AN: I honestly have no clue where I came up with this idea, but I'm assuming it was the result of too much sugar in the wee hours of the morning. The semblance of a plot was added at the last minute, mostly to maximize insanity. Enjoy!
Originally written for my sister, who loves shopping malls way more than she should.
Aragorn trudged along behing the rest of the Fellowship, his expression gloomy. They had been following the same barren trail southwards for two weeks now, and the monotonous landscape and lack of civilization were wearing on all of their spirits. Aragorn, especially, was glum: in a week it would be Arwen's birthday, and Aragorn had promised himself that this year he would finally remember to send her something. Unfortunately, he didn't have anything that would make a suitable gift, and knew that he wouldn't find anything on the rugged path.
Suddenly he spotted a sign on the side of the road. It read:
MALL OF MIDDLE-EARTH
Aragorn felt a wide smile spread over his face. A mall would be a perfect place to pick out a birthday present! Plus, such an excursion would provide a welcome relief from their rather boring journey. After consulting quickly with Gandalf and receiving enthusiastic cheers of agreement from the rest of the Fellowship, Aragorn led the group to the right.
Twenty minutes later, the Fellowship stood in the center of the mall, looking around with wide eyes. They were surrounded by stairs, vast hallways, a carousel, many stores with colorful displays in their windows, and more people than they ever imagined could fit under one roof. "This place is huge!" gasped Pippin in awe. "Where should we go first?"
Aragorn bit his lip, unsure. He, like everyone else in the Fellowship, had never been to a mall before, and had no idea where to start looking for Arwen's present. He caught sight of a directory, and they all huddled around it.
After a while of staring at it in silence, Boromir spoke up. "So, Aragorn, what exactly are we looking for?"
"I don't know," Aragorn admitted, feeling a little bit silly. "I want to buy a birthday gift for Arwen, but -"
"Ooh, how old is she?" Pippin interrupted. "Six hundred?"
"Nah," Merry disagreed. "She's probably more like a thousand. A bit old for Strider, if you ask me."
Aragorn glared at the immature hobbits. "She's turning two thousand, seven hundred and seventy-eight, if you must know. As I was saying, I want to buy her something, but I'm not really sure what to get. I was hoping you guys could help me."
"Of course we'll help!" Sam exclaimed. He glanced at the stores around him for a few seconds, then led the group into a Hallmark store. He chose a card from the shelves, grabbed a small red oliphaunt statue, and placed them in Aragorn's hands, smiling triumphantly.
Aragorn turned the statue over, examining it. "It is beautiful," he remarked. "It's a little impersonal, though, don't you think?"
"Well, yeah, on it's own it is," Sam said. "That's why you send a card with a heartfelt message as well."
"I don't know," Aragorn sighed, setting the items down on a counter. "Thanks anyway, Sam, but I'm sure I can find something better."
Sam shrugged good-naturedly. "It was just a suggestion."
"You could always buy her a new dress," Legolas suggested as they exited the store. "Girls love clothes, right?" He scanned the directory. "There's a Gondorian Eagle and an Abercrombie & Elf nearby."
"Gondorian Eagle is a very nice store," Boromir put in.
Aragorn frowned. "Arwen already has whole closets full of dresses; I want to get her something she doesn't have. Besides, what if I buy the wrong size? I don't want to insult her."
"You can never go wrong with jewelry," Gimli offered.
"Or you can buy her something from over there!" Merry smirked, pointing at a display of lacy lingerie.
Aragorn glanced to where Merry was pointing, and involuntarily blushed. "Uh... no," he replied. "I am not buying Arwen anything from Galadriel's Secret."
"Really? I bet you'd love to see her in one of those tiny, little . . ."
"Shut up, Merry!" Aragorn growled. "It is completely inappropriate, and besides, Elrond would murder me in the most horrible way possible when he found out."
Merry was still grinning at him, when Pippin suddenly exclaimed, "There's a food court here?"
"Food court?" Merry forgot about teasing Aragorn and turned his attention to where Pippin was staring. "Wow! That's huge!"
"Strider, I know we promised to help, but... can we go to the food court? We haven't had second breakfast yet!" Pippin turned to the Ranger with a pleading expression on his face. Merry soon did the same.
"Oh, all right!" Aragorn sighed as the two hobbits started sprinting down the walkway. He actually wasn't unhappy about their desertion. After Merry's suggestion, Aragorn wasn't sure if he even wanted their help.
