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Sophie arrives at the (very grand) palace of the King.
And even though the King looks like an ordinary guy, he is still the King—clearly Sophie feels a little weird.
And when Sophie feels weird these days, she gets really blunt… so she just comes out and tells the King that Howl has sent her to get him out of looking for Prince Justin.
Sophie lists the reasons why Howl is terrible: only a pathetic loser sends his mother to make his case for him; he's so scared of the Witch of the Waste that he can't take it; and he's selfish, self-centered, fickle… and surprisingly kind (that last bit comes out by accident…).
The King seems surprisingly glad to hear all of this.
The King really wants his brother back, and he knows the Witch of the Waste is involved in his disappearance, so he not only needs a smart wizard to help him, but a desperate wizard.
The fact that Howl sent his "mother" to talk to the King? That's the act of a man who can't think of any other options.
So from now on, Howl has no choice: he is the king's Royal Wizard. Period.
And Howl has to find Prince Justin within the year. It's safe to say Howl's plan backfired.
Sophie gets horribly lost trying to find Howl and the entrance to his castle in Kingsbury, and instead she finds herself close to Mrs. Pentstemmon's house.
And of course, because Sophie's luck is absolutely terrible, who should be approaching her but the Witch of the Waste?
The Witch of the Waste recognizes Sophie right away.
The Witch of the Waste tells Sophie that Mrs. Pentstemmon is dead, and Sophie responds by pretending that she doesn't know who Mrs. Pentstemmon is and that she's here to see the King on hat shop business.
The Witch offers mockingly to bring her to the Palace.
The Witch stands and waits to make sure that Sophie climbs every single, exhausting step up to the Palace. (This is proof that the Witch is a total fiend: what kind of person enjoys watching an old woman climb up the stairs in the hot sun?)
The guards luckily let Sophie inside, instead of embarrassingly tossing her out the door in front of the Witch.
The only thing Sophie can think of is to demand that the King marry his daughter to Howl in exchange for Howl's help.
Don't worry—Sophie is as amazed as we are that she actually suggested this ridiculous idea.
The King clearly thinks she's trying to help Howl, which is why he forgives her.
Considering the fact that the King's daughter—Princess Valeria—is still a baby, let's call this a rare stroke of luck for Sophie.