Skyrim:Missing In Action

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Walkthrough: written by Lord Eydvar, not checked
Reward: written by multiple users, not checked
Rescue a missing Stormcloak supporter from the Thalmor.
Quest Giver: Idolaf Battle-Born, Avulstein Gray-Mane or Fralia Gray-Mane
Location(s): Whiterun, Northwatch Keep
Reward: An enchanted weapon or 200 gold
Disposition: 0→1 (Thorald Gray-Mane)
0→1 (Fralia Gray-Mane)
0→1 (Avulstein Gray-Mane)
ID: MS09
Suggested Level: 12
Avulstein attempts a rescue mission

Quick Walkthrough[edit]

  1. Learn of the ongoing feud in Whiterun.
  2. Talk to Avulstein Gray-Mane.
  3. Find a revealing missive in the Battle-Born house.
  4. Optional: Recruit Avulstein Gray-Mane as a follower.
  5. Journey to Northwatch Keep and rescue Thorald from his abductors.
  6. Return to Fralia Gray-Mane for your reward.

Detailed Walkthrough[edit]

An Ongoing Feud[edit]

A confrontation in the streets

While in Whiterun, you will likely overhear an argument between Fralia Gray-Mane and two Battle-Borns, Idolaf and Olfrid, by her stall in the market.

Olfrid: "Foolish old woman! You know nothing! Nothing of our struggles, our suffering!"
Fralia: "Nothing? And what of my son? Hmm? What of Thorald? Is he nothing? So don't talk to me about suffering!"
Idolaf: "Your son chose his side, and he chose poorly. And now he's gone. Such is the way of war. The sooner you accept his loss, the better."
Fralia: "I will never accept his death! My son still lives. I feel it in my heart. So tell me, Battle-Borns, where is he? Where are you holding my Thorald?"
Olfrid: "Do you believe this old hag? "Holding him"? Why I've got him in my cellar. He's my prisoner. Face it, cow! Your stupid son is dead! He died a Stormcloak traitor. And you... you best keep your mouth shut before you suffer the same."
Idolaf: "Come on, father. There's nothing more to be said here."

If you talk to Idolaf or Olfrid about the argument they will explain about how the Battle-Borns and Gray-Manes had been friends once, but because of the ongoing civil war the families have had a falling out due to them taking opposing sides. After the argument is over proceed to talk to Fralia; she will say that Thorald isn't dead and when asked how she can be so sure of that fact will comment that it isn't safe to talk there and will ask you to meet her in her house later if you want to help.

House Gray-Mane[edit]

Avulstein Gray-Mane

Head up the hill and enter House Gray-Mane where an armed man will rush at you, but Fralia calls out for him to stop; he is her son, Avulstein Gray-Mane, who has been hiding in the house for fear of being arrested by the Imperials if discovered. He tells you more of the story and what he wants done: "I know that Thorald's not dead. I just know it. The Imperials have him, and are keeping him somewhere. But I don't know where. Those damned Battle-Borns... they know something. They're hiding it. They practically taunt us with it. They must have some sort of proof! There's got to be something in that house of theirs. I just know it. I don't dare leave the house myself. So I need your help."

Missing In Action...[edit]

The Battle-Borns' secret

To find out what really happened to Thorald, you'll need to get your hands on an Imperial missive in the possession of the Battle-Borns. There are basically three ways to do this, each of which leverages a stealth skill: Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, or Speech.

  • Lockpicking method: The missive is in the Battle-Borns' house on the first floor in a small office adjoining a bedroom; it's to your left if you enter the house through the front door. The office door is locked and there is no key for it; the keys that can be taken from Battle-Born family members only open the exterior doors. You can gain free access to the house by helping Lars Battle-Born with his bullying problem or answering "Battle-Born" to Idolaf's initial greeting, but the lock to the office door must still be picked although sometimes a Battle-Born will have been in that room and left the office wide open.
  • Pickpocket method: Jon Battle-Born is carrying a love letter from Olfina Gray-Mane. Steal it from him, then talk to him about Thorald. He'll initially refuse to say much, but with the letter you can blackmail him into retrieving the missive and meeting you at the Talos statue to hand it over.
  • Speech method: The quickest way is to pass a high level (75) persuasion check in dialogue with Idolaf Battle-Born. He'll tell you that the Gray-Manes are better off believing Thorald to be dead than knowing the truth. He looked into the situation as Thorald was once his friend, and found out that the Thalmor have him at Northwatch Keep... a place people don't ever come back from. The Legion told him to mind his own business after that, and he'll give you a copy of the missive as proof of his story.

Alternatively, the player can also become a friend to the Battle-Borns through one of these methods.

