When a soul is trapped in a soul gem and its energy used to power an enchantment, the remnant - the soul itself - is sent to the Soul Cairn. It is a place devoid of life - the only beings that exist there are souls, undead and the rulers of the realm, the Ideal Masters.
The Ideal Masters are enigmatic entities that lord over the Soul Cairn, controlling every aspect of its being. It is believed that the Soul Cairn exists so that the Ideal Masters can collect souls and feed on them; some hypotheses even suggest they use the souls as a form of currency to an even higher power.
The Soul Cairn is also home to powerful undead beings, which are highly sought after by necromancers. Souls are sent to the Soul Cairn by necromancers who wish to summon these undead, but in order to do so they must travel to the realm in person to finalize the deal with the Ideal Masters. They are often tricked, and many become trapped as harvested souls.
GeographyEditThe landscape of the Soul Cairn is barren and dry, with only dead trees and bushes scattered throughout the realm, as well as plant-like growths known as Soul Husks.
The sky is perpetually bleak and cloudy, and lightning strikes constantly throughout the realm. There is no sun in the sky, but instead a single moon and a huge black circular void.
Numerous buildings and altars can be found throughout the land, alongside mysterious upright stones and circular crystalline structures. The crystal circles will replenish the health of any being that stands in them, although they will quickly dim and become inert after use. In the tallest towers, the uppermost sections are composed of blocks suspended in midair, rotating around the tower and emitting a purple light.
The realm is partitioned by an enormous fortified wall that divides the landscape, though it is unknown why. Magical barriers also block off certain areas.
Scattered across the Cairn are a number of floating purple crystals that resemble giant soul gems. Approaching these will drain the health of any living being that gets too close. Eating a Soul Husk or Soul Husk Extract, however, will counter the drain for a short time.
There are four Lightning Attractors located in the Soul Cairn. Activate these by using Grand Soul Gems or Greater Soul Gems. Lightning will strike the rod, and Mistmen, Bonemen, and Wrathmen will appear. Also, the soul gem will be replaced by a Black Soul Gem. After being struck, the rod will slide into the orifice and the Lightning Attractor cannot be activated a second time.
- One is located by one of the Keepers, to the left of where the Portal is.
- Another is located near Arvak's Skull by the glowing castle.
- A third is close to the Reaper's Lair
- A fourth is located near Morven Stroud & page 10 of Saint Jiub's Opus. From the main path (Portal-Boneyard path), there is a platform just past Morven which has stairs leading in all 4 directions. The Lightning Attractor is located on top of the building just beyond the "pool" of mist to the east.
There are buildings with metal poles blocking their entrances. You can unlock them by shooting the glowing blue orbs in the standing stones nearby or hitting them with spells.
While inside the Soul Cairn, if the Dragonborn turns right after going through the stone wall and follows the barrier, the Reaper's Lair will be found just past one of the large towers with floating blocks and swirling energies at the top (It's not the structure where there's a lantern on the ground in the alcove; rather the next building to the east of this one).
Inside lies the Reaper Shard Receptacle, which is activated by placing three Reaper Gem Fragments in the receptacle. These fragments are located in chests beneath three of the giant floating soul gems which drain health. Lightning frequently strikes the center of the room. Putting three shards in the receptacle summons the Reaper, who attacks. If you go into no-clip while inside the lair, you may notice 3 paddleboats side-by-side floating over nothingness.
The Boneyard is accessible after killing the three Keepers. Valerica is trapped here along with one of the three Elder Scrolls. Shortly after the Dragonborn enters the Boneyard, Durnehviir will attack.
Serana's mother, Valerica, is found here. She offers an Elder Scroll to the Dragonborn if the Boneyard Keepers located at the tallest spires in the Soul Cairn are defeated. She warns that a fearsome Dragon named Durnehviir may take notice of the Keepers' demise. Once all of the Keepers have been killed, the wall that blocks access to the castle disappears. After entering the Boneyard, Durnehviir will appear and attempt to kill the Dragonborn. Defeat him and speak with Valerica, who will lead the player to the Elder Scroll. After acquiring the Elder Scroll and exiting the Boneyard, Durnehviir will be found waiting on a broken structure. After conversing with him, he teaches the Dragonborn a shout to call him from the Soul Cairn.
