Azura is possibly my favorite Daedric Prince. One of the few genuinely benevolent Daedric gods (Alongside Meridia), She plays an iconic role in Morrowind, my favorite game of all time. She is the bestower of the most classic Daedric artifact in Elder Scrolls history: Azura’s Star. I’m sure most Enchanting enthusiasts are rather fond of Azura for this reason alone.
Azura has a presence even in the land of Skyrim, so of course, I have to seek out my lord and perform a service for her. It’s time to take on The Black Star quest.
The Shrine of Azura in Skyrim is deep in the mountains south of Winterhold. Be careful if visiting the shrine from the west. You’ll pass by Mount Anthor, and the dragon shacked up there may attack you.
Eventually, the quest will take you to Ilinalta’s Deep, a partially-flooded and ruined former Imperial fort. It’s directly north of the Lady Stone, northwest of the Guardian Stones, and west of Anise’s Cabin.
- Level 20+
- Low Enchanting Level (The lower it is, the more benefit you get from doing this quest sooner rather than later)
- Summonable minions from either spells or scrolls
- Magic resistance potions or magical apparel
- A strong bow and Fortify Marksman gear
- Azura’s Star (Potentially)
- The Black Star (Potentially)
- Black soul gems
- Three Daedra hearts
- Two human hearts
- A Tragedy in Black (Enchanting skill book)
- The Doors of Oblivion (Conjuration skill book)
- Malyn Varen’s Grimoire
- Enchanter’s Primer (Enchanting skill book)
- Breathing Water (Alternation skill book)
Finding the Shrine of Azura
Speak to any bartenders about rumors lately, and one of them will mention the Dunmer having set up a Shrine to Azura. A miscellaneous quest to find this shrine will begin. If heading to the shrine from the west, Saarthal is the best starting location. If coming from the east, you can start from Winterhold.
If coming from the west, it’s impossible to miss a destroyed caravan with several dead refugees. If coming from the east, look to your left as you approach the path to Azura’s shrine. Rummage through the items in the caravan to find a book called Enchanter’s Primer, an Enchanting skill book. Now head for the shrine.
After reaching the top of the shrine, speak with Aranea Ienith. She is one of Azura’s faithful, spared from the horrors of Morrowind’s Red Year, thanks to visions received from Azura. She will tell you that she saw a vision of you approaching this shrine before you were even born.
Azura has chosen you as her champion to assist her in recovering her artifact, the Azura’s Star. Azura wants you to head for a fortress endangered by water but not touched by it to find an elven mage who can turn stars black as night. With that, The Black Star begins.
Aranea suggests you go to Winterhold, so let’s do that now.
Finding the Elven Mage
Once in Winterhold, head for the Frozen Hearth and speak with the barkeep Dagur. He will first suggest you talk to someone from the Mages College before telling you that Nelacar may know what you need. He has a room here at the inn. You can head for the College and speak with Sergius Turrianus or Feralda about the elven mage, but both will also point you towards Nelacar.
Nelacar will either be in his room to the bar’s right or the main hall eating at one of the tables. Ask him about an elven mage who studies stars, and he will get defensive. You can persuade him to tell you more, intimidate him, or bribe him.
Now, for some reason, the persuade check is insanely hard. I tried a dozen times with 160 Speech and failed every attempt. It’s possible being a Dunmer may make this speech check easier, but I can’t say for sure. Strangely enough, the intimidate check is a lot easier to pass, and I did so on the first attempt with 100 Speech. If your Speech skill is low, bribing him might be your only option.
Get Nelacar to open up, and he will ask what you know about soul gems. He will tell you that every soul gem only allows one soul to pass through it. That is, except for one soul gem; the Azura’s Star.
Nelacar was an apprentice under a former College mage by the name of Malyn Varen. Malyn was dying from disease and was looking for a way to escape death by placing his own soul inside Azura’s Star. Unfortunately for him, Azura’s Star doesn’t allow black souls, and the souls of all mortals are black.
Malyn’s attempts to alter Azura’s Star drove him mad, and he even murdered one of his students to use their soul in his experiments. The College eventually expelled him, and he and some disciples relocated to Ilinalta’s Deep. It sounds like that’s where we need to go next.
Before departing, Nelacar will call the Daedra evil and ask you not to bring the Star back to Azura. He blames her for Malyn’s madness. And he isn’t wrong to do. Azura did curse Malyn, which caused him to go insane. Would it be wrong to attribute most of Malyn’s evil deeds to Azura’s actions?
