This is a work of fiction and is not to be sold in any way shape or form. It is simply for my amusement and the challenge of writing these characters in a strange and dangerous world. All the characters are owned by Disney and I do not claim ownership of any of them. Please let me know what you think in the comments below! Without further ado, welcome to The Kingdom.)
“Your Majesty,” pleaded the squat badger which stood in a green tweed suit next to the finely adorned table, a large paper-stuffed book wrapped in his arms. “I simply must insist that you look through these ledgers and sign them. There’s no telling when Prince Eric will return and your people need your signature before they can continue with their work.” He peered over a pair of round spectacles and down his long nose at her, his short white beard protruding with his chin.
“Oh Angus,” said Ariel, paying more attention to the grand feast that lay before her then to the words of her advisor, who was currently straightening his tie, hidden by a blue knit sweater. “I’m sure they will be fine until Eric gets home. You know I don’t manage any of the boring money stuff.” She smiled her gorgeous smile at the badger, who simply rolled his eyes. Her luscious red hair and perfect smile might have worked on men, but he was not so easily fooled. He’d worked for the likes of J. Thaddeus Toad after all.
“Very well, madame.” He strutted away, mumbling under his breath.
Ariel began stuffing food in her mouth, quickly asking the chef what everything was. Though she’d technically been out of the ocean for months now, she was still keen on discovering anything new she could find. Thus, she asked that the chef prepare a new variety of foods every day so that she could experience all the culinary delights humans had to offer. In her opinion, it certainly beat Atlantean food.
“What’s this?” she questioned, shoving a fork full of green into her mouth.
“Spinach sautéed in butter and garlic, your highness.” The chef smiled heartily. He was a large man with a round belly and a thin black mustache. He loved that he could bring so much joy to the princess with his food and it was a pleasure to be challenged with coming up with new cuisines every single day. The only rule that he was asked to abide by was ‘No Seafood,’ for understandable reasons.
“It’s delicious!” she exclaimed, and immediately took another fork full.
“Your majesty,” came a voice from the dining hall entrance.
“What now?” she exclaimed, not too happy about being constantly pestered while trying to enjoy the comforts of her new found world. She had wanted to be where the people were and now she was. Couldn’t people just let her alone for once?
The butler stood at the doorway, a letter in his hand as he trembled, his lips shaking. “It would seem that the Prince never arrived at the supply port on the journey back. They send word that–” he faltered. “They send word that they believe his ship has sunk and taken the crew with it.” He quickly wiped a tear from his eye and then stood up straight. “My lady, I’m so sorry, but it appears the Prince will not be returning.”
The fork clattered from her hand as shock swept through her body. How was this possible? She’d just found her prince. She’d gone through hell and back to get him and now he was just gone? They’d survived Ursula together and this was simply supposed to be a trip to establish a new spice-trading route. He wasn’t off fighting a war or dealing with pirates. He was trading. She couldn’t believe the words she was hearing.
She slowly stood from the table and quietly excused herself before running to her bedroom, their bedroom, and locking the door. She fell to the floor and began to sob uncontrollably into her hands. Her life suddenly felt empty and meaningless. She longed to be with her father so that he could hold her and tell her it would all be okay. She wanted so much to be with Flounder who would make some sort of joke that would make it all better. But that was no longer her world.
There was a soft scratching at the door. She quickly stood and opened it to let Eric’s dog Max into the room. The strange thing about animals was that, even though she couldn’t talk with Max, he still had a way of knowing she was in a place of sadness and despair. He nuzzled up his large sheep-dog body next to her and let her hug him as she cried. After all, Max had lost someone too, even if he didn’t realize it.
When Ariel could no longer cry, she crawled into the bed, which now seemed far too large. It made her feel more alone than she had ever thought possible. But here again, Max surprised her. He jumped into the bed, into Eric’s spot, and cuddled up to her, filling the empty space. Together, they fell asleep and he didn’t leave her side until she awoke.
Daylight filtered in through the window, but she had no idea what time it was. For a moment, she completely forgot the grief of the previous day. But then, all at once, it flooded back over her like a plague. She was miserable. Never before had she felt so lost. An awful thought occurred to her. She was not the sole ruler of the estate. The farmers and workers of the province would be looking to her for leadership, and though she’d come from royalty, she had no idea how to rule.
She slipped out of the bed and fixed her flowing red hair in the mirror before throwing on an elegant silk robe and quietly leaving the room. She raced through the halls, trying to remember where she was going. As she came to a less elegant wing, she recognized the pale yellow wallpaper and before long she reached a little office suite. She lightly rapped her knuckles on the door.
It opened slightly. On the other side stood the bookkeeper who looked utterly shocked to see her. “Oh…your majesty…I didn’t expect…I meant to say…I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Yes, thank you,” she said, and meant it, though the thought of her loss was still so fresh that it was hard to even bare it.
