Mare follows Maven through the hallways, not worried that she will be questioned in his presence. She thinks he might not be “so bad” if he is going to take her home. He leads her to Cal’s room. Cal is bruised, unshaven, and wearing dented armor. He is surprised to see Mare. Mare realizes that Cal, who has snuck out of the palace himself, can surely sneak her out too.
This is the first time since Mare discovered Cal’s identity that she has seen him with his guard down. She is also letting her own guard down with Maven and Cal because they are helping her see her family.
Once Cal agrees to help Mare sneak out of the palace, Maven leaves. As Cal changes clothes, Mare looks around at his suits of armor and books on warfare. The books contain upsetting notes from Cal on war tactics, and Mare imagines her brothers and Kilorn in the diagrams. When Cal emerges in the plainclothes outfit he wore when Mare met him in the tavern, she thinks of him as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And now,” she thinks, “I’m the sheep pretending to be a wolf.”
Mare felt betrayed when she found out Cal’s identity in part because she felt there was an unfair exchange of intimacy between them. Now, she is seeing Cal in his room and learning more about him as a person. This balances their exchange of intimacy, but Mare is also disturbed by the fact that the authentic version of Cal makes battle strategies, as though he is playing games with the bodies of real people she knows and loves.
Cal leads Mare to what she thinks is a dead end full of hanging sheets concealing some sort of metal. Mare asks if it is more armor and suggests that Cal wear some armor to defend himself against her brothers. He declines, saying that he will be playing the part of a fellow servant. He will also be her ride. He throws back a curtain to reveal a wheeled contraption that he calls a cycle. The king and Colonel Macanthos will not mass produce it for the army yet, but Cal says it is better than a regular transport because it is faster and can go more places. Mare is wary of it. Still, the promise of home is enough to make her don the helmet Cal hands her and climb on with him as the engine roars to life.
Because of his rank, Cal is able to access top-of-the-line equipment so that he can go wherever he likes in the kingdom. Mare does not fully trust Cal or the cycle, but she nonetheless decides to take Cal up on his offer. Mare is thus consenting to use the connections she is building at the court for her personal gain. Mare realizes that despite the dubious ethics of exploiting unjust privilege, it is difficult and not always worth the ethical posturing to turn down opportunities when presented with them.
Mare feels free on the cycle. When she and Cal arrive at the village, Cal stashes the cycle in some woods. It is well concealed, and Mare says Cal must sneak out often. He tells her he does not sneak out for himself but, rather, because he will be king one day and wants to know his people.
Mare’s sense of freedom on the cycle is something to which, she believes, Cal always has access. He answers her indirect challenge by stating that he feels an obligation to use the freedom of movement the cycle offers him in order to carry out the duties of a job that has been foisted upon him.
Mare is surprised at Cal’s expression of goodness. She asks what he sees. He says the world is on the edge of ruin; she challenges him, stating that her world is already in ruin. Although Cal protests that his father is doing everything he can to keep everyone safe, Mare insists that, “Your father keeps your people safe, not mine.” Cal says that the bigger picture shows that change would have a great cost, because the other kingdoms would not stand for equality in Norta. Mare says Norta could be the beginning.
Mare and Cal both want what is best for the country, but they disagree about what is best. In particular, Cal wishes that there were more equality in Norta, but he worries that bringing about that change would not be worth the sacrifices it would entail. Mare does not think Cal is daring enough, and she also thinks that he considers inequality too abstractly. He may think it is distasteful, but he is ultimately able to go home to the palace and forget what he saw. Reds, on the other hand, have no respite from inequality.
Cal offers to stay outside when Mare goes into her house, in case her brothers recognize him. Wanting Cal to see his future subjects, Mare tells him that her brothers would not recognize him, even though she knows Shade might. Inside, everyone is slow to wake and realize that Mare has come to visit. All Mare’s family members are there except for Shade, who she assumes is out.
Mare hopes that by increasing Cal’s network of interpersonal relationships with Reds, she will make concrete for him the suffering that Reds endure. This approach is reflective of a common critique of politicians: that they are “out of touch” with their constituents. Mare once again reveals her instincts for political strategy.
