"You will comply. You will serve. You will help me free the Elder Brain."
- As the giant eagle riders approached, Jaing, Brad and the Ironmaster rode out to meet them. The riders encroached on the fast-moving zeppelin, and Brad and Jaing spun above, encircling to raise before the moving Zeppelin and keep pace with the flying leviathan. The eagles stopped short; and Brad could see that there were a total of ten riders. Four were archers and four clad in heavier gear, bearing crossbows, but one stood apart in his knight-like regalia while another wore a chain mail help that obscured his face entirely, plate armor ribbing his entire body. The most prominent man, his ebon-skin standing out among the pink clouds before a quickly setting sun, called out: "Vessel! Identify yourselves! What manner are you?" A pause, as Jaing, Brad and the Ironmaster paused to briefly consider the words. "Identify yourselves or prepare to be boarded!" Jaing huffed a surprised "shit" as he spun his Gryphon down toward the visiting party, some 150' before the airship. As he soared, he formed a brief plan with Brad, who communicated with him telepathically using the message cantrip – if things went south, Brad could rush forward and give Jaing fog cover. Meanwhile, the Ironmaster took after the Paladin, diving down and westward. Brad began to play a song of strength and might — though the booming voice resounded over the whipping wind and music – "Tell your minstrel to cease the battle music, or face blades and talons!"
- As Jaing approached the soaring battalion, the cold wind lashed about his face and gear, whipping his hair about. The red, crown-emblazoned tabards of the warriors flapped in the wind… as did the dick of the Ironmaster as he pulled up behind and left of Jaing, his nude form cutting the words from the visitor's mouths before they could even begin. "He's always like this," Jaing explained, answering the unasked question. They discussed, then, as the unnamed knight – who identified himself as a Cleric of Ilmater – demanded answers from Jaing regarding the party's composition, the nature of the airship, and the number of crew. Uneasy from the aggressive questioning, but willing to comply with half-a-dozen ranged weapons laid his way, Jaing answered the questions curtly, but ambiguously. This seemed to pluck at the thin patience of the man, whose bearded, grizzly face drew a grim visage of discontent. "Ye have to the count of 5 to give us permission to board, we have the authority to commandeer this ship on behalf of Lady Daria Neverember, herself, as a strike team of the Lord's Alliance!" Jaing started to argue, but the man loudly and angrily began to count, "One! … Two! … Three! …" Brad, hearing the counting above the wind and sensing what was about to transpire, sent his mount spiraling downward, using the encroaching darkness from the setting sun as cover, "Four! … FIVE! FIRE AT WILL!" The arrows let fly, just before Brad could get there in time to cast his spell. Only two arrows nicked Jaing, leaving superficial damage, while the rest ricocheted off the Paladin's new, black armor with rhythmic tings that could barely be heard above the roar of the westerly wind.
- Brad's fog suddenly sprang up, and battle erupted. Gryphons and eagles soared about, arrows flew and spells sang out. Jaing lurched forward and struck at the man's eagle through the fog, but fell from his mount – which had been banished to another plane of existence by the dark-skinned man – and Jaing had just managing to cling to the talon of the great eagle he had struck with a savage blow. One archer's bow snapped, and with the reverse force, he flew back from his mount and plummeted noiselessly through the clouds below to a certain death. Arrows pelted Brad and his gryphon, nearly annihilating the poor bard in a matter of seconds. Sensing that he was nearly surrounded as Jaing hung by a talon, the Ironmaster flying beneath him, Brad sailed quickly and deftly back to the Airship, the assailants hot on his heels. Meanwhile, Jaing swung fruitlessly at the Eagle, but not before he was clawed by the free talon. The pommel of Jaing's blade collided with his forehead as he fell, stunned… thankfully, he fell into the waiting arms of the Ironmaster.
- Meanwhile, battle had erupted on the deck of the Airship. The archers shot at Shushar and Linwë, their arrows sailing about the vessel like an obstacle of death. They weren't the only assailants, however, as Adran and Linwe fired back. Alaer launched into the fray and punched at one of them, but as Adran's arrow plummeted into the gut of one of the archers… his form began to change. His corporeal image shuddered and faded, leaving behind a two-meter tall snake! "Yuan-Ti!" Mushu cried out, "I will get this one!" The illusions dropped from the rest, and suddenly the party was neck-in-neck in a savage battle between snake and man. The man joined the ship as battle erupted, twitching and convulsing every so often as he landed, banishing Linwë to another plane of existence. Things started to look dire as Brad's gryphon was savagely slain by one of the beasts, when suddenly…
- A blast of mental energy obliterated many of those who stood on the deck, as the Ironmaster appeared on the Stern-Starboard side of the ship, holding his hand aloft, Jaing cradled – drooping – across the great Black Gryphon that the Ironmaster rode. A few arrows sunk into the beast as Alaer and Linwe – who suddenly reappeared – shook their heads and pondered what had just happened. Shushar lay there, dead, on the deck of the ship, cradling a crushed cranium in his lifeless hands, bluish-green goop squished out from every orifice. Every single Yuan-Ti – and the Cleric – had fallen unconscious as a result of the spell. Their eagle mounts crumpled into lifeless heaps. Each of the party went through the mess, systematically slaughtering the Yuan-Ti as they never woke from their sudden sleep.
