Elder Scrolls


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Quest Giver None
Location Helgen
Prerequisite Start game (starts shortly after character creation)
Next Quest Before the Storm
Reward Freedom
Salvaged loot
Progress in storyline
Type Main Quest
Quest ID MQ101
Unbound is a quest available in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It serves as the tutorial mission in which the player learns the basics about the game.


I've been captured by the Empire and been sentenced to death alongside Stormcloak rebels. We were being taken to Helgen, but before I could be executed Alduin appeared and attacked the town. I need to find a way out of the town.

Character creation

Main article: Character Creation (Skyrim)

Character creation is very similar to how it was in Oblivion. The design of the Dragonborn is much more detailed than Oblivion and features many options to choose from. The Dragonborn's race, weight, gender, and more can be determined. The choices made will sometimes affect how the people of Skyrim and beyond react to the Dragonborn.

Hadvar's comment when he calls the Dragonborn will change based on the race chosen:

Race Hadvar's comment
Altmer "You're not with the Thalmor Embassy, are you, high elf? No, that can't be right..."
Argonian "Are you a relative of one of the Riften dock workers, Argonian?"
Bosmer "Not many wood elves would choose to come alone to Skyrim."
Breton "You from Daggerfall, Breton? Fleeing from some court intrigue?"
Dunmer "Another refugee? Gods really have abandoned your people, dark elf."
Imperial "You're a long way from the Imperial City. What're 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."
Orsimer "You from one of the strongholds, Orc? How did you end up here?"
Redguard "What're you doing here, Redguard? You a sellsword? A sailor from Stros M'Kai?"


Tullius: "Ulfric Stormcloak. Some here in Helgen call you a hero. But a hero doesn't use a power like The Voice to murder his king and usurp his throne."
Ulfric: "*muffled grunts*"
Tullius: "You started this war, plunged Skyrim into chaos, and now the Empire is going to put you down, and restore the peace."

Dragon Attack

Alduin Helgen

Alduin flying in over Helgen

Just before the Imperial Headsman has the opportunity to decapitate the Dragonborn and end the game before it begins, Alduin arrives and disrupts the execution, raining meteors and fire down upon the town. With the execution halted and the town in chaos, the Dragonborn escapes custody. Running towards a nearby tower, the Dragonborn meets Ralof and Ulfric Stormcloak, leader of the Stormcloaks, who also managed to escape. The Dragonborn then learns that their hiding place is not safe, as Alduin blasts a hole in the tower, killing another Stormcloak in the process. Ralof will instruct the Dragonborn to jump out of the tower from the hole into a nearby inn, with the promise that he will meet the Dragonborn when he can. After jumping down and exiting the inn, the Dragonborn finds Helgen heavily damaged, with many buildings destroyed and burning. After the Dragonborn runs into the street, an Imperial Soldier, Hadvar, will tell the Dragonborn to follow him to safety. Hadvar will then lead the Dragonborn to the Helgen Keep. At the keep's entrance, Ralof catches up.

At that point, either Hadvar or Ralof must be chosen to accompany the Dragonborn the rest of the way. The choice will create some minor changes in the story during the Civil War questline; however, this does not affect the side that can be taken in the war later in the game.

Helgen Keep

The only main difference at the beginning of the game between following Ralof and following Hadvar is that if Hadvar is followed, the Dragonborn gets light armor, but if Ralof is followed, the Dragonborn gets heavy armor (which is separately obtainable later).

Following Ralof

Upon entering the keep, the Dragonborn and Ralof discover the body of a dead Stormcloak, Gunjar. After freeing the Dragonborn from their bindings, Ralof instructs the Dragonborn to take Gunjar's gear, as he won't be needing it. While it is being equipped, Ralof examines the doors. He discovers one door is locked, and the other can't be opened from the inside. Luckily, an Imperial Captain and Imperial soldier will come through and open the door from the other side (if the Dragonborn is seen before the gate is open, the captain will be alert and shout "It's the Stormcloak prisoners!"). Once they open the door, they must be killed in order to recover the key to the other gate from their bodies. Also, a full set of heavy Imperial Armor can be taken from the Imperial Captain's corpse. The newly opened path leads to a store room, with two more Imperial soldiers gathering supplies.

