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"You will serve me, willing or not. All who seek after the secrets of the world are my servants."
Hermaeus Mora to the Last Dragonborn, Skyrim (Dragonborn DLC)

All across Tamriel and the greater world of Nirn, be they men, mer or utterly divine, a select few distinguish themselves through their cunning and ruthlessness.

All spoilers are unmarked. You Have Been Warned!

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Daedric Princes

  • Azura, Daedric Prince of Dusk and Dawn, is one of the few Daedric Prince who solicits mortal worship and has come to be known as one of the few "good" Daedric Princes for her charisma and affability. Azura is the one responsible for orchestrating the Nerevarine Prophecy in order to get back at the Chimer and the Tribunal for—as she claims—abusing her sacred gift the Heart of Lorkhan to achieve divinity and causing the death of her champion Nerevar. In Morrowind Azura acts as the guide for the Nerevarine, and through them seamlessly manipulates the destruction of the Heart, the downfall of the Tribunal and the death of Dagoth Ur. Knowing the demise of the Tribunal would also result in the destruction of Morrowind, Azura shepherds all of her followers out of the doomed province and basks in their renewed worship, all of her divine rivals now out of the picture and her Long Game complete.
  • Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of Knowledge, has a monstrous, formless appearance that belies a mind possibly more cunning than any other Daedric Prince in existence. Constantly seeking to hoard knowledge of all sorts to fill the shelves of his arcane library Apocrypha through gambits atop of gambits, Mora bargains with servitors seeking Mora's secrets, rewarding those who are earnest and horribly punishing those who renege on his gifts. In the Dragonborn expansion to Skyrim, Mora realizes his current servant, the Dragonborn Miraak, is attempting to betray him, Mora executes a plan to manipulate the Last Dragonborn into killing and replacing him, simultaneously using them to wrest the long-held secrets of the Skaal by refusing to grant them the last Word of Power necessary to defeat Miraak until they do so. Mora ends up completely untouchable in the end, musing that all the Last Dragonborn has and will do is according to his grand design.
  • Hircine, Daedric Prince of the Hunt and the patron of all lycanthropes, is characterized by his love of Hunting the Most Dangerous Game and distinguished by his unusually rigid code of honor for a Daedric Prince. Hircine adores the cultivation of a Worthy Opponent, always giving his prey a chance to fight back and celebrating whenever his prey turns the tables and becomes the hunter. When fighting the Nerevarine, Hircine holds back his own power and admits fighting at his full strength would be "less than sporting." No less ruthless or cunning than his brethren, Hircine coveted the great Bosmer hunter Gwaering as a trophy and so manipulated the feelings of her bitter would-be lover Ulthorn, sending Ulthorn on a path of conquest that would have simultaneously spread Hircine's influence all aross Valenwood and made Gwaering his own.
  • Nocturnal, Daedric Prince of Night and Shadows, is one of the most mysterious of the Daedric Princes. Nocturnal wins followers through subtle influence and persuasion, spurning outright worship while coming to her would-be dedicants in times of personal crisis so she can "comfort" them and win their loyalty while they're most vulnerable. Ruthless and secretive while ever pushing her followers to strive for their best, Nocturnal's grandest outing came in Summerset when she manipulated Sotha Sil, the Psijiic Order, and two of her own fellow Daedric Princes Clavicus Vile and Mephala all in a bid to use the reality-warping Crystal Tower to achieve omnipotence, a goal she comes within a hairsbreadth of.
  • Sanguine, Daedric Prince of Drunkenness, Revelry, Debauchery and Hedonism will ever tempt mortals into lives of sin and hedonism, luring them into indulgence all in the name of good fun. A reasonable, good natured prankster who nevertheless represents some of the darkest aspects of sin, Sanguine appears in several games where he demonstrates a cheerful charisma and will lure an intoxicated hero into marrying a hagraven simply for his amusement. In his most audacious act, Sanguine tasks the hero with reciting a certain spell to break up a party he considers too formal and stuffy, not revealing it will undress everyone there, to Sanguine's boundless amusement.


