With most of my tasks now lying on the outskirts of Markarth, I hired the mercenary Vorstag and bought the war dog Vigilance to tag along finding them useful against the pockets of forsworn we kept running into. The first major task was to pickup a "marked" child for the temple of Dibella, but it turned out she had been captured by a large band of those forsworn scum. Joined by her father we assaulted the ruined tower they were holed up in but alas during the opening assault he was stabbed to death and Vigilance was roasted alive. Vorstag and I massacred the remaining defenders and secured the girl whose name I cannot pronounce. I just call her 'the kid'.
It seems the kid didn't want to just trade one prison for another straight away and pleaded to come with me. After getting her old man killed how could I refuse? On the road we'd play hide and seek, and she looked like she was able to take care of herself; making herself scarce during combat and pointing out dead bodies for me to loot afterwards. Apart from that one time where Vorstag and I had to rescue her from a rampaging ice bear.
Speaking of Vorstag he was really beginning to show his powers, using all sorts of weapon combinations and being a general kickass, even summoning flame atronarchs every now and then. He even stood toe to toe against a zombie death overlord as well as a lich living at the top of Volkswagen tomb (or something similar).
Also came across a captured priest of Boetheia and freed him too, warning him that an altar of Molag Bal back in the city intended to do nasty things to him. The first thing the idiot does is head straight there. Well, he has it coming. Pushed on to the next major rescue for folks from Whiterun. The three of them had been camping out in the snowy mountains for weeks waiting for me to show up. Whoops. The hostage is being kept prisoner by a large group of well armed Thalmer (elf) bastards. I try to convince the barbarians that a sneaky approach is best, but before I can even finish sniping the first guard with my bow they all charge head on. It is a bloody skirmish, and while all the elves were killed we lost two of the three plainsmen as well as the mighty Vorstag (again in the opening assault). The remaining survivor and his brother (the prisoner we released) head off into hiding and it's now just me and the kid on the road.
After backstabbing a sleeping blood dragon that was full from eating imperial soldiers at a nearby outpost (quickest dragon kill thus far - under 10 seconds!), I helped a captured hagraven reclaim her tower from another witch allied with more forsworn. These guys seem to be everywhere in these parts. Well, the hagraven proved to be very helpful, had a good sense of humor and since she didn't try to kill me I left her in peace. If only more monsters were like that. :)
As an aside: Photo above is courtesy of AndreaS, who has more pics of abandoned and ruined places which is also an interest of mine. :)