"Well, Aragorn," Gandalf said. "Where are we going?"
The Ranger hesitated, glancing at the remaining members of the Fellowship. Gimli met his gaze, one eyebrow raised. "We can look at a jewelry store," Aragorn finally said. Gimli nodded approvingly.
The group soon entered Dale's – "The Diamond Store." Gimli's eyes immediately widened in delight. "Ah!" he gasped as he examined the contents of the display tables. "Diamonds, gold, and mithril, straight from Erebor! Look, Aragorn!" He picked up a pair of bejeweled earrings and handed them to the Ranger. "These would suit Arwen perfectly! Or this silver bracelet!" The Dwarf led Aragorn around the store at a dizzying pace, dumping various semiprecious objects into his hands and pockets.
"Gimli -" Aragorn began as the Dwarf shoved yet another necklace into his coat pocket. "I appreciate the fact that you're trying to help, truly, but..." He stopped when he realized that Gimli wasn't even paying attention. Instead, he was counting the rubies in a gigantic watermelon pendant.
Aragorn quietly transferred the jewels from his pockets back onto the store's tables. A saleswoman watched him with a steely glare. Several other employees were beginning to do the same.
"I think it's high time that we leave this store," Gandalf whispered.
"I couldn't agree more," Aragorn whispered back. "But what are we going to do about Gimli?" The Dwarf was muttering to himself about the fine quality of the store's merchandise, completely oblivious to everything and everyone else.
"I'm sure he'll be alright staying here for a little while," Gandalf responded.
"Probably." Aragorn unloaded the last (at least, he hoped it was the last) of the jewelry from his pockets, as he and the rest of the group tiptoed out of Dale's. Gimli didn't notice. He was still gazing at the gemstones with an expression of pure ecstasy on his face.
Once the six (relatively) sane members of the Fellowship were safely out of sight of the jewelry store, they stopped to determine their next course of action.
"I still think we should look at clothes," Legolas insisted. "If not a dress, maybe a cape or a scarf would work."
"I'm with Legolas," Boromir asserted. "Gondorian Eagle is right there; it would be wise to look inside." The Elf nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
Aragorn raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "Boromir, why are you so intent on going to Gondorian Eagle?"
"Because they have good clothes there, and they're from Gondor."
"Good clothes for Arwen, or for you?"
"Oh come on, Aragorn!" Legolas interjected, saving Boromir from having to come up with a witty response. "So what if Boromir wants to go clothes-shopping? I wouldn't mind joining him. I mean, look at us! Our clothes are disgusting from all that time on the road!" He tugged on his shirt, which was splattered with about three milligrams of mud, to prove his point.
Aragorn sighed. "Well, I guess you guys have the right to shop for what you want, too. Go ahead, but just... try to stay out of trouble."
"For Arda's sake, Aragorn, how much trouble can one Elf and one Man get into in a shopping mall?" Legolas demanded.
"I'd prefer it if you didn't try to find out," Aragorn muttered under his breath.
Legolas and Boromir didn't hear him. "Oh, look!" Legolas exclaimed, pointing at a sign in the store. "There's having a sale on plaid shirts!"
"Plaid shirts from Gondor," Boromir corrected. "Let's go!" They disappeared into the store.
"When is Gondorian Eagle not having a sale on plaid shirts?" Aragorn asked sarcastically.
"When they're having a sale on skinny jeans!" Sam responded.
Aragorn couldn't help smiling. "Good point." And let's hope that Boromir doesn't decide to buy any of those . . . he added in his mind. He glanced at the stores around them. "I don't think we'll find anything here. Let's go back the way we came and look at the other end of the mall." Gandalf, Frodo, and Sam murmured in agreement.
As the foursome made their way through the shopping center, they passed by the Hallmark store. Through the window, Aragorn could see the oliphaunt statue on the counter where he had left it. Well, he thought as he stopped to gaze at it, I suppose it wouldn't make a bad gift . . .
"Aragorn, I thought you wanted to look at that end of the mall! Why are you stopping here?" Gandalf asked, clearly annoyed.
"Coming, sorry!" Aragorn hurried to catch up to Gandalf and the hobbits. Reunited, they continued on their way.
They went into several stores that seemed promising, but found nothing. Aragorn could tell that Sam and Frodo, in spite of all their desire to help, were beginning to get bored. As they passed through yet another section of the mall, Sam suddenly cried out.
