As the Maelstrom set sail for vaguely east, the eager lad in the crow's nest spotted an island glinting off the port bow. This caused some consternation, for Stilgar was certain no island was charted in this stretch of water (and no one dared question Stilgar on matters of sea charts). As the ship drew nearer the glinting island, it could be made out that it was made all of metal, and unlikely to be an island at all. This instilled a deeper consternation, for anything made of metal and sporting the size of an island must be dangerous indeed. But as is often the case with our crew, curiosity won out over discretion, and the captain gave order to steer nearer the monstrosity.
Closer and closer they sailed, until it could be determined that it was island and ship -- a vast conglomeration of both! The sunlight glinted off a polished green hull, as well as buildings and minarets sported by the stately behemoth. Vessels minuscule in relation to the mother ship sailed to and fro and all around, patrolling nearby water.
Soon enough they were hailed by three tiny vessels of curious design - vessels big enough for only 3 crew, but each sporting a sail, paddle wheel, and cannon! A gnome to each device - one piloting, one minding the sail, and one pedaling to keep the wheel going (one can assume the gnome piloting got to shoot the cannon).
They hailed the Maelstrom, and receiving cordial reply, escorted them to dock with Atlantia, the Gnomish city-ship.
Upon dock, the crew was given leave to roam about the Bigun Section (that being the section of the city that accommodated human-sized folk), and roam they did. Bigun Section sported all the features of any large port city, but mostly cleaner and more pleasant. Many a wondrous gadget called to the eye from market booths aplenty, as one would expect from a gnomish city.
While inspecting the fare at a cockatrice feather booth, Winston was approached by one Vincenzo Alberte, who offered him and his crew employment. Always on the lookout for booty, and none too keen on the vague plan of handing over the Red Shield, Winston eagerly agreed. Vincenzo related that Atlantia was having trouble with Captain Bloody Paul Demmings, a pirate of some skill and prowess. The proposed work involved "making sure the troublesome Demmings never bothers us again." Winston pressed for more details, but Vincenzo would not elaborate until Winston had agreed to the job.
After some discussion with the crew, Winston agreed to the job. Vincenzo related the rest of the Gnomish problem the next day.
The Atlantia can't very well belly up to any old port town and unload their goods. No one is happy with a floating city-fortress in their port, and the fact that it's crewed entirely by gnomes only increases the unease after a moment's thought. So the gnomes came up with a safe way of trading their goods amongst port towns--they use submarines. Atlantia stays several miles off shore, and the sub with the trade goods swims unmolested to port.
Somehow, the notorious pirate captain Bloody Paul Demmings found a way to not only track the trade subs, but incapacitate and/or kill the crews with some kind of lightning weapon. There have been survivors to tell the tale, but they can relate little more than electricity arcing throughout the unfortunate boat before they lost consciousness. Other ships had the good fortune to spot one of Demmings' ships in a periscope and turn tail back to Atlantia before he could get close enough to unleash his mysterious lightning weapon.
So, the task before the Maelstrom is this: make this problem go away. A sum of forty thousand gold, plus ten thousand in ship enhancements for the Maelstrom, was settled on for payment.
Much discussion was made on how to catch Demmings. It is know that the man commands a fleet of ships numbering usually a score. The number varies, since he has been known to set 'expendable' ships on fire and run them into docks, convoys, tight groups of ships, and other troublesome enemies. He is estimated to have from two to three thousand men at his command, ready to follow him into any sort of danger.
Jenna's knowledge of pirates proved invaluable here, as she was able to relate several facts about Demmings and his command crew:
Demmings doesn't leave anyone alive from captured ships. Instead he has them thrown overboard or turns them over to his less-than-savory allies for sacrifice or even food. The newly emptied ships are either conscripted into his fleet or sunk after all the treasure and supplies have been extracted.
Captain Demmings is almost seven feet tall and broad shouldered. He is bald, but wears a full beard that is black as a raven's wing. He has a vicious scar that runs from his ear to his nose that he claims to have gotten when pulling the wings off an archon. The Captain likes to dress in browns, perhaps as a foil for his first mate, Mad Addy.
Demmings' flag ship is the Vanessa Rose.
The first mate of the Vanessa Rose is Adalaine Scoldaria, known to the rest of the crew as Mad Addy. She is as ruthless and bloodthirsty as the Captain she serves, and quite often leads the boarding actions against other ships. She always dresses in garish reds and pinks, and all of the blades of her weapons are tinted bright red. Her hair is long and tangled, and her looks usually startle those that see ehr for the first time. She often takes advantage of that shock in battle, allowing her to strike first.
The bosun is the mysterious Bart Trevillier, who is known to have a sadistic streak and a lust for torture.
There are not one, but two mages on board the Vanessa Rose; Eljira ma Farin, and Wallace Fitzhugh. The two are lovers and are rarely out of each others sight. They work well together; Eljira using offensive magic while Wallace concentrates on protecting the ship. The two are a mixed match, Eljira being a large woman, tall and heavy-set with a swarthy complexion, with dark hair and penetrating eyes. Wallac eis aextremely thin and fair skinned with red hair and freckles, giving him a very boyish appearance. They both dress plainly to blend in with the rest of the crew.
Demmings doesn't trust any sort of cleric or holy man, arguing that their devotion to a particular faith will only get in the way at some point, so he has shanghaied a dwarven healer to work on the Vanessa Rose.
After much discussion, it was decided that Atlantia would sail to a remote port and lure Demmings (or at least one of his lieutenants) to port for an ambush. The elvish port city of Feyjounaisse was chosen, and they set sail that same day.