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Battle Your Way Through Potema’s Undead Legion and Claim the Shield of Solitude
This article is for all the unfortunate souls who embarked on the quest "The Wolf Queen Awakened" prior to their character achieving level 30 or higher. Once you hit level 30, polishing off Potema and her minions isn’t that difficult. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, though, do not even attempt this quest before reaching level 20. In order to gauge if you’re ready for this quest, you need to ask yourself some questions. Can my character defeat a draugr deathlord? Can my character defeat a draugr deathlord after fighting through scores of draugr scourges, draugr wights, and basic draugr and vampires? If the answers to these questions are yes, you are ready for this quest.
This dungeon is leveled, so if you’re a high level character (level 30+), you’ll be running into draugr deathlords and overlords as well as ancient vampires as you make your way down to Potema’s throne room. However, when you’re at this high level, slaying draugr lords and ancient vampires isn’t that difficult. By this time, you’ve amassed a large amount of health points, a great arsenal of magical weapons, and a supply of powerful healing potions. At lower levels, though, even though the undead you face are less powerful, you will not be as well equipped. This will make it more difficult to complete this quest.
After receiving the letter from the courier, talking to Falk Firebeard, and then getting the key from Styrr in Solitude’s Hall of the Dead, you are ready to head over to the Temple of the Divines and the city catacombs beneath. Before embarking down into the catacombs, make certain that your inventory includes as many of the following as possible:
- Healing potions
- Fatigue potions
- Scrolls against the Undead (such as Bane of the Undead, J’Zargo’s Flame Cloak, Guardian Circle, etc.)
- Filled and empty Soul Gems
- At least one weapon that drains souls
- A good shield (Spellbreaker or Shield of Ysgramor)
- Strength potions (so you can haul out as much loot as possible)
Other highly recommended items include:
- Sanguine Rose
- Summon Atronach staffs (Storm, Fire, Frost)
Yes, you are preparing for an all out dungeon siege—one of the best opportunities for such action in all of Skyrim. One should definitely think twice about bringing any followers along with you. There is a very high probability they will just end up getting themselves killed along the way. Of course, the follower will be able to act as a good pack mule for you to haul more loot out of the dungeon, but my experience is that you’ll actually end up being their bodyguard rather than the other way around. Once you’re ready for the dungeon siege, head to the basement of the Temple of the Divines and use the key Styrr gave you to open the locked gate. The fun is about to begin!
The good thing about the catacombs is that they are pretty straightforward in terms of layout. The bad part is that the catacombs are teeming with draugr and vampires. If ever there was a quest to use the sword Dawnbreaker on, this is it. As you make your way through the dungeon, fight your way through till you come to a locked iron gate. Potema’s voice will begin speaking to you. After she’s done yapping, the gate will open for you. From here, here is how you should proceed.
- Eventually you’ll come to a room at the bottom of some stairs with purple flammable liquid on the floor. Be sure to grab the book Surfeit of Thieves, which is a Lockpicking Skill book.
- Proceed forward through the next iron gate and down the long hallway where you’ll come to some hanging moss and a draugr on the other side. Kill the draugr and move forward.
- Next you’ll come to a room with water in it. Defeat the draugr in the water.
- There is a swinging spiked door. Avoid the trap by leaping over the pressure panel in the floor.
- You will come into a brightly lit room with cages hanging from the ceiling. Two draugr will jump out and attack from the right.
- There is a rigged chest in the room. Stand to the side of the chest before opening it as arrows will shoot from the wall behind it when the chest is opened.
- Eventually, you’ll come to what appears to be a dead end. However, there’s a lever which will activate the stone wall before you. The wall will begin rotating, and you will notice that an iron gate appears within the rotation. Click the lever at one of the moments when the iron gate appears open. The gate will freeze in the open position, and you will be able to proceed forward.
- The room on the other side of the revolving wall contains an alchemy lab, potions, and various ingredients. If you’ve brought ingredients for healing potions, you may want to take a moment to brew up more potions before heading into the next section of the dungeon called Potema’s Refuge, which lies beyond the next door.
- You will come to a room with three revolving wall doorways. As in the previous room, use the three levers to halt the wall when the open part is visible. Prior to reaching the levers to your right, you’ll see another room containing urns and a chest in it. There is also a vampire in the room. Kill the vampire and proceed onwards.
- To your left will be a misty corridor guarded by two soul gem defense pillars that shoot fireballs. Disable the pillars (by simply grabbing the soul gems, shooting them with arrows, or blasting them with destruction type spells) and proceed down the corridor.
- Open the door and enter a wide open, brightly lit chamber with a draugr asleep on a stone throne. A vampire is also present and will speak to you before attacking. (It will be talking crap about using your corpse for Potema’s army. Seriously?) The draugr on the throne will also awaken. Kill them both and loot the bodies. The draugr should have the key to Potema’s Sanctum on his body. If not, you should be able to find it sitting on the arm of the throne he was previously sitting on. With the key in hand, open the door and proceed into Potema’s Sanctum. Note: If you don’t use the key, you’ll have to pick the door, which is a master level lock. Be sure to save your game at this point before entering the Sanctum. (You’ll be glad you did.)
