Alina sobs once she’s safe in her room. She rubs the scar on her palm and whispers “come back,” but she knows Mal won’t. After a while, Alina realizes someone is at the door. She opens it to find not the Darkling, but Baghra. Baghra looks frightened, and she snaps for Alina to come with her. Silently, Baghra drags Alina into a servant’s staircase and then into an empty room. Locking the door and shoving clothes at Alina, Baghra tells Alina to get dressed. Alina must leave tonight, or she’ll be enslaved. Alina listens, perplexed, as Baghra says the Darkling plans to use Morozova’s stag so he can use the Fold as a weapon and expand it. He’ll push it into Fjerda and Shu Han if people don’t submit to him. It’s clear to Alina that Baghra is unwell.
That Alina rubs the scar while asking Mal to return reinforces that the scar is somehow connected to him, but the novel will return to this later. Things get suddenly mysterious when Baghra arrives in such a frenzy. Alina is less willing to listen to Baghra right now because she’s still spinning after her passionate kiss with the Darkling earlier—and keep in mind that she also believes that the Darkling has been telling her the truth. Now, though, it seems questionable whether the Darkling has been telling the truth—and likely that Baghra might be right, given how the Darkling has already wielded his power over Alina.
Almost howling now, Baghra says the Darkling has no intention of destroying the Fold. In fact, he created it—the Darkling is the Black Heretic. Alina turns to go fetch Baghra a Healer, but Baghra conjures darkness in her palms. She is the Darkling’s mother. Alina is shocked; did the Darkling lie when he said he didn’t know what Baghra’s power was? But Baghra says the Darkling has faked his death many times, waiting for someone like Alina. He’ll be unstoppable with her. Baghra says the Fold itself wasn’t a mistake, but the volcra were: they used to be the people who lived in the fertile land the Fold destroyed. The volcra, Baghra says, are all that stop the Darkling from weaponizing the Fold. Once Alina subdues them with sunlight, the Darkling can enter the Fold and expand it.
It sure seems like the Darkling has been lying to Alina, particularly once Baghra reveals that she’s his mother and has been watching him abuse his power for centuries. This revelation also highlights that what makes the Darkling a bad guy is his greed. In addition to greedily destroying fertile land and creating the Fold, if Baghra is to be believed, the Darkling wants to also possess Alina and use her power for his own gain—something that suggests he doesn’t see her as a person in her own right. Rather, she’s just a tool.
Alina continues to argue, repeating what the Darkling told her about wanting to reunite Ravka. But Baghra snarls that the Darkling has had centuries to practice lying to lonely and naïve girls. She points out that if Ravka is reunited, the Second Army and Grisha won’t be important anymore. The Darkling will just serve the King. But if he controls the Fold, he’s the one in charge. Then, Baghra explains that the Darkling will force Alina to help him by slaying Morozova’s stag himself. Putting the antlers around Alina’s neck will bind her to him forever. She’ll be powerful, but he will control her power.
Baghra implies that Alina has been an easy target for the Darkling. It’s not Alina’s fault, but wanting so badly to fit in has made Alina vulnerable to his attentions. She also adds more nuance to how amplifiers work. By using an amplifier to imprison Alina, the Darkling can get around the rule forbidding Grisha from having multiple amplifiers. Finally, Baghra makes it clear that reuniting Ravka is a nice idea in theory, but it’s not politically useful for the Darkling to pursue it. In other words, the Darkling cares about getting power for himself, not actually helping Ravkans.
It’s Baghra’s pity that convinces Alina. The Darkling clearly lied to her and deliberately kept her waiting for kisses and attention to distract her from his true motives. He surely knows that Alina wanted nothing more than to be wanted, and it seems obvious now that he wouldn’t let Grisha fall out of power. Thinking of Alexei and the volcra, Alina asks Baghra what to do.
Finally, Alina realizes that the Darkling has been using the promise of romance and attention to distract her from asking questions that might have let her on to what he’s actually planning. And Alina does want to do what’s right and save the world—so her only option, it seems, is to trust Baghra.