The Blood on the Ice quest is one of the most famous side quests to be found in Skyrim. Taking place in the city of Windhelm and revolving around the player finding a dangerous serial killer, this quest involves the player undertaking some self-directed detective work to find the killer. However, there is a chance that the player could be wrong.
When we first booted up Skyrim over a decade ago now, we were greeted by a world of uncharted mysteries and beautiful creatures, quests, and random things to get up to. Therefore, this game would grow in the hearts of Elder Scrolls fans the world over, resulting in many of us, including me, still playing the title all these years later.
The dragons and their relation to the main questline got a lot of attention in the early months of the game’s release. This was to be expected; after all, Bethesda had produced a game wherein a fire-breathing monster could randomly attack you without a moment’s notice. At the same time, placing the player character right at the center of the dragon event and a brewing civil war.
Due to all of this, it is perfectly reasonable that many fans and reviewers took their time focusing on some of the more standout side quests that the game had to offer. However, due to this delay, I feel that many newcomers to Skyrim and even some long-term casual players are not entirely aware of some of the standout side quests that this title offers.
To this end, I want to take some time and discuss with you one of the best side quests that Skyrim has to offer. A complicated tale involving murder, mystery, and intrigue. A quest that allows the player to use their own detective senses, even allowing them to point the finger in the wrong direction ultimately should these senses have dulled since the last time you played Rockstar’s L.A. Noire.
Therefore, I hope to lead you through, step by step, this ‘Blood on the Ice’ quest. Ensuring that the right person is brought to justice in your playthrough and that you get to experience the full majesty this quest has to offer when completed in a manner the developers had hoped. So, with that being said, let’s get right into it!
Quest Details Up Front
- Quest Location: To begin this quest, head on over to Windhelm and walk around the streets between 7 pm and 7 am. if you wander by the graveyard, west of the main gate, you will find a murder scene wherein a guard will give you this quest.
- Quest Trigger: This quest does not need anything other than being in Windhelm during this particular time frame to activate it; therefore, there are no entry requirements.
- Quest Giver: A Windhelm guard will give the player this quest. He will be in the center of the scene when the player stumbles upon the murder, beginning the quest.
Arriving in Windhelm
When the player first arrives at Windhelm, the capital of Eastmarch and the home of the Stormcloak rebellion, they will be greeted by several alarming rumors. First of all, the player will hear of a young boy named Aventus Arentino, who is summoning the Dark Brotherhood via the Black Sacrament in his home. However, that is a matter for another day.
Right after this and in the same tone, the player will hear some rumors about murders taking place in the night around the town. According to these whispers, young women have been slain in the dead of night by some crazed criminal. This leaves bodies in their wake and a city bereft, with no leads to go on.
These rumors will stay just that until the player is unlucky enough to wander through the town between 7 pm and 7 am. Doing so will activate the first main portion of the quest wherein a body is freshly discovered by the townspeople and guards outside the Windhelm Hall of the Dead.
When the player walks towards this scene, they will be stopped from getting any closer by one of the guards—subsequently being informed that “another girl has been killed” and that it is Susanna from Candlehearth Hall. She was a server there up until that night.
Should the player inquire more into Susanna’s death, the guard will tell the character that she is the third victim. The killer seemingly enjoys cutting up the bodies to a hellish extent. The guard will say that the killer is being allowed to commit these heinous murders because the war effort has stretched the Windhelm guard so thin.
Therefore, in true Elder Scrolls fashion, the guard will ask the player to help out by asking some of the bystanders wholly consumed with ‘gawking’ at the young girl’s body, whether they saw anything or not. Thus, beginning the quest Blood on the Ice.
Stage 1 – Question the Witnesses
Standing around the girl’s body will be several different NPCs that are somewhat subject to change. However, some of these bystanders are already the same. The most useful of these witnesses is Helgrid. She reports that even though she did not see anything, the young women’s coin purse appears perfectly intact at the scene.
This, therefore, rules out theft as a primary motivator for the killer. However, the rest of the witnesses are practically useless, which exacerbates the guard and myself when I first played through this quest.
Stage 2 – Talk to Jorleif
After speaking to the witnesses and reporting to the guard how useless they have been, he recommends the player go and talk to Ulfric’s steward, Jorleif to ask for permission to join the fight against this monster.
Therefore, the player must head over to the Palace of King’s and seek the steward out. Once you do this, he will only be too happy to give the Dragonborn permission to join the hunt, asserting that he will offer the player any help he can during their investigation.
Stage 3 – Examine the Crime Scene
Jorleif’s blessing in hand, the Dragonborn must now return to the crime scene to examine the area. Sadly, by the time the player returns here, the body will have been moved into the Hall of the Dead.
However, the guard stationed by the crime scene will also report a trail of blood leading away from the site, a definite clue to follow up on later. For now, however, it makes the most sense to travel into the nearby Hall of the Dead.
Stage 4 – Talk to Helgrid
Once inside the Hall of the Dead, speak to Helgrid and ask if she noticed anything weird about the body of Susanna. The old woman will report that the only strange thing she found on the body was the deepness and shape of the cuts.
