"Why is everybody dressed like the Wolf Queen?" I asked, with extreme perplexity.
"Ewww, lame!" Fifi exclaimed. "The Wolf Queen is like, all Seelie and boring. Do you seriously not know Pie-Fight Valkyrie? How can you be a Vulpitanian without knowing this?"
"Uh .. we didn't have it at home when I was growing up," I answered with scrupulous truthfulness.
"Weird," Fifi retorted. "Well, anyway, come on. We gotta enter all the contests. Couple of Lengra-Cha vixens like us should walk away with a bunch of prizes. Including the VIP dinner with SALV Kraekenhoepfer!"
"Are we .. gonna have to wear that outfit?" I asked, dreading the answer.
"Of course! Like, DUH, that's part of the fun of the convention!"
"I don't have one," I shrugged with relief.
"I'm sure there are lots of booths with costumes for sale."
"I don't have much money," I objected.
"Are you for real?" Fifi snorted. "Quit kidding around. Hotties like us don't have to pay for stuff. Let's find a booth run by some pathetic nerd, and Wile him into giving us what we want."
Meanwhile, in the woods nearby:
"While you wait, Sire," Alice spoke coolly to the Scuti in the jar, which she had stuffed into a hollow tree. "You might reflect on your choices. In particular you might consider the way, when Ixies attacked our caravan, you shoved Mara and my friend-mate into the line of fire while you dove for cover. I can assure you, it's a moment I will never forget. Perhaps, after I have taken charge of the Empire, I will send someone to fetch you. I make no promises. In the meantime, try to relax and make the best of what time remains for you. I go now to my royal destiny."
A little while later, Fifi and I were in costume & standing in line for the pie-dodging event. I felt more than a little queasy about the Unseelie way we had obtained these outfits.
"Whoah, it feels pretty sweet to be wearing a monocle, even if it is just pretend," Fifi chirped gleefully. "Someday I hope I will be officially entitled to one. Maybe if I succeed in seducing one of the royal skunks and subjugating him to my will I'll finally get promoted."
"Izzy?" I blurted as I suddenly recognized the not-very-feminine figure in front of me.
"Pardon?" the otter replied. "Do I know you?"
"I've, uh, seen you before, down at the river," I floundered.
"Yes, my duties as Rivermaster and Booty Inspector have gained me a reputation among .. certain types of people," Izzy mused, squinting suspiciously at me through his monocle.
"What are you doing here? How do you even know about this Pie Valkyrie thing?"
"I confiscated a crate of scrolls one time, and then later when I was having a really slow day, I randomly decided to read one. Well, from then on, forget it - I was hopelessly hooked. That SALV Kraekenhoepfer is one fierce and sassy vixen! She's a great role model for young femmes. Yeah, I know it's a trashy series, but you have to just appreciate it for what it is! Anyway, when I heard ValKon was gonna be right here in Albric Tor, I knew I had to come out and support it."
Meanwhile, in GHQ:
"Report, Earl," Theronmyathus rasped. "Was the operation successful?"
"I'd say, like, from a tactical perspective, it was partially almost completely successful, yeah," the strange buck replied.
"Please elaborate," the Marshal prompted. "And where are your clothes?"
"I had to ditch 'em," the buck replied without skipping a beat. "Important mission-related strategy. Adler's so-called army ate the adulterated bread and it like totally freaked them out, man! They're not going anywhere. Stalled them for, like two meals at least."
"That might be enough to give us the advantage we need," Avogadro interjected.
"And the ambush?" Theronmyathus asked.
"No dice. I mean, they didn't walk into it because like, they weren't walking, man. But I relayed the info to Adler himself about the tunnels, and if he's in a hurry - which he will like totally have to be after this, man - he will definitely consider using them. Oh, and I also got some intel about troop movements and patrols and stuff like that, man."
"Sir, in light of this positive report, may I NOW be excused for some R&R?" Avogadro wheedled.