Coren the Fool

Coren Pell was as any other young man or woman in the land of Temryn. That is to say that he was poor and uneducated, but with a will to improve his station. The land of Temryn was as any other, plagued by internal strife and corruption of the rich and wicked at the expense of its people. Very few of the young men and women would ever be able to improve their station, and those who did often did so through blood and guile.

Coren's ascension would be no different.

The Trials--shortened from a more appropriate title, The Trial of Fools--was a great labyrinth under the capitol city of Temryn, Coren's home. The Trials were as old as time, or so the storytellers would have you believe. In reality, it was a most ancient dungeon of magic, beasts and, of course, peril. Though fraught with danger, the Trials might have been even richer in treasure. Many men and women braved the Trials, scavenging what they could so that they may buy a home or a farm, some food and medicine. The wise would turn back after finding a single item of worth and never return to its depths. The foolish sought more treasure, fell to the Trials or to its denizens, their bodies looted by their fellow adventurers and, in time, would be forgotten as fools.

Such was The Trial of Fools.

"You could join the guard," pleaded a tired-looking woman whose eyes threatened tears. She was a thin woman with Coren's hair and lips, who looked older than she was, due to the hardships of living in this land. "Steady pay; follow in your father's footsteps."

Those statements were all that graced Coren's ears since he had stated his intent to seek his fortune through adventure in The Trials. He turned to his mother as he cinched his sword belt "Mother, my mind is set. I will not grovel every time a noble passes, only to have dirt kicked in my face and wish every day I had had the courage to be something more."

Had his father been hurt by his words, a simple guardsman who was accustomed to having dirt kicked in his face, he would never say. "Coren, you make me proud. You are strong and brave, but I hope you know when not to fight, but to run." Unlike his mother, his father had resigned himself months prior that his son would be entering The Trials and had spent every free moment training his son with a sword.

"We love you, Coren. Please... you must return to us." The tears began to fall from her eyes as the absently straightened the leather plates that armored her son's body.

"I will," responded the young warrior, resolve in his steely eyes. He held his mother in a tight embrace before he shouldered his rucksack, half-filled with supplies. Turning to his father, he smiled a small, false smile of reassurance and left his home, perhaps, he knew, never to return.

People in the streets, the homeless, the hawkers, the thieves, they all knew the look and preparation of a man prepared to enter the Trials. They laughed and teased him, though Coren did not hear a word of it. Through his solemn march to the rickety gates that marked the entrance of the Trials, he was aware of nothing more than the adventure which lay before him.

As he reached the lonely, iron gate, a pang of fear flashed through him. He closed his eyes tightly, picturing the faces of his father and mother, drawing courage from them. He would return with great wealth. They would never go hungry again. They would be proud of him.

So Coren told himself as he pushed open the iron gate and started upon the silent path to his destiny.

The End

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