Mare dreams of Shade that night, then remembers that he is dead. Her maids wake her early. When Lucas does not meet her at the door on the way to Protocol, Mare worries that he is being interrogated about the previous night. She runs into Maven. He tells her that she is up early after such a late night, and she feigns surprise for the cameras when he tells her that the prisoners escaped. He says that Elara has questioned the sentinels and that he has “directed” his mother to people of interest. Mare takes this to mean that Maven has directed Elara away from her.
Mare’s dream about Shade shows that as much as her role at the court has become politicized, all the actions she has taken have been motivated by personal loyalties. She thus feels regretful that she had to betray Lucas, as well as worried that he might be forced to betray her. Maven and Mare do not speak in explicit terms because of the cameras. However, it is important to keep in mind that neither one of them is saying everything they think.
Maven whispers to Mare that there was no bomb. The explosion was caused by a bullet-punctured gas line, but Elara spread the story of the bomb to make the Scarlet Guard look more merciless. Mare is angry that the queen can make such dangerous use of lies alone.
Mare is realizing that the truth and fiction can be extremely powerful weapons in themselves. This means that Mare’s very existence as Lady Mareena Titanos might be used as a weapon. She also does not know what false beliefs she and the rest of the kingdom are laboring under.
Mare dreads becoming more deeply embroiled in the court when she goes with the royal family to the capital, leaving her family behind. Maven confirms that they will be leaving this afternoon. He thinks it will be nice for Mare to see the Stilts in passing from the ship. Mare is not looking forward to this moment, but she reflects that leaving the valley early is worth helping Kilorn and the others escape.
The fact that Maven thinks it will be a treat for Mare to see her family in passing demonstrates that he does not understand her feelings of isolation at court. Mare is being held captive, not spending time away from her family because she chooses to do so. Mare’s separation from her family is not a sacrifice she has made in order to live her life. Rather, it is a disruption of her life.
Cal crashes into the hallway in full armor. Mare is disgusted at the sight of him, remembering the torture he inflicted on the prisoners. Cal bitterly says that his legion is not going to the war front because his father has decided it is too dangerous. Maven reasons with Cal, saying that of course the king cannot afford to lose his heir. Cal insists that he is a soldier and does not want others to fight while he sits back. Mare is disgusted by Cal’s childishness and impulse to kill. She is then afraid of him when he reveals that his new cause is going to be hunting down the Scarlet Guard to kill them.
Mare has just been thinking about how she’s been forced away from her family, so Cal’s anger that he will not have the privilege of going to war seems to her an oversight of his privilege to remain with his family. She is also afraid because she and several of her friends are part of the group Cal has now vowed to kill. Meanwhile, Maven downplays the king’s love for Cal by emphasizing that it is a tactical decision to keep him behind.
Mare watches the Silvers from the entrance hall as they disperse to teach and train. It looks like they are fleeing. Mare reflects that the Silvers are afraid of the Reds because their sense of security has been shattered. She compares them to “lions running from mice.” Even Cal, seemingly perfect, is “a torturous, terrible enemy.” Mare returns to the mantra, “Anyone can betray anyone.”
Mare watches from above, as though she is removed from the fray below. However, because she is a Red inhabiting the role of a Silver (and because she has Red blood but some of the attributes of a Silver), Mare is even more in the fray than anyone else: she is both a lion and a mouse.
Mare watches Cal and Maven say their goodbyes in preparation for their departure to the capital. Not wanting to learn the names of the twelve people who died in the blast, Mare wanders alone to Julian’s classroom. She is shocked to see it empty, packed up for the court’s move. Julian tells her that they will not continue their lessons because he has accepted a position in the Delphie archives. Mare blames herself for forcing Julian to go on the run. She is sure they will never see each other again, but they pretend otherwise. Julian tells Mare she reminds him of “her,” who Mare takes to be Coriane.
Mare and Julian have both felt isolated throughout the novel. They finally succeeded in putting some trust in one another, but that interaction has led directly to Julian’s need to go on the run. They do not speak this truth aloud because they are protecting one another’s feelings. The fact that Julian is becoming a political fugitive because of his involvement with Mare reveals how corrupt and dangerous the government is, as well as the depth of Julian’s commitment to Mare and to his sister.
On the ship later, Mare reflects that she has always wondered why the king’s flag was red. She realizes now that it is “like his flame, like the destruction—and the people—he controls.” Maven tells Mare that the sentinels from the previous night have been sent to the warfront, probably to die. Lucas is traveling with his family.
Mare realizes how much pageantry goes into the oppression of the Reds. She also realizes that the Silvers are not only blind to injustice but actively enjoy destruction and death. By rebelling against the government, she is dealing in many people’s lives.
Mare is relieved until Maven tells her that answers are coming soon because red blood was found in the cell from which the prisoners escaped. The blood will be run against the “bloodbase,” a database (which Mare did not know about) used to track Reds “like animals.” The blood will be used to determine the identity of one of the prisoners. Mare tells Maven that it is her blood. He says nothing but looks scared.
