Skyrim: How To Get Skeleton Key [Step-By-Step Walkthrough]

The Skeleton Key in Skyrim, an unbreakable lockpick used to unlock any door or lock without breaking, making it a useful tool for any player,

Unlock any door or lock without breaking. Meet the unbreakable lockpick, The Skyrim Skeleton Key – in addition to many other weapons, armor, and tools, Skeleton Key is the ultimate tool for every thief and adventurer on their journey! Knowing how to get it, its uses, and its benefits are pretty much the information that every player should know from the early going.

Key Takeaways
  • Follow the given steps to obtain Skeleton Key faster In Skyrim:
  1. Head to Riften: Journey to the southeastern city of Riften.
  2. Locate Brynjolf: Find him in Riften’s marketplace or the Ragged Flagon.
  3. Finish “A Chance Arrangement”: Complete Brynjolf’s quest to gain his trust.
  4. Join Thieves Guild: Accept Brynjolf’s invitation to become a member.
  5. Progress in Thieves Guild quests: Complete quests like “Loud and Clear,” “Dampened Spirits,” and “Scoundrel’s Folly.”
  6. Meet Karliah: Encounter her during “Speaking With Silence.”
  7. Discover Mercer’s betrayal: Uncover the truth through “Hard Answers” and “The Pursuit.”
  8. Start “Blindsighted”: Follow Karliah’s guidance to retrieve the Skeleton Key.
  9. Venture to Irkngthand: Find and enter the Dwemer ruin.
  10. Battle Mercer Frey: Confront and defeat Mercer Frey in Irkngthand.
  11. Obtain Skeleton Key: Collect the key from Mercer’s remains.

How To Acquire Skeleton Key 

Skyrim Riften Location
Riften location on the map. [image by eXputer]
To acquire the Skyrim Skeleton Key in your playthrough, you must first journey to the city of Riften, located in the southeastern region of the map.

Upon arrival, seek out a character named Brynjolf, who can typically be found in the Riften marketplace during the day or the Ragged Flagon tavern in the Ratway beneath the city. Complete Brynjolf’s initial quest, “A Chance Arrangement” to gain his trust and receive an invitation to join the Thieves Guild.

Skyrim: Encountering Karliah
Meeting Karliah, an ally, in Thieves Guild. [image by us]
After joining the guild, progress through the Thieves Guild questline by completing various quests, such as “Loud and Clear,” “Dampened Spirits,” “Scoundrel’s Folly,” and “Speaking With Silence.” During the latter quest, you will encounter and ally with a former Thieves Guild member named Karliah.

Together, they will work to uncover the treachery of the current Thieves Guild leader, Mercer Frey, by completing the quests “Hard Answers” and “The Pursuit”. Once the truth about Mercer Frey is revealed, players will embark on the “Blindsighted” quest to retrieve the Skeleton Key.

Irkngthand location on map in Skyrim
Irkngthand on a map in Skyrim. [image by us]
The Blindsighted quest will lead you to the ancient Dwemer ruin of Irkngthand, where you must confront and defeat Mercer Frey in a climactic battle. You will be met with a group of bandits at the entrance of Irkngthand. Just take them down and enter the place. You will find Karliah there.

Skyrim: Dwarven Centurion Master
The sleeping Dwarven Centurion Master in Thieves Guild. [image by eXputer]
Keep going and you will encounter Dwarven Centurion Master. He will be standing asleep. Just hit him once or twice and he will wake up. Once he is fully awake, just take him down as well and keep going. But beware that this whole place is filled with numerous traps.

Mercer Frey in Skyrim.
First encounter with Mercer Frey, taking an eye out of a statue. [image by us]
Eventually, you will find Mercer Frey removing an eye of a statue. Now the main part comes, the battle with Mercer Frey! Be careful when fighting with him as he has this ability to disappear. 

Skyrim: Acquiring Skeleton Key
Acquiring the Skeleton Key by defeating Mercer Frey in Thieves Guild. [image by eXputer]
Upon his defeat, players can collect the coveted Skeleton Key from his remains and enjoy the benefits of this unique and powerful artifact.

