Discerning the Transmundane (2024)

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Discerning the Transmundane (1)

Discerning the Transmundane is a quest available in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It serves as the Daedric quest for the prince Hermaeus Mora. It also runs concurrently with the main quest "Elder Knowledge," the The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard main quests "Scroll Scouting" and "Seeking Disclosure," and is the only other method of accessing Blackreach other than Elder Knowledge.

Contents

  • 1 Background
  • 2 Objectives
  • 3 Walkthrough
    • 3.1 Alftand Glacial Ruins
    • 3.2 Alftand Animonculory
    • 3.3 The Alftand Cathedral
    • 3.4 Blackreach
    • 3.5 Lexicon puzzle
    • 3.6 Return to Septimus
    • 3.7 Hermaeus Mora's intervention
    • 3.8 Harvesting blood
      • 3.8.1 Locations containing most blood types
      • 3.8.2 Other locations
    • 3.9 Opening the lockbox
  • 4 Journal
  • 5 Trivia
  • 6 Bugs
  • 7 Appearances

Background

I met Septimus Signus, a brilliant but mad scholar living in the northern ice fields. He's directed me to a Dwarven observatory that supposedly houses an Elder Scroll. He doesn't care about the Scroll itself, but wants me to use some kind of machine there to inscribe a Dwarven lexicon with the Scroll's knowledge and bring it to him.

Objectives

  1. Ask Urag about the insane book
  2. Find Septimus Signus
  3. Transcribe the Lexicon
  4. Give the Lexicon to Septimus
  5. Harvest High Elf blood
  6. Harvest Wood Elf blood
  7. Harvest Dark Elf blood
  8. Harvest Falmer blood
  9. Harvest Orc blood
  10. Bring blood to Septimus
  11. Take the Oghma Infinium

Walkthrough

Although this quest can be started at any level, such as during the main quest "Elder Knowledge," the second part involving the harvesting of blood can only be initiated after level 15.

It can be started by speaking to Septimus Signus, a brilliant but mad scholar who has devoted his life to studying the Elder Scrolls. He can be found in Septimus Signus's Outpost, an ice cave north of Winterhold. He explains that the Dwemer lockbox buried within the outpost holds "the heart" and he wishes to access it to learn its secrets.

What brings you to this remote place? "The ice entombs the heart. The bane of Kagrenac and Dagoth Ur. To harness it is to know. The fundamentals. The Dwemer lockbox hides it from me. The Elder Scrolls gives insight deeper than the deep ones, though. To bring about the opening."

You have an Elder Scroll? Here? "I've seen enough to know their fabric. The warp of air, the weft of time. But no, it is not in my possession."
So, where is the Scroll? "Here. Well, here as in this plane. Mundus. Tamriel. Nearby, relatively speaking. On the cosmological scale, it's all nearby."
Can you help me get the Elder Scroll or not? "One block lifts the other. Septimus will give you what you want, but you must bring something in return."
Don't make me hurt you. Just tell me where it is. "Oh, a brutish one. Septimus has no fear of you. But as one block raises another, perhaps ourselves could help us each."
What do you want? "You see this masterwork of the Dwemer. Deep inside their greatest knowings. Septimus is clever among men, but he is but an idiot child compared to the dullest of the Dwemer. Lucky then they left behind their own way of reading the Elder Scrolls. In the depths of Blackreach one yet lies. Have you heard of Blackreach? "Cast upon where Dwemer cities slept, the yearning spire hidden learnings kept.""
Where is this "Blackreach"? "Under deep. Below the dark. The hidden keep. Tower Mzark. Alftand. The point of puncture, of first entry, of the tapping. Delve to its limits, and Blackreach lies just beyond. But not all can enter there. Only Septimus knows the hidden key to loose the lock to jump beneath the deathly rock."
How do I get in? "Two things I have for you. Two shapes. One edged, one round. The round one, for tuning. Dwemer music is soft and subtle, and needed to open their cleverest gates. The edged lexicon, for inscribing. To us, a hunk of metal. To the Dwemer, a full library of knowings. But... empty. Find Mzark and its sky-dome. The machinations there will read the Scroll and lay the lore upon the cube. Trust Septimus. He knows you can know."
Are you... all right? "Oh, I am well. I will be well. Well to be within the will inside the walls."

