The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - The College of Winterhold Main Questline Walkthrough

Updated on January 30, 2018
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Welcome to the College of Winterhold

Spanning thousands of years, The College of Winterhold boasts the premier scholars and mages of Skyrim.

To become a member, you must first gain knowledge of the college through exploration. During your travels, you may come across rumors from court mages, innkeepers, or inquisitive citizens all across the map. That, or you can simply make a trip to Winterhold in the northern mountains of Skyrim.

NOTE: Unfortunately, if you have not updated your game through the downloadable content available online, you can’t take a cart to the town and must make the journey yourself the first time.

Eicotha has become the Archmage of the College of Winterhold
Eicotha has become the Archmage of the College of Winterhold | Source

Membership in the College of Winterhold

Being a member of the College of Winterhold is a great way to learn about the magical side of Tamriel. The perks of membership are great.


Doing favors for the various members of the group can get you great riches. Use the College of Winterhold Radiant Quest- Valuable Book Procurement to gain money for journeying after lost books across Skyrim, or take part in the College of Winterhold Radiant Quest - Shalidor’s Insights to give your skills a boost early on with scrolls.

The College of Winterhold Radiant Quests - An Enchanted Journey, Restocking Soul Gems, and Valuable Book Procurement are all available as soon as you join the college and can be repeated infinitely for extra gold as well.

After spending time working on your magical skills and reaching level 90, you can learn the master level spells found only in the College of Winterhold Radiant Quests, including Destruction Ritual Spell, Illusion Ritual Spell, Conjuration Ritual Spell, Restoration Ritual Spell, and Alteration Ritual Spell.

Getting into the College of Winterhold
Getting into the College of Winterhold | Source

First Lessons Walkthrough

Objectives:

  • Visit the College of Winterhold
  • Cast a [chosen] Spell
  • Report to Mirabelle Ervine
  • Tour the College of Winterhold
  • Listen to Tolfdir

When you first arrive in Winterhold, go north and head up the ramp to find a High Elf female guarding the way. She tells you that you must show your natural skill in magic before you are permitted, so equip the spell she requests and cast it.

If it is a defensive or healing spell, cast it directly on Faralda; if it is an offensive spell, cast it on the seal on the ground and try not to hit her.

If you don’t have any of the preselected spells she wants to see, she will offer to sell you one for cheap. You also have the option of using a dragon shout to prove that these little tests are worthless when you are the Dragonborn.

Once she realizes you are legit, she tells you to visit Mirabella Ervine higher up in the college. Follow Faralda up the path until you find the main courtyard with Mirabelle inside.

Speak with her and receive the apprentice college garb she offers you, then follow her as she wanders about and explains some details about the college and its history.

Once she is done, head into the Hall of the Elements on the north side of the courtyard to find Tolfdir addressing other apprentices. Brelyna Maryon, J’Zargo, and Onmond are all your fellow new-recruits and you will probably get to know them soon.

Tolfdir will ask you to be a participant in a small demonstration. Equip or learn a ward spell from Tolfdir and stand on the seal on the floor. Use it and watch as Tolfdir’s Fireball spell is absorbed by your shield.

Tolfdir then recognizes your abilities and invites you to help him with a mission in a Draugr tomb called Saathal.

Grab your weapons and best spells and travel there.

First Lessons Video

Under Saarthal Walkthrough

Objectives:

  • Meet Tolfdir outside Saarthal
  • Find Arniel Gane
  • Search for Magical Artifacts (4)
  • Use the Saarthal Amulet to Escape the Trap
  • Follow Tolfdir
  • Tell Tolfdir about the Vision
  • Follow Tolfdir
  • Find the Danger within Saarthal
  • Talk to the Arch-Mage

Find the snowy tomb near Winterhold and approach Tolfdir. Follow everyone inside until you meet Arniel Gane. He is having issues and asks you to help him open the way deeper into the tomb.

Follow the objective markers to find the three Enchanted Rings first and then the Saarthal Amulet nest. When you are trapped, select the Amulet to wear it, and then use a Fireball or other target spell at the wall Tolfdir mentions. The trap opens and he comes inside, intrigued what kinds of things could be sealed off like this.

Follow Tolfdir into the next burial chamber and you will have a vision of a man named Nerien who warns of impending trouble ahead. Apparently, you have been chosen by the Psijic Order to be a part of the dangerous journey ahead. With few details, tell Tolfdir what happened before being attacked by Draugr inside the chambers. Once they are gone, continue alone into the next area alone.