  • Jagar Tharn was once the closest advisor to Emperor Uriel Septim yet secretly had his own grand designs for Tamriel. Becoming the Imperial Battlemage, Tharn fed into the Emperor's ambitions to cause aggressive expansion throughout the Empire and satisfied his ego by appearing as a weak councilor when Septim became suspicious. Stealing the powerful Staff of Chaos, Tharn trapped the Emperor in Oblivion and used illusions to take his place on the throne to intentionally weaken the Empire for Mehrunes Dagon. Tharn then drained the staff and broke it into pieces he hid throughout Tamriel to ensure it couldn't be used against him, yet the Eternal Champion escaped from Tharn's prison and did just that. Coming to see the Champion as a worthy foe, Tharn fought valiantly to the very end and managed to leave a legacy of distrust in the Septim Dynasty.


  • Gortwog gro-Nagorm, Warlord of the Orsimer, is a surprisingly skilled diplomat and political genius who sought to create an orcish homeland respected by the other races of Tamriel. Acquiring a letter revealing the ancient Numidium and the means to control it were in High Rock, Gortwog sent copies to all the rulers in Illiac Bay to create strife and a chaotic scramble for the artifact while making his own moves toward it. He aids the witch mistress of King Lysandus to put his spirit to rest to secure her aid in acquiring Numidium's power source, and weakens the nation of Wayrest by releasing a shocking biography that shames Wayrest's queen. Ultimately drawn into a cataclysmic event that warped space and time, Gortwog's schemes nevertheless came to fruition with the creation of the orcish kingdom of Orsinium and the recognition of his people as valued citizens of the Empire.


