The Comprehensive Guide to Skyrim’s Cut Content — Part I: The Towns
I’ve been looking into the cut content of games for years now, and if there’s any take away from that, it’s that nothing seems amiss at first glance. But when you start digging deeper, that once great game becomes a half-baked game with a lot of missed potential. Sadly, this can be said about most of Bethesda’s RPG’s. The last Elder Scrolls title, Skyrim, is no exception to this.
Towns of Skyrim
Unlike its predecessor Oblivion, Skyrim has a multitude of smaller towns, farms, mills and other hamlets that are actually worth visiting. They have interesting quests and side characters that manage to stand on their own. Still, while Oblivion basically has no remains of removed villages or towns (with a couple of exceptions of course), Skyrim changes that up drastically. Almost every space in the game that’s inhabited by NPCs was once grander, more complex, or even a completely different entity altogether. In this article, I’ll be piecing all of the remnants that Bethesda left in the files back together, in an attempt to give a better look at what was originally intended.
Heljarchen is one of those subjects that everyone seems to know about to some degree, but very few people know exactly how it was to appear. Well, since I’m not a developer, I don’t know either. But I can surely give more insight than some.
Its name comes from the first Elder Scrolls game: Arena. In Arena, the location appeared as “Helarchen Creek”. The majority of Skyrim’s locales were based on, or at least named after, their appearance in this first game. Why the name change? I guess they just liked Heljarchen better? Markarth appeared in Arena as “Markarth Side”, so I guess they just felt the need to change it up. Whilst the name would not get used for the town, the Hearthfire DLC would reuse it for the name of the buildable house in the Pale, “Heljarchen Hall”, or “Heljarchen House” if the housecarl is to be believed.
The village of Heljarchen was also meant to appear in the Pale, just like the house, and a small sliver of it still does. The Nightgate Inn appears as a standalone location in the final game, but it was once just the inn of the local village. In the final game, only Hadring, the innkeeper, and Balagog gro-Nolob are of any importance, since they have quest ties. Balagog is also the only one there to still have dialogue referring to the village of Heljarchen. During the related quest, if spoken to outside and remaining silent, he will state: “Yes, well. Perhaps someone else in the village can assist you?”
Besides Balagog’s comment, there are some other weird leftovers present in the game that mention the village. For example, there are two internal markers placed around the Nightgate Inn, they are known as “EdgeMarkerHeljarchen” and “CenterMarkerHeljarchen”. If you clip underneath the map at the inn, you may come across a chest containing various blacksmithing goods. This is actually the vendor chest of a removed blacksmith vendor and it is internally known as “MerchantHeljarchenBlacksmithChest”. There’s actually another chest that isn’t placed in-game called “MerchantHeljarchenApothecaryChest”. Due to the fact that these two still exist, and that Heljarchen was to be a small town, it’s pretty safe to assume that the town would’ve only had these two shops alongside the inn.
There are also five unused keys with “Heljarchen” as a prefix.
- HeljarchenFathendasHouseKey -> Key to Fathendas House
- HeljarchenHeigenFarmhouseKey -> Key to Heigen’s Farmhouse
- HeljarchenJensFarmhouseKey -> Key to Jens’ Farmhouse
- HeljarchenTraillusHouseKey -> Key to Traillus’s House
- HeljarchenNightgateInnKey -> Key to the Nightgate Inn
Due to the missing apostrophe in the first key’s name, I’m not quite sure if we’re dealing with someone named “Fathenda” or someone named “Fathendas”, but because all other names ending with “s” use it in their internal name I assume that “Fathendas” is the correct name. Both Heigen and Jens are male Nord names, and their keys reveal that they would’ve most likely been farmers. It’s possible that they had relatives living with them, but because the farmhouse is in their name, the possible others’ names have been lost to time. Traillus is a male Imperial name, and Fathendas can be a Breton or Bosmer name, or even part of a Dunmer name. Both Fathendas and Traillus could’ve been the owners of either the blacksmith or apothecary shops, but there’s nothing concrete enough to definitively link them.
An interesting detail is that the Nightgate Inn’s merchant chest isn’t prefixed with Heljarchen, while the rentable bed is, so Bethesda likely forgot to add the chest until after the town was scrapped. A bit further away from the inn are two fishing markers, these markers were once intended to display a fishing animation, a functionality that was removed in its entirety. These markers are known as:
Belayn and Felisi are first names for male and female Dunmer, respectively. Because there are no last names given in the markers, it’s unknown if they would’ve had them. Due to this, it’s also unknown if Belayn and Felisi were to be related. What’s the most interesting, however, is the placement of these markers. Both of them are near a random stream, instead of just being placed at the local lake. Felisi’s marker placement isn’t close enough to the stream and Belayn’s is placed completely underneath the map, hinting that this cell might’ve been very different at one point.