At the same time, Malyn’s actions before Azura cursed him weren’t particularly ethical. Tampering with a Daedric artifact was strictly forbidden, and he wanted to defile its’ purpose no less. Azura made him worse, but it sounds like Marilyn wasn’t too good a man from the start.
I suppose it’s something to think about as we make our way to Ilinalta’s Deep.
Getting to Ilinalta’s Deep
Ilinalta’s Deep is a short swim north of the Lady Stone. There’s a chance you haven’t discovered that standing stone yet since it’s on an island in the middle of Lake Ilinalta. Anise’s Cabin is an easy starting point. Follow the coastline west, and you’ll discover Ilinalta’s Deep in no time. You can also cross the lake from the Guardian Stones and head west from there.
Once you’ve arrived, look for a trapdoor on a partially-submerged battlement. It’ll lead you into Ilinalta’s Deep. There’s a chest in the water to the right of this battlement. Grab the loot before heading inside the Deep.
Ilinalta’s Deep Interior
As soon as you get inside, you’ll see a skeleton tied up to a post. Look inside the knapsack for some loot and a fisherman’s journal. The poor guy was looking for a better place to fish to provide for his family. He had heard the warnings that this place was cursed but prayed to the gods that they were just rumors. Unfortunately, they were not. Let’s put these dastardly creeps out of commission.
Head deeper into the fort and the next chamber. There’s an open passageway on the far left side of the room. Continue down this corridor until you reach a room with a mage sitting at a table. There’s also a skeleton standing guard by the door into the next room.
When inside Ilinalta’s Deep, always aim for the mages first. These necromancers spam reanimation spells on their fallen allies and minions. The best counter to this is never giving them a chance to do so. The most effective way of dealing with them is popping a Fortify Marksman potion and hitting them with a bow and arrow sneak attack.
Eliminate the mage, then quickly dispose of the skeleton. The noise may or may not alert the necromancers in the next room. After killing them both, loot the room. There are two human hearts on the table where the mage was sitting, so be sure to pick them up for alchemy shenanigans. If you’re into decorating your homes, pick up the soul gem fragments on the desk to the left.
Open the door to the dining hall (Provided you haven’t already alerted the people inside), and there will be two necromancers eating at the table. If you’re quick, you can snipe both of them down before they have a chance to react. Loot them and pick up a couple of Rock Warbler eggs and some snowberries off the table.
There’s a skeleton in the kitchen with its’ back turned. Busy preparing for the next meal, I suppose. Take it out, then loot the room for some potions and alchemy ingredients before moving on.
The next room has a mage and a skeleton on the other side of the chamber. There’s also a dead wolf on the walkway that the mage will reanimate if you give them a chance. Kill the mage and the skeleton, then dive into the water near the pseudo-waterfall.
Beneath it is a submerged stairway that leads to a bedroom with a chest to loot. Look up onto the ceiling for a copy of Breathing Water, an Alternation skill book.
Make your way through the empty room and down the corridor, making your way to the barracks. There will be two mages, an alchemy lab, and an arcane enchanter. Killing one mage will leave the other vulnerable as they try reviving their fallen brethren. A third mage is further up the hall and will likely come to attack you as well. Kill them all, as we have quite a bit of looting to do here.
Both bedrooms have some potions on the nightstands, though the one on the right is behind an Apprentice-locked door. There’s a copy of A Tragedy in Black, an Enchanting skill book where the first mage was sitting. Loot the shelves for a couple of decent books, soul gems, and alchemy ingredients as well. Keep moving.
Two skeletons and a necromancer are in the next chamber. You can peek out from around the corner and snipe down both the bone minions before drawing the attention of the mage. After dealing with them, head into the water and look for an Adept-locked door on the right.
Behind it are some floating potions, gold, and a chest. Head up the stairs next to the hidden room to continue. Ignore the chain on the wall as it just controls the wooden bridge.
Make your way down the next hallway and pick the Apprentice-locked wooden door to get some potions off the shelves and alchemy ingredients from the barrels. Go up the stairs, activate the door bar, and you’ll find yourself on the upper floor of the first chamber of Ilinalta’s Deep. Head straight for the door where the river originates from to move on into Ilinalta’s Deluge.