  • Dagoth Ur, the Sharmat, the False Dreamer, used to be Voryn Dagoth, one of the closest friends of Indoril Nerevar. Whether Dagoth betrayed Nerevar of his own accord or was forced into his current position by the treachery of the Tribunal, the end result was the same; Voryn Dagoth became Dagoth Ur, one with the Heart of Lorkhan and suspended in a strange state of anti-godhood. Dagoth Ur begins an insidious campaign of conquest to take over Morrowind and usurp the Tribunal, spreading his influence through wide subliminal manipulation and cultivating gigantic followings while never even leaving the Red Mountain. Dagoth Ur begins a war of protraction against the Tribunal, cutting off two of the Tribunal's members from their divinity and reducing the final one, Vivec, to an immobile Living Battery powering the one thing preventing Dagoth Ur's influence from spreading even further. Midway through replacing the Tribunal's theocracy with his own when the Nerevarine finally meets him, Dagoth Ur—even driven insane by the Heart of Lorkhan—is snarky, affable, and an utter genius, greeting the Nerevarine as an old friend no matter how they approach him in turn and endlessly treating them as a Worthy Opponent.
  • Vivec is one the Tribunal, the three god-kings of the Dunmer, and the only one remaining dedicated to protecting Morrowind from the deadly threat of Dagoth Ur. Heavily implied to have helped the Tribunal betray and murder their friend Indoril Nerevar, Vivec broke his oath alongside them to use the Tools of Kagrenac to ascend to godhood. The warrior-poet Vivec became a skilled general and negotiator who ensured Morrowind retained most of its power when both the Reman and Septim empires came to conquer, and he used his literary skills to create an extensive and empowering religion centered on the Tribunal. When his divinity begins waning after the resurgence of Dagoth Ur, Vivec orders the Temple to harm and persecute those that threaten the people's faith and orders the Nerevarine to be hunted down on the belief they are an enemy agent. In truth, Vivec fully believed in the Prophecies and knew the true Nerevarine would prove themselves, and recruited them to be his main agent in fulfilling his grand and complex plan to defeat Dagoth Ur. Following the Sharmat's downfall, Vivec begins to dismantle the Tribunal Temple and restore the ancient worship of the Daedra to secure a future for the Dunmer.
  • "Gentleman" Jim Stacey is the leader of the Morrowind Thieves' Guild and seeks to expands his organization's influence in a xenophobic nation. A charismatic and quick thinking master thief, he fights back against his criminal rivals the Camonna Tong and their Fighter's Guild puppets by cleansing the latter of its corrupt leadership. Using bribery and blackmail to turn a few leaders to his side, he eventually organizes the assassination of the Fighter's Guild leader to ensure to the Tong is too weak to further target his people. Outside of such dirty business, Stacey shows his softer side by reviving the Bal Molagmer order to aid the less fortunate in Vvardenfell, while also improving his guild's image in the eyes of the common people. Between stealing valuables for overtaxed peasants and giving them lands deeds to save their homes, he uncovers corruption in many of the higher echelons of dark elf society, and he ultimately retires content with the future of his guild ensured.
  • Crassius Curio is the perverse yet charming Hlaalu councilor who stands out as being one of the few humans in power amongst the dunmer Great Houses. A skilled playwright known for writing bawdy performances, Crassius uses his reputation as a sex maniac to have his rivals underestimate him and give him opportunities to undermine the great corruption in House Hlaalu. He uses his "dumpling", the Nerevarine, as a spy to reveal a governor was stealing ebony from the mine in his city and have him arrested and then to extort and later kill a smuggler who was transporting Sixth House artifacts. Nevertheless pragmatic, Crassius was willing to accept bribes and order assassinations of rival House members to ensure his own powerbase if it ultimately ended the stranglehold the Camonna Tong had on the Hlaalu.
  • Master Aryon is the last truly sane Telvanni councilor who seeks to save his xenophobic and isolationist Great House from their own self destructive ways. Seeking to replace the self serving Archmagister, he grooms the Nerevarine to one day take the position by using them as his agent and guiding them into becoming a powerful sorcerer. In the meantime, Aryon secures his own position by gathering other mages as allies through skilled diplomacy or impromptu rescue and makes the Telvanni stronger by ordering the assassination of key targets in rival Great Houses and leveraging council support to turn Imperial laws to his advantage. Once his powerbase is secure, Aryon calls on the now magically skilled Nerevarine to challenge and replace the current Archmagister to finally have a leader who shares his values and secure the future of Great House Telvanni.
  • Tribunal DLC: King Hlaalu Helseth is the cunning son of dark elf Queen Barenziah who always plotted to make a throne of his own. First using blackmail and subtle threats against his step sister Elysana in a failed bid for Wayrest, he and his mother returned to their homeland of Morrowind where Helseth poisoned his uncle and cousin to become king in Mournhold. A master manipulator, he used elaborate plots to rid his court of spies and assassins against key threats to solidify his position on the throne. Eventually sending the Dark Brotherhood against the Nerevarine, Helseth is confronted by them yet turns the hero to his side to root out plots against him in the Tribunal Temple and Dunmer nobility. Eventually growing suspicious of Almalexia herself, Helseth uses the Nerevarine to infiltrate her inner circle and eventually kill her to secure his imperial-backed throne as the sole power in Morrowind.


