Whereas nightfall in the Stilts means it is time to shut down the power and sleep, Archeon becomes brighter at night as people celebrate the king’s return to the throne. Maven and Mare share a transport from the docks. Maven points out his favorite places and explains that the Bridge and East Archeon are for “common” Silvers, such as merchants and intellectuals, while West Archeon is for the aristocrats. Mare remembers Lucas telling her that “Not everyone is special.” She can’t believe his statement applies to Silvers.
Whereas Mare only managed to see her home in passing, Maven is able to bring Mare directly into his home because he was born into wealth and status. Mare’s earlier realization, that there are gradations of privilege among the Reds, is stretched further by the realization that some Silvers are not as wealthy or powerful as others. Still, all of them are better off than the Reds.
Mare is struck by how much the organization of West Archeon seems to reflect the fact that it is the seat of the military. There are soldiers everywhere to defend Whitefire Palace. Because the king is giving a speech next to the barracks, the transport heads there. Cameras turn on Mare and Maven as they exit the transport. Mare realizes that she is being broadcast to millions of people. Maven tells her just to stand and look stern.
Even more so than when she was in Summerton, Mare is under public surveillance. Not only does the military presence indicate that the king uses force to maintain power, but also it serves as a reminder that Mare and the Scarlet Guard could be overpowered any time, either by Elara or by a whole army. To Maven, the militarization of the capital is a normal part of life.
Mare and Maven joke about how Cal looks stern enough for everyone. Maven says that Cal does not like speeches because he prefers action. Mare privately agrees, but does not want to admit commonalities with Cal in front of Maven.
Mare is not completely in line with either one of the princes. However, by performing allegiance to Maven, she places an extra impetus on herself not to betray him.
Mare tries not to think about whether the aristocrat shuffling her and Maven to the correct place knew any of the assassination victims. She notices that Evangeline, standing beside Cal, is shaking from nerves despite having what she has always wanted.
Even Evangeline, who always seems fearsome, is nervous now that she is standing next to Cal in front of the entire kingdom. This anxiety might be comforting to Mare because Evangeline is her adversary, but it also makes Mare more keenly aware of the danger of high-profile existence.
Everyone walks into a building and into a room with a plaque that says, “War Command.” Mare is handed a piece of paper. She then realizes how she will be useful to the crown and hears Elara’s voice in her head, whispering, “Earn your keep.” Maven holds Mare’s hand supportively and whispers to her, “You must.”
Elara could speak to Mare out loud, but she instead chooses to demonstrate her power by speaking into Mare’s head. Mare is being used in the “war command” room, suggesting that she is being weaponized within the kingdom.
After a gap in time, Mare sits in her new bedroom, watching the recording of the broadcast that has just aired. She sees herself on the screen, telling the false story of Lady Mareena Titanos and laying out the king’s punishments for the terrorist act. There will be a curfew for all Reds, security in Red villages will be doubled, Reds will be more closely monitored, all Red crimes will be punishable by execution, and conscription age will be lowered to age fifteen. Conscription waivers and release will be available to those who give up members or plans of the Scarlet Guard. Mare watches her eyes try to convey her lie as she says on screen, “Long live the king.”
Mare has been forced to read aloud from the paper Elara handed her as if she were sincerely urging the Reds to submit to the will of the king. Mare is not only the messenger of the new, oppressive security measures but also functions as a face that the Reds are more likely to trust. Because the address was broadcast, Mare is able to watch herself on television. She thus witnesses herself betraying not only her people but also herself.
Knowing that her words will drive Reds to work against one another, Mare doubles down on her determination to fight until she is killed. Mare misses Lucas and Julian. She picks up Julian’s parting gift, a framed map, and something falls out. She hopes for a secret note, but instead finds a book. Julian, knowing that the cameras would be watching, has interspersed a note between lines of the book.
Mare is politically savvy. She knows that one tool for those in power to remain in power is to pit marginalized groups against one another, so that they will not see the grander wrongs being inflicted on them from above. She thus fights back by turning to those who have been her political allies, strengthening bonds rather than weakening them.
Mare assembles all the lines of the note. Julian has given her the names of 27 soldiers, including Shade, whose bodies have been neither buried nor cremated, but rather “misplaced” upon their execution. This misplacement is unheard of. Julian asks for Mare’s forgiveness for comparing her blood to the blood of the missing soldiers. He found the same genetic mutation in all of them. He tells her that there are others like her, who are Red and Silver, “stronger than both.” He writes, “I think you are the new dawn.” He includes a list of all the others he has found in the blood bank with the same mutation.
Mare’s loneliness throughout the novel has been exacerbated by her feeling that there is something wrong with her because of the anomaly of her blood. The news that there are others like her instantly gives Mare a community that she might use to fight back against the Silvers. Julian’s phrase, “new dawn,” echoes the Scarlet Guard’s motto, “Rise, Red as the Dawn.” Mare’s sense of optimism is thus further enmeshed with her work with the Scarlet Guard. More than ever, the work of rebellion is a way of carrying out her loyalty to Shade.
Mare tucks the book in her jacket to go show Maven, but Cal finds her first. He confronts her about the fact that she won’t look at him even though they kissed three days ago. They argue over whether the Scarlet Guard is a “terrorist” group or a “rebel” group. Cal insists that their methods are unacceptable, and Mare insists that the treatment of the Reds is unacceptable. She says the only reason he treats her well is because she has an unexplainable gift. She wants Cal to use his power to change things.
Mare and Cal do not have fundamentally opposed beliefs as to how an ideal kingdom would look. However, Cal does not think the ends justify the means of violence. For Mare, the current state of affairs simply involves acceptance of a different kind of violence. People have become inured to violence against Reds, so it is not shocking in the way that violence against Silvers is. Mare is uncomfortable with the fact that Cal cannot see this.
Mare watches as “Something breaks in Cal.” He tells her that he used to think he could change things, but it seems hopeless now. All he can hope to do is uphold his loyalty to his father’s legacy. Mare tells him that the blood the Scarlet Guard will spill is on his hands, privately thinking that it is also on Maven’s hands and hers.
Cal’s hopelessness demonstrates that he has tried to believe in a better future, but he has encountered so many obstacles that he no longer thinks it’s possible. This is a mindset that reflects that of many longtime politicians who report losing hope in a sea of bureaucracy. For Mare, who suffers under the unjust status quo in a way Cal does not, hopeless acceptance of things as they are is not an option.
As Mare walks away, Cal calls out to her, “Julian’s disappeared, hasn’t he?” He reveals to Mare that he knows Julian was involved in the prisoners’ escape. He gave his uncle time to slip away but will not be able to intervene in his execution when the queen finds him. Mare worries that Cal will allow her to be executed too. She must hide her relief when he tells her that, at Maven’s proposal, all records of Mare’s Red blood have been destroyed.
Mare is perplexed by the way Cal shows loyalty only to a certain extent. His lack of follow-through with Julian offends her and scares her, but Mare might be hypercritical of Cal because she herself has had to make choices about how far to carry her loyalties. The fact that Mare hides her relief demonstrates that Mare does not trust Cal, but she seems not to trust him on account of behaviors that she is also guilty of performing.