Esbern is a Nord and one of the last remaining Blades, the powerful order of knights and warriors who served as bodyguards to the Septim Emperors, who were also known throughout Tamriel as the eyes and ears of the Emperors and Empresses.
As the second last of the Blades, Esbern has been monitoring the ancient prophecies of Tamriel and had predicted the return of the dragons under Alduin, the Nordic God of Destruction whose return would lead to the destruction of Nirn. He also has the title of Blades Archivist and knows a great deal about the nature of the Dragon Crisis in Skyrim. He is closely associated with Delphine, another Blade operative. He is being persecuted and, therefore, is very cautious.
Esbern is the guide and advisor of the Dragonborn, the chosen one ordained to fight Alduin and his servants after the release of Alduin and the dragons back into Tamriel nearly two hundred years after the Oblivion Crisis.
By reading the Thalmor Dossier, Delphine discovers the location of Esbern. She sends the Dragonborn to Riften, to uncover his location. The Dragonborn eventually discovers his whereabouts and takes him to Delphine.
After recruiting three new Blades members, Esbern will send the Dragonborn to kill a certain dragon, and the Dragonborn must take at least one of the Blades recruits with him. Once the dragon is dead, the Dragonborn can trade Dragon Scales for Esbern's Potion.
Esbern tells the Dragonborn that Paarthurnax must die for his past deeds in the Dragon War and his relationship with Alduin. Neither Esbern or Delphine will offer any further quests until this quest is done.
Esbern is one of the quest characters that can be exploited to be a follower throughout Skyrim along with another follower of choice. Esbern can wear "planted" apparel equipment during the quest, A Cornered Rat, but will unequip it if taken to Delphine at Riverwood and completing the quest. If Esbern is exploited as a follower during the quest, Alduin's Wall, and the Dragonborn becomes a werewolf, he will attack the Dragonborn on sight.
In Bethesda Softworks' Skyrim, Esbern is voiced by the Swedish actor Max von Sydow. He is famed for his acting in movies such as The Seventh Seal, The Exorcist, Minority Report, Flash Gordon, Robin Hood, Conan the Barbarian, Shutter Island, and Strange Brew. In the trailer, Max von Sydow voiced Esbern as the narrator.
Note: Many Esbern related bugs can be fixed by quick saving then quick loading.
During the quest A Cornered Rat, Esbern may appear to be in Sky Haven Temple when the Dragonborn looks at their map to fast travel. If the Dragonborn goes to Sky Haven Temple to investigate this, Esbern may look as though he is behind the hidden door in the chamber.
This can be fixed by reloading a save from before getting the quest A Cornered Rat.
For many, Esbern will be severely glitched. His sound files may not play, which leads to him standing in silence. As a consequence, it is impossible to proceed in the quest A Cornered Rat.
Two ways to try to fix this include (both do not need to be done):
PC Unpack the Skyrim - Voice Extra.bsa files into the data folder, or download it already unpacked here. Unzip the contents and place them in the data folder.
Navigate to C:\Users\Name\Documents\My Games\Skyrim and open the file Skyrim.ini with notepad. At the very end of the file, add the following text and save the file.
PC Even when he is talking properly, his door will sometimes not open.
This can be fixed by opening the console and typing setstage MQ202 160 and hit enter or renter the room once or more to open the door as well. This will open his door and allow action to proceed.
The door can also be disabled with the console by clicking it, then typing the command disable. It may be necessary to attack Esbern before being able to speak with him.
Sometimes Esbern may disappear.
PC He can be found by typing the console command "player.moveto 00019DFD", which will teleport the Dragonborn to him. If he continues to walk again in a different direction, waiting for an hour and typing the command again should meet him in Riverwood. Talking to Delphine allows the quest to be continued.
PS3 If accessing his underground home in the Ratway Warrens, the hole through his door allows one attack that will successfully land, which is the Unrelenting Force shout. Upon doing this, a 40 bounty will be acquired, but if the hole closes, the message "Last Witness Killed. 40 bounty removed" is displayed.
PC Esbern may not speak after he opens the door, or the conversation just does not start.
This can be resolved by stepping into Esbern's room and standing so that the door is on the other side of him, then speaking to him again.
When dragon hunting after recruiting three followers into the Blades, he may only say, "do you need something?" No other conversation options will be available.
PC Esbern will sometimes randomly go missing.
Esbern may attack for no reason.
After combat, when all enemies are killed, sometimes a conjured Atronach will start attacking Esbern. Less frequently, Esbern and a regular follower may also start fighting each other.
He may stay still in the battle pose.
This can be fixed by talking to Esbern and choosing the 'wait here' option. Upon entering the next "cell," he will follow again.
PC 360 PS3 The miscellaneous quest where parts of a dragon can be exchanged for him to make a potion may not work. While the game guide says that the "dragon infusion" perk will be received, it is not received and the quest to bring him the parts is left in the journal without being able to give him any parts to make another potion.
On PC the perk can be obtained manually through the console command "player.addperk 000E6DF0." The quest will still appear in the journal.
Esbern may randomly appear in some towns after the main quest is finished, such as Karthwasten .
At some point after completing Alduin's Wall, fast traveling may cause Esbern to appear. He appears in the doorway at the arrival point, asks "Yes, what is it?" or says, "You'll have to speak up, I'm a little deaf in my right ear," then walks away.
PC This can be resolved by killing him, then respawning him using console commands. A mod or command that allows the killing of essential characters will be required.
Alternatively, completing a dungeon or a mission without fast traveling for long enough for him to return to Sky Haven Temple will cause him to stay there.
Sometimes the quest to bring a dragon bone and a dragon scale to Esbern may stay in journal after complete.
This bug can be fixed with the console command: SetObjectiveCompleted FreeFormSkyHavenTempleD 10 1
PC 360 After bringing three recruits to Delphine and then talking to Esbern about the dragon lairs as she requested, he sometimes just stands there and only has generic dialogue (e.g. "What is it?", "Do you need something?").
360 Sometimes if a quest is completed for him he does not notice. Upon returning to him, he acts like he didn't give a quest.
Occasionally, if a dragon is killed at a dragon lair, the miscellameous quest "Return to Esbern" may appear, even if he has not been spoken to about any dragon lair locations, or if the Paarthurnax quest has not been completed. Speaking to him will only yield his generic dialogue ("Yes?", "What is it?", "Do you need something").