I’m a sucker for some good lore, be that exposition or a story told through the environment. The Elder Scrolls is a series that’s no stranger to either of these forms of storytelling, although Skyrim didn’t exactly hit the writing heights that Oblivion and Morrowind did.
That being said, the Dawnguard DLC did introduce some incredibly interesting lore in the form of the Aetherium Shards and the quest that goes with it. Lost to the Ages brings you to various Dwemer ruins, allowing you to experience their disrepair firsthand following the conquest of the Dwarves by King Gellir way back when.
The story of the shards is one of politics and war. It caused civil conflict in Dwemer civilization that spanned decades, ultimately ending the race’s demise in Skyrim.
If all that story mumbo-jumbo isn’t for you, though, the shards can also be used to craft some pretty sweet gear. You have to work for them, though, which is why I’ve put together this Atherium Shards guide.
I’ll run you through the lore of the Aetherium Shards, where you can find them, and what you can craft with them. So, buckle in and prepare for what might be the most entertaining fetch-quest in all of Skyrim.
Key Details up Front
- Location: Arkngthamz, Raldbthar, Mzulft, Deep Water Crossing.
- Cost: None.
- Related Characters: Katria, Taron Dreth, King Gellir.
- Related Quests: Lost to the Ages.
- Item Type: Miscellaneous.
The story of the Aetherium Shards can be read in The Aetherium Wars. Reading this book is also what triggers the miscellaneous task that leads to Lost to the Ages.
According to the book, it was Aetherium that indirectly caused the downfall of the Dwemer civilization in Skyrim, creating conflict between the Dwarven cities and allowing King Gellir to steamroll them.
According to The Aetherium Wars, Aetherium was a rare crystal found in Dwemer ruins. While the crystals gave off a strong magical aura, they seemed impossible to work with.
The Dwemer never took no for an answer, though, and after a large deposit of Aetherium was discovered in the depths of Blackreach, a research alliance between four Dwemer cities was created to study, and eventually use Aetherium.
Arkgnthamz led the alliance and eventually discovered a method with which Aetherium could be smelted, resulting in the creation of the Aetherium Forge.
It didn’t take long for the Dwarven cities to realize how magically potent Aetherium artifacts were. They were so powerful, in fact, that the alliance broke as quickly as it was formed as each city fought for control of the Aetherium Forge.
What followed was decades of civil war in which no Dwemer city-state managed to emerge victoriously. All of this fighting weakened the Dwemer, both militarily and politically, depleting armies and shattering defensive partnerships.
So, when King Gellir’s conquest began, the city-states that had managed to fend off Nord aggression for well over a hundred years crumpled with very little resistance, resulting in the total decimation of the Dwemer presence in Skyrim.
The story of the Aetherium Wars, and the Aetherium Forge, was then lost to the ages, perhaps as a result of Nord propaganda. Gellir’s victories were attributed to his immense tactical prowess and Shor’s blessing, so it made sense that he didn’t want to reveal the truth of the Dwemer already being weakened prior to his war.
However, this story was rediscovered through Dwemer etchings by an adventurer named Katria and her protege, Taron Dreth. Dreth stole Katria’s work on the etching, writing The Aetherium Wars and passing it off as his own, while Katria died in search of the Aetherium Forge.
Craft an Aetherial Item
The four remaining Aetherium Shards in Skyrim can be combined to create an Aetherium Crest. This crest can then be used to craft one single item in the Aetherial Forge. You have an option of three potential pieces of gear:
- The Aetherial Shield.
- The Aetherial Staff.
- The Aetherial Crown.
Once you craft one of them, you can’t craft anymore. There are no more shards to be found, and the method the Dwemer used to mine and work raw Aetherium ore has yet to be rediscovered.
Related Quests: Lost to the Ages
Speak with Katria
To officially start Lost to the Ages and begin hunting for the Aetherium Shards, you need to speak with the ghost of Katria in Arkngthamz. You can either find Katria on your own or read The Aetherium Wars to be given a miscellaneous objective to investigate the ruins where she resides.
You can find The Aetherium Wars in Fort Dawnguard, Castle Volkihar, or the College of Winterhold. You can also find it spawned in various other places once you have the Dawnguard DLC installed.
