I, like many others, have been robbed blind by Bethesda and Todd Howard when it comes to Skyrim. It seems I can never go more than a few months without paying for a new version of the game, with my most recent purchase being the Switch port.
Having first bought Skyrim on the PS3, the number of hours I’ve put into the game over the years, and generations, is a little bit terrifying to think about. So, if there’s one game I know anything about, it’s this.
One of the highlights of Skyrim is its large cast of potential followers. In particular, its faction followers tend to shine the most. Serana and Cicero and both favorite companions of mine in general, not just within Skyrim. The topic of this guide is one such faction follower, in this case, one of the Companions of Jorrvaskr.
Aela the Huntress is a female Companion and one of the first recruitable NPCs players come across. Despite this, you don’t actually get to use her as a companion until you finish the Companions questline. That’s a lot of work for one follower.
I’ve put together this Aela the Huntress guide to run you through everything you need to know about her. Whether you’ve finished the Companion questline already, or you’re still waiting to start it, you’ll find something of value here.
Also, consider this a spoiler warning for the Companions questline. Skyrim has been out for over a decade now, so I won’t be holding anything back.
Bottom Line Up Front
Despite meeting Aela the Huntress very early on in Skyrim, she is not recruitable as a follower until you complete the Companions questline. However, she does follow you temporarily on certain quests during this questline. Once you are promoted to leader of the Companions, she can be both recruited and romanced.
Aela is classed as an Expert level Archery teacher, meaning you can use her to power level your Archery up to level 75. If you have recruited her as a follower, you can do this for free by taking any gold you pay her back from her inventory.
Aela is flagged as a thief character internally, meaning she is impartial to the player stealing or murdering innocents, making her a potential candidate for Dark Brotherhood and Thieve’s Guild playthroughs. She can also be recruited into the Blades.
Aela is intrinsically tied to the majority of the Companions main quests and accompanies you during the quest in which you become a werewolf.
- Character Location: Whiterun.
- Related Quests: The Silver Hand/Retrieval/Striking the Heart/Totems of Hircine/Animal Extermination/Stealing Plans
- Recruitment Cost: None (Questline Completion).
- Weapon: Bow.
- Faction Alignment: The Companions.
Despite being one of Skyrim’s most popular followers and marriage choices, Aela the Huntress doesn’t really have much lore or backstory to speak of. She rarely speaks about her past, and there are no other sources of information about her in the game.
The most we know about her history is that she comes from a female lineage of Companion warriors. She lived in a forest with her father until she was old enough to join the Companions herself, although her mother didn’t live to see it. We don’t know what became of her father, but we can assume that he met with the same fate.
This backstory explains why Aela is so good with a bow, given that she had to hunt for her meals. It would also explain her, ahem, less than stellar interpersonal skills.
When you meet Aela, she will be the very definition of stoic. While I consider this kind of personality dry, some people might be a fan of it. She shows little in the way of emotional complexity, although she does allow herself to be vulnerable later on in the Companion questline.
While she might seem cold at first, you’ll soon learn that’s just how she is. Her attitude doesn’t even change once you marry her, although she does become quite a bit friendlier.
Despite this, she is a beloved and respected member of the Companions both by NPCs in Skyrim, as well as by the Skyrim fanbase. She is the one that turns you into a werewolf, so it’s only natural that some players would feel a bond as a result of that, but the fact that she’s such a prolific quest giver may also play a part in her popularity.
Aela is directly tied to several quests in the Companions questline. She is the quest giver for quite a few radiant/Side quests, and she accompanies the player on several assaults on the Silver Hand, as well as to Ysgramor’s Tomb after the death of Kodlack Whitemane.
Rather than walking you through every single one of these quests, I’m going to run through The Silver Hand. This is the quest that sees you turn into a werewolf and is the Companion quest that Aela is most intrinsically linked with.
The Silver Hand
Meet with Skjor in the Underforge
After completing a handful of jobs for the Companions, and retrieving your first shard of Wuuthrad, you will have access to The Silver Hand quest. To obtain the quest, speak with any of the high-ranking Companion members and ask them for a job. They will direct you to Skjor who asks that you meet with him in the Underforge at night.
The Underforge is a hidden area underneath the Skyforge, just outside Jorrvaskr. The hidden entrance to the cave is outlined rather visibly, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.
Once night falls and you enter the Underforge, you’ll be met by Aela who is currently in her werewolf form. Speak with Skjor and let him know that you’re ready to start the ritual. This ritual involves you drinking Aela’s blood, making you contract Lycanthropy. This will turn you into a werewolf, and see you inducted into the Circle. Keep in mind that you will lose your vampirism if you accept, although you can also contract it again afterward.
