In the year 2171 after the Terran Exodus, House Jakabitus benevolently rules the planet Apios, while being engaged in a generations-long war with the brutish Hahn Empire, limiting their military action to the unimportant world of Ophion 6. The war has long since ground into a stalemate with barely a shot being exchanged between the two belts of fortifications circling the planet due to the presence of numerous Kill Sats of both sides in orbit, turning this into a form of Mutually Assured Destruction. The Hahn then surprise the Apiosans by attacking on foot, using clubs as weapons, a tactic no one has expected, since hand-to-hand combat has been largely forgotten in the galaxy outside of athletic competition and security work. Despite this, the Apiosans manage to inflict significantly higher casualties on the Hahn due to their training in Apiosan sports (a weird form of wrestling).
Lady Joanadie Jakabitus, the ruler of Apios, is horrified to learn of this new development, but is surprised when the commander of her military forces General Kriz "the Weeper" informs her that their forces have managed to capture Henneck Hahn, the teenage son of Lord Kamar Hahn, the undisputed ruler of the Hahn Home World. While Henneck is not Lord Kamar's heir, being second in line after his sister Shimlish, he is still a valuable prize. Wollard, the Master of Formalities for House Jakabitus, advises Her Ladyship to adopt the boy in order to, hopefully, teach him to be more Apiosan in his views and, perhaps, help end the war.
Henneck turns out to be as bad as his father, disrespecting the members of House Jakabitus and the palace staff and immediately setting out to plan his Great Escape. Along with Henneck, Apiosan forces have managed to capture a servant named Migg, who is brought with the boy and assigned to the palace staff as Henneck's valet. Despite initial reservations, Migg is grateful to escape the Hahn Home World (which is a horrible place for anyone who is not a member of the ruling family) and tries to integrate into the staff, while being forced to help Henneck plan the escape. She secretly helps to foil his attempt, although it's revealed that it wouldn't have worked anyway thanks to palace security tracking his every move. When Lady Jakabitus contacts Lord Hahn to tell him about his son, Kamar Hahn appears not to care what happens to Henneck.
Eventually, Henneck decides to try something new and barricades himself in the palace gym, along with Migg and Joanadie's son Rayzo as his captive. He declares the gym a property of House Hahn and Rayzo as his adopted son. Wollard informs Her Ladyship that, according to precedent, she only has four hours to retake the "occupied territory" before it is officially recognized as Hahn property. He also begs with her to give him time to talk Henneck into opening the door, since using security to break it down would put House Jakabitus into a negative light to the rest of the galaxy. In desperation, he accidentally breaks the cardinal rule of the Masters of Formalities and tells Henneck, a member of a noble house, that he cannot do something (a Master of Formalities can only advise, never order). At this, Migg reveals herself to be a Master of Formalities and has Henneck open the door. She then rebukes Wollard, which equates to an accusation of a crime among the Masters of Formalities. Wollard is relieved of his responsibilities and status and is to travel to Central Authority, the planet where the Arbiters will scrutinize him to decide his fate. Migg is made the temporary Master of Formalities for House Jakabitus, much to the chagrin of Lady Jakabitus, who does not appreciate Migg's subterfuge.
Meanwhile, Gint, the former palace sous chef returns home after his tour of duty with the army ends. However, he is no longer the same man (literally), since he has been killed several times by the Hahn, each time being regenerated (essentially, cloned) by the Apiosan "emergency loss-retardant measures". To make him a more efficient soldier, his physical parameters were modified to make him big and strong, and tactical knowledge has been download into him, replacing all his cooking skills. When Lady Jakabitus sees what has become of Gint, she has a Heroic BSoD, allowing Migg to convince her to end the war by an Arranged Marriage between her son Rayzo and Lord Kamar Hahn's daughter Shimlish. Her Ladyship is horrified at the idea of sacrificing her son to end the war, but is forced to admit that it's worth the price. Migg also reveals that the entire chain of events has been orchestrated by her and Lord Kamar Hahn in order to bring about this outcome (Lord Hahn hoping to, eventually, subsume House Jakabitus into House Hahn, assuming Rayzo to be a weakling).
On Central Authority, Wollard arrives to find a luxury resort in place of an austere building, as he's been led to believe. He is stripped of his possessions (including his clothes) and is brought before the scrutinizers, who admit that the whole thing is, for the most part, a Kangaroo Court, since they only care about the fact of his offense rather than any extenuating circumstances. If found guilty, he will be stripped of his status as a Master of Formalities and be unable to leave the planet, instead being given a menial job. As the scrutinizers are about to deliver their verdict, Wollard receives a message from Phee, his former protégé (now Migg's protégé), who informs him of Migg's plan and the coming wedding.
Back on Apios, dignitaries from all over the galaxy arrive to celebrate the momentous occasion. At the formal dinner, Rayzo and Shimlish are surprised to actually not mind each other's company, Shimlish being an atypical Hahn and quite beautiful (despite her nickname "Shimlish the Pig"), although they still don't want to be forced into a marriage. During the ceremony, the officiant utters the words "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace", which is the exact moment Wollard chooses to make a grand entrance and puts a stop to the wedding. He accuses Migg of abusing her authority to manipulate the great houses for personal desires (her ancestors are from Ophion 6, forced to emigrate after the start of the war) and sends her to Central Authority to be scrutinized. He declares that continuing the wedding under such circumstances would be "poor form indeed". When Lord Hahn threatens to resume hostilities, Wollad points out that warfare for petty reasons is also "poor form" and could result in the Hahn Home World being declared an uncivilized world (which would ruin the world's economy and standing with the other worlds), thus ending the war without the marriage. Migg, content that her original goal has been accomplished, leaves for Central Authority to accept her punishment. Rayzo and Shimlish part, although they admit their wish to see one another again, and Henneck opts to go back with his family.
Wollard is once again the Master of Formalities for House Jakabitus. On Central Authority, Migg is accused of manipulating great houses for personal reasons. When she refuses to defend herself, the Arbiters presiding over her scrutiny are forced to... offer her a position as an Arbiter (since that's exactly what they do on a daily basis).