Skyrim is awesome. There is no denying that fact. Even if you didn’t like the game, you can’t deny that it was well crafted and filled to the brim with secrets and lore. Of course, it is also the fifth game in a massive gaming franchise, so that’s not really all that surprising. Even though Bethesda can be quite skeevy at times, they make some really good video games.
The game was released almost six years ago. Yet, it is still a massively popular game that people still love to play and discuss. In fact, a brand new version of Skyrim is set to launch on the game’s sixth anniversary for the Nintendo Switch. That’s an impressive lifespan. Most multiplayer games can’t even boast popularity for that long, much less a single player game. Skyrim practically reinvented the open-world RPG. However, not everything about the game is all sunshine and rainbows. It has plenty of darker corners and looming shadows that mar the beautiful landscape. Horrors dwell within the mountains and forests. Dark and terrible secrets wait for players to innocently stumble into them.
Skyrim doesn’t shy away from the grim. The game certainly asks you to do some rather messed up stuff. However, these are the details that will keep you up at night. Plenty of them reside inside quest lines, so spoilers are ahead. However, if you’re brave enough, you’ll find an unsettlingly good time.
24. Blind And Abandoned
Skyrim didn’t always belong to the Nords. The Falmer, also known as the Snow Elves, were the original denizens of the icy region. They settled and built cities in Skyrim long before any humans ever set foot onto the Throat of the World. Eventually, humans did find their way into Skyrim and settled the land. At first, the ancestors of Nords lived in harmony with the Snow Elves. The peace didn’t last long. Unfortunately, the Snow Elves were nearly wiped out in the ensuing war and fled underground where they faced an impossible choice; go extinct or be enslaved by the Dwemer. The Snow Elves chose enslavement. The Dwemer forced the Snow Elves to eat poisonous mushrooms. It warped the Falmer, rendering them the blind and powerless creatures we see in Skyrim. The vicious and violent Falmer we fight are the products of enslavement, poisoning, and desperation.
23. The Cannibals Of Markarth
The rich, silver filled city of Markarth is one of the major cities of Skyrim. The city itself is carved into the very mountainside that helps it prosper. It also just so happens to be the location of Cidhna Mine; both a mine and the most secure prison in all of Skyrim. However, Markarth isn’t without its oddities. Plenty of strange quests either surround or end in Markarth. The Taste of Death is one such quest. If you choose to follow the questline, you’ll quickly find yourself investigate the Hall of the Dead where the people of Markarth are laid to rest. However, the halls were closed because someone is eating the corpses. A quick investigation reveals that a worshipper of the Daedric Prince of Decay and patron god of cannibals, Namira, is behind the ghoulish act.
If you continue to investigate, you’ll end up not only as the main guest of honor at a cannibalistic feast, but you’re in charge of providing the main course. Attend, and you’ll find a number of Markarth’s citizens at the feast. This includes the best butcher in town who reveals the unfortunate secret behind his meat. Yuck.
22. Harem Of The Dead
Necromancers are common enough is Skyrim. They are also really creepy. Heck, their whole schtick is to reanimate corpses. Granted, the chicken necromancer is easy to laugh at. The rest of them are as horrible as the draugrs that haunt the crypts. However, one necromancer takes his craft to a whole new level of insanity. Arondil, of Dawnstar, was kicked out of the sleepy little town when they discovered he was experimenting on their dead. Unfortunately, getting exiled was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. He moved to an ice cave and turned his sick, “adult” fantasies about the local milkmaids into reality. He kidnaps and kills any woman unlucky to stumble past. From there, he adds her to his harem of dead. Using his magic, he can order them to do anything he desires.