After drinking the blood, you will pass out and wake up in Whiterun as a werewolf. All NPCs in the area will be turned hostile, but there should only be one or two guards nearby. You can kill and feast on these guards, as well as other NPCs, with no consequences during this sequence. After your beast form wears off, or you run out of health, you’ll pass out again.
Speak with Aela and Wipe Out the Silver Hand Camp
You will wake up in a forest next to Aela and must re-equip all of your armor and weapons again. Speaking with Aela will reveal that you’re just outside a Silver Hand Camp. Skjor has gone on ahead to scout the camp out, but it’s up to you and Aela to assault it.
Aela will accompany you during this part of The Silver Hand, which will dismiss your current follower if you have one. Clearing out the Silver Hand camp is pretty easy. The only enemy of note is the camp’s boss, Krev the Skinner. If you’re on a high difficulty, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully prepared before him on.
Once Krev and the other Silver Hands are dead, you’ll discover that the group managed to kill Skjor. Speak with Aela at this point to be recruited on her quest for vengeance and complete The Silver Hand.
Animal Extermination is Aela the Huntress’ quest for Act I of the Companions questline. If the player goes to her for a job, they will be sent out to kill a random creature that has either invaded a person’s home, or into the creature’s cave to exterminate it. It is possible to complete two levels of these quests before progressing with the Companion’s questline.
The list of possible creatures you’ll be sent to eliminate is as follows:
- Frostbite Spider
- Frost Troll
- Ice Wolves
- Ice Wraith
- Sabre Cat
As you can tell from that list, it’s possible to be sent to kill some pretty difficult enemies. Low-level players will have an extremely tough time taking down Frost Trolls and Ice Wraiths, in particular. If you have Dragonborn installed, it’s also possible that you’ll be sent to Solstheim. The combination of these two factors makes Animal Extermination one of the more difficult radiant quests offered by the Companion leaders in Jorrvaskr.
Striking the Heart
Striking the Heart is one of the three possible random quests that Aela will give the player after the completion of The Silver Hand. You must complete two of these three quests to continue with the Companions questline.
In Striking the Heart, Aela informs you that she has found a Silver Hand lieutenant and sends you to dispatch them. The list of possible dungeons she will send you to is as follows:
- Treva’s Watch
- Lost Knife Hideout
- Valtheim Towers
- Broken Helm Hollow
- Redoran’s Retreat
- Fort Fellhammer
- Gallows Rock
- Swindler’s Den
Stealing plans is the second of the three post-The Silver Hand quests that make up Act II of the Companions questline. In this quest, Aela sends you to retrieve Silver Hand’s plans in an attempt to learn of the group’s headquarters.
The plans can be located in the same dungeons as those found in Striking the Heart, with the addition of:
- Faldar’s Tooth
- Glenmoril Coven
Retrieval is the last of the three quests that make up the most of Act II. A combination of both Retrieval and Stealing Plans, Retrieval and Striking the Heart, or Striking the Heart and Stealing Plans must be completed to progress the questline to its next milestone. The combination that Aela gives you is randomized by the game.
In Retrieval, Aela will send the player to retrieve a fragment of Wuuthrad from the Silver Hand. This list of possible dungeons the fragment will be located in is the same as those found in Stealing Plans, with the exception of Glenmoril Coven which is replaced with Driftshade Refuge.
Totems of Hircine
Totems of Hircine can only be completed three times, making these quests more like side quests than radiant ones. They are also Aela’s Act III quests, meaning you must have finished the Companions main questline in order to be offered them.
It’s likely that you will have to complete a few of Aela’s radiant quests in between each Totem of Hircine mission, so be prepared for a fairly lengthy grind if you intend to retrieve all three totems. Although, it’s not nearly as bad as becoming the leader of the Thieve’s Guild and all the radiant quests that requires.
Each of the three totems, once retrieved and placed in the Underforge, gives you a unique lesser power that you can activate while in beast form. These powers are:
- Totem of the Hunt: Detect Life
- Totem of Brotherhood: Summon Two Wolf Familiars
- Totem of Fear: Howling Activates Fear Against Enemies
Aela is one of the few Archery trainers in Skyrim. She is an Expert-level trainer, meaning she can raise your skill to a maximum of 75, with the cost of each training rank increasing proportionally.
She can offer this Archery training even after you’ve married her, or while she’s an active follower. In other words, you can exploit her training similarly to Faendal in Riverrun. Provided you’re not playing on a version of the game that has patched the exploit, any gold you pay Aela for training should go into her inventory. If you access her inventory while she’s a follower, you can take this gold back, effectively giving you free training up to Archery level 75, provided you have enough gold for each level.