After defeating the soldiers, Ralof advises the Dragonborn to go through the barrels to find potions. There is time for a thorough search of the area and all containers and to become familiar with Skyrim's controls and menus. A search will find a barrel with potions, a magicka potion over near the table with bread, tankards, and a potion of minor healing. Between the barrel of potions and the cabinet, there is a crate containing five rock warbler eggs, which can be used in Alchemy.

Continuing down, a battle between an Imperial torturer and his assistant against two Stormcloaks is discovered. After defeating the soldiers, Ralof points to a cage. There is a dead mage in the cage who is wearing a novice hood and robes. Along with this, he has 25 GoldIcon and two potions of minor magicka. Next to him are a few septims and the Sparks spell tome. Ralof gives the Dragonborn twelve lockpicks, and suggests picking the lock in order to get to the items. The rest of the locked cells can be picked for lockpicking experience. In the armory there are two lockpicks, an iron shield, and an iron mace and a couple of books. On a table outside the cage is a knapsack containing four lockpicks and some gold. Next to it are The Book of the Dragonborn and an iron dagger. The torturer who was killed also has a steel dagger, the only one in the keep.

Beyond is a hallway lined with cells. One of these cells contains a skeleton, bone meal, and a coin purse. After that, a room is entered with prisoners in cages. All of them are deceased, and there are three more skeletons, all of which also carry bone meal. They usually have septims on them as well. In one of the cages, there is a dead Stormcloak wearing ragged robes.

Eventually, a natural cave is entered, filled with soldiers guarding it for General Tullius. There are few Imperial soldiers in the cavern, along with another soldier wearing heavy armor. The archers all are positioned dangerously close to a pool of flammable oil, which can be set on fire using the Flames spell. After killing them, any surviving Stormcloak Soldiers will stay behind, waiting for Ulfric Stormcloak. Next is a drawbridge that connects to another part of the cave that is not occupied by the Imperials. Shortly after arriving in this cave, Alduin will roar, destroying the bridge behind the Dragonborn. When following Ralof, there is a skeleton near the passage leading towards the cavern that leads to frostbite spiders. Near the skeleton is an iron dagger, a potion of minor healing, and a coin purse. Shortly after it is entered, the passage behind collapses, forcing the Dragonborn to find a way out through there. The next cavern consists of two to four of the smaller variety of frostbite spiders, plus two larger ones (not to be mistaken for giant frostbite spiders) that will drop down from the ceiling. Frostbite venom can be collected from their corpses. Once the spiders are defeated, the Dragonborn and Ralof exit through another passageway.

In the next cave, a potion of health is at the fire at the other side of the water. There is also an iron dagger. The potion can't be seen from a distance, because it is too close to the fire. After getting the potion, Ralof tells the Dragonborn to stop at the cart, as there is a bear on the other side. He suggests sneaking by, but he also gives the Dragonborn a Long Bow and twelve iron arrows. In the cart next to the Dragonborn is a bottle of Alto wine, and a coin purse. In front of the cart, near the skeleton, is an iron helmet.

Beyond the bear is an exit to the cave. Upon exiting, Alduin can be seen flying overhead. Ralof will direct the Dragonborn to his sister, Gerdur, who lives in Riverwood. At this point the Dragonborn can choose to follow Ralof to Riverwood, or split up and find their own way.

Following Hadvar

After entering the keep with Hadvar, he unbinds the Dragonborn and tells them to look for equipment. In the corner of the room there is a warden's chest where an iron sword, Imperial light armor, Imperial light boots, and a Helgen Keep key can be found. After opening the door with the key, pulling the chain will open the wooden gate. Behind the gate there are two hostile Stormcloaks. After defeating them there is another door, leading to the store room.

