It is midday, the day after Thomas and Kira unlocked Jo’s door. Kira has just finished eating lunch with Thomas in his room; she suggests that the two of them take a walk outside. As she suggests this, she notices that Thomas has been working on the Singer’s staff. Much like the robe, the staff has intricate carvings, but also an empty area at the top. Kira asks Thomas what he’ll carve on the empty area, and he replies that the guardians will tell him.
By now, it’s clear what the guardians are planning: they’ll force Kira and Thomas to repair what exists of the robe and staff. Afterwards, they’ll force their captive artists to continue working on these pieces of art, creating a vision of the future that reflects what the Council wants. This is a huge violation of Kira and Thomas’s artistic freedom.
Kira asks Thomas to go to the Fen with her. Thomas is at first skeptical, since he finds the Fen dirty and disgusting. Kira says that she wants to see where Jo lived. She adds, nervously, that she hasn’t seen Matt in two days. Thomas agrees to go the Fen, suggesting that they’ll probably find Matt on their walk over.
Thomas is reluctant to go to the Fen—even though he’s lived in the Edifice his whole life, he remembers how dirty the Fen is. Kira, the most naturally bright and curious of the pair, encourages him.
Kira and Thomas walk through the village toward the Fen. As they walk, they ask women and workers if they’ve seen Matt, but everyone says that they’re glad not to have seen him. A woman asks Kira when she’ll return to the weaving shed, but another woman points out Kira’s clean clothes, and says that Kira doesn’t need the shed anymore. As she walks away, Kira hears a growl. She turns and sees Vandara imitating a beast and laughing at her.
Kira is reminded of a few important things in this section. First, she’s reminded that she, and she alone, cares about Matt—everyone else regards him as annoying, meaning that no one is going to look for him. Second, she’s reminded that humans imitate beasts, just as Annabella told her.
Thomas asks a group of boys if they’ve seen Matt. The group tells him that Matt’s mother threw a rock at him to punish him for stealing food, and he left to go on “a journey.” They add that Matt can’t be sick, since he’s very strong and healthy. Kira is worried by this news, but Thomas assures her that Matt can take care of himself. They walk away from the village, into the Fen.
It hasn’t been completely clear until now what kind of child Matt is. Here, we learn from other children—who presumably wouldn’t lie—that Matt is strong and healthy. Thomas’s assurance that Matt is okay seems reasonable, considering what we’ve just learned about his strength, but it’s also a sign that Thomas is less caring than Kira.
As they reach the Fen, Kira and Thomas notice various details of the place. There is a disgusting-smelling river, a mass of cotts, and a constant sound of tykes crying. In many ways, Kira thinks, the Fen is like the village, except that it’s darker and dirtier. Kira wonders aloud why people have to live in such a place, and Thomas tells her, “It’s how it is.” Kira remembers from the robe that this is not true: there were times when people lived in better conditions. She tells Thomas that perhaps they are meant to fill in the blank spaces on the robe and staff themselves. Thomas says that he does not understand what Kira is trying to say; Kira thinks to herself that perhaps he never will.
Although Thomas—and, it would seem, everyone else in the village—accepts that poverty, disease, and sadness are inevitable parts of the human experience (“that’s how it is”), Kira uses her artistic knowledge to see through this falsehood. While it’s certainly true that history is full of sadness and pain, it’s also true that there are times of happiness and peace—it’s not enough, then, to accept that there has always been pain and so everyone should just accept it. It’s up to artists like Kira to lead the villagers toward better times by making them believe in hope and progress.
As they walk through the Fen, Thomas and Kira hear a voice asking them what they want. Kira locates the voice from within a cottage; she’s relieved to see that it belongs to a woman holding a tyke, and thinks about the unpleasant men she encountered on the day of the hunt. Kira asks the woman if she knows where Matt is, and the woman asks for food in return. Thomas gives her an apple he was saving for lunch, and the woman points them toward a cott with a fallen tree outside it. Kira also asks about Jo; in response, the woman’s face lights up with joy for a split second, and then looks sad again. She tells Kira that “they” took Jo away. She then retreats into her cott and gives the apple to her young children, who begin to fight over it.
Kira is more comfortable around women than men. Still, this doesn’t mean that women are easy for her deal with (Vandara’s a woman, after all). No one in the Fen or the village seems willing to give away something for nothing—everyone is greedy, or (more likely) desperate for food. It’s also in this section that we get a hint of how art can transform people—the woman’s face lights up for a split second when Kira mentions Jo. By using their power to bring people happiness, it would seem, artists can change society.
Kira and Thomas reach the cott with the fallen tree outside. They knock on the door of the cott, and a woman opens it. Thomas asks where Matt is, and the woman suspiciously asks why they want to know. Kira notices that the woman has other children, and lives in a state of squalor: there are insects crawling everywhere, and the woman spits on the floor as she talks. The woman tells her and Thomas that she doesn’t know where Matt is, but that she’s glad he’s gone. She shuts the door.
Kira and Thomas see the way many people in the village and Fen live. In the Edifice, they were shielded from these realities; here, they can’t hide. This is an important realization for both of them, because it makes them more sympathetic to the villagers. Even so, the villagers and Fen residents aren’t saints by any means. Their lack of love and compassion makes them cruel: Matt’s own mother doesn’t want him back.
As Thomas and Kira turn to walk away from Matt’s cott, a tyke, Matt’s brother, runs out of the cott and tells them he knows where Matt has gone. He demands payment in return for the information. First, he asks for Kira’s pendant. When she refuses, he asks for the leather cord she uses to tie her hair. Kira gives this to him, and he explains that Matt’s mother beat him. Afterwards, Matt and Branch left the Fen to live with his friends. Kira realizes that she and Thomas must be these “friends.” When she presses the tyke for more information, he tells her that Matt went to find his friends a gift. The tyke defines “gift” a something that makes its recipient like the giver “best of all.” Kira brushes this aside, and asks the tyke what Matt’s gift was to be. The tyke says that Matt was searching for blue. With this, the tyke’s mother calls him inside, and he runs away.
Matt’s brother, like nearly everyone else in the Fen and the village, refuses to give something up for nothing. Generosity and sympathy are rare or even nonexistent. Again, we see tykes struggling with the concept of a “gift.” Kira refuses to give up her pendant, showing that she values not only the pendant itself, but also what the pendant symbolizes—her connection to her past, and to her mother. Kira feels personally invested in Matt’s safety, because he was journeying to find blue for her. This shows that Matt is becoming more generous and compassionate to others.
Kira and Thomas walks back to the Edifice and talk about what they’ve learned. Kira tells Thomas that she was afraid the Council has kidnapped Matt the way it kidnapped Jo. Thomas replies that Matt has no skills that make him worth kidnapping. Kira says that Matt does have skills: he can make others laugh and smile. She wonders to herself where Matt could be.
Thomas doesn’t seem perturbed about Matt’s disappearance—he sees no value in anyone who lacks artistic skill (though he does seem to have accepted that the Council kidnapped Thomas and Kira). Kira recognizes that everyone has value, even if this value is something as simple as being able to make others laugh.