- "There are those that say the Blades still exist around us, in hiding from the Thalmor. Waiting as they have done time and time again, for a Dragonborn to return. For one to protect, for one to guide them."
- ―Anonymous author[src]
The Blades are the former protectors of the Emperors of Tamriel. In the First Era, however, the Blades began as dragon hunters known as the "Dragonguard." After the return of Alduin and the beginning of the Dragon Crisis, the Blades took on this role again.
After the events of the Oblivion Crisis and the Great War, their order began to rapidly decline. The few remnants of this once-glorious order have gone into hiding and are being hunted by the Thalmor after their near-extermination by the Aldmeri Dominion.
- Main article: Blades
The story of the Blades begins with the Akaviri invasion during the First Era. After the Akaviri forces had fought through Skyrim and reached the Pale Pass, they were met by Reman Cyrodiil and his forces. It is said that after hearing the Emperor's "voice" or Dragon Shout, the Akaviri forces knelt and swore fealty to him, whom they called Dragonborn. They later formed the order that is now known as the Blades.
The true reasons for their invasion remains a mystery, though it is mentioned that they may have been looking for a new Dragonborn to serve or hunting down the dragons that escaped their continent.
The Oblivion Crisis marked the beginning of the downfall of the Blades. With the death of Uriel Septim VII and his sons, the Third Era came to a close. With no Dragonborn ruler to serve, the order fortified themselves in Cloud Ruler Temple.
The Blades' role as the Emperor's guards was relegated to the Penitus Oculatus, but the Blades continued to work in secret, watching for a new Dragonborn and guarding the Empire. The Blades were among the first to see the growing threat of the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion. Unlike the Penitus Oculatus, the Blades were not bound to Imperial policy and could operate freely. This earned the lasting hatred of the Thalmor.
Though skilled and numerous, the Blades severely underestimated the Thalmor. By the beginning of the Great War, every single Blades agent stationed within the Aldmeri Dominion had been detected and executed, with their severed heads being presented to Emperor Titus Mede II as the opening declaration of war. In addition to these heavy losses, the Aldmeri Dominion forces laid siege to the order's ancient fortress of Cloud Ruler Temple, ultimately destroying it completely.
Late in 4E 175, the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion signed the White-Gold Concordat, ending the Great War. One of the requirements of the Concordat was the disbandment of the Blades, thus ending the order's public face and forcing them into hiding.
Throughout their history, the Blades were known to have their headquarters in Cloud Ruler Temple, in Cyrodiil. Unfortunately, sometime during the Great War, the temple was destroyed by a Thalmor siege and nearly all members of the defending Blades were slain.
During the Dragon Crisis, the remaining members of Blades in Skyrim found refuge in Sky Haven Temple. It was there where, with the help of the new Dragonborn, the rebirth of the order began.
Sky Haven Temple was built by the Akavir themselves. It served as an outpost during the Akaviri invasion during the late First Era. After the war, the temple was visited by Reman II himself. In the presence of all the Dragonguard, he created a blood seal to seal off the temple. With the seal, the doors of the temple could only be opened by another Dragonborn.
While most of the Blades died during the Great War, a few managed to escape the Thalmor. While it is unknown exactly how many Blades remain, there are three known Blades who made it into Skyrim.
- Main article: Delphine (Skyrim)
Delphine took the role of Grandmaster of the Blades, as she was one of the last remaining members operating in Skyrim. She is a high-priority target for the Thalmor. During the Great War, she evaded several assassination attempts on her life. She returned to Skyrim to hide in Riverwood, remaining alert to the surveillance of the Thalmor.
- Main article: Esbern (Skyrim)
Esbern is a Blade Archivist. He has been monitoring the ancient prophecies of Tamriel and had predicted the return of the dragons under Alduin, the Nordic God of Destruction, whose return would lead to the destruction of Nirn. As an Archivist, he knows a great deal about the nature of the dragon threat in Skyrim.
- Main article: Acilius Bolar
Acilius was a Knight Brother and the only known survivor of the siege of Cloud Ruler Temple. After his escape, he left for Skyrim, hoping to hide from the Thalmor, but was cornered in Bloated Man's Grotto where he was killed. His Oathblade can be found there, next to his writ.
Radiant quests are reoccurring and can be completed unlimited times.
As the loyal servants of Dragonborns throughout the ages, Blades play a vital role in the main quest line of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The first contact with the Blades is made when the Dragonborn tries to recover the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. Instead of the horn, there is a note, asking the finder to rent the attic room in the Sleeping Giant Inn. Once it is done, they are met by Delphine, who had previously taken the horn to lure the Dragonborn here. This was done so she could see whether or not the rumor of a new Dragonborn was a trap laid by the Thalmor.
After Delphine met the Dragonborn, she remained unconvinced of his abilities and revealed that she had seen the Dragonstone, recovered earlier by the Dragonborn. Translated by Farengar, the stone had given Delphine a location of a dragon burial site, where another dragon could have been resurrected. To test the Dragonborn's abilities, she decided to investigate the site near Kynesgrove, inviting the Dragonborn to come with her.
After the site has been reached and the dragon was slain, Delphine witnessed the Dragonborn's ability to consume dragon souls. After being convinced that this was a true Dragonborn, she returned to the Sleeping Giant Inn, where she revealed that she is one of the last surviving Blades.