Knowing that the Nightgate Inn was once surrounded by at least four more houses, and had at least six more NPCs living in it, gives a whole other vibe to the place when you visit it in the final game. That feeling is exactly what I’m trying to convey here, as it’s gonna come up again, no doubt. Besides the general lay-out changes that I’ve mentioned, there are some other interesting tidbits related to Heljarchen still in the files:
- During the quest “Dark Brotherhood Forever”, one of your possible contract givers might be an NPC called “Griefstricken Chef”. This man appears in the Windpeak Inn in Dawnstar. However, his internal name, “DBRecurringContact9Heljarchen”, reveals that he was to be found in the village originally.
- There’s a third resident located at the inn, just known as “Fultheim”. He carries a Blades sword and a Red Book of Riddles, but there’s nothing else related to him. He has no quest ties or noteworthy dialogue, nothing. While it can’t be confirmed, his importance was likely gutted with the rest of the village.
- CWGarrisonReservationMarkerHeljarchen is the name of the marker still used by the final game to indicate when the location’s soldiers should change alignment.
- CWCourierHorseMarkerHeljarchen is the name of the marker that would’ve given the Stormcloak Courier seen during “A False Front” a horse to ride on, something which never happens in the final game. There are 10 more markers like these for other inns in Skyrim.
- Arngeir, General Tullius and Ulfric Stormcloak have unused dialogue mentioning Heljarchen as the scene of a potential massacre during Season Unending. This isn’t some lost lore, but the towns he would’ve namedropped during the quest were originally meant to be random. A lot of existing and removed locations have similar leftover lines.
- Heljarchen is also mentioned in both the CWScript and the CWMapScript as one of the important locations in the Pale. In the CWScript, its references are commented out and marked with the text “OBSOLETE CUT FROM GAME”. (The CWMapScript was to indicate important places that got flags on the military maps seen in-game.)
- Lastly, it is also mentioned in the CarriageSystemScript. The carriage system in the final game is only a fraction of what it was supposed to be and Heljarchen was to be one of the many scrapped stops for said carriage.
The Old Hroldan Inn is the only other standalone inn in the game. And to no-one’s surprise, it was also meant to be part of a settlement. The inn seems to have directly lifted the name from the original settlement, as said settlement was to be called “Old Hroldan” while the inn was meant to be called the “Hanged Man Inn” originally. A lot of markers, factions and internal data still refer to it by that name. Even the mapmarker in the final game still just refers to it as “Old Hroldan”. Bethesda didn’t really try a whole lot to cover this cut up, yet they did either delete most of the related content, or hadn’t made it yet, as there’s barely any leftovers related to Old Hroldan as a settlement.
Well, actually, there are none. No references to other residents, houses, stores or anything else are known to exist. The only known thing that was certainly removed, is a quest. The quest that plays out in the final game, “The Ghost of Old Hroldan”, is known internally as “FreeformOldHroldanB”, but there isn’t a single trace remaining of whatever “FreeformOldHroldanA” was supposed to be. It’s possible that it would’ve dealt with Eydis’ husband who disappeared, but that’s pure speculation. In one of the only times he’s mentioned, the line seems to have been spliced pretty badly, which might hint at something more, but I’m not quite sure. Old Hroldan also has some leftover tidbits:
- Just like Heljarchen, Old Hroldan is also mentioned as an important holding in the CWScript, using the early name.
- It’s also present under this name in the CWMapScript.
- It’s also present in the CarriageSystemScript, as it was once an intended stop.
- Arngeir, Tullius and Ulfric also have dialogue mentioning Old Hroldan under its original name.
- Despite not originating in Arena, Old Hroldan has often been mentioned in lore before finally appearing in Skyrim. It was first mentioned in the Pocket Guide to the Empire which came with The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard in 1998. It was always referred to as a town or holding.
- And on a final interesting note, it seems that during the ghost quest, you would’ve once asked about Cuhlecain instead of Hjalti. The topic is internally referred to as “FreeformOldHroldanBCuhlecainBranch”. Cuhlecain is a character in Elder Scrolls lore that doesn’t get mentioned in the game at all, otherwise.
Granite Hill is an even weirder concept, as it has been basically completely wiped from the game, yet there’s also a rather impressive amount of things that still refer to it.
Granite Hill also originates from Arena, where it was known as “Granitehall”. Again, let’s just alter those names, I guess. Granite Hill can still be seen on the local map when opened on the dragon mound where Vulnotjaak is found in the final game. This clearly indicates that the terrain was altered quite a bit since the village was removed. While there are no indications as to how exactly the village would’ve looked, it’s still mentioned in the book “Holdings of Jarl Gjalund”, just like Old Hroldan.