21. The Evil Of Soul Gems
Soul gems are amazing. They are the power behind enchantments. Without them, I wouldn’t have my trusty Ebony Bow of Burning. Of course, most can only be used once. The other issue behind soul gems is that they run on living souls. Plus, certain kinds of gems can only handle specific types of souls. Petty Soul Gems can only contain the souls of smaller creatures like chickens or foxes. Common Soul Gems can hold the stronger souls of creatures like cave bears. Most can’t hold the souls of humanoids. That honor goes to Black Soul Gems and the Black Star. Using one of these gems lets you create extraordinarily strong enchantments. However, they should be illegal. The souls remain conscious, even when in use. Once the power is gone, the soul becomes trapped in Soul Cairn, a realm in Oblivion. It is a horrific and terrifying place where the souls linger in anguish for all eternity.
20. Everlasting Torture
The Thieves Guild in Skyrim is one of the many factions that you can choose to side with or ignore. Of course, getting caught is a thief’s worst nightmare. For Etienne Rarnis, getting thrown in jail would practically seem like a dream. This poor pickpocket ended up captured for all the wrong reasons. You can find him inside the Thalmor Embassy during the Diplomatic Immunity quest. They picked him up because they believed he had a connection to the Blades, another Skyrim faction. Unfortunately for Etienne, he doesn’t know much. The guards torture him day in and day out, trying to pull information that he just doesn’t have. However, they don’t seem to care. All they do is send him back to his cell to wait for his next session.
19. The Butcher
As if the butcher in Markarth wasn’t bad enough, a very different kind of Butcher terrifies the denizens of Windhelm. The Butcher is one of Skyrim’s serial killers. He chops up young women with almost surgical precision and takes parts of the corpses for some seemingly unknown reason. However, investigate, and you’ll discover the Butcher’s journal. Inside, he discusses how wonderful the women of Windhelm are and how the next victim he’s lined up should have exquisite tendons. Although it sounds insane, and is, you’ll eventually find out that the Butcher is a brother who went insane because of his sister’s death. All he wants to do is see her again. Unfortunately for the women of Windhelm, he thinks he can do it by reconstructing her body from scratch using magic and their body parts.
18. Assisted Suicide
Many cultures believe that certain parts of the afterlife are reserved for only those who died a glorious and heroic death in battle. The Orcs of Skyrim are no different. They worship the Daedric Prince of the Ostracized, Malacath. This isn’t really surprising since the Orcs, aka the Orsimer, are an entire race of outcasts. They have their strongholds, but no real place to call their own. The Orcs are also considered to be really barbaric and believe that dying in battle would please and honor Malacath.
If you are unlucky, you’ll come across an old Orc during your travels through Skyrim. He will explain that he is too old to marry or become chief. All he really wants to do is die a glorious death. However, he’s a strong fighter and no one can best him. You have two choices. If you ignore him, he will never find peace and will continue to search for his death for the entirety of the game. If you do kill him, you’ll have granted his wish but also earned a lot of hate from a lot of people.
17. Bleeding Briarheart
The Forsworn are a tribe from the Reach that terrorize the people of Skyrim. They worship the Daedra and the old gods. The Forsworn want to purge their home of all “foreigners.” Ironically, although the Reachmen were originally Breton, they eventually hybridized with the Nords yet still despite the Nords. These anarchists are experts in guerilla warfare. They are zealots who revere hagravens. Their founder, Red Eagle, offered his heart to the hagravens in exchange for power. Several Foresworn followed in his footsteps. They are the Forsworn Briarhearts. It is deep, dark magic that turns them into vengeful, powerful creatures. They are neither dead nor alive. Surviving an encounter with one requires a miracle. However, if you are sneaky, you can pickpocket them and steal their heart from their chest, killing them instantly.
16. The Cure Of The Dragonborn
In Skyrim, the player takes the role of the Dragonborn! It’s amazing! The Dragonborn are singularly stunning individuals who can learn the language of the dragons and wield their powerful Thu’um. These individuals are exceedingly rare. They can be any race or gender. This special status is even considered to be a gift from Akatosh, the Dragon God of Time. In fact, the most famous Dragonborn, Tiber Septim united all of Tamriel. Many believe that he became a god after he died. However, the truth of the Dragonborn is somewhat sad. The reason why they are so special is that they are mortals who posses the blood and soul of a dragon. Dragonborn are essential dragons, cursed to a mortal existence and doomed to walk the earth instead of fly over it. This is made even worse when you consider that dragons themselves are divine and immortal.
