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Skyrim's College of Winterhold's Biggest Mystery: The Augur Of Dunlain

The region of Skyrim is home to all manner of strange and powerful creatures, from dragons like Paarthurnax to walking undead. While many of these beings have significantly fleshed-out lore associated with them, one of these unique individuals appears only briefly, and the game provides little information about him other than what he's known as, the Augur of Dunlain. What questions can be answered about this being and where he came from? Is there more to know than what's explicitly provided to players in Skyrim's dialogue and in-game lore books?

The College of Winterhold is considered by many Elder Scrolls fans to be one of Skyrim's most disappointing questlines, leaving many large questions unanswered and plot lines unfinished. There seemed to be great potential in the way of unsolved mysteries between the Great Collapse of Winterhold and the mysterious figures that inhabit the mage's college, but many of these topics were just left unaddressed by the end of the questline. While there's a small chance that the upcoming game The Elder Scrolls 6 could address some of these issues, it seems unlikely given the game will probably take place in a region other than Skyrim. Many have pegged the game's potential setting as High Rock or Hammerfell, which implies that the College of Winterhold will be left unexplored.

Related: Skyrim: Why The Dovahkiin Doesn't Absorb Alduin's Power

One of the aforementioned mysterious figures residing within the College of Winterhold is the Augur of Dunlain, a mysterious being made out of pure energy that seems to be trapped beneath the college in an area known as The Midden Dark. He appears during only two quests throughout all of Skyrim and only a couple NPCs will refer to him at all, with many others avoiding mentioning him entirely. One thing that players do discover about him is the fact that he holds an immense amount of magical power, despite the fact that the Dragonborn doesn't get to see much in the way of a physical demonstration of this.

It's likely that either the Augur of Dunlain was meant to have more involvement in the events of Skyrim, or that the College of Winterhold questline was shortened from initial development plans. This seems especially probable given his notably unique ability to see into the future. Because of his current lack of involvement in the game as a whole, though, it's hard to find a significant amount of information about the unusual NPC that is Skyrim's Augur of Dunlain. That being said, there are still quite a few clues to his history and identity.

Nearly every character in Skyrim's College of Winterhold is reluctant to talk about the Augur of Dunlain, which seems to imply that he's either feared by the general population - even the mages of the college - or not much is known about him. Two of the more senior members of the college, however, are willing to fill the Dragonborn in on what exactly they should expect when they venture down to the Midden Dark to see him. The first of these is Tolfdir, one of the professors and the eventual Master Wizard of the College of Winterhold. Tolfdir reveals that the Augur of Dunlain was once a brilliant and upstanding student as well as an accomplished wizard, seeming to imply that he delved into powerful magic outside of his studies. He even claims that the Augur of Dunlain, or rather the student who would eventually turn into the Augur, explored magic in a way that no one had ever seen before.

While this doesn't outright imply that what he was researching was forbidden knowledge, it does provide some clue as to what may have led to the Augur of Dunlain's transformation into the energy being that players encounter in Skyrim. Tolfdir claims that he became borderline obsessed with gathering power, utilizing magic in a way that no one had thought to before until he was finally transformed almost beyond recognition. It doesn't seem as though the transformation was purposeful, rather that it was an accident that may have resulted from a magical experiment gone wrong. It caused him to lose his corporeal form entirely, leaving him to exist only as a ball of pure energy.

Related: Elder Scrolls 6: Will Paarthurnax's Survival Be Canon?

Colette Marence, the Restoration magic expert at the College of Winterhold, provides similar information, though she does go into some more specifics regarding the Augur of Dunlain. She reveals that he was particularly gifted in the area of Restoration, though he's careful about dispensing that information to others. This may imply that the accident was caused by a Restoration spell in particular. While there isn't any explicit lore in the Elder Scrolls series that details how Restoration magic could lead to someone losing their corporeal form, it does make sense given that branch of knowledge focuses on matters of both the body and soul.

The Midden Dark, where the Augur of Dunlain remains trapped during the events of Skyrim, features some unique environmental storytelling regarding the character. The skeletons and other bones found in The Midden are arranged in patterns similar to those seen associated with the Forsworn of the Reach. On top of that, Dunlain is a location in High Rock that players can visit in Arena. Both of these facts seem to support the theory that the Augur of Dunlain was a Reachman before he was turned into an incorporeal being. This has led some Elder Scrolls fans to assume that the unique variety of magic he used to achieve his current state was unique to the populations of the Reach. This theory is further supported by the fact that the term "augur" is also used in the Skyrim book "The Legend of Red Eagle" and refers to a specific title given to particular Reachmen.

Tolfdir seems to hint that he was either trying to apotheosize and achieve divinity or that this was an unintended side effect of his magical exploits. One side effect of this apotheosis is the fact that the Augur of Dunlain is not just trapped within the walls of the College of Winterhold, but actually connected to the college itself and its magical energies. It's worth noting that these energies are confirmed to have protected the college from the Great Collapse, the unexplained event that sunk much of Winterhold into the Sea of Ghosts before the events of Skyrim. The timing of the Augur of Dunlain's magical accident is never clearly laid out, but it's quite possible that it corresponded to the time period of the Great Collapse. If that's the case, it could be the Augur of Dunlain himself that protected the college, or perhaps his apotheosis accidentally caused the Winterhold incident in the first place. This would explain why so many Skyrim NPCs seem almost fearful at just the mention of him.

One way or another, given the state of the College of Winterhold questline, there are no real answers to be found about the Augur of Dunlain's identity, what his accident entailed, or if it connects to Winterhold's Great Collapse. What can be gleaned provides just another small glimpse into the fascinating and complex lore of Skyrim and the Elder Scrolls universe as a whole. If the Augur of Dunlain really is that powerful, perhaps future Elder Scrolls games will see players either reuniting with him in the Midden Dark or learning more about him by reading books.

Next: Skyrim: What Are The Actual Elder Scrolls, And Who Keeps Them?

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