In the store room two more Stormcloaks are found. When the fight is won Hadvar suggests taking potions from a barrel nearby. On the table there is also potion of minor healing and potion of minor magicka. Taking them is optional, which means Dragonborn doesn't need to take them in order to proceed.

Going down, there is a torture room, where the torturer and his assistant are battling the two Stormcloaks. If the torturer and his assistant don't survive a dialogue between them and Hadvar will be missed. Shortly before continuing, Hadvar notices a mage's body in the cage. He gives the Dragonborn twelve picks (four more can be found in backpack on a small table) and asks them to pick the lock to the cage where novice robes and a novice nood are found, as well as some gold, a Sparks spell tome and two potions of minor magicka. This task is optional.

After leaving the torture room there are about ten more Stormcloaks to kill. Some of them are near the oil which can be set ablaze with the flames spell. Then, a bridge which is activated by a lever nearby must be crossed. After going through the bridge and entering the cave, Alduin will roar, which causes the celling above the bridge to collapse. Now, the Dragonborn only needs to follow the quest marker along with Hadvar. On their way, they will meet some frostbite spiders. After killing them, the sleeping bear is found. Hadvar gives the Dragonborn a long bow and twelve iron arrows, suggesting either sneaking past or killing the bear. After the bear has been dealt with, the two can exit the cave.

After exiting the cave, Hadvar says that he will meet the Dragonborn in Riverwood. If the Dragonborn decides to split up, unique dialogue can be missed.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Following Ralof (Stormcloaks) grants slightly better heavy armor because one of the guards who must be killed is an Imperial Captain, which means that Imperial armor can be picked up. This gives very helpful protection in the early part of the game. After continuing to Riverwood, Gerdur will give the Dragonborn her house key.

If the Dragonborn sides with Hadvar (Imperial Legion), the pile of iron and steel ingots which spawn next to the workbench outside of Alvor and Sigrid's house can be taken freely. This gives the Dragonborn a better weapon from the start if they have Steel Smithing. The armor and weapons next to the grindstone and in the basement of his house can also be taken.


Journal Entry

I have been captured by the Empire and sentenced to death alongside the Stormcloak rebels. We were taken to Helgen, but before I could be executed a dragon appeared and attacked the town. I need to find some way to escape.

  • Objective: Make your way to the Keep

I have been captured by the Empire and sentenced to death alongside the Stormcloak rebels. We were taken to Helgen, but before I could be executed a dragon appeared and attacked the town. I need to find some way to escape.

  • Objective: Enter the Keep with Hadvar or Ralof
  • Objective: Escape Helgen


  • Objective: Find some equipment


  • Objective: Loot Gunjar's body
  • Objective: (Optional) Search the barrel for potions
  • Objective: (Optional) Attempt to pick the lock to the cage

I have escaped both my execution and a dragon attack at Helgen. I now have my freedom to do as I see fit in Skyrim.

