Chroma woke to the sound of someone crossing the bridge. Her eyes went wide until she realized that it was another child bringing them their breakfast…which appeared to be roots and vegetables.
Chroma took mental note: meat stew for lunch, fruit for dinner, and veggies for breakfast. No wonder they’re healthy enough to swing through the trees. She wondered how much more stamina she would have if Cambians were hunter-gatherers.
As Chroma watched the little girl walk across the bridge in the misty, golden sunrise, she felt that she finally had time to think. She took a deep breath, mind tingling, as the little girl reached them, and she prodded Klyra and Flor awake. She hoped that the two would have time to calm down with the child nearby, and not be so eager to discuss their plan.
They yawned and sat up as the bald, half-naked girl placed the platter larger than her head in the swing that they had haphazardly tried to fix yesterday. Unquestioningly, the girl set to untangling its knots.
Chroma tried leaning to get the girl’s attention, or catch her eye, but when that didn’t work, she smiled kindly and greeted her, “Hello.”
The girl, who had finished placing the platter in the swing, gasped, glancing at her, and then ran in the other direction.
Klyra giggled, reaching out for some of the roots on the platter. “You’re popular.”
“Maybe their word for ‘hello’ is the same as ‘goodbye’,” Flor chimed, grinning.
Chroma glanced at her, but she seemed genuinely good-natured. “Before we eat, I’ve made my decision.”
“What’s that?” her two comrades asked simultaneously.
“We’re not going to side with the merchants, and we’re not going to side with the Greens. So far, they’ve both tried to extort us because they know we need the alliance. I think it’s time we turned the tables on them.”
“How?” Klyra prompted as Flor narrowed her eyes. “They both have the upper hand against us.”
“They have one bargaining chip, and that’s the alliance we want,” Chroma said, examining the vegetables they’d been given. Most were whitish or brown roots served cold, others cooked mushrooms. “That’s an all-or-nothing. Each side loses that bargaining chip as soon as they reject us, or the other side swoops in and takes it. That’s what gives us the power. They can’t deny us our alliance without losing us entirely.”
“So what exactly is the plan?” Flor asked, seeming to listen.
Chroma grinned. “Well, it involves a deal with the Greens…”