He gives the Dragonborn an Attunement Sphere and a Blank Lexicon which must be inscribed with the Dwemer mechanism located within the Tower of Mzark. The tower can only be accessed via Blackreach, the underground ruins of an ancient Dwemer city.

Alftand Glacial Ruins

The first step is to travel to the Dwemer ruin of Alftand, located in the snowy mountains southwest of Winterhold. Enter the Alftand Glacial Ruins and progress through the tunnels of ice. Eventually, a Khajiit skooma addict, named J'darr, will attack. His brother's journal reveals that he, along with several others, were members of a failed expedition to the ruins. Proceed through the caves and past two Dwarven spiders until the Alftand Animonculory is reached.

Alftand Animonculory

Proceed through the ruins and fight past the various Falmer that reside here. Several dead members of the failed expedition can be found here. Eventually, the Alftand Cathedral will be reached which grants access to Blackreach.

The Alftand Cathedral

Head past the traps and Falmer who guard this section. Past a set of double doors opens into a large room patrolled by several enemies. Head through the main gate where two Dwarven Centurions can be found. One Centurion lies on the floor inactive, however, the other will awaken when approached. Defeat the Centurion and take the key from its corpse. Proceed to the next gate where a Redguard named Umana and an Imperial named Sulla Trebatius will exchange accusations and then begin to fight. They are the only surviving members of the expedition the Dragonborn found while navigating the Dwemer ruins. If either is killed, the survivor will turn and attack the Dragonborn. Once both are dead, Umana's body can be looted for the unique shield, Targe of the Blooded. This is the only chance to obtain this shield..

Proceed towards the Dwarven mechanism located in the center of the room. Activate the mechanism with the Attunement Sphere which causes the floor to retract into stairs. Head down the stairs and into Blackreach.

Blackreach

Progress through the vast cavern towards the objective marker, fighting off the various creatures within, which will mostly consist of Falmer. Once the Tower of Mzark is reached, near the southwest corner of Blackreach, proceed inside and through the corridors to the main room. Head up the spiral stairs until the Dwemer mechanism is reached. Place the Blank Lexicon inside the receptacle and begin the inscription puzzle. While exploring Blackreach, it might be a good idea to unlock the Great Elevators for the Dwemer ruins of Alftand, Mzinchaleft, and Raldbthar to get them marked on the overworld map if one wants an easier way to reenter Blackreach without going through the Dwemer ruins themselves, but expect the elevators to respawn with their gates closed after some time so you have to reopen them from Blackreach.

Lexicon puzzle

Discerning the Transmundane (3)

Solving the puzzle involves pushing four buttons on the podium in a certain order. After the Lexicon is placed on the designated receptacle, the two buttons on the right side will light up.

To decipher the code, press the third button from the left a few times until the Lexicon opens and button two lights up. Press the second button from the left twice (until the overhead lenses are seen directing light onto the sphere), then the first button lights up. Press this button to reveal the scroll.

Pick up the Elder Scroll and the runed lexicon from the receptacle. Exit the Tower through the door beneath the button console, followed by taking the elevator back up to Skyrim, exiting near where Heljarchen Hall is found, and return to Septimus.

Return to Septimus

Discerning the Transmundane (4)

The next part of this quest is dependent on character level. Returning to Septimus at under level 15 will cause him to dismiss the Dragonborn until he has had time to study the Lexicon. When level 15 is reached, he will send a courier to summon the Dragonborn back to the outpost. If the Dragonborn returns before the required level, Septimus will be found pacing his room. At this stage, he also reveals that he is in the service of Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge.

