Stories from Skyrim: The Markarth Incident

A great thing about sandbox nature of Elder Scrolls games is that they let you create your own story. Your own narrative you build through your actions, and accumulation of random events often overwhelms scripted story events and set pieces. Here is one of such stories. I don’t really have screenshots like for my huntress story, because it was a spur of the moment thing. So instead showing you pictures, I will paint them with words.

When you reach the Markarth you immediately know something is rotten in that city. People get shived in the middle of a busy street, and the city guards just stand around and let it happen. And it’s not just buggy Bethesda scripting either, because one of them walks up to you and tells you to mind your own business and forget you have seen anything or else. Soon enough you meet a concerned citizen who hires you to do some detective work for him and uncover the corruption in the upper echelons of the city’s aristocratic elite. It is basically a chain of rather interesting quests with some solid writing behind them – I will let you explore these on your own. The interesting thing happens when you go back to hand in the quest to the guy who hired you.

Note that this is a minor spoiler, so if you haven’t visited Markarth yet, and you don’t want to know anything about the quest line there you may want to stop reading. Otherwise continue.

Once you finish running all around the town, collecting evidence of corruption, your quest giver asks you to meet him in the local temple. When you get there you see a disconcerting scene. Your friend is sprawled on the floor below the altar, with three city guards standing above his body. As you enter, they notice you and quickly ensnare you with a scripted dialog sequence.

Now if you have ever played any video game RPG’s you immediately know where this is heading. You are about to experience a scripted prison sequence during which you will be stripped and disarmed and locked behind plot driven doors that won’t open until you finish a contrived chain of quests. Once you are done, your possessions will be waiting for you in a chest near the exit.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t particularly happy about this turn of events. I had other quests to hand in, places to be, things to steal, people to assassinate. In fact, getting captured this stupidly was completely out of character for me – a high ranging thieves guild member, a rising star of the dark brotherhood and a goddamned dragonborn hero of Skyrim. But because this was a scripted event I thought I was done for…

Until of course the game gave me an option – to go quietly, or to fight my way out of the temple. Guess which option did I choose? I instantly pulled out my bow, and started shooting. The guards wore heavy armor, and I did not have my usual sneak-attack advantage (most of my victims never even know what hit them) so to bring even one of them down, I essentially had to implement the “human porcupine” strategy in which an enemy usually ends up with more than 20 arrows sticking out of his face by the time he goes down. I was making a headway, humping over the altar, and abusing the shoddy AI path finding scripts to rain a sustained hail of arrows on my assailants when I noticed two more guards entering the temple.

I dropped another one, and two more came in. At that point I realized that I might be dealing with a “hydra railroading situation”. This usually happens in pen an paper RPG games when the GM really wants your party to get defeated and captured, so he keeps bringing more and more reinforcements every time you start winning. Eventually you run out of healing potions, and the hordes of enemies overwhelm you. The only way out of this situation is not to play.

So I decided on an experiment. I ran past newly arriving guards, grabbed the temple door and tried to open them. I was almost entirely certain that there would be a scripted plot-lock on them, but no. I was allowed to exit the building, and found myself in the middle of the city. A city filled with high level guards with heavy armor – all of whom somehow magically knew that I just triggered some scripted event. So mere seconds after I left the temple arrows started zipping next to my head, and I saw at least two guards fall off the high ledges, attempting to get to where I was. The entire city of angry guards was converging on me. To make matters worse, the bunch of dudes I have left in the temple started failing out of the building and glitch-bumping into each other in the limited amount of space available in the doorway.

So I jumped down from my high ledge into a temporary safety of the overhang, and decided that the only way out of this alive was to use speed. Luckily, somewhere along my travels I got turned into a Werewolf – and one of the nice benefits of the beast form is that it allows you to run faster than any horse in the game. I rarely use it, because shifting into a wolf in public instantly makes the entire city hostile to you and puts a bounty on your head. But seeing how I already was chased by the entire city, and already had a high bounty on my head due to my reluctance to be railroaded revealing my dark secret probably wouldn’t make my situation any worse.

So I quickly turned into a beast, and started running. Even though guards in Markarth are high level, and immune to my fear inducing roar I could still swipe them out of the way with my regular attacks for long enough to run past them. I did get hit by a few arrows but being a protagonist of an RPG game, this was just a minor inconvenience. I had enough hit points to spare.

I sprinted out of the city, passed the guard outposts outside it, hopped over a bridge and took the long cobbled road that would eventually lead me into the neighborhood of Whiterun where my house was. I did not fast travel, because I was still in beast form and the only way to shift back is to wait it out. So my plan was to keep running until I shifted, and then fast travel back home and figure out what to do next.

