- Meet Tolfdir outside Saarthal
The Saarthal excavation site is Southwest of the city of Winterhold. You can fast travel from the college to the city to save some time. There are lots of things to pick up while in Saarthal that you can sell later, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to sell any extra stuff you are carrying to make room (and bring Lydia with you). Then, from the center of the city, head Southwest between the two mountains.
Once you get to the excavation site, talk to Tolfdir and tell him you are ready to go. He will tell you to stay close to him while you are inside. Follow Tolfdir through the door and down the ramp.
Ask Tolfdir what he wants you to do. He will ask you to assist one of his scholars, Ariel Gane, with his work cataloging and uncovering the ruins. Find Arniel Gane. Follow the tunnel with the lanterns, then down a ramp, and go through a bridge and another tunnel, to finally find Ariel Gane in a small room. Talk to him. Tell him Tolfdir sent you to help him. He tells you he has only looked in a portion of this section and asks you to explore the chamber north of here. He wants you to round up the rest of the magical artifacts so that he can catalog them.
Your quest journal will now be updated with the following: "I've been asked to assist Arniel Gane in his work at the excavation in Saarthal by collecting enchanted objects scattered around the ruins."
- Search for magical artifacts (0/4)
Bring up your inventory and equip the amulet. This will cause the section of the wall from which the amulet was taken to resonate. Fire a spell at the wall. This will blast open the section of the wall. Follow Tolfdir.through the opening
When you reach a chamber, suddenly the ghost of Nerien appears. He will tell you that you have set up a chain of events that cannot be stopped. Judgment will be passed based on your actions to come and how you deal with the dangers ahead of you. This warning is passed because the Psijic order believes in you. You alone have the potential to prevent disaster.
The ghost vanishes. Talk to Tolfdir about the apparition. He did not see it. Tell him it spoke to you, about some danger ahead and the Psijic order. He will tell you that's odd, since the Psijics have no connection to these ruins and noone has seen them in ages. He suggests looking for answers inside these coffins.
Your quest panel is updated: "While in an unexplored area of Saarthal, I received a vision from someone in the Psijic Order saying that there's something dangerous in Saarthal. Despite this, Tolfdir wishes to forge ahead and has asked that I follow him"
Follow Tolfdir. Suddenly some Draugr appear! Defeat them, then keep following him. Activatet the lever downstairs to lift the gate. You will reach a big room. More Draugr will attack. Help Tolfdir kill them. After you kill the skeletons, your objective is to find the danger within Saarthal. Activate the two chains on both sides of the door, and enter Saarthal. Be sure to save the game before doing so as many dangers lay ahead!
From the entrance, head east, and then south. Climb up some stairs and open an iron door to the east. Keep heading east, then turn north. Beware of traps and draugr.
You will reach a section with six pillars that need to be arranged correctly.
Each pillar has 3 possible symbols: Bird, Snake, and Fish/Whale
The key to this puzzle is to look closely behind and above each pillar. The correct symbol for each pillar is shown there on the wall.
Facing the lever and the gate, in the room that is farthest back from the lever, set the left pillar to bird and the right pillar to whale. In the middle room, still facing the same direction, set the left pillar to snake and the right pillar to bird. In the lever room, again facing the lever and gate, set the left pillar to whale and the right pillar to bird.
The pillars should look like this:
WHALE - BIRD
SNAKE - BIRD
BIRD - WHALE
Pull the lever. If the pillars are in the incorrect position, you will set a trap. If they are in the correct position, the gate will open.
Go through and reach another iron door. Go through the door, but be ready for a difficult fight with a Draugr Wight. After you beat the Draugr Wright, climb up the stairs and go through another iron door. Here you will find another room with 4 pillars. This is another puzzle.
Four Pillars Puzzle solution:
At first glance, the puzzle seems very easy. Your goal is simply to set each pillar to match the symbol on the wall behind and above it. However, it is not that simple due to the fact that moving some pillars causes others to move as well.
Stand at the back of the room facing the lever and door (look at the compass, you will be facing SOUTH)
Below is a diagram of how the room should look based on the your position. The number of each pillar is important to the solution of the puzzle.
Pillar #4 - Pillar #2
Pillar #3 - Pillar #1
The number of the pillar denotes how many total pillars it rotates when you turn it.
Start by turning Pillar #4 to WHALE.
Pillars , 2, and 3 will also rotate.
Next, move pillar 3 to SNAKE
Pillars 1 and 2 will also rotate
next, rotate pillar 2 to BIRD
Pillar 1 will also turn
Last, turn pillar 1 to WHALE
no other pillars will rotate
It should now look like this:
WHALE - BIRD
SNAKE - WHALE
Pull the lever. The gate will open and you should go through it down the hallway. At this point, Tolfdir will show back up.
Open the iron door to the WEST. You will reach a big chamber with some sort of magical green glowing sphere in the center. Be careful because you are about to get attacked by a very powerful draugr creature.
Suddenly Jyrik Gauldurson rises from his throne! You can begin attacking him, but he will be invincible to your attacks. Tolfdir begins attacking the green glowing orb which appears to be Jyrik's source of power. Your job is basically to keep Jyrik busy and try to hurt him as much as you can.
Once Jyrik is dead, search his body immediately to find a Gauldur Amulet Fragment and a writ of sealing. The Fragment increases your Magicka by 30 points so feel free to equip it. Reading the Writ of Sealing unlocks a new quest.
Tolfdir will tell you that the Arch-Mage, Savos Aren, must be informed of the news immediately. He asks you to go deliver the message to the archmage. Your objective now is to talk to the Archmage in the college of Winterhold.
Before leaving the chamber, search the rest of the area for loot. There will be some gold in the urns on the wall. On the tomb, there will be the Staff of Jyrik Gauldurson which is pretty powerful and valuable. A burial urn will have a valuable item in it (ring, garnet, etc.).
When you are done looting, exit through the iron door to the WEST. Enter a grotto with blue glowing glyphs on the wall. Read the glyphs. You will learn the Word of power Ice, Ice Form. Loot the chest and leave.through the door to the Southwest. Activate the handle and exit through the gate. Work your way up the excavation and exit to Skyrim. Bring up the map and Fast Travel to the college of Winterhold. Find the Archmage, most likely in the Arch-Mage's quarters in the Hall of the Elements. Tell him you need to speak to him about Saarthal. Report your findings to him. Tell him about the orb you found. He will thank you for bringing it to his attention and will reward you with a Staff of Magelight.
This completes the College of Winterhold quest "Under Saarthal" and unlocks the third quest in the mage series, "Hitting the Books"