“Surely not!” cried the first knight.
“Inconceivable!” cried the second knight.
“Absolutely out of the question!” cried the third knight.
“What about lunch first?!” begged the fourth knight.
“Calm down, calm down!” said Linda. “No one is being tortured, okay? It’s just--it’s just a name. I don’t even know what it means.”
“They should be more careful naming their establishments,” sniffed King Dehn. “There must be all sorts of confusion.”
“Just follow me,” sighed Linda, and started leading the way across the grimy tile. Her hair was in mid toss when the knights came to a screeching bumping halt behind her and Mavis let out a squeal.
“What now?” asked Linda, whirling around.
“There are creatures of evil staring at us,” said the first knight.
“Cursed men and women who have lost their humanity,” said the second knight.
“We could fight them and win eternal glory,” said the third knight.
“Was it something from the Food Court that poisoned them?” asked the fourth knight.
“Those are mannequins,” gasped Mavis. She and Linda were laughing so hard they couldn’t breath to add anything more.
“Manne-whats?” asked King Dehn.
“Mannequins,” said Mavis. “Stores use them to show off clothes! They’re not people. They never were people!”
“They’re plastic!” Linda’s face was red from laughing. “They’re like big dolls!”
King Dehn’s face turned red from anger. “They are to display wares?! Then why are they made with heads yet lacking faces? To confuse us?”
“I don’t know,” said Linda. “They just are.”
“I think they’re creepy, too,” admitted Mavis, because some of the knights were looking embarrassed and shifting uncomfortably.
“Come on,” said Linda. “At this rate, we’re never going to make it.”
“We have never failed on a quest,” said King Dehn.
The knights glanced at each other and kept their mouths shut.
They went around the little fountain under a skylight that is a mandatory part of mall layouts--the one with strange blue tile and a weird ridge around the edge that you’re never sure whether you should sit on or not. King Dehn and the knights all stuck their noses out over it and sniffed knowingly, as if it were some great piece of art.
Linda couldn’t help laughing. When a little old lady in a very unflattering jacket took one look at them, snatched off her spectacles, cleaned them, and then put them back on again, she laughed even harder. Then four punks in saggy pants that had been leaning against the wall hiked up their drawers and scurried away. Linda turned so red Mavis thought she might pass out.
“You find us amusing?” asked King Dehn.
“Everyone else does!” Linda coughed and cleared her throat, shaking her head. “You’re the randomest thing they’ve seen in like--what would you say?”
“A week?” suggested Mavis, grinning.
“What is so amusing?!” demanded King Dehn.
“You don’t exactly look like a normal person from Earth,” Mavis explained.
“Well, we are not.”
“Sure, but that’s not what’s funny,” continued Linda. “What’s funny is that this is the mall. It’s full of people who don’t look normal!”
King Dehn sighed and looked at her as if she were adorably deranged.
“Here we are! Rack Room Shoes!” Mavis gave a triumphant flourish.
“You are sure there is no torturing involved in this purchase?” asked King Dehn.
“None,” said Mavis.
King Dehn shook his head disappointedly. But then he swept into the store with a flourish of his cape. “We have come, peasants, to purchase your most honored of footwear--Chuck’s.”
The girl standing behind the register froze midway through a text. “What the--”
“It’s okay, we’ll show him!” said Mavis, taking King Dehn by the arm and scurrying him away.
“Rule number one at the mall,” said Linda, “you don’t talk to anyone you don’t know.”
“Why is conversing with the peasants forbidden?”
“Because those ‘peasants’ might call the police,” said Mavis.
“Or, you know,” said Linda, “mock you on their instagram stories.”
“His Majesty is not to be mocked,” said the first knight.
“His Majesty must be--”
“Yeah, we got it the first time,” said Linda. “You don’t really have to say it in surround sound, ya know?”
“Where are the Chuck’s?” demanded King Dehn.
“Don’t get your crown crooked,” said Linda. “They’re right here. Red, black, white, ones with skulls on them--seriously?” She picked up a metallic ombre and played the light across it. “Okay, that’s cool.”
“Of course it’s cool,” said King Dehn. “It is the most Honored of Footwear.”
“Well, which ones do you want to try on?” asked Linda.
King Dehn blinked.
The knights blinked.
Even Mavis blinked.
“All of them,” said King Dehn.
And he did.
“Magnificent, sire!” said the second knight when he tried on a black pair.
“Boring,” said King Dehn.
“Stupendous!” cried the second knight when he tried on a red pair.
“For peasants,” sniffed King Dehn.
“Incomparable!” cried the third knight when he tried on a green pair.
“Not kingly,” grumped King Dehn.
“Good enough to eat!” cried the fourth knight when he tried on a purple pair.
“WHO WANTS TO EAT SHOES?!” yelled King Dehn.
Linda put her hands on her hips and fourth knight scurried around behind her so he would be protected. “Now, is that any way for you to behave?” asked Linda. “You start acting like a king, or we’re going home this minute.”
“You cannot make our personage do anything,” sneered King Dehn.
Linda rolled her eyes. “By ‘we’ I meant me and Mavis. You can stay here however long you like. Have fun with the faceless plastic people.”
All of the knights shivered and looked at each other.
“FINE,” said King Dehn.
But Linda didn’t take her hands off of her hips. “Shopping is supposed to be fun, okay?”
“How do we go about making it fun?” asked King Dehn, a little more meekly than before.
“Well, for one thing, we’re all just standing here watching you,” said Linda. “That’s no fun, is it Mavis.”
“Come on,” and Linda plopped down on the floor. “Everybody grab a pair. Let’s get this shopping party really started.”
“Look at the colors of the heavens embracing my feet!” cried first knight as he tied on a pair of yellow high tops.
“It has the richness of a thousand wells!” cried the second knight hopping up and down in a turquoise pair.
“What feats of bravery I could accomplish with these as my boon companion!” cried the third knight, double knotting a pair of reds.
“They look like a picnic blanket!” shouted the fourth knight when he found the red and white checks.
“I HAVE FOUND CHUCKS FIT FOR A KING!” roared King Dehn when he opened a box and found gold metallic chucks inside.
Linda and Mavis laughed until they cried.
“We’ll take these,” said Mavis, putting a stack of boxes on the counter.
“With our utmost congratulations to Sir Chuck,” added King Dehn.
The girl started slowly scanning the boxes, never taking her eyes off the knights. “Do you need help?” she mouthed, turning her head ever so slightly toward the girls.
“We’re...umm...in a musical,” said Mavis. “The Knights basketball players.”
“Community theater,” jumped in Linda. “Kind of B rate, if you ask me, but lots of fun.”
“Extremely jolly,” said the first knight.
“Immense pleasure,” said the second knight.
“Yeah, she gets it!” said Linda. “Let’s just pay and get on to rehearsals, okay?”
The knights had no idea what rehearsals were, but they had learned not to ask too many questions of the sassy Earth Maiden.
“Is that all for you today?” asked the girl.
“Yes,” said Linda. “And here you go.”
Her eyes bugged out even more as she took the wad of hundred dollar bills. “Thank you for shopping with Rack Room Shoes, have a great day.”
“Excellent establishment,” said King Dehn, “although you should consider a name change, due to the confusion--”
“It’s time to go,” said Linda, grabbing his arm and pulling him away.
Mavis wiggled her eyebrows as they walked out. “I know a place you all are going to love.”
“Is it--” breathed the fourth knight.
“The Food Court,” Mavis declared. “You guys have to get something from the Food Court.”
And, for once, none of the knights argued.