Orual has known little about the people until now. Their love of Psyche comforts her somewhat; even if Ungit might be angry, the Priest of Ungit would probably not attack Psyche through mortal means, because he would risk angering the people. But now that their demands have been met once, the people return to the palace gates, demanding corn. The King gives them some, but they associate his lack of sons with the lack of a harvest. The King has one of his guards shoot someone who speaks up, and the mob runs away. Even the palace has little food.
Orual’s ignorance of the people shows how separate the social classes of Glome are. The people are suffering, and the King has little power, giving in to the people’s demands to a certain extent and then exhibiting his violent personality. In truth, he’s frightened of the mob. He knows how powerless he really is, and he hates being reminded of his failure to have a son. The general lack of fertility in the land connects to Ungit, who is essentially a fertility goddess.
The King decides he no longer needs Orual to help with affairs of state, and one day she finds Redival returning with Batta from visiting the house of Ungit. Redival makes fun of Psyche being regarded as a goddess and reveals that she saw her alone in the city. Orual replies that Psyche will come to no harm, as the people love her, but Batta says the fever has gotten worse. Now the people are saying Psyche spread it rather than cured it.
Redival and Batta, both of whom Orual already despises, bring the first news of Psyche’s change in fortune. If the people ever seemed like they might have the power to perceive some essential truth about Psyche, their switch counteracts it. They’re sure she has strong powers, but can’t decide whether they’re for good or evil.
Orual watches the city, waiting for Psyche to return, and the city begins to look like an enemy. When Psyche comes home, she pulls Orual to her chamber and asks why the people are calling her “the Accursed.” She tells Orual that she went into the city to visit her old nurse, who she heard was stricken with the fever. Psyche thought perhaps her hands could cure her. When Orual tells her off, Psyche seems older than before. On her way back to the palace, she says, a boy spat at her. She heard men calling her the Accursed, and they threw stones at her. Psyche doesn’t understand what she’s done wrong.
The change in Psyche that began with the fever continues here. She isn’t sure whether she really has divine powers, but she seems to think it’s possible. However, she remains modest, using these powers only to help others. Orual begins to see that she can’t control Psyche the way she did when Psyche was younger. Psyche has begun to make her own decisions, which Orual will fight for much of the book. Furthermore, the people have turned dangerous. Ungit can be both good and evil, and the people seem to see evil in Psyche where they previously saw good.
Orual is angry at the people and insists the King must know. Psyche soothes her, saying she looks like the King when she gets angry. Orual is hurt, but they have dinner together and are happy. Even now, the gods haven’t taken Orual’s memory of that night from her.
Psyche first perceives Orual’s similarity to the King, which will haunt Orual for many years. Orual hates the King but has many of his worst personality traits within her.
As the days pass, the river dries up, animals die, and lions come to steal sheep. The King needs Orual’s help again, for there are conflicts with the neighboring kingdoms. He alternates between hitting Orual and the Fox and begging for their help. Luckily, the fever leaves the palace.
Glome’s situation is only worsening, to a potentially unnatural degree. The King again demonstrates his uncontrollable temper that particularly flares when he feels powerless. This has the effect of estranging the exact people who are trying to help him.
The Priest of Ungit has had a long fight with the fever, but he recovers. A week later, he comes to the palace with a host of armed guards from the house of Ungit. Orual thinks there might be a fight, and almost hopes for it. The Priest has two temple girls with him, who wear wigs and have their faces painted. They accompany him into the palace, and the King bars the doors behind them. The Priest comes to the Pillar Room, where he has to catch his breath. The room smells of old age, oils, and Ungit—in other words, holy.
The fact that the Priest has his own guards shows that power is very divided in Glome—Ungit and the palace, the two seats of power, could potentially battle each other. The temple girls seem to be prostitutes, adding to the sense of religious barbarism around Ungit and associating her with lust as well as love. The arrival of the Priest is undoubtedly foreboding, especially as he demonstrates the power of Ungit to take over a room with scent.