They dealt with the bandits in short order, with some help of some illusory magic from Noa, though Roderick was hurt pretty badly. Seemed the bandit leader didn’t like getting peppered with arrows. One bandit managed to flee on horseback, the others fell.
Searching the bandits Bjorn recognized that the pistols they used had the stamp of Averland on them, they were issued by the army and some of the bandits were wearing old regular army uniforms. They noted this.
Gravin von Alptraum insisted on getting Roderick to her estate quickly. She had a healer on staff there who could help him. They traveled quickly to the estate where the Gravin’s healer saw to their wounds and the Gravin game them each a generous reward for a job well done and sent them on their way back to Averheim. They reached Averheim before dark.
Bjorn met with Captain Baerfaust and told him about the connection between the road agents who had been plaguing Averheim and the army. Baerfaust was not happy. He indicated that all the unrest associated with the empty Elector Count seat has led to an increase in desertions amongst the troops. The bandits encountered must have been some of those deserters. Baerfaust was thankful for the information.
The next day the group was invited to dinner with Friedrich von Kaufman at an upscale inn. The food and wine was fantastic and Graf von Kaufman was a gracious host. He wanted to thank them personally for the good work they had been doing for his Red Arrow Coach Lines, and had heard about the army connection to the bandits. He wanted to hear it first hand from them and get their take on things. He was gravely concerned about the connection between the bandits and the Averheim military. He indicated he was throwing a garden party for the nobility in two days to showcase artifacts from the recently returned Southlands expedition. However, he was concerned about relying on the military for protection at the event and asked if these adventurers would be willing to provide private security for the event. They agreed.
Arriving at the palace grounds the day of the event they were expected. They found 3 Averheim Greatswords troopers outside the gardens gates, including Baerfaust’s lieutenant Arta Schafer. The guards glared at them as they were escorted into the gardens grounds.
In the gardens they found a large pavilion tent set up for the event. Servants were preparing tables of food and drink and there was a large cabinet covered by a silk cloth (probably the artifacts to be unveiled). The garden had a small duck pond, was surrounded by a tall hedge on three sides and a hedge maze on the other. Standing on the other side of the pond was Captain Baerfaust, looking very angry. He also glared as they walked in. Apparently the Averheim Greatswords were insulted by Graf von Kaufman hiring private security for the event.
The rest of the gardens grounds was setup as a menagerie with a variety of cages housing creatures captured by the expedition and put on display here. There was a falconer on one side wearing the von Kaufman colors preparing 3 birds of prey for a display of falconry. Graf von Kaufman met them and explained that they were to represent the von Kaufman family as private family guardsmen. He had floppy hats and von Kaufman tabards for them to wear and fussed over their appearance. Two von Kaufman ladies in waiting giggled as Bjorn struggled with the floppy hat and his helmet.
Graf Friederich explained that they were to keep a low profile and keep an eye out for mischief. He had several very important guests attending and needed to make sure the von Kaufman name was not despoiled. The adventurers familiarized themselves with the grounds as they waited for the guests to arrive.