This is a short story I composed recently, I most of the idea from a song. This is my first serious attempt at fantasy writing in a long time, more than a year. The Temple Rolf stopped to wipe the sweat from his brow; he looked to the sky and saw the sun at its summit. Rolf began to move again, noon was here, his hunt was going poorly, he had not yet found prey for his clan, the clan of the Rising Sun. Movement to his left, Rolf spun on his heel and crouched low, he readied his bow and notched an arrow. In the lush motley forest of green and brown, there just ahead of him, a stag. Too close, Rolf was not comfortable taking down this creature when it was so close to him. If the stag became alerted to Rolf’s presence and charged him, it would be upon him in less then five seconds. Rolf began to sweat nervously, his eyesight was bleared by the downpour of salty sweat, and it stung his eyes as if it were a hornet. He crouched lower and kept his bow at the ready, if the stag did notice him and charge, he would be ready for it. Rolf’s muscles were afire; he had been holding his bow at the ready for what seemed like hours. He looked to the sky, the sun had barely moved, but it was no longer seated upon its summit. Rolf could not keep this up for long, his calves had began to cramp from crouching so long, he would need to act soon, yet the stag was closer now than before. As Rolf was about to release his arrow and get ready to climb the tree to his left he heard it, the tolling of the great black bell. The bell he heard had a distinct toll that let him know it was the great black bell from the Temple of the King. The stag he had been watching was distracted by the tolling, Rolf took the opportunity and leapt up, and with his utmost swiftness and agility he ran forward and scaled the tree. Once in its upper branches he looked down on the stag, he may be summoned back to the village for the Choosing, but he was not going back without a catch, if he did he would surely be sent to the Temple. Rolf notched an arrow to his bow and let it loose. Forward it went with the speed of Hermes; it found its mark, penetrating the flesh of the stag’s neck. The great beast was not done yet though; it would take more than one mere arrow to take down a stag, which is why they were considered the kings of the forest. Rolf sent another arrow at his prey, this one found the thrashing stag in the left eye. With one last rear of rage the great beast slowly fell to the forest floor. Rolf leapt from his perch and tumbled when he hit the ground. He quickly sprung back up and made his way to the fallen stag. Rolf drew his bronze knife and sliced the stag’s throat after he removed the arrows from it. Now to bring the beast back to the village. Rolf began to collect branches from the forest floor, the largest ones he could find, after he had what he reckoned were enough, he took a roll of string from the sack which hung from his waist. Rolf tied the branches together to make a crude sled, for it was truly crude and poorly designed, but it would make transporting the fallen stag to the village. Rolf tied the stag’s front legs together and the rear ones as well. He then lifted with all his might, letting out a loud grunt and struggling as he heaved the beast onto its cart of sticks and sting. Rolf took a rope from his belt, it was stronger than the string, and tied to the sled so he could drag it behind him. The path to the village was anything but smooth, yet this way was much easier than carrying the stag to the village, for that was a long journey. Time moved slowly as Rolf made his way through the forest, but it did pass. As the sun was setting Rolf arrived at the village of the Rising Sun. He pulled his prize into the village where, once again, he heard the distinct tolling of the Temple bell. Where exactly the Temple was, or what it looked like Rolf did not know, that was not his to know, not unless he was sent as tribute to the King and that was an honour Rolf could live without. He continued through the village, and as he did so he saw the gathering of the young men around the centre of the village, the great circle, in which marriages took place and great fires were held. A small podium had been erected in the middle of the circle, and upon it stood a weathered old man in an old, mouldy blue robe, a stark contrast to the young, strong men of the Rising sun who wore long but loincloths and leather belts which held their hunting sacks and bronze knives. As Rolf approached, dragging his prey behind him, all eyes fell upon him. The old man looked upon Rolf, and that was when Rolf noticed he was blind. Rolf stopped as all the young men of his village looked upon him, some he saw, were marvelled by his catch, others were shocked at his tardiness. The old man sighed and cleared his throat, “You are late Rolf of the Rising Sun. You ignored the summons of the King. That is a crime indeed.” The old man pointed at Rolf and murmurs spread through the crowd. “The King can wait, as he waits to ring that bell every ten years until the year of the Fox. My people cannot wait ten days to eat, much less ten years” said Rolf indignantly. The crowd was shocked by this display and Rolf heard words like, “traitor” and “heretic” muttered. “You dare talk to me like that?! I am a personal servant of the