Skyrim Quest Walkthrough: A Cornered Rat


After infiltrating the Thalmor Embassy, return to Riverwood and inform Delphine of what you learned from the Thalmor records. It seems the Thalmor are not responsible for the dragon attacks and are also searching for an explanation, and they are hunting a man who they think can give it to them. The task now is retrieve the Blade archivist Esbern from his current hiding place in the city of Riften before Thalmor agents get to him first.


Delphine tells you a phrase that you can say to him to identify yourself as a contact of hers when you meet him. Upon arriving in the city, ask around for information on Esbern’s whereabouts. When you come to the Ragged Flaggon, talk to the bartender and bribe him to get information about Esbern. He will tell you that the man you’re looking for is hiding in the city’s subterranean network of tunnels known as the Ratway. From this point on, just follow your map.


The sewers and tunnels in question are inhabited by a number of predatory thugs, but they should be no match for you. You will also have to deal with some Thalmor agents who have come looking for Esbern. When you reach the door to the chamber where Esbern is hiding, he initially refuses to let you in. Speak the phrase that Delphine told you to say to get him to trust you when you find him, and he’ll open his door and let you in.


Once you’re inside, he’ll start talking about the apocalyptic implications of the return of an ancient dragon known as Alduin World-Eater. He agrees to follow you to Delphine’s base in Riverwood where the three of you can decide what to do next.


As soon as Esbern leaves his hiding place, more Thalmor agents will appear and attack. Esbern is a capable mage and will summon atronachs whenever engaged in battle, but don’t let anyone get close to him. Depart back through the Warrens and leave Riften for the Sleeping Giant Inn in Riverwood where Delphine awaits.


24 Responses

  1. madoda72 says:

    In A Cornered Rat I am unable to gain entry to Esbern’s cell in any manner shape or form. Addition-
    ally Esbern’s captions pass by too quickly to read
    and there is no indication of him releasing the locks
    on the back of the door at what might be due moment.

    • Luther says:

      Have you tried going back a save yet? If not you should probably try it. When I spoke to him through the door it happened automatically and he opened the door after me telling him that thing Delphine tells you to tell him. I’ve never heard of a glitch like this… Are other character’s dialogues this fast as well?

  2. bobby says:

    Yeah the same thing is happening to me… i use the response, and he just shuts the door.

  3. steve says:

    I went through, got what I needed, fought my way out and returned to Riverwood to talk to Delphine but can not locate her anywhere.
    Anyone have a suggestion. The walkthrough said she would be in Riverwood.

  4. costin says:

    Hello, everybody. Alex was right, that fixed the problem with the door, I managed to escort finally Esbern to the secret chamber of Delphine. But the guy still doesn’t speak, his dialogues still run fast, (lucky that Delphine translates from time to time what he says) so I am afraid that this will happen again when I’ll meet Esbern sometime in the future. Is there a solution to fixing this entire problem? Thanks!

  5. joe says:

    how the hell do you get him out of the cave
    i cant find any door?
    it just keeps leading me to a wall???

  6. Andrew says:

    i got esbern. then i fast travelled to riverwood and talked to delphine, esbern still hasnt showed up and i cant continue the quest. what can i do?

  7. Evan says:

    i used alexs way of fixing it but then he disappeared and i cant find him

  8. Andrew pollock says:

    I have been playing all the side quests and somehow i cant get back to the main story the cornered rat quest has disapeared out of my journal how do i get it back.I go to Riften to look for Esbern but nobody talks about him including the barman in thieves guild.

    • ville paananen says:

      im also in a similar situation! I have finished the whiterun college quest and most of the companions quest. Delphine gave me the instructions to ask for esberns whereabouts in riften, but nobody seems to want to talk about it! And yes, the quest has disappeared from my journal… need some serious help!

  9. reny says:

    im following esbern out of sewers and cant get past trap at doorway with man on foloor any ideas

  10. angel says:

    who the hells esbern? i finished that level and somehow i’m talking to this thief

  11. Brad says:

    I fast travelled back to Riverwood because im lazy.. and now I cannot find or trace Esbern at all… :/ kinda dont want to go back to the save before I got him either because ive killed a dragon and got married in that time thinking eventually he will arrive at the inn… he hasnt

  12. rune says:

    I got the glitch that doesn’t open the door but I fixed that. Then I got back to RiverWood and went to the inn and Esbern is still following me. But when I got down to the secret chamber, I talked Delphine but I still didn’t complete the quest. And Esbern doesn’t talk to me. What should I do?

  13. Goran says:

    I have escorted elberg outside from the city, but he keeps walking by himself to riverwood…is there any faster way to escort him, cause this is really pain in the ass to walk slovely to riverwood??

  14. sue says:

    when u r in the little kitchen looking for your supplies tht you gave to malborn its not there. when you go back to riverwood its in one of those chests in the girls secret hidey room

  15. bob says:

    im stuck on i have elberg but i cant find a lever to get past a wood bridge and im stuck in the sewer area….. wheres the lever

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