  • Speak with the child Lars Battle-Born. With a little coaxing, he eventually divulges that Braith is bullying him, and he asks for help with the situation. You can speak with Braith and convince her to stop, making you a friend to Clan Battle-Born.
  • When first greeting Idolaf, he asks "Gray Mane or Battle-Born?" A Battle-Born response gains the Clan's friendship.

In any case, return to the Gray-Manes' home with the missive. If the door is locked, wait until Eorlund returns home at 9pm. Once you're inside, speak with Avulstein, who will want to round up some men (Geirlund and Vidrald) to go rescue his brother; you can agree to meet him there or tell him to stay put and let you handle it yourself. After making your decision, it's on to Northwatch Keep.

Prisoner of War[edit]

Northwatch Keep is occupied by Thalmor Guards, who will all turn hostile if you ignore the warnings to stay away. If you talk to the guard at the front entrance, you will have an option to ask for the release of Thorald. The guard will respond with, "Are you joking? Even if we had a prisoner by that name, the only way he'd be released is by order of the Imperial Legion." You can travel to Castle Dour in Solitude and talk to General Tullius, who will deny the request: "The Thalmor? Do you have any idea what you're asking? I'm sorry, that's just not possible. It would cause far too many problems." The peaceful method of solving the quest is incomplete, however, and cannot be pursued further. Once the diplomatic approach fails, return to Northwatch Keep and consider your remaining options. Tullius only gives a letter for the release of Thorald, if you have joined the Imperials and are the rank of Legate.

Avoid the patrols
To sneak in, enter the grounds through the back gate in the northeast section of the compound, then look to the right and pick the master-level door. Once inside, head down the stairs. Around the corner is a guard and an archer; one is patrolling while the other is sitting at a small table. They must be killed to safely escort Thorald out, and if you can do so quickly and quietly you should be able to prevent the guard in the next room from responding. Moving past the next guard and into the far room you will find the Northwatch Interrogator, who must also be killed to safely release Thorald. You won't need his Northwatch Keep key since you already unlocked the back door, but be sure to help yourself to the contents of the treasure chest. Speak to Thorald and he will be released from his shackles after a few moments to follow you, stopping to pick up a weapon along the way. Even though Thorald does not sneak, you can still slip by the previous guard who should still be oblivious to the jail break if you haven't made a lot of noise.
The garrison
This is definitely the more profitable method, as the Thalmor soldiers at Northwatch will be equipped with leveled (steel, elven, glass) weapons and armor. If you opted to bring Avulstein with you, it is likely that Vidrald will die, and Geirlund is level 1 and essentially doomed. They wear leveled heavy and light armor respectively and carry leveled weapons. The haul taken from the dead Thalmor troops will be worth far more than your actual reward, and there's so much good loot available that you may wish to bring a follower to help you carry it all even if that's not normally your style. If you chose to let Avulstein come, then he and two mercenaries will be waiting for you behind some rocks near the fort; go talk to him and they'll begin their attack. There are four Northwatch guards patrolling the grounds and three Northwatch archers patrolling the walkways above who will all turn hostile when you enter the grounds. The fort is pretty straightforward once you're inside; just press on ahead and kill every elf in sight. You'll pass through a mess hall with a bar where you can find a copy of the One-handed skill book 2920, Morning Star, v1, and further on down in a small room on the bottom floor of a big room you can find a Thalmor mage carrying the Northwatch captain's key and the Two-handed skill book The Legendary Sancre Tor. As usual, keep an eye out for treasure chests along the way.

The Interrogator[edit]

The Northwatch Interrogator

Near the end of the dungeon you'll reach a T-shaped intersection; to the left is the interrogation chamber where Thorald is being held, to the right is a cell block beyond which is the exit door. There are also racks of weapons in this area. Head left and kill the interrogator if you haven't done so already to get the Northwatch Keep key, then loot the big treasure chest and free Thorald. Lead him up through the cell blocks to the exit (you can release the prisoners here but they won't actually leave, though they will fight the Thalmor next door causing a distraction) and use the interrogator's key to unlock the door.


Gray-Manes Reunited

Once outside in a safe location, Thorald will thank you for releasing him, saying "I cannot thank you enough for rescuing me from this place. I suspect I'd never again see the light of day otherwise. But why would you risk your life for me, a stranger?" Once the details are explained he will ask you to get word to his mother and will give you a message that she should recognize. He'll then leave to join the Stormcloaks, as he doesn't feel safe in Whiterun anymore. If Avulstein is with you, they'll exchange a few words and he'll agree to follow Thorald; if not then Thorald will tell you that Avulstein should leave Whiterun too as the Thalmor will surely come looking for him (in which case Avulstein will already be gone by the time you get back to Whiterun).