- You will enter a room with piles of dead draugr on the floor, as well as a dead vampire. After a few moments, Potema’s voice will be heard again, and she will animate two of the draugr as well as the vampire to attack you. There are a few different ways you can play this room. You can simply kill the vampire and the draugr and then loot all the bodies like normal. You can reanimate the draugr and vampire before Potema does, thereby gaining them as extra fighters for the next upcoming battle. You could also loot the bodies of the undead before Potema reanimates them (including their weapons so that they can’t really attack you effectively). The choice is yours. If you saved as suggested prior to entering this room, you can actually try various strategies. Once Potema reanimates the bodies, the iron gate will also open. Proceed through the gate.
- The corridor leads downwards. At the bottom of the corridor is a door leading to Potema’s throne room. On a shelf near the door are two resist shock potions that you will find very useful in the final battle to come. When you are set, open the door and enter for the big battle royal against Potema and her draugr minions.
- You will find yourself in a large, long chamber with a throne to the rear. The room is tiered. The upper tier is lined with draugr sarcophagi that will begin popping open with your arrival. Potema’s spirit will be seen floating about as a glowing mass of energy that emanates lightning throughout the room. Potema will send wave after wave of draugr at you, along with frost atronachs. With each wave of draugr you defeat, Potema will weaken. After all the draugr are dispatched, Potema’s spirit will retreat to the room behind the throne. The lower level contains a recessed sarcophagus to the left that has a draugr deathlord. The deathlord will animate towards the end of the battle and attack you. Some guides to this quest suggest that the draugr will not follow you out of the room if you retreat back into the corridor. This was not my experience. Not only did they chase me out of the room, the pursued me all the way up the corridor—particularly the deathlord. I highly suggest that you take the resist shock potion before entering the room as it will minimize the damage from Potema’s lightning.
Strategies for the Big Battle
There are a number of different ways to approach this battle. Some guides suggest standing at the door and shooting the draugr with arrows. The problem with this is that, unless you are adept at one-shot kills, there are too many draugr to shoot before they come upon you. The room is also rather dark, and with lightning flying all about from Potema, hitting your targets is a bit challenging. Another suggested strategy is summoning storm atronachs (which are immune to damage from Potema’s lightning) to battle the draugr. It's not a bad strategy if you have a Summon Storm Atronach Staff. My experience with this approach was that there were too many draugr for the storm atronach to contend with. Eventually, they got through the atronach attacks and went after me—especially the deathlord. Here is the strategy I eventually used to win this battle.
- Step into the chamber and initiate the battle. Summon whatever creature you wish into the chamber so that they can help you fight the draugr. Afterwards, step back out the door and into the corridor. The landing at the bottom of the corridor is a small and confined space. The draugr have to come through the door one at a time. Take them on individually in this area so that they do not have the luxury of attacking you from multiple directions. Dispatch the draugr in this manner until the deathlord approaches.
- If you’re efficient enough at killing the lesser draugr, you will get a breather for a moment as the draugr deathlord emerges from his recessed sarcophagus on the lower level. When he comes into view, use ranged attacks against him and summon the most powerful creatures you can to attack him. If you possess the Sanguine Rose, a good strategy is to keep summoning Dremora to attack the deathlord. Hopefully, whatever you decided to summon will kill the deathlord before it ever reaches you. However, in the event that the deathlord reaches you, you’re typically in for a major fight. The draugr deathlord regenerates health points like you do, so if you end up having to retreat, he’ll begin regenerating. One problem you’ll face is that, if you’re not at a sufficiently high level, the deathlord will use the Disarm Weapon dragon shout on you constantly, so be sure to have multiple weapons at hand. If worse comes to worse, retreat back up into the previous chamber. Typically, the deathlord will not pursue you beyond this point. If he does, keep running till he’s out of sight. Return to the fight when you're healed. The deathlord will return to the large chamber once you’re out of the range of his vision. A good reason to fight the deathlord in the corridor rather than the large chamber is that many players end up losing their prized shields or swords when the deathlord uses his disarm shout. It’s also highly advisable to save before the final battle with the deathlord for exactly this reason.
- Once the deathlord is defeated, proceed back into the large chamber and head to the smaller room behind the throne. Potema will be awaiting you there in ghost form. Be aware that she has the ability to reanimate some of the dead draugr from the large chamber you just departed, so watch your back. Potema’s ghost has the ability to regenerate itself a number of times, so keep fighting till she’s finally dead. Once Potema is dead, take the skull sitting on the chair. The skull is Potema’s final remains. Loot the big chest in the room. You will find the Sneak skill book Legend of Krately House inside. Exit the room to the rear and fight your way through a few more draugr. You’ll find another treasure chest with some additional loot in it. You’ll exit the dungeon and find yourself on a ledge outside of Solitude.
- Return Potema’s remains to Styrr in the Hall of the Dead.
- Return to Falk Firebeard and receive the Shield of Solitude, an enchanted shield that fortifies blocking by 35 points and increases magic resistance by 30%.
Jimbali on April 02, 2018:
Managed it at Level 18 with Benor 'helping' me. Took several attempts but eventually won by conjuring fire atronachs and using flames etc, and then going one-on-one with the deathlord toward the end. Told Benor to wait about 5 rooms back and he kept running in to fight anyway and dying. On the last attempt he was falling to his knees just as I dealt the money shot but just about recovered! xD
Samuel Franklin on October 14, 2014:
One of the more interesting things I stumbled on during my Skyrim adventures, great overview of it.
anon on March 20, 2014:
This was a heck of a lot of fun, I finished off all the draugr from the doorway of the chamber with my bow. But then I am level 52 and I'm a crack shot if I say so myself. The Slow Time archery perk is a must IMO, makes targeting firing and redrawing the bow very straightforward. Just make sure you have a decent level of stamina.