Uses And Benefits 

  • Unbreakable Lockpick: The Skeleton Key’s primary benefit is its function as an unbreakable lockpick, allowing players to open any lock without breaking, saving time and resources while adventuring.
  • Leveling Lockpicking Skill: Despite being unbreakable, the Skeleton Key still grants experience points when used, helping players level up their Lockpicking skill for more accessible lockpicking even without the artifact.
  • Progressing The Thieves Guild Questline: The Skeleton Key is an essential item in the Thieves Guild questline, enabling players to delve deeper into the story and make decisions that impact the future of the guild and its members.

Connection To Nocturnal

Skyrim: Nocturnal in Thieves Guild.
Meeting Nocturnal in Thieves Guild in Skyrim. [image by eXputer]
The Key’s link to the Daedric Prince of ShadowsNocturnal, provides players with unique opportunities for blessings and abilities, depending on their choices within the Thieves Guild questline.

Versatility In Gameplay

The Skeleton Key offers players the freedom to decide whether to return the artifact or keep it for personal use, allowing them to tailor their gaming experience based on their preferred playstyle and character build.

The Choice: Return Or Retain

In Skyrim, you will have the option to either retain the Skeleton Key for an indefinite amount of time or just return it. At the end of the Thieves Guild questline, you’ll be faced with the choice to return the Skeleton Key to Nocturnal’s Twilight Sepulcher, thereby restoring the Thieves Guild to its former glory, or to keep it for personal use.

Returning the Key

If you choose to return the Skeleton Key, you’ll complete the quest “Darkness Returns” and receive Nocturnal’s blessing, which grants you one of three passive abilities:

  • The Shadowcloak of Nocturnal: Invisibility for 120 seconds when sneaking.
  • The Subterfuge of Nocturnal: Nearby enemies will attack each other for 30 seconds.
  • The Ebonmere of Nocturnal: Recharge your sneak attack critical damage bonus faster.

Additionally, returning the Skeleton Key will fully restore the Thieves Guild, allowing you to become its Guildmaster and receive various perks such as a tribute chest, a merchant fence with a high gold capacity, and unique Thieves Guild armor.

Keeping The Key

If you decide to keep the Key, you’ll retain its unbreakable lockpick functionality, making lockpicking much easier throughout the game. However, you will not be able to complete the Thieves Guild questline or receive Nocturnal’s blessing.

You just have to leave the Thieves Guild questline and not complete it. In this way, you can keep the skeleton key for an infinite amount of time.

Tips And Tricks

  1. Leveling Lockpicking: If you plan to return the Key, consider using it to level up your Lockpicking skill quickly before doing so. This will make lockpicking more manageable after you no longer have the Skeleton Key.
  2. Save Often: If you decide to keep the  Key, remember to save your game frequently, as you may encounter bugs or glitches preventing you from progressing in the Thieves Guild questline.
  3. Consider Your Character Build: If you’re playing a stealth-based character, it may be more beneficial to return it and receive Nocturnal’s blessing.
  4. On the other hand, if lockpicking is essential to your playstyle, keeping the Skeleton Key might be the better option.

Wrap Up

By following the step-by-step instructions and considering the various choices and consequences of retaining or returning the Skeleton Key, you are well-equipped to tailor your Skyrim experience to your preferred playstyle and character build.

It, now, solely depends on you whether you want to conclude the Thieves Guild questline and get Nocturnal’s blessings and some skills or you want an indefinite power to open up any lock without hesitation. You can refer to the subreddit post to get an idea of whether to return the key or keep it.


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Rachel Cooper is a Guides Writer at eXputer who’s obsessed with the RPG genre. She’s an English literature major who loves to read fantasy novels. Rachel started writing on eXputer with great prior experience and expertise in the field. Her work is also featured in Texas Architecture and University of Georgia Magazines. Her favorite games include Persona 5, Symphonia, and Darkest Dungeon in which she has invested 300+ hours. You can follow Rachel's gaming journey on her Steam profile. Experience: 3+ Years || Education: Majored in English Literature || Worked for Texas Architecture Magazine and UAG Magazine || Published 100+ Articles || Mainly Covers Guides On eXputer

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