Nobody in Windhelm should have the equipment necessary to enact such wickedness. Seemingly requiring ancient Norse embalming tools to get anywhere near such damage. Sadly though, this is all the elderly women of the crypt has to offer the player.
Therefore, even though it is not too well signposted on the map, the next step is to find the beginnings of the blood trail the guard told the player about and find where it stops.
Stage 5 – Follow the Blood
As Dexter always said, blood never lies. Hopefully, the same is true for videogame blood because the player character must now follow the trail of blood. This blood runs from the site of the body’s discovery to a group of hoses around the corner, eventually coming across several large splashes of blood just outside of a house called Hjerim.
Therefore, finding this house will complete this quest’s ‘Examine the Crime Scene’ portion.
- To begin this quest, arrive in Windhelm and go to the graveyard between 7 pm and 7 am.
- The Butcher himself will be one of the witnesses, however even if you know this from playing the game previously, nothing can be done before the quest if followed through.
- There is no quest marker directing the player to Hjerim. Instead, you must follow the blood trail.
Stage 6 – Gain Access to Hjerim
There are two easy ways to access this blood-covered house; first, players can pick the lock and let themselves inside. However, should the Dragonborn’s lockpicking skills not be up to scratch, there is another way. Merely head into the house of clan Shatter-Shield, a few doors down.
Inside this house, you will find Tova Shatter-Shield; she will tell you that the house in question belonged to her daughter before this killer got a hold of her. Thus, the player can inform her that gaining access to the property may help catch the murderer, resulting in the bereaved mother handing the house key over to the player.
Also, should the player speak to Tova’s husband, Torbjorn. He will ask the Dragonborn to locate and bring him an Amulet of Arkay to help remind his wife that their daughter is now with the Gods and is safe.
Stage 7 – Look for Clues
After using the key to gain access to the house, the player must look around the vacant home for some clues. At first, the player may discover a chest pushed up against the western facing wall of the house. Activating this chest will prompt a message which reads, “From the marks on the floor, it looks like this box was pushed up against the wall recently.”
Opening this box will allow the player to find the first Butcher’s Journal. Inside will be the killers’ ramblings about his most recent victim, Susanna, and how he had been attempting to capture her for some time.
Moving on, the player will find a small shelf directly opposite the front door, which should be investigated. Doing so will prompt another dialogue box that reads, “This shelf is filled with more of those ‘Beware the Butcher’ fliers from around the city. One pile looks misshapen.” Reading this will prompt the player to investigate the pile more closely, thus revealing the ‘Strange Amulet’ from underneath the piles of paper.
After this, the player will see a wardrobe directly to the right of the small shelf which contains the amulet. This wardrobe will open to the player and reveal a false back panel which will need to be removed. Doing this will let the player into the Butcher’s secret kill chamber, wherein body parts and blood are scattered everywhere.
Selecting the altar upon which a skeleton sits, a dialogue box will say, “This altar is built to some unknown magic, and it looks like someone is using body parts towards some gruesome end.” The second Butcher’s Journal will also be found here.
Stage 8 – Follow Up on These Clues
After finding all of these clues, the player must report to Jorleif and ask the steward some questions. Firstly, the player should ask him whether he knows anything about this ‘Butcher’ character. The question brings him some distress as he responds rather gruffly. A
sking the player if they had been speaking to Viola Giordano as she posted these fliers all over the town. At the same time, ask him about the strange amulet you found. He will direct you towards Calixto at the House of Curiosities; apparently, he might be of some help.
Stage 9 – Speak to Viola and Calixto
Speak to Viola about the Butcher to ascertain what she knows about the killer, finally showing her the Butcher’s journals. After looking at them, she will comment Wuunferth, the court wizard, to Ulfric. She will tell the player that there have been rumors about him for years and is, in fact, the reason why he is called ‘The Unliving.’
Arriving at Calixto’s shop, he will tell the player that the amulet is a Wheelstone, an heirloom, and symbol of power relating to Windhelm, “traditionally carried by the court mage.” The man will then offer to buy the amulet from the player.
However, should you first ask if Wuunferth shouldn’t have the amulet, Calixto will quite angrily tell the player that it is a merely ceremonial amulet that he does not need. He will then say that the mage gives him the creeps and dabbles in necromancy.
- The player can find the clues all on the bottom floor of Hjerim, one in a chest, one in a small cupboard, and another behind a false wardrobe.
- The fliers scattered about Hjerim are circulated by Viola, the same person who will point the finger towards Wuunferth.
- The amulet the player asks Calixto to review is only named ‘Strange Amulet’ until Wuunferth reveals the truth to the player.
Stage 10 – Arresting Wuunferth
At this point in the quest, the player can either confront Wuunferth themselves or report their suspicion to the steward.
Should the player decide to report Wuunferth to the steward, pointing to him as the killer, citing his activity as a necromancer and his amulet as proof.
This is all the steward needs, as he will immediately call for the guards and head up to apprehend the court mage. Doing this will subsequently complete the Blood on the Ice quest, leaving only the actual arrest of Wuunferth to be completed.
