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The Weatherlight's troubles continue as it crash-lands on a strange new plane. When most of the crew disembarks to assess the damage, the ship is promptly attacked by raiders from a tribe called the Cho-Arrim, who steal the ship. Finally, soldiers from the capital city of Mercadia arrive to arrest the beleaguered crew.

After a forced march, the crew arrives in Mercadia City, which sits atop an inverted mountain where all the important trade routes meet. This city's layout is twisted and surreal: to go left, you must turn right, then right again. Inside the city, Gerrard and the crew take advantage of the crowds to fight their way free.

Meanwhile, Orim, who was captured with the ship, learns more about her captors.The Cho-Arrim are spiritual people who suffer greatly under the greedy Mercadians. Their leader Cho-Manno explains that he took the Weatherlight's arrival as a sign prophesying the return of the sky god Ramos and the end of Mercadian rule. Orim slowly becomes sympathetic to the Cho-Arrim's situation and attracted to their leader.

The Weatherlight crew regroups and makes contact with the rulers of Mercadia City. Mercadians are an evasive, aloof people: the nobles are hedonistic, apathetic, and lazy, while the commoners are selfish, grasping, and paranoid. Mercadian goblins are much larger and smarter than any the crew has encountered before, and they actually seem to be running the city despite their servile attitudes. Furthermore, a guild of professional assassins and thieves called Caterans roams the back alleys of the marketplace, ready to terrorize or murder anyone for the right price.

The Mercadian magistrate unexpectedly offers Gerrard an unusual deal. A platoon of soldiers and Cateran mercenaries will be placed under his command to recover the Weatherlight. If the mission is successful, Gerrard may petition for both the return of his ship and safe passage out of Mercadia for himself and his crew. Suspicious of the magistrate's motives, Gerrard accepts the bargain anyway and marches for Cho-Arrim territory.

In the ensuing battle, the violent Caterans slaughter the Cho-Arrim indiscriminately. Gerrard orders the Mercadian troops to stop but he finds himself and his crew under arrest once more.

Back in Mercadia City, Takara brokers a new deal with the magistrate: the crew will repair the damaged Weatherlight and restore its flying mechanisms for him in exchange for their freedom. Sisay, Hanna, and Orim will travel to Saprazzo, a rival trade city inhabited by enlightened merfolk with the ability to switch between fish tails and human legs at will. There they will secure an artifact required to fix the ship, while Takara and the male members of the crew remain in captivity. The magistrate agrees.

Eventually, Takara engineers the crew's escape. Karn and Hanna head for the Weatherlight while the others set off to recover the missing artifacts. Gerrard's band discovers the ruins of an ancient Thran site, encounters a race of powerful dryads, and battles a huge, mechanical war engine.