Scythe Curie writes about the quota system. She wonders if it will ever change. The population is growing still, but the Thunderhead can provide for the increase in people. It does suggest when there needs to be more scythes. Today, scythes glean about five million people per year, which isn't enough to balance the growth. Curie can't fathom how many scythes and gleanings would be required to stop population growth altogether.
Again, Curie's clear distaste for gleaning on a massive scale would, per Faraday's beliefs, make her a good scythe. The fact that she's considering the possibility that scythes will one day need to glean more people, and finds such a thing horrific, leaves open the possibility that she doesn't entirely trust the Thunderhead to make good decisions.
It's pouring rain on the day of the Vernal Conclave, which is held in the MidMerican city of Fulcrum City in a former Capitol Building. Scythe Faraday insists on taking a standard train the day before and at 6:30 in the morning, he leads Citra and Rowan to the Capitol Building. Citra is concerned when she realizes that the High Blade doesn't know that Faraday took two apprentices. Citra notices the public lined up to see the scythes and watches some scythes get out of limos. She and Rowan follow Faraday and ignore the crowd. Inside, she's shocked to see that the scythes' different colored robes look like a rainbow, which she realizes is the point—scythes represent the light, not darkness.
Keep in mind that the scythes and the work they do is the entire reason that humanity is able to exist as it does at this point—scythes are, therefore, the only ones with a purpose and the only ones actually giving back to their community in a meaningful way. Citra's ability to focus on the scythes' rainbow of robes and understand what they mean is indicative of how successful her training has been this far, as she can grasp that scythes are necessary.
In the rotunda, there's an elaborate breakfast spread. Faraday points out several notable scythes to Citra and Rowan, including Scythe Curie, who's known as the Grande Dame of Death. Citra notices a scythe in blue robes studded with diamonds. Faraday doesn't try to hide his distaste when he says that's Scythe Goddard. Both Rowan and Citra have heard of Goddard, which makes Faraday suspicious, but they both say they're not impressed by his mass gleanings. Their attention soon shifts to a large man wearing a gold robe, whom Faraday says is the High Blade Xenocrates of MidMerica. Xenocrates introduces himself to Citra and Rowan, and Citra privately thinks he seems insincere and untrustworthy.
The fact that Citra and Rowan know of Scythe Goddard speaks to the space they inhabit as apprentices: they're not scythes yet, and so they still carry with them the sense of fear and awe for scythes that they had as regular teens. This means that someone like Goddard, who's known for mass gleanings, would be a far more terrifying figure for them than someone like Faraday, who believes that anonymity is essential to doing his job properly.
Rowan tries to hide how nervous he is from Citra. He inserts himself into a conversation between two older teens who expect to get their rings today and are complaining about having to deal with oversight for the first four years of being a scythe. Rowan insists it takes four years to get a college degree and laughs when they insult him. Citra insults the almost-scythes in return. Faraday steps in, reminds the young scythes that they can't demand respect yet, and sends them away. He tells Citra and Rowan that the girl will get her ring, but the boy won't as he angers too easily.
Faraday's ability to shed light on who will become a scythe and who won't allows Rowan and Citra to see him as even more knowledgeable and trustworthy than they already thought he was. This interaction begins to show that one of the most important aspects of being a scythe's apprentice is forming a trusting relationship with one's mentor and learning to become a part of the Scythedom community.
The doors open to admit the scythes to the huge chamber. Once everyone is seated, the scythes stand to each recite ten names of people they gleaned. Citra is bored quickly. Then, the scythes ceremonially wash their hands, which continues to bore Citra, but the disciplining that takes place after that holds her interest. Xenocrates reprimands several scythes for gleaning too many rich people or people with too much Spanic in their ratios. Xenocrates also reads an anonymous note accusing Goddard of unnecessary cruelty in his gleaning. Nobody owns up to the accusation and Xenocrates moves on. Faraday whispers to Citra and Rowan that Goddard likely accused himself so that nobody will go after him.
Keep in mind that it seems to be common knowledge for scythes and the general public alike that Goddard conducts bloody mass gleanings. It's telling, then, that even if Goddard put the accusation forward himself, Xenocrates doesn't push the issue. Xenocrates is, in theory at least, the most powerful person in this room and should take such accusations seriously in order to do his job properly. This suggests that he might be sympathetic to Goddard for some reason.
Rowan pays attention to more of what goes on outside the assembly room during mealtimes. He believes that the most important business happens there as he overhears scythes making side deals, pushing agendas, and building alliances. Faraday doesn't join in on any of this. Rowan watches Goddard the most and has the distinct feeling that Goddard is aware of Rowan's gaze.
Goddard would want to be aware of any new apprentices, as he likely sees them as more vulnerable to his celebrity and advances than older, established scythes like Faraday and Curie.
Lunch is a lavish buffet and uncharacteristically, Faraday fills his plate. Curie approaches Rowan and Citra and tells them that for scythes who take their vows seriously, conclave is the only time they get to eat nice food. Citra tries to ask Curie about when the apprentices will be tested, but Curie brushes her off. As the afternoon wears on, Citra wonders what she'll miss during her test. She watches with interest as salespeople peddle new poisons and weapons. One woman sells "The Touch of Quietude," which makes a scythe's touch deadly. The Weaponsmaster tests it by using it to glean the saleswoman.
The Weaponsmaster's gleaning continues to show Citra and Rowan that even if politics don't exist in the outside world, politics and alliances are still alive and well in the Scythedom. Remember that the Scythedom isn't under the Thunderhead's control; this suggests that political angling is something natural and human that the Thunderhead stopped in the rest of society.
Midway through the afternoon, Faraday speaks up for the first time to advocate for an oversight committee to tackle questions of granting immunity. The matter runs out of time, so Xenocrates announces that they'll deal with it first thing at the next conclave. Faraday quietly deems this interesting. Then, Xenocrates announces that it's time to deal with the apprentices. Three of the four candidates for the Scythedom receive their rings from Scythe Mandela and choose their Patron Historics, while the rejected boy strides out of the room. Xenocrates calls forward the rest of the apprentices.
It becomes clear here that Faraday is watching closely for everything Xenocrates allows to pass and everything he doesn't. This suggests that not even Faraday finds Xenocrates especially trustworthy, something that validates Citra's first impressions of him and, given how much Citra and Rowan trust Faraday, will likely color their impressions of Xenocrates going forward.