Resuming their travels, the party traveled west to continue their mapping expedition, crossing through the foothills. Discussion turned towards rumors they had overheard about these lands with Jaelyn sharing a particularly timely one in regards to the original Taldan settlers having found gold in these hills. Sure enough, the party came across a narrow crag leading deeper into caves in the hills. Shiny flecks in the rocks were noted and a more detailed search confirmed that these caverns were indeed abandoned mines. A valuable resource to be noted for later development.
The party continued west into the Narlmarches, surveying the woods where they originally discovered the Bandit encampment and making a more thorough sweep of the area. With that complete they veered northeast, deeper into the woods. As they traveled through the woods they began to run into strange instances – Sorry found a wet frog in his pocket with no idea how it got there while the party's evening meal somehow became flavored with so much pepper as to be almost inedible. Discussing matters, the group concluded that they were likely being subjected to the tricks of local fey creatures. Setting out an offering of some silver jewelry they had found along with wild berries gathered up, the party made contact with Tyg-Titter-Tut and Perlivash, a grig and faerie dragon who reside in the woods. With the party taking the pranks with good humor and making a gift to these tiny, wild fey, the pair agreed to keep an eye out here in the northern reaches of the Narlmarches and let the group know of any interesting happenings. They also provided warnings of a cruel trapper laying out excessive traps to the northwest.
With that warning in hand, the party continued their survey, taking time and care to avoid the traps, disarming and collecting them. With so many animals killed or injured needlessly, the group decided to hunt down the rogue trapper, following his trails to the southwest. Ultimately they discovered him dead, an apparent victim of one of his own traps — a deadfall that had apparently gone off prematurely, dropping heavy logs on the back of his skull. With his gear in hand, the group slipped out of the forest to the northwest, surveying the open plains there before circling around the forest and once more returning to Oleg's.
Returning to the trading post, they were greeted by Kesten Garess who had their reward from the Swordlords on hand and ready to give to them. Zeelex and Sorry immediately turned their attention to Kressle, checking in with her to see how she was doing and continue their personal mission to get the toughened bandit leader to flip on the Stag Lord. The rest of the party discovered new inhabitants at the outpost – their competition. Finally getting the chance to meet their foes face to face they were introduced to the collection of 5 – Yssra Morr, an apparent sorceress with strong ties to a noble house in Brevoy, Kinston Greylock, a heavily armored mercenary with a scarred face, Daedric Tothgarson, a cloaked half-orc with numerous, primitive holy icons about him, Cassia Verdun, a human hunter by all appearances, and Thordrak Rockscream, a rude and crude dwarf with a very big axe.
Taking the time to resupply, the party prepared to head out again, though not before Sorry attempted to use magic to influence Kressle, implanting thoughts in her mind while she slept. Setting back out again, the group prepared to undertake another sweep, expanding their map and the secured lands around Oleg's, venturing to the extreme south east area of their charter. Arriving near the Shrike River, Aaden informed the group of the stories he had heard of a nearby crossing, a bridge put up by a retired engineer from Brevoy by the name of Devin Nettles. Wanting control of the crossing for himself, the Stag Lord had the man murdered, but apparently he returned, exacting a terrible toll on the bandits that had seized his bridge for themselves. While not knowing if the story was true or not, Aaden did note that no bandit would go anywhere near the site any more.
Warning in hand and with a need to get across the Shrike River themselves to continue their survey the group found the old bridge, now in horrible shape and nearly unusable. Still, they rang the little bronze bell still sitting by the bridge… and found that the stories were true. Emerging from the water was a corpse, still carrying his pole arm. Approaching the party, the undead creature gave them a choice – kill the Stag Lord and throw his body into the Shrike River… or take his place and become another of his victims. The group decided to honor the request, and pledged to return to throw the Bandit King's body into the river once they had killed him. Appeased. Devin Nettles' spirit retreated to the waters with one last warning. If he is betrayed, he would hunt them down and make them pay.
Continuing their explorations, the party swept west, back into the foothills. Mapping the region, they increasingly were drawn to the most obvious landmark in the region, a hundred foot tall sycamore tree that dominated the skyline. As they neared, they detected the obvious presence of mites, and having been warned by their earlier encounter with the kobolds that the mites and kobolds were at war, they decided to try and deal with the infestation as a means of gaining peace with the kobolds. Finding a narrow passage burrowed into the ground amongst the dying tree's roots, the party began to seek out the mites. The small and hideous creatures proved little match to the party, their superior numbers not able to overwhelm the group and they and their pets were exterminated with only small difficulty - though Sorry nearly paid the price upon underestimating the threat posed by a giant tick.
The foray into the mite lair proved quite fruitful as the party also managed to rescue a kobold by the name of Mikmek who had nearly been tortured to death. Freeing him, they also agreed to seek out an intricate ivory statuette of what he described as a bloated, winged kobold (actually a devil). That two was recovered and the party set back out to the surface to learn more about the kobold tribe from their new, grateful companion…