Mare begins the next morning by exploring Whitefire, which is older than the Hall at Summerton and contains more offices, ballrooms, and other rooms than Mare will ever be able to find. She must cut her exploring short in order to fulfill her duties as a future princess, “on parade like a goat at auction.” In the transport on the way to her first appearance of the day, Mare wants to tell Maven about Julian’s secret message and to thank him for taking her blood out of the bloodbase, but there are too many people who might overhear.
Mare feels more than ever that she must perform for the court. The language of “a goat at auction” further suggests that Mare feels that the Silvers see her as an animal to buy, slaughter, and consume. Mare’s impulse to tell Maven about Julian’s message shows that she trusts him more than she trusts Cal. Rather than any reservations about Maven, she chooses not to tell him because she is afraid of the other Silvers in the background.
Mare is disgusted throughout the day by sights of Silvers mistreating Red servants. In an art gallery she and Maven visit, all the art depicts “Silver strength and Red weakness.” Mare is impressed by the way Maven handles the people staring at him and Mare at every stop. She reflects that, “Cal might be born to rule, but Maven was meant for it.” She finds Maven the preferable prince because he wants to effect change and treat Reds better.
Mare hates the fact that she feels she is constantly performing, but she also admires Maven’s ability to perform the role of the prince. She believes that part of his performance is his concealment of his revolutionary tendencies. This makes his performance palatable to her, and even attractive.
Thinking of the future makes Mare think of Shade and how he was killed before he saw a better future. Mare thinks of all the others she might be able to save from this fate. She tells Maven that they need to find Farley. Maven says it will be difficult, but suggests that any of the Red servants in the crowd might be Farley’s agents.
Mare has generally thought of surveillance as something that is employed by the Silvers in order to control the Reds. She has not thought of the fact that Farley might employ the same tactics on a low-technology scale. This notion helps her see how Silver power structures might be inverted to bring about the future she wants.
Mare slips away to try to scout out the right Red to ask about Farley. A child tells her she dropped a piece of paper. Although she does not remember having it, she takes it anyway. A sentinel then sees her and leads her back to the royal party. Seated in the transport, Mare unfurls the note. It says, “Hexaprin Theater. Afternoon play. The best seats.” Mare smiles and hands the note to Maven.
Mare succeeds in corresponding with the Scarlet Guard, which increases her confidence that she will be able to successfully collaborate with them in order to take down the Silver regime. Mare’s unquestioning confidence in Maven with such a secret note demonstrates her continued trust in him.
Maven is easily able to get himself and Mare into the theater. He must explain to Mare what a play is because in the Stilts, no one had time for such frivolities. Mare notices that although there are Reds in the crowd, their seats are much less luxurious than those of the Silvers. Mare and Maven sit alone in a plush, enclosed balcony, and Maven tells the Sentinels not to disturb them. Mare wants to kiss Maven but restrains herself, instead taking the opportunity to thank him for the bloodbase.
Mare benefits from Maven’s privileged movement through the capital. She allows herself to be okay with Maven’s privilege because she is exploiting it. In some ways, she is benefitting from her position at court. However, the fact that she does not even know what a play is demonstrates that there is still a vast difference between her and the Silvers.
The ceiling panel above Maven and Mare opens. No one appears, but Mare hoists herself and then Maven up into the ceiling. The panel closes on its own. Will Whistle comes into focus in the darkness. He leads Mare and Maven through a series of ladders and trapdoors into an underground passage. Maven jokes that “You people sure like to be dramatic.” Will tells him, “Just you wait.”
Although there is a certain drama to the secret operation, Maven’s joke demonstrates that he fails to see how dramatic and performative his own life is. He also trivializes the lengths to which the Scarlet Guard must go in order to organize and consolidate Red power.
Will leads Mare and Maven to a platform in a tunnel where, after some alarming screeching noises and the feel of building electricity, “A metal worm appears.” Farley is seated inside and calls everyone aboard. She tells them that the metal worm is called the Undertrain. It is very fast and runs on old, abandoned tracks that the Silvers never tried to find. Mare is surprised to learn that the Scarlet Guard employs “techies” the Silvers do not know about.
Mare’s description of the train as a “metal worm” indicates that trains are not a common sight in Norta—at least not anymore. The abandoned tracks suggest that there is an old infrastructure on top of which Norta has been built. The fact that the Scarlet Guard is making use of these tracks suggests that there is an entire civilization’s worth of resources that the Reds might use in secret.
