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Manual Introduction

Librarian Comment: 

Taken from the Arena manual. It differs significantly from the French version.

Talin awoke in the darkened cell, his head pounding from the blow it had received. A single candle guttered and flamed in one corner. Occasionally the clink of chains could be heard as they swung in a slight, fetid breeze. He knew where he was now. It came back to him even as he struggled to his feet. Fighting off the nausea he made his way to a crude stone bench. I have taken by the Emperor, but for what? His thoughts were interrupted by a low moan that came drifting down the corridor outside his cell door. Suddenly he was glad for the obvious strength of his cell door. I have been left to die, he thought incredulously. They did not even bother to strip me of my possessions. Indeed, upon self examination Talin found that he still carried his dagger and his pouch of money. It seemed that the Emperor had no fears of his escape. And why should he? He did a quick circumspection of the room, finding that except for the slime covered walls and floor, no water or food had been left. A slow death indeed.

Suddenly the air near the center of the cell seemed to brighten, slowly coalescing into a globe of brilliance. Talin fell back, shielding his eyes from the glare. The light receded, and in the purple afterimages of that burst he could see the shimmering form of a woman floating, her body draped in gossamer and blown by an unseen wind.

"Do not fear Talin, for it is I, Ria Silmane."

Talin looked shock as the figure of his friend took on form and substance, though somehow it did not seem to lose its edge of etherealness. "Ria! What in the name of the Lady has happened?"

Ria’s face seemed etched in grief, drawn by a sadness he could not comprehend. "Talin do you remember the last time we saw each other? It was at the Mid Year’s festival. I fear that is where the evil took form."

"What happened to you?" Talin asked in a shocked whisper. He had known Ria since he had summoned to court to learn under her tutelage the way of Sorcery. Ria had been the senior apprentice to Jagar Tharn, the Imperial Battle Mage of Tamriel.

"I am dead, Talin. Only my powers keep me in this form, though the pull of afterlife is strong. I can resist, but only for a time. It is imperative that someone know the truth; that someone stop the evil which has struck from the heart of the Imperial Seat."

Talin sat down once more, his legs seeming to no longer obey. Left to die in a cell, my friend already dead? What has happened to us all?

"The Emperor is not who he seemed to be, Talin. He is infact Jagar Tharn. The true Emperor was captured by Tharn and shifted to another dimension, a prison in which time runs much slower than on this plane of existence."

Talin looked up, his face a mask of shock and outrage, "But what of the Amulet of Kings?"

"The Emperor is not dead. Only in the event of his demise would the Amulet warn the Elder Council. Tharn was meticulous in his planning. With time in the dimension in which the Emperor has been imprisoned running at a fraction of what it does here, it will centuries before the true Emperor dies. And when he does, who will care? Those people will have seen the glorious rule of Uriel Septim VII end generations in the past. Tharn must be stopped, here and now." Ria’s face had a resolute set, one that if Talin had noticed, would have sent shivers of foreboding through his body.

Talin looked around, "Why are you here? I am but one, and not skilled in much of anything. Why not go to General Warhaft, or the Imperial Guard?"

Ria shook her head, "They have been captured along with the Emperor, and Tharn has transmorphed others to take their places, those who are loyal to him only. I cannot trust anyone else with this Talin. As you said, Tharn will not search for you as he would someone he considered a threat. Most of them are dead already. You can see the disdain the Wizard has for you, not even bothering to even bind you in this cell. He does not see you as threat, and in that arrogance he has made his first mistake." For the first time the ghost of Ria Silmane smiled, and to Talin it was as if the sun had come from behind the cloud.

"I wish to escape, that is sure. Beyond that I know not what I can do Ria."

"Take this," at Ria’s gesture a ruby key flashed into being in a niche in the northern wall of the cell, "it will unlock the cell door. You are in the sewer of the Imperial City. If you make your way west, then south, I can effect your escape."

Talin thought at a moment, "It will not do to have me surface in the City itself, for I would be quickly captured. I think it an uncommon occurrence to see a man pull himself through a grating on the city street. The guards at the least will have questions, ones I will be unable to satisfactorily answer."

Ria smiled again, "I am not as helpless as you may suppose. Even in this form I am able to work my magic, but to do so depletes the energy I use to remain on this plane. Your escape however is paramount to all other considerations. Get to the south-west corner of this sewer. There you will see a Shift Gate. It will transport you to another city, where you will appear inside their city gates. Teleportation between cities is common enough, I doubt you will come under scrutiny. With that you will be far enough from the center of the Empire to begin."

Talin felt a faint fear gnaw in the pit of his stomach and he whispered, "Begin what?"

"Your training, of course."

There was an uncomfortable silence as Talin looked at his friend. He did not entirely trust his ability to help her; to really make a difference. The alternative however was to allow the man who had killed his friend to continue the charade. Talin was not one to let a lie go unanswered. Ria concerned him however. Even now he could see the fringes of her form dissipating, and her face took on a worn and lined expression, as if she were tiring. He did not relish the idea of being alone in this, not knowing who he could trust. "Will I see you again?"

"If you survive these sewers and escape, I will come to you again. There is much I must investigate first so that we may find a way to free the Emperor from the dimension in which Tharn has placed him. Only by his release will the truth come to light. Remember Talin, Tharn has taken on the form of the Emperor, and no one will gainsay his word for yours. Had I been able I would have appeared to the Elder Council, but my body lies close by, forgotten and decayed. In this form I cannot travel far from my mortal remains." Ria looked down, her once wheaten tresses hanging limply as the ethereal wind diminished, "I cannot come to you again as I have now. It takes energy I dare not squander."

She reached out and touched Talin on the forehead. He felt a slight tingling, like an itch behind his eyes. A moment later it was gone. "I have linked us so I can appear to you regardless of the distance, but I will only appear to you henceforth in your dreams. The way is safer and less costly. It is very important that you rest now and again, when you are safe. It will only during those time I can reach you." Ria looked into Talin’s eyes, "You are entering a dangerous arena, my friend. One in which the players are being beyond your mortal comprehension. I see in your destiny the ability to transcend. There is a power within you as yet untapped. Look for me when you have gained some experience in the world. You are my last and best hope, Talin."

Before Talin could respond the form of Ria faded from view. In the deepening gloom Talin could feel the icy fingers of fear creeping slowly back into his flesh. Then the glint of ruby caught his eye. He walked over the niche and picked up the key. It felt warm to the touch, and strangely comforting. He thought about his friend Ria, dead now though she clung to unlife for the sake of justice. He thought about Jagar Tharn, who had killed his friend and attempted his own life. Such evil could not be permitted to grow, or go unchecked. Looking about the cell his purpose become clearer, as if his ruminations had opened a door to the beginning of understanding. Perhaps Ria had ensorcelled the key to produce this reaction, he knew not, but a litany from his old Armsmaster came to mind and he whispered, "Given the outcome of certain death, die with a blade in hand."

The cell door was a massive construction of iron and steel. He paused only a moment to listen. The moaning was gone, but from the darkness he could hear dozens of tiny claws skittering and scratching the damp mossy brownstone. Occasionally red eyes gleamed out at him. Talin inserted the key to the lock and turned it. With a groan the mechanism released and the cell door swung open on rusty hinges. Despite the noise nothing flew out from the darkness to attack. It was as if the sewer itself had decided he was no threat, and turned its back on him. "Tharn," he thought, "you will not escape me so easily." Grabbing the candle from its holder Talin drew both breath and dagger as he ventured into the darkness hall...