Noria was a land far removed from his native land of Perseus and only part of that was the culture and the current civil war - most of it was just the fact that it was a hell of a distance. It was clear across the central Imperial province and then yet more travelling once he was in Noria itself.
It had been something of a fight to get into the state as it was with Centurions on the Imperial side trying to bar access to the land, citing the civil unrest as a reason for a travel ban. As a noble, Marcus was able to pay the bribes necessary to breach the 'containment' but it had still been yet another obstacle. He was, however, advancing upon where he had agreed to meet with his betrothed and her commanders.
Her Lord and his Lady.
Stopping outside of the forest they had agreed to meet at, he waved a hand for the men escorting him to fan out and relax for the time being. Some of them remained vigilant however and Marcus himself remained atop of his horse. He had taken with him just over a hundred men and had told anyone who asked that it would be foolish to travel with any fewer. Shifting atop his horse, he settled in for a wait.
She had decided to keep the betrothal. Though she knew she could easily break the engagement should she want to... she didn't. And though she and her Lord had discussed it, she remained firm. Her heart had settled... but that still left questions for the future she couldn't answer herself just yet.
Despite her Lord offering a way out, she could not deny part of her wanted to marry the man they rode towards. A strong part of her, in fact, desired this, and though the feelings had been given name, she could not admit them in the bald face of light just yet. Instead she rode, surprised by the summons from Marcus. He had hinted in a letter before he would be near Noria, but she could not yet guess why he was here in the first place.
Technically speaking, this would be the first time she had met her Lady as well. She had seen her from afar, gave greetings once in a while, but nothing ever truly formal.
This, however, seemed to be formal.
She rode in with her own three faithful men at arms first, and Abram, soon to be properly Knighted but still dressed in the colors marking him a Squire nonetheless. Dorian drew her close, and she gazed out across the field until her eyes beheld the familiar figure.
Her heart skipped a couple beats before she spurred her horse on, pulling up once she had drawn close enough. He waited atop Floppsy. She grinned at that, and offered a bow. Her guard, too, relaxed upon their mounts, fanning out to permit their commanders space. She would escort him personally; her Lord and Lady would be waiting. She couldn't resist riding ahead, in fact... though she would be loathe to admit it, she had wanted to see him as soon as she could.
Silas had a bit of a scowl on his face as they waited for their guests to arrive. His army had set up camp within the last hour. A large tent set up in the middle for the meeting to take place in. They were in a war, and no matter how much Alegna seemed to trust this man, Silas wasn't about to take his wife into the middle of the forest surrounded by someone else's soldiers.
"What do you know about this House Voltaire?" he asked, turning in his chair towards Ada. She was infinitely more knowledgeable about the various houses around the Empire. Silas knew the major players but relied on her and his other advisors for most information.
He faded back into his own thoughts for a moment but turning back to Ada, his expression softening. He knew he was being grouchy, which wasn't her fault. Silas had pretty poor luck when it came to Southern Imperial nobility in the past and combined with the already mountain of stressors from every other direction, it had put him in a sour mood.
Silas reached out a hand and placed it on hers, smiling faintly.
From arriving till setting up the camp, Ada felt herself worry a bit about her husband. She could tell he was a little more stressed today, and she wanted to try to comfort him. Maybe bring him some wine, steal kisses from him until he smiles or make his chair a little more comfortable with extra furs, but he had been so busy she'd let him be up until now.
"I'm afraid that I am not as knowledgeable about them as I want to be. My father and House Voltaire have rarely crossed. They aren't allies or enemies, but in court that only means there's a chance they could become enemies." Ada's eyes strayed a bit in thought, realizing this meeting could define not only the Hael's relationship with the Voltaire's, but her fathers; her father had supplied men to Silas. "What I do know is the men of house Voltaire are no strangers to war. When it comes to their navigation of court however, I cannot say much. Either they're experts at covering their tracks or they have flown under my radar lately."
Ada smiled when Silas put his hand on hers. She curled her fingers between his, squeezing his hand slightly in an attempt to comfort him. "But what you might like to hear is their use of knighthood. Of course, it is, for the large part, looked down upon by those who live within Rishoka City, but it does mean they may have similar values to yours. Though I cannot say how the heartland brand of knighthood compares to Noria's or Leore's."
When Ada finished, she leaned over to steal a kiss from her husband with a smile, before peering towards the tent's entrance to see if she could hear anyone approaching. News about their guests or perhaps their guests themselves.
It had been quite some time since he had last seen Alegna and he could tell that she had changed a little bit but not by too much. Her armour had gone through a little bit of a change but he was guilty of that from time to time; whenever he got into a fight and the armour let him down he changed it so the issue wouldn't affect him the second time.
After all, they were humans and their armour was something they could affect, unlike the shell of a turtle for example... and he was distracting himself to keep from saying something out of fear that he would sound stupid. Coughing a little bit, he nodded.
"The journey was long but the wait was worth it." he assured her with a smile behind his helmet before raising a hand so Leon and another Centurion would come forward, "I'll be leaving my escort here don't worry; Leon of House Anders and Arturo of House Halperin will be the only ones coming with me to meet your Lord and Lady."
Reaching down, he unclipped his two-handed sword, his arming sword, his spear and his swordbreaker knife. He handed them over to Alegna's men before taking his helmet off and clipping it to the side of his horse. Leon and Arturo did the same with their own arms and helms.
"We follow at your leisure, Knight Ralik."
She couldn't help the smile from reaching her lips at his words; she would fully admit there was some case of nerves about this. The man she held in high regard as her Lord would meet another she held highly in her own mind. She could only hope the two of them would be amicable to one another, but there was no telling the hearts and minds of men, and though both of them would be fair of judgement, her Lord had enough on his plate, and her betrothed was a man of honor and duty.
