Our heroes must come to terms with the death that awaits them.
“Sire,” [Jewel] said, “there is now no need of counsel. […] Nothing now remains for us seven but to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us. And if, by a great marvel, we defeat those thirty Calormenes who are with the Ape, then to turn again and die in battle with the far greater host of them that will soon march from Cair Paravel.”
Tirian initially wants to spare Jill and Eustace from the battle, ordering them to go back to their own world. Jill starts making an impassioned plea to stay with them, until Eustace reminds them all that the two of them have no means to get back even if they wanted to.
Death begins to seem more and more inevitable. Poggin and the others discuss how they might actually manage to survive the night, and maybe even live underground and someday take back Narnia a la Prince Caspian. But Tirian reminds us that Tash will have to be dealt with; unless the real Aslan suddenly shows up, it seems that there’s no escape.
Meanwhile, Jill and Eustace are starting to second guess their eagerness to fight with the others – Jill is scared because she’s never been in a battle before, and Eustace starts feeling sick because he has. And then they start discussing something which may or may not have occurred to the reader beforehand: If they’re killed in Narnia, what happens to them back in England?
“I almost wish – no I don’t, though,” said Jill.
“What were you going to say?”
I was going to say I wished we’d never come. But I don’t, I don’t, I don’t. Even if we are killed. I’d rather die fighting for Narnia than grow old and stupid at home and perhaps go about in a bath-chair and then die in the end just the same.”
“Or be smashed up by British Railways!”
“Why d’you say that?”
“Well when that awful jerk came – the one that seemed to throw us into Narnia – I thought it was the beginning of a railway accident. So I was jolly glad to find ourselves here instead.”
Nothing important here…
They make it back to Stable Hill without mishap, then wait for the titular meeting to begin, hidden behind the stable.
[As] it happened, the whole thing was rather like a theater. The crowd of Narnians were like the people in the seats; the little grassy place just in front of the stable, where the bonfire burned and the Ape and the Captain stood to talk to the crowd, was like the stage; the stable itself was like the scenery at the back of the stage; and Tirian and his friends were like people peering round from behind the scenery.
All the world’s a stage, with people pretending to be what they are not, speaking words that are not their own.
Shift (or rather, the Tarkaan and Ginger) makes a bold, clever, and devastating stroke: He makes it look like Puzzle is just a rogue Beast dressing up as Aslan. Mixing a little truth strengthens the lie, and Tirian & co. are left without a plan.
Until next time…