Last Time: I underwhelmed readers with an introduction to this blog. Read it here

This Time: I wander through my favorite parts of Dawnguard.

“How many hours have you spent working on this book, you lunatic?” is a question I’ve been asked consistently, and usually by my biggest fan. I usually reply, “firstly, you’re my psychiatrist, so I’m offended by your tone. Secondly, I spent an average of ten hours a day, for five months, working on the original guide. Then I spent an additional two months working on both Dawnguard and Hearthfire. I took a total of five days off during that time: You do the math.” But just because I’ve inspected every nook and cranny in northern Tamriel to the extent of developing a crushing social anxiety disorder, doesn’t mean I’m sick of exploring. In fact, I’m using my adventuring to help others: I’ve pinpointed a few new locations for you to explore, just in case you’re after some exceptional loot.

This one’s a Keeper: Romping through a betwixt-world of demonry is both thrilling and terrifying. Battling Keepers is one of those frightening thrills.

This blog entry concentrates on the Soul Cairn. Once you’ve clambered up through Castle Volkihar and activated the Portal, you’re able to descend into the doom-world usually reserved for the damned; a strange (and very purple) place where ancient Necromancers known as The Ideal Masters imprisoned souls for their deviant machinations. These warlocks are long-gone, but their damned subjects still roam this eerie and desolate tundra. During your sightseeing with Serana, there’s more to do than simply find her mother and battle a rotting dragon: You might want to take a few diversions along the way: Fortunately, the Official Skyrim Revised and Expanded Strategy Guide I’m contractually-obliged to mention has every single antic you can get up to, and written up in exhaustive detail. As a taster, here’s a top three Soul Cairn detours worth taking, in Pro-Tip form:

Pro-Tip 1. Chatting with Durnehviir: This one’s easy; speak to the decaying dragon you defeated in the Bone Yard, and he grants you a summoning Shout. Return topside to Tamriel, give him a holler (a total of three times), and learn the particularly powerful Soul Tear Shout. At its most potent, Soul Tear damages foes, sucks their souls
from their forms (and transfers
them into any Soul Gems you
may be carrying), and—at its
most devastating—raises the foe you just slew to act as a zombified thrall!

Pro-Tip 2. Page Collecting with Jiub: The Side Quest called “Impatience of a Saint” involves finding the spectral form of Jiub (who Elder Scrolls aficionados may remember meeting in Morrowind), letting him down gently regarding his state of undeath, and then trekking around the Soul Cairn searching for the ten pages of his Opus. With all ten tucked into your tunic, present the texts to Jiub, who hands over a unique tome, as well as his own locket, imbued with some pretty impressive bonuses (+50 Stamina, +50 Carry Weight).

This one’s a Reaper: Giant shadow spirits abound in the Soul Cairn. Wake this one up at your peril.

Pro-Tip 3. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper: An unmarked quest to figure out just exactly why a strange edifice in the south-eastern part of the Soul Cairn remains sealed, turns into a frightening fight against a spectral enemy that enjoys axe-swinging and projectile vomiting. The critter in question is The Reaper. Unlocking his lair involves gather three shards of The Reaper Gem (the locations are on p775 of the guide), visiting his resting place, and rising him out of it. He doesn’t take kindly to your summoning, but once you dodge the hooded shadow’s deadly strikes, pick through his ghastly remains for three Black Soul Gems.

My whistle-stop tour of the Soul Cairn is coming to an end, and I didn’t even mention that skeletal steed named Arvak, which (after you claim his skull and return it to his owner) you can summon as your own steed, or the Soul Husk merchant called Morven. But no matter; all these adventuring snippets should whet your appetite for exploration in this otherworldly realm.

Until next time, may your Soul Gems all be Greater, and your arrows Bloodcursed…


Remember, you can ask your questions in the comments below or here, and I'll answer them as soon as I can, and may even feature them in a future blog post.

In the meantime, look for the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Revised & Expanded Prima Official Game Guide at a retailer near you!