Return to Fralia and she'll ask you where Thorald is. After you tell her that he's not coming, she'll say "What? After all this, I can't even see him? How... How do I know you're telling me the truth, and not just what I want to hear?", giving you a chance to use the secret message "suffer the winter's cold wind...", which she completes: "...for it bears aloft next summer's seeds." That's my boy. So it's true, then. For now, it's enough to know that he's alive. I can find peace in that. Thank you, dear friend. You've given me back my son." She'll then reward you with an enchanted weapon that Eorlund had made for Thorald. In the case that Eorlund is dead, she will instead give you 200 gold as a reward.


  • The quest can be started by entering the Gray-Manes' home and talking to Avulstein, skipping the conversations with Fralia.
    Thorald in the Palace of the Kings
  • This quest counts towards the Sideways achievement regardless of how you choose to complete it (i.e., both quest stages 200 and 201 qualify).
  • While Thorald and his family are aligned with the Stormcloaks, an Imperial-aligned character can complete this quest without additional difficulty.
  • If you find Thorald before the relevant stage of the quest, he will simply say "You there! What are you doing?" and you will not be able to release him.
  • Even if Whiterun is under Stormcloak control, Thorald and Avulstein will still believe that it is not safe for them there.
  • If you follow Thorald after rescuing him, you will find that he will travel to the Palace of the Kings in Windhelm, although there is no further interaction between Thorald and the other Stormcloaks.
  • If Northwatch Keep has been cleared before and the peaceful path is chosen, then the guards will not respawn and thus the peaceful path will automatically fail upon arrival at Northwatch Keep. There is however a way to go onto the peaceful way using console commands. First, add yourself to the Thalmor faction using the command player.addfac 00039f26 0, then spawn in a Northwatch Guard to trigger dialogue using player.placeatme 000C07C2. You will then be able to continue as if you had never wiped Northwatch Keep before.
  • Geirlund is not a leveled actor and will almost certainly die if he accompanies you.
  • If you try to rescue Thorald in werewolf form, he will free himself and become hostile.


  • After completing the quest, Northwatch Keep remains uninhabited. If either of or both Geirlund and Vidrald manage to survive (given you asked them for help), they will remain outside the keep, but they will not have any unique dialogue when spoken to.
  • Fralia's dialogue at the beginning of the quest may occur without either of the Battle-Borns being present.
  • If you wait too long to meet her Fralia at her home after speaking to her in the market, she will not speak to you there, instead remaining stuck at the market waiting for you to talk to her. The quest will not progress at this point.
  • Upon retrieving the missive and attempting to present it to Avulstein, the Gray-Mane home may be permanently locked. This may also happen before meeting Fralia in her house, and it may be caused by waiting for too long between assignments. Sneaking in, even with a pickpocketed key, will make Avulstein and Fralia hostile, telling you that you're not supposed to be there.
    • PC Only This bug is fixed by version 2.0.7 of the Unofficial Skyrim Patch. (details)
    • PC To fix this, use the pair of console commands Prid 1A686 and moveto player in succession to make Avulstein spawn at your location. You can then talk to him outside the house, where he won't be hostile.
    • If it happens before meeting Fralia in the house, you may need to advance the stage using console because she will not speak to you outside. To fix this type on console: movetoqt MS09 and you will be put inside the Gray-Mane household.
    • The easiest way to fix this is first running away from him until he loses track of you and then either sleep in the bed available not far to the west or to fast travel from the location and then back again.
  • The peaceful method of completing the quest is incomplete. The Imperial Order for Thorald's release was not finished and Tullius will simply deny the request. However, there is dialogue for granting the request ("I can only imagine the headaches this is going to cause... Here, take this. Assuming they even honor it, you should be able to get your prisoner out."), that was supposed to trigger if you have completed the Imperial Legion questline. The faulty parameters for the dialogue are that you need to be above or equal to rank 0 in the Imperial Legion faction, but also that the denial dialogue (which takes priority) requires you to be below rank 5 in the faction.
    • PC Only This issue has been addressed by version 1.2 of the Unofficial Skyrim Patch; to obtain the order you must side with the Imperial Legion in the civil war questline and then speak to General Tullius. When you get to Northwatch, give the guard the orders and he will walk you to the prisoner. Once you've spoken to Thorald, the quest continues as normal.
  • The Thalmor inside the keep may turn hostile even with the release order.
    • PC It is possible to go through, type player.addfac 00039F26 0 using the console to temporarily add yourself to their faction. Once you have freed the prisoner and are out of reach, type player.addfac 00039F26 -1 to remove yourself from the Thalmor faction.
    • PC An alternative solution if the player.addfac 0009F26 0 command above doesn't work can be achieved by selecting a Thalmor soldier and typing setav aggression 0 in the console, although this solution can be time consuming if the player wishes to remove the aggression factor from every single Thalmor soldier.
  • Thorald may just stand where he was released with his brother and they will not follow you.
    • Thorald can be forced into action by "pushing" him (walking, running, or rolling into him until he moves) away from the dungeon and down the hall toward the next room. Eventually he will begin to run on his own.
    • Thorald was scripted to pick up a weapon as soon as he is free before following you out which may be the reason for his static behavior. Dropping a weapon near him may result in him picking it up and being ready to move. The weapon cannot be marked "stolen".
  • Thorald may just stand at door and not run away after exiting the building.
    • Once any nearby enemies are dealt with, talk to him to advance the quest.
  • If you rescue Thorald without presenting the proof to Avulstein, the quest marker for him will point to a disabled NPC. Nevertheless, you can still complete the quest by heading straight to Fralia.
  • On occasion you will get the message Quest Failed if you wait too long to complete it. There doesn't seem to be a fixed time for this and it is probably random.
    • PC This may be caused by Fralia dying. Using the console to find her may reveal her corpse. Reverting to an earlier save can fix this. Making her essential through the console command setessential 13b9c 1 could prevent the bug from happening.
  • Avulstein Gray-Mane may attack you for no apparent reason when meeting him at Northwatch Keep. ?

