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When a soul is trapped in a soul gem and the energy used to power an enchantment, the remnants are 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 the mystic entities that lord over the Soul Cairn, controlling every aspect of its being. It's believed the only reason the Soul Cairn exists is for the Ideal Masters to collect souls and feed on them; some theories 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.
GeographyThe landscape 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 permenantly bleak and cloudy and occasionally bolts of lightning strike down.
Several buildings and altars can be found at seemingly random points across the land, alongside mysterious upright stones and circular crystalline structures. One unique feature found in only the tallest spires are the constantly shifting towers.
The realm itself is partitioned by an enormous fortified wall that seperates the landscape for no discernible reason.
There are luminescent cracks in the ground throughout the Cairn. Interacting with one will fill the largest empty soul gem on hand.
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, however, will counter the drain for a short time.
There are four Lightning Attractor 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 and 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.
It is located in the northern south-east edge of the Soul Cairn, past the stone wall. Inside lies the Reaper Shard Receptacle, which is activating 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.
QuestsSerana'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 Boneyard Keepers' demise. Once all of the Boneyard Keepers have been killed, the wall that blocks access to the castle disappears. Once the Boneyard is entered, Durnehviir will appear and attempt to kill the Dragonborn. Once he is defeated, speak with Valerica who will lead the player to the Elder Scroll. As soon as the Boneyard is exited Durnehviir appears. After conversing with him, he teaches the Dragonborn the a shout to call him from the Soul Cairn.
The Dragonborn can interact with the spiritual essence of Jiub and accept a quest to find the second volume of his autobiography. There are ten pages in total, and they are scattered across the barren landscape of 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 the owner will reward the Dragonborn with the Summon Arvak spell.
Soul Husk hunt
There is a soul, named Morven Stroud, directly east of the passage in the wall. Speak to him and he will ask for 25 soul husks. Bringing him these items gets the choice between a few items to trade for the 25 husks. This quest is repeatable and some of the items he has are enchanted.
A glowing pit portal to the right of Morven Stroud will teleport one to the top of a building. Look to the building with the obelisks with glowing orbs, there is a spot to jump down to to get a hidden chest.
- While in Soul Cairn, a soul might say, "Death is but a door and time is but a window; I'll be back", which is a reference to Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II.
- One cannot enter the Soul Cairn without being a vampire or by being partially soul trapped.
- One can use Whirlwind Sprint to reach the top of the wall that bisects the Soul Cairn. From there, one may jump down outside the purple barrier. There is no loot there and no way back, however.
- A soul may talk about an Imperial Battlemage, which is a reference to Battlespire.