Burne's apprentice Panyus and a few of Burne's guards ("The Badgers") escorted Wolfgang and his pets, Mapper, Roquelle, Gerrilynn and their retainers Chickie and Riff out to the Moathouse. Burne's Badgers had made some improvements. The moat had been dredged and its banks shored up, providing a fast-flowing stream that seemed inhospitable to frogs. And they'd contructed a sturdy bridge to cross it into the Moathouse's courtyard.
But they refused to stand guard overnight. Although they'd fixed up the upper level, they continued to hear strange noises coming from below: clanking and banging, and strange voices, sometimes whispering and other times shrieking and shouting. The first order of business, before finding the magic pool would be deal with whatever was making these mysterious sounds.
Burne's Badgers unlocked the trapdoor they'd constructed to close off the dungeon. They put down a ladder the adventurers could climb down into the darkness. Wolfgang left Bruno and Wolfie to guard their retreat.
Mapper, relying on maps he'd drawn on previous visits to the moat house, led the others through a number of empty chambers, asking Wolfgang and Gerilynn where they'd found the passage to the magic pool. But before they had gone far in their exploration, the group heard the banging they'd been warned of. They traced its source easily enough, a large room without a door, but obscured by a heavy curtain. The party soot outside and listened. There was a steady pounding sound, then an angry cry, and then silence. The party waited, and heard whispering arguing in a language they didn't understand.
And then a small man with a long gray beard stepped out. He wore a red cap and a leather apron stained with soot. "Ah! Visitors, what a happy surprise, welcome! We were just about to prepare our supper, will you join us?"
The party accepted the offer, and were put to work peeling carrots and potatoes. Two more gnomes, nearly identical to the first except for the colors of their caps (blue and green) joined in the preparations. They sang in exaggeratedly loud voices, but not loud enough to cover the noise of large heavy objects being moved around in the room behind the curtain. Roquelle asked about the noise. "Can we go back there?"
Red answered, "Noise? What noise? Oh, that noise. One of my brothers has a very bad cold. Listen to that cough-- sounds like a worn-out gearbox. Very contagious, too I'm afraid, maybe I should have warned you before I invited you to supper . . ."
Gerrilynn answered that in fact that they had eaten recently and had come down for another reason. "We're looking for a magic pool. Or any pool."
The gnomes knew nothing about water, or magic, and to prove the point, showed the party where they kept their water barrels. "Would have been near impossible to get it here without the Fallinator."
"Blue! They don't know who that is! There's our mule, see, Fallin, the mule, the Fallinator we call him to encourage him on account of h's not any stronger than a normal mule and actually weaker. Look here, I always say potatoes are best raw so I've prepared you a nice package here. Don't let us keep you."
The party remained curious about exactly what was behind the curtain, but declined to impose any further on the gnomes. And Panyus was satisfied that at least they had a general explanation as to the source of the noise. The party climbed up the ladder to return to Hommlet and report this small success. Burne was mildly grateful for the news, but nowhere near satisfied.