Medieval Short Stories: Tales Set During the Middle Ages

These short stories are all set during the middle ages, from approximately the 5th-15th centuries CE. See also:

“Dragon’s Deep” by Cecelia Holland

Perla lives in a fishing village. She’s outside with her sister, preserving some fish to see them through the winter. A procession of horsemen arrive. On the authority of the Duke, a knight announces that their taxes have been doubled. They’re here to collect. Perla’s brother objects to no avail. They start pillaging.

This story can be read in the preview of The Dragon Book.

“The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton

A long time ago, a barbaric king had a peculiar method of putting criminals on trial. They’re placed in an arena and the public is allowed to attend the proceedings. The accused is brought out before the king. Opposite him are two doors. Behind one is a beautiful woman; behind the other, a hungry tiger. The accuser must choose.

This is the first story in the preview of The Lady, or the Tiger? and Other Stories(Select Paperback preview first, then Kindle)

“The Discourager of Hesitancy” by Frank Stockton

A year after the events of “The Lady, or the Tiger”, a delegation from a far country arrives at the palace. They’ve heard the story, but not the resolution. Before answering, the high officer relates another story that happened shortly after. A Prince from another land arrived, asking the King for permission to marry one of the beautiful ladies of the court. The King granted the request, but not in the way the Prince was hoping.

Read “The Discourager of Hesitancy”

“His Master’s Servant” by Philip Boast

Sir Roger, a Christian knight, prays at the Templar fortress in the Holy Land. His servant calls him for an urgent meeting. The men are all asleep and it’s very quiet. Sir Roger goes to Gondemar’s quarters and is led into the sanctum; Gondemar has ensured secrecy. Sir Roger is shocked to see the King, and even more shocked to see the other guest.

Most of this story can be read in the preview of The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits Volume 3.

“Cold as Fire” by Lillian Stewart Carl

Geoffrey is on his way to see the archbishop, Thomas, at the cathedral. Thomas rose to the position through his friendship with King Henry, but their relationship has soured. Geoffrey reports that Johanna, a tenant on the archbishop’s manor, has been murdered, apparently by a priest. The king’s justiciar has been sent for, but Thomas bristles at this affront, saying the priest’s judgment lies with his peers, not a secular court. Geoffrey investigates the death.

“The Torturer’s Apprentice” by John Biguenet

Alain becomes apprenticed to a torturer who’s devoted to his work. Alain learns the trade and bonds with his master. After a while, an accusation is made against Alain.

This story is in The Torturer’s Apprentice: Stories.

“The Legend of the Christmas Rose” by Selma Lagerlöf

The Robber family lives in a cave in the Göinge forest. The father is an outlaw and can’t go in to the village, so he robs travelers. The mother begs in the village with the five children. The people give, fearing repercussions if they refuse. On one trip, she calls at the monks’ cloister. She walks through their garden, and finds it pretty, but it doesn’t compare to another garden she knows of. She tells Abbot Hans and his assistant about it.

“The Dragon” by Ray Bradbury

Two knights warm themselves at a fire in the wilderness. They intend to slay a dragon or be killed by it. It has a huge amber eye, comes out of nowhere, vanishes suddenly, and leaves its victims strewn about the hills.

Read “The Dragon”