Alarmed, Aragorn, Gandalf, and Frodo turned to the hobbit.
"Are you okay?"
But they soon saw that nothing was wrong, for Sam was grinning from ear to ear and pointing. "There's a Shire Depot here!" he exclaimed. "Oh, how I'd love to see their gigantic gardening section!" He glanced at Aragorn, and immediately backpedaled. "I mean, I want to help you look for Arwen's gift, and I don't want to leave, but–"
"Oh, go and look at Shire Depot!" Aragorn had accepted the fact that the members of the Fellowship were quitting the search one by one. Sam looked at the Ranger, hesitant. "Go ahead, Sam. You've already been a big help, and I know you want to look at the gardening stuff."
"Okay, if you're sure." Aragorn nodded. Sam grinned. "Mr. Frodo, are you coming?" Frodo hesitated for a minute, then followed Sam into the hobbit-hole improvement store.
"And then there were two." Aragorn turned to Gandalf. "If you want to go look at something, you can. Don't feel like you have to help me; I'm sure I can manage on my own."
Gandalf shook his head. "I will help you in your search, Aragorn," he said. "But I think it might be wise to split up. We will cover more ground that way. I'll look through the east side of the mall, and you look in the west side."
"Good idea," Aragorn agreed. "Where should we meet up afterward?"
Gandalf thought for a minute. "How about at the entrance to Arnordstrom, in one hour?"
"Sounds like a plan." They smiled and walked off in their opposite directions.
Maybe I'll finally get some peace, Aragorn thought, now that I'm alone. It will likely be easier to shop, too.
As he made his way through the mall, he found himself wondering what the rest of the Fellowship was up to. He hoped that they were managing to avoid causing chaos.
Little did Aragorn know that the chaos was only beginning.
Forty minutes later, Aragorn was still wandering through the mall. He was not, however, wandering because he was lost. He knew exactly where he was. He simply liked to wander.
But that is beside the point.
Anyway, Aragorn was wandering through the mall, glancing at the stores on his left as he passed them. Orc-Sun, Palant-Sears, Build-A-Warg Workshop . . . He had found that shopping by himself was, in fact, much easier than in a group, but still hadn't found anything that he deemed suitable. Barrows & Noble Booksellers, Abercrombie & Elf, Legolas in Claire's . . .
Wait. Legolas in Claire's?
Horrified, Aragorn stopped and looked through the store's window again, hoping that he had been imagining things. He hadn't been. Legolas was indeed in Claire's, his back to the Ranger, studying a wall of hair accessories. Aragorn watched the Elf try on a feathered headband, admire his reflection in one of the store's many mirrors, and finally replace the headband on its proper hook, only to choose another (this one with a sparkly green flower) and repeat the process.
Aragorn stared in disbelief and embarrassment at his friend. Didn't the Elf realize that Claire's was the one store that no self-respecting adult male should ever enter? "Legolas!" he called. Legolas didn't hear him. Growing increasingly uncomfortable, Aragorn called Legolas's name again, louder this time. Still the Elf didn't hear. He just continued to try on headbands.
Aragorn realized that there were two courses of action available to him. He could keep walking and pretend he had never seen what he had, or he could go in and rescue Legolas, and pray that the rest of the Fellowship never found out. As tempting as the first option sounded, Aragorn knew that he couldn't leave his friend there to be ridiculed. So, groaning inwardly, the manly Ranger entered Claire's.
"Legolas!" He grabbed his friend's arm.
The Elf turned to face him. "Oh, hello, Aragorn!" He pointed to the beaded blue headband he was wearing. "What do you think?"
"Take that thing off!" Aragorn yanked it out of Legolas's hair and set it none too gently back on its hook. "Legolas, why are you in here?"
"Boromir and I got sick of clothes-shopping, so he went to some video game store and I came here."
"Yes, but why Claire's? You do realize that this store is made for eleven-year-old girls?"
"So?" Legolas's expression remained placid. "You said I could shop for whatever I wanted."
"Yes, but I didn't mean here!" Aragorn glanced around, and realized that several of the aforementioned eleven-year-old girls were beginning to stare. Groaning again, Aragorn dragged Legolas out of the store.
"While you do have the right to look at what you want," Aragorn said, "don't let me catch you in that store again. Got it?"
The Elf shrugged nonchalantly. "Whatever you say, Aragorn." He walked off, and to Aragorn's relief, turned a corner and was gone.
