Elder Scrolls

Darkness Returns

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Darkness Returns
Gallus greeting
Quest Giver Karliah
Location Twilight Sepulcher
Prerequisite Blindsighted
Reward One of three Nightingale Blessings
Leader of the Thieves Guild
Faction Thieves Guild
Type Thieves Guild, Main quest
Quest ID TG09
Darkness Returns is a quest available in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.



To complete this quest, the Dragonborn must take the Pilgrim's Path to the Twilight Sepulcher in order to put the Skeleton Key back where it belongs. As the Sepulcher is entered, the ghost of Gallus Desidenius is encountered, the Nightingale murdered by Mercer Frey. He warns the Dragonborn that, because the Key is missing, the other ghosts have been corrupted and are now hostile. When asked about the obstacles to reaching the Ebonmere Lock, he advises to look for a journal that belonged to another adventurer, Nystrom. His skeleton is to the east of Gallus.

Nystrom's journal holds some clues to the trials:

"Shadows of their former selves, sentinels of the dark. They wander ever more and deal swift death to defilers."

"Above all they stand, vigilance everlasting. Beholden the murk yet contentious of the glow."

"Offer what She desires most, but reject the material. For her greatest want is that which cannot be seen, felt or carried."

"Direct and yet indirect. The path to salvation a route of cunning with fortune betraying the foolish."

"The journey is complete, the Empress's embrace awaits the fallen. Hesitate not if you wish to gift her your eternal devotion."

Nystrom also says that the man who gave him the clues mumbled nonsensical phrases like "night is the new day" and how he was the "ghost of the sun".

First Trial - SentinelsEdit

The first trial is facing the shadows of their former selves, sentinels of the dark - Nightingale ghosts, hostile and powerful. Either sneak past or kill them. If they are killed, there is valuable loot on both sides of this area.

When entering the first trials room, it is relatively easy to sneak attack the Nightingale sentinel with a bow as they are directly in front of the Dragonborn when they enter. Then they can continue on to the next trial or, in the chance of receiving more loot, kill the other sentinels.

In the room on the left, with the alchemy table, there is a desk. A button behind this desk opens a secret door in the same room revealing moderate loot.

Second Trial - Light versus DarkEdit

Second trial

The Second Trial - Walk in the shadow

"Above all they stand, vigilance everlasting. Beholden the murk yet contentious of the glow."

For the second trial, night is the new day: avoid the light and stay on the darkest path. One can enter sneak and go through the mist. Standing will cause large amounts of damage. Watch for trip wires when going up the staircases. During this trial there are no enemies. Candlelight and Magelight spells can also help if having trouble finding the way around, as their own lights aren't harmful in this area.

Third Trial - Hidden DoorEdit

Third trial

The Third Trial

For the third trial, in the room with the statue and a dead bandit lying in front of it, there are two large sconces to either side of the statue. To the left of the left hand sconce there is a chain, and at the right hand side of the right sconce there is a second chain. Pull the two chains to put out the lights of the sconces, so giving her (Nocturnal) what she desires most (darkness). The door behind the statue will then open.

Fourth Trial - Sentinels vs. TrapsEdit

For the fourth trial, there are some options:

  • The hallway traps can be avoided altogether; there is a Master locked iron door to the left before the first hallway (with the swinging axes) that can be used to avoid the traps (open it with the skeleton key). If you do this, skip the next two steps.
  • If you go straight ahead through the traps, step carefully, using Whirlwind Sprint or Become Ethereal. The swinging axes can transmit diseases, even to a werewolf or vampire.
  • Open the next door from the side; it hides a swinging battering ram. Don't go through the door to the west just yet; it leads to the next area. Turn south and continue.
  • In the next room, kill the sentinels and loot the pit. Among other things it contains two skill books: Proper Lock Design (on the southern table) and Sacred Witness.

After looting the entire area, proceed north to Twilight Sepulcher - Inner Sanctum. Very soon, there is a point of no return; be sure you have looted everything you want before proceeding.

