As you walk into the Riverwood Trader in the town of Riverwood, you witness Camilla and the shopkeeper having an argument. When you talk to the shopkeeper, Lucan Valerius, he tells you that he is having some problems with bandits who recently broke into his store. The robbers were seemingly interested in only one thing: an ornamental dragon claw made of solid gold.
Tell him you will attempt to track down the bandits and retrieve the claw for him. He has some coin coming in from a recent shipment and offers it to you as a reward if you recover the item.
He tells you that to find those bandits, you should head to Bleak Falls Barrow, a location to the north west of town. Camilla offers herself as a guide, although Lucan insists she accompanies you no further than the edge of town.
Follow her to the the place at the edge of town, and after she departs, follow the sign posts or use the map to travel further up the mountain to Bleak Falls Barrow. Watch out for bandits on the way.
You eventually come to the old Nord tomb with bandits standing guard outside. There is a guard tower nearby with a chest of gold at the top of it. Somewhere in the area will be an arched door that leads down into Bleak Falls Temple. After entering the dungeon, you come first to a chamber in which two bandits standing around a campfire can be heard talking about a Dark Elf who headed down deep into the barrow a while ago. When you’re done with them, head down the stairs.
Pass by some spider webs and burial earns to come to a ceremonial entrance room. A closed portcullis blocks your path, and the lever nearby is currently inactive. In alcoves on the left wall are three short, three-sided stone pillars with animal carvings on them. Approach them and investigate and you’ll find they can be spun round to reveal each of their three sides and three animal carvings of a hawk, a whale and a snake.
You have to rotate these pillars so that the correct combination of symbols are showing in order to enable the lever that opens the portcullis. Clues to the correct combination can be found etched on carved stone heads elsewhere in the room: snake, snake, whale. Rotate the pillars to display those animals in that order, and use the lever to open the portcullis and continue into the dungeon. Don’t pull the lever for any other combination of symbols or you’ll set off a dart trap.
In the next room make sure you find the Thief book that will increase your pickpocket skill, then continue down the spiral stairway and you will eventually reach some thick cobwebs blocking your path. Cut them down with your weapon and step into a room wherein lies a Giant Frostbite Spider. After it’s dead, walk over to the far wall to find a Dark Elf imprisoned within a web, but still alive and crying for help.
This is Arvel the Swift. Talk to him and he will ask you to cut him free. Ask him where the Golden Claw is. He says he has the claw on his person and talks about how it can unlock a treasure chamber deeper in the dungeon called The Hall of Stories, and says he will show you how to do this if you release him. If you ask him to hand over the claw first, he says he can’t because he can’t move his hands. Cut him down with your weapon.
As soon as he’s free he runs off to get to the treasure first and claim it for himself. Chase him down, kill him and take the Golden Claw off his corpse. You can also pick up his journal and read it for clues about the secrets of this dungeon. Your new objective, now that you have the claw, is to find the treasure within Bleak Falls Barrow.
Keep on heading through the dungeon, killing skeletons and anything else you encounter on your way. Be careful of a pressure pad on the floor that will trigger a swinging gate trap.
Eventually you will come to the illuminated entrance to Bleak Falls Sanctum. Open the sanctum doors and journey onward, fighting enemies along the way until you come to the iron door leading to the Hall of Stories. The hall is a long corridor with intricate carvings adorning the walls on either side and an ornate door at the far end.
The locking mechanism on this door consists of a central keyhole surrounded by three discs that rotate when you activate them. Each disc has three animals plated into its surface. The idea is you rotate the discs to display a specific combination of images before inserting the Golden Claw into the central keyhole to unlock the door.
Examine the claw close up in your inventory to see the combination engraved upon it. Rotate the discs so that the bear, moth and owl appear on the outer, middle and inner rings respectively, then use the claw to open the door.
Note: If the glyphs are not rotating, reset the puzzle by going back out through the bridge and out of the door and then come right back in again. This should reset the puzzle and rings should turn again.
You are now in the barrow’s final chamber: some sort of ceremonial burial grotto with a great crypt at its center. Head over the the far wall and examine some glowing blue glyphs. They will say ”word of power, force unrelenting force”. Reading these glyphs will teach you one of the words of power that comprise the Dragon Shout ability Unrelenting Force. This ancient knowledge is the secret of Bleak Falls barrow.
As soon as you’re finished reading the glyphs on the wall, the crypt in the center of the chamber will open and a Draugr Lord will come forth and attack you. Kill this final guardian and loot his corpse to acquire an item called a Dragonstone, which you will need for one of the quests in the game’s Main Quest.
IMPORTANT: Do not leave this dungeon without the Dragonstone as you’ll only have to come back for it later if you do.
Climb the steps on the chamber’s left side and pull a handle to open a hidden door that leads out in Skyrim. Leave this dungeon, go back to Riverwood and return the Golden Claw to Lucan the shopkeeper. He’ll give you a reward of some gold coins.