Aragorn exhaled and rubbed his forehead. Hopefully, he thought as he began walking again, that was the last of the craziness. He soon entered a busy courtyard of sorts, with people swarming around an elegant fountain and a greasy pretzel stand. Aragorn was surprised when he caught sight of a familiar curly, dark head.
"Frodo?" he asked as he approached the figure. Frodo turned to face him, his blue eyes even wider and more worried than usual. "Frodo, are you alright? Where's Sam?"
"I don't know," the hobbit replied, his eyes huge and shiny. "We were in the Shire Depot, but we somehow got separated and I decided to wait here. Sam's probably worried about me, and wondering where I am."
"Well, if you would like I can -" Aragorn began, but was cut off by an alarm sounding from a nearby store. A voice blared over the loudspeaker system.
"Security needed immediately at GameStop. Repeat, all available security officers to GameStop."
"That'll be Boromir," Aragorn sighed. He turned to Frodo. "Just... stay here for now, okay?" He then began sprinting to Boromir's aid.
As he raced through the mall, he once again passed the Hallmark store, with the red oliphaunt exactly where he had left it. Maybe I should buy it for Arwen, he thought. At least, if I absolutely can't find anything else. First, though, he had to rescue Boromir.
He burst into GameStop, and heard Boromir immediately. The Gondorian was yelling various obscenities at the top of his lungs, which was coupled with the sound of something being smashed. Dreading the sight that awaited him, Aragorn looked behind some shelves to see Boromir playing – well, more like disemboweling – a video-game system, cursing at it all the while. Two security officers were trying fruitlessly to restrain him.
"Boromir!" Aragorn sprang forward and knocked the video-game controller out of Boromir's hands.
"Hey!" Boromir yelled. He took a swing at Aragorn, and the Ranger ducked just in time. The security guard on his left wasn't so lucky, as Boromir's fist crashed into his nose. Furious, he socked Boromir in the shoulder, and a full-blown brawl began.
Aragorn looked on in disbelief as the three combatants rolled around on the floor, beating each other savagely. Every time Aragorn tried to drag Boromir away, he was rewarded with an errant punch to the jaw. Security reinforcements finally arrived, and it took the combined strength of all eight officers to break the fight up.
Aragorn roughly hauled Boromir to his feet. "What were you thinking?" he hissed. "Destroying the store's merchandise? Starting a fight with a security guard? You should be arrested!"
Boromir glared back at him. A bruise was forming around one eye, but apart from that, he looked perfectly normal. The two officers, however, looked like they had been attacked by thirty orcs apiece. "I lost a life!" Boromir spat. "That level ninety boss defeated me! Me! Everyone knows I am invincible!"
"Losing a video game is no reason to destroy everything in sight!"
The security officers watched their conversation, clearly bamboozled. "Do you . . . know this man?" one of them asked, looking uncertainly at Aragorn.
"Yes, I do," Aragorn sighed. "I'm very sorry about this whole thing. He just flies off the handle sometimes. It won't happen again, I promise. We'll pay for all the damage."
Aragorn dug the appropriate amount of money out of his pocket. Why couldn't Boromir have destroyed something cheaper? The officer took it, still confused.
One of the injured guards glared at Boromir. "I want him out of this mall," he rasped.
"We're leaving, as soon as possible," Aragorn assured him. As they headed for the door, Aragorn spotted a shopping bag. "Whose Gondorian Eagle bag is that?"
"Oh, that's mine!" Boromir ran over and grabbed it. "Want to see what I bought? I found this great pair of jeans -"
"No!" Aragorn responded quickly. "We're leaving!"
Once they had exited the store, Aragorn pointed to the directory where Frodo was waiting. "Will you go over there with Frodo?" he asked. "I have to look at a few more things, then I'll come back."
Boromir agreed, and walked over to join the hobbit. Aragorn went the other way, deciding that his hour was over and he should meet up with Gandalf.
When Aragorn arrived at Arnordstrom, Gandalf was nowhere to be found. He glanced inside a few of the surrounding stores, before going into the department store itself and looking around. No Gandalf. Aragorn was sure that an hour had passed. He went back into the main area of the mall and scanned the crowds, the carousel, the staircases, everything. The wizard had vanished.
The sound, although faint, reached Aragorn's sharp ears. It was definitely Gandalf's voice, but where would he . . .
