Dragon Priests (Dovahzul: Dovah-Sonaak, "Dragon-Priest(s)") are powerful undead[note 1] enemies found in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Thousands of years ago, these priests ruled over Skyrim at the behest of their Dragon overlords. In their service, many of these dragon priests were granted extraordinary powers and knowledge in arcana, and some of them managed to reach lichdom to evade their own demise. They are typically buried in one of the many ancient tombs and temples dotted all across Skyrim, awaiting the return of Alduin the "World-Eater."
There are eight high ranking priests, each wearing a unique dragon priest mask that bears a powerful enchantment said to be given to them directly from their dragon benefactors. These priests can be encountered at any level, and are typically found within Nordic tombs and ruins that house Word Walls. Often they are accompanied by an array of undead underlings, such as draugr and skeletons.
Rule of dragons
One of their core beliefs was that power equaled truth. The fact that they held immense power over mortals led them to the conclusion that this itself was the ultimate truth. This gave them the justification in their minds that their rule over mortals was only natural.
The dragon priests themselves can be traced back to Atmora, where they were the ruling body during the Merethic Era. Known as the "dragon cult," they worshipped many animals as avatars of the gods, the Dragon being chief among them.
Dragons embraced their role as god-kings over men, but rather than deal with the actual ruling itself, they granted small amounts of power to dragon priests in exchange for absolute obedience. In turn, the priests ruled men as equals to the kings. The priests set down laws and codes of living that kept peace between Dragons and men, but to do so they demanded tribute.
When the Atmorans began to migrate to Tamriel over the next several centuries, the dragon priests and cultists were some of the first men to arrive. The system of rule in Tamriel, however, was quite different from Atmora. It is unclear why this was the case, but the priests began to rule with an iron fist, making slaves of the rest of the population.
At the height of the dragon cult's influence, the capital of Skyrim was considered to be the city of Bromjunaar, located in what is now Hjaalmarch hold. It was here the highest ranking priests met within the temple of Labyrinthian to discuss matters of ruling. It was also during this time that the highest-ranking dragon priests were granted magical masks that bore powerful enchantments. It is unknown if masks were named after the priests who wore them, or if the priest took on the name of the mask that was granted to them.
Eventually, men rebelled against the cruelty of the cult in what is known as the Dragon War. After Alduin was banished from Nirn, a large number of the cultists were killed and the surviving dragon priests were overthrown.
The survivors adapted and went into hiding all across Skyrim. They entombed the remains of the dragons that died during the war within dragon mounds, with the belief that Alduin would one day return and resurrect the faithful. However, other sects within the cult believed only those who ascended to the priesthood would be granted a second life.
Upon death, the dragon priests insisted that their followers be buried with them in the various Dragon temples and tombs across Skyrim. This act served a specific purpose, rather than a vain display of power. Because the concept of resurrection upon the return of Alduin was a core belief of the dragon cult, the priests required their followers to perform a daily ritual to facilitate this.
Every day, a group of followers that were entombed with the priest would awaken and gather around the sarcophagus of their respective priest. Here, they would prostrate themselves before it for several hours. During this time, an exchange of life force took place between the followers and the priest. This exchange sustained the dormant priest until it was time for his resurrection. Once the ritual was complete, the followers meticulously cleaned the area and would return to their burial chambers. While resting, the drained life force would magically restore itself, ready for the next day.
It is believed that the followers who were doomed to perform this ritual were initially buried as grown men and women, but over thousands of years they deteriorated into the draugr that now fiercely guard the ancient Nordic tombs.
The last known remnants of the dragon cult remained up until 1E 140, when a legion of King Harald's soldiers discovered a hidden stronghold of cultists in the secluded monastery, Forelhost, high in the Jerall Mountains, laying siege to it.
Dragon Priests in Skyrim
In life, Hevnoraak was a powerful dragon priest who practiced a form of mind-controlling magic. Using his power, he managed to build up an army of enthralled followers. Before his death, Hevnoraak planned his resurrection obsessively. He drained his own blood from his body and planned to transfer his power back into himself after death, thus becoming a powerful Lich. He was buried in the ancient tomb of Valthume.
Krosis was buried, not within a tomb or temple like other dragon priests, but atop one of Skyrim's highest peaks, known as Shearpoint. His sarcophagus is located directly in front of a Word Wall. His name also means "sorrow" in Dragon Language.
Morokei was a powerful priest who was entombed in the ancient city of Bromjunaar, specifically within Labyrinthian. At some unknown point, he came into the possession of the Staff of Magnus, an immensely powerful artifact.
