The story begins with the narrator, a newspaper correspondent, meeting an odd man on the train. The man admits that he is pretending to be a correspondent for the same newspaper so that he gain access to certain regions of India. The two talk, and eventually, the man asks the...
The story begins with the narrator, a newspaper correspondent, meeting an odd man on the train. The man admits that he is pretending to be a correspondent for the same newspaper so that he gain access to certain regions of India. The two talk, and eventually, the man asks the narrator to, in eight days, pass a message along to a red-haired man in second class. The narrator agrees and delivers the message.
Soon after, the narrator becomes “respectable,” meaning that he leads a typical life and works in an office. One night, while he is in the office alone, the two men from the train arrive together, wishing to speak with him. They introduce themselves: the red-haired one is Daniel Dravot and the other is Peachey Carnahan. They explain that they are going to a remote village called Kafiristan and that they intend to become kings of the people there. They have even drawn up a contract to govern their own behavior. Two of the stipulations of this contract is that they are to take no women and drink no liquor. The narrator expects them to be slaughtered, but they are undeterred and ask to see his maps nonetheless. He sees them off the next day.
Ten days later, the narrator hears that the two men have made it past the border, one of them disguised as a mad priest. As two more years pass, he hears no more of them. Then, one night, a decrepit man appears in his office. The man is Carnehan, but he is in terrible condition. He relates his story to the narrator.
Dravot did eventually become king of Kafiristan, and the two men portrayed themselves as gods to the locals. Dravot learned their language, travelled the region, and was loved by his people. He became best friends with chiefs and priests, but then he began to insist that the people he ruled over become English. He imagined gifting the land and people to Queen Victoria.
Dravot decided he wanted a wife, despite Carnehan reminding him of the rules of the contract. He insisted that the contract only provided rules for them to follow up until they became kings, which they had already done. His councilors were not eager to provide a wife for him, which infuriated Dravot. A young women was eventually chosen to be his bride, but on his wedding day, when he asked for her for a kiss, she bit him. Upon seeing him bleed, the people realized that he was not truly a god. They hunted Carnehan and Dravot down, killing Dravot and torturing Carnehan. They gave Carnehan Dravot’s head, still wearing his crown. Carnehan still carries the head in his bag.
Shortly after this encounter with Carnehan, the narrator learns that Carnehan has died of heatstroke at a local hospital.