In Brief

  1. Make your way to the keep.
  2. Jump down into the town.
  3. Follow Hadvar to shelter from the raid.
  4. Either have the Stormcloak Ralof or the Imperial soldier Hadvar escort you through Helgen Keep.
  5. Get equipped and fight your way to a secret exit from Helgen.
  6. Follow Hadvar or Ralof to the village of Riverwood.


Skyrim begins with you in Imperial custody, alongside Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, Ralof, and a horse thief named Lokir. You were taken prisoner after running into an Imperial Army ambush while crossing the border to Skyrim. The prisoner caravan you are part of is destined for the small Empire stronghold of Helgen. After you get off the cart, the guards begin calling out names, looking for members of theStormcloaks. Eventually, you are ordered to identify yourself, which will lead to a prompt to create your character. Despite your lack of involvement with the Stormcloaks, the captain of the guard orders you to be executed. Not long after the executions start, they call you forward. Following the direction given to you by the guards, you lie down on the execution block.

Right before the executioner can bring a halberd down on your neck, Alduin arrives and disrupts the execution. With the execution stopped and the guard in chaos, you take the opportunity to escape custody. Running towards a nearby Imperial Keep, you meet up with Ralof and Ulfric Stormcloak,or Hadvar and other imperial soldiers. who also escaped in the panic. Quickly, you will learn that your hiding place is not safe as a dragon blasts a hole in the tower. Ralof will instruct you to jump out of the tower into a nearby inn, with the promise that he will meet up with you when he can.

After jumping down and exiting the inn, you will find that Helgen has become heavily damaged in quite a short time, with many buildings damaged and burning. As you run into the street, an Imperial soldier, Hadvar, will tell you to follow him to safety. The soldier will lead you towards Helgen Keep, a large Imperial fort in the village. At the entrance of Helgen Keep, Ralof will catch up with you. You will have to choose to either have Hadvar or Ralof accompany you the rest of the way.

After entering the Keep, depending on whether you chose to enter with Hadvar or Ralof, the part of the interior map which you emerge on and the initial events that occur will differ slightly. If you choose Ralof, you and Ralof will discover the body of a dead Stormcloak, Gunjar, in a circular room immediately after entering the keep. After freeing you from your bindings, Ralof will instruct you to recover the gear on Gunjor’s body for your own use. While you equip yourself, Ralof will examine the doors. He will discover one door is locked, and the other can’t be opened from the side you’re on. Luckily, two Imperial soldiers will come through and open the door secured from the other side. Once they open the door, you will be forced to kill them to recover the key to the other gate from their bodies.

If you choose Hadvar, you will enter the keep to find yourself in the barracks room where Hadvar will cut your bonds and instruct you to loot the room for some equipment. Once you have looted the marked chest for gear, he will open a secret passage and you will follow him down a path to the circular room containing Gunjor’s body. Here you will face two hostile Stormcloaks, once they are defeated you follow Hadvar onward through the opposite door.

From here onward the physical path taken by both Hadvar and Ralof is identical. Only the type of enemies and the accompanying dialogue is different: for Hadvar’s path you face Stormcloaks, for Ralof’s path you face Imperial Soldiers. Going through the door onto the now opened-up path, the dragons activities above will cause the ceiling to fall, diverting you into a door on your left, here you will discover a store room, with two Imperial Soldiers/Stormcloaks gathering supplies. After defeating the enemies, Ralof or Hadvar will advise you to go through the barrels for any valuables you may obtain such as potions.

Continuing down, you will arrive at an interrogation room, and a battle between an Imperial torturer, his assistant, and some Stormcloak Soldiers, leading to battle with whichever enemies your escort is not aligned with. If you are with Hadvar, he has a conversation with the torturer, trying to convince him to come; his attempts are futile, however, as only the assistant torturer follows. If you’re with Ralof, he has a quick conversation with the surviving Stormcloaks, who will both choose to follow your party. Hadvar/Ralof will then point to a cage with several valuables inside it (including mage gear and a spelltome), offering you several lockpicks, with him suggesting you pick the lock to get to the items.

Continuing down a corridor past some prison cells which can be unlocked for some minor loot, and through another prison room you will eventually enter a natural cave, filled with either Imperial soldiers guarding it for General Tullius, or some lost Stormcloaks. There is an oil spill that can be set alight to damage the enemies on the upper level using the Flames spell.

