There is only one small, high window in the room where Psyche is held. She sits on a bed with a lamp, and Orual throws herself upon her. Psyche comforts Orual and worries about her injuries. This strikes Orual as painfully different from their usual relationship. Psyche knows what she’s thinking and calls her “Maia,” the name she called Orual when she was little. Orual says she wishes she could take Psyche’s place. Psyche forces Orual to tell what the King did to her, though Orual says the King is nothing to them.
Though Orual has acted as a parent to Psyche, their positions are reversed here; Psyche tries to make Orual feel safe, despite the fact that Psyche is the one about to die. Aware that Orual feels uncomfortable with the situation, Psyche calls her “Maia” to recall better times when Orual was the one making Psyche feel safe. Ironically, even this gesture reinforces their current, reversed positions.
Psyche smiles and sits tall, frightening Orual. Psyche reminds her sister that the Fox always told them to pity the bad people around them who do not know good from bad. Orual doesn’t want her to talk that way. Psyche wants her to promise not to kill herself, for the Fox’s sake. Though Psyche feels the King is a stranger to her, she asks Orual to give him whatever message would be polite and proper. Orual urges her to curse Redival, but Psyche pities her instead, telling Orual to give her any of Psyche’s jewelry that Orual doesn’t care about.
Psyche isn’t reacting at all in the way that Orual wanted or expected. Orual’s pain and anger clash with Psyche’s calm forgiveness, and Orual doesn’t understand how Psyche can accept her fate so easily. Psyche seems to be above all human conflict, adding to the image of her as divinely good. Additionally, Psyche wants Orual to endure her lasting pain in order to help the Fox, a kind of selfless love that doesn’t come easily to Orual.
Orual weeps in Psyche’s lap, wishing Psyche would cry in hers instead. Psyche says that because they have divine blood, they must be brave. She admits that the only thing she fears is that there might be no god of the Mountain or Shadowbrute, and she might just die of exposure. This thought makes her cry, and Orual feels better being able to be miserable with her.
Orual’s love shows its selfishness when she’s glad to see Psyche’s pain. It comforts her to see that her sister isn’t entirely fine with being sacrificed. Though Orual fears the gods above almost everything, Psyche fears their absence. She wants to have a divine encounter even if it results in her death.
When Psyche calms down, she says that the Priest of Ungit has visited her. She wonders if the Fox’s view of the world might be faulty. He calls the world a city, but Psyche wonders what must be outside the city, providing nourishment and danger. Orual says the gods are ruining their lives, but agrees that the Fox is wrong. He thinks that there aren’t gods, or that they’re superior to humans, but in fact they are real and horrible. Psyche suggests that the gods’ actions might not be what they seem, and she wonders how she will marry a god.
Both Orual and Psyche are affected by the Priest’s obvious faith in the gods. Though they’ve never completely accepted the Fox’s atheist worldview, they doubt it even more in light of recent events. True to their natures, the princesses see the gods differently: Orual is convinced they’re brutally antagonistic to humans, but Psyche believes the gods may have good motives for what they do. These differing views tell more about the women’s approaches to the world than anything about the gods.
Even though Orual would die for Psyche, she feels angry with her for being so calm and seeming not to mind saying goodbye to Orual. Orual insists that Psyche is being murdered. As narrator, Orual recognizes that she should have encouraged Psyche to imagine she would wed a god, rather than be eaten by a Brute, but she can’t help raising the worst possibilities. Psyche says she does realize she’ll probably die, but being eaten and marrying the god might somehow be the same thing. There’s so much unknown. Orual doesn’t think marrying the Brute would be any better than being eaten by it. Psyche insists they shouldn’t fear death, and there might even be an afterlife.
Orual wants to make Psyche see the situation as she does, foreshadowing the impending split in their views of Psyche’s situation on the Mountain and Orual’s determination to force Psyche to see things her way. Though Orual has come here to comfort Psyche, she instead finds herself trying to shock Psyche out of her comfort, which is not particularly kind. Psyche proves herself open to the mysteries and contradictions of the gods, while Orual refuses to consider them.
Desperately, Orual asks whether Psyche even cares that she’s leaving Orual behind, and wonders if she ever loved her. Psyche insists that Orual and the Fox were the only people she’s been able to love. Orual will follow Psyche into death soon enough, Psyche says; besides, even if Psyche could live, she would only have been married to a king, perhaps one like their father, and so dying and being married are, in fact, similar. Every change in life is like a death, and this might be the best way to go. The happiest time of her life is already over, she says.
Orual sees Psyche’s calm acceptance of her fate as proof that she doesn’t love Orual enough to mind leaving her. However, Psyche seems to see her sacrifice as just another change in life, and if this change hadn’t come, another would have, to the same essential effect. Whenever a change comes, the person one has been before the change dies, and another form lives on. Orual will long struggle to accept the loss of the old Psyche who metaphorically dies at this change.
Psyche admits, to Orual’s dismay, that she has always almost wanted death. Orual thinks this means that she has not made Psyche happy, but Psyche insists that she wanted death most when she was most happy, looking at the Grey Mountain with Orual and the Fox. Everything seemed to be calling to her to go somewhere else, but she didn’t know where. Orual feels that she has been losing Psyche for a long time. Psyche’s perspective is comforting to her, but Orual doesn’t quite want Psyche to be comforted. She admits this is a sin.
Psyche feels that her true place in life is somewhere far from Glome, where she anticipates some great happiness. If every change in life is a small death of the former self, it seems that the greatest death would be to change from mortal to divine, which Psyche will eventually do. Thus, she here anticipates the great happiness that will come to her when she becomes a goddess on the Grey Mountain. Orual, on the other hand, wants to keep Psyche near her at any cost.
Psyche points out that she’s going to the Mountain, where she always dreamed of a palace. The gods have chosen her for their sacrifice, and she has been preparing for it her whole life, longing to go to the Mountain and find the source of beauty. Although Orual calls her cruel for saying such things, Psyche says she feels like she’s going home to her lover, the god of the Mountain. She asks Orual to wish her well, but instead Orual says that Psyche has never loved her, and she has become as cruel as the gods. Just as Psyche begins to cry, Bardia knocks. To spare the feelings of those who have had similar experiences, Orual does not write of their last embrace.
The sacrifice begins to seem fated for good, rather than evil. Psyche is almost eager for it, feeling it to be the culmination of all her desires. As the palace will come to represent the boundary between human and divine, Psyche’s anticipation of it indicates she has always been close to the divine. Orual, however, cannot see beyond the bounds of her own pain. She thinks that since Psyche has some dreams that don’t include her, Psyche must not love her at all. For Orual, love is all or nothing, and she thinks she has discovered that, with Psyche, it is nothing after all.