Guinevere wandered the grounds for a very long time. She spent a lot of time alone with her thoughts since the battle on Badon Hill. She often relived the battle in her mind and counted the costs of everything that had happened.
Arthur had almost lost Lancelot. They had almost lost Tristan. But it was the loss of Lancelot that would have broken the proud Briton.
She still didn't know why Lancelot had come to her aid and she hadn't had a chance to ask him about it. It had been a surprise because she had been positive that Lancelot hated her and hadn't wanted her around them. When he and Arthur had rescued her, Lancelot had seemed reluctant to have anything to do with her. Arthur had been kind and caring...
She had been drawn to him since she had first seen him through those bars in that Roman hell she had been in for so long. There was a sadness in his eyes that she wanted to soothe.
Fighting side by side with him and Lancelot on the ice... that's when things started getting confusing in her mind.
Guinevere shook her head as she walked along the battlements. She had no right to feelings like that. She had a duty... a duty to a people that didn't trust her loyalty and a duty to a new king that she was feeling pulled into more and more.
She had a new duty to a king that she was supposed to be wed to...and who didn't seem too thrilled at the prospect. Not that she could blame him. They barely knew each other, yet Merlin continued to press that they were the destined rulers of this new Briton.
"Yet no one has asked Arthur what he thinks about all of these destinies that were being placed before him." she said softly, leaning on the wall and looking out over the darkening land.
Guinevere shook her head. This was all so confusing and volatile.
Lancelot and Tristan were still recovering from their wounds and Gawain was still nursing his rage about everything that had happened.
The battle had been violent and bloody and the knights had almost lost two of their own. Sometimes, she got the idea that her presence was like scraping a raw wound open again and again.
So, she spent a great deal of time alone or wandering and talking to the people of the woods. It was a little strange to her to be free again and she was trying to reacquaint herself with her life and the soul of the land.
She was kind of a stranger in both places.
"They will push him and push him until he snaps and then the land will be lost," she said as she shook her head. "He will be a good king, I have seen this... Merlin has seen that and so much more. So, why are they insisting on being so damned obstinate and stubborn?" As she spoke, she really didn't expect an answer, but she needed to speak the words and try to make sense out of what was happening around her. "Arthur can heal this land. He can bring the country together, so why will the people not stop this foolish blood shed and listen... give him... give us a chance?"
"Because they have no reason to trust in me and my men, Guinevere," Arthur said as he walked up. He had been looking for her, and it shouldn't have surprised him in the least that she was walking the battlements and looking over the land from the high towers. "We are still the invaders from their nightmares and their lives, lady."
"They're being foolish," she whispered with anger and something else that sounded raw in her voice. She didn't look at him for a long moment. "You chose to help us fight. You could have kept going and you didn't. You stayed and you fought like this was important to you. You risked a lot and almost lost someone you care for deeply. You didn't do it for glory or for anything like that. You did it because you thought it was the right thing to do."
"They see us as no better than the Romans, no matter what the outcome of the one battle we fought on your sides. Standing to fight on the right side in one battle does not erase every travesty done for centuries."
Guinevere's voice was a bit bitter. "You're nothing like the Romans. Believe me... I know." She stared at him and then looked back out over the land. "I know better than anyone what the Romans are capable of. Murder. Enslavery. Torture. Killers of children." She shook her head. "That is not you, Arthur of the split soul."
"You speak words that are meant to portray that you have such faith and belief in me, Guinevere. Some would think that your words are destined to lead me blindly into a trap set by your father and your people."
Guinevere stiffened and her chin jutted out as her eyes flashed angrily. "I would not do such a thing to you, Arthur Castus. My battles are always face to face if I am able to, ambushes if I am not. Furthermore, even if I were ordered to lead you into a trap, I would not. I could not. You have saved me and my life in more ways than one. To repay such risk and kindness would be less than dishonorable. It would be a curse on my blood and my soul." She glared at him. "I am not the kind of person to repay kindness with death and bloody violence, Castus."
He heard the passion in her voice as she snapped back at him in offended pride and his eyes never wavered from her face as she spoke. When she finished, he was silent for a long moment and then nodded. "Your passionate words are convincing, but it is also your previous actions that I take into account when I say that I believe you. There were plenty of times after you healed that you could have easily betrayed us, and you did not." He nodded at her again. "In the woods, when you led me to Merlin, you had every chance to let your people take me, but you didn't even attempt to."
Guinevere let out a breath. It made her feel a little better about all of this that he believed her.
"Actions speak louder than words and your actions saved a great many people. My father has spoken of your coming ever since I can remember. His visions are never wrong and he foresaw that you would be a good leader." Of course, Merlin didn't tell me that he saw me being married to Arthur until I was rescued.
"I trust you," she said softly, a lot of feeling in her voice that she couldn't explain or control. "The people need you, Arthur, they just don't realize that yet. It's not right to put you and your men through this." She sighed. "All Merlin wanted to do that night was speak to you, Arthur. As I said, he meant you no harm. My father may be someone you have long considered an enemy, but he is a wise and honorable man."
"That is true, lady, but it is hard to let go of many long-held feelings or beliefs." He met her eyes. "I have hated your father since I was a boy because I blamed him for the death of my mother. Though I know that he didn't cause what happened, it is still a hard thing to get past."
Guinevere sighed and looked at him for a long moment and then looked back over the land.
"There are times that the sheer stubbornness of my people makes me grind my teeth hard enough to break them. They should not be forcing any of you into this. Tristan was badly hurt and Lancelot..." Her voice broke. "You almost lost your dearest companion... because you stayed to fight. Does that not prove the kind of man you are --- the men that they are? They do not like me, do not like my people... but they are good men. They helped fight." She met his eyes again. "And you can be just as stubborn as any of the People."
Her shoulders were stiff.