The tragic consequences of life can be overcome by the magical strength that resides in the human heart.
As Antonio sleeps, Lupito, Narciso, and Florence appear in Antonio’s dreams. They say that Antonio prayed the Act of Final Contrition for them “in his innocence” even though they were outcasts. When Antonio asks why he must see so much violence, a voice tells him that creation lies in violence. Antonio watches a priest defile an altar with pigeon’s blood and Cico defile the river with the golden carp’s blood. He has a vision of Tenorio murdering Ultima by killing her “night-spirit.” Antonio cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” Narciso, Florence, and Lupito tell Antonio that they live only in his dreams. When Antonio awakes, Ultima suggests that he go to his uncles in El Puerto. Antonio has seen too much death. His uncles can teach him about growing life. Before he leaves, Ultima advises him to be ready to make life’s changes part of his strength.
Gabriel explains that he does not mind sending Antonio to María’s brothers because he will still be with men who can guide him into manhood. He admits that the vaquero’s way of life is fading, so he is ready to end the long conflict with María. Antonio replies that he wants to be both a Luna and a Márez. Gabriel explains that every man takes his past and makes something new with it. As Antonio muses out loud that it is possible to make a new religion, he asks his father if the priest who led the Lunas to El Puerto was actually their father in more than the metaphorical sense. Gabriel confirms his suspicions.
When Antonio asks why there is evil in the world, Gabriel replies that people call things they do not understand “evil.” He explains that understanding comes only with life experience. He says that acquiring knowledge is not as easy as swallowing the host at Communion. He believes that Ultima’s magic comes from the understanding she has gained from her years of working with the sick and the frightened.
During the summer with his Luna uncles, Antonio’s nightmares cease to disturb his sleep. Although Antonio does not know what his future holds, he is glad to learn the Luna way of life. When Tenorio’s sick daughter dies at the end of the summer, he vows to everyone who will listen that he will kill Ultima. Pedro resolves to stand by Ultima this time. He tells Antonio that they must drive to Guadalupe directly after supper, so he sends Antonio to Prudencio’s house to pack for the journey home.
During the walk to Prudencio’s home, Tenorio tries to trample Antonio with his horse. Antonio throws himself down the embankment to hide in the bushes by the river. Tenorio shouts that the owl is Ultima’s spirit, so he plans to kill Ultima by killing the owl. Antonio runs ten miles to Guadalupe to warn Ultima. When he reaches his parents’ house, Pedro’s car screeches to a halt in front of the house. Gabriel runs to the door and asks what has happened. Pedro asks if they have seen Antonio.
Meanwhile, Antonio spies Tenorio near a juniper tree. When Antonio shouts a warning, Tenorio aims a rifle at him. Ultima calls her owl, and it attacks Tenorio. Tenorio shoots it during the struggle and aims his gun at Antonio again. Before he can kill Antonio, Pedro shoots Tenorio dead. Antonio takes the dying owl to Ultima’s bedside. Ultima explains that her teacher told her to do good works but not to interfere with destiny. Her death and Tenorio’s death are simply the restoration of the original harmony. She tells Antonio that he must burn all of her possessions at sunrise. Tonight, he must bury the owl next to a forked juniper tree. Before she dies, Ultima blesses Antonio “in the name of all that is good and strong and beautiful.” He goes and buries the owl.