During the quest "Missing In Action", I tried to take a peaceful resolution to rescuing Thorald Gray-Mane and decided to persuade the guards at Northwatch Keep to let him go rather than rush in and kill them all. Unfortunately, when I got there, things got...complicated. There's no easy way into the Keep and the guards won't let me in without an order from the Imperial Guard. Does this mean I have to join the Imperial Guard to rescue him? Or is there some other way to persuade these guards?

  • 1
    When I first got to Whiterun, I was asked by someone which side I was on, Battle-born or Greymane. I said something like "I don't have a side." I wonder if I'd said I was on the Battle-born side if the guard there would be friendly to me, and let me walk him out? Alternatively, maybe there is something you can steal from the Battle-born house that proves you have the right to take him? I feel like there must be a peaceful way to solve this quest.
    – agf
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 0:03
  • @agf I definitely agree that there seems like there has to be some peaceful way to solve this quest, especially given that you get that ugly Failed message on part of the mission if you rush in and start knocking heads. That being said, I don't think it has to do with that response: I said "Battle-born" to that guy and he simply treated me in a more friendly way afterwards.
    – Mana
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 1:48
  • OK, good to know that's not the problem. I haven't checked their farm yet; maybe there will be something there.
    – agf
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 7:27
  • @agf Good timing, caught me at the end of my flag clearing. Honestly, based on the dialogue between you and the guards, where they say you have to have an order from the Imperials themselves, I feel like you have to work your way up to a decent position in the Legion before you can take this route.
    – Mana
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 7:31
  • I know tullius has to have something to do with it. I went thorugh the item codes and found something called the imperial order. i think its 000524da I any case, this is what it reads- Note from Tullius allowing for release of prisoner from northwatch keep.......... Yep. They forget to add the text to the letter. Which leads me to believe that this quest is a goose chase
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 20:34

11 Answers 11


To do it, you can try one of the following:

Nope! The only way to avoid bloodshed (at least as of the current version) is to just not fight back. That's possible, especially at higher levels, but as far as I can tell there's no real benefit. You can still complete the quest, as I did, by failing the no bloodshed portion and saving Thorald with force. Maybe next time the Thalmor will learn to just agree when two people show up at the door wreathed in flames and wearing the bones of dragons they've slain.

None of this should be shocking, as the quest can also glitch up if you exit the wrong door, or pickpocket and ask questions in the wrong order.

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    +1 for: "door wreathed in flames and wearing the bones of dragons they've slain."
    – Holger
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 16:24
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    Ditto. I can't get why bandits attack me when I'm a badass Nord covered in daedric plate. Even funnier when you say "Do you think I got any money?" and they say: "Hmm yeah, he probably don't, even with those gold and rubies necklace and rings." Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 16:40
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    Did anyone try to be invisible?
    – user16767
    Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 16:46
  • Tried with invisibility potion and got past guard. Too bad I didn't have many potions. Try this in combination with skeleton key for easy unlocking as you are running past guards.
    – Monkeygirl
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 8:00
  • It talked to General Tullius. He told me to send an order to Northwatch Keep. I talk to the Thalmor Soldier at the gate about it and he let Thorald go.
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 2:00

It is possible to do this mission, saving Thorald, and not incurring any negative Failed missions. But you have to be tricky. Here's how it's done.

The key is: do not attack any enemies. You can aggro them, but don't attack them.

Go to the north entrance to the inner Keep. Run inside and train every enemy to the Southern entrance of the keep. After you train everything to the South of the map, then run by them, healing yourself and run as fast as you can to find Thorald. At Thorald, unshackle him.

Now you can do one of two things. First, run back to the north exit. If you do this then you should have no problems as all the enemies are still trying to path back to you. The only issue with this is sometimes the game crashes when you exit this way with Thorald.

Second you can run through the mobs to the south exit. Or you can use your Voice Power to send all the mobs to the far end of the north hall. If you use your voice then they will all go up there and then you can just stroll by to the Southern enrance.

In either case, as long as you DO NOT attack any enemy, then Thorald won't either, nor will he be attacked by the enemy. Just run out with him, and once outside keep running till the enemies all leash back to the keep.

Done. No penalties.


It is possible to use the console to set Thorald free without failing the "no blodsheed" quest. However, even setting Rikke as a non essential and killing her to obtain the legate armor, there's no way to enter the Northwatch keep with the Thalmor's permission.

