Mare and Cal sit in dark cells back to back, both contemplating Maven’s betrayal and the depth of their former trust in him. Cal talks about the great traitors who have been imprisoned in this cell before. He realizes he will now be counted among them. Cal tells Mare that he was almost a traitor: he almost chose her this morning.
By acting with as much integrity as he could muster, Cal has landed himself in history amongst the traitors. He thus learns that blind loyalty to the crown is not always recognized as loyalty at all.
Cal and Mare speculate as to how the king (Maven) will have them executed. Cal is not sure what the method will be, but he is sure that it will hurt and that it will be slow. Mare hopes that she will bleed so the world can see that she is a Red. Cal does not think that will change anything—Maven and Elara will simply explain it with another lie.
Cal and Mare are resigned to death. The only power Mare has left is the fact of her Red blood. That which once disempowered her has become her only hope at changing the world: her blood does not, in fact, damn her.
Mare tells Cal that there are more like her, and that she foolishly gave the list to Maven. She laments that Maven used her. Cal looks at Mare through the bars and demands, angrily, how it feels to be used. Mare reflects that she was stupid for thinking she was using both Cal and Maven. She apologizes to Cal, telling him that she never wanted to hurt him. “It wasn’t all a lie,” she says quietly.
Mare realizes now that she entrusted the list of names with the wrong brother. Had she entrusted it with Cal earlier, they might have avoided their mutual betrayal. It is difficult for Mare to confess her feelings to Cal, but in the interest of repairing trust, she does so. It is unclear whether she is talking to Cal or herself.
Cal lets his head thud against the bars but does not seem to notice the pain. Mare asks if Cal thinks Maven will kill her parents. She is glad that Shade is dead, because Maven will not be able to hurt him. Mare knows that Cal is lying to her out of human sympathy when he says that Maven has more important things to think about. Cal is quiet while Mare cries about everyone she has endangered. She is glad that she has her earrings with her until the end.
Cal’s lack of feeling seems to stem from the desperation of his situation. Nothing could be much worse than where he is, or so it seems. Still, Mare and Cal make the best of their situation by finding ways to behave compassionately to one another. This is one of the first times since Mare’s first conversation with Cal that she has felt she could speak candidly about her relationships.
After a while, Maven appears outside the bars. He has taken Tiberias’s medals and “stands with the air of a terrible king.” Mare notices that he looks better rested now that he has participated in the murder of his father. Cal asks Maven if he will be Cal’s opponent in the arena for his execution. Maven admits that he could never best Cal in terms of ability, but he revels in the fact that he has out-schemed Cal, finally managing to step out of his older brother’s shadow.
Whereas Mare and Cal thrive on compassion, Maven thrives on power and murder. He is also excited to gloat that he has taken Cal’s advice: outsmarting his opponents. However, for Maven, the ultimate victory is not the simple survival Cal wanted to help him achieve. Rather, victory is the domination and destruction of all his opponents.
Maven accuses Cal of taking “everything” from him, including Mare. Mare stands to tell Maven that, “I was never yours, and you were never mine, Maven.” She tells him that she once thought he was better than Cal. Mare realizes that Maven never thought he would hear those words. However, she also knows that the boy she thought she knew does not exist.
Mare now understands that Maven does not care about her as a person, only as a thing. Whereas in the past she has been validated by the feeling that Maven, Cal, and Kilorn are all attracted to her, she now feels empowered to reject the notion that her importance depends on any of these boys.
Maven grabs Mare and pleads with her to let him save her. She accuses him of betraying a father and brother who loved him. Mare says that she is about to die because she loved Maven. Maven insists that he is king, and that Mare will live or die according to his wishes. Mare calls Maven a liar, uses her sheer physical strength to ram him into the bars of her cell, and tells him that she will never make the mistake of loving him again. Maven demands to know whether Mare has chosen Cal. She realizes that the entire tragedy is over jealous sibling rivalry.
Mare’s understanding of sibling rivalry as the basis of everything that has happened does not reduce the scale of the events. Rather, it underscores the importance of familial relationships, the stakes of excessive strain upon these relationships, and the fact that Mare herself has come very near to playing Maven’s role in her own family. Naming the problem for what it is helps Mare understand that a family ought to be a support network in the political resistance.