The Dragonborn can interact with the soul of Jiub in the northeast section of the Soul Cairn. Jiub explains that he wants to write the second volume of his opus, but he has lost the pages to his first volume and requires them to continue writing. There are ten pages in total, scattered across the barren landscape of the Soul Cairn.
The Dragonborn can also complete a side quest to free an undead skeletal horse named Arvak. This mount can then be summoned at will in either Nirn or the Soul Cairn. Arvak's Skull can be found under a glowing pavilion near the big castle. Returning the Skull to its owner will reward the Dragonborn with the Summon Arvak spell.
Soul Husk HuntEdit
There is a soul, named Morven Stroud, in the northern section, directly east of the dividing wall. Speak to him and he will ask for 25 soul husks in return for the opportunity to 'see his wares'. For every 25 soul husks the Dragonborn brings to him, they receive the opportunity to trade for a random sword, battleaxe, light armor, heavy armor, or spell tome. This quest is repeatable as soul husks respawn. All of the items he has are enchanted.
A glowing pit portal to the right of Morven Stroud will teleport the player to the top of a building. Look to the building with the obelisks with glowing orbs, there is a spot to jump down to get a hidden chest.
- Certain souls will speak lines of dialogue revealing and describing how they ended up in the Soul Cairn.
- One cannot enter the Soul Cairn without being a vampire or being partially soul trapped. Being soul trapped causes the Weakened Soul ability to activate, which decreases Magicka, health, and stamina while in the Soul Cairn. This can be negated after completing Chasing Echoes and talking to Valerica, who will instruct the Dragonborn to find the Soul Essence Gem. Upon doing so, all stats will return to normal.
- Jiub is the only character located in the Soul Cairn who has appeared in a previous Elder Scrolls game.
- The rods on the Lightning Attractors will reemerge in time, but they cannot be activated to create another black soul gem.
- Followers, with the exception of Serana, cannot enter the Soul Cairn, even if they have been turned into a vampire during The Gift. Those raised using the "Ritual Stone" power will follow the Dragonborn into the Soul Cairn. This can be useful as none of the creatures that inhabit the Soul Cairn can be resurrected.
- Using the Storm Call shout in the Soul Cairn will cause the sky to change to a stormy setting and back to normal again every few minutes.
- Several Daedra Hearts can be found in Soul Cairn's chests, making it an alternative way to acquire some without having to pay.
- There is a curious lack of animal and creature souls present in the Soul Cairn, despite it being the place spent souls go to after being used in soul gems. This could prove Serana's theory that only souls used in black soul gems end up in the Soul Cairn. There are, however, two cow souls in a psuedo farm setting. Their presence is not explained.
- There is a half-buried word wall in the Soul Cairn.
- If access to the Soul Cairn is gained by becoming a Vampire Lord, and the condition is cured immediately after leaving, reentering will not be possible. Get Serana to turn you back into a Vampire Lord inside the room with the entrance to the Soul Cairn and exit and re-enter the room. This will enable you to enter the Soul Cairn (Using tcl console command to go over the portal might fix this).
- One or more of the pages to Jiub's opus may be missing.
- Sometimes, the portal will glitch, and the player will be unable to enter the Soul Cairn indefinitely. Either reloading the save before attempted entering or choosing the option other than what you chose will fix it, not sure which actually fixes it, so try both simultaneously. (Using tcl console command to go over the portal might fix this).
- While running around and using a crossbow, occasionally, it will get stuck and not fire. When this happens you cannot run, jump, or shoot the crossbow. This can be fixed by either:
- Pressing your sheath/ready button (X for Xbox, Square for PS3, and R for default controls on PC).
- Opening up your character menu (B for Xbox, Circle for PS3, and Tab for default controls on PC).
- Sometimes when entering the Soul Cairn a second time, the game will glitch as you try to enter the second half.