Nocturnal, who is also known as the Night Mistress among other titles[nb 1], is a Daedric Prince, or rather "Daedric Princess", whose sphere is the night and darkness. She is frequently depicted accompanied by jet-black ravens, which are said to have the power of speech.
Nocturnal possesses several realms throughout Oblivion. One such realm, Shade Perilous, was once accessible through the Battlespire, but has since been isolated due to the Battlespire's destruction. The Twilight Sepulcher is the temple dedicated to Nocturnal which houses the Ebonmere, a conduit to the Evergloam, which is guarded by the Nightingales.
The Gray Cowl of Nocturnal
The Gray Cowl of Nocturnal is a daedric artifact that once belonged to Nocturnal. It takes the form of a dark leather cowl, which obscures the face of the wearer. Nocturnal is revered as a god by thieves across Tamriel. Her reputation as the Mistress of Shadows has sometimes led thieves to attempt to steal an item from her to prove their greatness. As Nocturnal is usually depicted wearing a cloak and a cowl, it is around these two items that legends have arisen. The story of the theft of Nocturnal's cloak is probably fiction, as is at least one story of the theft of the cowl, but the cowl is known to have left her possession. It appears to have been stolen by a thief named Emer Dareloth, the first guildmaster of the Thieves Guild, although a curse bestowed upon the cowl by Nocturnal meant that the name of cowl's owner is lost to mortal memory. "Whosoever wears it shall be lost in the shadows. His true nature shall be unknown to all who meet him. His identity shall be struck from all records and histories. Memory will hide in the shadows, refusing to record the name of the owner to any who meet him. He shall be known by the cowl and only by the cowl." This curse was broken when history was rewritten through the use of an Elder Scroll.
The cowl is inscribed with the phrase "Shadow hide [y]ou" written in the Daedric Alphabet, though as is common in the daedric alphabet, the letter Yahkem (Y) is omitted from the inscription. The phrase is also used as a code between thieves, either as a form of praise to Nocturnal or a literal expression of hope. The Nightingales of Nocturnal believe the true meaning of the phrase is a reference to their fate after death, when their souls journey to the Evergloam and become one with the shadow, the cloak that covers their fellow thieves. The Office of the Unseeing Eye, a section of the Cult of the Ancestor Moth, expressed a desire to find the cowl in order to see if the curse does exist, and research further on how to remove it.
After having been stolen by Emer Dareloth, the cursed cowl was handed down from one guildmaster to the next in the Cyrodiil branch of the Thieves Guild. This forced the guildmasters to work under the persona of the Gray Fox. Thought to be a myth by most members of the public, the identity of the Gray Fox came about over the course of three hundred years, as the guildmasters lost their individual identities and became known only as the bearer of the Cowl. Legends propagated around the mysterious master thief, who was thought to possess immortality and supernatural thieving abilities. He was viewed as a hero by the beggars and the lower classes of Cyrodiil, but he was hated by the nobility and the Imperial Watch. The curse was broken in 3E 433, when Count Corvus Umbranox, the contemporary Gray Fox, organised the theft of an Elder Scroll from the Imperial Library in the Imperial Palace. Umbranox used the Scroll to rewrite history and remove Nocturnal's curse. Without the curse, the past guildmasters were able to work openly, and the Thieves Guild became more prosperous. Umbranox regained his identity and his title as Count of Anvil, and the Cowl was passed on to a new guildmaster. Even without the curse, the Cowl still had the ability to cloak the true identity of the wearer, and it was still identified with the infamous Gray Fox. By 4E 201, the Gray Fox remains a revered character among thieves.
The Skeleton Key
The Skeleton Key (also called the Skeleton's Key) is a Daedric artifact created by the Daedric Prince Nocturnal. In appearance it doesn't always take the form of a key, and sometimes manifests as a lockpick instead. In its key form, it can be used to unlock any lock. As a lockpick, it is nigh unbreakable and can get past even the toughest locks. The two limitations placed on the Key by wizards who sought to protect their storehouses were that the Key could only be used once a day and it would never be the property of one thief for too long, eventually disappearing. The artifact functions as a tool for "unlocking" all things, including portals, hidden potential, and other unknown possibilities. Its ultimate function, however, is to unlock and hold open the Ebonmere, a portal to Nocturnal's realm, Evergloam, located in the Twilight Sepulcher of Skyrim. The Nightingales are tasked with guarding the Sepulcher and retrieving the Key should it be stolen. Unfortunately, the Prince is said to allow the Skeleton Key to be stolen or lost periodically, whether by purpose or apathy.
