Summary: The heroes are strapped for coin after their capture and take on a job to catch a flying frog from nearby Firefly Swamp.
Takes place 28th of Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) through 3rd of Ches (The Claw of Sunsets) in the year 1478DR (The Year of the Dark Circle)
The group arrived at the center of the town of Yurley and found a strange sight. The center of town square had been cordoned off. Black curtains surrounded an area marked, “Frog Raceway under construction. No admittance.” A nearby sign read: The Great Frog Jumping Contest of Yurley Shire. In honor of the eighth birthday of Count-in-Waiting, Pubert Adamas, a contest will be held on the 3rd day of Ches. The owner of the fastest frog to finish the raceway shall be awarded 500 gold pieces and invitation to Adamas Keep for continued birthday celebrations. Registration begins in town square at dawn. Entry fee 2 gold pieces. Limit one frog or toad per person. No magic permitted. After reading the sign, the party was approached with an interesting proposition. Paxter Holly, steward of Count Sterling Morton, wished to hire them to help him solve a diplomatic problem. Both Counts Morton and Adamas were away on Grand Council business to the south, and Countess Adamas refused to speak with him. Holly offered the heroes a bounty to find a frog with a superior chance of winning the frog jumping contest. He even offered to let the party keep the reward for winning the contest, because all he was interested in was the invitation to Adamas keep. Low on coin, the heroes agreed.
Investigations led the heroes to local barfly – Oliver “Ollie” Reilly. The old man was full of himself, but his long-winded stories did turn up some interesting information. On a previous adventure with noted explorer, Ian Silvermane, he had found a frog that could fly. Unfortunately, the frog had died a number of years ago. Ollie claimed he found the frog on the journey after travelling through nearby Firefly Swamp, across Icemelt Lake, and into some ancient ruins located in Earthwood. He also revealed that Ian Silvermane had recently headed out with an expedition to return to the ruins. The heroes decided to head to the ruins to look for another flying frog. On the way out of town, they were approached by a shifty character who introduced himself as Svennie Four-fingers. Svennie offered to pay them to sell the flying frog to him instead of Paxter. The heroes blew him off and headed into Firefly Swamp.
The group encountered several frog-related incidents while in the swamp. The first was in a field of giant toadstools that were tended by an old lady. She turned out to be a Bog Hag and attacked the heroes with her fungoid allies. Her pet was a large, vicious, spore-backed frog that got killed in the fighting. The second encounter was with some brass-colored frogs with trumpet-shaped antennas. When agitated, the “frog-horns” let out a deafening “AAOOOOOOGGAAH” sound that summoned every nearby creature in the swamp for dinner. The head of Tsol’s axe got eaten by a Rust Monster during the battle.
The party eventually wound up encountering a floating, intelligent, humanoid hand. The hand was friendly and wanted the heroes to follow it. The adventurers were led to a nearby lizardman hunting party that had captured some humans. The heroes defeated the hunters, but it was too late to save any of the captives. The hand beckoned the party onwards and led them to the lizardman village. A mysterious blanket of intense cold had settled onto the village and placed the occupants into a deep hibernation. The hand insistently waved the party into some boats from the village and they crossed Icemelt Lake into the ancient ruins. There they were assaulted by a powerful troop of undead. The adventurers narrowly defeated the first wave but were forced to flee when more arrived. The hand guided them to a large, stone ziggurat that was still intact. As the undead closed in on their trail, the adventurers solved the riddle to enter the structure and sealed themselves in.
Inside, they found a temple commemorating the lives of some ancient heroes: a frost giant, a Minotaur, two twins, and a man riding a chariot. They also found an unconscious, shriveled, old man. Upon waking him, the party learned that the man was in fact Ian Silvermane. He told the group the following remarkable story. His expedition had journeyed to the ancient ruins to see an event which could, according to information found in his last visit, only be seen once every thousand years. He came upon a ceremony in the remains of the old palace where dark-skinned, primitive-looking tribals took turns presenting offerings to a small boy. As each item was bestowed, the boy seems to gain a power symbolic of the gift. Example: a finely crafted wind instrument was given to the boy and he then seemed to gain the power to control the wind. Ian was spotted and instructed to award the boy with a gift. Ian, drawn into the solemnity of the ritual, gave the boy his most prized possession – his hat which he had worn through many an exciting adventure. This present greatly angered one of the tribals who had yet to present his gift (an obsidian skull) to the boy. The tribal summoned an army of undead to hunt down Ian. While fleeing, he was also caught by a curse which caused him to age rapidly. Since the undead were after him alone, Ian split off from the rest of his party and hid in the temple. He used the magic Ring of Ing to summon the hand and dispatched it to find help. Sounds of undead beginning to batter through the temple doors were then heard. Ian activated an ancient mechanism that raised the central altar area the group was standing on up to the roof. The altar also opened, revealing several powerful magic items – including the Four-horned Helm now worn by Tsol. In the tree-tops next to the temple roof, the party also spied a group of flying frogs and managed to capture one.