15. Alduin’s Truth
Alduin the World Eater is the main antagonist of Skyrim. His goal is to destroy the world, so of course, he must be evil. Right?
Not exactly. The dragons are the immortal children of the Dragon God of Time, Akatosh. They are among the oldest races and Alduin is the oldest among them. Akatosh tasked him with the world’s destruction. Destroying the planet is his purpose for existing. Yet, he didn’t. At least, he didn’t try to at first. Alduin created civilization. He, along with the other dragons, brought order to the men and elves. Granted, they also enslaved said mortals. After a fierce war, three Nordic heroes invented a new Thu’um to weaken him and sent him forward in time, jumpstarting the events in Skyrim. Although Akatosh’s goal is to devour the planet, it’s what he was meant to do. What’s more, many believe that the reason why he is supposed to destroy the world is so that a new world can take its place.
14. Blood And Soil
Rorikstead is the best farming village in all of Skyrim. The rich soil yields delicious and bountiful harvests. It’s a quaint and quiet little town, filled with children and happy cows. Of course, this is Skyrim we are talking about, and it’s never that simple. Granted, a lot of the Rorikstead plot was scrapped before the final release of the game. However, there is still enough left to darken everyone’s day. When Rorikstead was founded, the soil was poor and could barely support any life. If you ask Jouane, he’ll say the prosperity is due to hard work and blessings from the gods. Except, there are no mothers in the town. They all die in childbirth. What’s more, he has a hidden book of Daedric Worship. He even knows magic, but it’s supposed to be a secret. There are soul gems scattered throughout the village. Put the pieces together and it’s not hard to see where Rorikstead’s real bounty comes from and who paid the price.
13. Love Till the End
It’s not unusual to find dead bodies in Skyrim. Heck, half of the corpses get up and attack you. So, naturally, a random set of bones or corpses isn’t going to set off too many warning bells. However, there is one pair of skeletons that deserve to be noticed. They sit in the northern area of Skyrim, near the College of Winterhold. The first skeleton’s leg is broken in several locations. Next to it is a deployed bear trap. Clearly, whoever this once was managed to get their leg caught in the trap. The second skeleton sits diligently beside the first. Their hands are clasped together. We don’t know what their relationship was. They could have been best friends, siblings, or lovers. However, it’s clear that an unbridled love saw to the end of them both. One refused to leave the other and they both perished, hand in hand.
12. The Drug Trade
Skyrim has a bad drug problem. Skooma and the moon sugar it is made from are both highly addictive narcotics. It gives the user an increased sense of elation, but causes massive lethargy once it wears off. Many grow addicted to it. Long time users often suffer from permanent mental degradation and confusion. Moon sugar works in the same way, but is less potent. Unsurprisingly, the drug is illegal in many parts of Tamriel, including Skyrim. However, the Khajiit use the skooma for some religious rituals. They, as a race, tend to be less susceptible to its effects. This doesn’t mean that a Khajit can’t get high off of or addicted too skooma, they are just less likely to do so. Even so, Skooma and moon sugar are both a real problem. Some characters in Skyrim even die of an overdose.
11. Forest Cannibalism
One big lesson from Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls series, in general, is that everyone’s a jerk. No one is free of criticism. Many are willing to kill you or just be a general pain in the butt to you solely because of your race. Heck, entire wars occurred throughout Tamriel’s history on this issue alone. However, out of all the races in Tamriel, the Bosmer are said to be the nicest. The Bosmer, aka the Wood Elves, hail from Valenwood. It’s known as Tamriel’s Garden. The lush green forest is protected by the god Y’ffre. In order to reside in Valenwood, the Bosmer made The Green Pact with Y’ffre. According to The Green Pact, the Bosmer cannot harm any plant for their own benefit, nor can they waste any meat. This includes any enemies they kill. It doesn’t matter if a Bosmer kills a wolf or murders another Bosmer, they are bound The Green Pact to consume and utilize the body. It’s one of the reasons why they prefer not to get into fights. However, the Bosmer have gone to war before and will likely do it again.
