John Faa decides that they'll head for Trollesund, the main port of Lapland. There's a witches' consulate there and they need the witches' help. On the second day of their journey, Farder Coram explains that he knows the witches in Lapland and they owe him a favor. Forty years ago, he saved a witch's life when he saw a huge red bird pursuing her. Upon getting the woman in his boat, he was shocked to see that she didn't have a dæmon. He explains that witches can separate themselves further from their dæmons than other people. Farder Coram suspects that the red bird he shot was another witch's dæmon. Regardless, she's helped him over the years and told him to ask for help from the consul.
Introducing the witches, and specifically that they can separate themselves from their dæmons, shows Lyra that there are more ways of being and having a soul than the way that she is familiar with. However, it's still possible to tell something about a being by the way their dæmon behaves: the fact that witches' dæmons can separate so far speaks to their transient and free nature, as well as their disconnect from human society.
The men turn to boring talk, so Lyra wanders away and pesters a sailor named Jerry. Jerry puts her to work scrubbing and cleaning, which helps with the seasickness. Lyra quickly decides that she wants to live on the water. Pan experiments with becoming a fish and swims with dolphins one afternoon. Lyra senses that he wants to speed farther away. She shares in his pleasure, but she's also pained and afraid that maybe, he'll decide to settle as a dolphin or leave her. Jerry sees Lyra's expression and says that when he first went to sea, his dæmon loved being a dolphin too. There was a man on that ship whose dæmon was a dolphin, and the man couldn't go ashore and was extremely unhappy until his death.
Lyra's fear that Pan might settle as a dolphin speaks to the fear of not knowing who or what she's going to be when she grows up. More so than other dæmon forms, a dolphin would mean that like the man that Jerry knew, Lyra wouldn't have as much mobility. However, it's also possible that Pan's happiness as a dolphin is real, but is just an experimental phase, just like a young person might like a certain kind of music or clothing style in the reader's world.
Lyra says she wants Pan to be able to change forever, but Jerry assures her that settling is part of growing up. He says that soon, Lyra will want Pan to settle, and that when Pan settles, Lyra will also know who she is. He says that his own seagull dæmon, who's tough, means that he's also tough. Lyra asks what happens when dæmons settle in a form their person doesn't like. Jerry says that this happens often, but people just have to come to terms with it. Lyra remains convinced that she'll never grow up.
Jerry crystallizes one of the key roles of a dæmon: dæmons are windows into a person's soul and their identity. People don't always grow up to be who they thought they'd be, Jerry suggests, but they still have to decide how they're going to live with their adult selves—and how they handle that and what they become is, possibly, more important than their dæmon's form.
One morning, Lyra wakes up and realizes that the ship is moving differently. She races to the deck and stares at the town until she gets too cold. An hour after they dock, Farder Coram leads Lyra off the ship to visit the witch consul. The consul, Dr. Lanselius, has a bright serpent dæmon. He notes the name of Farder Coram's witch friend, Serafina Pekkala, and listens to Farder Coram state the gyptians' business. Farder Coram asks if Dr. Lanselius knows about the Gobblers. Lyra watches as the men seem to play a game of withholding information. Finally, Dr. Lanselius says that Serafina Pekkala is the queen of a witch clan. He says that Farder Coram must keep it a secret that he shared the information about the Gobblers.
Seeing the way that Dr. Lanselius and Farder Coram interact shows Lyra that while she may want to be ready to enter the adult world of politics and posturing, she's not there yet. That Dr. Lanselius asks Farder Coram to not share what they discuss reminds the reader that the witches, and possibly Dr. Lanselius as an individual, have incentive to keep quiet about this sort of thing—the Magisterium in its power could make their lives miserable, even if what the Magisterium is doing is wrong.
Dr. Lanselius says that there's an organization in town that pretends to search for minerals, but is controlled by the General Oblation Board and imports children. They take the children inland, but he doesn't know where. He's not sure what they do to the children, but he's heard it referred to as the “Maystadt process” and “intercision.” Dr. Lanselius says that a group of children left two days ago by sledge. Farder Coram asks if there's any other question he should be asking. With a smile, Dr. Lanselius says that Farder Coram should ask about engaging the services of an armored bear. He explains that there's one in town, Iorek Byrnison, who isn't employed by the Oblation Board. He advises that getting Iorek’s help is extremely important.
Telling Farder Coram and Lyra the truth here allows Dr. Lanselius to align himself with the side of good, even if he must do so secretly. By doing this, he also positions himself in a place where he can continue to undermine the Magisterium, as, in theory at least, they'll have a hard time tracing this back to him. Suggesting that they employ Iorek may mean that Dr. Lanselius knows more than he's letting on about the dangers that the gyptians are going to face.