In the book, Granite Hill is described as “Three Farms and an Inn, just North of the Falkreath.” Now, while the book was clearly meant to be written as a “how did it look before”-type of deal, Rorikstead and Whiterun are still accurately portrayed by the book. Most interestingly is that it mentions Old Hroldan as a single building, trying to retcon the existence of it as a town. This, in my opinion, implies that the book description accurately depicts how Granite Hill was to appear in-game. The most interesting part of Granite Hill however, is that it’s actually still mentioned in-game. Yeah, that’s right. Jarl Siddgeir of Falkreath still mentions it in a conversation with his steward, Nenya. Really weird that this wasn’t caught by Bethesda, but hey, not the first nor the last time they slip up.
Once again, there are some loose tidbits connected to Granite Hall as well:
- It’s mentioned as a holding in Falkreath in the CWScript where it’s commented out and has a note next to it reading “CUT FROM GAME”.
- It’s also mentioned in the CWMapScript.
- It’s also mentioned in the CarriageSystemScript as a possible destination.
- During the quest “Dark Brotherhood Forever”, one of your possible targets might be an NPC called “Beautiful Barbarian”. This woman appears in Ivarstead. Her internal name, “DBRecurringTarget10GraniteHill”, reveals that she was to be found in the village originally.
Stonehills is another place that appeared in Arena, it’s also the first settlement on this list which actually appears with its original name in the final game. Although, that doesn’t mean that not much was changed, on the contrary.
In the final game, Stonehills consists of a mine, Sorli’s house, and the tent camp for the miners (Teeba-Ei, Swanhvir, Jesper and Gestur Rockbreaker). Based just on IDs, it’s quite clear that Sorli, her husband Pactur, and son Sirgar, were late additions to the settlement and didn’t exist originally. In the final game, Pactur is mostly in charge of the mine… Yet, Gestur also seems to have this distinction. It seems safe to say that the role originally belonged to Gestur, before Pactur was added.
The settlement was also meant to be built completely differently. Of course, Sorli’s house didn’t exist at this point, but neither did the mining camp. The three miners Teeba, Swanhvir, and Jesper all carry a key known as “Key to Longhouse” in the final game. Surprisingly, this key leads to nowhere. It seems that the miners originally bunked together in a longhouse, instead of just having a tent at a campfire. Why was this changed? No clue, aesthetics seem to be the most obvious answer but it’s strange either way. Gestur, as mine boss, wouldn’t have bunked with his workers either. He was to have his own, seperate house. The key and locklist of said house still exist, but go completely unused.
Stonehills also had at least three removed NPCs, each more interesting than the last. The first one is someone by the name of Aleuc, which is a male Breton name. He would’ve been the local blacksmith. We know this because his vendor chest still exists under the internal name “MerchantStonehillsAleucChest”. He also would’ve had his own house, of which the key also still exists. The second NPC that goes unused is the first one in this entire chapter to actually exist in NPC form. He’s a young Redguard by the name of Talib.
Talib is basically as close as a finished NPC as they come. He’s fully designed, he has a unique inventory, unique schedule, correctly-assigned factions… He even has a relation set up with Jesper, they’re marked as rivals. Strangely though, he has no such relationship set up between him and his father, Gestur. Yes, apparently, Talib was Gestur’s son. They mention this fact in an unused scene that’s still leftover in the files. It’s likely because of this that Talib would’ve lived at Gestur’s house, although that can’t be confirmed. His AI package combined with the scene also implies that Talib worked in the mine alongside the other miners. All of Talib’s other dialogue no longer remains in the files, however. This means it’s unknown why he was on bad terms with Jesper, or why he would’ve visited the third unused NPC, Argi Farseer.
Argi Farseer is a very interesting character. Just like Talib, she’s basically ready to go. She has a unique design, unique schedule, correctly-assigned factions, and a unique inventory. She would’ve even had her own house at Stonehills. Although, this isn’t what makes her special, no, once again that lies in her “Relationships” tab. Argi is marked as the sister of Idgrod Ravencrone, the same woman that’s the Jarl of Morthal. Had Argi been included, it would’ve been the first time that a relative of a Jarl was seen outside of their court or even the hold capital. However, just like Talib, Argi doesn’t seem to have kept her unique dialogue, and no-one in Morthal ever makes mention of her, so how she would’ve ended up there is unknown.
The relationship, however, is marked as secret. This may imply that either Argi had a different mother or father, or that the family had another secret. Maybe she was banished from the capital, or left for her own protection, it can’t be said. Although, it’s pretty clear that Argi is younger, and she’s also the only one of her direct family to have light-colored hair. As Idgrod and her two children feature dark black hair, Argi has very light blond hair. Seeing as the two are marked as allies, they were probably still on good terms.
