Mal and Alina are brought back to the Darkling’s encampment. Alina tries to reason with Ivan and get him to turn against the Darkling’s plan. She’s shocked to learn that Ivan and many of the other Grisha are fully in support of the Darkling’s plan to overthrow Ravka. The Darkling elects to keep Mal alive until they reach the Shadow Fold and the group sets off to the south, Alina once again riding with Ivan in the Darkling’s carriage. Alina is otherwise kept in isolation throughout the journey. She’s riddled with shame for having fallen into the Darkling’s trap and dreams about the stag every night.  

Alina only sees the Darkling again when they reach Kribirsk, where he threatens to have Mal killed if she reveals that she ran away to any of the other Grisha. Surprised that the Darkling hadn’t let anyone find out about her flight from the Little Palace, Alina comes to understand it was because the Darkling wanted to save face about having lost the Sun Summoner. Alina keeps her escape a secret from the other Grisha when they come to meet her at the coach.  

Alina is guided to a heavily guarded tent. Much to her surprise, Genya delivers her dinner. Genya understands there’s more to the Darkling’s story, but she doesn’t ask Alina for the truth of what happened. Genya tells her that Baghra has been missing since the party and that the King has suddenly fallen ill. The Apparat is now in control of Ravka, and Alina realizes that the Apparat has been working with the Darkling all along. In the course of their conversation, she also comes to understand that Genya must have played a role in the Darkling’s plan and that she believes what the Darkling is doing is right. 

Ivan takes Alina to the Darkling’s tent. The Darkling tries to drag Alina into a conversation about his plan. The conversation is heated. The Darkling tries to manipulate her yet again. Alina asks him what she can do to ensure Mal’s safety, suggesting that the Darkling send him into exile. The two argue about the welfare of Ravka, and the Darkling tries to convince her that what he’s doing is for the best. He tells her that she’s making him the villain. Defiantly, she tells him that she’ll find a way to end her life if Mal comes to harm. The Darkling orders Ivan to take Alina to Mal’s prison cell so that she can spend the night with him before he has Mal fed to the volcra. Alina flies into a rage but the Darkling tells her that she’ll grow tired of hating him eventually.  

Ivan takes Alina to the jail. He leaves Alina alone with Mal, who reaches for her through the bars. Mal quickly realizes that the only reason the Darkling would let Alina visit him is because his execution is imminent. Alina confirms this and tells him that the Darkling plans to kill him on the Shadow Fold. The two speak of their regrets and kiss. They spend the night talking and fall asleep cheek to cheek on the prison floor.  


Despite the control he has over her, the Darkling is determined to gain Alina’s allegiance in a move to control her even further. In Alina’s final private conversation with the Darkling, he tries to convince her that he is doing the right thing by taking over Ravka. The Darkling deploys familiar tactics of manipulation by turning her words and feelings against her to make it seem like Alina is unreasonable for standing against him. But Alina is prepared for this conversation in a way that she never was before, in no small part because of Baghra’s warnings in Chapter 15. When the Darkling’s justifications don’t work, he grows frustrated and moves to gaslighting. He uses one of the most powerful lines in the book, “Fine…Make me your villain,” to suggest that it is somehow Alina’s fault that he is acting the way that he is while also trying to undercut her judgement of him. His final rhetorical move before the conversation boils over is to blame her for the strife between them because she betrayed him. All these arguments are an effort on the Darkling’s part to destabilize her and shake her conviction. When they don’t work, however, he resorts to punishing her by telling her that he plans to have Mal executed. 

The Darkling’s efforts to hide Alina’s rebellion from the other Grisha illustrates how much of a threat she is to his position. While the Darkling has overseen the Grisha in one form or another for centuries, that he is so careful with the narrative that surrounds Alina’s disappearance after the fete indicates that he understands how she can undermine his authority over the Grisha. The Darkling’s drive to keep up appearances by saying that she has been sequestered in preparation for returning to the Fold is a measure to cover up her dissent and stop it spreading to the other Grisha. He orders her not to say anything about having run away because he knows that she is a sympathetic figure to some of the Grisha and her resistance to his plan could cause a rift in the Grisha population. This harkens back to the Apparat’s statement that Alina is “dangerous” in Chapter 11. It is also why the Darkling has Ivan disguise Alina when taking her to visit Mal as it reduces the chances of one of the Grisha piecing together a story that is different than the one he wants them to believe.  

When Genya arrives in Alina’s tent, the true extent of the Darkling’s power is revealed. Alina is alarmed at how many Grisha are aligned to the Darkling’s power. Alina is at first relieved to see her friend and then disturbed by the realization that Genya is at least somewhat in support of the Darkling’s actions. That David was the Fabrikator who created the amplifier and put it around her neck felt like a betrayal but that Genya is in support of the Darkling’s plan to overthrow the King hits Alina much harder.  

The Darkling’s pride is what dooms Mal to be thrown to the volcra, but it also contributes to his own undoing. When Alina offers the Darkling a deal, that she’ll do anything he asks if he spares Mal, he refuses and forever cements her as his enemy. His refusal to show Mal mercy is a direct result of his inability to accept that Alina could want to be with Mal instead of him. He says as much when they arrive Kribirsk, asking Alina what kind of life she believes that she can have with Mal in the same breath that he argues they are one in the same, he and Alina. Alina choosing Mal over the Darkling is an assault on his pride and he tries every tactic available to him to convince her that being with Mal is a bad idea. He tries to kiss her, to reason with her, to use his power to draw her to him, but is met with her hatred and it infuriates him to the point that he orders Mal executed so that the other man will no longer be a factor in his possession of Alina. But, had he spared Mal, Alina likely would have kept her word and done what the Darkling says. That the Darkling’s pride couldn’t accept that kind of compromise is what leads to his downfall.