Head north and open the door ahead with a lever on the wall. Inside is a grand burial crypt with plenty of Draugr. Carefully kill the Draugr, being cautious not to become overrun or find your way in the middle of a fire trap. At the far end of the room is a puzzle you must figure out to proceed.

Puzzle: Notice the six pillars and the smaller pictures above each one. You must turn each pillar to match the symbol above it. From left to right, the pillars should be whale, snake, hawk facing out, and hawk, hawk, whale on the other wall.

Inside the door that you just opened, a powerful Draugr attacks. Use your best spells or weapons on him and remember to keep moving. Go upstairs to find another pillar puzzle.

Puzzle: On the west wall, left pillar should be on hawk and right pillar should be on whale; on the east wall, left should be snake and right should be whale. The trick is finding the correct way to turn each one since each pillar turns another one around it.

Once you complete the puzzle correctly, continue on and open the iron door ahead. Inside is another large Draugr tomb, so bring out your favorite weapon or spell and take on Jyrik Gauldurson, a very powerful Nord. Ignore him at first and follow Tolfdir to attack the globe that weakens his impenetrable force-field.

Now that you can attack him, pay attention to his alternating cloaks that prevent damage of the same element. If you are using magic, this may pose a problem if you only use particular element classes. Use any physical weapons you can and chip away at his health until he goes down.

After defeating Jyrik, listen to Tolfdir and exit in the back of the room after taking the orb. Inside is a Word Wall with a word for Dragon Shout- Ice Storm, the Gauldur Amulet, Writ of Sealing, and the Staff of Jyrik Gauldurson.

If you read the Writ of Sealing, you can continue on with a side quest to hunt down other Gauldurson brothers in tombs across Skyrim.

Return to the College and speak with Savos Aren. After discussing new happenings, he rewards you with the Staff of Magelight.

Under Saarthal Video

Hitting the Books Walkthrough

Objectives:

  • Speak with Urag gro-Shub
  • Find the Stolen Books (3)
  • Free Orthorn (OPTIONAL)
  • Return the Books

The Arch-Mage will ask you to find Urag gro-Shub in the College library. You can take on the extra Radiant Quest - Shalidor’s Writings missions from the Orc, but your main focus should be on learning about the orb in Saarthal.

There are some books that may help you figure out what is going on, but unfortunately, a former student stole them and you need to track him down to get the books back.

After finding out that your next objective is at Fellglow Keep, make your way out of the College. The Keep is found east of Whiterun and has a group of mages standing outside waiting for you. Take them out or sneak past them to find the entrance marked with your objective arrow. You can’t get in through the front, so pay attention to your map.

Once inside, kill the mage and his spiders and head to the upper level. Take down the jailer or pick the locks on the cells to release the vampires inside, who are hell-bent on vengeance and attack the mages in the next room.

You can join the fun or just ignore it, but find your way down a corridor into the next prison area. If you use the lever in the middle, it opens more cells. These vampires won’t attack you unless you attack them first, so let them take out the mages in the next room again. You may have to take down some werewolves in here as well if you are unable to sneak-kill the jailer, so be careful and get him with a good arrow to prevent more trouble.

Find Orthorn in a cell and speak with him. You can kill him, free him, or even ask him to follow you. Continue into a cellar and take down more mages ahead, then continue up to find some necromancers.

Try to keep your focus on the necromancers instead of the other skeletons around, since they are likely to reanimate them as soon as they die anyway. Continue on, but walk carefully. The next room has a potential ambush.

Try to preoccupy the mages to prevent them from attacking you all at once. If Orthorn is following you, use him as bait and take down each mage one-by-one. Keep your finger on the potion button, to say the least.

When they are defeated, climb the stairs and loot the area to the right. Head east again to find a library-type area and eventually the entrance to the tower and a Ritual Chamber. There are a good amount of potions and scrolls on the shelves, so don’t pass up this room without picking up some very useful stuff.

Inside the Chamber is a very angry mage, known as the Caller. You can barter Orthorn for the books you came for or fight it out. The mage may be difficult, so select the option carefully. The Atronachs that she summons can be very dangerous, so take them out first if you feel they are doing more harm than the Caller is. Otherwise, you may want to go straight for the Caller and avoid the Atronachs as much as possible.

If you defeat her, loot her body and collect the missing books around the room. Unlock the door to the northwest with the key from her body, then loot the room ahead. Some important items are inside, including the Night of Tears and a Fragment.