Once you meet up with Katria, she’ll tell you her life’s story. Listen or just mash your interact button, makes no difference to me. Just make sure you pick up her journal located next to her body.
You should have to pick this up to get Katria to appear, but there have been times when she would pop up before players have read it.
You’ll then be given Lost to the Ages and told to obtain the Aetherium Shard from deep within Arkngthamz.
Obtain the Aetherium Shard from Arkngthamz
For the most part, Arkngthamz is your typical Dwarven dungeon. From Katria, you’ll need to work your way upwards. At some point, she’ll mention falling to her death and you’ll see a log stretching out over the hole you just climbed up.
Katria’s bow, Zephyr, is on the end of that log. Zephyr is one of the best bows in the game, so make a point of picking it up.
Fight your way through the Falmer and you’ll eventually reach a massive wall with a locked door. Around the door, you’ll be able to see five cutouts in the wall with these weird-looking contraptions in them. These are called Tonal Locks and you need to hit all five of them in the correct order to open the door. If you mess up the order, you die.
Now, you could read Katria’s journal and do some exploring to figure out the combination for yourself, but I’m going to save you the time and energy and just tell you.
- Bottom left.
- Bottom right.
- Top left.
- Top right.
Hit them in this order using a ranged attack, be that a spell or by using a bow, and the door will open giving you access to the Aetherium Shard in Arkngthamz. Katria will then tell you she’s heading off in search of the other shards and urges you to do the same.
Obtain the Aetherium Shard from Raldbthar
There are four total Aetherium Shards in Skyrim. You just collected one, meaning there are three more to go. The location of each shard is static, and they’ll even be there before you start Lost to the Ages, so there’s a chance you might already have one, or more, of them. Most players won’t, though.
The order that you collect the shards in doesn’t matter. So, feel free to go after whatever ones strike your fancy. You’ll need all of them to get access to the Aetherium Forge, anyway.
Oh, and unless you’ve already discovered the location of a shard, it won’t be marked on your map, meaning you’ll need to consult Katria’s journal to figure out the location of each Dwemer ruin. Nobody has time for that, though, so I’m just going to walk you through each one now.
The first shard I’m going to point you towards is the one located at the end of the Raldbthar dungeon. This is the same dungeon that the first main Dark Brotherhood quest, Mourning Never Comes, takes place in.
If you explored the dungeon when you completed that quest, then you probably already have the Aetherium Shard from there. If not, you’ll need to revisit it in the mountains Southeast of Windhelm.
If you have Mourning Never Comes still active, or completed it in the past without grabbing the shard, then the entrance to the dungeon will either have bandits in it, or be completely empty. Otherwise, you’ll have a few Dwarven automatons to deal with.
Continue through Raldbthar and you’ll come to a room with four buttons and a metal gate blocking your progress. The third button from the left will open the gate and let you continue onwards.
Eventually, you should reach a room with a raised bridge and a pool of water. There are various Dwemer gears dotted around this room. These gears all have blockages either in the form of some human skeletons, or some Dwemer scrap.
You’ll need to clear the blockage from each gear, including one that’s hidden in the pool of water, to lower the bridge.
The bridge brings a Dwarven Centurion with it, so you’ll need to kill that to proceed. You can cheese the Centurion, though, if you press the button you used to lower the bridge and raise it back up. This will force the Centurion into the water, so you can just pepper it with arrows or spells until it dies from a safe distance.
After that, you’re done with the hard part of Raldbthar. You’ve just got to clear out a few more spiders and spheres before you reach the end of the dungeon and the Aetherium Shard that’s kept there.
Obtain the Aetherium Shard from Mzulft
After finishing up with Raldbthar and Arkngthamz, you’re done with delving through Dwemer dungeons, thank Talos. Unless you enjoy that sort of thing, in which case more power to you, you masochist.
Rather than needing to go into Mzulft itself, the shard here is being kept in a glorified shed just next to the dungeon’s entrance. I don’t know why this incredibly valuable piece of magical mineral is being stored there, so don’t ask me.
