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."
- Dragon Priest (Skyrim)
- Dragon Priest (Online)
- Dragon Priest Mask
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 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.