The Expedition Into the Black Reservoir; a
Dungeon Adventure at Greyhawk Castle by Gary Gygax
The story contents of this web page are copyright 1975 and 2003 by
Gary Gygax, all rights reserved.
Received: (qmail 23460 invoked by uid 508); 4 Jun 2003 04:22:36 -0000
Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2003 00:22:31 EDT
Subject: [greytalk] Expedition Into the Black Reservoir (Greyhawk Castle)
Here, from a fanzine in 1975, is a little known (if known at all), never-reprinted tale of
an exploration of Castle Greyhawk. Written by Gary Gygax, it accompanied a short
review of the "new" D&D boxed set and an article by Gary about "Fantasy
Wargaming". I reprint the story here, with Gary's permission, hoping that
long-time fans can get a glimpse into what sounds like a retelling of an actual gaming
session over 25 years ago with Gary's son Ernie (Erac) and others. Hopefully Gary
will feel free to comment on anything mentioned in the tale, if his memory permits. This
story appears exactly as printed, and I've divided it into two parts.
The Expedition Into the Black Reservoir; a Dungeon Adventure at Greyhawk Castle
By Gary Gygax
To the east of the busy walled city of Greyhawk the land is forsaken, overgrown with
thorns and thistles. Oozing marsh creeps slowly down. The copses are huddles of weird,
bloated trees. The wiry grass seems to grasp at the feet of any who dare to tread upon it.
In the center of this unwholesome place, on a rock-boned prominence, hulks the ruin of the
grim Greyhawk Castle. Still a few of the bravest sort regularly frequent its
precincts---one such as Erac, a spellcaster, Erac the Enchanter, Erac the ambitious, a
paladin of Law.
This same magic-user now
commanded a party of four bent on despoiling the wicked dwellers of the underworld beneath
the castle of some goodly treasure. At Eracs side paced the lama Londlar. At the
back of one was Nulfyke, a dwarf swordsman, while behind the other was the acolyte Ugubb
of the Lake of Crystals. The fallen west gate of Greyhawk Castle was at hand, and through
this mouldering portal the party passed. In a few moments they had entered the great
central keep, heaved open an inner door, and carefully proceeded down a set of winding
stone steps---steps worn with age and slippery with dampness. They had entered the
A huge oaken door at the
bottom of the tower gave into a corridor running east and west. Erac led eastward, turned
south at an intersection, followed a branching passage southeasterly, and halted the group
in a large natural cavern which was lighted by glowing clumps of foxfire upon floor,
walls, and ceiling.
At least a score of elves were
lounging about, and they greeted the four adventurers in a businesslike manner. These were
the guardians of the eastern stairs. Who or what had made them the warders of this ingress
to the dungeon depths no-one knew or cared; for they were there, and no-one cared to
dispute their right.
A bargain was quickly
arranged: On their return the expedition would allow the elves their choice of any one
magical item plus a tithe of silver and gold---all this assuming that the party DID
return, and if they returned that they had any treasure to divide. The deeper dungeons are
most hazardous, prizes are hard won, and mortality is high. A few parting words and the
four went further into the cavern, up a small passage, and then began a long descent by
means of uneven steps cut into living rock.
When the end of the stairs was
finally reached, the party quickly decided to attempt to explore mostly northward, and
proceeded accordingly. Most of the passages seemed to by running laterally, but by dint of
much criss-crossing they had gained some measure of progress when a chance entry into a
narrow southerly tunnel discovered a flight of steps going deeper still into the bowels of
One of the adventurers
demurred, and an argument ensued as to the wisdom of going further down. This discussion
ceased abruptly when a bellowing arose from the corridor they had just left, and without
further ado all four hastened on. The end of the steps brought something totally
unexpected, however. The space there was seemingly boundless and cloaked with a murk of
ebon vapors which allowed but feeble penetration by lanthorn or torch.
It was only after considerable
careful probing in all directions that it was discovered that northward lay a sudden drop.
The ledge was only a few feet above a sheet of inky water---water of unknown depths.
Passing along its edge the four went westward, and within a few yards came upon a large
raft moored to an iron ring. Erac wished to set out upon the waters then and there;
but Londlar prevailed upon him, so the party explored yet further west along the strange
Some two hundred feet anead
(sic) they found a flight of stairs wending upward, and as they passed these by a strange
scraping from beyond brought all four to a state of utmost alert. Lanthorns were raised
high, and a faint glimmering from afar told them that something unusual lurked ahead. Then
the scraping came again, and this time a loud clacking accompanied it.
