She was surprised he had after all, considering the first time they met as a betrothed couple. And nothing surprised her more than his requesting to see the seat of House Ralik; hers was not a wealthy home, but it was well-worn and decently supplied, and she was proud of it. And she knew her brother would be home, and that he would be all the more keen to talk to him as well. And that was not something she was looking forward to; the strains of being head of household were a heavy burden to him, but with his frail health it was all the more stressful.
House Ralik itself was not far from the training fields and home base for their civil war; as she went on, the men and women that tended the fields hailed out after her, and she called back in returning easy banter, her voice light and cheerful. It was only to be for the day and night, but knowing Aurelion he would insist their guest stay another day if he could.
She gazed upon the walls with pride, glancing over to her companion. She was without her helm, and a wide smile touched the edge of her lips.
"My home; it is a bit small, but..." she gave a one-shouldered shrug.
It was a simple motte and bailey design, of heavy stone; the house Coat of Arms showed boldly in the banners, and men manned the wall, letting out a hearty greeting at the appearance of their Lady. She smiled and waved back to the guard that hailed her. "We wish entrance, inform my brother," she called out, and smiled as the man darted off. Perhaps they could expect a hearty welcome home after all... she hadn't been here personally in over five years, it was heartening to see little had changed.
Noria was greener than he thought it would be and that was... nice, he supposed. It meant a lot of rain and he wasn't quite used to that yet, let alone the winds. Some of the locals had told him they considered the winds a breeze - to him a breeze wafted, not smacked you in the face with a chill but he supposed he was showing his southern roots.
It was a surprise to be experiencing it considering this was by far the furthest North he had ever ventured so far in his life. And although he wasn't actually here for such a reason, visiting the seat of House Ralik was something he was keen to do.
Not only did it make political sense to meet the brother his own brother was so keen to forge an alliance with but it would be nice to see the place that had forged Alegna. He grinned at her from behind his helmet as they approached.
"Make no apologies for your home." he told her with a wave of his hand, "A practical home with a warm hearth and strong defenders is worth far more than any palace."
He'd seen palaces, after all, and they were cold, gaudy, affairs in his opinion. He leaned over to speak to her quietly.
"Anything I should know about your brother?"
She chuckled, giving him a grateful sideways glance. It had to not be easy; to be in a strange land so far from his own homeland, where the customs were similar but the weather harder, the people too. And yet he seemed in good spirits throughout his journey; she wished she could be so positive in the outlook of things, but in truth she was not so optimistic. "I do not apologize for it, then," was her rejoinder, with a grin still on her lips.
When he asked like her brother was like, she paused. As of late, he had grown steadily weaker; the smile vanished, and a distant look came into her eyes. "Proud," she finally admitted, though it was spoken with fondness. "Strong, stubborn... yet between the two of us, has the fiercest love for our people and lands. He's a good man, but..." she glanced back towards the grate as it began to raise, and then the motte bridge lowered, bidding them entrance.
She took a deep breath. "Last I saw him, he was very physically weak. We do not yet know what is wrong with him... but he will, no doubt, ask you many questions."
She threw him an apologetic look, then gave a short shrug. "Hopefully he will not insist on keeping us a fortnight, for he has sent many messenger birds after me, asking about my betrothed." She grinned once more, then offered a rare wink, spurring Dorian on into the yard and not giving him a chance to respond.
Upon entering, it was the typical bustle of a well-manned keep; soldiers attended their rounds, servants rushed to meet her and her suitor, but Abram, it seemed, was caught with one woman. Short, and stout, with a cap of starched linen and plain brown dress, came barreling over, and gave the tall lad a tight hug, which he returned. "My Lady," she beamed, offering a low curtsy. "We've been waiting your return; your brother waits in the hall, and you!" she swatted at the youth and he ducked, laughing. "Not a letter, not a word for six months! Nearly killing me and your father, young man!"
He laughed, allowing him to be led on by the woman, and Alegna gave Marcus a grin, shrugging. "The head cook. She takes her role as mother hen seriously, I fear." Soon, she led him off to the stables, where she dismounted and began unloading Dorian herself. It was old habit, and this meant they had a brief moment of respite.
She turned to smile at him, head tilted slightly. "What do you think so far?"
He smirked at her when she declared that she wouldn't apologise for her home after he bade her not to. Marcus liked that she felt that she could relax a little bit more around him than before. It was a nice taste of what was, hopefully, to come and that was a pleasantly enjoyable time together as man and wife.
Her brother sounded a decent sort.
Most nobles were a mixture of greedy, prideful and weaker in body than their more martially minded brothers and sisters. If her brother was only two of those things then he was likely far more righteous than some of the Imperials he had spent time with.
"Well he sounds to be a good man and I'll try not to disappoint." he assured her with a smirk, "Do you want me to put on a more Imp accent so I sound more in line with what he wants me to be? Or should I call myself "Centurion" rather than Knight?"
He was an oddity in the South for his adoption of that term and oaths after all. Stepping foot within the castle it was clear that it was full of people who truly loved being here.
"Feels like a home - it's lovely."
Her smile faded, one brow steadily rose at his jokingly referring to calling himself Centurion, and for a moment, it may have seemed his light teasing had taken offense. And then she smirked back at him, shaking her head. "I happen to have trained in Rishoka, thank you," she retorted, but then shook her head, chuckling.
"Do as you like, then. I'm sure he would enjoy it."
Her smile softened, and she tucked away an errant strand of hair back over her ear before hefting the saddle off, setting it away before beginning to brush Dorian down. "I haven't been here in five years..." she spoke quietly, focusing instead on the task at hand, gentle on her horse's flanks and back, taking care to scratch him between the ears. He subtly nosed her in the stomach with a soft nicker in return when she came back around.
"So little has changed. And yet... I'm glad you feel that way."
She knew she was stalling, but it had been a few months since her brother and she had been face to face; she had never been comfortable hovering around him during his ill times, and she wouldn't know what to do if he was any worse than he was the last they met.
When she was finally done, she glanced up at him, then smiled, though it seemed a little thin. "Shall we?" She tilted her head, then began moving towards the main path, nodding and waving to hearty calls and well-wishers, more than a few of them addressing Marcus as well with respectful nods.
Truth be told... his last comment was a fierce bloom of pride in her chest. She smiled inwardly, savoring the compliment as it was intended, relieved he didn't think it cramped or worn-down.