Don’t feel too bad about taking advantage of this exploit. After all, she should be more than willing to teach you about Archery as your friend, and even moreso as your wife.
In terms of abilities, it’s also worth pointing out that Aela, like other members of the Circle, is a werewolf. In fact, it’s her that donates the blood you drink to develop Lycanthropy yourself. Unfortunately, this interaction is the first and last time you can see her in beast form in the vanilla game. However, there are a handful of great mods on the Nexus that allow her to transform during combat.
How to Find Aela the Huntress in Skyrim
The first time you can run into Aela is Pelagia Farm the first time you approach Whiterun. She is fighting a Giant at the farm, along with the other members of the Companions. Naturally, players are going to be extremely weak and low-leveled when they stumble across this encounter, so most will avoid it like the plague, especially considering the fact that Giants can send you to space with a single hit.
However, the few brave enough to approach the Giant, and skillful enough to land some hits without being hit themselves, get a unique interaction with Aela. She will approach you and commend your bravery, thanking you for your help during the fight. She’ll then recommend you sign up with the Companions and point you towards Jorrvaskr.
If you talk to her after the Giant is dead and you didn’t help, she’ll scold you instead. However, this interaction has no major bearing on her attitude towards you once you join the Companions. For players that skipped the Giant encounter completely, the first time you encounter Aela will be the first time you enter Jorrvaskr.
Become Harbinger of the Companions
Regardless of whether you met Aela at Pelagia Farm or Jorrvaskr, the route you need to travel to recruit her as a follower is the same. Despite the fact that she accompanies you temporarily during the Companion main questline, you can’t actually recruit her full time until you finish the Companion’s questline and become the Harbinger. So, you’re in for a pretty long ride before you can both have her as a follower, or marry her.
Aela the Huntress’ Playstyle
Aela the Huntress is both a one-handed user and a bow user. As her name suggests, however, she’s a hunter, meaning a bow is her weapon of choice. She has an Archery skill of 75, putting her at Expert level.
So, if you want to make the most of her in combat, you’ll want to make sure she’s using a bow and has access to high-quality arrows. If you’re on a vanilla version of Skyrim, then you only need to give her one arrow and she will be able to use it indefinitely. However, a handful of popular mods, including the unofficial patch, fix that. So, if you have any mods of that nature installed, you’ll need to constantly keep Aela stocked up.
Aside from Archery, Aela is also adept at Sneak. So, she’s a stealth archer like 99% of the people playing Skyrim. This persuasion to Sneak goes beyond combat, though. The game actually flags her as being a thief archetype.
This dictates Aela’s morality, meaning she doesn’t care if the player steals or murders, making her a decent candidate for a follower during the Dark Brotherhood and Thieve’s Guild questlines. However, you cannot command her to steal or murder innocents herself.
Aela and Skjor shared a special bond as two of the only members of the Circle who believe Lycanthropy is a gift rather than a curse, which is why it is the two of them that turn you into a werewolf.
Their shared love of beasthood led to Aela and Skjor both hunting together as werewolves late into the night in the plains around Whiterun. Due to this, they grew closer, and rumors began circulating around Jorrvaskr that they were romantically involved with one another.
However, whenever Aela is confronted about this, she vehemently denies that she and Skjor are seeing each other. Rather, their hunts are looked down upon and discouraged by other members of the Companions, hence their secrecy.
However, it is clear that the two were close as Aela has the most emotional reaction to Skjor’s death.
Question: Can you marry Aela as a female in Skyrim?
Answer: Yes. None of the marriages in Skyrim are locked to gender or race, including Aela the Huntress. Provided you meet her requisites, you will be able to marry her as a female.
Question: Does Aela the Huntress turn into a werewolf?
Answer: No. As with the other werewolf companions in Skyrim, they will not transform into their beast mode either in or out of combat without the assistance of mods.
Question: How many times can Aela turn you into a werewolf?
Answer: Aela the Huntress will only turn you into a werewolf twice. Once during the Companions questline, and once afterward if you have cured your lycanthropy.
That concludes this Aela the Huntress guide for Skyrim. While I personally find her personality as dry as a desert, she’s the companion of choice for a lot of players, and an even more popular marriage candidate.
To her credit, she is a very capable follower when it comes to combat, even without being able to transform into a werewolf. Her Expert level archery skill allows her to deal massive damage to enemies from range, meaning she’ll have an easier time staying alive in combat compared to someone like Lydia.
She’s not my first pick when it comes to followers, but that’s just me. Take her for a test drive and see how you feel about her for yourself. At the very least, completing the Companion questline will give you plenty of interactions with her, even before you can formally recruit her as a follower.