Back in the capital, Mare can see why the Silvers want to keep their lifestyle. It is beautiful. However, she also feels ready for revolution. Because of the terrorist attacks, the usual revelry of the king’s return to Archeon is muted. Maven recounts to Mare some of the glitzy celebration that usually takes place this time of year. As they exit the transport, Mare tells Maven, “I feel nothing for Cal” and tries to convince herself that she is not lying.
Mare recognizes the beauty of Archeon but sees that it is only possible because of the oppression of Reds. Maven, on the other hand, fails to see past his excitement at the pageantry of the capital. Mare might ordinarily notice this difference between them, but she is preoccupied by assuring herself and Maven that she has allegiance only to Maven.
As soon as Mare and Maven are inside, they hear a shrill scream. They run along the hall until they come to a crowd of Silvers, all watching as Cal, Evengeline, Evangeline’s brother, and the king torture Walsh. Mare realizes that Walsh must have been one of the lookouts for her and Maven to get back to the palace. Elara is about to force Walsh to spill her secrets. To protect everyone who would be implicated, Walsh bites down on a pill that kills her.
Mare realizes, once again, that despite all of the wrongs that have been committed against her, she still remains insulated from many dangers. In this instance, it is Walsh who has served as that insulation. Walsh’s willingness to sacrifice her life to protect Mare and the rest of the Scarlet Guard shows Mare that people’s lives are imminently dependent upon her success in manipulating Cal.
Mare talks to Cal later, and he tells her that the suicide pill was like the ones given to the soldiers on the warfront. Cal argues that this was a better fate for Walsh than what would have happened to her: public execution. Although the practice of broadcasting executions has stopped, an exception might be made in the interest of stopping the Scarlet Guard.
The fact that Cal sees Walsh’s fate as preferable to what it might have been shows that he is a trained soldier, used to thinking about the worst possible outcomes. Although Cal’s comfort with the idea of suicide pills may be disturbing to Mare, his perspective seems to be colored by the fact that he knows the inner workings of the military to a greater extent than Mare does.
Mare suggests to Cal that something might have happened between the two of them if politics had not come between them. She tries to put on an air of longing, “Giving him hope where none should be.” He tries to kiss her, but she denies him. As she leaves, he says that he wishes things were different. The words remind Mare of her father. Cal then says that Julian finds similarities between Mare and Coriane. “As much as I hate to admit it,” Mare reflects, “I can’t blame Cal for feeling caught between two worlds. After all, so am I.”
Mare is performing feelings for Cal, but it is not clear the extent to which that performance is a false representation and the extent to which it is a genuine exploration of her feelings for him. Mare does identify with Cal because he, like her, has been given a lot in life that he is not allowed to refuse. Cal is drawn to Mare for this reason and because he is intrigued by the idea that she might be like the mother he never knew.
That night in bed, Mare stares at Julian’s map, eager for the coup that will happen in the morning. The map, which is old and shows a different world, is “proof the world can change.” Mare falls asleep and dreams of Shade, who tells her that she must find the others who are both Red and Silver. She promises that she will.
Like the ancient city, the map represents the fact that the kingdom of Norta has not always been stratified in the way it is now. For Mare, the impulse to restore a more just world order is both a political commitment and a personal commitment to her brother. In fact, these two commitments are almost one and the same, contrasting Maven’s earlier inability to reconcile his commitment to himself with the idea of a greater political commitment.
At four in the morning, Mare walks down the hall to Maven’s room, shutting down the cameras as she goes. Together, they go to the place by the tunnel where they have agreed to meet Farley. Mare’s legs shake with nerves. Farley gives her an earring from Kilorn. Mare pierces her ear with the earring, letting it draw blood. The earring reminds her of Kilorn before he was a warrior, and the blood reminds Mare who she is.
Mare is working with a group of Revolutionary Reds as well as with Maven, but she nonetheless worries that the violence and manipulation in which she is about to engage will be a betrayal of who she is. She relies on the earring and on her own blood to ground her and help her remember that she is fighting for Red lives.
Mare and the others watch from their place at the tunnel entrance as the last section of the Bridge, which connects the royal part of Archeon to the rest of the city, explodes. Mare feels heat surge not from the explosion but from Maven. Mare watches the soldiers she hopes to win over as they swarm out to the square. Maven points out Cal, dressed in nightclothes but looking every bit the general.
Maven seems to be excited by the explosion. This excitement might be because of the political change that is about to happen, or because Maven is nervous about the plan, but it also could demonstrate a genuine love of destruction. Cal’s appearance in his pajamas shows both his vulnerability and his inability to stop being a leader at any time.
Knowing that she is the one who must persuade Cal to the side of the Scarlet Guard, Mare calls out to him. She tries to think of him not as the general or the prince, but as the boy. She tells him that if he comes around to the Guard’s side, the single explosion could be the entire cost of revolution. “You hold the power right now,” she tells him. She implores him to use his control of the soldiers to make his father do what Cal knows is right.
Mare is engaging in manipulative tactics, but she draws on every bit of genuine feeling she can muster. This demonstrates that unlike Maven, Mare is not a natural manipulator. She may be a natural diplomat, but she does not excel at lying to get what she wants. Mare’s argument is persuasive because she is truly trying to help Cal make the right decision.
Mare feels that Cal will choose her. She confesses to him that it was her blood in the prison cell the night the prisoners escaped and tells him that if he does not save her, she will be killed. Cal then realizes that Mare has been involved with the Scarlet Guard all along. She tries to explain, but he keeps demanding how many people she has killed and betrayed.
In Mare’s attempt to be forthcoming with Cal and to trust in his good nature and loyalty, she makes him see her as a traitor. Because Mare has had such trouble trusting Cal all along, she has destroyed her own trustworthiness in his eyes.
As Mare and Cal stare at each other, Mare feeling the fire rise behind Cal’s eyes, Maven yells for the Guard to storm out of the drains. Mare is aware that Kilorn is probably being killed by an onslaught of bullets, but she continues to stare at Cal. She asks him how many people he has had killed by enforcing so-called order. Realizing that Cal is not going to choose her, she begins listing her own loved ones who the Silvers have killed.
Because Mare knows the political stakes of her relationship with Cal, she prioritizes her loyalty to him even over her loyalty to Kilorn, who she has always protected. When she realizes that Cal does not feel that she is worth changing political sides, she tries to make him understand how much she has sacrificed in the hope that he will understand why she has betrayed him.
Cal whispers, again, that he wishes things were different. He then lets the Training instructor with the power to mute Silvers’ abilities take hold of Mare. Maven pleads with Cal not to let the Sentinels kill him or Mare. Mare shuts her eyes against the sight of Cal, realizing that she was a fool to hope he would choose his commitment to her.
Cal is not happy to betray Mare, but he feels that his commitment to the crown is greater. This is in large part because Mare and Maven have also betrayed him. However, Cal’s willingness to let Mare and Maven’s gifts be taken away shows that Cal, like his father, is still resorting to disempowering others in order to maintain order.