Basically, I put a "player.place at me" for Thorald, and once he's out, the quest will automatically update to "completed, set free Thorald". Now, this copy of Thorald is not moving, so you need to kill him and you are able to enter the NorthwatchKeep without failing the quest, getting Thorald to safety in an old fashion style -killing as many Thalmor as possible-.

I guess there must be a way to set him free, and send him to Whiterun once again. Since the Legate armor, or the walkthrough for this quest in the no bloodshed path is not clear, with the console is the only way to do it.


This quest seems to be unfinished — using the console, there are no dialogue options for the quest to have Tallius give the player the Imperial Order, nor any dialogue options by the Thalmor in response to that (there is, however, dialogue by your character). As near as I can tell, it is impossible to complete this quest using the non-violent approach.


The other answers have mentioned that this is indeed a bug. If playing on the PC, this can be fixed by the Unofficial Skyrim Patch (mirror link):

"Missing in Action" can now be completed using the non-violent method Bethesda had partially implemented.

Full changelog

  • In my playthrough, the Thalmor became hostile as soon as I entered the keep. While this may be in keeping with the lore, it seems like a bug and obviously interferes with a pacifist run. Not everyone experiences this problem, but you can use this command to "fix" it.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 17:33

If you chose the "no bloodshed" route and left the brother at home, then you must talk to the guard at the keep entrance while wearing a set of Imperial Legionnaire's armor (not the regular imperial set). You need the armor, boots, gloves and officer's helmet. Weapon doesn't matter. If you're wearing the right stuff you will have an option to have the guard release him.

  • This is exactly the sort of option that I was looking for. Thanks so much!!
    – Mana
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 3:55
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    @Mana This answer is incorrect (as are all the others). See elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Missing_in_Action, there doesn't appear to be any such armor in the game. The quest is unfinished / bugged.
    – agf
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 17:24
  • @agf Ack...good to know. Unaccepted.
    – Mana
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 18:53
  • No such armor. Just a rumor some guy made up and people keep spouting it everywhere
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 20:33
  • That armor doesn't exist. Whether it's a rumor, or maybe a mod to wear this type of armor. There's only the heavy and light set. There are the Imperial Officer's Helmet and the Full-faced one. Maybe one of these helmets can help you, but not the other pieces.
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 2:01

Sit off and snipe the guards you can see with ur bow from outside, sneak in through the main entrance popping em off with the bow still and head through the door and get Thorald and move quickly back out, no getting busted by the guards cos most of them are dead by the time you go in, voila!


Yeah, my Khajit's speach is over 105 with buffs, and he couldn't get an intimidate or persuade out of the guards; I also tried to get General Talius to release him, but he said no way. Only thing I havn't tried is ranking up in the legion then asking, but luckily once you start killing the guards you still get to finish the quest, just not in a peaceful manner.


I Think the option is available for those who have already or are planning to rank up with the Imperials so you don't have to kill your own side.

For those who got stuck doing this by yourself like I did there's a little glitch you can take advantage of. I had decided to try kiting the one at the back door away to kill alone when I found that when i ran directly away from the gate far enough he would turn around and walk back, leaving me the opportunity to pick him off in sneak mode granting me both the x2 damage bonus plus leveling my pathetic archery skill, (I was only level 3). You can literally pick most of them off one by one this way except for the archers but you can use the trees to your advantage here. Inside will be a bit harder but with careful approach you can restrict each group to around 2 or 3. Also you can wear down some of the mages in there by ducking in and out of a corner when they cast at you. It won't stop them from casting at you but it will reduce the amount of spells they can cast.


Well, according to the console, there is an item (ID 000524DA1) named the "Imperial Order" which is readable (Text: "Note from Tullius allowing for release of prisoner from Northwatch Keep"). Having it in the inventory is not enough, however, to free Thorald. Seems there is one other step needed to gain the Imperial Order - adding it via console does not work.

So far, I have not been able to find out how to obtain the Imperial Order, though :-(


I think you don't have to not to fight back at all. If you've notice guards there stops attack after their hp fall to certen lever, you must stop hitting them to make sure not killing anyone( and once their hp recover they stand up and stars to bit you, you have to nock them down again but be careful not to kill). As long as nobody die and you get thorald out to safety the quest will not be failed.

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