Because sometimes a lot of exposition is necessary…
The party fights off the Bugbears, barely escaping with their lives, but their newfound abilites help them prevail. During the battle Argent is knocked into a stange looking suit of armor that suddenly comes to life. Arget orders it to fight the Bugbears and it follows his orders. After their enemies are defeated, they wake up the surprisingly easy to knock out Melaine and she tells the party she believes there may be a Ta’Garan somewhere in the Hermit’s Hatch. (She later explains that that is a type of portal, inexplicably, Zeph understands immediately what she’s talking about.)
They continue their search and find a bedroom with a very short bed. On the floor is a pile of ash that was apparently made from the book that once were on the bookshelves. They also find a chest full of magical components and two explosive devices. Melaine puts all of these items in her bag.
They also discover cells that contain the remains of both animals and humanoids. It looks like they had been experimented on; all of the creatures had mechanical limbs grafted on to them. What exactly had the Hermit been working on?
They finally find the room that contains the Ta’Garan, it is a stone archway in the middle of a long room. The archway flickers with arcane magic, but it appears to be malfunctioning. On the floor near the control panel is a pile of broken tiles with symbols on them. In a more complicated than it needed to be exercise, they piece together the tiles and activate the Ta’Garan. On the other side they see the Warlock King getting an army of Goblinoids ready to storm through. He sees the party and shouts, “YOOOOOOUUUUU!!!!!!” Before anything else can happen, Argent has the great idea of using one of the explosives on the Ta’Garan. Melaine apparently likes to blow things up for she complies and destroys the archway.
After the smoke clears, Melaine tells the party that they need to get to Hectal as quickly as possible. They tell her that the fastest way is by river. They head back to Pinewood and get a raft put together. While there, Winter is able to finally say goodbye to her father. He reveals that they Magi has been watching the party their whole lives and that they are candidates to bear the Marks of Power. This upsets Zeph greatly and he confronts Melaine about it. With typical Magi haughtiness she dismisses the Kobold, something he is pretty used to at this point. It takes Friar Edgar to convince Zeph that he needs to go with the group and face his destiny. There are tears and a not so happy parting of ways as Johnathan Bishop guides their raft down the river. On the boat, Melaine answers some questions, but not nearly enough. Finally the party takes a well deserved sleep.
They encounter the Halfling caravan and help them put out a fire. The Halfling’s daughter reveals to Argent that she is the one who sold him the earring that got them into the Hermit’s Hatch. Unfortunately it does not jog any further memories and she admits that she has no idea where she got the item from.
As it gets dark, Melaine and Johnathan are conveniently pulled off the raft and in an incredible cliffhanger, they are attacked by Kirin Stone and a group of river drovers.