  • The Gray Fox is the leader of the Cyrodiil Thieves' Guild and a mysterious rogue whose plans and identity are hidden behind the ancient Gray Cowl of Nocturnal. Known only in rumors and hearsay to commoners, he ensures his guild's secrecy by caring for the homeless and using them as spies and only offering membership to criminals who pass cleverly devised trials. In reality Count Umbranox of Anvil cursed by the Cowl with eternal anonymity, he masterminds the ultimate heist of one of the Elder Scrolls themselves. He first organizes his guard captain nemesis reassigned to protect his countess wife and uses a magical crystal he had stolen to spy on the Imperial Palace. Using this information, he flawlessly plans the heist to allow his accomplice to sneak into the palace through a forgotten tunnel and even be handed one of the scrolls under a guise. Ultimately revealed to have planned the heist not out of glory, the Gray Fox uses the Elder Scroll to undue his curse and reunite with his beloved wife.
  • Modryn Oreyn is the competent second-in-command of the Cyrodiil Fighter's Guild serving under the ineffectual Master Vilena Donton. A skilled leader and warrior, Modryn has been singlehandedly holding the faltering guild together in their bitter rivalry with the Blackwood Company. Losing men and contracts to their rivals, Modryn mentors a new guild member and has them uncover corrupt dealings from their rival before being expelled from the guild after the Blackwood murder the master's son. Even without access to guild resources, he sends his protege to kidnap and then torture a Blackwood leader for information before finally sending his agent to infiltrate the Company's headquarters and destroy their source of maddening power. Modryn ultimately regains his authority after ensuring the fall of the Blackwood Company and the survival of the Fighter's Guild.
  • Count Janus Hassildor of Skingrad is the beloved and respected ruler of the most prosperous county in the Imperial homeland, despite living a double life as a vampire. Regarding most vampires as barbaric monsters, Janus spent countless hours researching a cure and hires a vampiric ally to find the witch that could cure his comatose wife and finally give her peace. While only a nominal ally of the Mage's Guild, Janus aids them in their war against necromancy. Knowing his steward is a necromancer spy, the Count allows the Mage's Guild envoy to fall into a trap to lure out the spy's cohorts and eliminate them all while rescuing the envoy. Acquiring vital information about Mannimarco's return, Janus takes advantage of the Guild's desperation to have their agent eliminate a coven of vampires and the hunters they attracted to keep his hands clean of the whole bloody affair.
  • Seridur is a well respected elven aristocrat who founded the Order of the Virtuous Blood to cleanse the Imperial City of vampires, yet, in truth, is a vampire himself. He created the Order as a front to throw off suspicion of himself and others of his kind and to lull the people into a false sense of security to make his hunts easier. Becoming enamored of the wife of Roland Jenseric, Seridur tried to seduce and feed on her but was caught in the act by Roland. Accidentally killing her, he knocks out Roland and frames him for the murder, sending the Champion of Cyrodiil to silence Roland under the pretense that he is the vampire. Predicting the Champion would side with Roland, Seridur lures them into a vampire-infested cave to weaken them before their confrontation and intends the hide their corpse and later eliminate remaining loose ends.