Mare’s father explains the lottery that supposedly led to the entire Barrow family discharge. Mare can tell that her father does not believe the lottery story, but her mother does. Her mother is proud of Mare’s new fictitious job as she has never been proud of any of Mare’s actual accomplishments. Gisa seems bitter still because of her broken hand. Mare’s brothers tease her, assuming Cal is her new love interest.
Mare seems to get her political skepticism from her father. Mare’s mother is so tired of the injustices her family has endured that she is willing to believe even a far-fetched story. Mare’s relationship with Gisa remains strained, which provides a foil for the ongoing tension between Cal and Maven. The assumption that Cal is Mare’s love interest also plays into this tension, because Mare is engaged to Maven.
Mare’s mother begins to cry. Mare thinks it is because she is worried Mare will leave again, and she will forget her daughter. No one is looking at Mare’s mother, though, and Mare realizes that Shade’s absence must not be incidental. Gisa tells her that Shade died before the discharge, beheaded for trying to run away. Mare knows Shade did not try to run away, but, rather, must have been discovered as part of the Scarlet Guard. Mare is unable to control her power and makes the lightbulbs, fridge, and walls buzz with electricity. The lightbulbs explode.
Despite her personal sacrifice, Mare has been unable to save all her family members. Shade has been killed because of his involvement with the Scarlet Guard, but he never would have been involved if not for the Reds’ oppression at the hands of the Silvers. The news thus exacerbates Mare’s anger at the Silvers as well as her feeling that there is no perfect way to overhaul the ruling system of oppression. The feeling that she has no control manifests in her loss of control over her electrical power.
Someone gets Mare’s attention: Kilorn, she realizes. He looks angry and wants to know if Mare is one of the Silvers now. Mare’s mother comes to her defense, saying that Mare is her daughter. Mare offers to cut herself to show her red blood. Bree says that they all know who Mare is. Having gotten Cal’s silent permission to tell the truth, Mare tells her family and Kilorn everything except the part about the Scarlet Guard and Julian’s discovery that she can generate electricity.
The fact that Mare’s mother defends her as her daughter demonstrates that despite Mare’s feelings about her mother’s disapproval, Mare still belongs to her family. This sense of belonging is difficult because beyond this moment, Mare must continue pretending that she does not belong to her family. Mare needs Cal’s permission in order to tell her family some of the truth about herself, indicating that Mare does not have sole proprietary claim over her own life story.
Mare’s mother thinks the turn of events is a miracle for the family and that Mare will finally be someone “special.” When Mare’s mother begins asking questions about Maven, Cal says it is time to leave. Everyone agrees not to say anything, although Kilorn is angry about it. Mare promises that she will try to come back, which she knows is a lie.
Mare must choose whether to be truthful with her family or whether to betray their trust in order to keep them and herself safe. She chooses to go along with what Cal wants her to do because it will result in the most safety for everyone. Mare’s family and even Kilorn understand this impulse: they agree to keep the secret.
Full of rage that won’t be assuaged by Cal’s attempt at an apology, Mare convinces Cal to make a stop at Will Whistle’s wagon. There, Mare meets one of Farley’s lieutenants, who wants to assassinate Cal while he waits in the woods. Mare defends Cal. Still, unbeknownst to him, she decides to join the Scarlet Guard. When she returns to Cal in the woods, she feels as though she has betrayed him, even though she is not exactly sure that she owes him anything. He is friendly to her, telling her that she will have to join him and Maven for training now that her gift has proven so powerful.
Mare is not fully truthful with anyone. Forced to make difficult decisions in order to protect herself, her family, and her friends, Mare decides that it is preferable to alienate herself from a possible friend at the court (Cal) in the interest of her stronger loyalties. However, Mare’s loyalties are also in question. For example, is she still loyal to family members if she does not disclose the whole truth to them? She has also now signed on to be loyal to the Scarlet Guard, and may be asked to act in ways that conflict with her other loyalties.
Something rustles in the woods, and Kilorn steps out. He accuses Mare again of joining the Silvers and says that she has a bad habit of trying to save him, referring to his release from conscription. Mare holds her tongue rather than tell him in front of Cal that she has joined the Scarlet Guard. As Mare leaves with Cal, Kilorn hints that he is about to do the same. Mare worries for him.
Mare’s interaction with Kilorn demonstrates that she has a hypocritical way of putting herself in danger in order to protect others. She thinks that it would be rash of Kilorn to join the Scarlet Guard, but she is content with her decision to do so herself.