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For other uses, see Escape From Prison.

Escape From Prison is the first main quest of The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Despite it being the first quest, it can be very difficult for a new player. This level also indirectly introduces some of the game's mechanics.


Emperor Uriel Septim VII, Emperor of Tamriel stands with Talin, leader of the Imperial Guards. They have been summoned by Jagar Tharn, Imperial Battle Mage of the Empire on rumors of treachery. The Emperor is betrayed, and transported to a dimension of Tharn's choosing. After months of preparation, Jagar Tharn takes the throne.
The Emperor is Betrayed

The Emperor (right) and Talin (left) are betrayed by Jagar Tharn

Ria Silmane, once Tharn's apprentice, is captured before she can warn the Elder Council of the Imperial Battle Mage's treachery. Manipulating the essence of magic, Tharn prepares to take the true Emperor's place as ruler of the known land.

The Imperial Wizard wastes no time gathering his servants, and turning them into twisted counterparts of the Emperor's Guard.... —Arena's introduction

Quick walkthrough

  • Listen to Ria Silmane
  • Take the Ruby Key and use it to escape your cell
  • Reach the Shift Gate
  • Answer the Gate's question to escape


Dream Bridge

The quest first starts with Ria appearing before the Eternal Champion. She tells them that Jagar Tharn has taken the guise of the true Emperor, and that he has imprisoned all the members of the Imperial Guard. She instructs the Eternal Champion to escape the prison, by searching for a "Shift Gate", a portal which will teleport the Champion to a random city of their selected home province:

Ria Silmane (Arena)

Ria Silmane Dream Bridging with the Champion

Do not fear for it is I, Ria Silmane. (Player's name), listen to me, there are no others left to carry on this fight. You have been left in this cell to die. Jagar Tharn, Imperial Battle Mage of Tamriel has taken on the guise of the true Emperor. He does not see you as a threat, being only a minor part of the Imperial Court. In that act of arrogance, he has made his first mistake.

Look to the north wall of this cell. You will find a ruby key which will unlock the door. Take it and make your escape. The passages here were once used by Tharn to hide treasures he had stolen from the Emperor's coffers. If you wish, you can gather enough to support yourself away from the Imperial Seat.

Be careful, there are many creatures which inhabit the sewers now, vile rats and goblins. It is too late for me, for I am already dead. Only my powers as a Sorceress keep me between this life and the next. That power, however, is waning. Do not succumb to greed or you may find these tunnels to be your final resting place as well. I can still work my magic to a certain extent.

If you travel west from this cell, then south, you will find a Shift Gate. It will transport you far enough from the center of the empire that you should be safe. If you survive these sewers you will see me again.

Remember, (Player's name), Tharn has taken on the guise of the Emperor. No one will gainsay his word for yours. I will come to you again in your dreams, so it is imperative that you rest from time to time. In that way I will be able to communicate with you and lend my aid.

You are entering a dangerous arena, my friend, one in which the players are beings beyond your mortal comprehension. I do not envy your role. There is however a power within you as yet untapped.

Look for me when you have gained experience in the world.

You are my last and best hope..."
―Ria Silmane[src]
Ria Silmane (Escape From Prison) vision

Imperial Dungeons

Arena First Quest

A wall mounted niche that the Champion can sleep in

After Ria's vision, the Eternal Champion wakes up in their dark, wet prison cell. The first thing that they should do is exit their cell and get a weapon and some gold, if they do not already have either in their inventory. This can be done by first walking outside of the cell, turning left, and looting the body right outside the cell. Some "roleplaying messages" might appear on the screen (messages to note and describe the Champion's current surroundings). After this, the Champion has two choices:

  • Escape the dungeons as quickly as possible.
  • Stay in the dungeons and gain extra loot/levels.

Regardless of their choice, three things should be noted.

  1. No matter which way the Eternal Champion goes, they will always run into an enemy in the dungeons. The two most common enemies are goblins and rats, though they can also come across a Thief or, more rarely, Lizard Men.
  2. The Champion might lose quite a bit of health and will thus need to heal; it is unlikely that they will have healing potions at this point, so the alternative is to sleep in niches, if not a mage with a healing spell. Niches are the grey indents in the wall that the Champion can rest in until they are fully healed without any worry of enemies killing them. They can also choose to camp on the floor if none are around, with the risk of being attacked by enemies at any given time. No enemies can be within a distance of the Champion in order for them to camp anywhere.
  3. It is very easy to get lost in the dungeons. All dungeons in Arena are generally huge mazes, and are easy to get lost in. It is therefore recommended to use the map to refer to, and make sure one knows where they are going. They can choose however to purposely not have a map to have a little more challenge.