So, with Sorli out of the picture, Stonehills would’ve been a pretty interesting settlement consisting of at least 4 houses and the mine. There’s just one thing that’s a bit off… And that’s Stonehills’ story. The settlement was clearly meant to appear as a dreary place where people down on their luck went. Both Swanhvir and Jesper basically only say “Nothing matters, only work”. Teeba-Ei has a bit more depth, with him just wishing things had turned out better for him. Gestur himself has the most interesting take on this, saying “Bryling owns this mine. I wouldn’t have much to live for if she hadn’t offered me a job.” and “My job is my life. Whatever happened before doesn’t matter.” This is all quite interesting as a setup. “What happened to these people for them to act like this?” But it never goes anywhere. Gestur has conversations with all three workers and his son, but the only subject they ever talk about is work. Even Talib seemed to already suspect that his father would want to ask about work, rather than him, so it really seems like they wanted something to come from all this, but it just never does. Some of the Stonehills citizens even get some cool backstories in the Official Game Guide, Teeba-Ei, being one of them. His portion reads as follows:
“The sole survivor of a wrecked trader vessel, Teeba-Ei wandered into Stonehills nearly frozen to death. He was taken in and cared for, and was grateful that few questions were asked about how he came to be there. He now gladly serves Sorli, working the mine, and is willing to follow her everywhere, even if that means going to Morthal as her Housecarl.”
This is interesting, mostly because no-one ever mentions any of this in the final game. It’s unlikely to just have been made-up, so it’s sad that this backstory never gets told to the players, as it would’ve gone a long way in fleshing out one of the most forgettable Argonians in the game.
Darkwater Crossing is possibly one of the saddest locations in the game, as it could’ve had so much more intrigue than the final version. First of all, it was meant to be the site of the battle that saw Ulfric Stormcloak captured at the start of the game, which makes no sense in itself, but no-one there even mentions it at all. That’s the main problem with the location, everything feels disconnected, just like Sorli’s family and the miners in Stonehills, here we have Annekke and Verner versus the miners.
Verner and Annekke were created at the same time as the majority of characters in Darkwater Crossing and Kynesgrove, yet feel like they were complete afterthoughts. They don’t have any ties to interesting removed content either, they just don’t carry the key to their house, making it go unused. Since it misspells Annekke’s name, we’re not missing out on much, either way. No, the interesting part concerns the miners, or rather, lack thereof. Miner Tormir might ask you this, upon greeting you:
“What’s your trouble? Dasturn telling tales again?”
The actual trouble here lies in the fact that “Dasturn” can’t be found in the settlement, they don’t exist at all. This line of dialogue is the only time they’re ever mentioned. Dasturn might be a male Nord, but it’s quite hard to pinpoint. Dasturn isn’t even the only non-existent NPC mentioned by Tormir. She may also mention someone by the name of “Meieran” during conversations with both her daughter Hrefna, and fellow miner Sondas Drenim. Meieran is described as a “good elf” and “a half-decent farmer”. He would’ve likely been a male High Elf and it seems like he was a pretty important character for the miners, but he just… Got cut, I suppose. The crops at Darkwater Crossing now go untended, which is pretty weird once you notice it. Continuing with Tormir, both she and her daughter are in a faction known as “DarkwaterCrossingCrossinghouseFaction”. They are also both present in the respective formlist, and location data and a key also exist for this apparent abode for the two women.
The other miner, Sondas Drenim, was also supposed to have his own dwelling, rather than live at a campsite. (Sound familiar?) The internal names of his scenes with Tormir are “DialogueDarkwaterCrossingInnScene4” and “DialogueDarkwaterCrossingInnScene5” respectively. Not only does this suggest that he was supposed to run an inn, it also suggests that at least three other scenes were removed prior to release. For the doubters, this scene naming coupled with his class and barkeep clothes just screams that’s what his purpose was. This isn’t necessarily the case with Tormir, who wears merchant clothes for some reason, but nothing points at her having been intended to be a merchant.
Hrefna was also supposed to play around Sondas at the inn while her mother worked in the mines. This behavior still gets used in the final game, but as Sondas now also works in the mine, she just follows him there and it totally defeats the purpose. Speaking of Hrefna, though, her scenes with her mother are kept under the record “HrefnaScenes” and the existing ones are numbered 1, 2, and 4. Meaning that, at the very least, one scene was cut. If her dialogue is anything to go by, it’s likely this scene was between her and Meieran.
However, the strangest piece of this puzzle is yet to come, and that’s Derkeethus. He’s the last miner at the settlement, but he doesn’t appear there until he’s rescued from Darkwater Pass in a related quest. Derkeethus… doesn’t have any unique dialogue, or does he? Well, he has three unique lines that he uses during the quest, but that’s it. He never acknowledges you rescuing him, and neither does anyone else. In fact, both Sondas and Hrefna will mention his absence before the quest is completed, but after he gets back, no-one will mention his name again. This would imply that Derkeethus was added late, right? Well, he was created consequently with Tormir, and she appears to have been created early judging by her dialogue, but that’s just not the case. It seems that Darkwater Crossing’s content was very late and very hastily. Derkeethus lost his dialogue in the process, and the settlement lost at least two settlers and two buildings. This is sad in itself, but there’s another thing that they lost, and that’s functionality.