Aragorn's eyes widened in horror. There, sitting proudly on a white horse, his gray beard flying out behind him, was Gandalf – spinning around on the carousel like a five-year-old child.
Suddenly furious, Aragorn marched up to the carousel and jumped on. He grabbed Gandalf by the collar and dragged him off of the contraption. Gandalf protested, but Aragorn cut him off.
"Why, Gandalf? Why a carousel?" he demanded. "I came to this mall so I could buy a gift for Arwen, not so I could drag my insane friends out of one calamity after another! I thought I could depend on you as the one person that would not lose his mind, but apparently I was wrong! I know you like fast horses, but this -" he gestured wildly at the carousel – "is going too far!"
"What was I supposed to do?" Gandalf retorted. "I looked for a present, just as I said I would, and after an hour you had not shown up. I was merely waiting for you, and thought I might have some fun while I was at it!"
Aragorn gritted his teeth. It had been a huge mistake on his part to suggest this outing.
Gandalf sighed. "I'm sorry, Aragorn. I will continue to help you search, if you like."
Aragorn shook his head. "No, I think I've decided," he said. "If you could track down everyone else, though, that would be greatly appreciated. Meet me at the main entrance when you're finished. We're leaving."
Gandalf agreed and set off. Aragorn, not wanting to spend one more minute than he had to in this accursed mall, hurried to the Hallmark store. He sighed as he picked up the oliphaunt statue and card, realizing how much time and energy could have been saved if only he had taken Sam's suggestion right away. As he approached the cash register, he noticed Frodo racing past outside, with Boromir sprinting after him.
"Help, Strider!" Frodo cried in terror. "He's trying to take the Ring!"
"You'll just have to wait a minute!" Aragorn hollered back. He bought the items.
He hurried out of the store, his purchases safely in a shopping bag. "Frodo?" he called. The hobbit was nowhere to be seen. Four security officers stood nearby, glancing around them intently. Odd, Aragorn thought as he walked past them.
"Hey, you in the dark coat! Stop!"
Startled, Aragorn stopped and turned around. The officers were advancing on him, their expressions grim. "Search him," one of them ordered.
Immediately, they surrounded him. They grabbed the shopping bag and looked inside, then started searching his coat pockets. "What is going on?" Aragorn demanded.
"A theft was reported at Dale's an hour ago, and the description the saleswoman gave fits you perfectly."
"I took nothing!" Aragorn protested.
Two seconds after he said that, one of the security officers announced that he had found something. He drew his hand out of Aragorn's pocket. A diamond necklace was clasped in his fist. I'm going to kill that Dwarf!
The officer who had spoken earlier narrowed his eyes. "Care to revise your statement?" When Aragorn didn't answer, he drew out a pair of handcuffs. Aragorn paled. Then, knowing that he was likely making the worst mistake of his life, turned, pushed the officers aside, and sprinted away as fast as he possibly could.
The officers yelled at him to stop and began chasing him, but their short, pudgy legs made it impossible for them to catch up. Aragorn kept sprinting until he reached the main entrance, where he found Frodo, Boromir, and Gandalf with the rest of the Fellowship.
"Hey, Strider!" Sam greeted him. "What did you end up buying?"
"Run, all of you!" Aragorn shouted, ignoring Sam. "We have to get out of here!"
Everyone clearly thought he had gone mad, but obeyed anyway. They all ran as fast as they could until they were safely out of sight of the mall. They then stopped and sat down, out of breath – everyone except for Merry and Pippin, that is, who were spinning in circles and giggling hysterically.
"What happened to them?" Aragorn asked with concern.
"They were in a candy store," Gandalf replied. Merry laughed, then yelled something about glow-in-the-dark mushrooms.
No further explanation was required.
That night, after everyone else fell asleep, Aragorn sat down a short distance from their campfire. He rummaged through his pack until he found a pen and a small box. He was about to search for his Hallmark bag when the realization hit him.
When the security guards had arrested him, they had grabbed the Hallmark bag. And they hadn't given it back.
Groaning, Aragorn buried his face in his hands. Couldn't one thing that day have gone his way? Was that really so much to ask?
Yes, it probably was. Aragorn sighed and took out a piece of paper and an envelope. Dearest Arwen, he began. I know I promised to send you a birthday gift, but . . .
He sighed again, hoping that she would understand.
AN: This turned out way longer than it needed to be, but then again, the concept itself is pretty ridiculous. Feedback is always appreciated. Thanks so much for reading!