of where you entered and you will be ambushed by a Restless Draugr and a Draugr.

Follow Tolfdir again[]

Once they are dealt with, head through the passage where the coffin used to be. Continue following Tolfdir down until you reach a barred door with a lever to the right. Hit the lever and continue through to a circular room with a bridge down the middle. When you are a fair way into the room, bars will slide over the far exit and two waves of Draugr will spawn (3–4 per wave). Once they are dead, pull the chains on either side of the exit to continue. Tolfdir will part ways here.

Find the danger within Saarthal[]

Proceed through to a larger corridor with niches lining either side. Before the first corner, you will be ambushed by a Draugr to the right. At the second corner, you will be ambushed by 2 Draugr on either side and around the corner is a Restless Draugr (archer) that will probably come running at the sound of the battle. When they are done with, turn the last corner and head up some stairs and turn left at the top. You will see an empty coffin immediately in front with a chest in the corner.

Continue on through into the next passage and head down a ramp. Around the corner at the bottom are two Draugr. Right in front at the bottom of the ramp will be a chest. Go on through the passage until you come to a crypt with black pillars in some alcoves and a barred door at the end with a lever in front of it. The pillars are a puzzle locked and the lever is trapped and will fire poison darts at you if the combination is wrong.

If you look behind and up each pillar, there should be a plaque with a symbol hanging near the ceiling in each alcove. Simply rotate each pillar until it matches the design on the plaque and pull the lever. Head on through until you reach a high-ceilinged chamber. Up on the level above, there is a Draugr Wight that will rise when you get close. The Wight is deadly to low level characters. When you on higher levels you will get a stronger opponent like a Draugr Death Lord. A good tactic is to use the two ramps leading up to the second level to run in circles and let the Wight chase you while you blast away at it.

Head through the door at the back of the room and into a wide corridor with the puzzle pillars in it. Arrange the set of four at the back of the corridor according to the set at the front. Or alternatively, according to the plaques behind the pillars. Pull the lever when you are done to continue. At this point, Tolfdir rejoins you. Continue through a crypt (be careful of the pressure plate, it triggers poison darts) until you reach a large room.

In this room, there is a Draugr Lord named Jyrik Gauldurson. He is on the level below but will get off his throne the moment you start attacking. Deal with him and speak to Tolfdir again and ask him about the Eye of Magnus (well actually no one knows what this is) in the middle of the chamber. He will tell you to bring news of this back to the college while he works out a way to transport it.

Talk to the Arch-Mage[]

Go out the door at the back and fast travel back to the College. You can find the Arch-Mage in his quarters. Speak to him and he will give you your next task.

The Puzzle[]

In the room with the four pillars the combination to unlock the gate is clearly marked on the wall plaques behind said pillars. There is only one problem, rotating one pillar will rotate the others as well.

Standing facing the gate, two pillars are on the left and two on the right. Let the front left one be 1, back left 2, the back right 3, the front right 4.

Tip: Try out the pillars and which other pillars they rotate.

As it turns out 1 -> 3,4; 2 -> 1,3,4; 3 -> only 4; 4 does not rotate any other pillar. So the trick is to properly set the pillar that disturbs the most other pillars and go from there.

Solution: Rotate 2 to show the whale, rotate 1 to show the snake, rotate 3 to show the hawk, and finally 4 to show the whale, in that order. Then activate the central switch to unlock the gate.