Alina dreams that she’s in Keramzin, looking for Mal. When she opens a bedroom, there’s blood everywhere—and a volcra with the Darkling’s gray eyes. Alina wakes up and has almost fallen back to sleep again when someone pounds on the door. Dragging herself out of bed, Alina asks who it is. The female voice on the other side snaps that she doesn’t have time for this. Shrugging, Alina opens the door, and the most beautiful redhead Alina has ever seen walks in. She’s wearing a cream kefta. The girl asks if Alina has even bathed, and then she tells servants to get Alina’s clothes off now. Alina refuses to undress and demands to know what’s going on. In a tone one might use with a child, the girl, Genya, explains that Alina is being presented to the King in an hour.
Alina’s dream is ominous—and it suggests that she might not be able to trust the Darkling. But the tension and confusion of meeting Genya and learning she’s going to go meet the King soon distracts Alina from this prospect. That Genya waltzes in and immediately acts like she’s in control highlights that, at the Little Palace (and under the Darkling’s purview), Alina doesn’t have much power to dictate what she does anymore. Now, she serves the Darkling and the King—and she must answer to Genya too.
Alina meekly allows the servants to yank her clothes off and usher her into the massive copper tub in the ensuite bathroom. When they’re finished scrubbing her, they help her out, towel her off, give her a robe, and leave. Then, Genya tells Alina to sit at the dressing table. Genya peruses her box of jars full of leaves, powders, and berries, and then she heals Alina’s bruise. Alina thanks her and begins to get up, but Genya says she’s not done. Seeing Alina’s confusion, Genya explains that she’s a Tailor, not a Healer—she doesn’t make clothes, she works on faces. Alina realizes that this is why Genya’s face is perfect, but she refuses to let Genya change her face. Genya assures Alina that she’ll only freshen her up; she can’t make big changes, anyway.
Because Alina and Genya are in such a hurry to get ready for the King, Alina has no opportunity to enjoy the big tub and a hot bath. This highlights that at the Little Palace, such a bath isn’t a luxury like it was in the army. Genya’s power seems somewhat unique, given that she has to explain what it even is to Alina (and given that Alina and Mal seemed to have a good grasp of what other Grisha can do). Refusing to let Genya do anything is how Alina can assert her agency, now that it seems like she has little control anywhere else.
When Alina continues to argue, Genya says the Darkling sent her because the King loves beauty. Looks are everything here, and Alina should look the part of Ravka’s savior. Sighing, Alina agrees and accepts a mirror from Genya. She watches as Genya makes her blemishes and dark undereye circles disappear, and colors her cheeks and lips with a rose petal. Then, Genya brushes gold leaf through Alina’s hair and curls her locks with a twist of her finger. When she’s done, Alina agrees that it’s nice: she looks like she’s slept. Genya agrees, but she says cryptically that Alina doesn’t want to attract the King’s attention too much.
An unsettling picture starts to emerge of Ravka’s king: he likes women in his court to be beautiful, but Genya also implies that he might be the reason Alina was warned to lock her bedroom door last night. If this is really what Genya is implying, this suggests that the King abuses his power and the women at court suffer for it. However, that Genya warns Alina begins to situate her as a potential friend or ally, since she’s willing to look out for Alina.
Servants rush back in and dress Alina in, to her surprise, a clean army cartographer’s uniform. Genya notices Alina’s expression. She says Alina needs to look like a soldier plucked from the army, not like a kefta-wearing Grisha the Darkling has been hiding. As Genya ushers Alina down the stairs, she tells Alina to only say that Genya helped her dress: the “ridiculous” Queen doesn’t think it’s fair for Genya to work on Grisha. Alina is shocked to hear Genya speak of the Queen in such a treasonous way, but Genya seems unconcerned. The girls enter a huge room filled with Grisha, all of whom are unnervingly beautiful. A Corporalki named Sergei Beznikov and a Summoner named Marie argue about who Alina will walk with. Alina suggests she walk with Genya, which elicits snickers. The Darkling enters and says Alina will walk with him.
There’s clearly a lot of political posturing going on, but Alina has no idea what any of it means. Genya suggests that the royal family is, on the whole, not a family to take seriously and that they perhaps abuse their station. Then, among the Grisha themselves, there’s clearly a distinct hierarchy—and Genya is at the bottom, though the reason for this isn’t yet clear. Alina, meanwhile, needs to not look like a Grisha so that the Darkling can stay in the King’s good graces, suggesting that there may be some tension or mistrust between the King and the Darkling. But when the Darkling seems to get the last word about Alina walking with him, it shows that he is the most powerful of the Grisha.