Then, Dr. Lanselius turns to Lyra and asks her about the alethiometer. She allows him to see it, but Farder Coram interrupts and says that Lyra can't read it. Lyra notices that Dr. Lanselius's dæmon is agitated, and she chooses to tell the truth. Dr. Lanselius tells her about the alethiometer's origins and where the symbols came from. Lyra explains how she relaxes her mind to read it and agrees to demonstrate. At Dr. Lanselius's request, she asks what the Tartars intend to do at Kamchatka. The answer comes to Lyra and she explains how she interpreted the needle's movements. Dr. Lanselius gives Farder Coram a strange look. He asks Lyra to go out to a shed full of cloud-pine sprays and figure out which one Serafina Pekkala used to fly. Lyra hurries outside.
The choice to tell the truth to Dr. Lanselius represents a major leap for Lyra and her relationship to lying, as well as her new understanding that she can make choices about which adults she trusts. Telling the truth suggests that Lyra now knows that when she chooses to do so, good things might come of it. This suggests that as her relationship to the alethiometer deepens, Lyra will get more comfortable with the truth in general and begin to understand how to use it to get what she wants and needs.
Farder Coram and Dr. Lanselius watch as Lyra correctly identifies the right spray. She then holds the cloud-pine above her head and pretends to fly. Dr. Lanselius says that the witches have been talking about Lyra for centuries. The witches hear "immortal whispers" from other worlds, and Lyra is supposed to fulfill her destiny in a different world—or else everyone will die. Further, she must do this without knowing what she's doing. Farder Coram tries to ask questions, but Lyra bursts in with the cloud-pine. Dr. Lanselius gives her a twig as a memento and wishes his guests luck. Farder Coram touches the cloud-pine and Lyra notices a look of longing on his face.
When Dr. Lanselius corroborates the Master's insistence that Lyra's journey was foretold, it solidifies the idea that destiny exists in Lyra's world. Again, noticing the look of longing on Farder Coram's face shows Lyra beginning to observe how people aside from herself engage with and interpret the world. Moving outside her childish selfishness allows her to experience flashes of maturity.
As Lyra and Farder Coram walk, Lyra says that the alethiometer told her that Dr. Lanselius knew the answer to his question already. They head to the depot to track down Iorek Byrnison and when they learn that he'll be off duty at six p.m., they purchase warm clothing for Lyra. Back at the ship, they reconnect with John Faa and share what they learned. John Faa says that he engaged the help of a balloonist.
When Lyra admits that she knew that Dr. Lanselius already knew the answer, it shows that she hasn't transformed into someone who's entirely truthful—to a degree, she still lied by admission. It's unclear if Dr. Lanselius would know this, however, which leaves room for Lyra to use lying by omission for good in the future.
That evening, Lyra and Farder Coram walk to the local bar. In the yard behind it, they find Iorek Byrnison drinking from a massive tankard and gnawing on a haunch of bloody meat. Farder Coram asks to speak to Iorek, and when the bear looks in their direction, Lyra feels uncomfortable. The bear isn't human, as he doesn't have a dæmon, and she both pities and admires him. Iorek stands up to his full height and rejects their offer of employment. He drinks from his tankard and then asks what the work is. Farder Coram briefly explains their mission and asks what Iorek is paid here—the answer is meat and alcohol. After a silence, Farder Coram asks why Iorek is working here when he could be free on the ice or winning wars. Lyra thinks that the question sounds insulting.
Note the fact that Lyra believes that Iorek isn't human just because he doesn't have a dæmon. This shows that Lyra's conception of what it means to be alive is, at this point, relatively narrow—a being must have a soul that she recognizes as a soul; speaking English and living in the human world isn't enough. Despite this, it's important to note that Lyra still feels like they should be very respectful of Iorek and that she takes offense to Farder Coram's questioning. She's beginning to believe, like the gyptians, that being different doesn’t mean one no longer deserves kindness and respect.
Iorek comes close to the gate and says that he knows the gyptians are looking for the children and the "child cutters." Because Iorek doesn't like the child cutters, he says that he'll answer Farder Coram politely. He explains that the townspeople tricked him by getting him drunk and took his armor away. Without his armor, he can't go to war as he's meant to do. He says that he'll help the gyptians if they can get him his armor.
Lyra will later learn that a bear's armor contains his soul, which explains why he's so scary for her at this point: he truly is soulless and cannot be the being that he's supposed to be. In other words, Lyra is onto something when she thinks that Iorek isn't human, as he is indeed without a soul or a purpose.