The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 12: Bleak Falls Barrow

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

I remember this! It actually shouldn't take long. I mount Sarah the Implausible Horse and canter up into the mountains.

I find it easily and trot up to the gate, alerting a few bandits. As I dismount, one of them runs in my direction yelling, confusingly, "You've beaten me! I yield!" Belrand emerges from behind a stone column and hacks him down. Ah. Hi Belrand!

Belrand is already charging at the next bandit, and to my alarm, so is Sarah the Implausible Horse. I see another bandit aiming a bow at her, so I hit him with a bolt of Calm. He stops, puts his bow away, and wanders off to rethink his life. Sarah rears up and kicks the other bandit, and Belrand finishes him off. We head inside.

I Fury a few bandits and rats into killing each other, and Belrand mops up the survivors. The only trouble we hit is in the giant spider's lair - not the giant spider, but the archway leading to it. It's covered in strong cobweb.

I can't Illusion that away, and I'm not entirely sure if my rules allow me to punch it. I try telling Belrand to do it - you can give followers orders, of sorts. But when I point at the cobweb, the only command I can give him is to try to walk through it.

"Okay, got it!" he says in his chirpy Nordic accent. He walks directly into the cobweb, stops, and looks back at me. "Nope. Not possible." Thanks for trying, man.

My self-imposed rules say I'm not allowed to "directly hurt anyone or anything" - the 'thing' was meant to cover monsters, but I guess a cobweb is also a thing. Can you 'hurt' a cobweb? After careful philosophical analysis, I decide that you can't and put my fist through it.

The giant spider is irrelevant - I'm powerful enough to pacify her with a Calm spell, walk past, and chat to the man stuck in her other web. He wants out, understandably, so I very carefully punch around him to clear the web without causing damage. He runs off, Belrand gives chase, and I stroll along behind.

Eh, you'll be fine.

When I catch up to them, they're both fighting Nordic zombies in a crypt. I run past, and inadvertantly step on a stone that triggers metal rack of spikes to swing out of the wall, smacking the thief and a zombie off their feet. Huh! Well, it might not be illusion magic, but it's not direct violence either.

I was hoping to be able to run straight through the final chamber and escape without a kerfuffle, but unfortunately we need something from the Draugr Scourge in the final crypt. Belrand's only too happy to take care of it, while I keep him on his feet with Courage - the Draugr's a zombie, so I can't cast illusion magic directly on him.

On the Draugr's corpse, I find the dragonstone the Jarl will want. In his crypt, I also find a two-handed axe with heavy damage and a frost enchantment - I pass it to Belrand and he equips it eagrely. Outside, I find Sarah and gallop back to Whiterun.

The dragon's been sighted. They want me to help them kill it. Oh Lord.

Next:the dragon.