Dragonborn: Staying on the Main Quest Track in Skyrim, Act II
Act II of the main quest line will lead you further into the lore of Skyrim and closer to your ultimate goal in becoming Dovahkiin. Here's what you need to know to traverse the dangers ahead of you and come out on the other side.
When we left off, we had just finished helping Delphine take out the dragon Sahloknir; she's waiting for you now back in Riverwood. Make sure you've unloaded your inventory and go see her. It seems that you'll need to head to the huge city of Solitude in preparation for infiltrating a Thalmor party. Your contact is Malborn, and you can find him in the Winking Skeever.
Make sure you give Malborn your favorite stealthy-type outfit, such as the Thieves Guild uniform or your Dark Brotherhood wear. You'll also want to give him some lock picks, health potions and invisibility potions. Pop back out to the outskirts and see Delphine again; she'll give you a nice outfit and your invitation. Now it's time to jump in the carriage and go for a ride.
When you arrive at the party, give your invitation to the greeter. Try to keep a low profile with the other guests and sidle up to Malborn. He says he needs a distraction--oh, hey, you know her, that's Jarl Idgrod! Talk to her. If you don't know the Jarl yet, look for someone you have already formed a relationship with, such as Vittoria Vici or Maven Black-Briar. If no such person exists, you're stuck with Razelan. Find him, ply him with liquor, and be prepared to slip behind Malborn's bar once the door is open.
Now that you're inside, you need the evidence, and quickly. In spite of what you've been told, you can just kill any and all soldiers you encounter during this part of the mission. Find the staircase up and then look for the door leading outside. You'll be heading toward the small building nearby. Kill off guards until you loot the dungeon key and then head downstairs. Pull the book holding the evidence out of the chest and free the prisoner. Bail out through the trap door in the floor and kill the one Troll you find in the tunnels on your way out. Once you're breathing fresh air again, fast travel back to Riverwood and Delphine to report your success. Talk to Delphine about all conversation topics she has available and get your fill of lore before leaving her. Oh, and don't forget to retrieve your inventory from the chest in her room.
A Cornered Rat
If you've already joined the Thieves Guild, you'll know Brynjolf and you'll have a much easier time getting to him in the Ratway of Riften. If you haven't had the pleasure yet, take a carriage to Riften and start asking around about the Ratway. Brynjolf will approach you with a little "favor," and will be happy to help you out with that whole Esbern thing once you've done his dirty work.
Follow your quest icon down into the Ratway and to the Ragged Flagon. Ask the bartender, Vekel, about an old man in hiding and watch your quest icon update to pinpoint the location. Unfortunately, the Thalmor are on to you and they're also down here looking for Esbern. Once you've made your way into the Warrens, you'll find the old guy behind a heavily barred door. Convince him to open up and wait for him to get his stuff together. Make your way back outside and you can fast travel to Riverwood; he'll come along.
Talk to Delphine again with Esbern in tow. You can read through the Annals of the Dragonguard that Esbern lays down on the table, and make sure to talk to both him and Delphine until you get the full scoop. It turns out you to gain access to the Sky Haven Temple. The easiest way to get there is to follow the river. If you feel you need backup, bring a Housecarl or other follower with you. You'll be fighting tons of Forsworn on your way to meetup outside the Temple.
Enter Karthspire through the cave marked on your map as a quest objective and you'll hook up with Delphine and Esbern again. Make your way through until you come to a room with a high, vaulted ceiling and then find the stairs up. At the top is a puzzle; set each pillar to the Dragonborn symbol before crossing the bridge and burning through the cobwebs.
The next room has another puzzle, this one with pressure plates in the floor. Tell your party members to wait and make sure you're only stepping on Dragonborn-depicting tiles. You can pull the chain at the far end to deactivate the trap so everyone else can cross. Continue until you find the room with Alduin's Wall. Esbern will talk you through the next few steps, so take your time and hear him out completely. Favorable responses to Delphine and Esbern may just give you the opportunity to join the Blades! It's probably worth it. Now, it sounds like it's time to go pay another visit to the Greybeards.
The Throat of the World
Port your way back to Hrothgar and have a little chat with Arngeir. He is peeved by your request, but give him some time to vent (and get a little perspective from his friend) and he'll tell you about the word you need. Follow his instructions and you'll eventually be given the opportunity to meet the Greybeards' leader, Paarthurnax. Paarth is the guy you need if you're going to be able to defeat Alduin.
Work your way through here with the Greybeards' guidance and learn the shouts. Sky, the first word of the Clear Skies shout, is now in your vocabulary. Unlock it with a Dragon Soul. Next, Arngeir teaches you the next two words to complete this shout: Spring and Summer. They're already unlocked. You'll then have to work your way to Paarth by using the shouts you've learned. Use the Clear Skies shout as you go, each time the weather prevents you from moving forward.
Paarth is a little different than you expected. Match his fire breath with you own, and he'll bump it up for you. Go ahead, let him have it. It turns out that the dragons didn't create the word you need; the ancient Nords did. Are you really surprised that recovering one of the Elder Scrolls will be necessary for you to succeed in your mission? Wade through everything Paarth wants to talk about and then you're free to go.
This is a great time to head back out adventuring, perhaps in search of any Miscellaneous Objective that mentions Words of Power, dragons to kill or sources of power. Keep in mind that you can also find a number of Word Walls during quests for each of the other guilds and factions. Before you take off, pop back to Arngeir for a final word.
So, you think that the College of Winterhold might hold some clues about the Elder Scroll, eh? Have you already gotten in touch with the College? If not, you'll be asked to jump through a rather easy hoop to gain admission. Once inside, follow your quest marker to the Orc mage in the library. He'll show you a couple of books; you'll want to get him talking about the one you can't read. After that, the quest will take you to Septimus's cave. Verbally wring some details out of him and then prepare to head back out into danger.
The biggest danger in getting into your next dungeon is fall damage. Once inside, you'll mainly be dealing with mechanicals and a few traps here and there. Make your way through the structure until you come to the tents. After this room, you'll have to deal with a pressure-plate trap. Take the door outside, work your way up, and hit the lever before you jump down and pass through the gate.
You'll need to fight a boss-level golem in here. Keep the platform between you and snipe at him to avoid the damage of his fire breathing attack. If you must go toe-to-toe, some fire resist potions will do wonders. After he falls, take the stairs back up and inside and then use the pedestal in the middle to open the way. In the next room, work your way around the outside of this large area to avoid most of the enemies. You'll find the controls you need at the top of the ramp on the right side of room. Place the Lexicon when asked and note the various buttons. There are controls to move the sphere and then controls to bring down the blue light beam. Use the far left button until the Lexicon opens. Then, hit the far right button to make the light shine down onto the sphere. When the last button opens up, use it to gain access to the Elder Scroll. Make sure you take the Scroll and the Lexicon with you on your way out. The elevator will take you back up, and the level beside the gate will let you out. Now, take the Lexicon back to Septimus and head back to your new dragon friend Paarthurnax at the Throat of the World. We're almost done with this part, if you're ready for a breather.
Talk to Paarth and then stand in the light. You'll have to manually use the Elder Scroll in your inventory. Watch the cut scene and then check out your Shouts; you have Dragonrend! Queue that bad boy up and use it to call down Alduin.
Take your time during this battle, using whatever armor spells you might have. Each time it's available, Dragonrend shout at him to make him vulnerable and wail on him what whatever you've got. Once the fight is complete, Paarthurnax will want to talk again.
This concludes Act II of the main quest. It's a good time to pursue other ventures, if you like, or join us again for the Act III guide if you prefer to stay the course and see this one through to the end right now.