Antonio spends the summer thinking of the golden carp and Ultima's cure of Lucas. Gabriel starts drinking more and often complains about how his sons have betrayed him, and how their own Márez blood has driven them away. Antonio grows more attached to Ultima, and feels even closer to her than he does to María.
Antonio starts to learn that change is a sad but inevitable part of growing up. Gabriel cannot seem to accept the changes in his own life, as he still laments the fact that it is his own love of freedom that inspired his sons to pursue their own lives apart from the family and not to follow Gabriel's dream.
One night Antonio asks about the three dolls on Ultima's shelf, especially one of them that seems twisted with pain. Ultima won't let Antonio touch them, and she warns him to be careful if he sees Tenorio Trementina. She gives Antonio her scapular necklace with protective herbs in it to keep him safe.
The dolls are a reminder of Ultima's dangerous and sometimes frightening powers, though a moment later she gives up something of herself to protect Antonio. A scapular is usually associated with a religious order, so this is like Ultima giving Antonio her own protective icon.
People come for supplies from Las Pasturas and they stop and reminisce with Gabriel about the old llano, before modern times and the railroad took away their freedom. They are loud and wild, and very different from the people of El Puerto. María does not like anyone from the llano except Ultima and Narciso, both of whom helped her in times of great need.
The llano parallels Antonio's own growth as it loses its old, idealized innocence when influenced by the modern world. Antonio starts to realize that the vaquero life Gabriel idealizes is already dying out, and his dreams are mostly futile by now.
One night Narciso suddenly bursts in to the family's house, yelling that Ultima must hide. He rambles about Tenorio, and the owl gives a cry of warning from outside. Narciso says Tenorio's daughter died that day, and Tenorio has come to accuse Ultima of her murder and kill her as a witch. Tenorio claims to have found Ultima's bag of herbs under his daughter's bed. Antonio steps forward and reveals that he has the scapular around his neck.
Narciso shows himself as a friend of Ultima – they are both originally from the llano. The fact that Tenorio's "proof" of Ultima's witchcraft is false confirms him as an unjust and spiteful antagonist. Tenorio plays on the dormant fears of otherwise normal people who do not understand Ultima's power.
Narciso and María want Ultima to flee, as the men pursuing her are drunk and don't need proof that she is a witch to kill her, but Ultima refuses to hide from the truth. Soon men with torches and guns arrive at the house and call for Gabriel to give up Ultima. Gabriel and Antonio step outside and face the mob. Gabriel asks who speaks but everyone is ashamed to identify themselves. Finally Tenorio steps forward and accuses Ultima of murdering his daughter with witchcraft.
Gabriel again shows himself as a man of integrity and courage, and Antonio steps outside with him like an adult. Tenorio speaks for the condemnation of society, but he also has an understandable reason to hate Ultima, as she probably is responsible for his daughter's death. At the same time, Tenorio embodies the spirit of vengeance, which leads only to cycles of violence.
Gabriel yanks Tenorio's beard and throws him to the ground. The other men are armed with makeshift crosses, and they start to chant for the witch. Narciso comes out with a rifle and tries to shame the men by naming them. He insults Tenorio and his daughter, but then offers a test of proof before they act rashly. One man has come with his lips pierced by needles that were blessed by a priest to guard against evil magic. Narciso takes the two holy needles and makes them into a cross over the door. All the men agree that no bruja could pass through such a door, and that this is a true test if Ultima is a witch. Ultima appears and Tenorio accuses her to her face. Suddenly the owl swoops down and tears out one of Tenorio's eyes, and when everyone looks again Ultima has passed through the door. The men shrink before her power, but they admit she cannot be a witch.
Narciso defends Ultima once more, and is a voice of reason just like on the bridge with Lupito. Gabriel and Narciso show that their vaquero spirit is about courage and independence, not just nostalgia for lost freedoms and a lost past. The men of town still trust the power of the Church over Ultima, though they fear her. Here Ultima's owl acts as a vehicle of her punishment for Tenorio's wickedness. She is not always as merciful as she seems – she has turned the Trementina sisters' curse against them and now torn out Tenorio's eye.
Tenorio is enraged and vows to kill both Ultima and Narciso one day, but finally the men pull him away and go. As the family recovers from the terror of the ordeal, Antonio notices that the crossed needles have fallen from the door, and he never discovers if they just fell or if the cross was broken.
Tenorio's desire for vengeance powers much of the rest of the plot. Antonio sees that Ultima's power is again ambiguous – it might not be so dissimilar from the brujas after all, though her soul is good. It is the spirit that matters, not the nature of the magic.