Yet, he had told her he did not plan on riding through to Noria unless she requested him, and she had not. Yet he brought men with him... she could not guess why he was here, unless to join forces with Lord and Lady Hael. Yet inwardly, she was pleased, almost ridiculously so, to see him once more, and to see him ride within her homelands.
She listened, and nodded once, about to say something... but the words faltered on her lips. Instead she cleared her throat as well... and then her voice was low, warm. "...It's good to see you again," came her low voice. She then nodded to her own men and they wordlessly gathered his weapons, and then she turned Dorian, escorting him to the tent and encampment where her Lord and Lady waited. Upon arrival she dismounted, unclipping her own helmet as well. Sers Antony and Vilos of House Sur-Ralik rode with her, along with her cousin Ser Vadron.
She bowed once to the guard before the tent, and when Marcus would follow her in she would glance back over her shoulder to give him a faint, warm smile before entering.
She took a slow breath, then parted through, bowing low to Silas and Ada, hand over her heart.
"My Lord, my Lady. Allow me to introduce, Ser Marcus of House Voltaire, my betrothed." She would then step away, allowing him full audience. Abram and her men at arms waited outside, close at hand. When she stepped away, she would then draw to her full height, her eyes focusing on Silas and Ada's faces then Marcus', dimly aware her heart was pounding and a hint of rose had touched her cheeks.
He listened intently as Ada went over what she knew about the man's house, which wasn't much. It wasn't but there wouldn't much need to know about the dealings of any of the houses in Persius, except maybe from a trade perspective and that was something off of the table until after this war had been settled.
A moment after she finished, the two knights were let into the tent. Silas sat as the man was introduced, nodding slightly before smiling. "Please, both of you, sit." he said warmly as he gestured towards the table.
Wine would be offered. "You are a long way from home, friend." Silas commented as he took a glass. "I trust the blockades weren't too much of a trouble. The Empire is doing its best to protect the world from us northern savages." he joked.
"Lord Voltaire, Lady Ralik," Ada greeted with a short curtsy and smile. She hadn't known Marcus was betrothed, nor did she know much if anything really about House Ralik, so it was an interesting fact for her to commit to memory.
She sat as her husband sat. The servants went to each glass to fill the wine, though she placed her hand over hers to let them know she wasn't interested. For some reason, since she'd gotten pregnant, she hadn't enjoyed the taste of wine. Even the smell wasn't appealing to her, though she still enjoyed serving it to her husband.
When Silas said his joke she caught herself before she made too much of an expression; it was just a small frown that she hid quickly by grabbing a glass of water to sip. It mocked imperial snobbery, and he'd said in front of an imperial lord that she did not know the temper of. It made her somewhat uncomfortable. "I hope the gods kept you safe on your travels," she added politely after, regaining a smile.
Stepping into the tent that he had been led to, Marcus smiled politely to all within as he let Alegna step in ahead of him and introduce him. That she had introduced him as her betrothed had a rather nice ring to it actually which he appreciated.
He bowed his head in greeting and deference to both Silas and Ada.
"My Lord, My Lady."
Acknowledging Silas' title was a deliberate move considering most people within the Empire didn't acknowledge him as anything more than a rebel against a 'legitimate' Lord. Imperial thought on the matter was divided but they were very accepting of one thing and one thing only; they didn't care unless it spilled over into the Empire proper. Norian problems were seen as problems for Noria to handle alone.
Sitting with his fellow knight following suit, his squire staying standing by the tent flap, he smiled to both Silas and Ada.
"The blockades are troublesome to be certain but, since they haven't been tested by anyone militarily they are rather lax. I was able to purchase passage rather easily." he smiled a little bit wider, "Honestly it was rather low as far as Imperial bribes go - people pay more in the capital to have bar brawls go unreported."
... he wasn't sure just how much Imperial sense of humour would go over here but he remembered that Ada Hael had been Imperial before she married. He smiled kindly to her.
"I thank you for you kind thoughts Lady Ada." he bowed his head again, "They have seen me arrive here safely and my gift entirely intact."
Taking a sip of the wine offered, he savored it before setting the glass back down.
"Word has spread to my home of your recent actions; I understand you have found recent military successes against the Usurper. My congratulations for some excellently employed tactics."
She followed suit in sitting down; it wasn't the easiest maneuver with armor on, but she had managed before, and continued to manage with what she had. "Thank you, my Lord," she replied, settling into her seat with a practiced air.
Hearing his respect and deference to her sworn Lord brought a small trickle of pride into her heart; in truth, she wasn't certain why precisely he was here. Politics was not her greatest strength, and most of those further South preferred to not hold any stake in Norian problems.
At Silas' comment of Northern savages, she merely gave him a slightly bemused smile and sipped at her own wine; she didn't usually drink much in the way of anything, but it would be rude to deny his graciousness. It seemed that her Lady was also willing to protest his statement, and her respect, which was already hearty enough, rose another few notches.
At Marcus' mention of a gift, she merely glanced in his direction, taking another small sip. His gift...? Was he swearing allegiance now? She strongly doubted it, but... it wasn't to ask her Lord's permission for her hand, that permission was already given by the head of Ralik household. So it had to be something else.
But she definitely smiled at his remarking on their successes; a rare smile, full of warmth, and eyes glittering slightly as she glanced at him, setting her glass down. For now she would keep silent, and let them talk amongst themselves; to speak up about their recent successes would feel too much like boasting, and right now she was content to listen and to chime in if and when necessary. For now, though, she had her eyes upon Marcus.
It was so hard to keep herself from smiling, but she had to retain a calm air. It wouldn't do to have Lord Silas see her blushing and giggling like some little girl, she'd never live it down!