Darkwater Crossing is a mining settlement in the final game, but as mentioned above, it also has a small farm, but no farmers. Despite this, it’s also located right next to a big lake. Isn’t it weird that there are no fishermen? If you recall from Heljarchen, fishing is an activity that got basically completely wiped from the game. However, both Tormir and Sondas refer to fish in their dialogue, Tormir even saying: “Not much to it, really. We fish, and keep to ourselves. Try to keep from upsetting the Empire or the Stormcloaks, and so far the war’s left us alone.” if asked about the settlement.
It’s even hinted at by Sondas that Derkeethus is the settlement’s fisherman, and Derkeethus’ quest even goes a step further than that. In a quest stage that the player normally can’t see because the quest is miscellaneous, the journal reads: “One of the fisherman from Darkwater Crossing has gone missing, allegedly kidnapped by a group of Falmer nearby.” The way it’s worded here implies that there were to be even more fishermen at the settlement. Another journal entry also indicates that Derkeethus would’ve had his own house, something of which there’s no trace in the files: “I rescued Derkeethus from the Falmer of Darkwater Pass, and he’s returned to his home in Darkwater Crossing.” There’s even a record known as “FishingHoleScenes” which likely stored scenes between the local fishermen, which is completely empty, sadly enough. There are also three markers: “DarkwaterCrossingFishingSpot1Ref”, “DarkwaterCrossingFishingSpot2Ref” and “DarkwaterCrossingFishingSpot3Ref” that indicate that someone at some point really was meant to use this in order to fish for the settlement.
Darkwater Crossing would’ve been the only settlement that had farmers, miners, and fishermen working in unison, and because we’ve lost all that, I personally find this to be one of the biggest settlement-related losses in the entire game.
Kynesgrove was seemingly created alongside Darkwater Crossing, and suffers from a lot of the same problems. There weren’t as many actual content cuts here as there are weird story oddities. For example, remember miner Tormir from Darkwater Crossing? She’s actually marked as a “Foe” to Kjeld. The two never mention each other or have even the slightest context clues connecting them, but that doesn’t mean that it has stopped people from assuming that Kjeld is supposedly Tormir’s estranged husband who she mentions with disdain in dialogue. The fact that Kjeld implies that he doesn’t care about being faithful to his wife, Iddra, only strengthens these rumors.
Another person with a weird relationship is his son, Kjeld the Younger. He only has two relationships set up (yet none with his mother). The first one marks him as Kjeld’s son, the other marks him as the boyfriend of Susanna the Wicked. For those that don’t recall the name, Susanna is a serving girl… In Windhelm. So, why are these two characters marked as courting? No clue! They don’t mention each other and they don’t even mention the fact they’re in a relationship. Susanna suffers a scripted death in the game, and no-one in Kynesgrove is gonna react to it, people in Windhelm itself barely do.
The entire family, and local resident Roggi Knot-Beard, can also be heard mentioning “Froa”. She’s the daughter of Kjeld and Iddra, and younger sister of Kjeld the Younger. The problem is that she doesn’t exist outside of dialogue. There’s not even a trace of her anywhere to be found, just like the mentioned-only NPCs in Darkwater Crossing. Since these people were almost certainly created at the same time, did Bethesda just forget to create the correct NPCs and didn’t notice until it was too late? Something that’s also mentioned in dialogue only is a goat pen, which would make sense to be at the settlement, but alas.
Another local resident, Dravynea the Stoneweaver, is a Dunmer refugee from Morrowind. She’s weirdly enough marked as a confidant of Ambarys Rendar, another refugee and innkeeper in Windhelm. Despite the two never acknowledging each other’s existence, at least Dravynea says: “I should get over to Windhelm more. See how the other Morrowind refugees are getting along.” That kinda makes it believable that she’s acquainted with the local refugees, but it’s still pretty lazy.
The last two Kynesgrove residents of notice are the sisters Gemma and Ganna Uriel. Besides the fact that they apparently just use Uriel Septim’s first name as a last name nowadays, the sisters have another oddity about them. Their whole story basically boils down to: They ran away from Cyrodiil, started a mill near Kynesgrove, weren’t allowed to cut down the trees due to them being sacred, and now they’re stuck as miners.
Ganna is the more talkative of the two, and she refers to their mill in dialogue: “We got the mill up and running before we found out that the big stand of trees on the hill was sacred. Now we can’t cut them, and can’t afford to buy another mill somewhere else.”