After killing them, you will find a draw bridge that connects to underground caves. Hadvar or Ralof will lower the bridge and shortly after you cross it, the passage behind you will collapse. After a bit of further cave-walking, you will discover a Frostbite Spider nest. Once you defeat the spiders you will head through a passage leading deeper into the caverns. Next, near an underground stream, you will encounter a resting bear. Ralof/Hadvar will advise you to sneak past it, but he will give you a bow and some arrows to try to ambush it. If you fight, with Hadvar/Ralof helping you, it won’t take long. Afterwards, follow Hadvar/Ralof and exit the underground through a crevice in the rock.

Leaving the dungeon, the wilderness of Skyrim opens and you’ll see the dragon flying off into the distance, towards the north, completing the quest. At this point, your companion will guide you to their hometown of Riverwood along the path, showing you both the Guardian Stones and the ominous Bleak Falls Barrow on the hill while walking there. After arriving in the village, the path differs by your follower: Hadvar will take you to his uncle Alvor – the town’s smith – while Ralof takes you to his sister, Gerdur, the owner of Riverwood’s woodmill. After some lengthy conversation concerning the events at Helgen, Alvor/Gerdur will ask you to warn the Jarl of the dragon (starting the next quest), and will offer to let you stay at their home and offer some gifts of food and potions.


  • It would appear Alduin knew the player was the Dragonborn, the only person capable of stopping him, as during this quest he smashes through the tower and breathes fire with the obvious intent of trying to harm the player, seeing him as a threat.
  • The Imperial route with Hadvar could be more beneficial if you’d like an early head start on smithing. This is because once friendly with Alvor (the blacksmith), you can always take (not steal) his replenishing ingots of steel and iron at his smithy next to his house in Riverwood.
  • Hadvar’s comments, by race:
    • Argonian: Are you a relative of one of the Riften dock workers, Argonian?
    • Breton: You from Daggerfall, Breton? Fleeing from some court intrigue?
    • Dark Elf: Another refugee? Gods really have abandoned your people, Dark Elf.
    • High Elf: You’re not with the Thalmor Embassy, are you, High Elf? That can’t be right.
    • Imperial: You’re a long way from the Imperial City. What are you doing in Skyrim?
    • Khajiit: You with one of the trade caravans, Khajiit? Your kind always seems to find trouble.
    • Nord: You picked a bad time to come home to Skyrim, kinsman.
    • Orc: You from one of the strongholds, Orc? How did you end up here?
    • Redguard: What are you doing here, Redguard? Are you a sellsword? A sailor from Stros M’kai?
    • Wood Elf: Not many wood elves would choose to come alone to Skyrim.
  • For all intents and purposes choosing either to side with Hadvar or Ralof doesn’t matter, as the player isn’t locked out of any quest chain. The only difference between the two paths is the availability of certain loot types and the presence of certain enemies. At the end, the player will still have the option of choosing to side with the Empire or the Stormcloaks.
  • Special Loot and Early Equipment Choices:
    • A good selection of Light Armor and One Handed weapons can be found on either path, as most of the Stormcloaks and Legionnaires wear light armor, and there are several one-handed weapons stored in the keep.
    • Players who wish to level the Heavy Armor skill from the very start of the game may wish to follow Ralof into the keep as the first enemy you face at his side is the Redguard Imperial Captain who was present at the execution. Upon killing her in the keep, you can immediately loot a full set of Heavy Imperial Armor from her corpse. On Hadvar’s path, the only Heavy Armor to be found is an Iron Helmet, as all the Stormcloaks you face wear Light Armor.
    • For players who wish to level the Two-Handed skill from the start of the game, some of the Stormcloaks carry battleaxes.
    • Mages will want to make sure they open the locked cage in the interrogation room as it contains basic enchanted mage clothing and a spellbook of Sparks.
    • In addition, there are a number of alchemy ingredients to find in the keep’s storehouse and the caverns.
  • Storage: With all the loot you will be overburdened if you grab everything. In the tortures room there is a knapsack on a table. It appears to be a safe storage point. Be aware, if you wait too long to recover anything left here you will have to fight or sneak your way in. If you need to go back to the knapsack and drop more stuff, whoever you are following will wait for you.