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What diehard fans don't know about Skyrim

If you've ever played The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, then you've experienced the magic of one of the very best games ever made by Bethesda Game Studios. An epic open-world fantasy adventure involving dragons, magic, a brutal civil war, and everything in between, Skyrim is one of the great accomplishments in gaming history. And it also happens to be a HUGE game, with loads of quests, places to visit, characters to meet, and plenty of secrets.

Secrets are particularly important to Skyrim's legacy in that it has so many, both behind the scenes, in its source code, and even in the darkest depths of the game map itself. From hidden bosses and Easter eggs to a nightmarish realm where NPCs go when they die, there's plenty to uncover in this game.

Whether you're a hardcore Skyrim fan and have spent hundreds of hours exploring the game's vast world or have spent just enough time with the RPG to finish its excellent story, it's likely that you missed a few of these secrets and fun facts about this Elder Scrolls masterpiece.

The theme song is written in dragon tongue

One of the most iconic aspects of the Skyrim experience is its instantly recognizable theme song, which takes melodies from past Elder Scrolls games and adds drums and a choir, introducing a more Nordic sound to the epic opening track. But there's even more going on in "Dragonborn," which was composed by Jeremy Soule, who'd previously worked on the soundtracks for The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion as well as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

You see, the lyrics sung in "Dragonborn" aren't in English. You probably figured that out on your own, but ever wonder what language is being spoken in the song? It's in fact a fictional language created by Bethesda called Dovahzul, which roughly translates to "Dragon-Voice." That's right, the lyrics are written in a fake dragon language. Most impressive is the fact that, if you translate the lyrics, they rhyme in both Dovahzul and English!

Mario himself voiced one of the main dragons

Skyrim's list of voice actors will stun you. Among the actors credited for bringing the game's NPCs to life are Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Joan Allen, Michael Hogan, Lynda Carter, and Jim Cummings (best known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh!). There's one more cast member that may surprise you: Charles Martinet, one of the most cherished voices in the video game industry.

Martinet is best known as the voice of Nintendo's Mario. He's voiced Mario since 1990 when Nintendo hired him for a trade show and made his game debut in 1992's Mario Teaches Typing. He's voiced the character in countless Mario-related games since.

In Skyrim, Martinet is the voice of the mythical dragon Paarthurnax, the leader of the Greybeards, whom the Dragonborn (your character) must visit throughout the game for guidance and quests. Martinet provides a much deeper voice for Paarthurnax than Mario's cartoonish Italian accent.

One last challenge awaits you

You've played through Skyrim's story, explored every town on the map, discovered its many secrets, and reached the hard-earned level 80. Now what? Don't fret. Even if you've basically finished the game, there's still one last challenge for you to face: the Ebony Warrior.

This incredibly powerful Redguard warrior approaches you in the game once you've reached level 80 to challenge you to a duel. Up until this point, the Ebony Warrior has been able to defeat all those who stand against him with a mix of melee skills and magic powers. He even knows a few Dragon Shouts! Needless to say, he's the most difficult adversary you'll face in the game.

You'll likely die a few times, as this mysterious warrior uses every trick in the book to defeat you. He has armor that can minimize damage, a bow that has the power to paralyze you for several seconds, and can restore his own health with magic. Manage to finally send him to Sovngarde (Skyrim's afterlife), and you'll have truly accomplished an incredible feat.

There's a little Minecraft in the game

Unsurprisingly, Skyrim has its fair share of Easter eggs hidden throughout the game world. There's a Pac-Man reference, for example, in Endon's House in Markarth where a wheel of goat cheese is made to look like the famous video game character. There also nods to the horror movie Poltergeist, the action film 300, and even The Legend of Zelda.

One the game's most notable Easter eggs has to do with Minecraft, the popular sandbox title that rose to fame around the time of Skyrim's release in 2011. According to Eurogamer, players can encounter this particular Easter egg, a pickaxe called "Notched Pickaxe," while traveling in the Throat of World region of Skyrim. The Easter egg is a nod to both Markus "Notch" Persson, the creator Minecraft, and the sandbox game's standard tool.

Bethesda and Mojang, the studio owned by Persson, actually spent some time in court in 2011 after the former filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the latter. It seems that the name of Mojang's follow-up to Minecraft, Scrolls, didn't sit well with The Elder Scrolls publisher. In the end, the case was settled.

The Thieves Guild has a secret language

There's no denying that Bethesda put an incredible amount of detail into Skyrim in order to create a living, breathing game world. From the stunning vistas to the countless zany, spooky, and heroic NPCs that populate the land of Skyrim, you can get lost just taking the whole experience in. That said, there's so much content in the box that, even if you pay a lot of attention to the most minute details, there are bound to be a few things you missed.