Inside the Dwarven Storeroom, you’ll find three locked doors. Two of the doors have Apprentice level locks, while the third one has an expert lock. You’ll need to open at least two of these three locks to get the shard, but you really shouldn’t have any issues with Apprentice locks if you’ve gotten this far into the game.
There’s a little bit of loot besides the shard in the storeroom, although it’s mainly all just scrap and junk. There’s nothing too valuable or important that you need to worry about missing.
Obtain the Aetherium Shard from Deep Water Crossing
The last shard on the list is the one at Deep Water Crossing. This is by far the easiest of the bunch to get. You don’t even need to enter a different load zone to obtain it, it’s just sitting there waiting for a strong gust of wind to send it flying down a cliff.
Deep Water Crossing is an old stone Dwemer bridge. When you cross the bridge, you’ll see that there’s a dirt hill leading upwards. Follow the hill and you’ll reach an altar with some Dwarven gear on it, as well as the final Aetherium Shard.
Find the Aetherium Forge
So, you’ve been all over Skyrim and you finally have the four Aetherium Shards. The hard part’s done, right? Well, no, not exactly. Now you’ve got to find the Aetherium Forge so that you can actually use your Aetherium Shards.
Katria would have you use her journal to deduce the forge’s location yourself based on her notes. Well, her notes are wrong.
According to the journal, you’re looking for Dwemer ruins West of Lake Honrich, next to Ivarstead. Well, you’re actually looking for the Ruins of Bthalft, and they’re in the hills South of both Lake Honrich and Ivarstead.
At the ruins, you’ll probably find a small bandit camp that you’ll need to deal with. Katria will also pop in to point out a strange-looking Dwarven globe.
If you walk up to this globe, you’ll see that there’s a slot for you to put all of your Aetherium Shards into. Well, do that, and some Dwemer science-magic will turn them into a completed Aetherium Crest. The ground will also start shaking, indicating that you need to take a step backward.
When you walk off of the platform that the globe is sitting on, it’ll shoot up into the sky and reveal an elevator. This elevator grants you access to the Aetherium Forge.
Defeat the Forgemaster
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the worst is still to come with this quest.
Take the elevator down and proceed down the very obvious path leading towards the forge room. When you get there, steam will be filling up the area. If you look to your left and right, you’ll see two different raised platforms, on both of these platforms, there’s a valve. You need to use both of these valves to turn off the steam in the room.
When you do, a bunch of Forge Guardians will spawn. These are essentially just stronger Dwarven Spheres and Spiders. The steam will also turn back on. Defeat the guardians, turn off the steam again, and defeat the next wave of enemies that spawns in.
After you turn the steam off twice and defeat those two waves, the Forgemaster will enter the fight. I say enter because he doesn’t so much spawn in as he rises out of the lava behind the forge like some sort of nightmarish raid-boss.
He might as well be a raid boss, too, for all intents and purposes. He’s a Master level Centurion, is absolutely massive, and spits fire instead of steam.
The Forgemaster is genuinely one of the hardest boss fights in all of Skyrim, so good luck taking him down. You do have Katria with you, making the fight a little more manageable than if you were by yourself, especially if you also have a companion with you.
You can take advantage of the platforms where the steam valves were on both sides of the arena to control the Forgemaster’s pathing. This, combined with using Katria as a distraction, will let you keep your distance and effectively use a bow or ranged magic. If you’re a melee user, though, you’re in for a much tougher time.
Regardless of how you do it, you’re going to have to take the Forgemaster down. After you do, you’ll have access to the Aetherium Forge, meaning you can finally make use of your Aetherium Shards/Aetherium Crest.
There will be three recipes available for you to use in the forge:
- The Aetherium Crown.
- The Aetherium Shield.
- The Aetherium Staff.
You can only make one of these, so choose wisely. Personally, I think the crown is easily the best option, but you can ultimately go with whatever piece of gear you feel might best serve you.
If you don’t have the extra materials needed to craft any of the items, you’ll be able to find them in the rooms off of the forge room.
Once you’re done with the forge, say your goodbyes to Katria, and Lost to the Ages will be completed.
