A tall man comes out of the bushes and tries to kiss Orual, calling her pretty, but she takes out her dagger and points out that she’s veiled. He replies that anyone with her voice must be beautiful. Orual has never been approached this way before, and almost doesn’t want it to end, but she demands to know who the man is. He says he needs the King’s help and must speak with him.
Orual’s masculine and feminine sides clash here—the man’s flirting makes her feel her femininity in a way she never does, but she is also defending herself with her dagger, a skill she associates with Bardia treating her like a man. Additionally, this is the first Orual mentions of her beautiful voice, apparently an attribute that she feels is overwhelmed by her face.
Orual reveals that she is the Queen, unless the King recovers. The man says he is Trunia of Phars and has come looking for protection. He is at war with his brother and father, the king of Phars. He had to escape, got lost, and ended up in Glome, where his horse went lame. He wants Orual to hide him for a day so that he can sneak back into Phars. Orual says that if she takes him in she has to defend him, and they don’t have the strength to go to war with Phars. She’ll have to take him prisoner instead.
The introduction of Trunia to the story marks the next phase of Orual’s life, one in which Psyche is almost absent. But Psyche’s sacrifice coincided with (or perhaps even caused) the beginning of the civil war in Phars, and now its consequences have come to Orual’s doorstep. Orual takes this opportunity to display her power as a Queen working for the good of Glome.
Trunia tries to run away, but he trips and hurts himself. He submits to being a prisoner, and Orual says she’ll save him from his brother if she can do it without going to war. She calls the guards, who bring him into the castle.
Though Orual has cruel aspects to her personality, she shows a more merciful side in her position as Queen. For her first night in charge, she’s already been presented with quite a challenging situation.
Orual goes to the King’s bedroom. He seems worse, and he can’t speak. The Fox tells her that he’s just received word that Argan of Phars is ten miles away with cavalry, seeking Trunia. Orual feels shocked and reveals to the Fox and Bardia that Trunia is in the palace. She brings them to the Pillar Room to get away from the King and sends Trunia to the room where Psyche was kept before the sacrifice.
The King’s health seems to decline in direct correlation with the increase in Orual’s power and confidence. However, she still feels unsettled around him. In imprisoning Trunia where Psyche was imprisoned, Orual takes another step towards writing over the memories surrounding the sacrifice.
Orual, Bardia, and the Fox agree that Trunia will probably rule Phars in the end, since most people hate Argan and think him a coward. Furthermore, Trunia will treat Glome well in the future if they help him now—but in the meantime they can’t face a war with Phars.
Orual needs to make Trunia into her ally, but she can’t afford to openly declare her support for him. Meanwhile, Bardia and the Fox have naturally begun to act as her advisors, as they will continue to do for many years.
Orual has an idea and asks Bardia how good Argan is with a sword. Bardia replies that he and Orual are both better than Argan. Orual points out that Argan won’t want to do anything that would make him seem more of a coward, so he’ll have to accept if they propose single combat for Trunia’s life. Bardia approves of the idea. Even if they lose the combat, they will have done their best by Trunia, and if they succeed, Trunia will be their friend as king of Phars.
Though Glome can’t afford to send a whole army after Argan, Orual sees a way to scale the fight to their abilities. Orual proved her ability to manipulate people in her conflict with Psyche, and now she’s using the same skills to force Argan into a situation in which he can’t refuse to fight.
Orual proposes that their champion must be someone so low that it would be shameful for Argan to refuse to fight. The Fox and Bardia are skeptical. Orual clarifies that she means Argan must fight a woman. She hasn’t told the Fox that she’s learned to use a sword, and he’s confused. Bardia understands, but doesn’t want Orual to risk her life. He admits that she has more skill than Argan, but she could still fall prey to bad luck. Bardia explains the situation to the Fox, saying again that he wishes Orual had been born a man. He means well, but it hurts her.
Orual’s training in the use of a sword has gone on for a while with no specific purpose, but now she finds herself about to stake her life and her kingdom’s future on her abilities. In fact, she shows great bravery in being willing to, in a sense, sacrifice herself in this situation. Taking on a masculine role, Orual is once again reminded that Bardia will never regard her as a love interest, as she wishes he would.
The Fox thinks the plan is scandalous—Greeks are more sensitive to social conventions than the people of Glome. Orual points out that she’s already so ugly that she might as well become manlier by fighting. Furthermore, the people of Glome might not accept her as Queen, because they don’t know much about her. They’ll be more likely to welcome her if she has acted like a hero. Bardia agrees. The Fox fears losing her, but Orual has made her decision. She orders them to send a messenger to Argan to inform him of the place and time of the combat. If she dies, he gets Trunia. If he dies, Trunia can return freely to Phars.
Orual has long wanted people—particularly Psyche—to love her as a hero, and now her chance has come. In fact, in this situation it’s hardly even a selfish desire, as Orual plans to use her heroism to make the people loyal to her as Queen. The Fox’s love for her keeps him from supporting her plan; this draws a parallel between Orual and the Fox, who both have trouble putting the needs of those they love before their own desires. Orual now acts just as dismissively of her own life as Psyche did when contemplating her sacrifice.
Orual goes to bed, knowing that Bardia will send the message. Once she’s alone, she realizes it feels like someone called “the Queen,” not Orual, has been acting in her place. She’s amazed at what the Queen has done and no longer believes she can kill Argan. She worries her courage will fail when she has to fight, and imagines everyone being ashamed of her. They would all think that Psyche was better than Orual, both in beauty and bravery. She insists to herself that Psyche could never do what she’s doing.
Orual begins to recognize that in her new role, she can become someone different than the person who ruined Psyche’s life. She unwillingly finds herself thinking of Psyche as a competitor, revealing a jealousy of Psyche’s virtues, beauty, and ability to attract love. This attitude suggests that Orual may have also been jealous of Psyche’s favored position as the god’s wife.
Orual realizes that she’s thinking the way she did when she was sick and Psyche seemed like her enemy. She begins to think the gods have sent Argan to kill her, and this will be a good way to die. For the past few hours she’s forgotten the desolation of her life because she had so much to do as Queen. She promises herself that if she’s actually allowed to become Queen, she’ll throw herself into it entirely to keep herself from remembering her desolation. She wants to trick the gods by turning her old self, Orual, into a new self, the Queen.
Orual doesn’t quite recognize that she really does think of Psyche as her enemy sometimes. Dying bravely at Argan’s hand hardly even seems like a punishment to her, but if she survives she’ll get her revenge on the gods she hates by taking away their satisfaction of killing Orual; if she herself gets rid of Orual, she thinks the gods wouldn’t be able to go through with their punishment.
Orual goes to the King’s chamber, where Batta sits at his bedside. He’s awake, but can’t speak. He looks terrified when he sees Orual. She thinks that some people wouldn’t blame her if she murdered him. She’s afraid that he’ll survive his illness, for she feels free and doesn’t want to go back to being a prisoner if he pulls through. Finally, she realizes that even if he does survive, he’ll be insane. She sleeps deeply that night.
Even the King, awful as he is, always seems to have someone faithful at his bedside, which proves that love defies reason. Orual’s feelings about her father are some of the only ones she allows herself to see truly. She knows she hates him, and she feels no guilt about it. His death will let her more effectively hide the angry, violent part of herself that comes from him.