In the early Fourth Era an ill-fated group of mages, including a young Savos Aren, encountered Morokei within Labyrinthian. The trip resulted in their deaths, with the exception of Savos. In an attempt to seal away Morokei permanently, Savos forced two of the surviving mages to remain behind, magically enthralled and forced to maintain a barrier around Morokei.
Nahkriin was a priest who was buried in the secluded Nordic Temple of Skuldafn, high in the Velothi Mountains. In the Fourth Era, he was found in the service of Alduin, and presided over a portal that lead to the Nordic afterlife of Sovngarde.
Otar the Mad was originally an ancient Nordic chieftain who ruled over the city of Ragnvald in the Merethic Era. Initially, he was believed to have been a fair ruler and successful in battle, but his mind was corrupted by unknown forces that drove him to insanity. Otar became a Dragon Priest and subjected his people to great cruelty until two Nordic heroes named Saerek and Torsten were sent to stop his tyranny.
Both heroes were unable to defeat Otar, so instead they sealed him in a large sarcophagus in Ragnvald and locked it with two skull keys that each of them kept. They pledged to guard the keys so that Otar may never escape his imprisonment. The city of Ragnvald was eventually abandoned, but Saerek and Torsten remained as his guardians.
Rahgot is believed to be one of the Dragon Priests to survive the Dragon War. In the early First Era, he led a small cult in the secluded monastery of Forelhost high in the Jerall Mountains. A legion of King Harald's soldiers, commanded by Skorm Snow-Strider, discovered the hidden stronghold of dragon cultists and laid siege to it for several weeks. In a desperate act, Rahgot ordered the entire cult to commit mass suicide, while Rahgot himself was entombed within the temple.
Dragon Priests in Solstheim
During the period of time when dragons ruled over mortals, Miraak served as a dragon priest on the island of Solstheim. He came into possession of a Black Book, which in turn lead to him to servitude under Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge and Fate, who taught him a means to great power. With this forbidden knowledge in his possession, Miraak turned on his dragon masters, using his power to devour their souls to become ever more powerful. Because of his betrayal, the dragons razed his temple on Solstheim.
His rebellion was unsuccessful, and was defeated by another Dragon Priest named Vahlok who was then made his jailor, restraining him to Solstheim. Other accounts mention that just as Vahlok was about to kill Miraak, Hermaeus Mora saved him by transporting him to the realm of Apocrypha. The dragons then appointed Vahlok as ruler of the island, but not before he was compelled to swear an oath of vigilance to watch for Miraak's return, earning him the title "The Jailer."
According to Skaal folklore, Vahlok served as a dragon priest during the rule of dragons in the Merethic Era. One of his contemporaries, a priest named Miraak, was seduced with promises of power and forbidden knowledge by the Daedric Prince of Knowledge and Fate, Hermaeus Mora. Miraak began to secretly plot against his dragon overlords. However, Vahlok discovered his plans and confronted him. The two fought a lengthy battle that was said to have lasted for days, and was so destructive that Solstheim was torn apart from the mainland of Skyrim.
Vahlok was victorious and gained much glory and his dragon masters appointed him as ruler of the island, but not before he was compelled to swear an oath of vigilance to watch for Miraak's return.
Ahzidal was the first great Nord enchanter, and the first human to master elven methods of arcane magic. In his lust for knowledge and power, Ahzidal had become corrupted, eventually falling mad with his obsession. Not satisfied with the knowledge of man and mer, he sought out the secrets of Dragon-runes, which eventually led him to join the ranks of the dragon priests. Even this was not enough, though, and eventually Ahzidal turned his focus to the Planes of Oblivion.
In his lust for power and knowledge, Ahzidal finally lost himself, falling victim to his own pursuit of perfection. Eventually, he fled to Solstheim, and was sealed in the depths of Kolbjorn Barrow, together with the last of his relics.
In the base game, eight named dragon priests can be encountered at their place of burial throughout Skyrim. Often they are found in the company of several draugr, while some priests can be found guarding word walls. In addition, unnamed dragon priests can be encountered at various locations at higher levels.
With the addition of Dragonborn, four additional priests can be encountered in Nordic ruins throughout Solstheim. Three of these priests guard one of Hermaeus Mora's Black Books.
Dragon Priest Masks
- Main article: Dragon Priest Mask
High ranking priests were known to wear dragon priest masks that each bore a unique enchantment. These masks can be obtained by killing the priest. Bromjunaar Sanctuary, within Labyrinthian, is the location of the mysterious dragon priest shrine. The shrine displays the busts of the eight high ranking dragon priests found throughout Skyrim.
