Elder Scrolls Quests:A Cornered Rat

A Cornered Rat

A Cornered Rat
Quest Giver Delphine
Location The Ratway
Prerequisite Diplomatic Immunity
Next Quest Alduin’s Wall
Type Main Quest
QuestID MQ202

A Cornered Rat is a quest available in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

During Diplomatic Immunity, the Dragonborn will find out about Esbern, an old friend of Delphine and the only other member of the Blades in Skyrim. Delphine will tell the Dragonborn to go to the Ratway in Riften to find him before the Thalmor do. Thalmor Agents will pop up outside as well, once the Dragonborn has talked to Esbern, the agents will attack.


Locating Esbern

Esbern is located in the Ratway Warrens behind a barred door with a viewing slot. Access the Ratway Warrens by traveling through several areas, including the Ratway, The Ragged Flagon, and The Ratway Vaults. The Ratway’s main entrance is located on the South end and lower level of Riften .

Brynjolf, if not spoken to already, will be located in town during the day and at the Bee and Barb at night. Talking to Brynjolf at the Bee and Barb will trigger conversation leading to the Thieves Guild quest line. If the Dragonborn has already become a member of the Thieves Guild they can talk to Brynjolf or Vekel the Man inside the Ragged Flagon Cistern to advance to the next part of the quest.

Alternatively, chatting to Keerava, the barmaid of the Bee and Barb, can give the Dragonborn the information without putting the question to Brynjolf, although this will bypass the introduction to the Thieves Guild. In the Ragged Flagon, talk to Vekel about Esbern. He will not give information about Esbern unless the Dragonborn has a high persuasion, 140GoldIcon or beats him in a Brawl. Then, he will give Esbern’s location and warn of Thalmor looking for him as well.

After meeting with Brynjolf and mentioning Esbern, he will give information that Esbern is in the Ratways, and the quest marker will update accordingly. There have been problems reported with quest advancement if the quest, A Chance Arrangement, has been picked up. A Cornered Rat can progress after completing A Chance Arrangement or after being caught. Brynjolf then will ask the Dragonborn if they want to join the thieves guild (if this hasn’t been done already), and a new quest will start. The slot on Esbern’s door will be closed, and conversation with Esbern is not possible if the quest has not advanced properly.


Some events in the Ratway may unfold differently depending on certain events in Diplomatic Immunity.

If this is the first time inside the Ratway, there will be a few enemies to fight through to get to the headquarters of the Thieves Guild. If a member of the Thieves’ Guild, the Dragonborn may enter through the secret entrance in the Riften graveyard.

If in the quest in which the Dragonborn infiltrates to the Thalmor Embassy, if the Dragonborn does not kill a man named Gissur, It is possible to be attacked by him outside the entrance to The Ragged Flagon. Inside, after the attack, Gissur may be identified by Guild members and killed. The Dragonborn can take Gissur’s Note from his body. The note may also be found in the Ratway without the body. If Gissur was killed at the Thalmor Embassy, he will not appear during this quest.

From the Ragged Flagon, head through the Ratway Tunnels to get to the Ratway Warrens. It may be necessary to fight several Thalmor while navigating through the tunnels before locating the entrance. Once in the Warrens, locate a locked door with a viewing slot at the top of a set of steps and activate the door to engage Esbern in conversation. The Dragonborn will then be able to tell Esbern about Delphine and warn him of the Thalmor searching for him. After being convinced, there is an unusually long delay as he gathers his thoughts and unlocks what seems like an absurd number of door locks and bars.

Once inside, the conversation will continue as he gathers his belongings. He will be able to provide some additional background information about the Blades, and the Dragonborn will bring him up to date on current events. There may be more Thalmor to engage while exiting the Ratway with Esbern in tow. These are easier to manage with him fighting alongside. Alternatively, the Dragonborn can just run back into the Ragged Flagon where Esbern should appear, and have members of the Guild take them out.

Exiting the Ratway

When the Dragonborn manages to escape the Ratway along with Esbern, they will both appear in Riften’s lower walkway, and Esbern will soon comment about breathing fresh air. Esbern will follow the Dragonborn, and as they walk to Riften’s gate they will encounter a Thalmor assassin, a female Khajiit wearing normal, casual clothes and an Elven Dagger. After the assassin is dealt with they must travel to Riverwood and report to Delphine.