Collecting all four Aetherium Shards will grant you access to the Aetherium Forge in the Ruins of Bthalft. Upon placing the shards into a Dwemer globe, you will be granted an Aetherium Crest, and the entrance to the forge will reveal itself.
Upon entering the forge and defeating the Forgemaster, you will be given the ability to use the crest to forge one of three possible Aetherial items. Once you craft one, you are locked out of crafting the other two.
How to Find the Aetherium Shards/Aetherium Shards Location
The first Aetherium Shard you’re likely to come across is in Arkngthamz. This is also the location where you get Lost to the Ages. Enter into the dungeon and proceed through it until you get to a door with five anemometer-like locks surrounding it.
You need to hit each of these locks in order to unlock the door and loot the Aetherium Shard from here. The order to unlock the door is:
- Bottom left.
- Bottom right.
- Top left.
- Top right.
The next Aetherium Shard is located at the end of the ruins of Raldbthar. This is the last shard that requires you to complete a dungeon.
Raldbthar is the location where the Dark Brotherhood Mourning Never Comes quest takes place. If you’ve already completed or received that quest, then the entrance to the dungeon will be clear of Dwemer automatons.
For the most part, Raldbthar is the same as any other Dwemer ruin. However, you’ll eventually reach a semi-flooded room in the Raldbthar Deep Market. You’ll be able to see Dwemer gears on the walls around the room.
Each of the gears is blocked by either a bone or piece of Dwemer scrap. You need to clear the blockages from each gear, including the gear under the water, to proceed to the dungeon.
Once the blockages are clear, a bridge will lower with a Centurion. Defeat the Centurion and proceed to the end of the dungeon to find the Aetherium Shard located there.
Thankfully, you won’t need to actually enter Mzulft to get the shard kept there. Instead, you’ll need to make your way into a Dwarven Storeroom located just outside the entrance to the ruins.
In the storeroom, you’ll find three locked doors. Two of the doors have an Apprentice level lock, while one has an Expert level lock. You need to unlock two of the three doors to get access to the Aetherium Shard there.
Deep Water Crossing
The Aetherium Shard at Deep Water Crossing is the easiest to obtain. Rather than being a ruin, the crossing is simple a Dwemer bridge that connects two banks of a river.
Cross the bridge and proceed up the adjoining hill, and you’ll be in front of a stone pedestal. There is a Dwarven Sword and Helmet on the pedestal, as well as one of the four Aetherium Shards.
Question: Where are the Four Aetherium Shards in Skyrim?
Answer: The four Aetherium Shards are located in Dwemer ruins dotted around Skyrim.
• The first shard is found at the end of Arkngthamz.
• The next shard can be found at the end of Raldbthar.
• The third shard is stored in a Dwarven Storeroom at the entrance to Mzulft. It’s kept behind two Apprentice-locked doors.
• The final shard can be found on a pedestal at Deep Water Crossing.
Question: What Can You do with the Aetherium Shards?
Answer: Once you have all four Aetherium Shards in your possession, you can use them to gain access to the Aetherium Forge in the Ruins of Bthalft. In the forge, you can use the shards to craft one of three potential Aetherial pieces of gear.
Question: Are there Any More Aetherium Shards in Skyrim?
Answer: No, there are only four Aetherium Shards in Skyrim. Once you collect them and craft your Aetherial item, there are no more to be found.
That’s it for my Aetherium Shards guide. The quest to obtain all four of them is pretty expansive and will bring you to each of Skyrim’s corners, making it time-consuming compared to a lot of other quests.
You do need all of them to get into the Aetherium Forge, though, so you don’t have much of a choice but to do the busy work.
It’s well worth it, though. The Aetherial Crown is pretty awesome, and the other two Aetherial items are cool enough in their own right. Plus, the lore associated with the shards is fantastic, although it’s a shame that there isn’t more “show, don’t tell” in terms of where you find the shards.
Almost everything we know about the Aetherium Shards comes from The Aetherium Wars book, but that doesn’t make the journey to obtain them any less interesting.
I hope you manage to come away from this guide with something of value, whether that’s which Aetherial item you should forge or where the shards are located in the first.
Looking for more interesting readings? Check out: