“Silence, knaves!” roared King Dehn, who had been waiting for the perfect moment to do it. He loved yelling the word “Knave.” It just rolled off of his tongue and made everyone shiver.
Well, almost everyone. That pesky Linda never shivered, no matter what he yelled. She was striding beside him up the hallway, a grin on her face. “You know you're not going to change his mind,” said Linda to the knights. “He’s far too much of a stubborn brat.”
The knights moaned at her impudence, but King Dehn just wagged his head sagely. “The maiden is right--we will not be changing our mind.”
They were wishing very much that they had not come. They might have enjoyed a quest or two in their young, whip snapping days, but now they had aching backs and brittle knees and sore feet. Well, all except the youngest, but he had missed breakfast. And he thought it was a cruel thing to be sent on a quest without breakfast.
But one does not refuse a quest from King Dehn anymore than one talks King Dehn out of something he’s already decided. And so four reluctant knights were trailing after King Dehn and Linda as they crossed Central Station.
Linda was a normal girl--well, normal as in a girl from earth. To cut a long story short (and it is such a long story there is a whole book written about it!) her bratty cousins had discovered a wonderful magical world, and had turned out to not be as bratty after all. Now Linda went back and forth to Otherworld from Earth all the time. She was Assistant Royal Basketball Councillor, and her neighbor Brent was the Chief Royal Basketball Councillor, but he was busy with work. Which meant she would have been on King Duty all by herself, except she had called in backup from her not-as-bratty-after-all cousin Mavis.
Mavis was walking along with them, her hands in her shorts pockets. Just a few weeks before, she had been too sick to get out of bed, and it felt so very good to go striding along, keeping up with the knights and their great long legs. “Did you bring money?” asked Mavis. “To go shopping with?”
King Dehn snapped his fingers, and the first knight stepped forward and put a bag in Mavis’ hand. At least, he meant to put it in one hand, but it was so heavy she almost dropped it and had to catch it with two.
“What on--” began Linda, and Mavis gave her a peek at the gold coins the size of US silver dollars and twice as thick. “What is that?!”
“Currency used to procure the king’s whims,” said the first knight.
“Gold from the Royal Treasury used to make purchases,” said the second knight.
“The means of exchange used in our realm put into a bag,” said the third knight.
“Shopping money,” said the fourth knight, who was more earth-speak savvy, even though he was terribly hungry.
“How much do you think this is?” whispered Mavis.
Linda shrugged. “One way to find out.” She led the way across the glossy cream marble, snaking her way around clumps of fans going to Central Stadium for the Sweezeball Bowl.
“Why are we walking so quickly?” puffed King Dehn.
“Hey, if you want to hang with me, you’ve got to keep up,” said Linda. But she did slow down. Just a hair.
There was barely a line at the money exchange booth, mainly because few people went to earth to spend money. There were far to many other interesting worlds with interesting things to buy for that.
“Great,” said Linda under her breath. “Hobgoblin.”
Hobgoblins are small and leathery and unreliable at best, but they are also extremely canny about money. This particular Hobgoblin was slouching on his stool so much it looked like he would fall off onto the tall counter, but the minute he saw Mavis’ bag he rubbed his fingers together. Mavis couldn’t tell if he was laughing or crying. Maybe he was doing both.
“We’re here to change this for earth currency,” said Mavis, putting the bag on the counter.
“What country?” wheezed the hobgoblin, already weighing the bag with his eyes.
“United States of America,” said Linda.
“Pity. I could have gotten you a much better rate for Venezuela.”
“Are there malls in this Venezuela?” asked King Dehn. He liked the sound of “better.”
“Maaaaybe,” said Mavis.
“No,” said Linda. “At least, none that we’re going to. I’m the guide, remember?”
King Dehn rolled his eyes. “FINE.” It was his favorite Earth Girl expression, and he did it with a lot of flare. Three knights nodded appreciatively. The fourth was watching a picnic basket be carried by.
“All agreed?” asked the hobgoblin.
“The US,” said Linda.