Map of the dungeons. The green square is the exit, the red squares are doors

With this information taken into account, the Champion should now make their choice whether they want to escape quickly, or get some loot. If they choose to escape quickly, a good way to reach the Shift Gate fast is to follow Ria's advice and go west, then south from the prison cell they initially spawned in, and keep following that path, going west and south, where they will have to fight few goblins/rats on the way to the gate.

If the Champion chooses to instead stay, this can prove quite beneficial as the goblins/rats can level them up quite a bit. They can also find some worthwhile loot while exploring the dungeons. Loot in Arena can be recognized easily by a pile of gold or suit of armor lying around on the floor. The loot can range from a random amount of gold, to weapons, or even a magic staff. It is still important, however, to keep in mind that it is easy to get lost and disoriented, so the Champion should also rest from time to time to heal up. If they are having a hard time finding a place to rest, a good place to do so is their own prison cell, and rest on the slab that the ruby key was on.

It is recommended that the Champion level up during their time in the dungeons. To continue the main quest after they escape, the player must reach level 2 or higher to get another Dream Bridge (or vision) from Ria again.

Shift Gate

Shift Gate

Ria's Shift Gate

Eventually, the Champion will come across Ria's Shift Gate. It is a square portal-like wall that has a blue border around it with black in the middle. It is located on the southwest part of the dungeon. On the Floppy Disk version of Arena, a window will pop up asking the champion a question as they enter it:

"A voice booms in your head, 'Look upon the pages marked as The Known Spellbook in your manual and answer...'
What is the cost of (Item/Spell)?

Originally for the Floppy Disk version of Arena, the Champion was supposed to get the answer from the Arena Manual that came with the box. However, if the Champion is using a downloaded version on an emulator, they can use the Spells page and find the spell asked by the Shift Gate, but will have to find all the items themselves, if the answers did not come with the downloaded game.

If they answer the question incorrectly, it will ask the same question except with a different spell/item, and if they fail again the game will close. After the Champion has correctly answered the question, they will be teleported into a random city in the province which they selected. After this, the quest is officially complete, and the Champion can sleep in an inn (or where available) to gain another Dream Bridge from Ria, and begin their quest to find the eight pieces of the Staff of Chaos.


  • The dungeons have a good amount of gold and treasures. Taking some gold and items (even if they are not useful to the Champion) will be very helpful in the first levels, as they can be sold for hefty amounts.
  • Leveling inside the Imperial Dungeons is not hard and can also be very helpful, as the Eternal Champion will get out with some experience.
  • Enemies can still hurt the Champion even while they are in water, so one must be careful while climbing out.
  • To continue the main quest, the Champion must level up during, or after exiting the dungeon.
  • On the CD-ROM re-release of Arena, the copy-protection question that the Shift Gate enforces was removed, and the player can enter and teleport with ease.


This section contains bugs related to Escape From Prison (Arena). Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:

  1. Please reload an old save to confirm if the bug is still happening.
  2. If the bug is still occurring, please post the bug report with the appropriate system template  360  / XB1  ,  PS3  / PS4  ,  PC  / MAC  , depending on which platform(s) the bug has been encountered on.
  3. Be descriptive when listing the bug and fixes, but avoid having conversations in the description and/or using first-person-anecdotes: such discussions belong on the appropriate forum board.
  •  PC   Enemies can, and will get stuck around corners making for an easy kill.
  •  PC   Some enemies, when stuck behind doors or walls, can be seen through objects and can be killed.
  •  PC   Rats will often attack the Champion, but not be visible on the screen due to their view.
    •  PC(Fix)   This can be fixed simply by backing up so the Champion can see the rats, or they can simply swing their sword at the ground and hope to kill the rat.
  •  PC   If the Champion sleeps in the corridors after leveling up, they will get the second vision of Ria even though they are supposed to get it when they escape the prison and sleep in an inn. This does not affect the main quest, and it proceeds as normal.
Arena Main Quest
Escape From PrisonFang LairLabyrinthianElden GroveHalls of ColossusCrystal TowerCrypt of HeartsMurkwoodDagoth-UrImperial Palace