Bali the gnome wizard, seeing that the heroes had done very well under his tutelage, felt that the next step in their growth would be to go out into the world and do a great deed. It was important, he taught, for those who would do good to make themselves known to the world. He had heard troubling whispers of late, that deep below the earth, in the Underdark, trouble was brewing… he sent the party to Tinque, in the hills not far from Tainted Hollow, the gnome settlement that Bali had once called home himself.
Tinque was a very large gnomish settlement indeed: a massive underground network of burrows and tunnels in the hills, Tinque was very old. The party learned that once the gnomes had hoped to make it large enough to be accessible to the larger races, hoping to encourage trade and expansion, and as such had dug very deep into the earth. However, all those centuries ago, they had once accidentally breached the Underdark itself, and fearing the things that emerged from within, they collapsed the tunnel and decided unanimously that that was “deep enough, thanks.”
When the party arrived, they learned quickly that, of late, goblins of all things had begun raiding in Tinque. They had breached some of the older, disused tunnels, and had also unearthed another entrance into the Underdark… Queen Ann, ruler in Tinque, had received threats (in the form of poorly written letters) from Bango Skank, the Goblin King, demanding she abdicate and relinquish the gnomish city to the invading goblins.
Queen Ann had sent her reply – in the form of a small task force of gnome warriors. They outmatched the disorganized goblin forces, driving them into the Underdark… and getting cocky. Before long they had stumbled into Tydfil, a drow city that spanned a chasm beneath the earth… and the battle drew their attention. King Skank, a natural agitator, drew the attention of the locals, and the drow leader, Midhi, rallied the local militia for a counterattack. The gnomes were able to retreat, but in the weeks since, the vicious stupidity of the goblins had protracted the conflict, and often the fighting spilled over into Tinque… and the fights were slowly reaching higher and higher, into Tinque’s industrial district, home of their magical forge, the source of power for the gnome’s varied magical inventions.
Queen Ann, not confident in her soldier’s ability to fend off drow as well as goblins indefinitely, was eager to accept help from the traveling strangers. She employed Benjin, Jeysen, and Baernabas in planning the city’s defenses, and they planted explosives in the deepest tunnels, near the breach and the entrance to the Underdark, resolving to seal it off completely once and for all. However, before they could finish setting up this countermeasure, yet another battle between goblins and drow broke out. The team sprang into action, using Baernabas’ magic and the martial prowess of Benjin and Jeysen to drive the fighting down into the tunnels. However, the explosives had been misplaced by hasty and panicked gnome civilians, and when they were detonated, they not only collapsed the tunnel leading into the Underdark… but also the section where the gnome’s magical source of energy was kept.
In spite of this loss, the gnomes proved grateful to the visitors for ridding them of both the raiding goblins and the sparring factions, bringing them peace, even at the expense of certain comforts they’d grown accustomed to. No longer was the city bathed in fancy lights, or were their pantries equipped with coldboxes, or other such useful tools, but Queen Ann assured them that the gnomes would be able to rebuild, in time. They thanked the party for their services, and held a great banquet in their honor.
The heroes stayed for a few days, enjoying the rest and the adoration of the locals, but before long they began to feel mounting guilt: the gnomes seemed to be growing more and more disheartened by the loss of so many convenient tools. As they wondered what they might be able to do to help, Queen Ann summoned the team and told them that she’d received word of a fallen star a few days ride away. It had reportedly landed in a hostile wasteland that the gnomes considered unsafe and unlucky… but gnomish legends suggested that fallen stars could be a source of wonderful magical power… and perhaps, if given a sledge to cart it back, these fine men, whom she called “Queen Ann’s Champions,” could be persuaded to retrieve it for her… Baernabas and Benjin agreed at once, eager for a new adventure (as Fharlanghn’s worshipers always were), and Jeysen found he couldn’t turn down a job that would surely pay handsomely. By noon that day they were outfitted for travel and headed into the wastes…