Cal takes Mare to an empty sitting room to practice dancing. The cameras are still on, but no one stops them. Mare enjoys dancing with Cal to the upbeat music he plays on a speaker. She tells Cal that she is not sure she is supposed to be dancing with him in a dark room. Cal says he is doing Maven a favor, helping Mare avoid stepping on his feet.
Cal appears to have the privilege of moving freely before the cameras, even when he is violating propriety. As when she was riding on the cycle, Mare again feels an increased sense of freedom when she is with Cal. She is able to enjoy the luxury of listening to dance music over a speaker only because of him. Spending time with him feels like a betrayal both to Maven and to her family, but she nevertheless remains with him because she gets to feel freer.
Cal sounds bitter when he comments that Maven fixed up Mare’s face well. Mare tells him it was Sara Skonos, and Cal grows tense. Mare learns from him that Sara was Queen Coriane’s best friend. Cal doesn’t remember his mother, and Sara can’t tell him about her because her tongue was cut out for telling “terrible lies.” Cal declines to say more about why he and Maven do not get along with Sara. He says they will continue tomorrow.
Sara’s punishment for lying demonstrates that Mare could risk serious bodily harm by lying in the Silver court. It seems that even more pain has been created by Sara’s inability to tell Cal and Maven what she knows, indicating that the withholding of information can be as harmful as lying. What Mare learns from Cal in this instant helps her see the royal family as even more complex: like her own family, theirs is also rife with unspoken feelings and undertones of betrayal.
Mare returns to her room to find that the cameras have been shut off. Maven appears out of the darkness and says he called in a favor from some of Mare’s guards. He tells her that Farley has visited again and convinced him to give up more information than he wanted to: four names of Silver elites to be assassination targets. If all goes well, the king will be too afraid to send Cal to the front.
Whereas Cal is illicitly helping Mare perform the role of Lady Mareena Titanos by giving her dancing lessons, Maven is illicitly helping her work against the very underpinnings of the performative court. There is a greater sense of romance in Cal’s tactics. However, the insult of being asked to perform the role of a person who does not exist but who matters more than Mare herself heightens the stakes of Mare’s choices. Maven thus competes with his brother by appealing to Mare’s desire for widespread equality.
Mare thinks of how Shade died for the Guard and decides that his mission is hers now. Besides, she can stomach trading the Silver elites for Cal’s life. Maven says that Kilorn is mixed up in the plan too. Mare asks what will happen if they fail. Maven says that this won’t happen, but that if they do, they will be tried, convicted, and killed for treason.
Mare is uncomfortable with terrorism but agrees to the plan because of her loyalty to her brother, her feelings for Cal, and her commitment to the Scarlet Guard. Mare risks her life for treason, but she has less to lose than a true Silver. Mare’s dilemma is at the crossroads of a debate that has engaged activists for centuries: do oppressed peoples have lives so desolate that it is worth risking them for the prospect of progress, or does such logic further devalue the lives of oppressed peoples?
At Mare’s next lesson, Julian warns Mare about getting too attached to Maven, because he is his mother’s son. Mare tells Julian that it is unfair to saddle Maven with his vendetta against Elara. Julian calls Mare “little lightning girl” as he tells her not to be fooled. He warns her that “Anyone can betray anyone” and that she is someone’s pawn in whatever game is afoot. Silently, Mare thinks, “Think what you want, Julian. I’m no one’s fool.”
Julian calls Mare the diminutive nickname Elara has been using, making Mare more resistant to his advice. Mare does not want to feel alone, so she is inclined to defend Maven by insisting that she is politically savvy enough to assess Maven’s intentions toward her. Julian’s warning that “Anyone can betray anyone,” however, sticks with Mare.
The night before the ball, Mare is distracted in her dance practice with Cal by the thought of the violence but also the potential change to come. The Scarlet Guard is going to demand “Equality, liberty, freedom.” Cal thinks Mare is worrying about dancing. He tells Mare about his own insecurities and wishes that Maven were the crown prince, not him. Mare begins to realize that she has feelings for Cal and weakly tries to convince him not to go off to war for Evangeline’s sake.
Cal tries to bond with Mare by revealing more of his own vulnerability. It works, but Mare’s feelings are more complicated than Cal realizes. The demands, “equality, liberty, freedom,” are very similar to the demands of the French Revolution: “equality, liberty, brotherhood.” Although Mare lives in a different world than that of the French Revolution, the words give the sense that though the revolution may be effective at demolishing the monarchy, it will also be very bloody.
Cal, Mare reminds herself, is forbidden. Then Cal kisses Mare. She thinks about how she is betraying “my cause, Maven, and myself, but I don’t want to stop.” She thinks again of Julian’s warning that “Anyone can betray anyone.” She knows she and Cal are doomed to be enemies, but for now she enjoys the moment.
Mare is conflicted between her political convictions and her personal desires. She also has warring personal desires because for her, more-so than for many of the Silvers, the political is personal. Mare’s difficulty refusing Cal’s advances show that it is exhausting and sometimes impossible to at once remain faithful to one’s political convictions and manage one’s desires.