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The Winter King begins with Derfel, an elderly monk living at the monastery of Dinnewrac in the Welsh kingdom of Powys (the fictional Dinnewrac is sited near modern Welshpool). He is in the service of Bishop Sansum, who is revered by the monastery as a saint. The queen of Powys, Igraine, has come to the monastery to pray for a child. When she learns that Derfel was one of King Arthur's warriors, she commissions him to write Arthur's story. As Bishop Sansum is an enemy of both Arthur and Derfel and has denounced Arthur's tale as pagan heresy, Igraine convinces him that Derfel is translating the Gospel into the Saxon language in the hope of converting the Saxons to Christianity. Sansum depends on the warriors of Powys to protect his monastery, so he accepts the deception, which is aided by the fact that Sansum cannot read.
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