  • The conversations with Esbern may not continue or complete, with Esbern freezing.
  • Esbern will search his treasure, desk, and lab area of his room – if his conversation cannot be heard there is no way to know that he’s actually talking while he does this – it may seem like he is frozen. The same is true after bringing him back to Delphine; he will be talking to her but the conversation cannot be heard.

In some cases bugs can be avoided altogether by using console command setstage mq203 1, which forces Esbern to skip all dialog, open the door, and follow the Dragonborn to Riverwood.

Esbern’s door

  • In first conversation, Esbern is voiceless and after the conversation he fails to open the door. It may take several minutes before the door opens as scripted.
  •  PC   If waiting doesn’t work try using the TCL command to walk through the door. Shut down the TCL, talk to him, when he starts using the chest, kill him. Then talk to him again and tell him to lead the way.
    •  PC   Instead of using TCL, you can disable and reenable the door.
    •  PC   This can be sometimes fixed by deleting (BACKUP FIRST!) “Skyrim.ini” and “SkyrimPrefs.ini” from “C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Documents\My Games\Skyrim”. All preferences are now default. If everything works it is recommended to set up preferences again rather than overwrite new files with backup.
    •  PC   If the door does not open, face door type setstage MQ202 160 force Esbern out of the door and close it. He will then open the door to get back in, he then will continue on with the quest though he may speak too fast to understand.

Esbern’s voice

  • It is possible to correct speech issues with Esbern by installing a 3rd party speech mod.
  • There is another fix to this problem: using a game manager (like the Fallout Mod Manager). Extract the “voices extra” file in the “data” folder of the game’s program files into the same folder (doing so places a folder named “sound” in it) and it will be fixed completely.
  • XBOX He may not stop saying “come in”.

Esbern frozen or stuck

Each time he seems to be frozen, try one of several reported fixes:

  • Make sure everything has been killed in the Ratway beforehand, Esbern instantly summons a Frost Atronach in combat which will get him stuck occasionally.
  • If he gets stuck just start a dialogue with him, keep doing it if it continues.
  • If Paralyze is cast on him he will not turn hostile, and upon regaining his muscle control, he will skip to his next task speeding everything up.
  • If he ever gets stuck kill him. If killing doesn’t work try failing to pickpocket/place an item.
  • Try to push him by using sprint or Unrelenting Force, to make him walk again if he stops.
  • After Esbern gathers his essentials before leaving, Alduin’s wall is supposed to activate but, due to mods, this prevents the quest from starting and thus also making it impossible to make him follow to Riverwood as he’ll just lounge about. The bug can be corrected by not loading mods before launching Elder Scrolls Skyrim in the Data Files and then when meeting back in Riverwood with Esbern, it should be safe to re-activate the mods once again. This fault is known to happen with Delphine before engaging the quest Diplomatic Immunity.
  •  PC  It is possible to first make Esbern follow by opening the console, clicking on Esbern, typing disable, then typing enable. He will then proceed to his next “task”. This may have to be done multiple times before he will follow properly.

Quest issues

  •  PC   Sometimes this quest will fail to start at all and never even show up in the quest log after completing Diplomatic Immunity, in which case, skip ahead to the next quest, Alduin’s Wall. In the dev console, type setstage mq203 5.
  • After speaking to Delphine about Esbern, she will direct the Dragonborn to Brynjolf, but there will be no mission start and it will not be possible to ask the bartender in the Ragged Flagon or The Bee and Barb about Esbern. This may be a result of having Darkness Returns active at the time.
  • Esbern may say “go away” anytime his door is activated if the quest hasn’t been advanced enough or it is not currently active.
  •  PS3   If the Dragonborn goes straight to the Ragged Flagon after escaping the embassy, then the quest Diplomatic Immunity may end without Delphene telling them to mention ‘the 30’th of Frostfall’. If this occurs then Esbern will refuse to acknowledge the Dragonborn and the quest will become stuck.


  • If a follower gets into a fight with him, switch the scene and come back, Esbern will appear as normal again.
  • Sometimes Esbern may conjure/summon a friendly Storm Atronach. If the Atronach gets caught in one of Dragonborns shouts or is accidentally hit by the Dragonborn, it will turn hostile and attack friendlies.


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