Skyrim Quest Walkthrough: Under Saarthal

Tolfdir has made preparations to take you and the rest of his apprentices to Saarthal; the remains of an ancient Nordic burial site and the subject of an ongoing archaeological excavation by the College of Winterhold. Sarrthal can be found southwest of Winterhold in a region of the mountains where wolves like to roam.


If you reach the entrance to the ruins before Tolfdir and your classmates, wait for the others to arrive.  Chat with some of them for a bit if you like, then let Tolfdir know when you’re ready to get underway. Find out more about this place by asking Tolfdir about it as well, then follow him into the excavation area.


After he descends the first steps into the entrance chamber of the ancient settlement, ask Tolfdir if there’s anything he’d like you to do and he’ll request that you help Arniel Gane catalog some finds and locate some enchanted items. Follow a path of lanterns through some passages and into a large chamber in which scaffolding has been erected. Arniel Gane can be found down a side corridor. He tells you to look around the chambers that lie to his north, and warns you to be careful.


You might have to look closely to find the first three items. When you have them, head to the torch-lit carved arch and take the amulet that lies within it. As soon as you pick it up, you trigger a spear trap.  Tolfdir then appears to see if you’re okay. Tell him what happened, and he’ll suggest using the amulet in some way.


Put the amulet on, and Tolfdir will remark that the wall beneath the arch from which you took the amulet might be susceptible to your magic while you’re wearing the amulet. Launch a Firebolt (or some other projectile spell) at the spot in question and the wall will shatter on impact, revealing an unexplored passageway behind it.


The spear trap will now recede, but don’t charge forward down the passageway, wait for Tolfdir to go in there first and follow him. As the two of you move down the tunnel, he wonders aloud why this area was sealed off. Eventually you come to a small mausoleum chamber and Tolfdir tells you to be on your guard.


A moment later, an apparition named Nerion appears in front of your eyes. You don’t know who he is, but you appear to be the only one who can see and hear him. He says the events you’ve set in motion can’t be undone and tells you that judgement of you will be based on your forthcoming actions and how you deal with the dangers that lie ahead. He says the Psijic Order believes in you and that you alone have the ability to prevent disaster. Take great care, and know that they are watching you…


Immediately tell Tolfdir what you’ve just seen and heard. He replies that he thinks it is very odd, as the Psijics have no known connection to these ruins and no one has seen any of their order in a long time. He then voices a suspicion that the coffins embedded around this room are connected to deeper chambers. Suddenly a Draugr comes crashing through the wall and attacks you. Kill it, and follow Tolfdir through the broken wall into the space beyond.


Pull a lever at the bottom of the passage to open the portcullis. This leads into a vast circular chamber with a bridge crossing a chasm.  Some more Draugr come out of nearby coffins and attack you and Tolfdir. After the two of you dispatch them, he sets about inspecting the chamber in greater detail and says that he wants to hang about here for a bit. You must now set off on your own to try and find out what Nerion, the representative from the Psijic Order, was talking about when he spoke of danger and disaster in your vision.


Move through the complex while fighting off enemies and watching out for numerous traps of a flame and dart-based nature. Eventually you’ll come to corridor with six pillars along its sides, each with three animal petroglyphs carved into it.


1st puzzle solution: What you have to do is notice a smaller carving above each pillar, and make sure that the pillar below matches this smaller carving. Along the north wall from left to right, adjust the pillars so that the following animal forms are facing outwards: Whale, Snake, and Hawk. Along the south wall from left to right: Hawk, Hawk, and Whale.


Make your way through the ceremony room beyond, fighting another Draugr along the way, and exit through the upper door past the treasure chest. Try to avoid further traps as you go. You now find yourself in a passage with a second puzzle involving four carved pillars that must be correctly positioned before you can proceed.


2nd puzzle solution: The four correct positions are displayed in the large carved mouths on each side of the passage and behind each movable pillar. On the western wall from left to right: Hawk and Whale. On the eastern wall from left to right: Snake and Whale.

The tricky thing about this puzzle is that each of the pillars makes several other pillars move as well. This makes it hard if you don’t know many pillars move during each activation. Looking at the pillars from the entrance to this room, imagine that they are numbered 1 to 4 from left to right, now read these details:

Pillar 1 (Whale): Activate it to move all four pillars.

Pillar 2 (Snake): Activate it to move pillars 2, 3, and 4.

Pillar 3 (Hawk): Activate it to move pillars 3 and 4.

Pillar 4 (Whale): Activate it and only it moves.

