At the bottom of the stairwell, Cassidy rolls up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of a key on his forearm. Tracing its shape opens a doorway in the floor, through which he and Aidan — with the bleeding-out, unconscious Innogen slung over his shoulder — descend down a ladder. Roe, a little shaken by the group’s encounter last time and holding the dazed Serra (still in duck form) in her hands, is hesitant to follow. Fi brushes past, beginning to clamber down and getting her first look at Belbury: a large town that appears to have been constructed in the side of a mountain, it faces out towards a waterfall and is spread out across several levels. Roe follows, placing Baxter in a bucket usually used to transport post and other deliveries, in which he is winched down to ground level. Duck-Serra, meanwhile, gets stashed in her backpack. Both are adorable sights. Lissie joins close behind.
On reaching the first level of Belbury, Aidan and Elinor take Innogen off to get healed. Roe says she hopes that Innogen is okay, to which Cassidy snaps back: “Well if she is, it’ll be no thanks to you.” Before things get too heated Lissie intervenes, taking responsibility for the mix-up in the first place. Safely on the ground, Serra turns back to normal, feeling a bit dazed and sitting on the floor, trying to collect her thoughts. Fi asks if Belbury is a somehow secret or hidden town; Lissie is taken aback, surprised none of the group has heard of it before, to which Fi (somewhat hurt) explains she grew up somewhere pretty small and isolated. Lissie explains that Belbury is a port town, popular with traders — so long as they can pass the borders of T’eilt — and as if to illustrate the point, a large ship comes floating vertically down the waterfall, righting itself at the harbour down below. Roe, whilst still mostly sceptical of magic as a thing, is impressed.
Lissie notes again that they brought the group here because they thought they were magic users. Hearing it said out loud, Cassidy asks if that’s true. Fi clicks her fingers and creates a small flame in her palm and says “uh-huh.” Flustered, Roe closes Fi’s palm back up and extinguishes the flame, muttering that she doesn’t do magic. Also under his breath, Baxter insists that she does. Serra explains that whilst she is currently using magic, it’s only a phase, something she needs to do something important. When she’s done with this, that’ll be the end of it. She avoids specifics, but generally seems a bit off when the topic comes up. Roe asks if she’s okay, whether she needs anything, whilst Fi shakes her head sadly. “Just give me a hand up,” says Serra, and the ranger obliges. Clad in a shawl and still a bit shaky, Lissie suggests they take Serra to a nearby inn to fully gather her bearings, whilst Roe, Baxter and Fi explore Belbury and get the lay of the land.
Roe asks Cassidy if they’re under arrest or anything, to which he concedes they’re not, but he does want her sword. She hands it over semi-reluctantly, asking for assurance that she’ll get it back in one piece. “That depends,” says the orc, “if my friends remains in one piece.” He looks Fi over, who explains that she doesn’t have any weapons, just her magic, and that’s a part of her. Cassidy asks if it comes from a tattoo, like his, which she confirms is not the case. He then leaves them to it, going off to regroup with Aidan, Innogen and Elinor.
Gazing down on the movement of the town below, Fi ascertains that this isn’t an enclave of the resistance. It’s just a regular trading town, with families and individuals of all types — not just orcs — going about their business. The radical activities of Lissie and co must be a small part of what goes on there. She also sees a statue of an orc astride a goat in the square at the second-but-lowest level.
At the inn, Serra orders a tea and Lissie a hot toddy, and they sit in a booth off to the side. Still not sure what the orc wants them for, Serra asks for more information on what they’re doing in Belbury. Lissie lays it all out on the table: they think the group, being magic-adept and non-orc, might be the key to a mission their band of resistance members have had planned for a while. Feeling like they’re still being evasive, Serra presses them for details. Lissie, whose hands are noticeably shaking as they sip their drink, spills the beans. There is some sort of black-tie event coming up, a meeting of captains of industry from T’eilt and beyond, at which council members and the mayor are set to unveil an old relic. They explain that the plan is two-fold, with a plan A and B. The primary objective is to somehow win over the influencers in the room, to perhaps soften the borders around T’eilt for the populace of Belbury, for either trade or just vacationing. Failing that, other members of the group think that stealing the relic — a centuries-old star map — could either be held to ransom, or perhaps used by the people of Belbury, although they’re in the dark as to how the latter would work.
Elsewhere in town, Baxter is happily leading the pack, enjoying the sights and smells of the harbour. Roe asks Fi if she really couldn’t see Inu, the giant dog-deity the group had to get past to enter Belbury in the first place. Still annoyed about the whole incident, Fi insists she really couldn’t, and thought maybe the group were playing a prank on her. “Can you…see Baxter?” asks Roe, to which Fi says “Of course!” waving hi to the border collie who turns and wags his tail in response. Down the street they hear the ringing of a bell and the incessant calling out of “TOURIST INFORMATION!” and, getting closer, the trio find a pint-sized orc named Tor Giide. He plays a ditty on his own music notation tattoo, then cheerfully answers all of Roe’s questions about Belbury, ringing his bell the whole time and speaking at an unnecessarily loud volume.