He grabbed up the bag with so much speed Mavis almost snatched it back. But in another second and with a great leap he was off his stool and disappearing into the room in the back.
“He probably has to have a manager open the door,” said Linda, tapping her fingernails on the counter.
“Why?” asked Mavis.
“Haven’t you heard? Hobgoblins are like addicted to eating paper. And American money is--”
“Made of 75% cotton and 25% linen,” said Mavis. “So not really paper.”
Linda blew her breath out. “I forgot you were a nerd.”
Mavis just grinned at her.
King Dehn shifted with a huff. Didn’t this so called hobgoblin know who he was?
As if he could read his mind, the hobgoblin came plodding out. “The currency is ready for you,” he moaned.
“How much?” asked Linda sharply.
The hobgoblin finished climbing up on his stool, moving painfully slow now that the money was heading out rather than in. “Two,” he whispered.
“Two what?” demanded Linda. “Two dollars?! That’s absolutely--”
“Thousands,” said the hobgoblin.
“Pardon?” gasped Linda.
“Two thousand US dollars,” said the hobgoblin, as if it should be as obvious as the nose on his face.
Linda looked as if she might faint.
“If you won’t give us a reasonable rate--” began King Dehn.
“We’ll take it,” said Linda, grabbing the bag.
The hobgoblin didn’t want to let it go, and she had to pry it out of his fingers.
“Can one purchase these Chucks with two thousand of your dollars?” asked King Dehn.
Mavis coughed. “You can buy a store.”
“His Majesty does not wish to purchase a--” began the first knight.
“Shut it,” said Linda. “Two thousand dollars is...insane for just casual shopping. There’s no way I’m letting you spend all of this today.”
“I am King,” said King Dehn. And he snatched the bag away.
Mavis and Linda looked at each other.
He opened the bag and his nose wrinkled up. “All it is dirty scraps of paper with bad drawings. Who is this man with no hair on his forehead and a ridiculous ruffle on his collar?”
Linda snorted. “That’s Benjamin Franklin. He, like, invented old people glasses.”
“Bifocals,” corrected Mavis.
“We do not like to look upon his countenance,” said King Dehn, shutting the bag decidedly.
“Well,” said Mavis, “at least we’ll have enough money for mall junk.”
“What is mall junk?” asked King Dehn.
“Oh, you know. Useless stuff you buy at the mall when you’re bored and hanging out.” Mavis blushed. “I’ve never done it, but I’ve heard that’s what you do.”
“Ah,” said King Dehn. He pulled out a fistfull of bills--hundred dollar bills--and handed it to the first knight. “Purchase some mall junk for yourself as is customary.”
“Your Majesty is very gracious,” said the first three knights.
The fourth was already picturing what he was going to buy. He’d talked to the Earth Dweller Roger, and he had a pretty good idea of what a mall was--a magical place with something called a Food Court.
“Here, maiden,” said King Dehn, and shoved the bag back at Linda.
“What are we--”
“Our Royal Personage does not handle financial transactions! You must buy the Chucks.”
“This is way more than you need for Chucks,” said Mavis.
“Then once our whims are satisfied, you may keep the rest,” sniffed Dehn. “Provided you desist from talking about such unpalatable subjects as finances.”
“Oh we couldn’t--” began Mavis.
“Disagree with that,” jumped in Linda. “Don’t worry, we won’t talk about money any more.”
“We can’t just keep that kind of money,” hissed Mavis as they walked away.
“You can keep your half or not,” said Linda. “But you’d better bet I’m keeping my half.” She was grinning from ear to ear and clutching the bag a little more tightly.
“I thought you said this was a bad idea,” whispered Mavis with a knowing smile.
“Look, it’s going to be awful,” said Linda. “But it’s also going to be hysterical.”
They were walking up the tiled hallway to where the Mall Portal was. Soon there would be no turning back. “What if someone calls the police?” asked Mavis suddenly. “I mean, we’ve got the Burger King and four Sir Spam-o-lots following us around!”
Linda gave her a sassy look. “Like anyone will care. It’s the mall.”
Mavis had to concede it was an excellent point.