This page details an overview of Unbound, the introductory quest to the main story of Skyrim, including how to escape Helgen and what happens if you follow Ralof or Hadvar.
|Objective||Escape Imperial custody and a dragon raid|
|Location||Helgen, Helgen Keep|
|Next Quest||Before the Storm|
|Reward||Minor items from the home of Alvor or home of Gerdur|
Observe what you can about Skyrim and your situation.
Create your character.
Escape the executioner’s block.
Make your way to Helgen Keep to escape a dragon attack.
Choose Ralof, a Stormcloak rebel, or Hadvar, an Imperial soldier to escort you.
Equip weapons / armor you find by opening containers or looting bodies.
Escape from Helgen and enter Skyrim a free person.
How to Escape Helgen Keep
At the beginning of the game, you’ll find yourself travelling as a prisoner in a wagon. As you move along the road approaching Helgen, one of the prisoners, named Ralof, will tell you a bit about the current situation. When you enter the village of Helgen you’ll notice Imperial General Tullius speaking with one of the Thalmor. As you reach the chopping block, the horse thief will panic and try to flee. You’ll then be prompted to make your character.
Once you’ve created your character, you’ll be called for execution. A cruel joke, but there’s no need to fear; a dragon will arrive and begin attacking the village indiscriminately, giving you a chance to flee. At this point the quest will properly begin, and you’ll need to follow Ralof into the nearby keep to escape the fire. A brief exchange between Ralof and Ulfric Stormcloak will follow, after which you’ll need to run up the stairs. The dragon will smash through the wall here, but you’ll be able to jump into the nearby building through the hole in the wall.
When you exit the building you’ll find Hadvar, who will ask you to follow him. Do this brielfly until you encounter Ralof again. At this point you can choose to go with Ralof or Hadvar, based on whether you trust the Stormcloaks or Imperials more. As we just narrowly escaped an unjust death at the hands of the Imperials, we chose to go with Ralof, but ultimately it doesn’t matter much at this point in the story.
What Happens if You Follow Ralof
Ralof is the Nord, so you want to go right. Head inside the keep, where Ralof will say goodbye to a fellow soldier. You can then loot the body of the soldier to make use of their gear. After you’ve equipped the gear, you can have a quick look at your spells from the menu, ready for the combat ahead if you want to be a mage from the start. Every new character starts with the Flames and Healing spells.
Once you’ve got all your new gear equipped, Ralof will check the iron gates, noting that they’re locked. As he does this, two Imperial soldiers will appear from behind one of the gates. You’ll need to hide around the corner and wait for them to enter, then attack them with Ralof. They won’t cause you much trouble, and provide your first opportunity to learn the basics of combat. When both Imperials are dead, loot their bodies and search the hall where they came from for some more minor loot. You can then follow Ralof through the next gate, after opening it using the key from one of the Imperials.
As you move through the tunnels you’ll encounter more Imperials who are looking for potions. You’ll need to kill these, then you’ll have the optional objective to loot the potions yourself from a specific barrel. You’ll find more potions and other loot throughout the room, so be sure to check it thoroughly. After exploring this room, follow Ralof to the torture room and help him kill a few Imperials alongside other Stormcloaks. You can then loot this room, including the dead mage in the locked cell. You’ll encounter your first lockpicking challenge here, which you’ll need to get used to if you want to get the most out of the game in terms of extra loot.
Follow the party when you’re done exploring and unlock the cells along the way (note that you can search skeletons for gold). You’ll soon be in a wide open room with several imperials in it, so join your companions and take them down. Note that one section of the floor has oil on it, making it a great place to use some fire magic. After you’ve killed them all follow Ralof and soon another cave-in will separate you from your two previous companions. Keep following Ralof (noting that there’s a path off to the left that leads to a skeleton, gold, and a healing potion).
The next room of enemies will include some spiders. Help Ralof kill them and be sure to loot each of them for their venom, which you can sell later. Keep following the path and soon Ralof will stop you, pointing out a bear up ahead. Here you can learn either the basics of sneaking by passing by the bear, or you can practice a bit of archery by shooting it. I’d recommend trying out archery as the bear pelt is worth a nice chunk of change, plus you have Ralof to help you.
Keep progressing through the cave and soon you’ll be outside. Here you’ll see the dragon that just attacked Helgen flying off, and the quest will complete. From here, there’s no specific order in which you must do things, but there are multiple quest lines that you can follow including the continuation of the main story, joining various guilds, pledging yourself to the Stormcloaks or Imperials, or just wandering freely as you complete side quests.
What Happens if You Follow Hadvar
Once inside, approach Hadvar and he’ll set your hands free. You can then open the two chests inside this room which will provide you with some basic gear and weapons. After you’ve equipped the gear, you can have a quick look at your spells from the menu, ready for the combat ahead if you want to be a mage from the start. Every new character starts with the Flames and Healing spells. After deciding whether you’re going to engage in melee or magic combat to begin with, follow Hadvar until you encounter some Stormcloaks. They won’t be much trouble, so just help Hadvar to defeat them and be sure to loot their corpses.
As you continue to follow Hadvar you’ll encounter a room with two Stormcloaks looking for some potions. Kill them and take the potions for yourself. You’ll then enter the torture room, where Hadvar will begin speaking with a fellow Imperial. You’ll find some more loot in this room including the Book of the Dragonborn, a dagger, and a few lockpicks. You can use the lockpicks to pick the locks of the nearby cages, where you’ll find a dead mage with some gold, potions, and the Sparks spell tome. You can also use the Novice Hood and the Robes if you plan to play as a mage from the beginning.
Now go down the hallway to the west and lockpick all the cells in here (to get the lockpicking experience). Continue until you find Hadvar. Follow him and you’ll get to a room with more Stormcloaks. There will also be some archers, which are new enemies. They’re stepping on oil, so approach them and set it on fire using the Flames spell if you want to end them quickly. Be sure to loot their corpses for a bow if you plan on using one, although you can still sell it to a trader if you don’t.
As you continue you’ll find a room with a small stream running through it. Before following Hadvar here, take the path to the left to find some more minor loot. Once you have this, go back to Hadvar and follow him to another room full of spiders. They’re easy to kill so you shouldn’t have any trouble, but you’ll want to kill them quickly to avoid any poison debuffs. The spiders are particularly weak against fire, so your Flames skill will be useful if you’re playing as a mage.
In the next room, Hadvar will tell you about sneaking, while also suggesting that you can use the bow to kill the enemy. You can choose either method and then continue outside to complete the quest.