The Mad King and the Saint

Khor Virab, Armenia © Vahagn Mosinyan. Google Maps

Darkness crept back into the cracks of the castle as dawn vaulted over the windowsills. The dream remained. She sat up, hand clutched to her chest, remembering the angel and his instructions.

Only Gregory could relieve the king’s madness.

Gregory, a man long dead to the dungeons at Khor Virap. Everyone knew that. But it had seemed so real.

The king now roamed the forest as a boar, his madness so profound it had caused his teeth to grow into tusks and his skin to sprout bristles.

She got up, covering her chemise with a wrap. This time she’d relay no one else the angel’s message. She left for the forest alone.

“Tiridates,” she called out. Every twenty paces she called his name to the sun dappled woods.

She froze at the sound of a grunt. She turned around. “Tiridates, it is Gregory who can free you from madness.”

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

This is inspired by the real life history of Tiridates III of Armenia. It occurred in the fourth century AD.

When reading such accounts, I always marvel when I come across things that are hard to reconcile with facts as we know them now–such as what is a madness that causes one to rip off their clothes and run and live in the forest… where they sprout tusks and grow bristles all over their bodies? Strange days indeed.

32 Comments

  1. A very cool little fantasy story. You packed a lot in to a 150 word limitation.

    1. Hi Cara, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on my story! I hope you’ll consider joining us for What Pegman Saw one of these weeks!

  2. Enjoyed your little story… and truly, legends are often very difficult to believe when weighed against facts… but then, that’s what they’re all about. Have a great week!

    1. Hope you have had a great week Jelli! Thanks for reading and commenting on my story.

  3. Reminds me somewhat of Nebuchadnezzer’s madness as chronicled in Daniel 4 in the Bible. Interesting history and nothing I’ve ever heard before.

    1. Oh boy, I’m not familiar with that one. There are all kinds of crazy account of crazy, I’ll bet. Thanks for reading.

  4. This is a great story. I was thinking about how George III descended into madness as well. A mad king is a dangerous thing (as George Martin has thoroughly demonstrated!). Love the way you take us through this, too.

    1. Thanks so much! Glad you liked it. Now I am jonesing for a GOT marathon.

  5. I love the counterbalance between tusks and bristles and the flimsy chemise. Well written tale.

    1. Thanks so much Lish!

  6. […] you to Karen and Josh for hosting this weekly […]

  7. I love where you took this, Karen. No, I think she should definitely not spread this particular message at large. She made the right choice.

    1. Thanks Dale, thanks for reading.

  8. You’ve constructed your story really well, using some memorable images. You choose exactly the right bits of the legend to use to make a 150 word tale. I love the phrase ‘dawn vaulted over the windowsills’.
    I guess if Tiridates was carrying guilt for Gregory’s fate, then some form of atonement for that might relieve his madness.
    Super story!

    1. Thanks so much for your very kind words. It was hard to decide what slice of history best told that story, so I’m glad you thought it was a good choice!

  9. […] to Karen and Josh for facilitating this weekly globetrotting […]

  10. Dear Karen,

    Face to face with madness I wonder whether she’ll run or stand her ground and try to sooth the savage beast. Well written.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    1. Thanks for reading Rochelle!

  11. Lovely, mystical, magical tale. Love that imagery, of a mad king turned to a boar, running wild in the forest. A true dark, dangerous fairy tale in the old tradition. Lovely writing Karen

    1. Thanks so much Lynn, your kind words mean a lot!

      1. My pleasure Karen

  12. Interesting story, with wonderful imagery. And I agree, sometimes the ‘history’ can seem so fantastical that I wonder how much people believed it at the time. On the other hand, it helps make sense of the common trope that magic once existed and has been lessened or ended, which is why we don’t see such things now.

    1. Joy, thanks for reading and commenting. That sort of concept fascinates me too!

  13. Great Fantasy read. Enjoyed it.

  14. Such a full and tantalising tale. You leave us working to how a long dead Gregory might be of help. And who is mad – a king with tusks or a woman who sees angels? Great thought provoking read.

    1. Hi Sarah Ann, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂

  15. Enthralling story – power of superstition, and saintly courage beautifully combined. The saint seems so down to earth, understanding the King’s peculiar madness.

    1. Thanks Francine! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

  16. peterkirsch

    Fascinating story. Ah, the crazy days of the early church, no shortage of tales to be told in there.

    1. That is true for sure! Thanks for reading and commenting. Still hoping you’ll join us on Pegman one of these weeks!

  17. Nearly king George’s birthday 6/4

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