Long ago, our ancestors used the stars of the night sky to voyage across the vast oceans. But when the stars disappeared, our islands were separated. The peoples of each island have drifted in different directions, each culture developing different technologies, each society using the power of the Sperk plant to grant them different abilities. Once the people of our island, Cambia, united under one queen, our sights turned beyond our shores. We learned how to follow the orcas in their travels across the depths of the vast ocean, and began exploring the innumerable islands of our world. We traded technologies with our strange but friendly neighbors. We shared the secrets of voyaging with everyone we met, hoping to create a better world. But then, we stumbled across the island of Mara, which was eternally locked in an arms race…until they met us. When we told the March of the vast world beyond their small island, their hungry eyes looked past the horizon. Using weapons capable of destroying entire civilizations, the March attacked us and began using our secrets of voyaging in their conquest of the seas. We send these voyagers to you to share our discoveries and establish an alliance for the coming war. We are the people of Cambia, and we come in peace.
Chroma read over the slip of paper in front of her, eyebrows knit.
“Please tell me you have it memorized,” came a girl’s voice. Chroma glanced up, eyebrows still knit in weary concentration.
Midafternoon sunlight was spilling into the classroom, creating sharp, almost disorienting contrasts between white light and deep shadows on the room’s objects: the wooden teacher’s desk at the front, the eight simple students’ desks aligned in two rows of four facing the front of the classroom, and the plain, wooden floors. Wooden blinds were available to draw over the windows and prevent the entrance of bugs and animals.
The girl standing in front of Chroma’s front row desk wore the same black-and-white checkered uniform peculiar to the Travel Academy, but the pattern was hardly noticeable in the contrasting light that accompanied the end of classes. It was simply that one half of her thin, red-headed, well-groomed body was visible, and the other was not—Chroma’s eyes could hardly register such dark tones normally, but with the bright sun bleaching her eyes, the contrast was all the more painful.
“Flor,” Chroma greeted her, smiling out of the habit of greeting a stranger rather than out of happiness. “I have it memorized, but I just…feel like I’m really seeing it for the first time.
Flor’s expression was strained, eyes narrowed against the sharp light. “So long as it’s memorized.”
“Nice to meet you, by the way.” Chroma held out the hand that wasn’t holding the slip of paper.
Flor briefly glanced at the hand, then back at Chroma, and then shook the hand. “Have you met Klyra?”
Chroma shook her head. “She’s not in the advanced class, and she’s not one of my friends in another class.”
“We should find her,” Flor said, turning towards the door. “Best that we don’t leave her out of anything.”
“Yeah, definitely,” Chroma said to an empty room as Flor stepped out into the hallway and disappeared.