“Can I help you with something?” he asked.
“I’d like to see those ledgers now,” she replied sweetly and gave him a small smile, which was all she could muster. “I’m going to have to take care of things like that from now on and, well, I could use a distraction.”
“Of course, my lady,” nodded the badger. “I tell you what. You go to the dining hall and have yourself some breakfast, or at least some tea and I’ll meet you there with everything momentarily.”
“Yes, some tea would be nice.” She gave him one more weak smile. “Thank you Angus.”
With that, she headed to the dining room. What once had seemed like such a bright and vibrant room, now seemed empty and grey. Echoes of her times spent laughing and eating with Eric seemed to follow her throughout the room. She took her seat and breathed in deeply, closing her eyes tight to quiet the voices in her mind.
“Here we are, your majesty,” announced Angus MacBadger as he entered with a huge book full of tattered pages in his hands. He sat down next to her, hopping into the seat as he was quite short, and opened the book. It turned out that he was a fairly good teacher. He started at the beginning and led her through all of the different tasks and jobs that the villagers of their province performed. She learned of their imports and exports as well as all of their trade routes. Ariel had always been someone who loved to learn as much as possible so acting as a student now seemed to come naturally to her. Yet as she learned and processed, one thing didn’t seem to add up.
“It seems we send quite a bit to the Kingdom,” she said, looking over a list of produce and supplies. Only ten percent of what the village made actually stayed in the village. The rest was immediately shipped off to the Kingdom. “In fact, it seems we send nearly everything.”
“When the treaties were signed years ago in accordance with the pact to unite the provinces under the Kingdom, this was part of the deal,” said Angus, who seemed quite at ease with the situation. “Our villages produce much of the food and wood that the Kingdom needs to survive.”
“It’s not right,” said Ariel. “We’re sending more than we can afford. According to this, our people can barely manage to eat, yet we send so much food away.”
“Well,” he mumbled. “That is somewhat accurate.”
“And Eric…” her heart hurt at the thought of him. “He was going to the far countries to bring back spices. How many of those would we have sent to the Kingdom?”
The old badger looked distressed as though he did not want to answer her. Yet, she was his Princess, so answer he did. “All of them, your majesty.”
Ariel felt her stomach plummet. She thought she might be ill. Her husband, the love of her life, the man she had given up everything for, had died for something that wasn’t even for their own well-being. He had died so that they could give even more to the Kingdom. She was furious. Fire boiled in her blood.
“Thank you for your guidance Angus,” she said, trying to remain calm. “Leave me with this and I will think over it.”
He nodded solemnly to her. “Yes your Majesty.” He got up from his chair and left the room.
Ariel wrapped her arms around the huge book of ledgers and ran back to her room with it. Within hours, she had placed papers and contracts all over her room as she poured over all the information, trying to understand it. And understand she did. Her province and her people were giving away far more than they could afford, and for what? There was no overwhelming darkness coming to consume them. The only evil in the world was the Kingdom itself, and she couldn’t bare the thought of giving them any more. They had taken everything from her. Her people’s livelihood, her husband and her happiness. She couldn’t stand for it.
She began to form an idea. She had never gone out of her way for the province before, but now she was their leader. If she would not speak for them, who would? She quickly gathered her warmest clothing and shoved them all into a large trunk. She then ran back down the stairs and once again knocked on Angus’ door. Hours had passed at this point, maybe even days. She couldn’t be sure how long she had poured over the ledgers.
“Your majesty?” said the badger, who answered the door in his night robe. “It’s the middle of the night. Is everything alright?”
“Everything is not alright,” she said. “Everything is a mess. But we, you and I, are going to fix it. I would ask you to get dressed and then go assemble a team of our finest men. We’ll need those who are able to hunt and navigate the woods.”
“And why would we need such men?” asked Angus, apprehensive.
“We are going to the Kingdom. We are going to speak with the King and ask him to relinquish his control over our people. We are going to take back what is ours. We will stop sending supplies to them immediately. That should give them the message. By the time we get there, they’ll be ready to talk about a fair trade. They will treat us as equals or they will get no food at all.” She glared at him, her red hair seeming fiery atop her rage filled gaze. “Do you understand?”
“Y-yes your majesty.”
“Good,” she went to turn, but he called out to her.
“Your majesty, the forest is dangerous. Their are monsters and wild things, thieves and bandits. I do not think it is wise to go there.”
Ariel smiled. “Nothing is as terrifying and mysterious as the ocean, and I once called that home. No forest could even attempt to scare me. Besides, I survived Ursula. What could possibly be worse?” She turned and headed back down the hall, leaving him to change.
In a few short hours they would depart. Ariel had been royalty all her life. Born to King Triton, she had been a Princess since the day she was born. Now, for the first time as she prepared to go off on a mission to save her people, she finally felt like one.