In his youth, King William was a man of action – a knight and warlord. He is the founder of Lyonesse, as it is known during the time of the story. He is responsible for expanding his kingdom, uniting (by force and treaty) the various warlords, clans and peoples of the island kingdom and ridding the land of many fearsome monsters that ravaged the countryside.
This larger-than-life warrior is Billy’s hero as he grows up. Late at night, Billy creeps down the stairs of his father’s inn to listen to tales from their guests. His favorites are of the daring feats, valorous victories in battle, and bravery of their good king. His dream is to one day be knighted by the king. While Billy does not become a knight, he does get to meet his hero. The king is so taken by Billy’s singing and juggling talents that he makes him the royal musician (some say “jester”), all the time unaware that Billy is his son.
King William is famous for his bravery and the sound rule of his early days, but he is nearly as famous for his marriage to his queen, Eleanor, who was immensely popular. Among the common folk, she has a saint-like reputation, with many attributing her with miraculous powers. One well-known tale chronicles Eleanor saving the life of their young king from a mortal wound. This encounter leads to love, and to marriage, and to many subsequent tales of adventure and mystery.
William was an early convert to Christianity, and as a Christian knight and king (during his early reign), he aided the church in establishing a number of churches, sanctuaries, shrines, and chapels around the country. While he did not persecute the “Old Religion” out of the land, he did persuade most nobles and many of the folk of Lyonesse to convert to Christianity. In the rural and isolated regions, such as the Valley of the Yew, where the only exposure to Christian teaching comes from traveling priests, many of the people consider themselves Christian, but have little knowledge of its finer points. During William’s reign, Lyonesse boasts the most churches in the region, though a majority of the common folk have rarely or never been in one.
At the time of our story, King William is not a well man. Tortured by the mysterious assassination of his wife and son, he is an aching, sorrowful shell of the great warrior and statesman he once was. He is frequently too weak to get around without help and subject to terrible coughing fits. The king has turned most of the day-to-day ruling of Lyonesse over to his cousin and First Advisor, Ergyfel (aka the Magister). Though many of the court suspect Ergyfel of enslaving William with sorcery, no one can prove it (nor can they prove that Ergyfel practices the Black Arts). Even the king’s physician is baffled by the king’s failing health; but he’s on to something…or is he involved?