Mare watches a lightning shield come to life above her, Cal, and the executioners, protecting the crowd from what they are about to do. Mare would ordinarily be able to control the shield, but her abilities are still being held at bay. Cal tells Mare to stay behind him as long as possible and then to try outrunning their adversaries. He tells Mare to let him worry about his own strategy.
Cal uses his military training to his and Mare’s advantage. Although they believe they cannot be in a relationship because they have betrayed one another, they still demonstrate an ability to work as a team to help each other stay alive.
Evangeline tells Mare that tricks can’t save her now. Although Evangeline has seen Mare’s abilities at work, Mare realizes that, “She ignores the truth for something easier to understand.” Cal should be able to make spectacular use of his power over fire, but he soon finds that Maven has bewitched the sand to be flame resistant. Mare watches as Cal uses his gift as creatively as possible to defend himself. Mare cannot help him and must use evasion tactics.
Maven is attempting not only to make Cal and Mare easier to kill, but also to make them look weak to the onlookers so that, by contrast, he and his cronies will appear strong. However, by making it more difficult or impossible for Cal and Mare to use their gifts, Maven forces them to think more creatively and, consequently, less predictably.
When one of her adversaries catches Mare from behind, she summons the strength within herself to physically fight back, digging her fingers into his eyes. Having fought free, Mare sees Evangeline poised over Cal, ready for the kill. Without thinking, Mare charges Evangeline and collides into her. Mare’s body scrapes along Evangeline’s armor and bleeds red for everyone to see, in person and over the broadcast.
Just as Mare used her bare physical strength to slam Maven into the bars of her cell, she realizes that her body itself is stronger than some might expect. This time, when she cuts herself on Evangeline’s armor, it is advantageous for everyone to see her blood. Regardless of Mare’s life or death, the nation now knows that she has Red blood. The moment echoes that in the Feat of August when silver blood spilled in the arena, to everyone’s shock.
Mare and Cal continue trying to fend off the Silvers. Cal does remarkably well until a nymph attacks him with water. Mare allows herself to be cornered by one of her executioners, attempting to use her fear to summon her lightning. Nothing happens. She sees Cal caught in an orb of boiling water. He is going to drown. Deciding to embrace the labels of “liar” and “trickster,” Mare ducks to the ground just as her opponent charges at her, leaving the man who his stifling her abilities exposed behind her. The plan works: the man is killed, and Mare can wield lightning again.
Mare is drawing on Julian’s lessons, in which she learned that she draws power from acceptance of death. Mare has long been resistant to the identities that have been foisted upon her since she got to the capital. However, just as she allowed Julian to call her “little lightning girl” because he seemed to say it to empower her, Mare realizes that she might use her labels to her advantage.
Maven screams for Mare to be killed, but the crowd has already seen her red blood and her lightning. She takes control of the shield to protect herself. Remembering how Julian described her and the other genetically mutated individuals as “Silver and Red, and stronger than both,” Mare begins to kill the executioners, one by one. The nymph almost bests her, but the promise of winning has made her so afraid to lose that she summons the strength to electrocute him through his water.
Whereas Mare has previously felt trapped because of her position between Red and Silver, she now feels free to be unapologetically both. By rejecting the rubric that states that Red and Silver are mutually exclusive, Mare manages to become more powerful than she would be as one or the other. Her drive to survive comes directly out of this strength.
Only Mare, Cal, Evangeline, and Evangeline’s brother remain alive in the arena. Cal refuses to kill anyone. Mare realizes that the arena has emptied out. Only Maven remains above, ordering Sentinels onto the field. Mare is angry, feeling that she and Cal have won the battle but are being denied victory. She refuses to cry in her last moment, though. She apologizes to Cal, grabs his hand, and looks up at the gathering storm, thinking of all the people she loves. She resigns herself to death.
Cal’s refusal to kill demonstrates that unlike Maven, he kills only when he absolutely must and when it seems that it will bring about a positive outcome. Mare has been determined to fight, but Cal’s militaristic resignation to defeat actually seems braver and more powerful in this instance.
Suddenly, Cal throws himself and Mare back from a huge bolt of lightning. Mare realizes that the storm is of her own making. She feels it sapping her energy because it is too large. She needs another bolt of lightning to allow her and Cal to escape, but she cannot summon it. Maven watches happily as gunmen close around Cal and Mare, and gunshots begin ringing out. Mare, however, does not feel anything. In fact, the gunmen begin falling. Mare looks down and sees a line of guns shooting, seemingly of their own accord, at the gunmen. Someone grabs Mare and pulls her down into water in a chasm below.
Deliberately resigning herself to death gives Mare an extra boost of power. In fact, it gives her so much power that she loses control of it. Whereas much power throughout the novel has been won through the degradation of others, in this instance, it becomes possible to gain power by admitting one’s own helplessness. The guns seem to be bolts of electricity originating from Mare, protecting her and Cal from certain death.