Fifth Trial - Inner SanctumEdit

As you proceed through the Twilight Sepulcher - Inner Sanctum, you will come to a steep pit. This is the point of no return; when you are done here, the first part of the Twilight Sepulcher will be sealed. Fall into the pit and search Anders' skeleton; read the message. Wait a few seconds until the Skeleton Key reacts. The ground will disappear and you will fall. When you land place the Skeleton Key into the Ebonmere Lock. That will summon Nocturnal, who will bid the Dragonborn to drink from the Ebonmere, "for this is where the Agent of Nocturnal is born".

TESV Gallus Karliah

Then speak to Karliah, and she explains the choice that must be made between the Agent of Strife, Subterfuge and Stealth. To pick one, step on the corresponding moon. They give greater Powers, usable once a day only. The Dragonborn can choose to change the chosen power after a day so there is little pressure in choosing the best ability. Next, talk to Karliah. After Karliah is spoken to, Gallus' ghost will appear and they will speak shortly before he goes to Evergloam. Karliah, then, goes back to Nightingale Hall. The Dragonborn can then leave through the southern portal.


Semi moon

Agent of Stealth

Nightingale of Shadows

  • The crescent moon represents this power, which makes the Dragonborn the master of remaining unseen. Once a day they can become invisible while crouching for 120 seconds, much like The Shadow Stone.

Nightingale Subterfuge

Half moon

Agent of Subterfuge

  • The half moon represents this power, which allows the use of shadow to cloud the judgment of those around them. Once a day, it can be activated for 30 seconds in order to make people and creatures in the spell's area of effect attack anyone nearby.

Nightingale Strife

Full moon

Agent of Strife

  • The full moon represents this power, which, when used, instantly absorbs 100 Health points from the target. This power can also be used once a day. Will go through the target and hit others.


  • The Pilgrim's Path contains plentiful loot, including skill books, potions, and soul gems. The Pilgrim's Path becomes inaccessible once the key is used to open Ebonmere.
  • It is recommended to not return the Skeleton Key until either reaching the Unbreakable lockpick perk, or are able to become the Thieves Guild Guildmaster, as the Skeleton Key must be returned to do that.
  • Dungeon Lock Outs cannot be entered with this key, as it still counts as a lockpick.
  • During the first test there is a secret door in the room with the Nightingale sitting down. It can be opened by pressing the button on the floor to the left of the seat under the table.
  • After the completion of this quest, a shrine to Nocturnal will appear in the Thieves Guild Cistern. It gives the Blessing of Nocturnal, which makes the Dragonborn 10% harder to detect for seven hours.
  • In the second trial, only the light from the sconces can damage you, so you can still use torches, Magelight, or Candlelight.


Darkness Returns (Achievement)
Darkness Returns
Complete "Darkness Returns"
Points 10 Game points
Bronze trophy


This section contains bugs related to Darkness Returns. Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:

  1. Confirm all bugs with other editors on the talk page before adding them below.
  2. Always try reloading an old save first, before asking for assistance.
  3. Do not discuss possible bug fixes or origins. Leave those and all other first-person-anecdotes on the talk page, not the article.
  4. Always add  360  ,  PS3  , or  PC   to clarify which system the bug appears on.
  • After Nocturnal is done speaking, the quest marker will follow her into the Ebonmere instead of moving to Karliah, so that she can't be spoken to. Re-loading from before returning the key to the Ebonmere can fix this.
  • This quest may be removed from the quest menu. Enter the Twilight Sepulcher to continue the quest.
  • When using the portal to the entrance, the Dragonborn may fall through the floor of the game to nothingness and die on the spot.

Start a Discussion Discussions about Darkness Returns

  • HELP!!!! ASAP

    2 messages
    • I did not hit her! I did naaaahhht!  lol, terrible reference.  I'm assuming you're referring to Karliah from the Thieves Guild questline?...
  • Darkness returns bug

    4 messages
    • Hey nocturnal finishes but  the marker stays on her what am I supposed to do
    • Ghost Anubis wrote:You have to pick one of the powers before Karliah comes. If you did already, & she never did. Then just reload a previ...

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