This article is about the Daedric Prince. For the Daedric race, see Nocturnals.
Nocturnal, who is also known as the Night Mistress and Noctra to the Khajiit—among other titles[nb 1]—is a Daedric Prince, or "Daedric Princess", whose sphere is the night and darkness. She is associated with, and often depicted alongside, jet-black ravens and crows, which are said to have the power of speech.
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.
At an unknown time, the Gray Cowl made its way into Skyrim, and so did the mantle of the Gray Fox to a Nord by the name of Pjorf Ice-Blade. Instead of becoming the head of the Ice-Blade clan, he left it, pursuing his own interests out of greed, and as a result the clan declined. Scoundrels then targeted the Ice-Blade clan, attempting to steal their wealth. Erikur, the Thane of Solitude along with other conspirators plotted to kill Pjorf’s sister, leaving her son, Smaref, as easy pickings. By 4E 201, They succeeded in making her cause of death look like it was due to an illness. Smaref was left an orphan and last of the Ice-Blades, and the scoundrels began manipulating him. They obtained the boy’s consent to transfer his family’s lands over to them, and sent him to Riften. After hearing of the passing of his sister, Pjorf wanted to step into Smaref’s life and take the role of his guardian. He investigated from the sidelines, he heard of Smaref’s adoption by one of Riften’s wealthy. He saw that while his new father figure was caring, his wife considered the child nothing but a street urchin. He was let into their household for dinner one day, and saw that the wife wasn’t good for Smaref. She revealed that Bolli was asked to take in the child for adoption by Solitude’s Jarl. Pjorf investigated further into this and discovered the plot to strip the Ice-Blades of their wealth.
Pjorf decided that the person that deserved to inherit the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal was the person who was willing to help him get back at Erikur, and faked the death of the Gray Fox. A stranger investigated the grave of the Gray Fox, and discovered a note that it was a fabrication, and took up the task to gain the Cowl. Following Pjorf’s instructions, the adventurer swiped various important documents with fabrications, ruining the scoundrel’s claims to the Ice-Blade clan’s lands. Finally, the adventurer delved into the Nordic ruin of Silverdrift Lair, and took The ancestral Sword of Clan Ice–Blade, so that Pjorf could prove his ancestry. With the tasks done, the adventurer returned to the Grey Fox’s grave, and Pjorf came in-person to grant the Cowl to them, passing on the Gray Fox’s mantle.
The Skeleton Key
The Skeleton Key (also called the Skeleton's Key) is a Daedric artifact created by the Daedric Prince Nocturnal. In Khajiiti myths, it is attributed to being originally Azura's. After Boethiah defeated Nocturnal, she was brought forth to be judged by Azura. She was spared as long as she promised to serve Azura and the ja-Kha'jay. Instead, when the opportunity was right, she stole the Skeleton Key from Azura and fled into the void. 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 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.
The Evergloam is a realm of Oblivion, created and ruled over by Nocturnal, the Daedric Prince of Shadow. It is a realm of perpetual twilight, and the "cradle of shadow". The Evergloam consists of a primary plane and several pocket realms, including the Shade Perilous and the Crow's Wood. These realms are thought to be constantly shifting, and perceived differently by different mortals.
The Ebonmere is a portal linked to the Evergloam, which acts as Nocturnal's conduit on Tamriel. It is located in the Twilight Sepulcher, an ancient temple in Skyrim. The Ebonmere is held open by the Skeleton Key, although the artifact has often been stolen from the Sepulcher by mortals. The Nightingales are a secretive subgroup of the Thieves Guild, who pledge their souls to Nocturnal and guard both the Ebonmere and the Skeleton Key. When a Nightingale dies, it is believed that their soul becomes one with the shadows. As long as the Ebonmere remains open, the souls of dead Nightingales can "walk with the shadows" and bring luck to thieves. As Agents of Nocturnal, Nightingales are permitted to "drink" from the Ebonmere and obtain powerful abilities.
As seen in Daggerfall
As seen in ESO
Her statue 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
- Another item of note which is associated with Nocturnal is the Eye of Nocturnal. Little is known of the item’s origin or abilities other than it was stolen by two bandits in 3E 433 and subsequently returned to the Prince in exchange for the Skeleton Key.
- Nocturnal has a notably large number of titles and nicknames. The list includes: The Mistress of Shadows, the Unfathomable, the Empress of Murk, the Daughter of Twilight, the Mistress of Mystery, Lady Luck, Ur-dra, and the Saint of Suspicion.
- Nocturnal may also be related to Noctyr-a from the story of Ghraewaj, the fabled origin of harpies in the Iliac Bay. 
- Nocturnal's summoning day is the 3rd of Hearth Fire, although she may be summoned at any time at a shrine dedicated to her.
- The Book of Daedra
- The Requisite Book of Daedra
- Invocation of Azura — Sigillah Parate
- J'darji's dialogue in ESO: Elsweyr
- Purloined Shadows — Waughin Jarth
- A Child's Tamriel Bestiary — Shane gro-Orath (Clever, no? Ha, ha!)
- Nocturnal’s Quest from Oblivion
- Hiding with the Shadow
- The Nightingales Vol. 1 — Gallus Desidenius
- Gallus Desidenius' dialogue in Skyrim
- Aios's dialogue in ESO: Clockwork City
- Armand Christophe's dialogue in Oblivion
- The Gray Fox's dialogue during the Oblivion Crisis