A Temple For the Stars

By S. P. Ratt (aka Buzzingnat) and Star-Speaker (aka Wh1teW0lf)

- Prologue -

Rika Brown was knew it, and everyone else had to admit that she was pretty sharp at least most of the time. Yet no one respected her: she was crazy, off her rocker, unhinged, and unstable. Rika Brown wanted to build a temple for the stars.

She had only one true friend in the world, a man that was liked by all who knew him. His name was Cal Xinfeld, a charismatic redhead with twinkling blue eyes. He was a spoon carver and a member of the Spoonlings, a semi-secret society consisting of artists, scientists, mages, and chefs. The Spoonlings held spoons in high regard: the artists praised their beauty, the scientists their exact measuring capabilities, the mages their magical potential and necessity to many spells, and the chefs their need in proper cooking and eating of food.

Rika and Cal were both young and full of life. No one could understand why Cal put up with the temperamental Rika. But then, Cal was likely the only person who had ever managed to even begin to understand the touchy girl. Even her parents, who had loved her dearly and tried very hard to make her happy, had finally given up on making their daughter into a farmer's wife and sent her off the Academy of Astronomy, the most prestigious place of learning on the isle of Terra Mare.

Rika's "temple for the stars" only seemed to be a temple to the uneducated and uniformed. To Rika, it was a highly accurate observatory that was necessary for her to prove various theories about the universe which she obstinately held in the face of disapproval by society.

After soaring throughthe Academy and meeting Cal, Rika had spent two years in study of the stars and designing her temple. She knew exactly how much and what kind of stone was required. She knew the elevations that were acceptable to build her observatory on, she knew the angle it all had to face, she even knew how latitude and longitude would effect all of her plans. She was prepared to begin searching for a site to construct the monument, but she had no money. So Rika begged Cal to sell his spoon carving shop in Carathin and, using the coins from the sale as travel money, set off to find backers for her crazy plan. Cal reluctantly agreed, but warned her that she must improve her people skills, or the project was doomed from the start. With an angry glare, Rika waved his warning aside and then inquired if the Head of the Astronomy Guild (not the man who was in charge of the Academy, for that was a different position) was a Spoonling. Cal admitted, after some prodding, that he was, and that an annual Spoonling party was being held just outside a tiny town which lay on the banks of a narrow river and on the edge of a large forest. Rika excitedly set off to reach the town in time for the party, hoping desperately that the Head of the Astronomy Guild would be present and that she could plead for funds and support there.

- Chapter 1 -

Cal leaned close to a scantily clad dancing girl, whispering sweet nothings in her ear. She giggled, her translucent veil fluttering as her breath blew through it. She snaked a tanned arm around the man's waist and began to draw him off to a secluded corner.

Rika stood within easy reach, and grabbed Cal's arm. "This is supposed to be for business, don't you remember?" she hissed. Cal sighed and gently detached the girl from him.

"I know, I know," he muttered quietly.

People milled about them, carrying platters piled high with food and glasses of dozens of different wines. Lanterns were strung up between tall poles and music wafted from an ensemble on a small stage to the side of the festivities.

This was the Spoonling party that Cal had reluctantly brought Rika to. Yet it was a party, and Cal was having a marvelous time despite himself. His conscious was rather guilty about letting Rika in on the secret of the Spoonling's festivities and membership.

"Where to, madam?" Cal asked teasingly.

"To find the Head of the Astronomy Guild, of course," she answered with perfect composure. After scanning the crowd for any sign of the Guild Master and failing to spot him, she began to walk towards the stage, which was on the opposite side of the gathering. Cal laughed and followed the 18-year-old's lead. He did not worry about losing her in the crowd; her vivid rainbow-colored hair made her stand out quite clearly.

"If it isn't the star girl!" a voice exclaimed in front of the duo. "Why don't you run along home, child? You and your silly dreams aren't wanted here." Rika froze. Cal sighed and waited for the eminent explosion from the young woman.

"Astronomer!" Rika corrected him forcefully, turning on the speaker. "I'm a fully trained, guild-recognized astronomer! Just because I hope to contribute to astronomy and am female, you hate me. In fact... you are afraid of me. Dreams are what astronomy is founded upon, and mine might change science for all of time."

The man, a tall gaunt figure whose face was hidden in the dark, let out a bark of laughter. "Oh really? A willowy young thing like you changing the world of men? Women should know their place... and stay there," he said almost menacingly.

"You chauvinistic son of a pig! You couldn't tell a waning moon from a waxing one, much less properly use an astrolabe. If you can't admit that I, a mere girl, might be your equal, then you aren't a man. Any true man would judge someone not by their sex but by their abilities."

A gasp rippled through those surrounding Rika and Cal. No man could allow such an insult to pass freely.

Cal winced, knowing that the results of this altercation would be anything but good. "You've upset the normal order of society enough today," he said, enclosing her arm with his hand gently but firmly and drawing her out of the crowd. She continued to mutter about stuck up know-it-all prigs. At that, Cal chuckled and shook his head, finding the irony rather amusing.

Suddenly, something gleamed in the corner of Cal's eye, and he turned his head towards it. His breath caught in his throat.

It was a spoon, hung on a silver chain around a tall man's neck. It glimmered in the soft light of the lanterns, the browns and blacks and reds of the wood seeming to glow. An opal was set in silver on the end of the handle, and it caught the light and turned it into a myriad of brilliant colors. The bowl of the spoon was carved into the shape of a leaf and stained a delicate green. Cal whipped out his sketch pad from a pocket in his shirt and began to draw the exquisite eating utensil.

Rika took advantage of Cal's distracted state and began to march back towards the scene of her row, her mutterings getting louder. Cal glanced up, mildly disturbed by the angry noises impinging on his work. "Oh! Right!" he exclaimed and, putting the sketch pad away, grasped her arm once more and continued to make his way out of the crowd.

Her mutterings had at this point drawn some looks, and an outcry from behind them alerted all to trouble. "That brightly colored bitch questioned my virility!" the President of the Astronomy Guild shouted over the crowd's low noise. Silence spread like ripples in a pond. Rika froze.

"Who said that I questioned his manliness?" she whispered, her eyes huge with fright.

"That be the Head of the Astronomy Guild," one ancient old woman in the crowd replied guilelessly.

"Argh!" Rika breathed, clenching her teeth angrily.

"Come on!" Cal urged, fear lacing his voice. The party of Spoonlings was fast becoming a mob, and they were still far from the edge of it. Rika forced her feet to move, but Cal still had to drag her most of the way out of the clearing. As they got out of the crowd and her mind readjusted, Rika's feet took on a life of their own and flew across the forest floor. Trees surrounded the two on all sides, and the last rays of the sun shot through the woods, turning the reds and golds of autumn into living flame.

Soon, night fell, and the air turned chill. Cal had been wearing his traveling cloak, black with silver embroidery, and the cold troubled him little. However, Rika was dressed merely in a thin cotton tunic, a bodice of deep blue, and a fine yellow cotton skirt. She shivered in the night air, every breath of wind seeming to pass right through her thin frame.

to add to her discomfort, the girl kept thinking of the embarrassing episode at the Spoonling party. She, the quickest and most astute student at the Academy in over three centuries, had insulted the Head of the Astronomy Guild. The guild certification she had spent so much of her life attaining would surely be stripped from her.

Though the young woman lacked the breath to sigh or swear and was too proud to cry openly, her eyes shimmered with tears as she stumbled through the forest. Cal followed her, muttering quietly about idiotic and headstrong astronomers and the trouble they got into. Even though Cal complained, he followed, and that was all and more than Rika needed in a friend.

/ Review? I think so. /