Letter

Following Orders: A Proposal

King Baldwin does not appear in Following Orders until late in the book, but his actions are crucial from the very beginning. Particularly in a proposal he writes to King Arthur of Camelot.

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“Edgar! Do write faster, please.” King Baldwin stopped his pacing to huff at the scribe. “By the time you’ve finished, the war will be over and I’ll have lost my chance at a bride.”

“I’ve just finished, sire. And did you mean to say you’ll have lost your chance at the Princess Elaine?” The short man pretended to suppress his smile.

King Baldwin scowled. “I could have you hanged for that.”

“But we both know you won’t. How would you like to continue the letter?”

“What have I just said?” The king turned to the window, stroking his chin. His ridiculously fashionable noblemen pranced through his lavish gardens, many of them with a foolish woman clinging to his arm.

Edgar cleared his throat. “I ask only the hand of your daughter, Princess Elaine, in exchange.”

“And how long is it?”

“About half a page, sire.”

“Best to conclude it, then, do you think?”

Edgar chuckled.

King Baldwin spun to face him. “And what is it about my current plight that you find so amusing, Edgar? Is it the war? Or perhaps Essetir’s need for an heir – a competent one?”

“I believe it is your anxiety over the situation which I find so humorous, sire. Never have I seen a letter proposing marriage so agonized over.”

“Likely because you are not attractive enough to women to know any.”

Edgar laughed again as the king turned back to his window.

“And how would you like to conclude this desperate proposal, sire?”

The king’s brow creased. “Does it indeed sound desperate?” He relaxed at Edgar’s smirk. “I really could have you thrown in the dungeon. Tortured, even.”

“Let us not distract ourselves from the business at hand, sire.”

King Baldwin sighed. “Conclude it thusly: I shall expect your decision within a fortnight. If I receive none – or if I receive it in the negative – I shall take what action I must. Mercia seeks an alliance with me as well. Sincerely yours, His Royal Majesty, King Baldwin Edward Godefroy of Essetir.”

The king looked to his scribe when he heard no scratching of the quill. Edgar stared back at him with a crestfallen expression.

“Don’t do this, sire,” he whispered. “Please do not.”

King Baldwin turned his back on the man. “I must. It is what is best for Essetir.”

“No. It is what will secure the princess for you. I thought we had discussed the matter.”

“It is what will produce an heir! Look at the state of the surrounding kingdoms. Deira is the next closest with a princess eligible to marry and they hold no power. A marriage with the Princess Muriel would hardly garner the respect and loyalty of the people. Not to mention our other allies and enemies. I must act before Princess Elaine is given to someone else. This is how I intend to do it.”

Edgar dropped his quill in the ink pot and stood to place a hand on the king’s shoulder. “I know that you have affections for Princess Elaine. But you can show her that. You don’t have to force her to return them. I may not know much about women, as you say, but I do know that genuineness is always appreciated over shows of authority and power.”

King Baldwin hardened his face. “It is what must be done. For an-”

“Yes, for an heir! I heard you the first time. You can always name one of your cousin’s children your heir. Or anyone else for that matter. You are the king of Essetir!”

“And what do you know of the ways of kings?” King Baldwin shouted at his scribe and pulled away. “Write the words and send it.” He returned to the window.

“Sire…”

“I am ready to place my seal when you have finished.”

Edgar hesitated. Finally, his shoulders dropped. “Yes, your majesty.”

King Baldwin clenched his fists. It must be done.

Kira

Following Orders: My Dearest Atla

Today’s post is a letter from the villian of my current work in progress, Following Orders. Sir Whyh is becoming an increasingly complicated character, but one thing is always true of him: he is the perfect court gentleman. Please tell me what you make of his letter to the elder of his two daughters, Atla, transcribed below.

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My Dearest Atla,

Sweet girl, I think of you and your little family often. Oscar must be nearly ten years old now, if I count correctly – becoming a man! And I am sure your beauty has hardly diminished over the years. Is Reginald being good to you? Tell him he must. Tell him that if he is not, he will suffer indeed when I return.

“When I return,” not “if.” Did you notice? I almost tremble with excitement as I write. We shall soon be reunited as one family! I constantly envision the joy and perfection that day will bring. But I get ahead of myself. You must wonder at such a change in my attitude and language. Atla, I have found a way home.

Before I write these secrets to you, you must swear not to breathe a hint of this to Leona. Swear it! I know you do; you always were faithful. Your sister tries to be as well, but it is simply not within her power to keep her infernal mouth shut when gossiping in the court. So keep these methods from her, though she shall read from my own pen of our impending reunification.

You will remember the loyalty of my small band of soldiers from your childhood, will you not? I am thankful that King Artimus (long may he reign) did not object to my taking a miniature court of my own into exile. Some of those men turned out to be quite useful to my singular purpose of returning to my dear girls and enjoying their company once again.

In short, one of the men brought news of a particularly interesting kind. The king of Camelot, Arthur, intends to wed his daughter to King Baldwin of Essetir in exchange for their aid in the war. However, if King Arthur refuses the marriage, Essetir will join Mercia and help us to unleash unimaginable devestation on Camelot. It is quite a neat little blackmail, don’t you think?

You know how King Artimus loathes King Arthur and desires Camelot for himself. All that need happen for the kingdom to be secured for King Artimus’s rule is the prevention of the alliance. And all that need occur for the prevention of the alliance is an unfortunate prevention of the marriage.

I shall write no more of it here, but you can discern the rest, clever girl. Once our own king knows my part in Mercia’s victory, I shall rapidly be restored to court and to you. Share in my joy for it is yours as well!

Mere weeks separate us now, dear Atla. Weeks, after all these long years. Prepare for my coming and look forward to it with gladness.

Your loving father,

Sir Nicholas Ralphondo Whyh