  • Quest complete



  • This level is the only time the Dragonborn can customize their name and race in Skyrim for free, save for the use of console commands on a PC. However, with the addition of The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard, the Dragonborn may pay Galathil in The Ragged Flagon to change their face, though not their race or sex.
  • This level and the one to follow are the only two quests in the game that are mandatory. Every other quest can be completely ignored.
  • Alduin roars before the executions and is heard when General Tullius and the Imperial Captain unknowingly mention the events that would lead to Alduin's return and demise.
    • "You started this war! Plunged Skyrim into chaos! And now the Empire is going to put you down, and restore the peace!" (Alduin roars) - It is foretold in the Elder Scrolls that when the Civil War breaks out, Alduin will return.
    • "Next, the [Dragonborn's selected race]!" (Alduin roars) - The Dragonborn's character is the Dovahkiin, who will defeat Alduin and save Tamriel, foretold in the Elder Scrolls.
  • When the Dragonborn is forced to decide whether to follow Hadvar or Ralof, if they wait too long, Alduin will land in the courtyard or the tower at Ralof's location and attack with either his Thu'um or his bite.
  • Hadvar is seen behind the Dragonborn's cart on the way to Helgen.
  • During Hadvar and Ralof's "quarrel", Alduin grabs an Imperial with his talons and throws him into the air.
    • If the Dragonborn uses the Voice of the Emperor on an Imperial soldier, talking to them will reveal that his name was Caius.
  • If the Dragonborn stands around in Helgen, Alduin will speak in Draconic (the tongue of the Dovah). Such lines include:
    • "Daar Lein los dii!" - "This World is mine!"
    • "Fen du hin sille ko Sovngarde!" - "I will devour your souls in Sovngarde!"(This line also points to an event following the fight on the Throat of the World.)
    • "Zu'u Alduin, zok sahrot do naan ko Lein!" - "I am Alduin, most mighty of any in the World!"
  • When the Dragonborn is following Hadvar through the burning buildings, shortly after Alduin has landed upon the wall and spewed fire at an Imperial soldier, a group of Imperials must be passed. If the Dragonborn stays for a few seconds, General Tullius will shout "Run, you idiot!" If the Dragonborn continues to wait around, Tullius will also say lines such as "I thought I told you to run for it! Go!" or "What, do you want to be this thing's next meal? Into the Keep already!"
  • Throughout the entire sequence, up to the point when the Dragonborn makes it to the keep and is cut free, the Dragonborn is bound. Without the use of hands, the Dragonborn is unable to defend him/herself and unable to perform almost all actions. However, sneaking is possible. Sneaking around the buildings with Alduin soaring above can easily raise the Sneak skill.
  • In Helgen Keep, shortly after being Unbound by Hadvar, he will offer the Stormcloaks mercy. They refuse to take it.
  • If suggestions for names are needed during character creation, one option is to go to: Name Generator.
  • If the Dragonborn follows Hadvar, there will be more Stormcloak soldiers in the keep and the town than there even was at the start. When Alduin appears, at least three dead Stormcloak soldiers can be seen. Once in the tower with Ulfric, there are two wounded with a medic, and another upstairs. This is already more than there were in the two carts (the Dragonborn's cart had the thief Lokir, Ralof, and Ulfric, and the other had four Stormcloaks) not to mention around ten more in the keep.
  • After encountering the frostbite spiders with Hadvar, he will say "What next...giant snakes?". This may be a reference to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which Harry and Ron encounter giant spiders and later on a giant snake.
  • If the Dragonborn runs fast enough past Hadvar, Vilod will not get attacked by Alduin.
  • If the Dragonborn chooses to follow Ralof into the Keep, then after killing the Imperial captain in order to get the key, Ralof will get the key and open the door if the Dragonborn does not act quickly enough to take the key.
  • When the Dragonborn jumps out of the building to see Hadvar, and Alduin scorches Torolf, Torolf will be seen dead even before Alduin scorches him.


This section contains bugs related to Unbound. Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:

  1. Please reload an old save to confirm if the bug is still happening.
  2. If the bug is still occurring, please post the bug report with the appropriate system template  360  ,  PS3  ,  PC  .
  3. If a fix to the bug is known, please provide it, but avoid use of first-person-anecdotes: such discussions belong on the appropriate forum board and not the article.


Unbound (Achievement)
Complete "Unbound"
Points 10 Game points
Bronze trophy

Start a Discussion Discussions about Unbound

  • Unbound

    4 messages
    • I followed ralof but then joined the imperials and I saw hadvar so I wonder if ralof and hadvar exist at the same time 
    • wrote:I followed ralof but then joined the imperials and I saw hadvar so I wonder if ralof and hadvar exist at the same time They...
  • The Truth about the Capture

    9 messages
    • If you were a refugee you may have nothing left except the rags on your back. Ulfric is a man of means and a leader. People probably give/make ...
    • Or maybe the Dragonborn is just an enthusiast of those rags. Say what you will, man, they do look pretty snazzy. Pair it up with a hood, glov...

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