- A few tense moments passed as Jaing – who had re-emerged, sauntered down the deck of the ship, considering what had just transpired. Questions were raised by Linwë and Alaer, to which the Ironmaster responded, simply, "I've gotta bitta hidden powers yer not te be seein!" The group eyed each other, evenly, not fully understanding what had transpired. Meanwhile, Brad rushed updeck to where the prisoner was kept, Finder. "Ah, well…" The Ironmaster said, looking between the staring group among the windy silence. "I guess the jig is up, hey?" And his hand went to his face as he pulled away… a mask. A nine-foot tall mind flayer stood before the party, shirtless, a tattered black robe wrapped open around him as he placed the mask into his pocket.
- You will comply. The party heard the voice echo throughout each of their heads. "What are you?" Alaer asked, simply. I… am Verrezivox. The echoing, gurgled voice answered in response. Brad emerged then as the being began to explain that he was effectively commandeering the ship, that he had killed the Ironmaster and (as an Intellect Devourer appeared adjacent to where his Gryphon had been flying) the Ironmaster's mount. He said that the party was to allow him to accompany them to Gravenhollow, and then they would venture forth to slay Orcus "together, to free the Elder Brain". Alaer bargained with the creature for a while, as it seemed to take notice of the Invisible Brad, who sauntered about the deck, attempting to sneak past the creature. He lashed out with mental energy and assailed Brad, demanding that Brad be killed as punishment for evading his death at the hands of Verrezivox's "pets"… the intellect devourers. Apparently, the Ulitharid thought it an insult that his most powerful created item be used for such purposes. Thankfully for Brad, however, Alaer talked down the powerful creature, who said only that Brad would be allowed to live if he took off the headband and was watched by an intellect devourer. Complying, but not entirely pleased with this outcome, Brad handed the headband over to Alaer, as a moaning, groaning zombie-like Cleric approached… the Intellect Devourer had taken a husk.
- Already conspiring to escape this hazardous situation, Brad backed away, and began casting a defensive spell. Sensing the spellcasting, the Ulitharid went on the offence, Immediately blasting Brad with a wave of mental energy similar to the one that rippled across the deck, earlier. The controlled Cleric raised his weapon as he cast a spell, too, but Jaing burst in then, ramming the Ulitharid shoulder-first and tugging at the creature's waist. Jaing roared a might cry to Tempus and hoisted the flailing tentacled creature skyward, then proceeded to powerbomb him off the ship… while he still held the creature's hands fast. For mere seconds, the creature fell, but it's otherworldly strength quickly pushed away the hands of Jaing and savagely lashed out at the Paladin… who misty stepped on board.
- Meanwhile, in full-fledged panic, Linwë and Alaer had been conspiring with Adran how to best release Finder. During the confrontation with Brad, Alaer whipped up to where Finder was held and continued the conversation Brad had previously begun with it — a negotiation for his release. Alaer told the others that if Finder was released he promised to help fight the Ulitharid. Not wanting to die that day to a tentacled monstrosity, Linwë stealthily made his way up to the control cabin and gave the command. Little did he know, however, that Alaer had already smashed the intellect devourer to jelly and Jaing had thrown the Ulitharid from the ship… as Finder zoomed up to meet him, whipping past Alaer.
- A tense moment of silence passed, as Finder spoke monotonously into Linwë's mind: "What is the acknowledgement in your culture for gratitude?" Linwë stuttered as he contemplated a response… "Uh… we… uh… just say thanks?"
"Alright, then… Thanks…"
- Finder then zoomed down to the lower decks, where the group was collecting themselves after the battle. Making his way immediately to Adran, finder placed a two-fingered hand onto the rogue's surprised shoulder, and telepathically imparted to him "I is grateful. This one is keep promise. Three days. I is not need to kill this one. I is serve this one. One month. One month in service. For… thanks." The mental voice seemed to struggle with that last word. Adran nodded in agreement, and couldn't help but smile as he considered the possibilities of his new… friend.