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It can be obtained from Mercer Frey at the end of the Thieves Guild quest Blindsighted. In order to complete the remaining quests for the Guild, the Skeleton Key must be returned in the Twilight Sepulcher.
The Skeleton Key can be used like a regular lockpick and can be kept indefinitely, provided it's never returned to the Twilight Sepulcher. In addition, the Lockpicking skill will still increase when a lock is opened (removed in patch 1.4, back by 1.9). Keeping the key effectively renders the Lockpicking perk Unbreakable entirely obsolete, as well as most of that skill tree.
- If the Dragonborn serves time in jail, the single lockpick taken with them to jail will be the Skeleton Key.
- This artifact is how Mercer Frey is able to break into many places extremely easily, like Snow Veil Sanctum or Irkngthand.
- In real life, a skeleton key (or passingkey) refers to a key which can open any door, just like Mercer Frey does with this key.
- Although the Skeleton Key is a Daedric artifact, possession of it does not count towards the Oblivion Walker achievement since it does not have its own quest.