10. Cicero’s Insanity
Who doesn’t hate Cicero? It’s a wonder everyone doesn’t just kill the half-wit. His only saving grace is that he is deadly and comes in handy in a fight. However, his incessant ramblings and obnoxious voice are enough to drive anyone insane. Trust me when I say, Cicero has enough insanity to go around. He dresses in motley and has an unhealthy obsession with the Night Mother. The thing is, Cicero wasn’t always insane. If you manage to find his five journals, you’ll learn just how he descended into madness.
Cicero was voted to be Keeper, the caretaker of the Night Mother’s body, after the last one died. He decided to complete his last contract before taking on his new duties. Unfortunately for him, his target was a jester who he slowly became obsessed with. A few months after that, his Brotherhood fell apart, leaving him trapped and alone with the Night Mother. Between his obsession with the jester, the Listener, and the Night Mother along with either years of total isolation it’s no wonder he went completely off the deep end.
9. The Reality Of Shadowmarks
A lot of detail went into crafting the world of Skyrim. Small, little things that most people don’t notice help to fill the world and shape it. One such details are mysterious symbols that pop up on buildings all over the map. Without a key, these symbols are nothing more than oddities. However, if you find the book Shadowmarks, you’ll realize the trick to this secret code. The symbols are a code used by the Thieves Guild. Members will carve the marks into the building to secretly communicate with other Guild members. They let other thieves know which locations are dangerous, filled with gold, or just plain empty. Some marks denote escape routes. Others let you know if the location is a safe place to hide. The real kicker though is this code isn’t something the developers just made up. Although the symbols are fictional, the language is real. Burglars and thieves in real life will mark locations with chalk. If you see a strange symbol on your house or driveway, get rid of it.
8. Star Crossed Lovers
It isn’t easy to live apart from your loved ones. Hrodulf moved to Solstheim and quickly realized that something was off about his house. He kept hearing strange noises. Worried, Hrodulf sent a note to his lover, Bjornolfr, in Solitude. Bjornolfr begged his lover to return to Solitude. However, Hrodulf didn’t listen and dug beneath his house and into a Dwemer mine. Eventually, Bjornolfr travels in search of Hrodulf, only to die in the ruins beneath Hrodulf’s house. However, Hrodulf isn’t there. If you travel south, you’ll find a Burnt Spriggan guarding a body near the shore. It’s Hrodulf. The Spriggan killed him as he was getting ready to leave. The boat contains Hrodulf’s valuables, including a gold ring that Hrodulf was planning to use when he proposed to Bjornolfr.
7. And You Thought Piranhas Were Bad
In all actuality, Piranhas really aren’t bad. They have a bad reputation, but the toothed fish are not really all that dangerous. Slaughterfish, on the other hand, make Polar Bears look like toothless kittens. These hyper-aggressive aquatic nightmares live in the rivers, lakes and oceans in Skyrim. They are also the culprits behind two tragic deaths. Skeggr and Advard were two fishermen that just wanted to spend a little time fishing, drinking, and swapping stories. They weren’t even planning on staying all that long. When they went out, they found a lot of luck on the line and even more slaughterfish. The carnivorous creatures overturned the boat and devoured both men alive. It didn’t even happen that long ago, since you can find their skeletal remains slowly drifting away.
6. No Escaping The Flood
Skyrim is littered with prisons. Getting yourself thrown into one isn’t that big of a deal and can even lead to some fun quests. One prison isn’t as fun as the others. The prison sits along the White River just north of Fort Amol. It’s also completely abandoned. Ghosts roam the halls. Leaking cracks and pools of water dot the interior. The whole place is prone to flooding. One day, a storm was building and growing worse by the minute. It could have washed away the entire fort. The guards were ordered to kill the prisoners or let them drown. The prisoners, who weren’t too keen on dying, revolted. Unfortunately, no one made it out alive. They all drowned during the riot, and many of their spirits remain trapped in their watery graves.