Into the light scuttled an
immense crab, with pincers of sword-like proportion poised in front snapping open and shut
as the monster charged its intended prey. Formidable, certainly, but why face a
senseless brute for nothing except a chance of death? The four discreetly withdrew at a
Nothing pursued beyond a few
score feet, and Erac called a halt in order to devise a detailed plan. No more
aimlessness! We will now set out upon the dark waters yonder, for I am sure that
somewhere within that expanse a vast treasure awaits our taking. In a trice
all were aboard the raft, and with long poles the four shoved the clumsy raft away from
the ledge into the unknown.
The raft slowly lost way after
the initial rush of ten feet, but Ugubb whispered that a pillar loomed but a few feet
ahead, and gradually the raft drifted forward until they touched the granite post with a
gentle thump. Working around the support so as to be able to go further northward, the
four repeated the pushing off process.
Eventually they discovered
that the body of water was apparently a large reservoir. The roof of the place was lost
from view in the murk, but everywhere rose mighty granite pillars to support
it---hexagonal posts of several yards diameter. These supports enabled the
party to make their way about the place, and were nearly the undoing of them all.
Quietly the four made their
way from pillar to post, fearing that some lurker in the deeps might arise at any moment
to overturn their frail craft and devour them whole.Yet nothing broke the still surface of
the water save the ripples from the passing of their own raft, and soon they discovered a
line of supports stretching away to the left and the right. Pillars which were placed so
close to each other that the raft would not pass between them. Further exploration
revealed that these obstacles took the form of an oval. What was within?
On the far side the sharp-eyed
dwarf espied a rusty lever protruding from one of the pillars. Nulfyke seized it and
attempted to move the arm, but it gave only a bit and groaned horribly. Erac then came to
the assistance of his lieutenant, but they met with no success until Ugubb too lent his
weight. Finally the iron bar slowly moved downward, protesting rustily as it went, and as
it moved the stone post slowly and silently began to descend.
There was nothing to be done
now but to see what results their efforts would bring, for the monolith sank so rapidly as
to prevent any attempt to return the lever to its original position. The raft was drawn
into the vortex created by the descending shaft, and as it moved ahead all four of the
explorers peered into the space heretofore inaccessible to them.
Terror! The water in the
middle of the oval was beginning to roll. A snaky head broke the surface! A sea
monster had been awakened and released, and they had unwittingly invited their doom.
Londlar, Nulfyke, and Ugubb frantically paddled and thrust with the poles to escape the
area as quickly as possible, but the horrid head regarded them balefully.
Erac stepped to the part of
the raft nearest the monster, turned his back on it, and chanted strange words while his
fingers drew runes in the air. The monster was a scant ten yards distant,and closing
fast. It had not come close enough to seize the raft or its occupants, however, when their
motions seemed to blur. The clever enchanter had cast a spell of haste upon them,
and each now moved at incredible speed. The sluggish craft leaped ahead, but even then it
was not moving as fast as its pursuer.
Erac, as he turned again toward the sea monster and again raised his hand. He pointed his
finger at the gaping mouth of the beast, and spoke a single word. A glowing orb sped from
his hand and streaked toward its target, growing larger until it burst in searing flame
just behind the monsters outstretched neck. A deafening honk came from the beast,
and it momentarily writhed in pain.
Would they thus escape? No!
They were against the westernmost boundary of the black reservoir now, and the
monster was cleaving the water behind in fury to avenge its hurt. And then it was upon
them! Its serpents neck shot forth and it struck. A blast of fetid
breath and rending teeth, and Erac lay dazed and bleeding.
The three paddlers forced the
cumbersome vessel northward as Erac struggled upright and reached for his last hope, a
strange device taken from a quasi-human in another dimension. He aimed the stubby rod as
well as the unsteady platform and the poor visibility allowed, and pressed the small stud
on its side.
A beam of blue radiance darted
forth, striking the water near the monster and causing it to boil. Another hideous
honk of pain and great thrashing. What was that ahead? It looked like another
ledge and the hope of deliverance. Erac sent another beam at their pursuer, and then
the raft was at the raised stone platform. As it neared the ledge, all four leaped
They had gone twenty feet or
so along the ledge when two things happened simultaneously: The sea serpent heaved itself
upon the ledge behind them, determined not to allow this prey to escape; and from above
five pteradons dove upon Ugubb and Nulfyke, who were in the lead. As Londlar rushed
into the fray ahead and smote at the menace from above, Erac loosed yet another bolt from
the thick rod. This time it fell full upon the head of the monster, and in a second its
truncated corpse thrashed on the stone blocks, spattering ichor everywhere.
END PART ONE
Two of Gary Gygax's Greyhawk Castle Short story
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