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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

A Cornered Rat

Scott Peers

This page details A Cornered Rat main story quest in Skyrim, including how to find Esbern in The Ratway of Riften by speaking with Brynjolf or Keerava, and how to escort Esbern back to Riverwood.

A Cornered Rat, Skyrim.

Quest Info Description
Objective Locate Esbern.
Quest Giver Delphine
Location(s) Riften, The Ratway
Prerequisite Diplomatic Immunity
Next Quest Alduin’s Wall
Reward None
Rec. Level 8

Quest Overview

  1. Talk to Brynjolf in Riften or Keerava in The Bee and Barb.

  2. Search the Ratway for Esbern’s hideout.

  3. Find Esbern in the Ratway Warrens.

  4. Talk to Esbern.

  5. Bring Esbern back to Delphine at Sleeping Giant Inn in Riverwood.

Speak with Brynjolf or Keerava in Riften

If this is your first time visiting Riften, you’ll have an opportunity to earn the Snake Tongue achievement by persuading, bribing, or intimidating one of the guards at the gates when they request coin for entry. It doesn’t matter which method you choose, so go with whatever you prefer to gain access to the city.

Once inside, you have two choices to advance the quest: speak with Brynjolf or speak with Keerava. If you want to begin the process of joining the Thieves Guild now, we recommend that you speak with Brynjolf. This will lead to the A Chance Arrangement quest, which you’ll be required to complete if you want to progress with the quest in this way. If you’d rather not bother with that, you can speak with Keerava the innkeep at The Bee and Barb to learn that you’ll likely find Esbern hiding in The Ratway, which is located beneath Riften.

(1 of 2) You can speak with Brynjolf near the marketplace to advance the quest.

You can speak with Brynjolf near the marketplace to advance the quest. (left), If you’d rather speak with Keerava, you’ll find her in the nearby tavern, The Bee and Barb. (right)

A Chance Arrangement

If you decided to speak with Brynjolf, you can pursue this quest as part of the Thieves Guild quest line. The task is relatively simple: all you need to do is take a ring from a lockbox, then place it in the pocket of Brand-Shei, a nearby merchant. Brynjolf wants to frame the merchant, but he won’t tell you exactly why. Assuming you want to go ahead with it, wait for Brynjolf to cause a scene in the marketplace, then head behind the nearby stall and slide the door open. You can then pick the lock of the chest and find Madesi’s Silver Ring within. Take it, along with anything else you want from here, then sneak over to Brand-Shei, who can be found seated nearby. To place the ring in his pocket, you’ll need to pickpocket him in the same way that you would normally, but place the ring from your inventory into his. After a while, Brynjolf will stop talking and the crowd will disperse. You can then speak with Brynjolf to complete the quest and learn about where you can find Esbern in Riften.

(1 of 2) You’ll find Madesi’s Silver Ring in the lockbox after picking the lock.

You’ll find Madesi’s Silver Ring in the lockbox after picking the lock. (left), You can place Madesi’s Silver Ring on Brand-Shei by pickpocketing him. (right)

Find Esbern in The Ratway

Now that you know where to find Esbern, you’ll need to enter The Ratway from the sewer entrance beneath you. Just follow the compass to the quest marker and enter The Ratway through the marked door. Once you’re inside, you’ll encounter a number of thugs and lowlifes who will be hostile to you immediately. They’re no match for a Dragonborn, so nothing to worry about here. Continue through The Ratway until you reach The Ragged Flagon, the home of the Thieves Guild.

You can speak with Vekel the Man in The Ragged Flagon to learn slightly more about Esbern’s potential situation, but you don’t need to. Make your way into The Ratway Vaults from the door at the back of The Ragged Flagon, and be prepared to fight some Thalmor enemies on the other side. You’ll encounter a wizard and a warrior, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. take them out and continue through the sewers, looting as you go. Eventually you’ll reach another door leading to The Ratway Warrens.

Once you’re in The Ratway Warrens, all that remains is to find Esbern’s hideout. The location is conveniently marked on your compass, so just follow the quest marker, killing any enemies along the way (you’ll encounter a few skeevers and drunks down here). When you find Esbern’s hideout, interact with the door to speak with him. Now is the time to tell him exactly what Delphine asked you to: “Remember the 30th of Frostfall”, to ensure that he listens and opens up. After a brief conversation in his hideout, Esbern will suggest that you both leave to meet Delphine. You can exit the way you came in, and once you’re out of The Ratway, you can choose to run with Esbern on foot to Riverwood, or simply fast travel there if you prefer. The quest will complete after speaking with Esbern, leading into Alduin’s Wall.

(1 of 3) You’ll find the entrance to The Ratway by following the compass marker.


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Guide Information

  • Publisher
    Bethesda Softworks
  • Platforms
    PC, PS3, PS4, Switch, XB 360, XB One
  • Genre
    Action RPG
  • Guide Release
    31 May 2012
  • Last Updated
    19 October 2021
    Version History
  • Guide Author
    Greg Wright

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Skyrim is the homeland of the Nords, a fierce and proud warrior people who are used to the bitter cold and mountanous terrain that mark the lands of Skyrim. Wracked by civil war, and threatened by the return of the legendary dragons, Skyrim faces its darkest hour. You must make sense of this maelstrom, explore the frozen tundra and bring hope to the people. The future of Skyrim, even the Empire itself, hangs in the balance as they wait for the prophesized Dragonborn to come; a hero born with the power of The Voice, and the only one who can stand amongst the dragons. You are that Dragonborn.

Version 1.2

  • Introduction to the Races.
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  • Dragonborn DLC covered in full.
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  • Character Creation guide.

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