Of course, you might’ve seen this coming, but there is no mill anywhere to be found around town. But there are remnants of one in the files. A single leftover can be found in the internal name of a cell in the game: “KynesgroveFrostbarkLumberMillExterior”. This cell in-game is quite a bit away from the actual town, located at a nearby stream, which would make sense. It’s very likely that the mill also had an interior cell made, but that one probably got completely removed.
The last point to mention is that Ganna and Gemma have a lot of scenes with each other. In these scenes, the developers seemingly assigned the dialogue to the wrong sister every time, as their dialogue doesn’t align with their characters. The same mistake also happens with Kjeld and Kjeld the Younger in one scene. If this is anything to go by, I’d say that Bethesda just didn’t really care when creating Kynesgrove and Darkwater Crossing.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Stonehills, Darkwater Crossing and Kynesgrove were also meant as possible stops for the carriage originally, and still get mentioned in the related script.
Dragon Bridge is yet another town that first appeared in Arena, under the exact same name. It is also a town that probably received more care and attention than most, yet it still ends up underdelivering. Believe it or not, but Bethesda actually removed the most important NPC of the town, an Imperial man by the name of Tasius Tragus. Another inhabitant, by the name of Varnius Junius, still makes mention of Tasius in the final game in a greeting: “Mind you don’t cross Tassius. He’s in charge around here.”
Out of all the removed NPCs, Tasius has the most leftover relationships set up. General Tullius himself is marked as his boss, and Tasius is marked as the boss of Varnius Junius. He’s also marked as the lover of Faida… and as the lover of Julienne Lylvieve, but the latter relation is marked as secret. A love triangle in such a small town could’ve been interesting, but seeing as we already have one with Olda, Horgeir and his brother Lodvar, two might’ve been a bit much.
Tasius is still present in a FormList containing all the local residents, his factions are set up correctly, he has a unique face and outfit, but both his inventory and his AI packages seem to be basic placeholders that never got filled in. Due to this, it’s not really clear what his purpose was supposed to be, but he seems to be an earlier iteration of Commander Maro and Gaius Maro, combined into one character. I say this because he serves under General Tullius like the Commander serves under Imperial authority, and he has a relationship with the townsfolk like Gaius.
Varnius Junius has a weird remnant of something leftover in his dialogue. His last greeting used is just a wimpy: “At least, if you’re gonna cause trouble, go somewhere else, okay? Please?” But there’s actually hidden player dialogue leftover. Since greetings don’t open the dialogue menu, this can’t normally be seen, but internally there’s a prompt attached to the line that reads: “Are you a mercenary? You won’t find much work here.” You couldn’t ask for a more out-of-place line. There are a couple of ways that this dialogue could’ve been used.
As it stands now, it’s a player response to a question that no longer exists. In my eyes, it seems more likely that it would’ve been the topic, rather than the prompt, and the developers simply misplaced it. This means that the player could’ve asked Varnius if he’s a mercenary. The problem with this being that Varnius does not fit that role in the slightest, so maybe he was changed in development?
Seeing as that’s a slim chance, here’s theory number two: the player could’ve asked Tasius if he’s a mercenary, but the dialogue was accidentally attached to Varnius. Not much to confirm this either, but Tasius could actually be mistaken for a mercenary, unlike Varnius. But maybe the most reasonable explanation is that a developer misplaced this dialogue in the prompt, while it was meant to go to “script notes”. Skyrim’s dialogue often has earlier iterations of its lines saved there. If this was the case, then this was something that Varnius would’ve said to the player, and the line does seem in-character for that purpose.
Going back to Tasius for a moment, another Imperial man by the name of “Voltus Agallon” also once held the role of both Maro’s, but he’s more related to the Dark Brotherhood questline than just the town of Dragon Bridge. The same goes for the Maro’s, while Tasius has the distinction of being created at the same time as the other townspeople, if we look at ID’s.
There actually is someone that wasn’t created at the same time as all the other townspeople, and that’s Julienne Lylvieve, the daughter of the Lylvieve family. In standard Skyrim fashion, she isn’t even acknowledged by her family most of the time. Her mother and her brother never mention her, and neither does her employer, Faida. Her father, however, may mention her when talking about the presence of soldiers passing through town: “They said soldiers don’t need to pay because they’re risking their lives to protect us. And that’s not all. They took a heap of our lumber, and one tried to have his way with my daughter. They think they can do whatever they want.”
Of course, this seems to be recorded later than his greeting, as that one completely ignores Julienne’s existence: “Got a loving wife, a healthy son and a patch of land to call my own. What more could a man ask for?”