For one, you probably didn't notice the Thieves Guild's secret language carved around towns and cities. You can find these carvings, known as Shadowmarks, all over the game. Used as a sort of symbolic shorthand by the Guild, Shadowmarks are meant to help players identify certain aspects of a building. For example, there are symbols that mean that "danger" or "loot" awaits the player inside a building if he chooses to enter or break in. There are also symbols for "empty," "safe," and Guild-controlled buildings. If you keep track of Shadowmarks, they could make exploration much easier the next time around.

You may encounter the Headless Horseman

Skyrim has no shortage of scary moments. After all, there are enough dark caves, undead corpses, cannibals, witches, poltergeists, yeti, and giants to keep your heart pumping for most of your play time. But these scary places and creatures of the night are nothing compared to the true terror you'll feel when you encounter Skyrim's most unexpected ghost: the Headless Horseman!

Not exactly the supernatural being from the classic Washington Irving tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this Headless Horseman is actually totally harmless. But that doesn't make him any less scary, especially as he watches you while sitting on his ghostly steed, staring you down until you've passed him by.

Players can encounter the Headless Horseman riding around the map between 10 PM and 4 AM, but you'll most likely find him at the ancient Nordic ruin of Hamvir's Rest, quietly waiting by its cemetery. Depending on his mood, he may let you approach him or he may ride off into the night, never to be seen again.

There are hidden bosses you probably missed

Okay, so you've defeated Alduin the World-Eater and restored peace in Skyrim (at least a little). Now what do you do? Well, you could finish the dozens of quests you probably never actually got around to … or you could go hunt down Skyrim's secret bosses! Hidden in the hard-to-find places around the map, there are a few monsters left to slay before your journey is over.

There's Vulthuryol, a powerful dragon that lives in a mystical cave below the Tower of Mzark called Blackreach. You pretty much have to stumble onto this dragon by accident in order to initiate the fight, which will be anything but easy.

The Reaper is basically what you think it is, Death itself come to collect your soul. The messed up part is that you have to summon him yourself by collecting three gem fragments and performing a ritual with the gem at the Reaper's Lair. So if you really want to fight the vomit-spewing creature, you're going to have to work for it, masochist.

Karstaag the Frost Giant is a callback to a character from Morrowind, who ruled Castle Karstaag. If you find his skull in Skyrim and place it back on his throne in the ruins of the old castle, you'll face off with the ghost of Karstaag, who is level 90 and will absolutely wreck you.

The aforementioned Ebony Warrior is likely the final hidden boss you'll encounter in the game. You already know the deal with him.

Skyrim has a room for dead NPCs

Ever wonder where NPCs go after you kill them? You'll wish you hadn't when you actually solve the mystery. Bethesda does indeed have such a place for these ill-fated bits of AI and it's definitely not Sovngarde. It's the Dead Body Cleanup Cell.

This "cell" is actually a cross-shaped room surrounded by darkness, the room itself lit by an otherworldly green and yellow light. At the center of the room is a pile of the corpses you've left behind during your adventure. Each hallway ends in a doorway that leads into emptiness. Walk through and you'll fall back into the center of the room … for all eternity. Or at least until you restart the game.

The only way to access the Dead Body Cleanup Cell is to use a specific set of console commands in the PC version of the game. This creepy video takes viewers into the horrific realm of discarded NPCs from which there is no escape.

The hero of Oblivion may appear in Skyrim

You may remember Sheogorath as the Daedric Prince of Madness from Oblivion. As the Champion of Cyrodiil in that game, you enter Sheogorath's realm to defeat him. In the process, you discover that Sheogorath was actually once Jyggalag, the Daedric Prince of Order, but he was cursed by the other Daedra out of jealousy, thus transformed into madness incarnate. The Champion can end Jyggalag's curse by defeating him in battle. Doing so frees Jyggalag but there's a catch: the Champion becomes the new Sheogorath!

At least that's been the popular theory since a new Sheogorath appeared in Skyrim. As the Dragonborn, you encounter the mad god while he's on "vacation" inside the mind of an insane emperor. During your meeting, Sheogorath recounts many of the events that took place in Oblivion, mentioning people and places the Champion of Cyrodiil encountered during the previous game. This has led many fans to believe that this Sheogorath is in fact the player character from Oblivion! A neat little bit of continuity by Bethesda if this theory is true.