Talking to Septimus before level 15:

I've inscribed the lexicon. "Give it, quickly. Oh, but the Dwemer had more than even Septimus expected. This will take time to decryptify. Be on your way, and Septimus will find you if he has further need."

Why are you so eager to open the box? "The box contains the heart. The essence of a god. I have devoted my life to the Elder Scrolls, but their knowledge is a passing awareness when compared to the encompassing mind of divinity. The Dwemer were the last to touch it. It was thought to have been destroyed by the Nerevarine, but my lord told me otherwise."

Who is your lord? "The Daedric prince of the unknown. Hermaeus Mora. I thought there were no secrets left to know. Until I first spoke with him. He asks a price -- to work his will. A few murders, some dissent spread, a plague or two. For the secrets I can endure. In time, he brought me here. To the box. But he won't reveal how to open it. Maddening."

After recieving the letter:

You sent for me? "Extraordinary. I see it now. The sealing structure interlocks in the tiniest fractals. Dwemer blood can loose the hooks, but none alive remains to bear it. A panoply of their brethren could gather to form a facsimile. A trick. Something they didn't anticipate, no, not even them. The blood of Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Falmer and Orsimer. The elves still living provide the key. Bear you hence this extractor. It will drink the fresh blood of elves. Come when its set is complete."

Returning to Septimus at level 15 or higher will prompt him to begin immediately reading the Lexicon:

I've inscribed the lexicon. "Give it, quickly. Extraordinary. I see it now. The sealing structure interlocks in the tiniest fractals. Dwemer blood can loose the hooks, but none alive remains to bear it. A panoply of their brethren could gather to form a facsimile. A trick. Something they didn't anticipate, no, not even them. The blood of Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Falmer and Orsimer. The elves still living provide the key. Bear you hence this extractor. It will drink the fresh blood of elves. Come when its set is complete."

Why are you so eager to open the box? "The box contains the heart. The essence of a god. I have devoted my life to the Elder Scrolls, but their knowledge is a passing awareness when compared to the encompassing mind of divinity. The Dwemer were the last to touch it. It was thought to have been destroyed by the Nerevarine, but my lord told me otherwise."

Who is your lord? "The Daedric prince of the unknown. Hermaeus Mora. I thought there were no secrets left to know. Until I first spoke with him. He asks a price -- to work his will. A few murders, some dissent spread, a plague or two. For the secrets I can endure. In time, he brought me here. To the box. But he won't reveal how to open it. Maddening."

After studying the Runed Lexicon, he explains that Dwemer blood is needed to open the Dwemer lockbox. Since the Dwemer are extinct, blood from the various Mer races must be collected to create a facsimile. Specifically, the blood of Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Falmer, and Orsimer. Septimus then gives the Dragonborn an Essence Extractor and requests that the blood be collected for him.

Hermaeus Mora's intervention

Upon trying to leave the iceberg, Hermaeus Mora confronts the Dragonborn and reveals that as soon as the lockbox is opened, Septimus' usefulness will be over. He then offers the Dragonborn Septimus' position. Responding either way has no discernible consequences.

"Come closer. Bask in my presence."

Who are you? "I am Hermaeus Mora. I am the guardian of the unseen, and knower of the unknown. I have been watching you, mortal. Most impressive. (If "At the Summit of Apocrypha" is completed: I have been watching you since you defeated Miraak. Your progress is most impressive.)"
What do you want of me? "Your continuing aid to Septimus renders him increasingly obsolete. He has served me well, but his time is nearing its end. Once that infernal lockbox is opened, he will have exhausted his usefulness to me. When that time comes, you shall take his place as my emissary. What say you?"
I am your servant, my lord. "Indeed. Speak with me when the box has been opened, and all shall be revealed."
I'll never join you, vile demon! "Be warned. Many have thought as you do. I have broken them all. You shall not evade me forever."

