Ada’s appreciation of natural rhythms extends to an enjoyment of Stobrod and Pangle’s strange yet harmonious music. When they play, the two musicians achieve a kind of unity that has an almost mystical power over Ada. However, the “deep place of concord” that they find while performing only highlights the discord that they have encountered in the mountains. Stobrod’s stories about the outliers’ raids show how conflict has encroached on the peaceful solitude of mountain life. Once again, the war forms a stark backdrop to human relationships in the novel—Stobrod contacts Ruby because he needs her help, not because of any patriarchal concern. Nevertheless, their reunion marks the beginning of reconciliation between the two that Frazier develops in later chapters. Frazier shows how Ada is eager to aid the growth of Ruby’s relationship with her father—she states that it is a daughter’s “duty” to help her father—in part because she no longer has a father of her own to whom she can turn.
As he journeys home, Inman continues to face the reality of death at every turn. Inman sleeps among chicken droppings that smell like the “dusty remainders of ancient deadmen.” He encounters skeletons, kills two bears, and buries a young girl who leaves her mother all alone in the world. As Frazier shows throughout the novel, death pervades Inman’s world. However, it still retains its power to shock him; Inman experiences a moral quandary when he kills the bear-cub. Something spiritual in Inman dies alongside the bear. Inman’s overwhelming feeling of “regret” points to a deeper sense of culpability about his past actions. It appears that Inman cannot forget what he has done even as he nears Cold Mountain. Rather ominously, death and killing seem to be following him home.