5. Paarthurnax’s Past
Paarthurnax is one of my favorite dragons in Skyrim. He is a wise and old soul that sits atop The Throat of the World. He is an invaluable resource and ally throughout the game. He teaches you the Fire Breath shout, sends you back in time, and helps you capture a dragon all in the name of defeating Alduin. He even taught the Greybeards how to use Thu’um. However, for all the good he does, Paarthurnax’s past is bloody and violent. He was Alduin’s lieutenant during the Dragon War and committed more atrocities than we could ever know. Although we never learn details, we do know that he was personally responsible for unspeakable horrors. It is why the Blades ask you to kill him. The real question though is if seeking justice outweighs the benefits of all the good he did and could do.
4. The Night Mother
I have a thing with zombies and dead bodies. I hate them. I really, really do. I’ve also been told that I’m hilarious to watch while I play Skyrim because I’m a complete weenie when it comes to the crypts. All that being said, my encounter with the Night Mother was nightmare inducing and I ran out of the room screaming my head off. To be fair, she’s terrifying! If you choose to follow the Dark Brotherhood questline, you’ll eventually end up in a coffin with her not once, but twice! However, for as creepy as the mummified corpse is, her history is rather heartbreaking. She was the wife of Sithis, the God of the Void. They had five children together. One day, Sithis told her to send his children to him. She obediently murdered all five of her children and was subsequently murdered because of her crime. Since then, she has whispered in the ears of the Listener, telling them who Sithis wants to claim next. Or course, after she proclaimed me Listener I ran for the hills and never looked back.
3. Talos And The Elves
It’s no secret that Skyrim is in the middle of a civil war at the start of the game. The Imperials conquered Skyrim and demanded that they bow to the rules of the Empire. They even went so far as to ban the worship of Talos, the God of Man and War. As horrible as that is, I can’t exactly blame the elves for their hatred towards the God. That doesn’t make banning the Nords from worshiping right, but they have a reason. Talos was once Tiber Septim. He was a Dragonborn and a mortal man at one point. He conquered all of Tamriel, including the elven lands. To add insult to injury, he became a god after he died. This is particularly insulting to the elves. Before they split off into the multiple races we see in Skyrim, they used to be a single race known as the Aldmer. What’s more, the Aldmer were once Gods themselves. Before the mortal plane was created, they were the children of the Aedra. However, they were tricked into becoming mortals themselves and never quite got over that fact. So, when a human rose to divinity, they were understandably unhappy. Granted, they are still major jerks with giant sticks up their rears.
2. Cattle At Dinner
Slaves are bad enough. Skyrim certainly has no shortage of them. However, everything takes on a whole new level of horror when you meet the vampire’s cattle in Castle Volkihar. The main dining hall of the castle is stained with blood. Chunks of human flesh and organs decorate the plates. Blood decorates the floors, walls, and dining area. The worst part though is the vampire cattle. They are living people who lay on the tables, ready to be devoured. You can even talk to them. Those that aren’t on the tables or locked up in the dungeons beneath the castle, help to serve the food and drink. It is a terrible existence. To top it all off, if you become a vampire, you can freely feed on them as well.
1. NPC Afterlife
The afterlife in the Elder Scrolls series is well documented. Each race has their own version of the afterlife. We don’t even have to assume that these are simple stories and beliefs. Plenty of quests show that these places are real. One of the main story quests in Skyrim lets you travel to Sovngarde, the place where the spirits of fallen Nords reside after they die. This is probably a good thing, since NPCs have a habit of staying dead in Skyrim. Unlike some games, they don’t respawn. Ever. Of course, Sovngarde and the other locations are all lore based. However, Skyrim has an actual, built in afterlife for the NPCs who meet their end. If you have the PC version, you can type into the command console “PLAYER.MOVETO 000A2C94.” You’ll end up in an eerie purple and green room with all of the dead and lost NPCs.
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