Verne’s forces are trapped inside the temple where they must face the inevitability of their destruction. Drayk has lost one of his best friends in the battle. Petra has lost her chiliarch, Hydra. Maud has lost many of her red priestesses. Hero is dead.
Verne’s mother offers to free them if Verne hands herself in but Verne does not trusts her. Verne goes to Drayk and asks him whether she is making a mistake. She wonders whether she has the madness that made her grandmother kill her two aunts and made her mother try to kill Adelpha. She fears she has inherited a legacy of bloodlust.
The queen’s soldiers blow a hole in the door and fight their way into the temple. Verne is pushed back and drops one of her blades, Eunike. Ried picks it up. Odell enters, firing ice from his fingers. Some of Verne’s soldiers manage to fight him to the ground and cut off his hands. There is fighting on all sides. Verne fights with her twin blades, Eunike and Paideuo.
Demostrate and her rebels return just in time to create a diversion, drawing the queen’s army away from the temple and allowing Verne’s forces to escape. While Maud and Verne keep the enemy at bay, the other’s escape out the back. Maud and Berenice battle fire with water. Then Berenice whispers to the water and pulls it out of the canal, bringing it across the battlefield in a ribbon. She dumps it on Shea’s Fire, destroying the high priestess’s power-source and potentially killing her.
Verne despairs at Maud’s death because she is the only woman who ever believed in her. Drayk explains that she is not dead — but not entirely living either — her atrama, her soul, has simply left her body and escaped. Verne and Drayk run out of the back of the temple down to the water where the rebels are escaping via the inlet, out to sea. Verne turns away, explaining that she has to find her mother.
Verne and Drayk go to kill the queen. As her dream predicted, they are able to sneak into her tent without issue. Verne raises her sword to kill her mother, sees that Prince Satah has subjugated her and feel nothing but pity. At the last minute she can’t do it. She drops her second blade, Paideuo. She is now unarmed.
Adelpha uses her gift to force Verne to her knees. She is about to kill her when the queen interferes. The orca seize the imposters. The queen is about to give orders but the prince cuts her off, telling his men to burn the high priestess’s corpse and destroy every expression of the temple’s power. He leaves having demonstrated his dominance.
Verne’ worries that she was always destined for failure. Her mother criticises her then tells her that Drayk and Maud have been manipulating her all along. Ashaylah reveals that Drayk was once her consort and is Adelpha’s father. She suggests that Drayk does not love her but has been using her in an attempt to gain power.
The queen offers Drayk as a scapegoat, implying that if Verne says he manipulated her then she can go free. Verne refuses, saying “I will take responsibility for my own actions.” Drayk causes a diversion allowing Verne to run. She has his serpent stone so we know the queen can’t kill him otherwise he will regenerate with Verne.
Verne escapes through a post-war wasteland where soldiers rip the heads off the ancient statues of the temple and piss at their feet. While she runs she is tormented by doubts about Drayk: “Did you disguise your thorny heart, your garden of rotting weeds?” She sees visions of her mother and her lover lying together.
She is pursued by five soldiers but one of them reveals herself as Ried, the red priestess. She has been inhabited by Maud’s atrama. She throws Verne her sword, Eunike, and together they fight off the last of the enemy.
Verne joins the masses of people evacuating Tibuta. She speaks to a woman who is also running away who helps her bandage her wounds. Verne admits she is going “anywhere but here”. At the top of the wall she realises that Tibuta is burning but cannot bring herself to care. She contemplates ending her life but decides against it because she realises, “men on the mainland have their stories” and she wants a chance to write her own.
Lighting explodes overhead and the waves seem unnatural, hinting at the tempest’s approach. She realises that is she leaves, Adelpha will probably end up on the throne. This thought does not bother her as she realises Tibuta will get the leader she deserves. She glances up to see her bird, Callirhoe, then dives into the water. The second set of eyelids closes over her eyes and she swims “down into the abyss to new beginnings.”