With a horde of undead beginning to surround the temple, Ian declared that it was time to get out of there and pulled out his signature golden, glowing whip. He then used it to swing through the trees over to the next building. The party followed with somewhat less style. The party hastily made their way through the ruins and back to the boats. The boats mysteriously powered themselves back across Icemelt Lake. After his final burst of bravado, Ian’s health began to fade. While fading in and out of consciousness, he mused that the child was somehow helping them. He bequeathed his Ring of Strings to the heroes and asked that they return the Ring of Ing back to his good friend, Festus Adamas. Ian Silvermane died during the night, and shortly thereafter, the fireflies emerged over Icemelt Lake in a seeming candlelight vigil.
The heroes brought Ian’s body with them back to Yurley. Their return trip through the swamp was amazingly uneventful. On the road just outside of town, the heroes were ambushed by a group of thugs stationed there by Svennie to steal the flying frog. After defeating the bandits, the party presented the frog to Paxter. He convinced them to manage the frog during the contest in order to secure the reward.
The next day was the day of the frog jumping contest, and most of the shire had turned out for the event. Besides the flying frog, there were a couple of other unique entries. A local alchemist had been feeding a frog a series of small doses of a growing potion so that it did not register as “magical.” The frog, named “Big Bertha”, was two feet tall and just as wide. The other, a late entry, was the dubbed the “horned toad.” Actually a lizard, the reptile had been trained so well to act like a frog that the judges allowed it to enter the contest. The owner was a female, minotaur Druid named Cowaveras. Seeing her triggered Tsol’s memories to return and he remembered that she had been a childhood friend of his. Before he could approach her, the contest began. Nearly fifty frogs were entered into the contest. Each was given a position around the outside of a large, squared-off area. A lure for the frogs (that had sticky-trapped a bunch of flies) had been placed in the center of the square. The lure was covered by a transparent, glass dome that had four glass pipes leading into it. Newly constructed stands for the spectators surrounded the frog “arena”. Once everyone was in position, the young, birthday-boy, Pubert Adamas, gave the signal to begin. Big Bertha ate several of the competing frogs around her as she lumbered forward. The horned toad also skewered several of his nearby competitors with his horns as he advanced. The Ranger Urlog, using his nature powers, directed their frog to fly ahead. The flying frog was in the lead when the heroes spotted something amiss. The central area of the square concealed a multitude of traps. Urlog barely got the frog to pull up in time as a jet of flame shot upward from one of the devices. Looking over to the noble’s area of the stands they spied several dwarves laughing and remotely operating the traps. Suddenly, Urlog felt his psychic connection to the flying frog break, and it hovered over the area in confusion. On the other side of the square, they noticed Cowaveras wink at them as she calmly sipped from a glass of wine. She was using her druidic powers to disrupt Urlog’s connection to the frog. Meanwhile, the other frogs had reached the trapped area. Dozens were cut down, impaled, blown up, or captured as they moved into the kill zone. The horned frog smartly began following behind other frogs after they had already set off the traps. Big Bertha bulldozed ahead as she shrugged off the damage. Draven managed to dodge through the crowd and used his sleight of hand to put some sleeping poison into Cowaveras’ cup. As she fell unconscious, Urlog felt his connection to the flying frog return. Big Bertha, too large to fit through one of the pipes, had reached the dome and was trying to batter her way in. Urlog directed the flying frog to swoop down and land at the entrance to one of the pipes. As the flying frog crawled forward through the pipe, the horned toad, even without his owner’s commands, had reached one of the other pipes. Just as Big Bertha finally cracked the dome open, in a photo-finish, the flying frog narrowly beat the other competition to the lure to claim victory.
Afterwards, the flying frog was given to the boy as a birthday present. Paxter Holly and the heroes were invited to Adamas Keep to join the rest of the birthday party. The party sold Festus Adamas back his Ring of Ing. Meanwhile, Tsol watched over the unconscious Cowaveras until she woke up. He had fully recovered his memories and asked her to join him on his quest for the Winding Way. She agreed but first had to return to the Druidic Circle and find a replacement for her assigned ward.
Postlude: Urlog blearily opened his eyes. His head was pounding with a hangover but that was nothing new. Now that’s what he called a birthday party! He had passed out in the dining hall while still cradling a mug of fine brew. It seemed unseasonably warm for early spring, and he could feel the spirits sweating out of his skin. Mopping his forehead with his beard, it came away with some flesh-colored, gooey substance. Touching his hand to his face, he could feel it too. If somebody had pranked him there would be hell to pay! He stumbled over to one of those fancy mirrors that the nobility kept in here. Fighting back panic, he barely recognized the reflection staring back at him. His face was melting!