Then I heard a bloody roar from the clouds up above. A fucking dragon. When fighting dragons in your beast form, you are at a quite a disadvantage. You can’t gulp health potions, and you can’t shoot a bow and use the “become a spirit” shout to avoid their breath weapon. So all of my usual dragon hunting strategies were useless.

So I decided to ignore the flying monster. After all, every time I actually want to kill one of them to unlock a new shout, I have to chase them around, wildly spraying arrows into the air because they never seem to want to land anywhere. It’s like they have learned that I devour their souls to steal their powers, and learned to keep their distance and only do flyby breath attacks. Unfortunately this particular dragon either did not get the memo, or did not recognize me in my wolf form. So he swooped in, and landed directly in front of me. I ran directly into his open maw and got a face full of frost damage from his breath attack. So I did what any werewolf would do – I started swinging.

So we stood there exchanging blows. I would mash both mouse buttons averaging several claw hits per second. The dragon was less efficient. It would switch between bite attacks and breath attacks and sometimes just roaring at me. He dealt more damage per blow than me, but he wasn’t hitting me all the time. My DPS output was higher. And then I realized that I don’t just have to stand there taking his breath attacks. I can circle strafe and force him to move that bulky serpentine body around on it’s axis, forcing him to waste even more time on evocative, expressive movement animation.

Soon enough the monster was down. It was close though – my hit points were down to almost nothing and I couldn’t use any health potions while in beast form. Fortunately as I started to absorb his soul, my screen got fuzzy and my character started to shift back into her natural elf form. So there I was – standing in the middle of a meadow in my underpants, dragon soul energy still swirling around my body creating impressive lighting effects in the middle of the night. I have escaped Markarth, and ripped apart a dragon with my bare claws. It was a good night.

Then an arrow pierced my eye and I died. Who shot me? I couldn’t tell. Perhaps my circle strafing madness stirred up a bandit camp conveniently positioned near the road. Or maybe one of the guards outside of Markarth managed to catch up with me just as I was finishing my battle with a dragon. It’s hard to tell.

Unfortunately my last save was right in front of the damn temple where I got jumped by the guards giving me another shot at this quest. My epic escape got erased by my untimely death. On the upside, I now had the option to wrap up my other local quests, unload inessential gear in my house and come back to Markarth temple to see what that prison sequence was going to be about. And that’s exactly what I did, because I knew that there was no way I could top my crazy escape from the city, and the dragon fight that ensued afterwards.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you in Skyrim?

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8 Responses to Stories from Skyrim: The Markarth Incident

  1. axebeer Google Chrome Windows says:

    Warning: the following contains several spoilers

    Yeah, I went head-on with Markarth guards as well but I managed to escape. I had only one idea how the situation (the massive bounty on my head) could be redeemed, and it involved freeing the Forsworn king, which in turn would mean returning to the city, and facing a dozen guards on the way. I did return eventually, much later. So, I finally return to Markarth, all geared up and ready to fight. But I rarely attack anyone first. So when I approached the first Markarth guard:

    ME (thinking): “Hit me. Come on, one swing at me… let’s get this over wit– Hmm… that guard seems different somehow.”
    GUARD #1: ” ‘Sup bro” said the guard and kept on walking.
    ME: O_o
    GUARD #2: “I used to be an adventurer…” muttered the second guard, reflecting upon his earlier life.
    ME: o_O

    Then I realized what had happened – the exchange of town ownership during one special meeting. New owners = no criminal record. I do still have the bounty on my head in the Quest Log (General – Crime) section, but none of the city guards were hostile anymore.

    At first I was happy. Then I was pissed, realizing that all the preparation was in vain. For a brief moment I pondered starting a fight anyway, I mean, it’d be a SHAME to not have to use all these healing potions I had made/bought/stolen. But what the hell, I basically got what I came for – a pardon. The Forsworn king can rot for all I care.

    Also, later in another savegame, I went to check out the prison (and as stupid as this will sound, every Skyrim player will know what I mean) but the door was locked and it required a specific key to unlock. I chopped up all the guards to see if one of them had the key, but nope… no key. I even searched the immediate vicinity of the pesky door but, again, found no key. I’m still unsure which side of the door the key really is – in the inmates’ side or in our side. Assuming there even is a key…

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    @ axebeer:

    Actually, I think the Forsworn King tells you that your bounty will be lifted upon exiting the prison. For that reason I didn’t actually participate in the fight. I just walked out of the city while the shit was going down – I figured that if I as much as touch a guard I’m gonna get bounty again.

