As the group makes their way out of the stinking swamp, they follow the river that should lead them straight to Axis. On the way, they spot a large pillar of black smoke coming from a nearby town. They approach the town warily, searching for any living creatures or signs as to what happened. However, it appears they are too late to help anyone. All the residents of Blackford lie dead in the streets, either burned alive or chopped up by crude weapons. Belkas identifies this to be the work of the Orc Lord, likely a band of his marauders, the likes of which have never been seen so close to Axis before.
No sooner do they step back on to the road than they find themselves surrounded by a group of the Emperor’s Dragon Knights, lead by Veraline. She is only too happy to arrest the group, as she has long known Josef and believes him to be the lowest of criminal scum. Accused of sacking the down of Blackford, the group is thrown in irons and taken to the dungeons of Axis to await their trial.
Luckily for them, the justice system moves swiftly in Axis. At dawn the next day, they are rudely awakened by guards and escorted to the arena. There they are given basic weaponry and explained the rules of the trial by combat. Two teams of suspected criminals will be placed in the battleground wherein they will fight according to the very strict rules of the arena. Since the people of Axis fancy themselves a dignified lot, any who break the rules of the arena will be executed on the spot. Otherwise, which ever team can kill or incapacitate the leader of the other will be judged innocent of their crimes.
The party, trusting in Josef’s plans to lead them through, enter the arena optimistic of their chances (especially since they are in fact innocent). At at first, everything seems to go well enough for them. The arena is heavily trapped, but after only a few mishaps, they manage to deduce some of the patterns and, after a spectacular lightning bolt from Sarik, gain the upper hand on their opponents. However, the battle swiftly changes course after the enemy leader, an enormous Dragonblood named Bathor wades into the fray. With just two swings of his mighty sword, he dispatches Belkas and surges towards Josef and Thog. Thog attempts to slow the brute down with his ice magic but is ultimately unable to stop his mad rampage. Bathor fells Thog with another two swings before giving his full attention to Josef.
Josef, back against the wall, decides to try one of his most daring plans. He tells Sarik to blast them both with her icy breath, trusting in his own reflexes to save him from the worst of it. Josef was never as fast as he thought he was. The blast catches him full on in the back, direly wounding him and barely harming Bathor. Kinich, in a last ditch attempt, rips one of the enormous saw blade traps from the arena itself and hurls it at the brute before he can finish off Josef. Josef was never as lucky as he thought he was, either. The saw flew wide over their head while Bathor’s sword swung true. Josef was knocked unconscious.
The verdict was given. Guilty. The party would be executed at dawn the next day for their crimes.
Locked in prison, the group deliberates how best to spend their last night in this world. Frustrated with himself for failing the party, Josef decides upon a course of action. One final plan to save his friends from their fate. First, Kinich bends the bars to their cell enough for Josef to sneak up to the armory where their equipment is kept. This he brings back to the cells, giving Belkas and Sarik their weapons back. Next, he has Kinich and Belkas beat the tar out of him. Sufficiently bruised, he then says one last goodbye to the group before caking the outer wall of the prison with the last of his explosives. This he detonates, creating a clean escape route and attracting the attention of all of the guards who come storming in to see a bloody and battered Josef lying in the corner of his cell; his friends gone without a trace.
Josef explains to the guards that the group left him for dead for his failures in the arena, using his explosives to create their escape route. The guards open the cell and chase out through the hole in the wall, scouring the streets for the escapees. However, said escapees had made their exit much earlier through the stinking sulfuric sewers of Axis to escape into the Azure Bay, using Josef as a distraction to buy them time.
With a final thanks and wish for luck, the remaining members strike out in search of a boat.