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.)
Ahead of her, Ariel could see a line of thirty knights, riding their horses side by side, while behind her there were another thirty. She, herself, rode on a majestic white stallion. They’d thought her a bit mad when she’d told them that they would all be going to the Kingdom, but being that she was now their leader, they had little choice in the matter. The funeral for her husband would be arranged while she was gone and when she returned she would approve of the final proceedings. For now, she needed to convince the Kingdom, and perhaps herself, that she was not going to roll over and accept defeat.
The jungle around them was old. It creaked and moaned as they passed by and the very trees seemed to be watching them, waiting for them to let their guard down. It was dark and the branches above blotted out most of the light save for a gentle beam which broke through the foliage occasionally. Ariel found she preferred exploring a sunken ship to this.
“Have you thought of what you’re going to say to the Queen?” asked the stout badger, Angus, who rode beside her on a squat little donkey.
“I’m hoping it will come to me when I arrive,” said Ariel. “I’ve never really met with the Queen before. All of those things were handled by Eric.”
‘Well I suggest at least knowing your demands,” said Angus. “You’ll never get what you want if you don’t know what you want.”
“That’s a good point,” said Ariel. “Thank you Angus.”
The badger blushed. “Oh it’s nothing,” he replied. “Just a bit o’ knowledge passed down from my father. At least he gave me that.”
“No,” said Ariel. “I mean for everything.” She sighed. “Your kindness in these troubling days has been something I will never forget. You’ve kept me on my feet when all I wanted to do was fall down.”
“Please,” begged Angus. “Don’t go thanking me for something you did all your own. You’re much braver than you give yourself credit for. Don’t ever forget that.”
The horses in the line of knights suddenly came to a halt. Ariel looked ahead, trying to make out the cause of the delay. A knight from the front trotted back atop a black horse and waved to her.
“Something wrong?” she asked curtly, not wanting to spend any moment extra in the jungle. There was a rustle in the leaves next to her, but she kept her gaze firmly on the knight.
“The men are having trouble with the horses m’lady. Something’s got ’em spooked.” The knight spoke briskly in a deep voice from underneath a thick metal helmet. “We should be moving shortly.”
There was a sudden roar as a huge black beast leapt from the bushes and pulled the knight from his horse, killing him in a instant. Ariel gasped as chaos broke loose. All around her, the black creatures were lunging from the trees and systematically taking out her men and their horses.
“Panthers!” she heard someone yell. She had never seen a panther before, and now she was glad of it. They were vicious, destroying fully armored knights in swift blows with their sharp claws and might jaws.
“Your majesty!” Angus brought her back to the moment. She whipped the reigns of her horse as Angus did the same with his donkey and the two of them took off down the trail, trying desperately to steer clear of the knights which lay mangled on the ground. There was screaming all around as panthers lunged from the darkness. It was madness. The panthers killed, then pulled the dead back into the trees and then jumped out once more, searching for more prey.
Ariel looked back just in time to see one of the panthers fix its eyes on her. She gave the reigns another hard whip, praying for her horse to go faster. From their left, there was a loud howl as a panther lunged out and latched onto Angus’ donkey. The steed went down, slamming into Ariel’s horse in the process. All of them went tumbling to the ground. Ariel felt the air escape her as she landed on her back and then rolled. She looked up from the earth below, right into the Angus’ eyes. He gave her a weak smile.
“Don’t worry your majesty,” he said, optimistically. “You’ll get through this.” Then, as if he had known it was coming, Angus was pulled backwards into the dark jungle and out of sight, gone forever in an instant.
“NOO!” she yelled but it was too late. She had to move. She had to get away. She hadn’t survived Ursula and come to the surface world just to die here. She made her way to her feet and took off in the only direction that slightly resembled a path. As she blew through the forest, she felt the vines and branches of trees scratch her skin. Her feet throbbed with pain and she willed herself not to cry at the loss of yet another who was dear to her. She looked back, only for a moment, and immediately regretted it.
Panthers were everywhere. It was as if the entire pack was hunting her. They were running at her from behind and from all sides. She pushed herself to run faster. This was it. Life or death. She forgot about the pain in her feet and the sadness in her heart and moved forward as quickly as she could. But it wasn’t fast enough. The panthers were descending on her. Any moment, one of them would pounce and that would be the end. Ariel closed her eyes as she ran and awaited the inevitable.
“GET DOWN!” she had no idea where the voice came from but she obeyed the command without questions, diving to the ground below her.
An arrow whizzed through the air and caught one of the panthers in the throat mid-pounce. It slammed to the ground beside her, dead. Another arrow flew over her. Another dead panther. Shot after shot whirled past and each one found its target. She looked up to see her savior as he emerged from behind a tree.
Standing on two legs, wearing a green pair of shoes, a green tunic and a little green hat was a red fox. A quiver was attached to his back and he pulled arrows from it and shot them as if it were as simple as setting the table. Not a single shot missed.
“Can you walk?” he asked. “Because I don’t know if I can carry you, love.” He smiled down at her and extended a furry paw to help her to her feet.
“I c-can,” she blurted out, shaking with fear she hadn’t had time to process.
“Good. Let’s go.” He turned, keeping her hand in his own and took off into the jungle, dragging her behind him. “Go ahead of me,” he said, pushing her out in front so that he could shoot even more arrows into the darkness behind them. “Quickly now. We have to get to the ridge. They won’t stop unless it’s their only option.” She pushed through the branches and leaves as fast as she could, so that when she reached the ridge, she nearly fell from it.
“Gah!” she screamed, looking down at the huge drop in front of her. Another step and she would plummet to her death. Was this fox one more villain, ready to end her?
The fox made quick work, pulling a rope from his belt and wrapping it around the two of them. He checked that it was snug and then attached the other end to an arrow. He shot it up to a tree on the far end of the ridge and then gave it a tug.
“Alright then,” he said. “Hope you’re not afraid of heights, or this will be a bit dodgy.” Ariel had never stopped to consider if she was afraid of heights and she wasn’t given that chance now. With the fox holding onto her, they swung from the ledge just as the panthers reached it, clawing at them as they went, trying desperately to capture the last of their prey.
“AHHHHH!” screamed Ariel as they swung along the rock face of the cliff until at long last they came around to a little ledge, out of sight of the their point of origin. They landed and rolled onto the ground.
Ariel sat up, trying to catch her breath. “Are you insane?” she asked.
“Hey now, I just saved your life,” said the fox. “And you’re in quite a rare league my lady. You have just become one of a handful of damsels saved by yours truly.” He took off his hat and bowed. “The one and only, Robin Hood.”
“Well, Robin Hood,” said Ariel, unimpressed. “I’ll thank you when we are to safety and not on yet another cliff with, most likely, more awful things waiting in the jungle.”
Robin chuckled. “My apologies. I’ll escort you to my camp where you’ll be able to eat and rest. I’ll have Little John tend to your wounds as well.”
“I’d prefer a full-sized John, if you please,” snapped Ariel.
“It’s just a name love,” said Robin. “Now come, it’s getting late.” Without another word, Robin walked into the jungle. Ariel allowed herself one more look up at the cliff they’d left. She’d lost a husband and now a friend. She could only hope that the worst was behind her.
With a deep breath, she followed him into the jungle.