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Type Dwemer Ruin
Continent Tamriel
Province Skyrim
Hold The Reach
Settlement Markarth
Appears in Skyrim, ESO
Nchuand-Zel ca. 4E 201
Concept art of Understone Keep

Nchuand-Zel (meaning Radiant City in Dwemeris)[1] is the original name for the Dwarven city of Markarth. In the present day, it has come to refer to Understone Keep and the excavation site of the even deeper ruins found beneath the city.[2] The underground ruins were built in the Hoagen Kultorra style and contained dwellings, an armory, and a control room for the automated defenses.[3] The modern-day Keep features the Jarl's Palace (christened by the Mournful Throne), a Dwemer Museum, and a wizard laboratory in the connected towers.[2]


Nchuand-Zel was built by the Dwemer, with the Understone Keep containing the "Mournful Throne" for the city's ruler.[4] An area where two of the city's families lived held a tree outside the dwellings, mysteriously imported from the lands around Whiterun, with an unknown significance attached to it.[3] The clan inhabiting Nchuand-Zel was among those that took in the Falmer after the war with the Atmorans, recording their deal to blind them and subjugate them into servitude onto a stone in both the Dwemer and Falmer languages.[1] When the entire Dwemer race disappeared in 1E 700, the Falmer gradually took control of the ruins as their own.[3][5]

Around 2E 579, Flaccus Terentius took a caravan to Wrothgar, which briefly visited Murtag Stronghold before being set upon by Reachmen, forcing the survivors to flee towards Orsinium and abandon Terentius to the raiders. Javad Tharn suggested that they take him down into Nchuand-Zel and sacrifice him to Molag Bal. In return for a promise to paint the Despot of Markarth, he was spared the fate of his fellow captives, who were released and hunted by the Reachmen to honor Hircine. Vanus Galerion subsequently raided the Dwemer ruins in pursuit of Mannimarco, where he swiftly killed Terentius' tormentors in the halls before teleporting them safely away to Windhelm.[6]

In the year 2E 582, Lady Belain, a Nighthollow vampire, staged an attack on Markarth by gathering her forces in lower Nchuand-Zel. She clashed with the forces of Ard Caddach, and, while her forces were temporarily fought off, the Reachman Arana was injured. The Vestige learned of this from the ard and descended down into the ancient city to meet up with Arana and confront Belain. Arana tells the Vestige that Belain had escaped to the orrery in the Library of Arkthzand, but they need a keystone to follow her inside. After exploring the ruins of the ancient Dwemer city, The Vestige retrieved the Nchuand-Zel keystone, and journeyed back to the Library.

In 4E 201, the scholar Calcelmo of Markarth opened an excavation into the derelict parts of Nchuand-Zel,[5] and opened up the Dwemer Museum of Markarth to display noteworthy findings.[2] Stendarr's Hammer resurfaced in Calcelmo's possession and was put on display in his private museum, though it was stolen soon after he acquired it.[7]


See AlsoEdit