Harvesting blood

Discerning the Transmundane (5)

To harvest the blood, loot the corpse of a deceased person with the Essence Extractor in the inventory. Blood samples can be acquired from any dead body in Skyrim.

Liar's Retreat is one of the few locations where all blood types, except Altmer, can be found. If this location is used, then the quickest way to obtain the missing Altmer blood is from the corpse of the Altmer inside the spiked pit trap in Halted Stream Camp. The pit trap can be accessed without entering the mine itself, though it is advisable to go through the mine as falling on the spikes from above can kill the Dragonborn instantly.

Locations containing most blood types

  • Alftand – Contains all blood types, except Dunmer
  • Liar's Retreat – Contains all blood types except Altmer
  • Nightcaller Temple – Altmer, Dunmer and Orsimer
  • Rannveig's Fast – Bosmer, Dunmer and Orsimer
  • Silverdrift Lair – Bosmer, Dunmer and Orsimer

Other locations

The following is a list of locations that contain corpses or enemies that can be freely slain and used to harvest blood.

Altmer (High Elf)
  • Halted Stream Camp – A corpse inside the spiked pit trap.
  • Northwatch Keep – Northwatch guards.
  • Shrine of Talos Massacre – The corpse of a Thalmor Justicar near the shrine.
  • Thalmor Embassy – Thalmor guards.
  • Abandoned LodgeDR – Thalmor guards.
  • Northshore LandingDR – Thalmor guards.
  • Uttering Hills CaveLinwe during the quest "Summerset Shadows."
Bosmer (Wood Elf)
  • Bthardamz – A hostile mage named Orchendor
  • Liar's Retreat – Inside, just after the steps, walking straight in between the steps, the corpse of a bandit
  • Redwater DenDG – The Dealer
  • Autumnshade Clearing – Corpse under the big rock
Dunmer (Dark Elf)
  • Drelas' Cottage – A hostile mage named Drelas
  • Evergreen Grove – A corpse
  • Knifepoint Mine – The Champion of Boethiah during the quest "Boethiah's Calling"
  • Liar's Retreat – The corpse of a bandit deeper into the cave
  • Halted Stream Camp – One of the bandits in the area
  • Reeking Cave – The corpse of a mage
  • Stonehills – On the road east of Stonehills there is a wagon with a Dunmer corpse in it
Falmer
  • Darkfall Cave DG – Many throughout
  • Dwemer Ruins – Can be found in most ruins, no Falmer found in the Solstheim ruins
  • Forgotten Vale DG – Found in many sublocations
  • Frostflow Lighthouse – Found deeper in the dungeon
  • Gloomreach – Found shortly after entering, one by itself
  • Liar's Retreat – Many throughout
Orsimer (Orcs)
  • Cracked Tusk Keep – Several Orc bandits
  • Liar's Retreat – An Orc bandit hiding in a locked room near the entrance
  • Halted Stream Camp – Two bandits guarding the mines
  • Nightcaller Temple – Several Orc invaders during the quest "Waking Nightmare"

Opening the lockbox

Discerning the Transmundane (6)

Once the blood has been harvested, return to Septimus. He enthusiastically asks for the extractor and presses it into his abdomen, injecting the blood into his body.

I've brought all the blood you require. "I can almost... hear them. I feel their life energy. Come, I will make the mixture."

He then approaches the lockbox and the locking mechanism begins to spin. A tunnel-like entrance appears and Septimus runs inside, but much to his dismay he does not find the answers he was looking for.

"What is this... it's... it's just a book?! I can see. The world beyond burns in my mind. It's marvelous...."

Rather than the "heart of a god," all he finds is a pedestal on which the Oghma Infinium sits. Amidst the confusion, he begins to levitate and Hermaeus Mora disintegrates him into a pile of ash.