Besides that, there is little else in the way of removed content, but there are some interesting story threads that never really go anywhere, again, it’s about time to have a déjà vu. First off is innkeeper Faida. She states the following: “I was a barmaid at the Winking Skeever when I met my husband, rest his soul. Wasn’t for him, I’d still be working there!” This is really quite strange, and of course, it’s also the only mention we ever get of Faida’s late husband. Her working at Solitude’s big inn may have some more relevance though, as she’s supposed to be the cousin of the innkeeper there. Not only are they internally set up as cousins, but Corpulus Vinius actually mentions her by name as his cousin. So that never goes anywhere, and that’s a waste, but Azzada’s storyline is the real wasted potential here.
Azzada Lylvieve will gladly talk about his tragic past in conversation: “I grew up an orphan on the streets of Markarth. I’d have died there, too, but for the kindness of an old warrior named Logrolf the Bent. Logrolf rescued me and gave me enough money to get out of the city. I followed the Karth river north, and came here. When I met Michel, I knew this was where I belonged. I suppose that’s it, really.”
You would think that’s all there is to that plot, but in a conversation between Michel and Azzada, it’s revealed that the couple is still in touch with Logrolf. Not only that, but Logrolf is now living on the streets, because he thinks his house is haunted. If this all sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because most of it is. This is a seemingly loose reference to the “Abandoned House” in Markarth, which is said to be haunted. Internally, it’s referred to as “Logrolf’s House”. Logrolf, of course, refers to “Logrolf the Willful”, an NPC that’s tied to the house by the quest “The House of Horrors”. Logrolf is also placed in the Warrens, Markarth’s slums, although he can never be found there due to how the quest is scripted.
It’s highly possible that what Azzada refers to is actually an earlier iteration of said quest, that might’ve started by talking to either Azzada or Logrolf, rather than Vigilant Tyranus. Of course, there’s nothing that confirms this, but it seems more likely than giving all of this hidden backstory to characters that are basically inconsequential in the final game. Another weird detail is that Azzada is marked as a foe of Omluag internally. Omluag is a smelter worker in Markarth that also lives in the slums. It’s possible that the two would’ve had some history, but in the final game neither party acknowledges the other.
As we come to the cut content of the bigger towns, there are some smaller towns that also hold interesting little secrets, it’s important to not forget about these.
- Shor’s Stone only has four named residents in the final game, with only a single female, Sylgja. Sylgja is the daughter of Annekke and Verner from Darkwater Crossing, but this wasn’t always the case. Originally, Grelka, Riften’s armor merchant, had this role. She would’ve been the only local female, and had scenes with all the men in town. When Grelka was replaced with Sylgja, the lines in these scenes weren’t re-recorded. Grelka’s involvement wasn’t even changed, leading to none of the male residents ever speaking to Sylgja in the final game. There are also early quest items bearing her name, these were replaced with appropriate ones for Sylgja in the final game. The only remnant of Grelka’s earlier role is her inclusion in the “PotentialMarriageFaction” like Sylgja.
- Another resident, Odfel, speaks of his unique pickaxe “Rocksplinter”, but he just carries a normal pickaxe in the final game. Rocksplinter actually exists in the files, he just… doesn’t have it for whatever reason.
- The Redbelly Mine of Shor’s Stone is also full of inconsistencies. For example, despite printed literature and dialogue in-game referring to it as an iron mine and the fact that Grogmar gro-Burzag will explicitly buy iron ore from you, the veins in the mine produce ebony ore. The name itself comes from the thick red mist, as stated in-game, but there is no such mist to be found in the mine at any point. Finally, despite the fact that Filnjar states no-one got hurt, multiple dessicated corpses appear in the mine.
- Another town in The Rift that’s filled with weird inconsistensies is Ivarstead. The most notable example is Lynly Star-Sung. She’s actually a girl named “Svidi” from Riften, who went into hiding. The man who’s looking for her describes her as: “She was a young woman… buxom, with long flowing black hair.” The problem here is that Lynly actually has short, blond hair. While many reasons to explain this can be given, let’s just accept that someone at Bethesda made an oversight and leave it at that.
- Lynly is also marked as a confidant of Bersi Honey-Hand, a pawnbroker in Riften. Now, this makes sense in a way, as inside of his store, there’s a note from Wilhelm. Wilhelm is Lynly’s boss at the Vilemyr Inn, but it’s weird that Lynly is the one with the relationship ties, and not Wilhelm. Of course, this is never brought up in-game either.
- Then there’s also the curious case of the two local fishermen, Bassianus Axius and Klimmek. Bassianus (who’s weirdly enough a Nord and not an Imperial) and Klimmek were actually supposed to do their job in front of you, but like all the other fishermen I’ve mentioned thus far, they simply don’t. Klimmek actually has an AI package that he uses in order to fish, but he just stands in the river due to the aforementioned removed animation(s). Even weirder is that the package makes him move to a marker known as “IvarsteadBrecaFishingMarker”. There is nobody by the name of “Breca” to be found anywhere in the village or elsewhere in the game or its files. They were either an earlier version of Klimmek, or Klimmek absorbed their role in development. Breca seems to be a female Breton name. There’s also a marker known as “IvarsteadBassianusFishingMarker”, but Bassianus doesn’t have an AI package to even make him go there.
