Barely speaking to one another, Zélie and Tzain arrive at the bustling capital city, Lagos. Tzain is angry that Zélie left home alone, saying that she put him in unnecessary danger. But from Zélie’s perspective, the wider problem is a society in which guards attack their own people and the kingdom levies ridiculous taxes—the factors that prompted her to leave home and learn how to fight in the first place. Cautioning her to try harder not to make mistakes, Tzain gives Zélie a small dagger. The siblings make amends before parting ways.
Tzain and Zélie’s fight shows a tension between protecting one’s family in the short term versus the long term. Zélie believes she must fight for what is right in order to bring long term peace for her family, while Tzain thinks that those goals are pointless if the family is in immediate danger. Regardless, their commitment to each other is strong enough that they can put aside this difference of opinion, at least for now.
Despite the prohibition against relationships with divîners, the guards at Lagos’ gate are all too eager to harass Zélie, making lewd remarks and touching her inappropriately. Containing her rage, Zélie makes her way into the busy city, where the shining palace sharply contrasts the divîner slums on the town’s outskirts.
Zélie does not fight the guards, even though she wants to, which shows that she’s keeping her brother’s warning in mind. The guards can harass her without guilt or consequence because of the deeply stratified nature of society in the kingdom. The contrasting architecture of Lagos, where very few divîners live, except in servitude, highlights the deep-rooted economic inequalities that accompany the social inequality and discrimination in Orïsha.
In the market, Zélie identifies a pushy nobleman interested in the sailfish. By bargaining hard, Zélie convinces him to pay five hundred silver pieces for it—enough for a new boat and a year’s worth of taxes. Zélie feels as if she’s finally done something right for her family. Suddenly, a troop of royal guards burst into the market. A girl in a cloak grabs Zélie’s wrist and begs Zélie to help her escape.
The fact that some in the kingdom can afford such an expensive fish is another testament to the economic inequality driven by the prejudice in Orïsha. The girl in the cloak signals a challenge to Zélie’s attempt to be obedient to her family and stay focused on the task at hand.