The idea that the government keeps samples of everyone’s blood is disturbing because it means that free bodily movement is virtually impossible without government tracking. Particularly because it does not seem to be public knowledge that the government keeps this bloodbase, this is yet another example of the ways a fascist government can pose mortal threats to its citizens.
Mare reflects that it would have been better to stay near the Stilts so she could die close to home. Maven kisses her, more desperately than Cal did, and says he won’t let anyone hurt her. He says he will get someone more powerful to help her. Mare is trying to assess what this means when Cal walks in to summon Maven to a meeting with the queen. Mare remembers her kiss with Cal and feels as though, “I hurt everyone, especially myself.” Maven tells Mare that neither Cal nor he likes to lose. Mare lies, telling Maven he won’t lose her.
Now that Mare has established nascent romantic relationships with both princes, she also has betrayed both of them. She furthers her betrayal by lying to Maven. Meanwhile, Maven is setting up a contest between himself and Cal in which only one of them can win, and the object of the contest is Mare. While Mare is chastising herself for her betrayal, she is being further dehumanized by Elara.
Mare sees her house in the distance as they pass it. She notices that her parents have rebelled quietly by leaving Shade’s star on their flag rather than removing it, as is customary when families lose a child. Mare sees all the Reds looking poverty-stricken, as she used to be. She feels their anger and wonders why they are watching. The queen comments on the onlookers to the parade down the river, and Mare realizes that this is another mandatory event. Even sick elders have been physically forced to show up with the threat of whips.
It is becoming more and more difficult for Reds to rebel against Silvers as their lives are micromanaged and surveilled. A minor act such as leaving a star on the flag has become a noticeable rebellion. The queen wants Mare to notice that the Reds are required to attend the parade. Now, Mare is a part of the spectacle that the Reds are forced to observe. She sees her people and must feel lucky that she is not among them, being whipped.
Mare demands of the queen why the Reds are being forced to watch the parade. Cal, avoiding eye contact with Mare, explains that after the attack, the Reds need to see that the Silvers are still strong. After another whip crack, Mare asks if Cal ordered for the Reds to be beaten. Cal does not answer, but closes his eyes against the cries of a villager. The king tells Mare to “stand back” because the Reds must be taught not to harbor terrorists or become terrorists themselves. The queen tells Mare to be quiet unless she knows any Reds “who should be made an example of.”
The requirement that Reds observe the parade creates a mirror for the pageantry of the parade itself. If Reds all attend the parade, they appear visually to have submitted to the Silvers. This makes it easier for both the Silvers and the Reds to believe that this is the truth. Cal does not seem very comfortable with the arrangement, but he is nonetheless going along with it, because he has been told he must. Mare realizes that she will only make things worse by speaking up.
As the ships draw nearer to the capital, the crowded villages give way to luxurious homes that appear to be empty. Mare learns that these are second homes of Silver aristocrats, and they are uninhabited most of the year. The ships then enter an eerily quiet forest that Maven tells Mare exists to prevent pollution from getting to the aristocrats’ estates from Gray Town, the factory slum they enter next.
There is a stark contrast between the poverty of a place like the Stilts, where Mare and her large family all lived in a tiny house, and these vast estates that sit unoccupied most of the year. Aristocrats are only able to have these beautiful extra residences because of the poverty and labor of Reds in the Stilts and in factory slums.
Mare realizes that the workers she sees are the “techies” who make the lights, cameras, and video screens employed throughout the kingdom. Maven tells her that they also make military supplies, keep the power grid up, and keep the water clean. Mare realizes that they probably never see daylight for all the smoke in the air. They do not leave because, as Mare reflects, “They are broken from birth.” Maven tells Mare that they are not even allowed to conscript: war would be a better alternative than the lives they lead.
Mare realizes for the first time that privilege is not simply hoarded by the Silvers and kept from the Reds. Rather, there is a gradation of privilege. For all the hardships Mare endured growing up, she had a better life than the techies, whose futures are bleaker even than conscription. Mare realizes that when she uses technology, she is benefitting from the labor of these oppressed citizens.
Mare next sees Archeon, the capital itself. There is a huge bridge linking two sections of the city, both ends of which are fortified. Archeon is surrounded with diamondglass, just like Summerton. Mare realizes that, “Archeon was built to endure war, not peace.” The city is extremely impressive, but Mare cannot find it beautiful when she has just seen the Red slum next door. Mare states, “Now I truly see what I’m fighting against and how difficult, how impossible, it will be to win. I’ve never felt smaller than I do now, with the great bridge looming above us. It looks ready to swallow me whole.” She decides to try for the sake of “the ones who have never seen the sun.”
Now that Mare has seen not only the luxury of a palace but also the squalor of a slum, she realizes that she is fighting against not just excessive wealth but also against the systemic maintenance of brutal poverty. She wants to even out the distribution of wealth so that the bridge into the capital gives not only wealthy Silvers but also Reds access to power. In order to do this, she must walk into a city that has been constructed as a war zone. The Silvers hide here, at the heart of the kingdom, from the atrocities that happen on the warfront. However, Mare realizes that the city represents the class warfare that is central to the kingdom.