  • Karliah Indoril was once the co-leader of the Skyrim Thieves' Guild alongside her lover Gallus, but was framed into exile for his death by his real murderer, Mercer Frey. Thriving in exile, she first tries to cut off the guild from their financial support, Black-Briar Meadery, by cutting off honey supplies and even funding a rival meadery for competition. These plans foiled by a rising thief, Karliah tricks them and Mercer to a ruin wherein she tricks Mercer into confessing and turns the new thief to her side. Having Gallus's journal translated from a cipher, she reveals Mercer's betrayal to the rest of the guild and shows herself to be a Nightingale, an agent of Nocturnal, and seeks to retrieve the stolen Skeleton Key from Mercer. Leveraging the souls of her fellows into Nocturnal's service as new Nightingales, Karliah has them help her track down and kill Mercer, return the Skeleton Key to her mistress to regain her standing, and ultimately reunite with her lover's spirit one last time.
  • Brynjolf, a successful thief who became one of the higher ups of the Thieves' Guild, introduces the protagonist to the questline. Seeing the protagonist's potential even if they fail his test, Brynjolf recruits them in the Guild, advises them and task them to commit various missions and thefts, tasking them to avoid killing out of pragmatism, eventually discovering the equally brilliant Karliah's scheme and that Mercer framed her. Brynjolf tasks the player to break into Mercer's house to find out his plan, stealing the two "Eyes Of The Falmer" to run off with them and become rich. Brynjolf becomes a Nightingale along with the player and aids them with infiltrating the dwarven ruins to catch Mercer. After Mercer's death and with the Guild having regained its previous glory, Brynjolf promotes the player to Guildmaster, the latter having successfully proven his worth under his wing. Balancing his deeds with a soft spot for children, Brynjolf proves to be both an excellent mentor and thief.
  • Madanach, the King in Rags and leader of the Forsworn, attempted to lead his people in a violent revolt against the corrupt Nords who occupied the Reach, landing himself in a prison cell within Cidhna Mine and the Forsworn in the pocket of Thonar Silver-Blood. Despite what Thonar believes, Madanach is far from under his control; when the Dragonborn meets Madanach, he's still fanatically adored by his own people and is in the midst of preparing another breakout. Madanach attempts to convince the Dragonborn to join him by amicably explaining his motivations and his justifiable grudge against the Nords running the Reach, and should the Dragonborn elect to join him, Madanach has them prove their loyalty by killing a traitor before breaking out of Cidnha Mine and personally killing Thonar. Far from the barbarian the Forsworn are commonly made out to be, if Madanach is freed, he's last seen giving the Dragonborn the parting gift of his armor and preparing to lead another, even bloodier revolution to take over the Reach once again.
  • General Tulius is the gruff leader of the Imperial Garrison in Skyrim whose able mind and ingenuity leads the Empire within Skyrim's Civil War. Capturing Ulfric Stormcloak, Tulius is only stopped from ending the rebellion leader's crusade via execution by the untimely appearance of Alduin, causing Tulius to prioritise the citizens of Helgen to escape. Tulius later has his soldiers retrieve the Jagged Crown to boost Solitude's respect amongst the jarls. Knowing that Ulfric intends on attacking Whitrerun, Tulius formulates a plan for Whiterun to join the Empire while protecting them from the onslaught. In the end of the Civil War crusade, Tulius personally leads the assault on Windhelm and stops the Stormcloak rebellion by defeating Ulfric and Galmar. Hand picked by the Emperor himself, Tulius shows why he's a worthy mind to lead the Empire's forces in Skyrim.
  • Legate Rikke is the calm, collected right hand woman of General Tulius who proves to be just as competent as her boss. Overseeing the selection of troops, Rikke has them tested to prove their mettle before having them join the cause. The main force along the Dragonborn with fighting the Stormcloaks, Rikke will orchestrate the plans to take over the Stormcloak aligned holds with methods of blackmail and stealth. Not a slouch physically either, Rikke will aid the Dragonborn with the battle of Whiterun and the attacks on the Stormcloak's forts, culminating with her being one of the lead attackers during the siege of Windhelm, ending the ambitions of Ulfric Stormcloak and the civil war.
  • Galmar Stone-Fist is the second in command of the Stormcloaks who aims to liberate Skyrim from the Empire along with his closest friend Ulfric Stormcloak. The commander of the troops, Galmar leads them on their operations personally. These consist of: plundering the depths of the Jagged Crown's location, leading the assault on Imperial forts to rescue his soldiers and leading the assault on Whiterun. Managing to take over all Imperial aligned holds, Galmar along with Ulfric will lead the siege on Solitude to defeat Tulius and Rikke, liberating Skyrim from the Empire and loosening the Thalmor's grip on it's land.
  • Dawnguard DLC:
    • Valerica is Serana's mother who ruled alongside Lord Harkon in Castle Volkihar, spending her time experimenting with alchemy and necromancy. Opposing Harkon's delusions of the Tyranny Of The Sun Prophecy, knowing it would rally all alliances to wipe out vampire-kind, Valerica sealed Serana in a tomb to protect her and to keep Harkon advancing with the prophecy. Seeking to keep herself safe, Valerica constructed a portal to the Soul Carin to allow her to escape and continue with her experiments. Despite being sealed in a keep by the Ideal Masters after they attempted to harvest her soul, Valerica ends up in a stalemate against them, showing no intentions of allowing them to take her soul. When called out for her actions by Serana, Valerica realises how she's unfairly used Serana to spite Harkon and aids the heroes with fighting Durnehviir. With Harkon's demise, Valerica will show genuine gratitude for all the player has done for her and will return to Castle Volkihar to continue with her experiments.
    • Vyrthur was the Arch Curate of Auriel's Chantry before becoming infected with vampirism by one of the initiates. Feeling spited by Auriel despite his loyalties to the god, Vyrthur enacted revenge, knowing he couldn't physically harm Auriel but is able to negate his influence on the mortal realm. Vyrthur let in a horde of falmer to wipe out the other initiates before encasing them in ice. To weaponise Auriel's bow to negate his influence, Vyrthur created the Tyranny Of The Sun prophecy knowing it will draw in Pure Blood Vampires and save him from having to leave the Chantry. When The Dragonborn and Serana confront Vyrthur, he immediately utilises the frozen falmer as a small army to harvest Serana's blood for his goals.
  • Dragonborn DLC: Vendil Severin is a dark elf seeking revenge on Councillor Morvayn for the death of his ancestor. Arriving at Raven Rock, Vendil disguises his true intentions by acting as a benefit to the community, helping the others and sharing his wealth. Meanwhile, Vendil has had members of the Morag Tong training in an old fort to help him enact his revenge and deal with the Redoran Guard, later seeing an opportunity to strike when they're distracted by the Ash Spawn attacks. Despite being found out, Vendil still manages to have two of the Redoran Guard's finest warriors taken out when they scouted his fort.

