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?”
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.
“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.