King, one of his Choosers. I carry his authority with me, and you will not undermine it Rolf of the Rising Sun! You will pay for your heresy.” With that the old man turned around. “The decision is made, Rolf of the Rising Sun will be sent to the Temple as the tribute for the next ten years.” The crowd went silent with this declaration. The old man turned around and a wicked smile crawled across his wrinkled, fat, ugly face. “What do you say now Rolf of the Rising Sun?” Rolf’s face contorted in anger, anger at this stupid archaic ritual, anger at the smug old man, and anger at himself for his blatant disrespect. Rolf would sooner die than be sent to the Temple, so that was now his goal. Rolf took his bow from his shoulder and drew an arrow from his quiver; he notched the arrow and aimed it at the old man. “I say go to hell you old bastard!” and with that Rolf let loose his arrow. The arrow pierced the air and fled away from Rolf with its utmost speed, only to stop mere inches from the old man. The Chooser began to laugh. “You think that would stop me Rolf of the Rising Sun? You are a fool. But a brave fool. A strong fool. A fool who will make a good slave to the King. Your weapons will not stop me Rolf, I have his power, it has been granted to me, and you cannot even begin to comprehend it! Now go, the King is waiting” with that the old man waved his hand and disappeared, as did Rolf. The young men of the Rising Sun were left to continue their lives for another ten years. Blackness. Rolf was surrounded in it. Then, as suddenly as his village had vanished, light flooded down from above, illuminating the darkness which had engulfed the young hunter. The features of his surroundings became visible as his eyes adjusted to the sudden flare of light. He was on a plateau, a plateau thrice as large as his village in area, far beneath the plateau were the trees of the forest, and somewhere among those trees was his village, his home, his clan, his life. Rolf moved from the edge of the plateau and slowly stood, he was not alone. At the opposite side of the plateau there was an elevated platform which seemingly floated in the air, nothing supporting it. Upon that platform was a gilded throne decorated in jewels and exotic cloths. In the throne sat a withered, bald man whose eyes dominated his appearance. When Rolf looked upon the man all he could see were his eyes, even with the distance between them Rolf could see those eyes, strong eyes, firm eyes, ancient eyes. Rolf eyes would not, could not stray from this man, but he was vaguely aware of an abundance of other men on the plateau besides himself. “The last one has arrived, at last. I have waited patiently for this moment these past few days since my body began to wither once more.” This was spoken from a voice as ancient as the eyes, the voice of the eyes. “As you are all aware it is the year of the Fox, the time for each of the thirty-two villages to pay their tribute to me, the King. I have been your king for millennia, and every time the Fox comes round I collect my tribute. You young men are my tribute. I do with you as a please, and as I please is that you will kill each other for my amusement. The sole survivor will receive my praise and a gift from me. That gift shall be your life returned to you, for once you were chosen for tribute your lives were given over to me. I wish to savour your deaths, thus you will fight, one on one until only one remains. You will know when your time to fight has come. Let it begin.” Rolf felt his senses restored, he shifted his vision to the other men on the plateau and discovered he could move, but there was only one other man besides himself who could do so, he had been chosen to fight in the first bout. Rolf reached for his bow and quiver only to discover he no longer had them, it seemed only the strongest man would live. Rolf moved forward slowly, hesitantly, he had never been a skilled unarmed warrior; his talents lay with subtlety and marksmanship. Rolf kept crouched and moved slowly forward; his opponent did the same, but seemed much more confident. Rolf began to sweat, he was nervous, this was life or death, if he could survive until he has the last man he would be set free, but at what cost? Was he willing to kill other men for his freedom? Yes. He was. Rolf ran forward with a shriek, as he approached his target he leapt forward, arms outstretched. Rolf’s opponent spun on his heel, positioning himself behind Rolf. The man took hold of Rolf in mid-air and yanked him to the ground; Rolf hit the rocky surface of the plateau with a thud and a crack. Quick as lightning the man was on top of Rolf and had him pinned. Rolf tried to escape, but the struggle was pointless, he was facedown to the stone and his opponent had him out-powered, he sensed his doom approaching. Rolf felt firm hands take hold of his head by his hair. Rolf’s head was lifted up violently then slammed down against the stone. Something warm and liquidly touched Rolf’s face, his mouth tasted metallic and he heard odd cracking sounds as his head was repeatedly slammed against the stone floor of the plateau. Rolf’s last vision was of a withered evil man with a dark smile upon his face sitting in a gaudy throne. Then, blackness, all-consuming warm darkness, everlasting, infinite, oh so welcoming blackness.