Our hero has crossed over into the special world and faced tests, made new allies and enemies. Through the various facets of the previous stage, he has grown and developed. The central goal of his quest must now be approached. He will need to cross the second major threshold, into the darkest and most dangerous realm. We will refer to this as the Inmost Cave.
The Inmost Cave is where the ultimate goal lies for the hero. It is the castle where the princess is hidden, the resting place of the Holy Grail, etc., etc. However, this stage is not about being in the Inmost Cave. Instead, this stage is about the approach to it.
Why treat this separately? In much the same way as the hero had to prepare to cross the first threshold into the special world, this stage represents the hero preparing to cross the second threshold. This is a time to regroup, makes plans and outwit the guardians that stand guard over the antagonist’s domain.
This particular stage could also be used to strengthen existing relationships. For instance, this is often where the hero commits to a romantic interest. It might also be the point where some of the allies that appeared along the way will now gather, or perhaps flee, for the major confrontation.
Take this time to strengthen your hero. His resolve should show little weakening. After all, next he faces The Ordeal.