- In Rorikstead, innkeeper and protective father Mralki may scold his son Erik for sneaking around in the inn’s basement. Erik’s purpose for doing so was trying to break into his father’s chest in order to try on his old Legion armor. The problem being… the inn doesn’t actually have a basement. Despite this, the mentioned chest does actually exist. “Mralki’s Chest” contains a full set of iron armor, only lacking a helmet, as well as a steel sword and 50 gold pieces. However, the internal name of the chest is even more interesting: “RoriksteadFreeformMralkisChest”. The Rorikstead freeform quest is actually the quest to transform Erik into Erik the Slayer, and it appears that the goal originally was to get Mralki’s belongings from the chest through whatever means, rather than just getting his blessing. A related “Iron Key”, internally known as “RoriksteadFreeformMralkisChestKey” also goes unused. Getting this key apparently also played a role in the quest at one point as a papyrus fragment attached to stage 10 of the quest reads: “Player has spoken to Erik, and Erik is waiting to get the key”.
- Karthwasten doesn’t have any remarkable cuts, but it does have some interesting internal data. Ainethach, the owner of the town, is internally identified as the father of the chef’s aids in Markarth, Rondach and Voada. Neither party ever mentions each other, which is kind of awkward when you realize Ainethach is a viable marriage prospect, unknowingly making you the step-parent to two young adults. Since his previous wife is also never brought up.
- Even more interesting is the case of Lash gra-Dusnikh. She explicitly wears that last name due coming from the Orc stronghold of Dusnikh Yal, which is part of her backstory and a personal quest. Yet, she is referred to as “Lash gra-Shugurz” twice internally. It’s weird as this basically negates her backstory. Even weirder is that the two Orcs to actually carry this name Urzoga and Mulush, don’t use it internally, meaning it’s unclear if they were once to be related.
- Riverwood, due to being (one of) the first town(s) to be finished, has a lot of early remnants in the code, although these aren’t as noticeable in-game as some of the other things mentioned here. Sven, Faendal and Lucan Valerius each are tagged with the otherwise-unused keyword “TestDemoQuestgiver”. Alvor and Sigrid are tagged with the “TraitSympathizerImperial” keyword, and Hod and Gerdur with “TraitSympathizerSons”. Since no-one else uses these keywords, it’s unclear what their intended purpose was.
- There are multiple instances of Sven being called “Raevild” internally, this was likely an earlier name for him.
- Both Hilde, Sven’s mother, and Embry, the town drunk, were created later than all the other townsfolk.
- Unlike most child NPCs, Dorthe has a fully customized face. Although this doesn’t actually alter anything due to how the child races are set up, this may indicate that at one point the children were also meant to have custom faces, rather than them all sharing one face model.
- The investor perk list for the Riverwood Trader is known as “PerkInvestorRiverwoodWhiteriverTraderList”, indicating that the “Whiteriver Trader” might have been an early name for the store.
- Alvor and Sigrid’s House is internally known as “Alvor’s House”, and the same goes for Hod and Gerdur’s House, which is known as “Gerdur’s House”. Most houses in Skyrim only list the one owner.
- Besides all the previously-mentioned places that originated in Arena, Karthwasten and Riverwood also first appeared in that game. The former as “Karthwasten Hall” and the latter under the same name as seen in Skyrim.
- Every single place that has been mentioned up to this point was also meant to be a stop for the carriages, but mentioning each one individually would’ve been redundant. The same also goes for the Arngeir/Ulfric/Tullius dialogue meant for Season Unending. Every place was meant to have a chance of randomly getting called out as the place of a massacre. In the final game, only the dialogue related to Karthwasten ever gets used for this purpose.
And with that, we’ve come to an end in this (way too) in-depth look at how Skyrim’s towns have changed during development. Of course, not every single line of dialogue that goes unused has been mentioned, as there’s still room for that in the future. This time I just wanted to look at how things changed from a worldbuilding perspective. Also, yes, Helgen was not included here because there will be a whole other guide page about changes to the game’s intro, talking all about it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your time here, and if you’re interested in getting to know more about Skyrim’s unused content, stay in touch for the next installment, all about the lost farms, mines, mills and more that once dotted the landscape!
By Giel Lehouck
*This guide consists mainly of my own knowledge and my own research, using the game’s Creation Kit tool. The Official Prima Games Guide is also used to cross-reference details or give more backstory. I also recommend a visit to the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages website, as it’s the best source of Elder Scrolls-related information available on the web. Both pictures used are also sourced from there.*