Alina thinks of Genya. Genya has spent years living uncomfortably in between the Grisha and the court. The Darkling put her there and then raised her out of it. Genya doesn’t seem to have regrets, but David does—and maybe there are more people like David. Ivan appears, interrupting Alina’s thoughts, and says the Darkling wants to see her. In the Darkling’s tent, Alina sits across from him and asks him why he even wants her to talk, since he won’t listen anyway. The Darkling brings up Mal, and Alina knows the Darkling will use Mal to gain power over her. But knowing that the Darkling is greedy, Alina notes that Mal is the best tracker he’ll ever have—so he shouldn’t kill Mal.
Alina’s only hope at this point is that other Grisha might, like David, take issue with the Darkling having total power over everything. However, she also realizes how power imbalances and the King’s ineffectiveness have created a situation where many, like Genya and Ivan, see the Darkling as their only option. Alina shows just how much she’s learned when she realizes she knows the Darkling will try to use Mal to manipulate her. Hopefully, knowing this, Alina might be able to gain some power herself.
Amused, the Darkling observes that he’s given Alina so much power, but she thinks she can run off and “keep house for [her] tracker.” Alina points out that she’s enslaved, not powerful, but the Darkling maintains that he’s fighting for Ravka’s future. The Darkling sounds almost reasonable as he says this, but Alina insists that he lied to her and isn’t being fair. Laughing, the Darkling says someone has to help the people, and the King won’t do it. But Alina shakes her head, so the Darkling calls her to him. He touches Morozova’s collar and then Alina’s neck, which is uncomfortable but also thrills her. He accuses Alina of betraying him, says he knows she’s not sorry, and tells her to beg for Mal’s life.
Notice that when Alina points out that she’s enslaved, the Darkling doesn’t contradict her—he seems to hope that she’ll just believe him, like she did before Baghra helped her flee. And speaking to the Darkling about his plan, Alina has to admit that the Darkling makes a compelling case for weaponizing the Fold—as he notes, the King isn’t going to help the people. The Darkling’s methods might be questionable, but he’s doing something. Alina continues to experience conflicted feelings about physical contact with the Darkling, but she now realizes that the certainty she feels when he touches her is one way that he manipulates her.
Desperately, Alina says that she’ll try to kill herself if the Darkling doesn’t show Mal mercy. The Darkling kisses Alina and she lets him—she hates the kiss and the Darkling, but his power still tugs at her. Pulling away and calling for Ivan, the Darkling says that Alina can go say goodbye to Mal. Tomorrow, he’ll feed Mal to the volcra in the Shadow Fold. Alina fights wildly, but the Darkling says she’ll be fighting for a long time.
When Alina allows the Darkling to kiss her despite not liking it, she attempts to gain some power for herself by giving him what he wants. However, this backfires when the Darkling announces that he's going to kill Mal tomorrow.
Ivan pulls Alina out of the tent, hisses for her to stop crying, and gives her a cloak to wear over her kefta. As they walk through the camp, Alina senses tension in the air—people are openly hostile to Ivan. They reach the jail and the guard allows Ivan and Alina to enter. At the bottom of rickety stairs, Mal is in a cell. Ivan says Alina has the night and leaves them. Alina tells Mal what’s going to happen, but he just says, “all right.” She teases him for this and then tries to explain what the Darkling inferred in the glade. But Mal cuts her off, insisting he loves all of her—even the parts of her that loved the Darkling. They kiss through the bars and spend hours reminiscing about their childhood.
The implication is that non-Grisha people are hostile to Ivan, which reminds readers that most laypeople in Ravka don’t like or trust Grisha. This doesn’t bode well for the Darkling’s plan—he’ll be taking control of a populace that emphatically doesn’t want him or trust him. When Alina and Mal spend their night talking about their childhoods, it reminds readers that that was pretty much the only truly happy time they had together. It's also bittersweet, because it seems unlikely at this point that they’ll ever experience that kind of happiness again.
Alina tells Mal about how, one day when she was 15, she’d been mending a cup in the kitchen and was waiting for Mal to get back from a hunting trip. Mal had run to her when he got close and then lifted Alina up and spun her around. Alina had held Mal close, her heart pounding and a shard of the cup cutting into her clenched hand. Everything changed that day, and the cut has never stopped hurting. Mal kisses the scar, and they fall asleep together. Alina dreams of the stag in the glade—but this time, when the stag dies, it’s Mal’s blood that spills. In the morning, Ivan comes to lead Alina away.
Finally, Alina reveals how she got her scar and what it symbolizes to her: her love for Mal, and how painful that love has been for years. That Alina dreams of Mal’s blood spilling in the glade suggests that she blames herself for Mal’s impending death, again because she didn’t kill the stag herself. In this way, she continues to interpret her choice as weakness rather than as kindness.