Head back to the College and speak with Urag gro-Shub in the library and give him the books. He gives you some skill books as a reward, which up many of your magic skills.

Hitting the Books Video

Good Intentions Walkthrough

Objectives:

  • Listen to Tolfdir
  • Follow Ancano
  • Find the Augur of Dunlain
  • Report to Savos Aren

Head back down to meet Toldfir and the Arch-Mage in the Hall of the Elements. Tolfdir has some smaller Radiant Quests for you to do, but if you mention that Urag wanted you to see him, you will tell him about the Night of Tears book you found in Fellglow Keep.

Instead of reading it, he insists on talking about the orb he and the Arch-Mage retrieved from the caverns. Arcano then approaches and tells you that someone from the Psijic Order is asking for you by name.

Follow Arcano into the Arch-Mage’s quarters and speak with Quarnir, the same mysterious man from Saarthal. Listen to him and when he leaves, speak with Arcano again. He begins asking about the Augur of Dunlain, which you can get information on from fellow College members if you ask nicely.

Once you find out where it is, head down into the Midden beneath the College. Take down any Draugr or Atronachs until you reach a bright, shining blue light. It will tell you new information, including information on the Staff of Magnus.

Return to the Arch-Mage and let him know what the Augur told you, informing you that it is your duty to continue with the search. He will give you a Mage’s Circlet and tell you to meet with Mirabelle Ervine.

Good Intentions Video

Revealing the Unseen Walkthrough

Objectives:

  • Speak with Mirabelle Ervine
  • Search for Synod Researchers
  • Reach the Oculary
  • Find the Focusing Crystal
  • Return the Crystal to Paratus
  • Follow Paratus
  • Place the Crystal into the Oculary
  • Focus the Oculory
  • Talk to Paratus
  • Report to Savos Aren

Mirabelle has the bright idea to head to a dwarven ruin called Mzulft, where they might be able to figure out more about the Staff of Magnus. The entrance to this sprawling dungeon is south by southeast of Windhelm. Find the great golden door to enter.

Speak with Gavros Plinius to hear about a man trapped deeper within the ruins. Search him after he dies to find the Mzulft Key and a Research Log. Continue farther into the area and take out the Dwarven Spiders along the way.

Find your way to the next large golden door and through a Chaurus fight, then up the path to find more dead researchers. Be careful of the rock trap ahead as you as you enter another large cavern.

Harder enemies are starting to appear in this area, so make your steps cautiously. Sneaking is a good idea if you are having problems since the area is so big. Follow another ramp up and towards another hallway where a number of steaming pipes are. Find the gold doors to the Mzulft Boilery to enter the next map area.

(At this point I would like to remind you to save a lot. If you haven’t already been killed and had to revert to the beginning, it is pretty likely to happen here. You have been warned!)

The inside of this great area is full of Falmer, who are known for group assaults. Make your way towards an area with a concave bottom, where a large group of Falmer is wandering about. Up the steps is your next objective, the Mzulft Aedrome.

Your first target here is the strong Falmer in the middle chamber since he has the Focusing Crystal you need for the Oculory ahead. To get through the Master lock in the north, go east to find a chest guarded by some difficult opponents.

Picking up the Mzulft Observatory Key, head through the locked door in the west to see Gavros Plinius waiting for you. He is joined by another man named Paratus, who leads you to the Armillary chamber and the Oculory. Inside is a grand room with mirrors hanging everywhere. Your goal is to focus the oculory.

Puzzle: You need the Flames and Frostbite spells, which you can find on the stone table up the ramp nearby if you don’t have them already.

Collect any of the other books if you are interested, and then take your place back down the ramps. Equip each hand with fire and ice, then shoot each moving mirror until it reaches the middle with the blue mirrors.

Step up to the buttons to move the mirrors until they line up with a beam of light and shine into the center. The trick is to get each mirror to shine each light into the center and up. When you’ve completed the puzzle, you will get a quest update.

Speak with an excited Paratus and find out that something is going on in Winterhold that is messing up his research. Report back to the Arch-Mage, Savos Aren, in Winterhold to see everything fall apart.

Ancano has taken over the Eye of Magnus!

Revealing the Unseen Video

Containment Walkthrough

Objectives:

  • Protect the Town of Winterhold
  • Defeat the Creatures Infesting Winterhold (10)
  • Report to Mirabelle Ervine

Look for the Arch-Mage to find out his fate after the explosion. Catch your breath before heading down to the town of Winterhold to fend off the Anomalies attacking everyone.

