Still on the steps, Despereaux trembles. His thread is gone, and he realizes he’s in grave danger. He’s a tiny mouse, alone in a dungeon full of rats. He has only a needle to defend himself, and he has to both find and rescue the princess. To himself, Despereaux says it’s impossible, and he should go back. But then, he says he has no choice and keeps moving down the stairs.
Without his thread, Despereaux has no way to navigate the dungeon and make it back to the beginning. He realizes, in effect, that he’s going to fail. But what’s most important, he seems to decide, is that he try to rescue the Pea—and so he keeps going.
At the bottom, Botticelli steps out to meet Despereaux and says he’s been waiting for the mouse. Despereaux puts his hand on his needle, and Botticelli puts his hands up—he surrenders. This confuses Despereaux, but then, Botticelli pulls out his locket and begins to swing it. Despereaux says he means no harm, but he has to get past. He’s on a quest to save the princess. Botticelli says everyone wants the princess; the king’s men were down here earlier and didn’t find her. Botticelli sarcastically says that Despereaux is inspiring, but he steps in Despereaux’s way when Despereaux tries to pass him.
When Botticelli has swung his locket in front of Roscuro, it’s had an almost hypnotic effect on the younger rat. Despereaux, however, doesn’t seem nearly as affected by the locket, suggesting he may remain in control of his faculties. Like Cook, Botticelli severely underestimates Despereaux and implies that the mouse won’t be successful. It's worth noting, though, that Despereaux loves the princess, while the king’s men don’t have the same relationship to her—his odds may be better.
Botticelli confirms that in order to save the princess, Despereaux must first find her. He asks what would happen if he showed Despereaux exactly where the princess is. Despereaux asks why Botticelli would help. Botticelli grandly says he just wants to be of service, despite being a rat. Clearly, he says, Despereaux has heard the “greatly exaggerated rumors” of how evil rats are, since he’s trembling. But Botticelli says that if Despereaux lets him help, Despereaux will be doing him a big favor. It will allow Botticelli to improve rats’ reputation, and he asks Despereaux if he can help. The narrator tells readers that this is definitely a trick.
The narrator makes sure that readers know where all the characters stand: Despereaux shouldn’t trust Botticelli, and Botticelli actually has no interest in improving rats’ reputations. Indeed, Botticelli is doing exactly what he told Roscuro to do to prisoners: make them think he’s a friend, and then turn back into a rat (by which he means an untrustworthy betrayer). However, Botticelli can, perhaps, tell Despereaux where the Pea is—so Despereaux may feel like he has no choice but to trust.
Readers should already know that Botticelli wants others to suffer, and he especially wants Despereaux to suffer. He plans to do this by taking Despereaux right to the princess, and then killing Despereaux—the hope and love Despereaux will feel will make him even tastier. Botticelli introduces himself, asks Despereaux for his name, and offers his tail for Despereaux to grab onto. He promises to take Despereaux right to the princess. Of course, his promise is meaningless—but Despereaux has nothing else to hold onto. So, he reaches out and takes Botticelli’s tail.
Botticelli may want Despereaux to suffer, but by letting readers know what his plan is, the narrator makes an important point: Botticelli does plan to take Despereaux to the Pea. Getting within reach of the princess, his love, may give Despereaux the strength he needs to use his needle and fight back, for himself and for the princess.