    It was kinda amusing – there is this swirling melee between the Forsworn and the city guards, an my character is just sort of walking away going “ops, sorry, excuse me, coming through, don’t mind me, I’m just a passer by, not an escaped prisoner”.

    Also, as soon as I got to the prison, I decided to pick-pocket the tough looking ork by the locked door. Got his key, went to talk to the king. I quickly stealth-shived the guy he asked me to and then ran past all the spiders letting the other inmates take care of them.

    It was probably the fastest prison escape ever.

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  3. Morghan Google Chrome Windows says:

    My favorite moment was the Brotherhood quest lead-up where I was asked to kill that psychotic old woman. I went there not really sure if I was going to go through with it, but after listening to her talk to the orphans for a little while I walked right up to her and decapitated her. The most epic moment to have a crit. Her head went rolling across the floor and the children began to rejoice.

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  4. copperfish Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    More stories like this and you’re going to force me to buy Skyrim…..

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  5. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I am now only level 28 and not that good at Close Combat fighting, so bear with me. I got to this fort near Riften and I am asked by the fort previous owner to help him free his family which has been taken hostage by bandits inside the fort. The mission seems simple enough: infiltrate the fort through a mine tunnel and open a stupid lever somewhere so that he can get in and finish the job… I am like: “hey sure, I will do that for you”. It seems so simple (and it is a really tiny little fort) that I don’t even bargain for a reward beforehand. And the guy looks so worried about his family and all that… Well, I get in and I realize that unless I burn ALL my invisibility potions, the configuration of the tunnel forces me to kill absolutely every one in the fort before getting to that stupid lever… Bastard! So I do it and it is not easy because the S.O.B.’s are all agglomerated in little groups so I can not pick them up one at a time and the leaders are really tough and armored to the teeth. But I managed of course, thanks to a couple of well placed shouts and I clean the place neatly. Then I open the lever and let the guy in. He says “thanks and did you find my family”? I am like… “uh oh?” “Nope mate, never seen your family in there. There were some bodies of course, but for a Bosmer like me, a human looks like any other human, you know…” – He is like: “Ok, too bad, here is your reward”. And he leaves the fort and goes back to his shitty camp. And he gives me a low level spell as a reward… No money, no good stuff, nada, nietchevo, niente, nichts, rien du tout. AAAARGGGGH.

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  6. Zeke Innovia Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Well i have two stories.
    One actualy was in oblivion, which is quite funny. When you get to the end of paradise to kill the mythic dawn leader, while he was talking i jumped over his head crouched behind his chair and killed him in one hit. i felt like such a BAMF.

    Greatest moment i have ever had. doing one of the daedric quests, the one you raid the temple. i fought my way through that and snuck up to the lead guy and beheaded him in one strike. again, i felt like a bamf.
    yes obviously i play as an assassin and very sucessfully. very fun. i prefer playing the elder scrolls game on console rather than pc… its easier forme for some reason. however, i like the console cheats to much. (lol)

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  7. DarkElf1 CANADA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    More Markarth spoilers below:

    So, pretty much the same thing happened to me. Finished all the snooping quests, went to the temple to be greeted by 3 guards… Of course, me being thane thinking ok easy enough.. nopee not even. So jail not being an options, KILL TIME!! 3 guards down…. then what happens? 1 more comes through the door and the same dialog begins… same result.

    So, exit the temple and the Sh*t storm begins!! Attacked left right and center by guards galore!! Being a level 26 dark elf mage I ended up killing about 15 of them within the city… stealing all their gear and selling to the blacksmith in Markarth. Killed every guard in the inner city, they all pretty much attacked me at once lol… no potions left… So thinking ohhhh sweet, got a house in this city, gonna be attacked every time i get near… shut the game off and that’s where I stand right now =P

    Got a huge pile of dead bodies in Markarth, wish I knew how to take a screenshot/post it from the PS3. It’s quite amusing.

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  8. Jerome UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    The city of Markarth is ridiculous. I went there only as needed and just peaced out immediately, because they STILL WANT MY HEAD!! I did everything there; I’ve been Thaned TWICE and bought Vlindrel Hall, I solved the conspiracy and “borrowed” the Falmer research from the court wizard, I met my wife Muiri there (lovely girl, a little obsessive with the whole ‘thanks for killing my ex’ thing…) and they’re still trying to arrest me for the Markarth Conspiracy. And then, when I go to say ‘Take me away’, they reply with the ‘No one escapes Cidna Mine’ thing and restart the conversation!! I have bribed, paid my bounty, even surrendered to these jerkholes, but they only respond when I give them the finger?! SCREW ‘EM!!

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