Approach the pedestal and take the Oghma Infinium. Upon leaving the chamber, the Wretched Abyss appears again as a manifestation of Hermaeus Mora. He greets the Dragonborn as his Champion and an option is presented to agree or disagree with his assertion. Again, either answer has no ramifications.

After the conversation is over the Wretched Abyss dissipates and the quest is completed.

Journal

Discerning the Transmundane – DA04
IDJournal Entry
5I've been given a book of bizarre ramblings about Elder Scrolls, written by Septimus Signus. He claims to have spent time at the Winterhold Arcanaeum.
  • Objective 5: Ask Urag about the insane book.
10I've learned that Septimus Signus, a preeminent scholar of the Elder Scrolls, is currently living in the far north, studying a Dwarven artifact. He might know where I can find an Elder Scroll for Paarthurnax.
  • Objective 10: Find Septimus Signus
20I met Septimus Signus, a brilliant but mad scholar living in the northern ice fields. He's directed me to a Dwarven observatory that supposedly houses an Elder Scroll. He doesn't care about the Scroll itself, but wants me to use some kind of machine there to inscribe a Dwarven lexicon with the Scroll's knowledge and bring it to him.
  • Objective 20: Transcribe the Lexicon
30
  • Objective 30: Give the Lexicon to Septimus
35Under Level 15: I met Septimus Signus and brought him a Dwarven lexicon containing the distilled knowledge of an Elder Scroll. With it, he believes he can open the lockbox he's been studying. He will contact me when he has the secret.
  • Objective 30: Give the Lexicon to Septimus
40Level 15+: I met Septimus Signus and brought him a Dwarven lexicon containing the distilled knowledge of an Elder Scroll. With it, he believes he can open the lockbox he's been studying by creating a mixture of blood that will resemble Dwarven. I need to collect blood from several different races if I want to help him.
  • Objective 41: Harvest High Elf blood
  • Objective 42: Harvest Wood Elf blood
  • Objective 43: Harvest Dark Elf blood
  • Objective 44: Harvest Falmer blood
  • Objective 45: Harvest Orc blood
50
  • Objective 50: Bring blood to Septimus
55
  • Objective 55: Take the Oghma Infinium
100I met a strange hermit named Septimus Signus, who needed the knowledge of an Elder Scroll and a collection of blood to open a dwarven lockbox he had studied for years. I helped him open it. It did not contain what he had expected, but instead a book of great knowledge, the Oghma Infinium.
  • Quest complete
105I met and killed a strange hermit named Septimus Signus, who needed the knowledge of an Elder Scroll and a collection of blood to open a dwarven lockbox he had studied for years.
  • Quest failed

Trivia

  • The Dragonborn does not need to specifically go to Alftand in order to access Blackreach. Mzinchaleft and Raldbthar can also be used.
  • If The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn is installed, the Wretched Abyss is replaced by a mass of floating tentacles, which is how Hermaeus Mora appears throughout the add-on.
  • Arch-Curate Vyrthur from Dawnguard cannot be harvested for Falmer blood despite being the same race.
  • Even if the Dragonborn is of an elven race, they cannot harvest blood from themselves to fill the Essence Extractor.
  • Harvesting the blood from each of the elven races in the game is similar to Hermaeus Mora's Daedric quest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion wherein the Hero of Kvatch was instructed to capture the souls of each of the sentient races in Cyrodiil.
  • Despite Signus implying that he needs blood from all of the elven races of Tamriel, he only needs the blood of elven races that are present in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Bugs

This section contains bugs related to Discerning the Transmundane. Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:

  1. Please reload an old save to confirm if the bug is still happening.
  2. If the bug is still occurring, please post the bug report with the appropriate system template 360/XB1, PS3/PS4, PC/MAC, NX/PS5, XS, depending on which platform(s) the bug has been encountered on.
  3. Be descriptive when listing the bug and fixes, but avoid having conversations in the description and/or using first-person anecdotes: such discussions belong on the appropriate forum board.
Click to show
  • PC When Septimus finds the book, Hermaeus Mora might not kill him and the quest becomes stuck. This can happen if staying close to Septimus, trying to talk to him or reading the book before he finishes speaking.
    • PC (Fix): Killing Septimus resumes the quest as usual.
  • 360 After Septimus is killed and the book is not read, the Lexicon may lock again with no way to unlock it.
  • If Dragonborn was installed and then uninstalled before meeting the Wretched Abyss, it might be impossible to interact with it, thus blocking the only exit and the entire game. Fix: Re-installing Dragonborn and loading a save from before the encounter, and the dialogue will proceed with the 'new' version of the Wretched Abyss.
  • 360 If the save has the Dawnguard and/or Dragonborn DLCs downloaded and, during the current save, they are removed, there is a chance that Hermaeus Mora cannot be spoken to, thus trapping the Dragonborn. If attempting to get Oblivion Walker and this is the last artifact, a way to circumvent this is as follows: Before speaking to Septimus after getting the runed lexicon, save the game. Attack Septimus and have him follow the Dragonborn to the entrance of his outpost, then sheath any weapons. Talk to him, then obtain all of the necessary Elven blood. Return to Septimus' outpost. While at the entrance's highest peak but closest to Hermaeus Mora as possible, Whirlwind Sprint over him. Once the take Oghma Infinium has been taken, one will receive the Oblivion Walker Achievement/Trophy. Unless one intends to attempt the platter exploit, reload the initial save of these steps or another save, as Hermaeus Mora will block the only exit from the Dwemer Lockbox. Note: Even if one escapes by using the platter exploit, not speaking with Hermaeus Mora may later glitch the game.
  • PC360PS3 After completing the quest, the attunement sphere, lexicon, and essence extractor are still considered quest items and are unable to be removed from the inventory.
  • 360 After giving Septimus the essence extractor, he and any followers present freeze up.
    • 360 (Fix) Attacking Septimus then sheathing the weapon and speaking to him may resolve the issue.
  • PCNXIt is possible to dash past the Wretched Abyss when receiving the Essence Extractor and thus avoid having to talk to it. Upon returning with the harvested blood, the abyss is now invisible and cannot be interacted with. You can fire spells/arrows through it, but cannot pass through it. It is possible to jump over it, but it is impossible to exit at this point without failing the quest. The platter exploit does not readily work in this cell, if at all.
    • PC (fix)NX (fix) Failing the quest by killing Septimus removes the invisible abyss, however, if done at the wrong time you cannot get the Oghma Infinum. If under level 15, you MUST wait until after you reach level 15+ if you wish to receive the Infinum. If over level 15, jump over the invisible Abyss, give the blood to Septimus, then kill him right after the door starts moving/opening—but before he enters (if Mora kills Septimus the quest will complete as normal and you cannot remove the invisible abyss). This will fail the quest, but still allow the Infinum to be picked up and used as normal. After retrieving the Infinum, you can leave as normal but since the quest has failed, the second abyss will not appear. If done on Xbox/etc. this may bypass some achievement conditions.

Appearances

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Daedric Quests (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
  • The Black Star (Azura)
  • Boethiah's Calling (Boethiah)
  • A Daedra's Best Friend (Clavicus Vile)
  • Discerning the Transmundane (Hermaeus Mora)
  • Ill Met by Moonlight (Hircine)
  • The Cursed Tribe (Malacath)
  • Pieces of the Past (Mehrunes Dagon)
  • The Whispering Door (Mephala)
  • The Break of Dawn (Meridia)
  • The House of Horrors (Molag Bal)
  • The Taste of Death (Namira)
  • The Only Cure (Peryite)
  • A Night to Remember (Sanguine)
  • The Mind of Madness (Sheogorath)
  • Waking Nightmare (Vaermina)
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