A week of midnights go by. Finally, one night, Mare suddenly feels an absence of cameras and electricity for the first time since Queenstrial. Walsh pulls Mare out of bed and into the dark conservatory. Farley is there, and Mare is shocked when Maven appears a moment later. Mare can tell that he is terrified of Farley, but he is there to join the Guard.
Mare has joined the Scarlet Guard to gain control over her life, but she has no control over when she will truly be inducted into their ranks. The fact that Mare notices the absence of the cameras indicates that she has grown accustomed to being watched at all times. The presence of Maven at the meeting with Farley further demonstrates that Mare has grown accustomed to certain rituals and performances in the court and does not always see what is truly going on.
Maven says that the three years he spent following Cal around on the war front taught him that the war is a foolish waste that unfairly preys on Red blood. His first real friend was a Red seventeen-year-old who he had to watch die. Maven says that Cal is “a good person, and he’ll be a just ruler, but he doesn’t think change is worth the cost.” Mare wonders if she should start to trust Maven precisely because of this secret pain he has hidden.
Trust, for Mare, is growing more complicated. She has berated herself for being untrustworthy by hiding the truth from her family, but now she is inspired to trust Maven because of a secret he has kept. Her interest in trusting him, notably, is motivated not by the fact that he is revealing a secret but by the fact that he is making statements with which she agrees.
After Maven swears his loyalty on his colors, an ancient binding oath, Farley welcomes him to the Scarlet Guard. “Thank you,” Mare whispers to him. Farley then pressures Maven into giving her names of assassination targets. He says he would prefer a “less hostile path,” but Farley convinces him that getting the attention of the kingdom will be the fastest way to change.
Maven seems to want the same kind of change that Mare wants. However, by being easily persuaded to take a “hostile path” to this change, Maven demonstrates that either he is easily persuaded out of his convictions, or he does not have particularly strong convictions in the first place.
Maven turns to try to convince Mare to join him as the face of the revolution. She is resistant as Maven backs Farley’s plan to orchestrate a terrorist attack on the Parting Ball, which the king will surely not be able to keep quiet as he has other terrorist attacks. Mare realizes that Shade has been one of Farley’s pawns. However, Maven reminds her what Julian has told her about revolutions needing sparks.
Mare wants change, but she does not want to engage in terrorism. She is worried that she, like Shade, is being used by Farley. She ultimately decides that the potential political payoff is worth being used. However, it is important to note that it is not only Farley but also Maven who does his utmost to persuade Mare.
Mare reluctantly agrees to involvement in the terrorist plan, but she tries to bargain with Farley not to let Kilorn get involved. Kilorn then steps out of the shadows, and Mare realizes that she is too late. He asks her to stop trying to save him, but she refuses. He insists that it is his turn to do what he can to save her. Mare remembers all the times she has protected Kilorn, ever since the day his mother left him an orphan. “Do what you want, Kilorn,” she says. She refuses to say goodbye as she turns to go back to bed, dwelling on how he has betrayed her lifelong efforts to help him.
Mare’s interaction with Kilorn demonstrates that for all Mare’s high standards for herself as a friend and family member, she also holds double standards for her friendships. She is eager to sacrifice herself to help others, but does not let others do the same for her. She thinks of Kilorn’s insistence on joining the Scarlet Guard as a betrayal of all her help to him, but Mare is actually betraying the tenets of equitable friendship by being angry with Kilorn for trying to help her in return.
The ball approaches much faster than Mare would like. She continues to struggle with her dancing lessons and pours her energy into Training. Mare wonders one day why everyone suddenly seems far more focused on their warm-ups in Training. Cal tells her she will see in a moment. Then the training floor shifts, like the Queenstrial stadium, to form an arena. There is to be a practice fight. Cal assures Mare that the instructor will stop the contestants before they hurt each other.
Mare struggles with the performative aspects of being a Silver, such as dancing. However, she fails to realize just how performative other aspects are as well. Training turns out to be preparation not only for serving in the military but also for fighting in performance pieces such as Queenstrial or the Feats, in order to maintain “Strength. Power” in the kingdom.
Mare is terrified as she watches a nymph and Maven gear up to fight. The instructor asks the class who has the advantage and confirms that the nymph, with more experience and control of water to quench Maven’s fire, has a leg up. As the fight begins, it first looks like Maven will win. However, the tables turn at the last minute, and Maven must yield.
Mare witnesses how regardless of the strength of her gift, she can always be made vulnerable because she can be pitted against those who are stronger than her. Like the pageants and the Feats, Training itself is a reminder that anyone can be killed at any time.
As the next fight begins, Cal advises Maven not to corner a stronger opponent because “it makes them more dangerous.” Cal congratulates Maven on his improvement, which strikes Mare as patronizing. She speaks up for Maven, but then tells Maven privately that Cal is right—he needs to outsmart opponents who are stronger than him. Maven bitterly reflects that Cal is always right when it comes to fighting.
Mare does not want to agree with Cal—not because she thinks he has said something particularly offensive, but because she sees in him the more perfect sibling against whom she always feels she is being measured in her own family. Mare wants to have a stronger bond with Maven because she identifies with his plight as the overshadowed brother. However, she reluctantly trusts Cal’s military opinions.
Mare sees Evangeline smiling across the arena and wonders how it does not bother her to see her friends bleeding. She reminds herself that Silvers, with their constant access to healers, do not have to worry over spilled blood the way Reds do. Mare watches Cal mercilessly defeat two opponents. She reflects that, “Cal is more dangerous than all of them put together. I cannot forget that.” Mare’s thoughts are interrupted when Evangeline challenges her to a fight in the arena.
Mare tries not to allow horror to become normalized in the way it has been for Silvers like Evangeline. She wants to maintain as much distance as she can from Silver customs because she is inherently in more danger than they are by virtue of the color of her blood. Evangeline’s challenge demonstrates that Mare only has so much control over how ingratiated she becomes in Silver customs.