Sneak around the corner, and you’ll overhear a conversation between two necromancers discussing where they’re going to get another soul for their work. Having no love for their colleagues, they decide on an apprentice mage that you probably already killed.
Kill them too, so they no longer have to worry about this soul or that soul, then snag the copy of Doors of Oblivion from the table. Not only a nice callback to the fourth game, but this book also increases your Conjuration skill by one.
The door on the right side of the room has some potions on the shelves. Loot the chest on the left side of the room before taking the passageway further into the Deluge. Head down the stairs to go inside a jail with a patrolling mage and a skeleton. Four of the six cells here are Adept-locked. They have no loot inside but make for some good Lockpicking experience.
After clearing out the jail, get ready to take on the boss of this ruined fortress. A leveled necromancer will be in the next room by the altar. There are five skeletons here, and he will reanimate all of them if you don’t take him out quickly.
After you’ve killed him, Ilinalta’s Deep will be clear of hostiles. On the right side of the altar is a submerged chest. Grab the loot inside, then head up the stairs on the left side of the room.
Once you reach the top of the winding stairwell, you’ll be in a room with a dead bandit and the skeletal remains of Malyn Varen. On Malyn’s lap is the Broken Azura’s Star. Pick up Malyn Varen’s Grimoire next to his bones and loot the chest for some loot.
If you read his book, you’ll see that he was willing to cross any line in the name of advancing magic. He definitely didn’t seem like a good guy to me. Ilinalta’s Deep is clear, but you have a choice to make. You now have to decide whether you want to return the Broken Azura’s Star to Nelacar or Aranea.
Bring the Star to Nelacar
Head back to the Frozen Hearth to see Nelacar, and he will marvel at your obtaining the Azura’s Star. He intends to finish what Malyn started, which would mean cutting Azura off from her own artifact. Give him the Star, and let him get to work.
Malyn was a desperate man in his final days, and Azura’s Star has taken significant damage. Upon examining it, Nelacar confirms that Malyn managed to trap his own soul inside the Star. However, his tampering with the artifact has deteriorated its’ condition, requiring his disciples to feed Malyn an increasing amount of souls to sustain itself.
Nelacar concludes that you won’t be able to use Azura’s Star so long as Malyn is inside of it, which means he needs to go. However, Malyn has placed defenses to prevent souls from being dragged out of the Star. The only way to deal with him is for a soul to go in and do the deed. I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
We have no choice but to go with Nelacar’s plan, so agree let him soul trap your soul. He will keep a magical tether on your soul, leaving you alive enough that he can pull you out once you’ve killed Malyn.
After a brief moment, you’ll find yourself inside Azura’s Star. Malyn will greet you, thinking you’re just another sacrificed soul from his disciples, before realizing you’re something else. Someone else. Yes, I’m making an Arrow reference. Tell Malyn that his time has come, and he will rebuff you before initiating a fight.
Malyn will be flanked by several Dremora, making this a tough fight. All four of them favor magic, though one Dremora usually carries a two-handed weapon as well. If you fight yourself having a hard time dealing with them, run to the bottom of the Star and into the final chamber.
You can easily lose Malyn and his Dremora minions here. After you’ve gained hidden status, pick them off one at a time.
Make sure that you loot the Dremora before killing Malyn. Once he’s dead, Nelacar will begin to pull your soul out. Each of the Dremora will have dremora hearts. These are extremely rare alchemy ingredients also necessary for smithing Daedric armor and weapons.
After killing Malyn, Nelacar will pull your soul out and back into your body. He will confirm that Malyn’s soul is gone for good, and the two of you have cut off Azura from her Star. Nelacar will return the artifact to you, now the Black Star, and you’ve completed the quest.
If you return to Aranea, she will not be happy to see you and threaten to kill you if you don’t leave (She never attacks unless you start a fight, however).
Bring the Star to Aranea
Return to Azura’s Shrine with the Star, and Aranea will ask for the Star so that Azura can restore it to its’ original form. Azura wants to speak with you herself, so place your hand on the altar to her hear words.
She will thank you for rescuing her Star from the clutches of Malyn Varen before informing you that Malyn’s enchantments prevent you from using the artifact yourself. Like Nelecar, Azura will ask that you head inside the Star to kill Malyn for good.
The following segment plays out the same way it did had you given the Star to Nelacar. If you choose this route, you can watch Malyn’s body turn a blinding white as Azura purges it from the Star.