Mare tries to calm her nausea as the train speeds on. Maven realizes that the train is going south, toward land that is radiated, and he tells Mare to use her power to stop the train before the radiation kills them. The train lurches to a stop anyway, and Farley motions for everyone to get off the train. “How do you know the south, the Ruins, are still radiated?” she asks Maven. She implies that the machines that detect the radiation are built by Red techies who work for the Scarlet Guard. Maven realizes that, “The detectors lie.”
Maven, along with the rest of the Silvers, take their technology for granted, not accounting for the fact that Red laborers are part of the apparatus of that technology. They believe the Reds are so perfectly dehumanized and exploited that they could not possibly use their positions to manipulate the Silvers. The revelation that the Reds have been doing exactly that shows that the Scarlet Guard is more powerful than Mare realized.
Maven remains wary but allows Farley to lead him and Mare off the train. Mare sees trees and bushes growing amidst the ruins of an old city. It is “the picture of neglect,” but “doesn’t feel abandoned.” Farley welcomes Mare and Maven to “The City of Ruins, to Naercey,” which is what the city was called long ago.
Farley’s use of the ancient name of the city demonstrates a connection to history. The city is underground, meaning that it is a site of excavation. By coming to this ancient city, Farley is leading Mare and Maven on a national archaeology expedition, in which they can connect to a past in which Reds were not so terribly treated.
Mare sees special markers around the borders of the city, used to trick the Silvers’ radiation detectors. She wonders how the Scarlet Guard protects its bases in other parts of the country besides Norta. Mare notices more and more signs of Reds quietly carrying on with their lives, hidden in the ruins. In a half-collapsed café, Mare is delighted to see Kilorn. Farley tells them they do not have time for greetings, and she opens the floor for a tactical meeting.
The Scarlet Guard is clearly running its own shadow city beneath the capital. The fact that the city is not newly constructed but, rather, ancient, suggests that the Reds’ revolution would not be a rejection of what has always been, but instead an embrace of a past version of Norta. Kilorn clearly knows about the city already, demonstrating that he might be a more independent revolutionary than Mare generally allows.
Maven keeps insisting that Farley has painted a target on her back and that Cal will find all of them before long. Farley tells him that she does not care about herself but, rather, about the Reds who are being oppressed in their villages and put on the warfront at age fifteen.
Maven is concerned with individual wellbeing, whereas Farley is concerned with the collective wellbeing of people she does not know personally. This difference demonstrates that Maven, growing up in the lap of luxury, has been taught to think of how policies will affect him personally rather than how they will affect the whole kingdom.
Maven offers to stall the process of putting children on the warfront by proposing extra training. Mare, sure that this will not be enough, pulls out the book from Julian and tells Farley that she must track down the people who are both Red and Silver in order to form an army. Kilorn and Maven insist that this will take far too long to be an effective strategy. Maven slaps the table, saying that they already have an army. He suggests instead that they organize a coup in Archeon.
Maven is more resistant than Mare would have expected to tracking down the people on the list. He passes off his opposition as purely tactical, but his violent slapping of the table suggests that there is more behind his opposition than he makes clear. Kilorn, for example, simply objects because he thinks that the strategy will be ineffective. Maven is also suspiciously ready to offer an alternative plan.
Maven’s proposal gives Mare and Farley hope, but Kilorn argues that it will be near-impossible to get enough Reds into the capital to fight all the Silver soldiers who have pledged their loyalty to Cal. Mare is about to concede to the impossibility of the plan when Maven suggests that she use Cal’s feelings for her to win him over to their side. She doubts that Cal would choose her over his loyalty to his father and the crown, but Maven insists, “He will always choose you.” Farley says she cannot believe that the fate of the revolution will depend on “some teenaged love story.” Kilorn stares and Mare and whispers, “I can.”
Maven’s suggestion that Mare manipulate Cal is politically savvy, but it also demonstrates that Maven tends toward manipulation as a strategy to get what he wants. Mare does not immediately notice this and become suspicious of Maven because she is caught up in her disbelief that Maven, Cal, and even Kilorn could possibly have feelings for her strong enough to affect the outcome of the revolution. Somewhat humorously, this scene also encapsulates the principal drama of the book (and of many young adult books)—that vast political or military events depend on “some teenaged love story.”