Using larger area spells as well as fast one-handed works well, as long as you try to avoid hitting other people around you. There are 10 for you to defeat altogether, but at least other members of the College are there to help.

Talk with Mirabelle to let her know things are safe in town. There’s apparently only one way to save the College now: the Staff of Magnus.

Since you’re off to find it anyways in Labyrinthian, Mirabelle passes on the Torc of Labyrinthian and Savos Aren’s Amulet from the Arch-Mage himself.

Containment Video

The Staff of Magnus Walkthrough

Objectives:

  • Enter Labyrinthian
  • Find the Staff of Magnus
  • Return to Tolfdir

Head to Labyrinthian, southeast of Morthal. There are stairs to lead you to the entrance to the ruins, where you will find a spirit gathering in front of the entrance. Approach the Ceremonial Door and use the Torc of Labyrinthian to enter another room.

Go through the double doors and use the lever to enter the main chamber ahead. Grab your bow and long-range magic to take on the large dragon and other skeletons inside.

Go for the dragon first, since it is the most likely to do the most damage at a time. However, you cannot gain a dragon soul from his dead body because of the black magic involved in summoning him.

Once clear, head east and pick up the Etched Tablet and enter the Labyrinthian Chasm Door. Make a sweep of the left areas for any treasure, then head towards the right-side tunnel sealed by ice.

Defeat the Draugr that appear, pick up the tome on the pedestal if you want it, then use a fire spell to melt the ice. Continue down the newly opened hallway and make your way across the mountainside to watch a tunnel collapse. Nearby are some magic tables and the Equilibrium tome. Continue west and down the bridges to the bottom area with an iron door.

Inside you have two paths to take. Either head through the Novice lock that leads above the room, or continue along the water and meet some trolls.

After defeating some skeletons, head west, then north, but beware the Wispmother. This is a powerful creature with companions. Follow the bridge northeast and use an Ice spell on the fire ahead.

Either head down the waterfall or east through an opening in the wall. Continue onward then west to find an Iron Door. Inside, expect a number of Draugr before reaching a corridor farther in.

Take the Spell Tome for Steadfast Ward on the pedestal nearby, then take the soul gems from the pedestals or use the spell to make your way past the electrical traps.

Open the locked gate for some treasure, then go through a smaller room and find a set of double doors. Inside her is a strong Draugr protecting a Word Wall for Dragon Shout- Slow Time, so take him down and approach to learn a new word.

You may notice a voice that drains all your magicka when you hear it. That is the powerful Dragon Priest Morokei, a dangerous foe that holds a great mask if you can defeat him.

To deal him damage, attack his Wizard Thralls as they give him invulnerability first, then attack Morokei as his companions fall. Move quickly and try not to attack him head on, because his attacks are powerful and can kill you very fast. The more defensive spells (like Wards) you can use, the better.

When he is finally defeated, take his mask and the Staff of Magnus from his corpse. Exit to the east and use the lever on the wall to find your way back to the beginning.

Dispatch the Thalmor that gets in your way before finally leaving the area for good.

When you arrive at the College, you are met with sad news and a new option for destroying Ancano.

The Staff of Magnus Video

The Eye of Magnus Walkthrough

Objectives:

  • Use the Staff of Magnus to Enter the College of Winterhold
  • Reach the Hall of the Elements
  • Defeat Ancano
  • Talk to Tolfdir
  • Speak with Quaranir

Equip the Staff of Magnus and use it on the magic field around the College.

Make your way to Ancano to realize just how crazy he is.

To defeat him, you must use the Staff of Magnus to debilitate the Eye of Magnus when it is at its most powerful and providing Ancano invincibility.

When the field is down, attack Ancano with all you have before the eye opens again. Continue to do that and fight off any extra enemies that result as you chip away at Ancano’s hit points.

When he is defeated, return to Tolfdir and watch the resulting story.

You have now completed the main questline for the College of Winterhold, but the missions aren’t done. There are many adventures and much learning ahead of you in the College of Winterhold Radiant Quests.

The Eye of Magnus Video

Ancano using magic to harness the power of the Eye with Savos Aren attempting to stop him.
Ancano using magic to harness the power of the Eye with Savos Aren attempting to stop him. | Source

© 2018 Hal Gall

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