Azura will pull your soul out of the Star and congratulate you on your success. She will tell you to use Azura’s Star as you see fit, as was your destiny, and that she will be watching over you.
And with that, the quest is complete.
Speak with Aranea, and she will tell you that Azura’s voice is gone. Azura gave her faithful follower her last vision while you were inside the Star dealing with Malyn.
Aranea has not been without Azura’s guidance since she fled Morrowind to avoid the Red Year. For the record, that was nearly 200 years ago. She tells you that she is completely lost and without purpose now. She would be honored if you allowed her to accompany you to protect you as her new purpose in life. From this point forward, Aranea will be available as a companion.
But I haven’t answered the most important question regarding this quest yet.
Should I pick the Black Star or Azura’s Star?
As a bit of an Azura fanboy, it hurts me to say this, but unless roleplaying as a follower of Azura, there’s no reason not to pick The Black Star.
Azura’s Star is limited to only being able to capture white souls. That wouldn’t be a problem, except Grand white souls are extremely limited. The only Grand white souls you will find in the early game are mammoths. After that, you will need to level up a bit to run into the higher-tier variants of enemies like draugr to capture some more Grand white souls. Even then, your Grand white soul supply will be in rough shape.
Now let’s compare that to The Black Star. Despite what Nelacar tells you about it only being able to capture black souls, the Black Star can capture white souls as well. So, it already has more utility than Azura’s Star.
The Black Star also has the advantage due to black souls being infinitely better than white ones. The soul of every humanoid NPC or enemy counts as a black soul, and black souls are always Grand souls. Skyrim has an endless supply of bandits to unleash your inner Shang Tsung upon. I cannot say the same for mammoths or any other Grand white soul enemy.
The main breaking point here is how leveling Enchanting via recharging enchanted weapons works. You earn experience based on the size of the soul that you use to recharge your weapon, not how much you charge it. So you ideally want to use grand souls for the job.
With Azura’s Star, this is borderline impossible to do. And in the early game, you won’t find many filled Grand soul gems from merchants, and even if you did, you couldn’t afford it. And if you could, you couldn’t justify wasting them on recharging weapons before they were depleted completely, which significantly slows down Enchanting leveling.
With The Black Star, this is child’s play. Equip any weapon with the soul trap enchantment, kill any humanoid, then immediately recharge the weapon as soon as it loses a single charge. Go on a bandit annihilation spree, and you can rapidly train your Enchanting skill this way.
Once you get further into the game and are rich enough to buy filled Grand soul gems from every merchant you see, training Enchanting via recharging weapons becomes less of an issue. At that point, you could pick Azura’s Star strictly for roleplaying purposes. But from a gameplay perspective, The Black Star is the far superior option. And since I recommend you do this quest pretty early into your playthrough, that’s the one you’ll likely want to pick.
Question: Is there a way to obtain both Azura’s Star and The Black Star?
Answer: No. There are some quests with branching quest rewards that you can obtain every reward for, but The Black Star is not one of them.
Question: What happens to Nelacar if you side with Azura?
Answer: Apparently, he was supposed to cease offering you merchant services, but that isn’t the case. He will insult you sometimes but is still willing to sell you goods.
Question: Does Aranea make for a good companion?
Answer: I would say she’s mid-tier at best. Her starting gear consists of basic mage robes and staff of frostbite. She is a reasonably powerful mage with a healthy spread of spells at her disposal. Unfortunately, she is level capped at 30 and has a low base max HP pool of 292, making her a glass cannon. She’s not the worst companion in the game, but not the best (Mage or otherwise). She falls off pretty badly in the endgame.
The Black Star Guide: Conclusion
In my opinion, The Black Star definitely ranks in the top 3 Daedric Prince quests in Skyrim, even if this is arguably the weakest version of Azura’s Star in the series.
Both Oblivion and Morrowind had plenty of Daedra to go around for Grand white souls, that’s not the case in Skyrim, so it’s significantly weaker. That’s unfortunate, but I always enjoy assisting one of the more benevolent Daedric Lords. I keep Azura’s Star in my house anyway. It makes for one heck of a mantlepiece.
That’s another Daedric Lord assisted by the Dragonborn of Skyrim. Whether you pick The Black Star or Azura’s Star, the experience and items you receive by completing this quest are sure to have been valuable.
Until next time!