In-Universe Books

  • Azura and the Box: Nchylbar is a Dwemer scholar that uses logic and reasoning to dispel many of the superstitions throughout Tamriel. Seeking to determine if the Daedra were true gods, Nchylbar sought to test their supposed omnipotence and coerced his devout Chimer friend to summon Azura and challenge her. Simply asking her to tell what was in a box he was holding, Azura correctly guessed a red flower, only for Nchylbar to reveal the box was empty. The scholar use a simple thief's trick to hide the flower and prove the Daedric Princes weren't true omniscient beings. Dooming both himself and his terrified friend to a deadly curse by Azura, Nchylbar nonetheless died happily knowing his reasoning won out in the end.
  • The Dowry: Welyn Naerillic is an up and coming Dwemer nobleman that sought to pass the tests put forward by wealthy landowner Ynaleigh to marry his daughter Genefra and obtain a great dowry. Welyn flawlessly charms Ynaleigh with his own wealth and knowledge and suggests a final test to make the dour Genefra smile. First asking to see the great dowry, Ynaleigh shows off the impossible traps protecting his vault, only for the party to discover the dowry has been stolen. Here Welyn reveals he had already broken into the vault and used the dowry to fund his efforts to win Genefra's hand in marriage. This makes the girl at last smile and laugh and earns Welyn the right to be the thoroughly impressed Ynaleigh's son-in-law.
  • A Hypothetical Treachery: The tricky Dunmer battlemage Inzoliah first demonstrates her cunning when she tricks and slays two members of her own adventuring party in order to make off with their valuable treasure alone. Left at an impasse with the one other mage of the group and both of them now forced to wait for their magicka to regenerate, Inzoliah affably banters with the mage about a "hypothetical treachery" between them, bouncing ideas back and forth about how they'd slay the other. Inzoliah suggests that if she were to incapacitate the mage but he were to survive, Inzoliah would leave him a healing potion as a token of respect. When Inzoliah is injured herself, the mage leaves her a healing potion, ignorant of the fact Inzoliah had secretly been leeching away his life and magic the whole while. When Inzoliah meets the fatigued mage later down the road and he asks if she'd return his gesture, Inzoliah denies him: "she doesn't sound like a fool."
  • The Locked Room: Yana is a spirited young Redguard thief-in-training whose love of toying with locks infuriates her cruel instructor Arthcamu. The pragmatic teacher grows tired of her ways and throws her into a locked room with a sleeping and starved vampire and teaches her a lesson by forcing her to escape quickly. Yana plots her revenge by creating an impregnable lock and convinces Arthcamu to test it in the locked room, and mocks him by saying only a specific key can break the lock. Giving the vampire means to escape, Yana had hidden the key on a chain around its neck as it slept and this proves to be the last thing Arthcamu sees as the monster rips him apart.
  • The Marksmanship Lesson: Dob was once a ruthless Bosmer highwayman until his crimes caught up with him and he was sold into slavery to the ruthless Kelmeril Brin. Whipped on his first day as Brin did to all his slaves, Dob played the role of mild mannered and broken house servant until he was asked to teach Brin's young son archery. Dob only taught the boy how to arc his shots and make them fly far rather than any actual accuracy. Once Brin discovered none of the targets had any damage, he began to furiously beat the wood elf all the while Dob kept up his marksmanship lesson. Dob's instructions allowed his student to arc a shot that kills his own father, and Brin's last sight was the smile of a highwayman looming down on him.