Orual wakes to the King and the Fox lifting her into a chair. The King is surprisingly gentle, and he tips wine into her mouth, telling her that, as a woman, she shouldn’t have spoken against him. He seems ashamed, and Orual thinks him weak. He says that the sacrifice has to be made, and the Fox was just telling him that it’s done even in the Greeklands. The Fox interjects that when a Greek king sacrificed his daughter, it brought murder and madness to his family.
Now that the King no longer has to prove his power to the Priest, he can afford to be gentle to Orual. She sees right through him, realizing how weak he is. He doesn’t care about Psyche, and he’s grasping at anything possible to justify his decision to let her be sacrificed. The Fox’s story of the Greek king in a similar situation suggests that the future will likely hold only trouble for the royal family, but the King will see only what he wants to.
Orual says the King must do something to stop the sacrifice, and he reveals that it will happen the next day. Orual almost faints again, feeling that everything would be fine if there were more time. The King asks what they would do if they were in his place. The Fox replies that he would try to delay the sacrifice however he could, and then offer the King of Phars the crown itself if he would save Psyche. He would lose his own life to save her. He suggests that they fight, since it would be better to die that way than sacrifice one’s daughter.
The Fox believes love and loyalty are far more important than power. He would rather lose everything than allow Psyche to be killed without a fight. The Priest has just insulted the Fox’s bravery, but the Fox exhibits strength of character miles above anything the King has shown. Furthermore, the Fox feels the complete horror of a father essentially killing his daughter, to which the King seems immune.
The King says that his counselors are supposed to tell him how to strengthen his position as king, but the Fox has just told him to give up his kingship. The Fox replies that he forgot the King’s own safety was the only thing that mattered. Orual knows it’s his way of insulting the King, but the King doesn’t notice.
The King once again proves that he only considers his own position of power, rather than morality or love. The Fox, always mild-mannered, can’t keep from expressing his contempt for his master, who isn’t even smart enough to notice.
Orual argues that it will shame their house if the King lets a girl die to save him, but he only threatens to beat her again. He says that Psyche is his girl, and he has the right to do with her as he likes. He thinks that Orual must have some hidden motive for defending Psyche, since there’s no reason an ugly girl should defend a beautiful one. He says he deserves pity, but he has to sacrifice his daughter to save the kingdom—one person dying to save many.
Orual makes an argument that she believes will play to the King’s concerns about his honor and masculinity, but instead he interprets his fatherhood as giving him complete possession of Psyche. He has a very petty view of women. He can’t even imagine that Orual might love Psyche; since he only sees women as their outer appearances, he assumes women only see themselves as such, too, and so he imagines they are governed purely by jealousy.
Orual stands and asks that she be sacrificed in Psyche’s place. The King then leads her to a huge mirror on the other side of the room. It’s much clearer than any other mirror in the palace, but Orual has never looked in it. Now, the King forces her to look at herself. He says that Ungit demands the best, so she doesn’t want Orual. He sends her away.
No matter what Orual does later, her willingness to die in Psyche’s place does her love credit. The King seems to take pleasure in Orual’s pain. He gives Psyche up because he doesn’t care about her, but he refuses to even do Orual the honor of sacrificing her, because she’s not even pretty enough to die.
Outside the Pillar Room, Orual finds the palace slaves gossiping and an animal sacrifice happening outside. It smells like holiness. She meets Redival, who is worried that they’ll all be sacrificed. Orual swears that if she ever has the power, she’ll kill Redival. Redival seeks comfort, but Orual leaves her. She blames Redival for spreading word about Psyche to the house of Ungit. Even if Redival is sorry now, Orual knows she won’t be sad for long.
Despite Orual’s hatred of the King, she acts just like him when she threatens to kill Redival. Redival also proves to be her father’s daughter, as she fears that she’ll be sacrificed along with Psyche. It’s possible, however, that Redival feels her insignificance painfully and almost craves the love and beauty that would make her worthy of sacrifice along with her sister.
Orual is injured from the King’s beatings, but she goes to the room where Psyche has been imprisoned. Bardia is guarding the door and says he can’t let Orual in, even when she protests. Though his face is kind, Orual hates him in that moment. She goes to the King’s chamber and takes a sword, which she brings back to Psyche’s prison. She attacks Bardia, but she has never even held a sword before. He disarms her easily, and her helplessness makes her cry.
While the King becomes violent in his hatred and fear for himself, Orual’s violence stems mostly from her love of Psyche. She loves and fears for Psyche to a point of complete desperation. Even though Bardia refuses to let Orual into the room, it’s clear that he’s a good man forced to obey cruel orders.
Bardia praises Orual’s effort with the sword, expressing regret that she’s not a man. She wishes he had killed her. Her weeping makes Bardia almost cry himself, and he decides to let her in, saying that he would die if it would save Psyche. Even though he’s captain of the guard, he wouldn’t let anyone else guard her door, in case he could comfort her somehow. He makes Orual promise to leave the room when he knocks on the door. She swears on his sword and enters.
Orual and Bardia are connected even in this initial interaction by their mutual desire to die for Psyche’s sake. Bardia exhibits the unfailing loyalty that Orual will value all her life. Furthermore, their relationship begins with Bardia wishing Orual were a man, a sentiment that he’ll repeat often and that she finds discouraging. She can never be enough as a woman due to her ugliness.