Mare feels betrayed by the sight of Cal, who now looks “every inch a future king, Silver to the bone.” As Mare seethes, the king calls for Queenstrial to begin. A man named Lord Provos uses his telky powers to move the entire structure of the Spiral Garden until the center is a deep cylinder open to the sky, all the lords elevated high above it to look down upon whatever sinister spectacle is to take place below. A shield of electricity forms between the onlookers and the arena below.
Mare is upset because she has accepted charity from Cal, which disrupts her vision of the royal family as an unjust enemy to blame for all of her woes. She has also poured out all her troubles to him, and he has hidden from her the most basic aspect of his identity. True to his Silver upbringing, he has hoarded intimacy and given her nothing in return. Even when it comes to the Feats and the arenas, the Silvers save the more entertaining and spectacular events for themselves.
Mare wonders what could possibly appear below that would require such a shield. A tiny girl runs out, stares at Cal, and then knocks the head off a statue with one slap. House Rhambos, her family, shouts, “Strongarm,” and the girl whirls around, wreaking destruction in the arena. Mare thinks, “So this is a pageant.”
In the wake of Cal’s betrayal, the tiny girl’s extreme strength underscores to Mare the risk of trusting people to be as they appear. There is an ironic tension between Mare’s pessimistic mistrust of appearances and the central tenet of equality: Reds and Silvers do not possess unequal claims to humanity simply because of the color of their blood.
As Mare watches Silver noble after Silver noble—a greeny who grows plants instantly, a nymph who shoots water, an oblivion who explodes everything she touches, and more—showcase their talents with the hope of winning the prince’s hand, Mare realizes that the Silvers have been doing this for hundreds of years. They are stronger than she ever feared.
The pageant is having the effect on Mare that the Feats are supposed to have. She watches the events below and feels that to rebel against the Silvers would be a hopeless and suicidal act. The fact that the pageant parallels the Feats suggests that the pageant may not be intended to empower the Silver audience so much as placate them into reverence for a king who has the power to make fiercely powerful people do his bidding.
Finally, a noble girl named Evangeline, of House Samos, enters the arena. She appears to be a favorite to win even though she does not look very impressive. Mare realizes that she is witnessing “A hierarchy within the hierarchy,” and that the Queenstrial is meant to show the Silver subjects their place: the king can handpick anyone he wants to win the tournament.
Mare, as the narrator, explicitly states the parallels between the pageant and the Feats, observing that even among the high-ranking Silver nobles, some are ranked higher than othesr. All of them are subject to the king, and the entire event is an affirmation of the king’s power over all.
As Evangeline demonstrates her power as a magnetron who can control metal, she brings metal pipes up through the floor of the arena and then makes the entire box tip toward the center. Plates and glasses fall over the rail onto the lightning shield. Suddenly, something crashes into Mare and sends her, too, over the rail. She is sure she is about to be killed upon contact with the shield, but she only sees sparks. She feels them too, but they do not feel bad. Even as Mare’s clothes burn away, the shield seems unable to harm her. It begins to splinter and give off black smoke. Finally, she falls through.
Mare is the only human who falls over the rail along with the table settings. This reinforces the idea that in the Silvers’ space, Mare is nothing but an object meant to serve them. It is only at the moment of her near-death that she becomes a spectacle that the Silvers notice. Whether she lives or dies, she will still serve as their entertainment. The fact that Mare is convinced she will die but cannot be harmed by the shield demonstrates that in more ways than one, Mare is more powerful than she thinks.
Evangeline, scared, sends “a flurry of metal shards” toward Mare. Without knowing what she is doing, Mare shoots back lightning and makes the shards fall to the ground. Everyone, including Evangeline and Cal, stares at Mare, agape.
This is the first time Mare sees a Silver who is scared of her. Evangeline is not just any Silver, either: objectively, she is a dangerous opponent, and Mare has managed to intimidate her. This shift in power takes everyone aback.
The king yells for the sentinels to seize Mare. Her years of experience as a thief tell her that now is the time to run. She finds an antechamber into the palace hall, but there are cameras all over the walls that thwart her slipping away into a hiding place. She keeps running from the sentinels. As she stares out a window of diamondglass at the inaccessible forest beyond, she feels a blast of heat from behind. “Strong arms” capture her. She tries to use her newfound powers to shock her captor, but nothing happens. Flames and smoke press in on her. Just before she passes out, she hears Cal’s voice say, “I’m sorry.”
Again, the presence of cameras all over hints at the power of tyrannical leaders to abuse technology, using it against their own citizens. The cameras are also in the palace, suggesting that the king turns surveillance on Silvers at least as much as Reds: the Silvers are not the free and powerful subjects they might think they are. Still, the fact that Cal captures Mare by using his power to wield fire demonstrates that Silvers are still elevated above Reds in the hierarchy of power. When Cal becomes Mare’s captor, he breaks the trust she once had in him.