Saving the Archivist
Not knowing the cause of the Dragon Crisis, Delphine sent the Dragonborn to infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy. With the help of a servant, the Wood Elf Malborn, the mission succeeded. The Embassy, however, held no information on who is to blame for the dragons' return. Fortunately, a document was recovered that states that an old Blades Archivist, Esbern, is alive and hiding in the Ratway, the underground sewers beneath the town of Riften.
Surprised that the old man was still alive, Delphine sent the Dragonborn to rescue him. Slaying a Thalmor search party, the Dragonborn saved Esbern just in time and convinced him to meet with Delphine back at the Inn.
After Esbern met Delphine, he was told of an ancient Akaviri temple located in Skyrim. The temple is said to contain Alduin's Wall, depicting an ancient prophecy of Alduin's return. After this story, both Blades and the Dragonborn began a journey to the temple. Facing a resistance of Forsworn in Karthspire, the group fought their way through and finally reached the door to the Sky Haven Temple.
The temple, however, is sealed. Esbern guessed that only a Dragonborn's blood could open the door, and this proves to be accurate, as the Dragonborn's blood released the lock. After the door to the temple was opened, Delphine and Esbern allowed the Dragonborn to have the honor of entering it first. After a quick examination of the wall, Esbern revealed that Dragonsreach was originally designed to capture and house a dragon.
Esbern decided to remain and study the wall thoroughly while Delphine took on the role of acting Grandmaster, expressing her wish to restore the order and repair the temple.
If the Civil War questline is not completed, the Blades will join (much to the dismay of the Greybeards) the negotiation of a peace treaty between the Stormcloaks and the Empire. Fed up with the arguing, Esbern will give a speech about how both sides are putting their lesser conflicts before the great danger of Alduin. This calmed the participants and rendered the signing of the truce possible.
After the peace treaty is signed, the Blades will ask that the dragon Paarthurnax be killed. Fulfilling this request is optional, but the Blades will cease any co-operation with the Dragonborn until Paarthurnax is dead. Completing the main quest line without killing Paarthurnax will cause this side quest to disappear from the menu. If the quest Sovngarde has been completed, Paarthurnax will be flagged as essential and cannot be killed. However, returning after the epilogue scene will cause Paarthurnax to become non-essential, thus allowing the Dragonborn to get the special ending and be a member of the Blades.
After Delphine has settled in at the temple and the Dragonborn has become a member of the Blades, she will ask for help with restoring the Blades. A maximum of three followers may be brought to Delphine to have them inducted into the Blades. The recruits will receive a complete set of Blades armor and a Blades sword. When they have joined the order, they will move into the temple and make it their place of residence.
After three followers have been inducted into the order, Delphine will send the Dragonborn to Esbern, who will provide the locations of dragons to hunt.
Delphine: "You there. The Dragonborn wishes to give you the chance to join the lost guardians of Tamriel. The dragon slayers. The Blades. Do you wish to become a Blade?"
Follower: "I do."
Delphine: "Are you willing to trade away all claims and titles of your former life? To live here and devote yourself to protecting Tamriel from danger?"
Follower: "I do."
Delphine: "Then by my right as acting grandmaster, I name you a Blade, with all the privileges, rights, and burdens that brings. Godspeed."
Esbern will offer an option to hunt dragons. The new Blades recruits will always help with this quest and spawn near the dragon's location.
After completing the first dragon hunt, Esbern will exchange Esbern's Potion for one set of dragon bones and dragon scales. This potion will give Dragonborn the permanent ability Dragon Infusion which will reduce melee damage received from dragons by one quarter.
Through dialogue, Esbern will also offer Dragonslayer's Blessing, an ability that grants a 10% increase to critical hit chances against dragons for five days.
- Despite both of the factions serving the Dragonborn, the Greybeards have a great distrust of the Blades, whom they blame for diverting the Dragonborn from the Way of the Voice for their own purposes. Likewise, however, the Blades do not trust or respect the Greybeards, whom they believe to be a cult, and are trying to keep the Dragonborn from using their abilities with the Voice.
- They also claim that Tiber Septim would not have founded the Empire had he listened to the Greybeards, though this is debatable too, as it was from the Greybeards that Septim first learned of his destiny and Dragonborn heritage.
- If a mercenary is inducted into the Blades, they will be able to be recruited as a follower without having to pay the 500 .
- Some followers, after being inducted, will no longer follow the player. Teldryn Sero, a mercenary in Dragonborn, is an example.
- Delphine claims that her oath as a Blade binds her from serving the Last Dragonborn until Paarthurnax is killed. However, Jauffre, the Grandmaster of the Blades during the Third Era, states that The Blades are sworn to the service of the Emperor, as the mortal representative of the Dragon Blood of the divine Talos. This contradicts Delphine's claim, since the Blades refuse to serve the Last Dragonborn, who is the representative of the Dragon Blood.
- This is further implied by the fact that Tiber Septim was able to keep Nafaalilargus as his Dragon. And by the existence of Papré, a Dragon used by an Imperial Legion Battlemage of the Battlespire, mentioned in the Starlover's Log.
- Paarthurnax's history as a lieutenant of Alduin during the Dragon War may have been a factor in him being sentenced to death.
- It should be noted that the predecessors of the Blades, the Dragonguard, has dissented against a Dragonborn. Emperor Kastav was disobeyed by the Dragonguard of Skyrim when they refused to suppress the Winterhold Rebellion. The Grandmaster of the Dragonguard approved of this insubordination because "it violates the Oath of Allegiance."
- If a follower dies after they have been inducted into the Blades as one of three people, new members cannot be added.
- The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim