Guinevere listened to him as he spoke those words and she could feel his emotional attachment to the promises that he was making her. Again, she was beset by those same strange feelings that she had where Arthur was concerned. That she was attracted to him and felt lust for him, well, that she couldn't deny. It was the other, more confusing feelings, that she was having a hard time understanding. She had only felt stirrings like this once before, and that had not ended well. She did not want the same mistakes to happen here -- with Arthur. After he finished speaking, she looked at him for a long moment in silence. She measured her words carefully before she began speaking. "I can understand your concerns, Arthur. I also know that with the changes that are besetting this country from all sides, we may not have the time or the luxury of trying to get to know each other better or find a way to make our way into this new future. However, I also know that I wold not have you feel that you are forced to be with me merely because you see me as your claim to the throne. If that is indeed all you want from me, then we can make this easier on both of us and I can walk away right now. You are not a barbarian and I am not chattel, and I know enough about you to know that you would not want our relationship to become one of a cold convenience."
Arthur nodded thoughtfully. "Your words do you credit, Guinevere. You are correct when you say that I would not wish any relationship we have to be cold and emotionless. When we are wed, I would hope we would have a union of shared affection and a deep respect for one another." He met her eyes. "I know that there will be complications on both sides. I know that both of us have several misgivings about what the future may hold or about the place others say we have with each other."
"I do not relish the idea of being a convenient choice of a partner for you merely because others say it is what you are supposed to do to fulfill your prophecized destiny." She raised her chin. "I am the first woman of my people and I will not be treated as a trophy by any man -- no matter what feelings I may have for him."
Arthur couldn't help but to feel a bit of pleasure at her words. So she did have feelings for him, then. "I have never viewed you as a battle trophy, Guinevere. Nor do I see you as a prize that must be won and then carefully polished and hidden."
"That is a good thing for you, then," she agreed with a nod. "As I have said, it is obvious to those who make the attempt to see that you are bosth respectful as well as being worthy of being respected."
He shook his head, amused that they had once more come back to that line of reasoning. "What you see and others of your people see seems to differ dramatically, Guinevere. They see me as a trespasser through their lands."
"A trespasser that they would make King."
He looked at her steadily. "You seem quite convinced that they will come around to that way of thinking and have the respect for me that you speak of."
"I know what I feel and what I see, Arthur," she said calmly. "I have borne witness to some of your greatest deeds as of late. I have watched you risk much to do what was indeed the right thing."
"But you do not speak for every member of the Tribes, as you have said yourself. You are the first woman, and their war leader, but you are also one woman who had been in the company or Romans and then of Sarmatians for a long period of time. They have as yet to see me do more than one great thing, Guinevere. For too long, we have killed each other."
"Yet, you have spoken several times to my father without attempting to kill him. This is progress and they should notice these things."
Arthur wasn't sure he should tell her that the main reason he hadn't tried to engage Merlin in any sort of battle was beacuse he knew how hard such a thing would be on her. Instead he managed to give her a smile and give her a mostly honest answer. "Your father and I are trying to find our way through past wrongs and form a new understanding of each other. We have done things to each other in the past that have shaped a great many things. Now, we see how to go forward through all of this."
"My father has always had a respect for you, Arthur. He was the one that told me so many great tales of you."
"Yes, tales of me and how I killed so many Britons over the years," He said quietly, looking at her. "As you told me that day when you were in the wagon, healing from your wounds."
Guinevere had the grace to flush. "I should never have said the things that I said that day, Arthur, and I ask for your forgiveness. I was upset and confused by a great many things and I guess I just wanted to see if I could get a reaction out of you." She sighed. "It is true that you killed many of our people, but our people also killed many of your men over the years."
"Such is the nature of war, Guinevere."
"This is true, but there is still no excuse for my behavior that day. I think that I was lashing out at you in the beginning because I was trying to understand how a man such as you could be a commander of the Roman army and killing Britons."
"A man such as me?" There was curiosity in his tone.
"An honorable man who rescued people that he did not know from a place that could be described as being worse to us than your Christian hell." She shook her head. "You could have left us there to die. You could have ridden away with only the boy and his mother. Yet, you risked valuable time to rescue Lucan and I. Then you risked even more time to evacuate all of the servants and enslaved workers from Marcus' property."