Quest Stages[edit]

Missing In Action (MS09)
Stage Finishes Quest Journal Entry
10 Fralia Gray-Mane in Whiterun is convinced that her missing son, Thorald, is still alive and being held captive. She's asked me to visit her at her home to speak privately about the matter.
Objective 10: Meet Fralia in her home
20 Avulstein Gray-Mane believes his brother Thorald has been taken prisoner, and that the Battle-Borns of Whiterun have proof. I need to find it and bring to Avulstein.
Objective 20: Find evidence of Thorald's fate
Objective 25: Meet Jon Battle-Born at Talos' statue (if you pickpocketed Jon)
30 After being convinced to help by the Gray-Mane family, I've found evidence that Thorald Gray-Mane is still alive, and is being held in Northwatch Keep. Avulstein will want to see this right away.
Objective 30: Deliver proof to Avulstein
40 After being convinced to help, and finding proof that he is still alive, I've offered to try and free Thorald Gray-Mane from Northwatch Keep to prevent bloodshed on either side.
Objective 40: Find a way to release Thorald from Thalmor custody
50 Now that I have found proof that his brother still lives, Avulstein Gray-Mane insists on assaulting Northwatch Keep to rescue Thorald. I've agreed to meet him outside the Keep to assist in the fight.
Objective 50: Meet Avulstein at Northwatch Keep
Objective 55: Rescue Thorald from Northwatch Keep
60 Thorald Gray-Mane is indeed alive. Now I have to get him away from Northwatch Keep and make sure he stays safe.
Objective 60: Lead Thorald to safety
Objective 100: Speak to Thorald Gray-Mane
110 Thorald Gray-Mane has been successfully retrieved from Northwatch Keep. Fearing for the safety of his family, he cannot return to Whiterun, and has asked me to deliver a message to his mother: "Suffer the winter's cold wind, for it bears aloft next summer's seeds."
Objective 110: Return to Fralia Gray-Mane
200 Finishes quest☑ Fralia Gray-Mane is grateful that her son Thorald is alive and well.
201 Finishes quest☑ Fralia Gray-Mane is grateful that her son Thorald is alive and well.
202 Fails quest☒
255 Fails quest☒
  • The following empty quest stages were omitted from the table: 0, 25.
* Any text displayed in angle brackets (e.g., <Alias=LocationHold>) is dynamically set by the Radiant Quest system, and will be filled in with the appropriate word(s) when seen in game.
  • Not all Journal Entries may appear in your journal; which entries appear and which entries do not depends on the manner in which the quest is done.
  • Stages are not always in order of progress. This is usually the case with quests that have multiple possible outcomes or quests where certain tasks may be done in any order. Some stages may therefore repeat objectives seen in other stages.
  • If an entry is marked as "Finishes Quest" it means the quest disappears from the Active Quest list, but you may still receive new entries for that quest.
  • On the PC, it is possible to use the console to advance through the quest by entering setstage MS09 stage, where stage is the number of the stage you wish to complete. It is not possible to un-complete (i.e. go back) quest stages, but it is possible to clear all stages of the quest using resetquest MS09.