The solution is actually rather simple: turn the pillar that rotates the most number of pillars first, and continue activating pillars that rotate consecutively fewer pillars until the puzzle is solved. By doing it that way you affect fewer pillars as you go.

So to solve the puzzle:

Activate pillar 1 to show the Whale.

Activate pillar 2 to show the Snake.

Activate pillar 3 to show the Hawk.

Activate pillar 4 to show the Whale.

Remember that the pillars are numbered in order of left to right as you face inward from the entrance to this room.


After you move onward from this room, Tolfdir catches up with you. You can ask him more question about the Psijic Order as you both continue exploring. Eventually the two of you will move through an iron door into the chamber of Jyrik Gaulderson. There is a massive ten foot floating orb in the middle of this room, but you don’t have long to examine it before a particularly terrible looking Draugr rises from a throne to attack you. Meet Jyrik Gaulderson, a most evil Nord who was sealed down here to prevent his reanimation. Until now.


This guy is coursing with evil magic, and for the first ten seconds of the fight he’ll be completely invulnerable to your attacks, be they magic or melee in nature. Eventually Tolfdir will realize this and attack the crackling globe instead. A few seconds later he yells that Jyrik is vulnerable now.


While no longer completely protected, Jyrik is bathed in an elemental magic shield that cycles through the different elements, and he is impervious to attacks from the same element as that of his shield at any given instant. So if he’s bathed in fire, a Firebolt spell will have no effect on him. You have to keep switching your offensive spells so that you never attack him with the same element as his shield.


His defense system does have a weakness however: he is extremely vulnerable to frost damage when he’s within a fire shield, and extremely vulnerable to fire when he’s within a frost shield. Use this to your advantage.


Once you’ve laid Jyrik to rest for good, you and Tolfdir can resume your examination of the large orb. He eventually asks you to return to the college and tell the arch-mage about your findings. Use the iron gate to exit the chamber, and you’ll come to a wall on which is inscribed one of the words of power that form dragon shouts. Be sure to read the inscription and learn the word before leaving.


Return to the college and find the arch-mage. He rewards you for your efforts and departs for Saarthal to inspect the orb himself.


22 Responses

  1. david says:

    i have an issue with my game the damn guy helping just follows me while he kicks my ass and never attacks the orb???

  2. Dane says:

    I did find for the first 10 sec he didnt take any damage, once Tolfir went to the orb which I had no idea what he was doing I used Dragons breath and dropped him on the spot. It was very effective

  3. robert says:

    thanks man this helped alot

  4. justin says:

    this isnt working the pattern for problem 1 isnt working at all i keep on dying from the arrows! :(

  5. Eirik says:

    If u stand in the entrence to the door ur supposed to go through after uve unlocked the puzzle u wont get hit by the arrows;)

  6. zeiryu2 says:

    just use candlelight for the problem 1, after u use it, you’ll see smaller carvings above each pillar… just adjust them

  7. zeiryu2 says:

    puzzle 1*

  8. stephen says:

    i have a problem, a bug maybe. when i hit the wall to reveal the hidden passage the game froze, what should i do? reinstall?

  9. zeb says:

    thx helped alot

  10. Yomamasoawsome21 says:

    What level magic person should i be to do this quest or what moves should i learn for this quest.(i keep dieing with first level moves)

  11. tyler says:

    helpfull put word to the wise don’t fasttravel on a horse to mage college you appear off the side of the bridge and plumit to your horses demise

  12. Ben says:

    When against the drauger knight before the second puzzle just run back to the first puzzle area change one piece which will close the gate then just kill it there

  13. Sarah says:

    The puzzle answer from 1 works right to left not left to right

  14. helper says:

    Guys i want to help on hit the wall game freezes
    i searched net and it told that
    1 run on windowed mode
    2 change resoulution
    3 quickly after attacking look at floor or away

  15. skyace says:

    I cant walk through the door after clearing the room of monsters after nerion has spoken to me. ( the scene after tolfdir is leaving me)

  16. bam gat says:

    where do I find the arch mage im back at the school just cant find the guy

  17. Jim says:

    on the 360 I cant get by the guy in the ceremony room after 1st puzzle

  18. Loomina says:

    Moved past the First Puzzle and in to fight the Draugr
    Knight who has shouts which seem to refresh much faster than mine :-) I took my House Carl Lydia with me to help fight but we couldn t kill him….must have tried like 20-30 times :-(
    So….phail :-(
    Would appreciate some help here….and thanks so much for this guide,….really helped.

  19. Alexe says:


  20. nick says:

    I’m in the ceremony room right now. Any help

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