Lyra, being practical and rather unimaginative, doesn't worry too much about the gyptians, and instead believes that they and Iorek will save her. At breakfast, she finds Roger. Pan provokes a scuffle with Roger's dæmon so they can speak and Roger turns white as a sheet. Lyra pretends to be disdainful of him and joins her new girl friends. She participates in the morning activities and then at snack time, Pan and Roger's dæmon quietly converse on the wall while Roger and Lyra sit with their different groups. Lyra snaps to attention when one girl at her table mentions Tony Makarios. She says that they took Tony because his dæmon didn't change much.
In this situation, Lyra can pretend to be a girl stereotypically disinterested in boys, while Pan—her soul—can express her true feelings about what's going on. Having this duality gives both Lyra and Roger the freedom to more easily maintain the illusion that they don't know each other. The girl's mention of Tony Makarios confirms that puberty and the time when dæmons begin to settle is what's of interest here.
Lyra asks why the adults are so interested in dæmons. One boy says that they kill kids' dæmons and see if the kids die, but the girl says that she heard what they do when the adults took Tony Makarios. She'd been in the linen closet with him when a nurse came and said that they were going to put him to sleep for a "little cut." The nurse explained that Ratter would go to sleep too, and that it wouldn't hurt—the cut was to make him more grown up. The nurse said that all adults have had the cut; that's why their dæmons don't change shape. The kids stop talking as Sister Clara appears in the doorway and calls for one of the girls. Nobody looks at her as they go to a gym to play.
The implication here is that Tony Makarios and this girl were experimenting sexually in the linen closet, something that would indicate that puberty is approaching for both of them. Sister Clara's insistence that all adults have had this cut (presumably, intercision) is, of course, a lie. In this situation, she's attempting to do what the man did with Lyra in telling her that the Tartars didn't attack her. Tony certainly knows that dæmons settle of their own accord; this is an attempt to change what he knows is true.
At lunchtime, Lyra turns around to find Billy Costa. She tells him that the gyptians are coming and to call her Lizzie. He sits with her, Roger nearby, and tells her everything he knows. Billy says that after the operation, kids go south to hostels. Roger points out a hiding place he found in the ceiling tile. Lyra realizes that getting into the ceiling probably means she can get anywhere in the building. A doctor calls the children to attention and announces that they're going to conduct a fire drill later.
While the adults in charge may say that children go to hostels post-operation, what the villager said about finding them in the woods suggests that this is a lie meant to comfort the children and that the reality is infinitely crueler. The possibility that Bolvanger just leaves children in the wilderness drives home that they don't see their test subjects as real people worthy of care and comfort.
After lunch, the doctors test Lyra for Dust. She continues to play dumb and says she's not dusty. During one test, Lyra tests her luck and asks why they cut people's dæmons away. The doctor is agitated, but Lyra says that the kids gossip and believe that the adults kill them. The doctor assures Lyra that this isn't the case and then confers with the nurse. Both adults' dæmons look languid and incurious. During one test, the bell rings for the fire drill. The doctor is annoyed, but Lyra helpfully says that the outdoor clothes she came with are in the next room.
The doctor's reaction to Lyra's question shows that Bolvanger operates because they can, for the most part, keep the children from figuring out what's going on. Finding a child who knows what happens would suggest to them that there's been a major breach of protocol, which in turn might clue them in on the fact that they're losing control over their test subjects.
Outside, the adults barely have control. Lyra finds Billy and Roger and when nobody is looking, hurls a snowball at the crowd. The other children begin a wild snowball fight and in the mayhem, Lyra and her friends sneak away. They find a low building separate from the main building with "ENTRY STRICTLY FORBIDDEN" written on it. Roger squeals in surprise as Kaisa swoops down and explains that the gyptians are fine and on their way. Lyra sends Billy and Roger to keep watch and then tells Kaisa that the adults are cutting children's dæmons away from them. She thinks there's something in the building. Kaisa unlocks the door. Inside, Lyra finds the ghostlike dæmons of the severed children in cages. She covers Pan's eyes.
The adults' struggle to gain control over the children makes it clear that they're not people who really know how to deal with children; they're likely just scientists whose work now happens to require children. This gives Lyra an advantage, as she's far better at convincing other children to do what she wants than these adults are. Finding the severed dæmons in this building shows Lyra again that what happens at Bolvanger is cruel and unfeeling: the dæmons are just as vulnerable as their children and suffer just as much.
Lyra tells Kaisa about finding Tony Makarios and notices an empty cage with his name on it. She declares that she's going to break open the cages, but Kaisa says they need to make it look like someone forgot to lock them. He instructs Lyra to blow snow on each cage and magically unlocks them. The freed dæmons are scared, and pull pitifully at Lyra's pants. Kaisa instructs Lyra to run back to the other children; he's going to try to reunite the dæmons with their children. He says that this is the most evil thing he's ever seen. Lyra tries to ask questions about Serafina Pekkala and the witches, but Kaisa sends her away. Roger sees the dæmons and watches with horror.
Kaisa's authoritative assessment of the situation makes it clear that depriving a person of their soul is the cruelest thing someone can do to another, no matter what race a being might be. Having Kaisa around to help free the dæmons means that Lyra has a trustworthy adult presence to guide her when her emotions tell her to do something that would make her life more difficult. This shows again that as a child, Lyra still needs adult guidance.
Lyra, Roger, and Billy rejoin the group. Lyra asks them to pass around the message that the children need to be ready to escape when the fire bell rings next. It takes the adults a long time to take attendance, and Lyra notices that they're not good at keeping order. When the adults are almost done, she hears and sees a zeppelin landing nearby. As it descends, Lyra and Pan see Mrs. Coulter in one of the windows.
Again, making note of the fact that the Bolvanger adults aren't good at keeping kids in line gives Lyra ammunition that she'll need later. Mrs. Coulter's arrival means that there's now an urgency to the situation that there wasn't before, given how cruel she was and that she likes to watch what they do to the children.