Located high above the city of Markarth, Understone Keep is a gigantic dwarven structure, now used as the city’s castle.
The Castle Wizard, Calcelmo, has recently uncovered additional chambers. Both he and his nephew Aicantar, can be found here, leading an excavation effort of the ruins. The sheer size of this place and ability to be well guarded negates some of the instability the location has recently suffered from.
Entrance to the Mournful Throne
The first time you enter via the main doors, Thongvor Silver-Blood is having a heated discussion with Brother Verulus about the worship of the outlawed deity, Talos. At this huge intersection of stone and fire, head left to Nchuand-Zel’s entrance, right to the Dwemer Museum or on to meet the Jarl, who is guarded by both Markarth Guards and Thalmor Soldiers. Jarl Igmund sits on the Mournful Throne, usually with his Steward and Housecarl by him.
Outside, on the upper top of the stairs where Ondolemar and his guards like to stride about, are two stone tables. The one to the right (northwest) houses a Skill Book. Skill Book (Alteration): Daughter of the Niben
To the left (south) of the throne room are the kitchens. The two hounds around here are large but friendly. Inside, you usually find Voada and Rondach and the short-tempered Anton Virane. As expected, there’s a massive amount of food in here.
Igmund rests here, behind the large golden door to the left (southeast) of the throne room. If you’re going to sift through his personal belongings, remember to try the ones on the stone shelf facing the subterranean river that dominates the rear of the chamber. Skill Book (Conjuration): The Warrior's Charge
This is located to the right (north) of the throne room. Moth gro-Bagol works here, while his sister Ghorza tends to the Blacksmith Forge outside. A Blacksmith Forge, Grindstone, Tanning Rack, Workbench are available here.
You are trespassing if you head into this area. To the right (northwest) are bedrooms for the more important members of the Jarl’s counsel. Faleen’s room is to the right, with the large dinner table, a Key to Markarth Keep that opens the two other nearby doors, and the Jarl’s Quarters. Raerek houses the steward, a Key, and his secret Talos-loving reading materials. Up the stairs is a third room leading to the Imperial War Room, where Legate Emmanuel Admand is overseeing the Civil War in this territory.
Markarth Wizard's Quarters
Unless you’ve been given approval by Calcelmo, you are trespassing in the following areas. You are unable to head farther into the laboratory or tower unless Thieves Guild Quest: Hard Answers is active
The Dwemer Museum showcases Calcelmo’s collection of artifacts recovered from ruins across Skyrim. Only three guards patrol this area, keeping watch for intruders. This space is normally off-limits—the guards will aggressively arrest you if you trespass here—but you can get Calcelmo’s permission to visit the museum in any number of ways; see Thieves Guild Quest: Hard Answers for details. The Museum has the finest collection of Dwarven artifacts (weapons, armor, items, and books) in the entirety of Skyrim and the highest concentration of locked containers in any area of the game. There’s even a small selection of Falmer items. To the south is a gate (Apprentice) leading to a small workshop with an Unusual Gem. To the northwest is a locked gate to a two-level storage room. Up the steps to the west is the laboratory door. (There is a glitch that if you have already completed Hard Answers, you may receive the mission again by entering the Dwemer Museum)
This area is the main living and research quarters for Calcelmo and Aicantar, although they typically spend most of their time in the Keep, closer to the Nchuand-Zel Entrance. Most of this area is locked unless you’re on Thieves Guild Quest: Hard Answers.
Markarth Wizard's Balcony
The great balcony atop the keep connects Calcelmo’s laboratory to his tower, a separate structure off the main body of the Keep. There’s a great view of the city from here. One section of the balcony wall has broken away, exposing a path around the cliffside that ends in a waterfall. If you were in a hurry, you might just be able to jump from here.
The tower has a lower-level entry hall, an upper-level office, and a massive stone relic containing a text in Dwemer and Falmer on the same granite slab. This stone is the key to Calcelmo’s current research, a secret he jealously protects.
- Bravil: Daughter of the Niben, an Alteration Skill Book.
- The Warrior's Charge, a Conjuration Skill Book
- Assorted Dwemer metal pieces near the Nchuand-Zel Excavation Site entrance where Calcelmo is located. These pieces respawn after a few days.
- Two "unlimited chests" that refill with items, at least one magical, inside the shadowy corners of Jarl Igmund's throne room down stage left and right. Note that some of the items within the chests will be labeled as stolen.
- Igmund - Jarl of Markarth
- Raerak- Steward to the Jarl
- Faleen - Housecarl to Igmund
- Thongvor Silver-Blood - Jarl of Markarth (Stormcloaks questline)
- Brother Verulus - Priest of Arkay
- Ondolemar - Thalmor operative
- Calcelmo - Court-wizard and Dwemer scholar.
- Aicantar - Calcelmo's nephew and apprentice.
- Kottir Red-Shout - Stormcloak Officer (Stormcloaks questline)
- Becoming Thane of Markarth
- Nimhe, the Poisoned One
- The Lost Expedition
- Find a Deadra Heart for Moth gro-Bagol
- Once you have liberated The Reach for the Stormcloaks, Kottir Red-shout, the local commander of the Stormcloaks, will move into one of the rooms in Understone Keep. Thalmor Soldiers also inhabit this room, and they never clash. Attacking the Thalmor agents will cause Kottir to fight for them.
- According to the Skyrim Map, made by GameBanshee, this it the furthest west location in all of skyrim.