Once the court wizard is imprisoned, everything will relax in Windhelm for three days until another body appears, that of another young woman named Arivanya. Therefore, this will result in the guards questioning the innocence of Wuunferth, pointing the player to the prison where Wuunferth now resides to find out where the evidence went wrong.
Talking to Wuunferth at this point will merely continue the quest from the point should the player have chosen to speak to Wuunferth in the first place, holding off on reporting him to the steward.
Stage 10, Again – Questioning Wuunferth
Should the player ask Wuunferth about his reputation as a necromancer, he will be disgusted, stating that he is a member of the College of Winterhold and is barred from such practice.
The player will then move on to questioning him about the other pieces of evidence found at the Butcher’s apparent slaughterhouse. Asking him about the diary, he will tell the player that he has never once written any diary. Then, by asking him about the amulet, he will have the player describe it.
After telling Wuunferth the Unliving that the amulet was “Eight-sided, Jade, ringed with ebony with a worn carving,” he will say to the player that the carving once would have resembled a skull and the amulet is, in fact, the Necromancer’s Amulet, of legend.
Now that Wuunferth is involved and we know that necromancy is at play. Wuunferth will tell the player that the next killing will take place in the Stone Quarter the following night according to their cultic rituals.
Stage 11 – Lying in Wait
Once the player leaves the Palace of Kings and waits the appropriate amount of time in the Stone Quarter, the player will see Calixto of all people walking into the area. Moments later, he pulls out a blade as he approaches another woman.
The player must act quickly to save this woman’s life and kill the murderer. Doing so will not only rid the city of the infamous ‘Butcher’ and allow the player to complete the ‘Blood on the Ice’ quest. But also allow the player to loot Calixto’s body, finding not only the Necromancer’s amulet but a key to his house and personal chest.
Inside this chest, the player will find the last Butcher journal and the embalming tools used to make all of the cuts on his victims.
Something to Consider
One last thing that everyone must keep in mind when trying to complete this quest is the sheer number of bugs out there that may prevent this quest from running smoothly. Whilst these only happen to a handful of players, I would be remiss not to mention them. Considering that one or more of them have happened to me over my playthroughs, including the recent one I did to refresh my memory for this guide.
The most prolific and annoying of these bugs remains unpatched, involving the guard who initially tasks the player with questioning the witnesses at the beginning of the Blood on the Ice quest. Should this guard die for any reason, the quest will not be able to begin and therefore render the entire quest null and void without console commands.
This is particularly annoying considering that after Dawngaurd is installed, vampires will attack cities at random, slaying guards and townspeople as they go. Therefore, one of these attacks may kill our much-needed guard, thus rendering the quest unplayable. The same annoying bug can be prompted by any dragon attack also. However, this is less common than the horrid vampire attack bug.
These are the significant bugs one has to worry about during the quest. However, the quest is known for its ability to break, so please be careful should the proper resolution of this quest be important to the player.
- Should the player arrest Wuunferth mistakenly, another woman will die, forcing the player to re-evaluate the case and track down the true murderer.
- Arresting Wuunferth will complete the quest. However, the player will not get as substantial a reward from the steward if done properly.
- An amulet of Arkay can be found in the Hall of the Dead in Whiterun, inside the northernmost room.
So, there you have it, a complete guide to one of the best quests in Skyrim. It is a quest that allows the player to make their own decisions and, therefore, mistakes, punishing and rewarding you for your actions along the way. Whether these punishments come in the form of another dead NPC or the arrest of an innocent man, the decision is truly yours.
Personally, this is one of my favorite Skyrim quests, not just because of how different it is to the rest of the quests in the game or how it allows you to fail. But because it gives you some clever hints towards the real killer’s identity along the way. All the while, the narrative of those you question leads you away from it.
For example, the inclusion of Calixto as one of the witnesses at the third crime scene. Only returning players will notice this as significant and point to a level of planning by the truly amazing developers. Not only have they developed a quest for newcomers, but for those wishing to repeat the game again.
With all this in mind, I hope this guide will help you find the real killer stalking the streets of Windhelm. So you can remove all chances for that horrid creature to pull the wool over your eyes anymore. So, what are you waiting for? People are in danger; get going!
Skyrim Blood on Ice Guide: FAQs
Question: How do you activate Blood on the Ice in Skyrim?
Answer: The player has to head to Windhelm’s graveyard between 7 pm and 7 am. Here, the player will see a dead body surrounded by several townspeople.
Question: Can you save Susanna the Wicked?
Answer: The third victim of the Butcher can be interacted with before her death, but she is marked as essential. She, therefore, cannot be interfered with by the Dragonborn. This results in her inevitable death at the hands of the Butcher.
Question: Where is the key to Hjerim?
Answer: The key to Hjerim can be acquired from Tova Shatter-Shield, the mother of one of the Butcher’s victims. She can be found in her home, Shatter-Shield Manor.
Question: Is Wuunferth, the killer?
Answer: Even though the initial evidence may point to Wuunferth, he is not the killer. Should the player have the court mage arrested, the murders will continue, thus pointing to Wuunferth’s innocence.