Mare explains to Maven that because she, Cal, and Maven have all betrayed one another in countless ways, she chooses no one. Maven stumbles back, and Mare feels powerful for once. She asks Maven how he will explain her Red blood to the kingdom. He insists that the truth is what he makes of it. He will kill anyone who questions his story. Some, including Mare’s maids, have already been killed. Lucas is next: Maven lied when he told Mare that Lucas was safe. Maven promises that Mare will witness his execution. She will not be able to witness Julian’s execution, though, because it has already taken place.
Mare foregrounds trust as foundational to a relationship. Maven senses that the feeling of betrayal is Mare’s weak point, so he lashes back at her by promising to spread lies and to kill those who Mare might trust to tell the truth. In this way, Mare realizes that the depth of Maven’s betrayal is even greater than she previously thought. Telling Mare that Julian has already been executed reinforces Mare’s feelings of loneliness.
Maven promises to make Mare watch the execution of every person on the list of those who are both Red and Silver. “I am the king and you could’ve been my Red queen,” Maven says. “Now you are nothing.” Mare says goodbye to Maven and spits in his eye. Mare and Cal settle back down in silence, reflecting on the tragedy that has unfolded.
Maven fails to understand that Mare has stopped seeing herself as defined entirely in relation to him. He also feels the need to build his own power by making her feel powerless. By spitting in Maven’s eye, Mare refuses to allow Maven to gain that power.
Sentinels fetch Mare and Cal from the cells, bringing them up to the arena where they will be executed. Mare knows that it is difficult for Cal to have his own men believe that he has killed his father. Arena attendants dress Mare in rags. This is more pageantry for the crowd, Mare understands. “A Red girl in rags,” she reflects, “is easier for them to understand, and to kill.” When Mare emerges, she sees that Cal, too, has been dressed in rags. However, they are told that Cal will be allowed use of his power over fire in order to die with glory. Mare will be allowed nothing. She realizes that they are going to pretend that her powers were somehow faked all along.
Even as they walk to their executions, the Silver prince retains privilege over the Red commoner. Mare realizes that pageantry does not always have to be flashy: in fact, the Reds’ dingy lives function as a kind of pageantry, aesthetically reminding everyone of the Reds’ place in the political hierarchy. Although she is still ranked below Cal at the moment of their execution, Mare sympathizes with him because she understands what it is like to have everyone believe a false and damning story.
Despite all the betrayal between them, Cal promises to protect Mare as long as he can. They walk up to the arena entrance, and Mare sees that Lucas, too, is waiting to die. Mare tries to apologize to him for using him. Lucas tells her to stop, because he does not believe that she is sincere. Mare realizes that she would use Lucas again to help her friends.
Mare truly does wish that she did not hurt Lucas, but her conversation with him makes her realize that sometimes, she can accept betraying people if it means that she is acting in the interest of the greater good.
Mare hears Maven enter the arena and address the crowd. He sounds like a monster. He promises that he is not weak, and that he will punish those responsible for his father’s death. Mare and Cal follow Lucas into the arena. The crowd, entirely composed of Silvers, is jeering. This is entertainment to them. Video screens show that the event is being broadcast. The screens flicker and begin playing back footage of Mare and Cal dancing, kissing, and talking privately. Maven makes it seem as though Mare and Cal plotted the murder and the terrorist attacks. He sentences them both to death.
Mare is not surprised that she is going to die as the plaything of Silvers. This death is even an aggrandizing one for a Red girl. For Cal, though, it must be shockingly debasing. The video screens do not show anything that did not happen between Mare and Cal, making it clear that actual events might be rearranged and reinterpreted to serve many versions of the truth. In this case, the truth has been manipulated to empower Maven and make Mare and Cal look deserving of death.
Mare and Cal face their five executioners. Mare knows all their abilities. Among them are Evangeline and her brother, staring them down. Mare realizes she has very little time left alive. “Let them die,” Maven says from above.
Mare, not allowed to use her powers, stands almost no chance against five Silvers. Mare’s earlier fight against Evangeline ended with Mare bleeding. It seems that Mare might get her wish of having her Red blood exposed to the world.