The first supposed wielder of the Key was the thief Arrovan. After disappearing, the Key always chose inaccessible places to hide, and for the benefit of historians Arrovan made a list of the various resting places. The Skeleton Key was uncovered during the Imperial Simulacrum by the Eternal Champion in either Valenwood or Summerset Isles (reports vary) while following rumors of the Key having appeared in one of the known dungeons. In the events leading up to the Warp in the West, an unknown agent of the Blades was tasked by Nocturnal to kill a mage in his stronghold. The agent was then gifted the Key by a worshipper of the Prince. The Key later came into the possession of Gentleman Jim Stacey, leader of the Thieves Guild in Vvardenfell. The Key was passed on to the Nerevarine in 3E 427, although how Stacey came to lose it is unclear: some say it was in return for killing Sjoring Hard-Heart, the Master of the Vivec City Fighters Guild, while others say the Nerevarine took it by force.
Circa 3E 433, an artifact known as the Eye of Nocturnal was stolen from Nocturnal's shrine in Cyrodiil's Blackwood region. Nocturnal tasked the Champion of Cyrodiil with recovering it. The thieves, an Argonian couple in Leyawiin, hid it in a flooded cave in Topal Bay. The Champion returned it to Nocturnal and was rewarded with the Skeleton Key.
Some time before 4E 201, the Key was stolen from the Twilight Sepulcher by Mercer Frey, a corrupt Nightingale. Its long-term loss resulted in a decline of the Skyrim branch of the Thieves Guild due to bad luck without Nocturnal's influence. The guild's influence declined until their only presence was in the Ratways beneath Riften. Mercer used the Key to bring himself luck, but he was eventually confronted by the Nightingales beneath the Great Statue of Irkngthand. Mercer was killed, and the Last Dragonborn brought the Key back to the Sepulcher, reopening the Ebonmere.
The Bow of Shadows
The Bow of Shadows is a Daedric artifact that, according to legend, was forged by the Daedric Prince Nocturnal. The legendary ranger, Raerlas Ghile, was granted the Bow for a secret mission that failed. The Bow was lost, though Raerlas is said to have used it to take scores of his foes down with him. The Bow is said to grant the user invisibility and increased speed. Many sightings have been reported; it is said that the Second Era Dunmer assassin Dram once wielded it. Dram likely used the Bow during the Battle of Hunding Bay, when he shot Prince A'tor with the poisoned arrow that eventually killed him. Dram also made use of the bow during the rebellion of Stros M'Kai, led by the Restless League, most notably in battle against Cyrus the Redguard.
Near the end of the Third Era, the Bow came into the possession of a necromancer named Goris the Maggot King. In 3E 427, the Nerevarine killed Goris and his accomplice Luven in the Venim Ancestral Tomb, a tomb in the Grazelands of Vvardenfell which Goris used as a lair. The Nerevarine then retrieved the Bow. Later that year, the Bow was sold to Torasa Aram and put on display in her Museum of Artifacts in Mournhold.
As seen in Daggerfall
Her statue in Oblivion
The Skeleton's Key, as seen in Daggerfall
The Skeleton Key, as seen in Morrowind
The Skeleton Key, as seen in Oblivion
The Skeleton Key, as seen in Skyrim
The Bow of Shadows, as seen in Morrowind
The Gray Cowl of Nocturnal, as seen in Oblivion
- Nocturnal's summoning day is the 3rd of Hearth Fire, although she may be summoned at any time at a shrine dedicated to her.
- This article is about the Daedric Prince. For the Daedric race, see Nocturnals.
- The Book of Daedra
- The Requisite Book of Daedra
- Invocation of Azura — Sigillah Parate
- Purloined Shadows — Waughin Jarth
- A Child's Tamriel Bestiary — Shane gro-Orath (Clever, no? Ha, ha!)
- Letters for the Battlespire Hero — Vatasha Trenelle and Josian Kaid
- The Doors of Oblivion — Seif-ij Hidja
- The Nightingales Volume I: - Who We Are — Gallus Desidenius
- Hiding With the Shadow
- Armand Christophe's dialogue in Oblivion.
- The Gray Fox's dialogue during the Oblivion Crisis