Skyrim's dragons aren't dragons

While one of Skyrim's biggest draws is the chance to hunt down dragons around the world, you may not be fighting dragons at all. Some fans believe Bethesda got its mythical creatures mixed up. It all has to do with the number of limbs they have in the game.

Traditionally, dragons have six limbs: four legs and two wings. This is not the case in Skyrim, which features "dragons" with only two back legs and two wings. That's four limbs. The creatures that terrorize the land of Skyrim are actually wyverns, another serpent-like monster.

This shouldn't ruin the experience for you, of course. It seems that The Elder Scrolls isn't the only franchise to get the dragon/wyvern distinction wrong. Game of Thrones also got it wrong; so did the Hobbit films. Poor wyverns, they just don't get the respect they deserve. Perhaps The Elder Scrolls 6 will get it right.

The dragon alphabet is made of claw-marks

Bethesda put a lot of thought into creating all of the different aspects of dragon civilization, from the language these creatures spoke to the way their alphabet looked. It was concept artist Adam Adamowicz who was tasked with designing the realistic look of the 34-character dragon alphabet. Adamowicz's font had to make sense with the way that a dragon might write.

"The idea was, how would the dragons write or scratch this language in the stone or on the ground?" Bethesda Game Studios executive producer Todd Howard told Game Informer in 2011. "Everything is done with the three talons. You'll always see combinations of one to three scratches, and sometimes the dot, which is like the dewclaw."

In the game, this dragon language is key to unlocking the powers of the Dragonborn, who must learn different words in order to learn new Dragon Shouts, Skyrim's most devastating set of abilities.

A broken quest you can still complete (sort of)

There's plenty to do at the College of Winterhold, which has its share of quests to complete and colorful characters to meet, but if stopping Ancano and retrieving the Staff of Magnus from Labyrinthian isn't enough for you, there's one last adventure you might have missed. In fact, the quest probably went in one ear and out the other without you even realizing it. 

"The Missing Apprentices" is a quest that didn't actually make it into the finished version of the game. It can't actually be activated and there's no way to complete it for a reward. Still, it's a curiosity that sparks a journey to find four apprentices who have gone missing. The quest, which leads you to the corpses of four ill-fated students who weren't quite ready to try their magic skills beyond the walls of the magic school, is rather grim and monotonous, but you do get a few pieces of loot out of it, such as a couple of new spells, a necklace, and a staff. 

If you'd like to go on this unofficial quest, talk to Conjuration master Phinis Gestor at the College of Winterhold. He'll tell you about the missing students and then you can be on your way. 

There's a secret abandoned prison full of ghosts

You don't need some kind of exploit or console command to enter the abandoned prison at Eastmarch, but that doesn't mean the prison will be easy to find during your travels. Located northwest of Fort Amol by the White River, this creepy prison is a monument to the prisoners who died during a storm. 

There isn't much action to be found in the abandoned prison, but you will discover some loot. When you enter, you'll encounter four ghosts, none of which pose a threat (they're one-hit "kills"). They'll just stare eerily at you while you walk around their final resting place. Along the way, you'll find two notes that reveal what happened at the prison and why it was abandoned. 

Basically, the guards planned to evacuate the prison before a big storm hit, leaving the prisoners locked in their cells to drown. But the prisoners had their own plan to overpower the guards and make their escape during the panic. While we don't know who managed to escape — or if they fared much better once outside in the storm — but the struggle did claim at least a few lives. And the resulting ghosts are still pissed. 

Luke Skywalker wasn't so lucky in the Skyrim universe

It's not that the Star Wars universe isn't a cruel place — the Sith are basically evil wizards who love genocide and blowing up planets — but it's nowhere near as bad as The Elder Scrolls. The latter universe has its fair share of cannibalism, patricide and matricide, ancient blood rituals, necromancy, and plenty of creatures who exist solely to rip you to shreds just to watch you bleed. Star Wars mostly steers clear of that stuff, which makes it a more desirable destination for green fantasy heroes such as Luke Skywalker, who went from farm boy to savior of the galaxy in the span of two hours and one shoddy lightsaber lesson. 

But if Luke had walked in the land of Tamriel, well … he probably would have met a very different fate. That's according to an Easter egg found in Bleakcoast Cave in the frozen north of Skyrim. If you travel into the cave, which is home to four frost trolls, you'll find quite a few skeletons littered around the place, including a gruesome torso hanging upside down, a few feet away from a … sword. Yes, in this version of Luke's famous Hoth scene in The Empire Strikes Back, he wasn't able to get to his sword fast enough. Instead, the trolls feasted happily on every last strand of his flesh.