Outside Psyche’s prison chamber, Orual begins to feel her injuries. She plans to go to the Mountain with Psyche and perhaps even set her free once everyone else leaves. If a Shadowbrute really does come, she’ll kill it. She finds a slave who tells her that the sacrificial procession will leave the next morning before dawn. She goes to her room and orders food brought, but she can’t eat when it comes. She drinks a little and is so tired she can hardly remember what’s wrong. She falls into a deep sleep.
Orual has hardly registered the fact that Psyche almost wants to go to the Mountain and experience whatever the sacrifice will entail. Orual believes she knows what is best for Psyche, and she’ll take whatever drastic action is necessary to save her from her fate.
When Orual’s servants wake her, she screams because all of her injuries have become stiff and painful. The servants tell her not to get up, particularly since the King has forbidden her to watch the sacrifice. When one woman asks if she should bring Batta, Orual almost hits her, but regrets it. The servants dress Orual and give her wine, and then they hear temple music outside.
Orual’s emotional pain also manifests itself as physical pain—both have been inflicted more or less by her father. Even as he hurts her like this, she acts like him when she almost hits her servant for no reason. As shown here, Orual’s servants are good to her and seem to love her, though she hardly recognizes it.
At Orual’s command, her women drag her painfully to the top of the staircase, where she can see into the great hall. It’s packed with guards and nobles, and it seems many sacrifices have already been made to the gods. Outside, she hears singing and the noise of a large crowd. Orual struggles to see Psyche, but it’s worse when she does. She’s been made to look like a temple girl, with face paint and a wig. Her eyes look strange. Orual almost admires the gods’ talent for torture; they make Psyche’s father kill her, make Orual say goodbye over and over, and paint her until she looks ugly. Orual falls and is carried to her bed.
If Psyche’s natural beauty represents the beauty and purity of her way of loving, the costuming of the temple girls represents crude lust. Thus, making Psyche look like a temple girl not only mars the physical beauty that Orual so adores, but it also conceals Psyche’s moral goodness and makes her into an object for the Brute to take as he likes. Orual takes this transformation as evidence that the gods ruin everything they touch.
Orual lies sick and delirious for many days. The gods have the most power over humans in dreams, she says, and the best way to avoid the gods is to always focus on some kind of work and never to love. In Orual’s hallucinations, she imagines that Psyche is her enemy, excluding her from children’s games or stealing an imagined husband away from her on her wedding night. Other, vaguer dreams are more violent. When Orual begins to recover, the dreams stop but leave a sense that Psyche has done her wrong. Finally she remembers that Psyche never wanted to hurt her, although she does resent the fact that Psyche talked so much about other people in their last moments together.
Much of what Orual blames on the gods she will eventually realize is her own fault—it comes from a dark part of her that she refuses to acknowledge. These dreams, then, rather than being the gods’ torture, expose truths about Orual’s unconscious self that she doesn’t want to see. After hearing Psyche speak so calmly of leaving Orual, Orual does see Psyche as a strange enemy who must be conquered and brought back under Orual’s power. She’s terribly jealous that Psyche can love or even think about anyone other than Orual.
Orual becomes aware of a pleasant sound and finds the Fox sitting next to her. He tells her the sound is rain. Orual’s injuries have healed, but she is very weak, which she finds a comfort because it keeps her from feeling strong emotions. She’s glad of the loving care of her women and the Fox, who tell her of changes in the kingdom. The drought has ended, the fever has left, and the animals are returning. Furthermore, the people now adore the King. When Psyche was sacrificed, he grieved very publicly but said he had to let it happen for the people’s sake. The Fox insists that the King’s emotion was genuine in the moment.
The world has changed so much for Orual that even what wakes her—the rain—is the supposed result of Psyche’s sacrifice. Everything that the Priest took as a sign of Ungit’s anger has been remedied, and Glome’s problems have come to an end—magically, it seems, because of the sacrifice. The Priest seems to have been right. No matter what the Fox says, the King comes across as a hypocrite, feeling love only when it suits him for his own powerful ends.
The King of Phars has named his third son, Argan, as his heir, which has angered the second son, Trunia. Trunia and his followers are rebelling, so Phars is in civil war and is no longer a threat to Glome. One day Orual asks the Fox whether he still believes that Ungit doesn’t exist. Orual thinks the changes in Glome immediately after Psyche’s sacrifice prove she does, but the Fox insists it was a coincidence. Orual reminds him he doesn’t believe in coincidence, and he clarifies that he means everything in nature is connected and influenced by events that happened long before.
Even affairs outside of Glome have turned to their benefit since Psyche’s sacrifice. The gods’ influence seems obvious to Orual, but the Fox insists on maintaining his atheist viewpoint. He manages to reason away the situation using his Stoic philosophy, which teaches that the whole world is linked together like a spider web. According to him, the changes in Glome were already on their way before Psyche was sacrificed.
Orual says that if only the sacrifice had been delayed a few days, Glome’s fortune would have changed on its own and Psyche wouldn’t have died. The Fox finds comfort in the fact that Psyche went to her fate bravely, but he is still overcome with grief. The next day, he blames his emotions on finding philosophy too late in life. Psyche knew how to bear with grace the loss of what she loved, and she had all the virtues possible. He likens her to Iphigenia and Antigone, tragic Greek heroines. Orual knows the stories of these women well, but she asks the Fox to tell them again to comfort both of them.
Orual takes the Fox’s viewpoint to its logical conclusion—Psyche died for nothing at all. The Fox’s Stoicism makes him believe that passionate emotions weaken logic and should be avoided, and yet they seem to be more powerful than logic in this situation. As the gods are associated with emotion, it seems that the Fox’s logical atheism is shaken, no matter what he says. Like Psyche, Iphigenia is sacrificed to the gods by her father. In some versions of the story, Iphigenia does not actually die, which would be comforting to Orual.
The next day, Orual tells the Fox that it’s too late for her to be Iphigenia, but she can still be Antigone, who buried her dead brother even when she was forbidden to. Orual intends to go to the Mountain and see if there’s anything left of Psyche that she can burn or bury. The Fox approves of the idea, but says Orual must do it soon, before it snows.
Orual has lost her chance to die in her sister’s place, but she can still follow Antigone’s brave example by giving Psyche a proper burial. This goal means that Orual feels entirely sure Psyche has died. She ignores the possibility that Psyche has been married to the Brute, perhaps because this seems worse than death to her.