Masks that have been obtained from defeated dragon priests can be displayed on their respective bust on the shrine. Once the eight masks are in place, the final mask, Konahrik, is revealed. The other masks may be taken from the shrine once Konahrik is obtained.
Dragon priests in the base game are generally identical in both appearance and attributes. They share many of the same spells and resistances. These include the ability to use Wards, Mage Armor and both summon and turn Daedra. They are also immune to poison and paralysis.
The only difference between them is the type of elemental magic they're attached to. Most named dragon priests deal in shock magic, and will only use the corresponding spells during combat, such as Thunderbolt or Chain Lightning. Other priests are fire based, and will only use Fireball or Incinerate as part of their core arsenal. One exception to this rule is the priest Nahkriin, who is primarily shock based, but also uses fire and frost spells during combat. Some priests also wield a destruction based staff, which usually takes precedence over their own spells.
Dragon Priests encountered in the base game are fixed at level 50. In Dragonborn, Ahzidal and Dukaan are fixed at level 60, and Zahkriisos is leveled, placing him between level 25 and 60, depending on character level. These priests have knowledge of similar spells as the original eight priests, but also possess a powerful elemental spell that is unique to them. Ahzidal uses Fire Stream, Dukaan uses Frost Stream, and Zahkriisos uses a one handed variant of Lightning Storm. Vahlok has no unique spells and, like his counterparts in Skyrim, is fixed at level 50.
|Rahgot||50||1490||545||Command Daedra, Conjure Flame Atronach, Ebonyflesh, Fireball, Flame Cloak, Greater Ward, Incinerate|
|Ahzidal DR||60||2000||595||Ebonyflesh, Fire Stream, Flame Cloak, Greater Ward, Revenant, Raise Zombie|
|Krosis †||50||1490||545||Command Daedra, Conjure Frost Atronach, Ebonyflesh, Frost Cloak, Greater Ward, Ice Storm, Icy Spear|
|Dukaan DR||60||2000||595||Conjure Seeker, Ebonyflesh, Frost Cloak, Frost Stream, Greater Ward|
|Zahkriisos DR||25-60||1650-2000||320-495||Conjure Seeker, Ebonyflesh, Greater Ward, Lightning Cloak, Lightning Storm, Thunderbolt|
† Krosis, despite being a Frost based priest, mainly attacks with Fire magic, as he wields the Staff of Fireballs.
Combat with dragon priests is usually initiated when approaching their sarcophagus. The cover is flung to one side, and the dormant priest will awaken with a high pitched shriek.
As combat begins, priests typically activate Ebonyflesh for added protection against melee attacks and their assigned elemental cloak. They may also summon their elemental-based Atronach to aid them.
As they have no form of melee attack, they are forced to exclusively fight with their elemental magic spells, but this may be overridden if they wield a destruction-based staff. Occasionally, they will use a Greater Ward to protect against both melee and magical attacks. Upon death, their bodies will crumble into a pile of ash, while their armor and robes will remain intact.
All named dragon priests (excluding Vahlok the Jailor) drop an aforementioned dragon priest mask, a leveled amount of gold and, occasionally, a leveled staff. On rare occasions, they may drop Kahvozein's Fang, a unique dragon priest dagger used in the Alteration Ritual Spell quest.
- Originally, dragon priests were to be summoned under the Conjuration skill. The "Conjure Dragon Priest" spell is in the game's files and can actually be used through the use of modding in the Creation Kit.
- Dragon Priests can be considered liches, the powerful undead beings with great control over the Dark Arts. For their lifetime, they have obtained many powers and gifts of knowledge from dragons.
- Unlike most other undead, Dragon Priests' feet never touch the ground; they always hover a few inches above the floor.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- The Elder Scrolls: Legends
- ↑ Dialogue with Paarthurnax
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 The Dragon War
- ↑ Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Skyrim
- ↑ A Minor Maze
- ↑ The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Loading Screen
- ↑ Note (Forelhost 1)
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Amongst the Draugr
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Skorm Snow-Strider's Journal
- ↑ Dialogue with Valdar
- ↑ Events of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 The Secrets of Ragnvald
- ↑ Dialogue with Tharstan during Lost Legacy
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 The Guardian and the Traitor
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Events of The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn
- ↑ Ahzidal's Descent
- ↑ Dialogue with Ralis Sedarys
|Skyrim||Hevnoraak • Krosis • Morokei • Nahkriin • Otar the Mad • Rahgot • Vokun • Volsung|
|Dragonborn||Ahzidal • Dukaan • Miraak • Vahlok the Jailor • Zahkriisos|
|Online||Akiirdal • ArthosiisOR • Haldriin • Korthor • Vosis|