Alexei's hooves clacked against the cobblestone street that ran parallel to the docks, but the sound was lost amongst the thoroughfare's holiday commotion. The full moon had nearly come again and preparations were underway for Saravys. The salt air mixed pleasantly with the scents of the baked goods that were being prepared, and the underlying scent of flowers made it feel like spring had come early to Irov.

Merchant ships from the south brought sailors and passengers of all kinds up for the lunar festival, and the next week would find Irov alight with new faces until the ships again departed. It was shockingly cold here, especially now - when the sun barely crested the horizon. All the same, the weather was fair for this time of year and not even the more mild autumn months drew such crowds.

The Irovian people were the hands that the Aegis offered out in welcome to all visitors to its climes, so even those they may harbor reasons to be mistrustful of were offered the same hospitality as every other. The Aegis welcomed all, but any who sought to betray that offer were to be given no quarter. As such, the appearance of a new Bascan merchant ship on the month's register - a sleek galleon named De Oro - called for a measure of caution. The Catabasian had insisted that Alexei and Theo go to greet the ship's captain, with the additional instruction that they were to report on any whisperings of inquisition supporters in their ranks.

Theo would do all the talking since they were more inclined to conversation and it was their duty to try to feel out any newcomers of importance; Alexei simply needed to stand around and look mean. Theo had already, in fact, been talking at length about the make of the ships in port: the curve of their bows and the cut of their sails fascinated them to no end, it seemed. They could well carry a conversation on with a conch, so long as it moved occasionally.

"You ought to have been a sailor," Alexei commented in Irovian when Theo's monologue lulled. He had not been fully listening, eyes scanning the crowd and trying to focus his hearing more on what was being said by passerby. Here, at least, everything seemed in fine order.

"I haven't any sea legs to speak of," Theo said with a dismissive wave of one hand, brushing at the air as if they could move the thought away, "but a shipwright! To build such glorious vessels!" And with that they were off again, talking now about Irov's own whaling ships and the amount of work that went into making such behemoths. That they fantasized for such a profession despite their own standing within the Sanctuary had always amused him.

Setting a brisk pace, it wasn't long before the pair approached De Oro's berth, her deeper draught finding her at one of the furthest docks to accommodate the needed depth. She was a beautiful vessel, cut into a graceful slope with filigree carved into her banisters. Her planks were deep, red wood and ornamented in golden patterns that curled like ivy, and her bulk was largely ornamented in a similar fashion.

Two of her crew approached with a wide, flat crate and Alexei guided Theo aside to make room. The one who faced them nodded his thanks, but the man moving backwards nearly slipped on a patch of ice, muttering under his breath about the cold.

"Maybe someday the inquisition will make its way up here," he muttered, and the other's eyes widened and flicked to Theo then to Alexei, "that way we never have to come up here again."

Alexei stopped and released his light hold on Theo's arm before he stepped over to the Bascans, face impassive. "I hope I have misheard you," he said coldly, "so I think what you've said bears repeating."

The sailor who hadn't spoken looked terrified, but the one who had simply looked indignant. Alexei turned to the one who was yet innocent. "Please take my companion to meet your Captain, I will join you shortly." They nodded and opened their mouth to speak but were cut off when the other spoke.

"You're interrupting our work-"

Alexei's lip curled in a snarl as he turned his attention back to the one who had drawn his ire. "Be silent, gadny," he snapped. To call someone an outsider here was to mark them as an enemy and at that Theo finally seemed to gather their wits. They scrambled over and coaxed the other sailor to put down his end of the long crate before they bustled him away with a nervous glance over their shoulder. Alexei didn't watch them leave, barely saw it in his periphery, instead focused entirely on the offending Bascan.

Finally, after holding Alexei's stare for a long, drawn-out moment, he stooped to drop the crate. "Fine. What, then?"

"I told you to repeat yourself."

"I don't know what-"

"You mentioned the inquisition," he interrupted, taking a step towards him, all pretext of hospitality gone. People were watching and Alexei was glad for it - let them know exactly how they treated sympathizers here where magic was sacred.

He scowled. "I said: 'maybe someday the inquisition will make its way up here,'" he still held Alexei's now openly-hostile stare and narrowed his eyes in defiance, "and if they do I hope they put you to the sword first."

When he had finished, Alexei remained quiet for a beat as he scanned his face in search of anything that may redeem the man before him. Any hint of apology or fear or guilt - something to say these were said without real weight.

He found nothing to grant him mercy for.

Alexei smiled, all malice. "Killing me first would be the wise choice." He lashed out to haul the sympathizer forward and at the same time rammed his head down to crack his horns hard against his skull, meeting his momentum to maximize the damage. The sailor crumpled like wet paper and Alexei hauled him up over one shoulder, lifting his head to scan the crowd as he did so. The familiar faces among them were approving, but those he didn't recognize appeared sufficiently cowed.

He gave a single, sharp nod to the onlookers before carrying on his original path towards De Oro. He was going to have a few choice words for this captain regarding the welcome of their crew in his home's northern waters.