Verne writes to the families of her mother’s victims expressing her sorrow at their loss hoping to gain their support. She finishes each letter with her seal and has Drayk deliver them.
Later, she trains under the sea with the unit. We learn that Berenice, Verne’s cousin, can move water and Chase can go invisible. Hero and Verne are still ungifted so they train together. Verne confronts Hero about telling her mother the she did not support the execution. He explains that it was not him.
Drayk summons Verne to meet her mother. Tension is building between Verne and her immortal but it is evident he will not act as it is not the Tibutan way.
Verne’s family is gathered in the Chamber of Petitions with an unknown woman called Adelpha. Verne’s aunt, Thera Brunt of Bidwell Heights, reveals that the woman is the queen’s first child who was fathered by a consort some years before Verne was born. The queen ordered the child put to death but Thera raised her in Bidwell Heights just in case the queen did not produce a suitably gifted heir. Thera threatens the queen, forcing her to acknowledge Adelpha as a true Golding with a strong gift.
Verne sees Chase running from the Chamber of Petitions and runs after him but he gets away. Returning to her room, she realises she once saw Adelpha being mistreated as a child in Bidwell Heights. She is sympathetic towards Adelpha and tries to speak to her but her new sister is cold, revealing that she intends to take the throne for herself.
Verne sends Harryet to the high priestess with a message saying that she accepts her proposal to help her overthrow her mother. Harryet returns, having been tested by the rebels. Verne has Chase sent to her and discovers it was he who betrayed them to her mother. She wins him over and puts him to work as her own spy.
There is a ball to welcome Adelpha. Adelpha tries to demonstrate that she is a Talent but the queen blocks her gift, humiliating her, thus proving Verne’s assumption that their mother has no intention of making either of them queen. Ried, the red priestess, shows up and acts as a conduit between Verne and the high priestess, transforming into the older woman so they can speak. Verne agrees that she must leave the palace as soon as she has won Petra. Ried hides in the palace kitchen pretending to be an attendant so Verne can communicate with the high priestess at any time.
Verne and Drayk kiss for the first time. She is summoned to her mother’s war room and is told that either she or Adelpha will be married to Slay Satah, Prince of Whyte, in exchange for soldiers to squash the rebel uprising. Verne is angry because this means betraying their long-term ally, King Jace of Caspius and his wife, Verne’s aunt. The queen reveals that she has aspirations to take all of Longfield and intends to conduct a “cleansing” of Tibuta, destroying all dissidents. Verne is furious that her mother will invite outsiders into Tibuta to kill their people.
Her mother reveals that she has one of the notes Verne sent to the victims from the riot and threatens to kill her.