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In Skyrim, when I backstab an enemy his allies notice, even if they're facing the opposite direction and I kill the target in one hit. This makes it difficult to ambush a column of soldiers escorting a prisoner.

Is it possible to kill the target in one hit without anyone noticing?

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Are you sure the allies are facing away? I've backstabbed someone right next to a turned around person without arousing suspicion at all. What weapon were you using for the backstab? – l I Nov 25 '11 at 2:43
I use either a dagger or bow, and hit the target at the back of a marching column. I have 100 sneak and the allies are all facing away. – Joe Dovahkiin Nov 25 '11 at 2:48
hmm... could be because they're in a marching column. Do you get the slit throat animation by any chance? – l I Nov 25 '11 at 3:24
up vote 11 down vote accepted

No kill is silent, because the target always makes a noise when they die. You can however (if your sneak is high enough and you're far enough away) get away from the body so you remain hidden, and they search for a few seconds before saying something like "My mind's playing tricks on me" (because you know, your friends always just die for no reason).

If you're far enough away from other enemies then they won't hear the target dying so it will seem to be silent (they don't have to be that far away).

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You have to be far enough to do a silent kill or the guards/enemies will hear the sound of the dead body.

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this doesn't add anything to the accepted answer. – Michel Mar 3 '14 at 3:19

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