And Chapter 2 opens up quietly. Don't worry. It'll grow. *evil grin*
As the Azure Rider sailed into port, Alina leaned on the rail and studied the island. The harbour was modest, but she noted that it was constructed mainly of stone, with sturdy piers and a solid foundation - a stark contrast to the thatch-roofed cottages that spread out around the modest town. The town had a population of 10,000 - half of that of the island as a whole. The rest of the townsfolk were spread out around six small towns spread around the coastline. The island's interior was a massive crater that had once, according to Steel's retelling of local legends, been a volcano before the volcano-god Mallist exploded into the sky and became the new god of light and life. Alina knew that there was only one god of the Sun, but assumed that there was some reason behind the myth.
Lodaris was standing beside her, his face impassive as usual. He had not discussed the events of the Lintha boarding, and she wasn't sure how to bring it up, or even if she should. Instead, she chose to take the easier route and discuss something else. "So, what's our first course of action?"
"I don't know. What is it?" Alina looked sharply over at Lodaris, but his face betrayed no mockery. Instead, the question had an honesty behind it that caught her offguard. Seeing that, he nodded to her. "You are not Anathema. You are an Exalt, and an Exalt must be a leader. You cannot spend your life looking to others for direction."
"But... you have so much more experience than I do." Alina gestured helplessly. "I don't know the first thing about this sort of situation."
"And you think I do?" Lodaris smiled at this, letting a slight chuckle escape before he schooled his expression. "I know how to interact with spirits, and how to lead a Wyld Hunt. Investigations and politics were never my strength, and you know as well as I do that this is our situation." He paused. "I will offer advice as I feel is necessary, but you must decide our course of action."
Alina frowned thoughtfully, looking the city over. "We have to make sure that Steel's story is true. He seems honest, but there could be more here. I can talk to the townsfolk, if you meet with the local gods." She paused. "Will they talk to you?"
"If I come without offering violence, I think so." Lodaris straightened, following her gaze. "They are clearly willing to work with others, and I can't imagine myself less welcome than that... other." His look turned sour. "He may well be honest, but I cannot call his attitude encouraging. The lesser of two evils, perhaps."
"That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me." Steel grinned widely, walking up between the two and throwing an arm around each of them - he had to stretch to drape an arm around Lodaris's shoulder, but he still managed it. "Feeling a little suspicious, are we?"
"Cautious." Alina turned and smiled, as Lodaris shrugged the arm off. "You have to admit, your kind has a bit of a reputation to live down." She kept her voice light, not wanting the comment to sting, but also kept the honesty of the statement intact. Steel laughed, nodding his head.
"Suppose we do, at that." He straightened, and shrugged. "Well, I'll need to spend some time once we get into the dock organizing the supplies I brought, so you'll have time to snoop around and make sure I'm on the up and up."
"I wouldn't snoop -" Alina began to protest, but Steel waved her away with an easygoing grin.
"Don't worry, I would too. After all, the Dragon-Blooded and the Deathknights are not the most traditional allies." Patting Alina on the back, he winked and turned to leave. "Once you've satisfied your curiousity, I'm staying at the hut with the black roof. Symbolic, you know?"
Alina watched him go, and then turned to Lodaris, who shrugged helplessly. "He is a very odd man."
"Indeed." Lodaris nodded. "Well, it seems that we have our duties."
"That we do." Alina smiled, looking out over the town. "Let's go exploring."