He was captured and interrogated due to a possible affiliation with the wanted Blades loremaster Esbern, who was being protected by the Thieves Guild in The Ratway Warrens below Riften. If the Dragonborn is a member of the Thieves Guild, Etienne remembers them from The Ragged Flagon.
Should the Dragonborn choose to free Etienne from his cell at the Thalmor Embassy, he flees to a trapdoor leading to Reeking Cave, commenting "You didn't have to help me, so.... thanks." In the cave, he may assist in a battle against a frost troll, although unarmed. Reverse pickpocket to give him a weapon, or drop one in front of him to aid his fighting ability.
If he survives, he will initially run past Solitude and be found on the coastline immediately south of the Dainty Sload. Later on, he can be found in the Ragged Flagon Cistern, and gladly sees that the Dragonborn has survived, promising that he will never forget who saved him from his Thalmor captors. After his release he might also be found at the bridge near Windhelm Stables wearing a Thieves Guild Armor.
Toward the end of the quest, Etienne can be found in a prison cell, being interrogated by Rulindil and some Thalmor guards. The Dragonborn can either free him or leave him in his cell.
Etienne "Stop. Please. I don't know anything else. Don't you think I'd have told you already?"
Thalmor guard "Silence. You know the rules. Do not speak unless spoken to. Master Rulindil will ask the questions."
Rulindil "Let's begin again."
Etienne "No...for pity's sake...I've already told you everything..."
Rulindil You know the rules."
Etienne "[Guard hits him] Nooooo!!!"
Rulindil "Start at the beginning, as usual. If you persist in this stubbornness I'll have..."
Etienne "No, wait! I was...just catching my breath...why wouldn't I tell you again? I don't even know anything...There's an old man...he lives in Riften. His name is Esbern. He could be the one you're looking for. I don't know. He's old and seemed kind of crazy. That's all I know."
Rulindil "And his name is...?"
Etienne "I don't know his name. Like I've already told you a hundred-- [guard hits him] Ahhh!"
Rulindil "You know the rules. Just answer the questions. And where is this nameless old man?"
Etienne "Like I said, I don't know. I've seen him down in the Ratway. Maybe he lives down there, but I don't know for sure."
Rulindil "That will be all for now. I must say I continue to be disappointed in your lack of cooperation. I hope next time you will do better."
Etienne "What else do you want from me? I've told you everything. Listen, If you let me go I can take you to Riften, show you where-- [guard hits him again] Ghaaa!!!"
Thalmor guard "Silence, prisoner!"
- If the Dragonborn was already a member of the Thieves Guild, Etienne will recognize them, even though he is not found in the cistern until after the quest, and if he survives.
- If one is a member of the Thieves Guild prior to starting the quest and pretend to be the interrogator during "Diplomatic Immunity," when spoken to in the Ragged Flagon, he may say "So you made it out. Good for you. But I still remember what you did to me." and "You've caused enough trouble already!"
- Etienne is voiced by Gideon Emery.
- Even though he already told the Thalmor guard the name of Esbern, the Thalmor guard asks again, and he replies "I don't know his name."
This section contains bugs related to Etienne Rarnis. Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:
- A certain bug could happen if he is killed with a weapon while he is chained to the wall. His body rag dolls around inside the cell, only to stop after a certain amount of time.
- He has a tendency upon being freed to slide back into the wall, unable to be interacted with.
- He may be the subject of a Companions rescue mission. If one has not rescued him when they have the ceremony to become the guildmaster of the Thieves Guild, he will still attend the ceremony. The Dragonborn will be notified the rescue objective is complete, and should escort him back to Riften.