He singles out the statue Fi saw as a particular point of interest, explaining it sits outside the council building; tells them there’s a tattoo parlour on the level below that is quite popular; and recommends the fish and chips in Belbury as the freshest you’re likely ever to taste. The only time his bell stops ringing is when Roe asks if there was a king or queen of the town, to which he explains there has been no royal family for a very long time. After his spiel, Roe awkwardly stands around, not knowing the etiquette for tipping. Tor stares up at her, smiling blankly. With a bit of sleight-of-hand, Fi makes a coin “appear” from behind Roe’s ear, but he makes no move to accept the money. They shuffle off in silence, at which point he returns to his route walking up and down the promenade, bellowing and ringing his bell.
Back at the inn, Serra accepts Lissie’s plan, on the assurance that the group are not being roped into any violent or illegal activity. Lissie also promises some sort of payment for their involvement in the scheme, should they pull it off. Anything more substantial, however, cannot be discussed until Serra has reconvened with the rest of her group, and Lissie with their own. The druid asks what there is to do in Belbury, to which Lissie explains there are plenty of market stalls, a harbour with fresh deliveries coming in constantly, and the tattoo parlour. Suggesting they go explore, Lissie gets up to go and pay for the drinks. Whilst they are at the bar, a familiar face sits down in the booth opposite Serra: Rurron, the tiger-lady from the train! It’s only lunchtime but already she’s absolutely hammered, clouds of whiskey breath hitting Serra whenever Rurron speaks. Apologising for the sorry state she last saw her in, which apparently directly lead to her losing her job, Serra offers to make amends by buying Rurron a drink. At the bar, Lissie asks who she is. As Serra is explaining, she’s interrupted by a huge crash. The giant drunk tiger woman has tried to stand up and promptly passed out, knocking over the table and breaking all the glasses in the process. The landlady insists they take her home, and Serra asks if she can take the glass of water she had also ordered for Rurron. Sharing the weight with Lissie, the orc suggests they take the unconscious beast back to their apartment.
At the tattoo parlour, Roe is troubled by a “NO DOGS” sign at the door. Fi volunteers to take Baxter for some of the fish and chips Tor mentioned. They sit on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away, Fi sharing her large portion with the doggo. Gazing at the range of designs on the walls of the parlour, Roe instead asks the lady orc behind the counter if perhaps she can have some of her existing tattoos gone over; she doesn’t appear to be interested in imbuing them with magical properties as she is with making them move (it looks neat!) and expresses particular interest in applying it to her bird tattoos. The lady orc checks with the artist in the back room, from where a constant buzzing has been emanating, which he confirms.
Serra and Lissie manage to drag Rurron up the two flights of stairs to their apartment, having to awkwardly pivot past an elderly neighbour in the stairwell. Laying the enormous tiger lady in the bathtub, they try to get her to drink some water, but she’s out cold. She snores loudly, and Serra has the uncomfortable sensation of being in an unusual situation in an unfamiliar location, and immediately starts trying to play host or somehow make things less weird by helping Lissie out somehow. They insist everything’s fine, and suggest Serra takes a seat. Their apartment is small, but cosy, minimalist by choice rather than laziness. There is a large bed, a locked chest at the foot of it and a large wardrobe opposite; a well-stocked kitchen; various papers strewn about the place. Collapsing into an armchair, Serra asks about the mind-wiping spell that the group usually use on their regular train robberies. Lissie explains that that’s a higher-level magic that Aidan employs, implying that it involves either a tattoo in a sensitive area, or perhaps that the orc resistance leader’s booty is so magnificent it makes those that witness it forget about everything but the butt.
Insisting that they can take care of Rurron, Lissie suggests Serra meet up with everyone else to see what they think of the plan. Following her instincts, which prove to be correct, Serra finds Roe at the tattoo parlour, arriving alongside a well-fed Fi and Baxter. Roe proudly displays her tattoo although, when drumming her fingers along with it, it doesn’t play the birdsong she was expecting; she chalks that up to the new ink not having healed yet. Baxter is non-plussed by the addition, whilst Serra is surprised and impressed. Fi is a little taken aback. “I thought you didn’t like magic?” she asks, to which Roe replies (somewhat tactlessly), “Yeah, but this doesn’t hurt anyone.” Before any more arguments can develop, Serra reveals that she bumped into Rurron — whose drinking problem Roe was aware of from her and Elinor’s first run-in with the former deputy train conductor — runs them through the plan as Lissie explained it, and her reservations. As a former member of the upper crust, she is concerned that she might bump into somebody she knows at this fancy event, or that word of her involvement with a ragtag group of adventurers may find its way back to her parents. Lissie, meanwhile, seemed to think her insider knowledge could help.
Everyone piles back to Lissie’s, where the orc is cooking a big pot of something delicious-smelling on her stove and Rurron still snoozing in the tub. They compare tattoos with Roe, whose birdsong is still a little out of tune. They ask if everyone’s on board, going over a few of the particulars. Roe starts at the mention of a star map, then tries to play it off as wincing at the pain of the fresh ink. Fi admits to being intrigued by the offer. With some time to kill still before meeting up with Elinor and company, the group peruse the market stalls of Belbury for suitable outfits to the T’eilt ball: an ostentatious lace number for Fi, an elegant dress for Serra, a tailored suit for Roe and a ribbon tied around Baxter (which he hates) after he’s had a wash. On another stall, Roe spies a dagger and — missing her confiscated sword — asks if Fi could make her something like that. Scavenging scrap metal from some trashed shipping crates at the dock, she fashions an improvised shiv. Serra buys some tasty fish and rice, and everyone waits patiently for the all-clear on Innogen.